Final predictions on the 2014 NBA Draft

A month ago I evaluated the prospects of draft hopefuls Shabazz Napier, Deandre Daniels and Niels Giffey. Here is a look back at those projections and where I ultimately believe they will be selected:

Draft Projections: Shabazz Napier

According to scouts present at the combine, Napier’s performance solidified a first round selection. Here are some possible destinations that stand out:

  • 17th pick, Boston Celtics: Hometown kid on the hometown team is always an inspiring story line.
  • 26th pick, Miami Heat: LeBron tweeted: “No way u take another PG in the lottery before Napier.” Starting point guard Mario Chalmers is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, if Napier were still available you know who LeBron wants…
  • 28th pick, Los Angeles Clippers: Current backup Darren Collison has a player option for next season. Like Collison, Napier is a pesky defender who would benefit under the tutelage of Chris Paul while he develops.

Update: The Miami Heat are my favorite to select Shabazz Napier. There has been much publicity regarding LeBron James support of Napier and the Heat will do anything they can to please their superstar forward. Look for the Heat to move up in the draft as it is unlikely Napier will fall to the 26th pick. 

Draft Projections: Deandre Daniels

Deandre Daniels has the talent to be a late first round draft pick. On the other hand, scouts see him as a second round selection due to his pencil-thin frame and lack of strength. In a draft full of talented small forwards, Daniels’ performance in workouts will ultimately seal his fate. In my opinion, Deandre is one of the most underrated players in the draft and could make an impact for a contender after a season in the D-League. Here are some possible destinations:

  • 25th pick, Houston Rockets: The Rockets have the flexibility to allow Daniels a season in the D-League to bulk up on a NBA strength training regimen.
  • 35th pick, Utah Jazz: Young at every position the Jazz can go after the best player available which at this point in the draft, could be Daniels.
  • 43rd pick, Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks need a perimeter scorer, if they don’t fill this need in the first round look for them to fill it here.

Update: Daniels is an intriguing prospect as his NBA career is based mostly off potential. He is largely considered one of the biggest steals in the draft however was left off Chad Ford’s latest mock draft. Daniels could go as early as late first round or possibly slide out of the draft. With Josh Smith’s future up in the air, look for the Pistons to take a chance on Daniels with the 38th pick. 

Draft Projections: Niels Giffey

Analysts have Giffey anywhere from late second round to undrafted. As an underexposed role player, workouts will only help Giffey get his name out there. Scouts at the Portsmouth Invitational came away impressed and there is no reason to believe that trend will not continue. Here are some second round opportunities for Giffey:

  • 32nd, 39th, 47th, 52nd or 54th, Philadelphia 76ers: With five second round picks to go along with two lottery picks, the 76ers can address immediate needs and plan for the future.
  • 58th or 60th, San Antonio Spurs: Giffey is the epitome of a role player on a team of role players.  
  • New York Knicks: With no draft picks and change on the horizon, the Knicks could look to make moves. 

Update: I am torn here between the San Antonio Spurs and New York Knicks. In a blockbuster move yesterday, the Knicks acquired the 34th and 51st picks, among others, from the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Tyson Chandler. The Knicks have been known to take chances on European players in the past, however Giffey fits perfectly into San Antonio’s organizational philosophy. Still, look for the Knicks to take their chances on Giffey with the 51st pick.

  

STAAR Graduation: Josh Privee

20140612-191235-69155743.jpg

Josh and I at Graduation

I want to congratulate my man Josh Privee on his graduation from the STAAR program (Students Transitioning to Age Appropriate Routes) this evening. I have known Josh since our days at E.O. Smith High School where he dominated the Unified Basketball court. Unfortunately, graduation ends an illustrious career that included a game winning shot (more below) and knockout win over professional basketball player- and 7 footer- Ryan Olander. I caught up with Josh back in March where we discussed playing style, favorite players and more: Note: While Josh alluded to his strong sense of humor, he wanted to keep the interview serious in nature.

Is basketball your favorite sport or are you just best at it?

Favorite

What is your favorite Unified Sports memory?

We played East Hartford in the last home game of last year. I swished a last minute buzzer beater for the win!

I heard you are an All Star floor hockey goalie, would you rather make the game winning save in a shoot out or hit a game winning three pointer?

Definitely make the game winning save in a shoot out.

Who is your favorite professional/college player?

My favorite professional player is no doubt #6 on the Miami Heat, Lebron James and my favorite college player is of course my man Tyler Olander of the UConn Huskies.

Imagine you dunked on Tyler Olander, how would you celebrate?

I would get right up in his face and say, “yo you got dunked on by a guy whose 5’9”.

What NBA player do you most closely resemble?

Lebron James. We both can knock down step back jumpers or drive to the hoop. We are also both tremendous shot blockers and can steal the ball from right in front of you.

Who is your favorite E.O. teacher to play against?

Mr. DeLoreto because he is fun to play with and always encourages me.

Who wins a three point shooting contest between you and Shaun Davis?

Shaun because he has a better three point shot. My game is more drive and mid-range.

How would you guard Josh Privee?

Get right up on me and don’t let me blow by you. Whatever you do, don’t let me get to the rim.

How far do you have UConn advancing in the NCAA Tournament?

Men: Elite Eight Women: National Champions

What are your plans after graduation?

I run track and field for the Special Olympics so I am going to stick with that and hopefully move into better compeition. I also hope to get a job.

Congratulations again to Josh on his graduation and I will see you at the MCC next week!

Shabazz Napier 2014 NBA Draft Combine Recap

Image

CHARLES REX ARBOGAST/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The NBA Draft Combine, a two day event held last week in Chicago, gives top NBA prospects a platform to showcase their skill set for NBA GM’s and scouts through a variety of drills and measurements. Let’s take a look at how Shabazz Napier’s numbers fared against other top point guards prospects.

Top Point Guards: Tyler Ennis (Syracuse), Dante Exum (Australia), Elfrid Payton (Louisiana-Lafayette), Shabazz Napier (UCONN), Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State)

Drills

On the advice of his agent, Napier opted to skip the basketball drills portion of the combine. In fact, none of the top point guard prospects participated in the drills. While some questioned the decision of Payton who received little national exposure at Louisiana-Lafayette, Napier’s season was well chronicled and his decision received no negative backlash. Other top players who did not participate included Kentucky’s Julius Randle, Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Michigan State’s Gary Harris.

Measurements

Below I have compiled a comparison of Napier’s top competitors at the combine, as well as Kemba Walker’s measurements from the 2011 NBA Draft Combine. While Napier lacks the height and wingspan coveted by scouts, his 37.5 inch max vertical answered questions of explosiveness and was arguably the most surprising/impressive measurement of the day. If you look closely, Napier’s measurements are nearly identical to those of Walker, the 9th overall selection in the 2011 NBA Draft.

Player Height (shoes) Weight Wingspan Max Vertical
Napier 6-1 175 6-3 1/4 37.5
Ennis 6-2 1/2 182 6-7 1/4 36
Exum 6-6 196 6-9 1/2 34.5
Payton 6-3 3/4 185 6-8 35.5
Smart 6-3 1/4 227 6-9 1/4 36
Walker (2011) 6-1 184 6-3 1/2 39.5

In the 3/4 court sprint Napier finished second among point guards (3.2 seconds), barely edged out by Exum (3.19).

Stock: Up or Down?

Up. Napier’s small stature has been noted by scouts in the past so his measurements came with little shock. As I mentioned above, the real shocker was Napier’s vertical, an astounding 37.5 inches- the same as former Husky flyer Ben Gordon*. In years past, Napier was knocked for his immaturity and scouts worried about his ability to lead an NBA team. This past season put those doubts at ease after Napier not only elevated his play, but also the play of his supporting cast en route to his second National Championship. Napier is the most NBA-ready point guard prospect in the draft, the type of player who could immediately contribute minutes as a back up. Yes, Napier will be competing against NBA sized guards every night, but, if you take a look at his track record -most recently the Harrison twins/James Young of Kentucky- Napier is a competitor and competitors are not discouraged by a couple of inches. As Napier said of himself, “Certain guys know how to win, certain guys understand what to do at certain times of the game and that’s kind of rare.” In a league where success is defined by championships, Shabazz Napier is a proven winner.

*This number is even more astounding considering Napier did not complete a dunk in his four years at UCONN.

Draft Projections

According to scouts present at the combine, Napier’s performance solidified a first round selection. Here are some possible destinations that stand out:

  • 17th pick, Boston Celtics: Hometown kid on the hometown team is always an inspiring story line.
  • 26th pick, Miami Heat: LeBron tweeted: “No way u take another PG in the lottery before Napier.” Starting point guard Mario Chalmers is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, if Napier were still available you know who LeBron wants…
  • 28th pick, Los Angeles Clippers: Current backup Darren Collison has a player option for next season. Like Collison, Napier is a pesky defender who would benefit under the tutelage of Chris Paul while he develops.

 

Olliewood or Hollywood?

I first heard rumors of Kevin Ollie to the NBA during a team breakfast at the Big East Tournament in 2011. In only his first year as an assistant coach, it was evident Ollie had the coaching gene and could not be kept a secret much longer. Earlier today, ESPN.com reported the Los Angeles Lakers were interested in Kevin Ollie to fill their newly vacant head coaching job. This poses a haunting question to UCONN fans- Olliewood or Hollywood?

Why do the Los Angeles Lakers want Kevin Ollie?

First, lets take a look at why the Lakers (or any NBA team) want Kevin Ollie:

Reputation

The most attractive quality surrounding Kevin Ollie is not his 2014 National Championship ring, no Ollie was on the NBA radar far before his magical postseason. Kevin Ollie is attractive to NBA teams because of the respect he garners from his peers- peers who just so happen to be 4x NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant and 4x MVP Lebron James. James, alluded to the aforementioned “coaching gene” in an interview after the Huskies win while Durant had this to say in 2013. “Kevin Ollie changed the culture with the Thunder,” Durant commented, “Just like he’s doing now with UConn. He was a big part of what we do, and still is, because of what he instilled in us. He’s always going to be a brother of mine.”Durant continued to say he had no doubt in his mind Ollie could coach at the NBA level.

The Lakers, coming off a 27-55 season that left them with more questions than answers, have one definitive answer. With an aging Kobe Bryant returning from knee surgery, the team will undoubtedly make a push for super-star caliber free agents Lebron (2014) or KD (2016). If the Lakers were to allow James or Durant their choice of coach, Los Angeles becomes a much more attractive destination with Kevin Ollie the main beneficiary.

Image

According to an ESPN NBA attendance report, the Clippers have drawn more fans than the Lakers for each of the past three seasons. In other words, “Lob City” has replaced “Showtime” in the city of angels. Recent Lakers teams conjure images of aging, injury-prone stars whereas the Clippers are associated with high-flying, energetic excitement (think Pau Gasol hook shot vs Blake Griffin alley-oop). What better way to reverse that perception than to hire a youthful, energetic coach such as Kevin Ollie?

Also, the aftermath of the Donald Sterling saga has forced Clippers sponsors and fans alike to question their loyalties. What better way to attract the in-between/undecided/disgusted than to bring in a coach whose highest values are that of family and brotherhood. As we have seen in Connecticut, Kevin Ollie is not just a basketball coach but a community activist. Given recent events, it is not surprising the Lakers see value in hiring not only a community man, but also a local success story all Angelenos can rally around.

Why he will go

  • Money. The NBA can offer a higher salary, plain and simple. Ollie is slated to make roughly $1.25 million this year at UCONN. Former Lakers coach D’Antoni? $4 million.
  • The Job. UCLA. North Carolina. Duke. Kentucky. Historic jobs that represent the pinnacle of college basketball. Knicks. Lakers. Celtics. Historic jobs that represent the pinnacle of NBA basketball. Two of the three NBA jobs are currently open, who knows when they will be available again (although recent history suggests soon). Does KO find the pull of these historic jobs too hard to resist?
  • Location. Ollie grew up in Los Angeles yet has called Connecticut home since his college days. LA poses a return to childhood stomping grounds while the Knicks job allows him to remain in Connecticut. Hmmmm…
  • The Challenge. Kevin Ollie promised a National Championship and he delivered… in just his second season. How can he possibly top that? An NBA Championship. In his first season.

Why he will stay

  • Money. Unlike many college coaches, Kevin Ollie is coming off a 13 year NBA career that saw him collect roughly $20 million according to basketballreference.com. When you have that much in the piggy bank (probably multiple piggy banks at this point) it becomes less about the money and more about the right fit. UCONN is the right fit.
  • The Job. I mentioned dream jobs such as UNC, Duke and Kentucky above. What’s better than those dream jobs? Leading your alma mater to a National Championship. What’s better than leading your alma mater to a National Championship? Leading your alma mater to multiple National Championships.
  • Location. KO lives with his family in Glastonbury on a hill overlooking the town, a fitting setting for a man charged with overlooking our state’s main interest. Plus, you can’t beat the short 45 minute commute. In other news, UCONN’s new state-of-the-art $35 million practice facility should be ready next year, offering a bit of an upgrade from the dungeon that is Gampel’s basement.
  • The Challenge. Jim Calhoun has three. Kevin Ollie has one. Three more and Jim Calhoun Way becomes Kevin Ollie Boulevard.

The Verdict

Breathe easy Husky fans, Kevin Ollie isn’t going anywhere…yet. While it is certain Ollie will end up on the sidelines of a NBA franchise one day, his mission is not complete. The collegiate level allows for the development of not only basketball skills, but life skills, a part of the process you can tell Ollie takes great pride in. His efforts have been recognized by our incoming recruits- Daniel Hamilton a 6’7 wing from Los Angeles- spoke to the “brotherhood” at UCONN as the deciding factor in his recruitment. Sam Cassell Jr, son of former NBA player Sam Cassell (a longtime friend of Ollie’s), echoed Hamilton’s sentiments and added KO was the type of coach he could play for. Ollie is not the type to lure recruits under the false pretense of “family” just to bolt to greener (literally) pastures. Don’t forget, Kevin Ollie could have remained with the OKC Thunder in a front office position upon retirement. Something drew him back to Connecticut, and that something is more than just a paycheck.

Another point to consider is the relationship between Ollie and Jim Calhoun. Ollie has said in the past Calhoun was a role model/mentor to him and credits the Hall of Fame coach for much of his success. Upon his departure, Calhoun hand-picked Ollie as his successor and gave KO the reigns to a program he started from scratch. I don’t see Ollie leaving UCONN on a whim, especially after all that was entrusted to him by his mentor. Down the road? Absolutely. And you cannot blame him. Ollie is a competitor and to win at the highest level is undeniably a goal he hopes to one day achieve. When KO does leave UCONN, he will leave the program stable and hopefully with a few more pieces of hardware. As for now, it’s Olliewood over Hollywood.