Posts Tagged ‘NBA’

A special Bradley’s Buzz: Updated all-NBA draft edition!

LATE-BREAKING NEWS!

Those darned folks at NBAdraft.net are killing me. When I went to bed last night, they had the Hawks taking Wayne Ellington, the elegant North Carolina shooter, with the 19th pick in Thursday’s draft. At 3:02 a.m., they updated their mock, and now they have the Hawks choosing Jrue Holiday, a point guard from UCLA. And I’m doing some rewriting because …

I like Ellington a lot.

I don’t like Holiday at all.

He averaged 8.5 points and 3.7 assists in his one season at UCLA. True, he was playing alongside/behind Darren Collison, a more seasoned point guard, but the consensus across college basketball was that Holiday had underwhelmed. (He actually seemed a better defender than an offensive player.)

Holiday has been projected to go in the upper half of Round 1 but could be sliding. Me, I think there’s good reason. Me, I think he’s way too raw. Me, I’d much rather see the Hawks take Eric Maynor of VCU or Ty Lawson of North Carolina, both of whom NBAdraft.net …

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Face Off: Say goodbye to Marvin, hello to Caron Butler

Read Jeff Schultz’s view: Hawks need to get the point — and it’s Rafer Alston

Marvin Williams is the least essential Hawks starter. He scores points and takes rebounds but seems to leave no imprint on games, and one of the reasons Joe Johnson gets the ball with three seconds on the shot clock — or, worse, Josh Smith gets it 25 feet from the hoop — is that Marvin, four years a pro, still won’t assert himself.

I want to see Marvin not assert himself elsewhere next season. I want the Hawks to re-sign him — he’s a restricted free agent — and ship him and Acie Law to Washington for Caron Butler and Javaris Crittenton. The Wizards are looking to cut salary, so that part would work for them, and they’re also looking to get younger. Williams turns 23 on Friday; Butler is 29. (See ajc.com photo gallery.)

Butler is a small forward with deep range and — key point — a ton of self-assurance. He wants the ball when the clock’s ticking low. He averaged 20.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.3 …

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If the Hawks trade Josh, they lose me. (Unless it’s for Kobe.)

The annual Josh Smith trade rumors are swirling (ESPN.com link requires registration), and they make less sense than ever. The Hawks are getting close to something good, but they must negotiate a summer in which four of their top eight players are free agents of some stripe. Josh Smith is under contract through 2013. He’s not the immediate problem.

On the contrary, he’s a massive part of the solution. He’s a very good player bordering on greatness. He’s 23. He has already had his free-agent summer. He’ll be the best player on this roster in two years, and that’s even if Joe Johnson sticks around. Josh isn’t the guy you move. He’s the one you keep.

Last month Rick Sund, the Hawks’ general manager, said: “I like our club. The only reason I say that is that there’s still growth from within.” Of Smith in particular, Sund said: “I think Josh is going to continue to get better — every year he’s gotten better.”

And he has. And he should continue to do so for at least three more …

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All-Trade Friday: Should the Hawks deal Josh Smith?

First, a disclaimer: The Hawks aren’t apt to trade anybody this summer unless it’s Marvin Williams (or Josh Childress) as part of a restricted-free-agent sign-and-trade. But the matter of dealing either Joe Johnson or Josh Smith keeps arising, and Ian Thomsen of SI.com addressed it in his Mailbag last week.

Thomsen argues that, of the two, Smith should be the one to go. First, because Johnson will be a free agent next summer and therefore wouldn’t elicit full value. Then this: “Smith is an upside talent who may yet mature to become an All-Star. He isn’t there yet, while Johnson is the bird in the hand. It wouldn’t make sense to trade a 27-year-old All-Star at his peak because such reliable talent is extremely hard to find.”

A word about Mr. Thomsen: He’s a really good guy and a really fine writer, and he’s among the very few in our industry who are taller than I am. (I believe Ian is 6-foot-6.) But I’ll disagree with him on this one. I wouldn’t trade either, but I’d trade …

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Hawks GM Rick Sund: Picking L.A., pulling for Orlando

Rick Sund picked the Lakers and the Magic to reach the NBA finals before the season began, and the Hawks’ GM is proud of himself. He’s so proud he reminded me, not altogether ungraciously, “You liked Cleveland over Orlando.” And I did. (I love everything about the city of Cleveland, as we know. But I digress.)

I called Sund, who was in Minneapolis at an NBA draft showcase doing his due diligence, because I wanted to know which team he likes now. (I’ve already made my pick.) And he said the Lakers, so I’m hoping he’s wrong.

And so is he. “I’d love to see Orlando win,” Sund said. “I’m rooting for the Eastern Conference. And you always like to have games against the NBA champion [to publicize and market].”

And there’s something else: Sund’s theory, often delineated in this space, is that a team can win the NBA title with two superstars (as was the case with Shaq and Kobe in L.A., or Shaq and D-Wade in Miami) or by having at least three players in the top 10 at their respective …

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The NBA finals: A vote for tenacity, a vote for the Magic

There’s a reason Orlando is in the NBA finals and Cleveland is not. Each team has a superstar of the first rank, but the main Magic man is a center.

The Cavaliers built around LeBron James by deploying shooters on the perimeter. (Even Zydrunas Ilgauskas, the titular center, shoots mostly jump shots.) As long as LeBron was driving and the shooters were hitting, it worked gloriously. But when the Magic made it tougher on LeBron and those shooters started missing, the team that won 66 games was laid bare.

Cleveland didn’t have a guy it could feed in the low post and say, “Make a basket.” Because Orlando’s best player is a true center, it always has that option. And by stationing knockdown shooters at every other position, the Magic mixed the ideal blend.

An opponent must always double-team Dwight Howard, but the Magic didn’t need to double-team Ilgauskas or Anderson Varejao, who’s a garbage collector, or Ben Wallace, who only defends. Orlando could shade its defense toward LeBron …

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Why the Atlanta Hawks are still wishing upon a star

The annual chorus is in fine voice. “The Hawks,” goes the full-throated refrain, “won’t get any better until they find a superstar [meaning LeBron James or Kobe Bryant] or a true center [like Dwight Howard].”

And there’s no rebuttal. Sure, the Hawks would be better with LeBron/Kobe/Dwight. Any team would. But the cold truth is that the Hawks won’t find such a transcendent talent unless Dame Fortune smiles an outrageous smile. That’s the way of the NBA.

“You don’t trade for superstars,” says Rick Sund, the Hawks’ general manager. “You draft them.”

The lottery is, by design and definition, pure luck. The Hawks were participants in 2003 (LeBron’s year, when their No. 8 pick was made by Milwaukee as part of the Glenn Robinson trade) and 2004 (Dwight’s year, when they settled for Josh Childress with the sixth pick), and both times went unblessed by the ping-pong balls. There’s no strategy involved. It’s the bounce of ball in a hopper.

A little exercise: Take one player – any one, …

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Not saying LeBron James was right … but I understand

LeBron James didn’t congratulate the winning Magic or speak to the media after Cleveland was eliminated Saturday night. This was neither gracious nor professional from someone who takes pains to be both. But I’m willing to give him a pass.

Nobody in the NBA — maybe nobody in the history of the NBA — has done more to lift his team than LBJ, and LeBron and his Cavs and all of Cleveland had reason to believe this was finally the year. Turned out the team wasn’t as good as the regular season and the first two playoff rounds made it seem. Turned out the Magic was simply better. (Indeed, Orlando came within one second of sweeping the No. 1 seed.)

Let’s say LeBron had addressed the press after Game 6. The questions wouldn’t have been about his performance — he’d been great — but about those around him and whether or not he can win a title with this supporting cast. And that’s a slippery slope. Indeed, as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar complained to reporters as his Milwaukee Bucks were losing …

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How the Atlanta Hawks just might stay together after all

Given that Rick Sund only went one-for-two on keeping last summer’s key free agents, the inclination is to think he might pull a Jeff Francoeur and bat .250 (or worse) this time around. But I’m thinking Sund will do better. I’m thinking the Hawks have a real chance to keep this team together, provided two things happen:

1. The economy stays bad.
2. Nobody gets mad.

“I like the core of this club,” Sund said this week. “I’d like to keep as much of it together as I can.” His endorsement is a major factor: It means he likes what he has and wants to add, not subtract.

Sund inherited last summer’s free agents, and it’s no secret he valued Josh Childress less than ownership did. The fractious Atlanta Spirit actually gave the new general manager permission to exceed the salary cap on Childress – you can do that to keep your own free agents – and Sund declined.

Sund has a clear idea as to what he feels guys are worth. He took a media hit, in this space and others, for letting Childress …

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Bradley’s Buzz: “With the 19th pick, the Hawks take …”

To go big or go small?

The first real wave of NBA mock drafts hit this week, and there’s no consensus regarding the Hawks’ Round 1 selection. Chad Ford of ESPN.com has them taking point guard Jeff Teague of Wake Forest at No. 19. Sean Deveney of Sporting News Today opts for Jonny Flynn, a point guard from Syracuse. Ian Thomsen of SI.com goes with yet another point guard — Eric Maynor of VCU. And NBAdraft.net, which last week had the Hawks taking Teague, has changed its mind and now has them choosing center B.J. Mullens of Ohio State.

For those keeping score, that’s three point guards against one center. In yesterday’s lengthy Q&A with GM Rick Sund, he said: “I pretty much lean, when you’re picking 19th, to take the best player with the most potential.” Of the four, Mullens might well have the most potential. He’s a skinny big man — he’s 7-foot, 275 pounds — with good hands, and he was considered one of the top five prospects for 2009 five months ago. But he had a tepid …

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