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  1. The Trade

    The Cleveland Cavaliers are becoming the NBA franchise for milestone events in the Internet Age.

    First there was "The Decision". Then came "The Return". Now we have "The Trade".

    The first two events centered around LeBron James, without a doubt the biggest damn star in all of Cleveland sports history, no disrespect meant to Mr James Brown.

    That third event though, that is something that has gotten quite the buzz.

    Allow me to explain, Praxedes:

    Kyrie Irving, the top pick of the 2011 NBA Rookie Draft, an All Star and USA Basketball stalwart, asked Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to trade him a couple months back, reportedly because he "wanted to be more of the focal point" according to media articles and features.

    Fair enough, a man can certainly make his own decisions regarding his career.

    Fast forward to less than a few hours ago (as of this writing) and that trade has been consummated.

    Who did Cleveland get for Irving?

    Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and an unprotected 2018 draft pick.

    Thomas, picked 60th and last in the same draft where Irving went first overall, became a bona fide superstar last season, at one point averaging 30 points per game and eventually settling down to a little over 28 ppg.

    Had this been a one-for-one trade nobody would be talking about it much. After all, it was basically score-first superstar point guards swapping places.

    But the Celtics threw in Crowder, a lottery draftee, who is one of the best two-way players in the league and a top defender at both forward spots. They also threw in Zizic, still a work in progress as another 7-foot project but one with pretty good upside according to scouts.

    But the ultimate throw-in is that 2018 unprotected draft pick.

    Praxedes, do you know how Boston got that pick?

    They got that pick during their massive housecleaning that sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets. Yes, those Brooklyn Nets, a team so bad that draft pick could easily be a Top 5 player in a draft year projected to be top heavy with the likes of Marvin Bagley III and Mohamed Bamba among those the Cavaliers could take.

    For one Kyrie Irving.

    Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge seems to think Irving is worth it. "You want a high quality player you have to pay a high price," he said in one interview.

    But is this a price that is too high?

    Ainge has built a reputation as an executive who has generally managed talent very well in Boston and everywhere else he's been. How did Cleveland get him to give up so much for Irving?

    Truth be told Irving and Thomas are certainly one of a type: score-first, clutch-shooting point guards who need the ball in their hands a lot, and both aren't exactly known for their defense. Irving in particular put up career numbers last season with over 25 ppg while shooting a little over 40% from three-range. He hit the title-clinching three in Game 7 of their historic resurrection from 1-3 down to Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals.

    Yet his defensive metrics can charitably be described as "mediocre".

    Thomas for his part went on a tear last season and might have made even more noise is the playoffs were it not for a hip injury.

    For all his greatness, Thomas is still just 5-foot-9, and players that small tend not to last very long, playing at that level, in the league.

    So it was the throw-ins that really made this a fleecing for Cleveland, fleecing the fleecer as it were.

    And as fate would have it, or maybe it really was part of the plan, Cleveland and Boston take on each other on opening night this October 17.

    I guess, Praxedes, we will find out right away who really fleeced who then, eh?
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  2. IS NBA COLLEGE DRAFT FOOL-PROOF?

    The National Basketball Association conducted its first college draft prior to the start of the 1947-48 season.

    The NBA drafting system has been modified various times through the past 69 years.

    The league, which was known as the Basketball Association of America from 1946 to 1949, initially employed a ‘territorial first-round selection” rule where a team was given the first option to choose a college player who either lived or studied within the franchise’s vicinity once he decided to turn professional.

    While teams with inferior win-loss records drafted ahead of the others, they were somehow restricted while making their choices and so, in 1966, the league threw out the “territorial selection” provision in its college draft system and installed a coin-toss scheme to determine who owned the right to select first between the teams with the worst record in each conference.

    In 1985, a draft lottery system was installed to involve all the non-playoff teams in a draw where each had an equal chance to land the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Two years later, the system was tweaked to determine only the top three positions.

    The draft lottery scheme was subsequently refined twice more. A weighted method was adopted in 1990 to enhance the chances of the clubs with the more inferior win-low records to secure the No. 1 choice.

    The weighted lottery system was tinkered once again in 1994 to increase further the odds of the worst teams in winning one of the first three choices in the grab-bag while at the same time lessening the chances of the non-playoff teams with the better records.

    That weighted draft lottery format is still being utilized to this day.

    But not all No. 1 draftees turned out to be impact players, let along metamorphosed into franchise cornerstones.

    Worse, some even turned out to be “real sour” lemons, lasting four years or less in the NBA.

    Take the case of LaRue Martin, who in 1972 was selected No. 1 overall by the Portland Trail Blazers out of the University of Loyola in Chicago (Illinois). The 6-11 Martin averaged a frigid 4.4 points and 4.6 rebounds in 77 games with the Blazers as a rookie and lasted only four seasons in the league with career norms of 5.3 ppg and 4.6 rpg in 271 appearances.

    Then, there’s the most recent bust of a No. 1 overall draftee in Toronto-born Anthony Bennett. The 6-8 forward, a one-and-done collegian at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas in 2012-13, was taken by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the first selection in the entire 2013 NBA draft.

    As a rookie, the first Canadian to be drafted first overall went scoreless in his first 10 games or so with the Cavs, leading some critics to rank him among the worst No. 1 overall selections in league history (or at least since 1966 without the “territorial selection” provision).

    Bennett, out of shape and nursing various injuries, chalked up his first double-digit scoring performance in his 33rd appearance – which was three times as long as any previous No. 1 overall pick. Nearly two-thirds of all previous top selections scored in twin digits in their NBA debut.

    As a frosh, Bennett wound up with averages of 4.2 points and 3.0 boards in 12.8 minutes and 52 contests (without a single start).

    In August 2014, the 22-year-old Bennett was jettisoned to the Timberwolves in a three-team trade involving Cleveland, Minnesota and Philadelphia that saw the NBA’s 2014 top overall draftee by the Cavs, Andrew Wiggins, also moving to the Wolves camp where the 6-8 Canadian out of the University of Kansas romped away with the Eddie Gottlieb trophy that goes to the league’s Rookie of the Year awardee.

    As a pro sophomore, Bennett normed 5.2 scores and 3.8 reebies in 15.7 minutes and 57 games (including 54 off the pines) with the sad-sack Wolves, whose draft lottery victory with an NBA-worst 16-16 record, gifted them with the top selection in the entire 2015 NBA draft last June 25.

    Minny made the most out of its first overall draft selection in franchise history and chose University of Kentucky’s 7-foot power forward-center Karl-Anthony Towns.

    Traditionally, the team that lands the first pick in the entire NBA draft usually ranks high on anyone’s list of draft winners.

    The Timberwolves are no exception. They, along with the Miami Heat and even the woebegone Los Angeles Lakers (taking Ohio State’s 6-5 combo guard D’Angelo Russell over reigning NCAA titlist Duke University’s 6-11 center Jahlil Okafor at the No. 2 slot) are the latest draft winners.
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  3. Lakers Have Decisions To Make

    Mitch Kupchak had the misfortune of following in the footsteps of legendary Lakers GM Jerry West. With the Living Logo essentially building the modern Lakers Dynasty a few years ago, Kupchak had some huge shoes to fill when he came in. It didn't help that many things beyond his control made a mess of Kupchak's bigger decisions. Steven Nash got hit by injuries almost as soon as he came aboard. Dwight Howard didn't quite pan out and left after only one season. Kobe Bryant simply got old and run-down.

    This season however, Kupchak might have just the right opportunity to return to the upper tier of NBA font office executives.

    With the draft order now final, the Lakers have the Number 2 overall pick. That gives them the chance to land a true franchise player. That could be Karl Towns, or newly-crowned NCAA champion Jahlil Okafor, both highly-rated big men who will undoubtedly have stellar NBA careers wherever they go. They might also take the new road and draft a super athletic guard, with Emmanuel Mudiay and Ohio State's D'Angelo Russell.

    In the free agent market, they have enough big money to offer Marc Gasol, the Memphis all star center who is without a doubt the best among the crop of unrestricted free agents. Los Angeles might also make a play for Jimmy Butler and/or Deandre Jordan.

    Any (or a combination) of those guys could immediately return the Lakers back into being at least a sure playoff team. They will arrive on a Lakers team that has Rookie First Team selection Jordan Clarkson, and a bunch of very good role players like Ryan Kelly, Robert Sacre, and Wes Johnson. There are also the two tested veterans in Carlos Boozer and Jeremy Lin.

    And returning to the draft, LA also has the Number 27 and the Number 34 overall picks. Given how well Kupchak got value in the second round with Clarkson, and even Sacre, it seems this organization does indeed do a lot of good scouting. Probability is not normally on the side of second-rounders. That Kupchak and his scouts took in good players outside the first round should be lauded.

    Let's take things one at a time.

    Who should LA get at Number 2?

    This seems like a no-brainer: whoever is still around between Towns and Okafor should be it. Both are in the 6-foot-11 to 7-foot range, well-built, strong, agile. Towns is a better athlete, and developed into a legit two-way threat for Kentucky. Okafor is arguably the most polished big man to come out of college in probably the last decade or so, and he assumed the role of superstar on a champinship team with relative ease.

    Up to the time the last college season started, Okafor looked like the consensus Number 1 pick, until Towns started showing his game more and more. Towns however had two other solid big men with him - Willy Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson. Cauley-Stein and Johnson are also in the 7-foot range. The knock on them all however is that they didn't even make the National Finals, with Okafor's Duke beating Frank Kaminsky's Wisconsin for the national title. Still, everything Towns showed during the season was enough to make him overtake Okafor as the new consensus Number 1.

    Either way the Lakers really can't go wrong, Skilled and strong big men are still the most valuable commodity in the NBA, even with the emergence of the elite athlete guard in the L (Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, John Wall, etc etc...). It is still much tougher to find a good big man than a good guard, and LA simply will not pass up on either of the Top 2.

    But let us suppose LA will go the route of Golden State and Atlanta and opt to play fast instead of playing big. Mudiay and Russell are very good prospects who are tall guards, both in the 6-foot-5 and 200-pounds range, able to play the point, both with incredible athleticism and out and out speed. Mudiay is being project as Westbrook 2.0, while Russell might become a one-man Splash Bros (maybe, maybe...) with his ability to knock down jumpshots with a quick trigger. Either of these guys could make the Lakers play the fast modern game.

    Kupchak however will likely play it safe and draft either of the two bigs.

    That brings us to how drafting Okafor or Towns impacts their move for the younger Gasol. Gasol is already a battle-tested all star who has had five straight playoffs with Memphis. However, this last playoff exit of the Grizzlies might make it easier for him to leave. Still, what will the Lakers do with Gasol and either of the two incoming rookie bigs? Certainly having two players with quality size makes the game a little easier, but then again it could turn into a position-and-minutes mess that will once again lead to bad team chemistry.

    If the Lakers do get Gasol that will make him the starter, alongside the recovering Julius Randle. Gasol is used to having Zach Randolph, a strong ...
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  4. Worst to get Second Best

    With only seven wins in this lockout-shortened season, the Charlotte Bobcats were looking to get better through the draft, because they certainly weren't going to get better through trades. Unfortunately, although they had the best chance of nabbing the right to pick first overall in the 2012 draft, they will have to settle for picking second overall. Number 1 went to the New Orleans Hornets, previously owned by the NBA itself in the pro ball equivalent of receivership.

    Here's how the first round draft order looks like in order from 1 to 30.

    1. New Orleans Hornets

    2. Charlotte Bobcats

    3. Washington Wizards

    4. Cleveland Cavaliers

    5. Sacramento Kings

    6. Portland Trail Blazers (via Brooklyn Nets)

    7. Golden State Warriors

    8. Toronto Raptors

    9. Detroit Pistons

    10. New Orleans Hornets (via Minnesota Timberwolves)

    11. Portland Trail Blazers

    12. Milwaukee Bucks

    13. Phoenix Suns

    14. Houston Rockets

    15. Philadelphia 76ers

    16. Houston Rockets (via New York Knicks)

    17. Dallas Mavericks

    18. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Utah Jazz)

    19. Orlando Magic

    20. Denver Nuggets

    21. Boston Celtics

    22. Boston Celtics (via Los Angeles Clippers)

    23. Atlanta Hawks

    24. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Los Angeles Lakers)

    25. Memphis Grizzlies

    26. Indiana Pacers

    27. Miami Heat

    28. Oklahoma City Thunder

    29. Chicago Bulls

    30. Golden State Warriors (via San Antonio Spurs)

    While the Hornets will undoubtedly select Kentucky's Anthony Davis as the top overall pick of this draft, the Bobcats won't exactly be settling for crumbs. Davis, the 6-foot-10 consensus Number 1 pick, is a pretty obvious choice to go first, and New Orleans can certainly use him. He will bring a lot of athleticism, length and excitement to a frontline struggling to regain its NBA footing after bad management almost killed the franchise. Coming off an NCAA championship, Davis will bring a winner's attitude to one of the worst teams in the NBA.

    After Davis there are several choices still up for grabs for Charlotte, all of whom could become big stars themselves. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Davis' fellow Kentucky Wildcat, is the best small forward and among the best players in this draft class. At 6-foot-7, Kidd-Gilchrist already has a game that's 97-98% complete, and like Davis he won't need to change positions in the NBA, normally the toughest thing to do for college stars moving up to the next level. As small forwards go he isn't quite the second coming of LeBron James, but he might become a more athletic version of Paul Pierce down the road if he develops a better outside shot. If the Bobcats do get him, he will surely take Derrick Brown's place as the starting small forward.

    Getting bigger is a priority for Charlotte, as they got constantly pounded off both boards last season. 7-foot wide body Desagana Diop and 6-foot-9 Bismack Biyombo are big and strong athletes but they won't be confused for NBA All Stars. Diop is still a heck of a shotblocker, as is 6-foot-10 backup power forward Tyrus Thomas, but the Bobcats need more from the frontline to help space the floor and open things up for the likes of 6-foot-6 off-guard Gerald Henderson and 6-foot-6 swingman Cory Maggette.

    If the Bobcats want to go for more strength inside, 6-foot-9 Thomas Robinson of Kansas is easily the second-best power forward in this draft class behind Davis. He is within 95-97% of Davis' abilities, and seems to be a little naturally stronger. He brings a blue collar work ethic at the 4 spot that NBA teams covet, and at 6-foot-9 can match up well enough size-wise against most NBA forwards. He can play alongside or alternating with Byron Mullens and Derrick Brown, the incumbent Bobcat starting forwards.

    Either Kidd-Gilchrist or Robinson should help in both the scoring and rebounding ends where Charlotte was worst and second-worst overall in the league this past season. They will also help ease the burden of Henderson on the scoring end, and provide able receivers for pointguards DJ Augustin and Kemba Walker.

    A bit of a stretch and a heck of a gamble in terms of big men is Baylor's Perry Jones III. At a long and athletic 6-foot-11, Jones might be an even better player than Davis. Unfortunately for Jones and any team willing to take him, he is sorely lacking in focus and seems to be on the lazy side, relying on nothing more than his freakish athletic abilities than developing his full skill set. In the last college season he had back to back games where he averaged 18 points, ...

    Updated 06-01-2012 at 12:49 AM by gameface_one

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