Wednesday, June 27, 2007

NBA Draft: Lottery Predictions

#1. Portland: Greg Oden
If you're Portland, you can't pass up a franchise center. That's exactly what Oden is; there's not much doubt about it. His defense is already NBA-caliber (see: the Florida game) and his size and athleticism basically hand him 10 boards right away. Sure, his offensive game is not refined like Duncan's, but once his wrist heals and he continues to work on it, what would lead anyone to believe that he won't average 22 a night? This kid's got the right attitude; he won't flop.

#2. Seattle: Kevin Durant
Is it possible Durant is even better than he was in college? Can he dominate even more in a situation where his coach realizes it's probably a good idea to let him touch the ball in the last two minutes, seeing as how no one can stop him? No one's ever really seen a kid like KD. He's not a three, he's not a four and he's not a C. He's not the next Jordon, Bird, Dirk or Barkley. He kind of looks like a Shaun Marion with a better shot. But then again he doesn't really look like Marion either. Is there any Tayshaun Prince in him, any Tim Thomas, any T-Mac? Just by looking at what he did at Texas, there's no way he's not gonna put up 24 and 9 a night, minimum. It's just all the questions of exactly what he is that put Durant below Oden. Portland knows what they're getting in Oden, but Seattle may end up getting something even better than that - they just can't be quite as sure.

#3. Atlanta: Al Hortford
The Hawks need a point guard. They've needed a point guard for years. But who's best amongst Conley, Crittenton or Law? And are any of them going to be the Williams or Paul that the Hawks needed/need? Because one of those three PG's will be around at 11, and because I don't think any of them will be as good as Paul or Williams (maaaaaybe Conley Jr. will be) the Hawks should take either the most NBA-ready or the best available player left on the board. Luckily for them, Al Hortford is both of those guys. Pencil in Al for 14 and 9 next season.

#4. Memphis: Mike Conley Jr
The poor Grizz really got burned by the ping pong balls. They really needed Oden or Durant to help out this roster. A roster where Hakim Warrik is the third-best player. Also, Gasol is going to be traded in all likelihood and they're not going to be any good any time soon. Because of this - and because Chucky Atkins is currently their starting point guard - the Grizzlies should nab Mike Conley Jr. He is a great athlete who has a chance to develop into a Chris Paul-type. Memphis has the time to wait for either him or Yi to develop, but I think they'd be better served with a good point guard than with a good wing forward in three years, so they should go with Conley Jr. Plus, he's got this in this blood.

#5. Boston: Yi Jianlian
It doesn't look like Kobe, KG, or Marion are coming to Boston. Therefore, it looks like Paul Pierce will soon be leaving Boston. The C's played everything to get Oden or Durant. They didn't. Now, they really are that screwed. It's time to keep bottoming out and hope for some luck or the number 1 next year. The Celts should take Yi here because he's got the most upside (potentially another Dirk, if that's still a good thing) of anyone left on the board. His defense is atrocious and he's soft, but time and effort can solve those problems. He's a great athlete who needs a couple years and the C's sure have a couple of years to wait for him.

#6 Milwaukee: Jeff Green
The Bucks have Bogut and Villanueva, Michael Redd, and they can re-sign Mo Williams. They're not number 6 pick bad; more, they're just really good tankers. Best case scenario, Conley Jr. falls to them and they let Williams walk in order to sign someone who better fits their needs. Unforetunately, I don't think Mike Jr will be around at 6. The Bucks shouldn't wait for Wright or even Noah to develop. They also don't really need a big man like Hawes. Therefore, their best options are probably Brewer, Green and Stuckey. I kind of like Jeff Green going here to the Bucks, and then I kind of like them lining up in the 7th or 8th playoff spot next year.

#7 Minnesota: Brandon Wright
It looks like KG ain't going to Boston, but he is going somewhere (PHX?). Frankly the Wolves should expect to be back here again next year so they might as well take a guy who's got the upside to be a steal at 7, but needs a couple years yet to fully develop. Brandon Wright fits the bill for Minnesota.

#8 Charlotte: Joakim Noah
The Bobcats are still a little ways away from contention, even in the East. Still, they've got a nice core of college stars and hard workers. Noah will be another one. As goofy as he is, Joakim is a very good athlete. He clearly needs more strength and overall refinement is his game, but then again doesn't every prospect? Sure he can't shoot a lick, but Thorton and Brewer (Charlotte's best alternatives here at 8) aren't exactly Michael Redd's either. Noah is a guy who was supposed to go number 1 overall last year - did he really get so much worse that he's now a bad pick at number eight? No. Charlotte should grab Joakim and meet everyone back here again next year, same time, same place.

#9 Chicago: Spencer Hawes
The Bulls are probably upset that Noah isn't still on the board here at 9. They shouldn't be too upset. Noah being gone saves them from drafting yet another defense/hustle guy that can't shoot. Defense/hustle guys are what Scott Skiles likes, but he should try out those 7-ft low-post scorers too, they're pretty cool. Spencer Hawes fills Chicago's needs. Sometimes the draft isn't that hard.

#10 Sacramento: Corey Brewer
Sacramento is an awfully bad team to be picking this low. There's hope for next year in most of these lottery cities: Portland, Seattle, Milwaukee, Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, LA, even Atlanta, but I don't see much reason for hope in Sacramento. They're gonna be in the top 3 next year. The Kings really could have used a guy with star potential, even one who they would have had to wait for, but unforetunatley by 10 they're just about all gone. This team is in rough shape and they've got to be just picking "best available," but the best player available at 10 looks like it might be Corey Brewer. Brewer is long, tough, athletic and he can play excellent defense, but he's not going to the All-Star game any time soon. He's got a decent shot, but no penetration game and not enough strength for an NBA post-up game. At best, he perfects his shot and develops into a Bruce Bowen/Tayshaun Prince mix. Sac-town was hoping for something more than that in this draft.

#11 Altanta: Javaris Crittenton
Atlanta can pass on Conley Jr. because of Crittenton and Law. Of the two, Crittenton's ceiling is probably a bit higher because he's more athletic. The Hawks will be better next year, but still only on the playoff bubble, so there's no need to rush for Acie Law and his more NBA-ready game. Trading this pick for a veteran point guard is not a bad idea (Atkins or Knight, or someone else maybe?). The Hawks probably wish they could turn back the clock and grab Williams or Paul, but they can't. There's no Williams or Paul in this draft, but there is a Hortford. Atlanta should just take Al and then Crittenton and not make another mistake by trying to fix past mistakes.

#12 Philadelpia: Al Thorton
The Sixers were about the only lottery-bound team that played hard, and played well, down the stretch last year. Yes that caused them to miss out on a better prospect, but what it allowed them to do was develop the team they already have. The NBA isn't a fantasy league where you can round up a bunch of talents and expect to get a bunch of wins (listening, Isiah?). You've got to develop a team and get the most out of guys, "coach 'em up". The Sixers will have the playoffs in their sights with the addition of SF Al Thorton, a polished scorer and hard worker (but unfortunately not a star).

#13 New Orleans: Rodney Stuckey
New Orleans has a bunch of guys kind of like him, but I still like Rodney Stuckey for the Hornets. He's a better version of Desmond Mason - and that's not bad. They could use a big man, but any of the guys left would be reaches here. They could trade this pick to move down or to acquire a veteran "better than Desmon Mason" player.

#14 LA Clippers: Acie Law III
Shaun Livingston went from "next great LA point guard" to "that guy from the horrible YouTube video who blew out his knee" in about two seconds (believe me, the video is really not something that anyone needs to watch). Sam Cassell went from "Sam's back" to "Sam's old" in about a year. (Here's a funny video of Cassell "highlights." A little bit creepy, perhaps? But then again, it is Sam Cassell.) That leaves the Clipps with no one to man the point. Enter Acie Law III. Sure, he's not a great athlete and his game doesn't really scream "NBA star" to anyone, but I loved him in college and ballsy winners like him always seem to find a way to make it.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

My MLB All-Star Team

With the MLB All-Star voting winding down (little more than a week left), I feel enough of the season is in the books that I can now present my All-Star teams.

American League

C: Victor Martinez, Cle

All season Victor has been proving that he's at least the equal of last year's batting champ, Joe Mauer of the rival Twins. Martinez has been the most consistently excellent offensive weapon on one of the AL's top run-producing teams. His defense has also improved to the point where he's now just passibly below average, but at least no longer abhorrent.

1st: David Ortiz, Bos

"1st baseman," sure. But man, can he rake? Power numbers are down ("only" 13 HR's), but his average (.332) is higher than most could have imagined in the face of the extreme shift he must deal with. His talents as a hitter are really being exhibited; he's not just an Adam Dunn-type.

2nd: Placido Polanco, Det

Does he ever strike out? Apparentlt not very often (only 13 times so far). He's also yet to commit an error, has scored 49 runs and is hitting close to .340. That's the picture of an All-Star to me. This season, Polanco has finally been healthy enough to show that his prodigious hitting talents can hold up over a longer sample size.

SS: Orlando Cabrera, LAA

He's always been able to play defense, but now he's swinging the bat better than he has in a long time. He showed this type of offensive talent as far back as Montreal and it's finally translated into a situation where his name has hovered near the top of the AL batting list (.337). Still, Cabrera really is getting this spot because Jeter, Peralta, Guillen and Young are booting the ball all over their respective infields.

3rd: Alex Rodriguez, NY

His girly yelp in Toronto and his late-night shenanigans with his blonde bombshell shouldn't overshadow the fact the he carried the entire Yankees team during the month of April (hooray for Mr. April!). He's having his best year (73 RBI's!) since he arrived in New York as his defense has recovered and his swing looks down-right menacing. He deserves to be starting in 'Frisco.

OF: Carl Crawford, TB

Baseball pergutary in Tampa may very well be rough, but Crawford sure doesn't let it affect his game. He's been tearing it up on the basepaths as well as hitting for power and average (five more extra base hits than the comparable Grady Sizemore). He's a plus defender too.

OF: Magglio Ordonez, Det

There's just something about him that I don't like. It's not fair, so I won't let it keep me from putting the AL hitting leader (.383!) on this team. He's been the clutch bat for a Tigers offense that has had to bash its way to victories in spite of the pitching (mainly relief pitching) woes afflicting Detroit.

OF: Torii Hunter, Min

He's a joy to watch in the outfield. Great range, great arm and highlight-reel catch after highlight-reel catch to boot. The thing is, he's also been the bat (15 HR's and 56 RBI's) keeping the Twins in the Central race. Terrific year so far for Mr. Hunter.

National League

C: Russell Martin, LAD

Can't Jorge Posada or Jason Varitek play for the NL? I guess not. Martin will have to do. 11 SB's from a catcher!? Wow, I like it. He's an up-and-coming talent out in La La Land and he deserves to start behind the plate for the NL All-Stars.

1st: Prince Fielder, Mil

Woa! Sorry, I got distracted, The Prince of Plate just smacked another moon shot while I was typing this (in reality he's got 26 and counting). The way he's been crushing the ball this past month, he's got to start over the fast-heating-up Albert Pujols. Plus, Pujols is another guy I just don't like (unfairly or not).

2nd: Chase Utley, Phi

Last year was his year to get all the fan-fare, I guess. He's not being talked about too much outside of Philly this year. I guess his offense greatness is getting boring to some. Not me. Sure, he strikes out at a pretty decent rate, but look at that power (12 hrs and 56 RBI's) he has at second base! Utley out edges Hudson, Uggla and Phillips for this spot.

SS: Jose Reyes, NYM

Jose Reyes is so terrifying on the bases that he got Armando Benitez (yes I know it was Benitez, but still) to balk twice in an extra-innings game that he ended up blowing to the Mets. Armando was promply cut and Reyes' legend grew further. Reyes' transformation for OBS chump to champ has been so remarkable that he's got to be on this team even with Jimmy Rollins, Edgar Renteria and Hanley Ramirez in the same league (J.J. Hardy is proving that he never deserved to be in that group of NL shortstops). SI had an article on "stars of the future" a few years back and Reyes and LeBron were both in it. They've sure lived up to the hype, huh?

3rd: Miguel Cabrera, Fla

This time the Marlin beats the Met, as Cabrera is having a better year than David Wright and thus makes up for Reyes snatching away the SS spot from Hanley Ramirez. His defense is pitiful (just put him back in the outfield and be done with it, Florida), but he can hit with anyone in baseball.

OF: Matt Holliday, Col

I though those humidors were supposed to tone down Coors field? Well maybe they have, but don't look to Holliday as any kind of proof. The NL batting leader (.366!) is finally getting some publicity and will probably move into the top three in the NL. I've already got him there. The surprising Rockies could get even better once Garrett Atkins wakes up (he's already begun to somewhat so beware).

OF: Eric Byrnes, Ari

"Byrnes!?," you say. Yep, Byrnes. I say screw it. I don't want streaky Carlos Lee or BALCO Barry taking this spot, I'm giving it to Eric Byrnes. I love the way he plays the game: balls to the wall. He always taken away a ton of hits in the outfield at the expense of his body. Now, he's finally the one inflicting some pain. He steal bases (14), hits for average (.318), hits for some surprising power (11 HR's) and most importantly he's been the D-Backs' most consistent (you'd have to go back to April to find the last time he posted back to back O-fers) spark at the top of their young line-up.

OF: Ken Griffey Jr., Cin

He's 40 and the Reds suck, but the 'Ole Kid keeps putting up numbers (19 HR's and almost as many walks and strike outs). Griffey should start in SF to show Bonds fans how the game should be played: with a prodigious bat as well as a clean smile.


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Tyson Gay and Liu Xiang Put the Spotlight Back on Track and Field

With the former Arkansas Razorback, Tyson Gay, spitting out back-to-back sub-9.80 100s (albeit slightly wind-aided times) in the past two weeks, it's time for a trip to YouTube to view some track video.

This past Sunday at the 2007 Reebok Grand Prix IAAF World Athletics Tour stop at Icahn Stadium on Randall's Island, New York, a couple false starts (American record holder, Dominique Arnold was DQ'd) and a blistering 12.95 p.r. from Terrence Trammell could not stop Liu Xiang from ripping off a stunning 12.92 victory; just .04 seconds off his world record. Xiang's start is only average, but his form stays so impeccible (he's feet get down over the hurdle faster than anyone I've ever seen) that he is able to catch Trammell over the last few hurdles in an impressive show of drive and racing heart, as well as talent. Trammell and Arnold will surely have their work cut out for them if they intend to return the 110m World Record and/or the Olympic title back to America with Xiang in the field in front of his home fans in the '08 Games.

Gay's 9.76w on the same day sure had announcer Ato Boldon excited, and with good measure. Along with his 9.79w two weeks ago Gay looks primed to bring home the other men's sprint world record unnervingly being held overseas (Asafa Powell's 9.77 last June is the fastest ever legal time). Seeing as though Powell has shone himself to be more of a time-setter than a racer (see: his no show in Athens), there's a good chance Gay might be looking at a gold medal next summer as well.

The US vs Jamaica sprint rivalry goes beyond Gay, Powell and the 100m. Jamaica's Usain Bolt, owner of a 19.93 junior world record, may very well reach the 200m final in Beijing and have to take on any of the following Americans: Gay, Athens gold medalist Shawn Crawford, Wallace Spearmon, Walter Dix, Xavier Carter and LaShawn Merritt. Quite a task. For what it's worth, my early picks for team USA's best 200m men in Beijing are Spearmon, Gay, Carter, in that order.

The '07 Reebok meet is only one example of Spearmon's 200m staying power. The announcer's comment about his "characteristic poor turn" is bush league. Wallace's turn looks "poor" only because his superior speed strength allows him to close in the 200 better than anyone else in the world.

That is, better than anyone else except for the possible exception of the 100m-to-400m freak, the former LSU Tiger, Xavier "The X- Man" Carter. His absurd, come from behind 19.63 200m in Switzerland (fastest ever by a human being because we know full well that it was no mere mortal wearing spikes this night in Atlanta) is made even more amazing by the fact that it is none other than Tyson Gay that Carter undresses. The X-Man's raw power makes him a definate threat in whatever race he runs in China.

The young crop of male sprinters has the United States positioned very well for next summer. Now, let's just cross our fingers and hope they don't embarrass the old Red White and Blue while they're there (read: Mr. Gatlin's fall from grace).


Monday, June 4, 2007

Eastern Conference Finals Wrap-Up

"What just transpired was something I felt was needed for the league, was needed for Cleveland, was needed for LeBron." Well, if MJ said it (in the Chicago Tribune), it's got to be true.

LeBron put on such a show in Game 3 that only his sublime Game 5 performance could have topped it. In Game 3, when his team needed him most down two games to none, LeBron pulled out one of his best playoff games ever. Just one rebound and one assist shy of a triple-double, James put his team on his back a carried them back into the series. It was a spectacular game in which James physically imposed himself with such domination not seen in years. The crazy part is that we hadn't seen anything yet.

29 of the last 30 and 48 in 50 minutes of double-OT Game 5 play = absolutely unbelievable. Channelling his inner-MJ, LeBron finally decided to show his entire hand. After a season in which he routinuely turned down his effort meter any time his Cavs appeared out of it, LeBron finally showed us what he looks like with it flipped all the way to 11. He single-handedly took control of the game and the series in a hostile enviroment at the Palace at Auburn Hills. As Witnesses we finally saw what we've all been waiting for: our first glimpse at what the "LeBron Era" of the NBA will look like.

LeBron and his Cavs will square off against Duncan, Manu, Tony Parker, Big Shot Rob, Pop and the proverbial favorites, the Spurs of San Antonio. LeBron will have his work cut out for him as he tries to prove that the "LeBron Era" is not just right around the corner (I think he still needs some halfway-decent teammates), but is actaully here already. His task will be difficult, but at least he's still playing.

His opponents those five-time Eastern Conference Championship participants, the Detriot Pistons, are sitting at home right now wondering where it all went wrong. Did they really only win one NBA title? Was it that maybe they were an even bigger tease than they were a seamingly dominant team? In retrospect, I think that might be true; I think they've been a dissapointment. A slew of shrewd moves to from 2001 through 2004 set up their core (Billips, Rip Hamilton, 'Sheed, Prince, Big Ben Wallace) set them up to be a dominant team, but history will show that they never became one. They were never better than when that whipped the last incarnation of Shaq&Kobe's Lakers in the '03-'04 Finals, and that's a shame.

For all the good GM Joe Dumars did, he never put his team over the top. The Pistons' excellence was more a product of an exceptionally weak Eastern Conference than of Dumars' work. The beginning of the end started as far back as the '03 draft when Dumars passed on D-Wade, 'Melo and Chris Bosh in favor of Darko Millic, who hit the no-no three-fer: immature, lazy and white. What often goes unnoticed though is that Joe also could have had Leonardo Barbosa or Josh Howard with his second 1st round pick that year, but instead he chose the ineffectual Carlos Delfino. Unforgivable. Cleveland and Miami would not be your previous two Eastern Conference Champions had Dumars not air-balled the rich '03 draft.

Unforetunately the '03 draft failure was not an abberation, but rather a sign of things to come. From then on Dumars continued to fail in his efforts to make "the move" that would put his team into the pantheon of greatness. Dumars' draft picks and free-agents signings just have not been good enough (except for Rasheed Wallace). Granted, due both to trades as well as the success of the team, Dumars never had the picks to do much in the draft, and he never had an abundance of cap space either because he had to sign his core guys. Still, that's no excuse for coming home from three drafts with this crop of winners: Andreas Glyniadakis, Rickey Paulding, Jason Maxiell, Alex Acker, Amir Johnson, Will Blalock and Chieck Samb. Ugly. By the same token, the signings/trades for Okur, Atkins, Hunter, Webber, McDyess, Mohammed, etc, were never enough to make the Pistons truely great either.

To top off his player-personnel failings, Dumars' choices for head coach have a bit off too. The only time Detriot actually took the title, Dumars chose to sell his sole and hire the mercurial Larry Brown and the ensuing post-1 title disaster that he was sure to become. Brown was great and led the team to its ultimate goal, but his exit behavior surely held the Pistons back, waisting a year of their prime. When Larry was finally gone (off to the Knicks where I'm sure he had great fun) Dumars came up empty on his choice for a successor: Flip Saunders. Saunders' claim to fame was all the years of underperformance he spent with KG exiting the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs. True to form, Flip has gone ahead and underperformed with the Pistons, leading the team to upsets at the hands a two-man and then a one-man team in back-to-back years (Wade, Shaq and the Heat in '05-'06 and LBJ and Cleveland in '06-'07). A better coach could have gotten more out of the Pistons.

In the end, while we still have to wait through the Finals to find out whether the "LeBron Era" is upon us yet, we can already be reasonably assured that the "Cavaliers Era" will surely be taking over the reign of the Eastern Conference from the "Coulda-Been Dynasty" of the Detriot Pistons.

Please feel free to post your thoughts.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Performance Enhancement in the Sports World

It has been two days since 1996 Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis (along with two of his former Telekom teammates) has admitted to using performance enhancing drugs (EPO in his case).
We're also only about one week removed from the Giambino's timid, semi-admission to taking "that stuff," and we're still in the middle of Floyd Landis' absurd doping soap opera. And of course, who can forget that we continue to bare witness to Barry "BALCO" Bonds' unpleasant march towards Hammerin' Hank's all-time home run mark.

Unforetunatley there is not much shock associated with these newest cases of doping, because these doping violators of late are only the latest in the ever-growing line of cheaters in the contemporary sporting universe. We've learned over that past few years that atheletes cheat - a lot. The increased monetary stakes of our modern games have forced cheating to extraordinary new heights. The crazy money athletes can now make, coupled with new scientific advances, has upped the ante on cheating. Athletes can now stick needles in their bodies and inject chemicals that produce results only science fiction could have thought up 50 years ago. It is clear that athletes can dope, and will dope, no matter what type of testing systems are in place to catch them. The forces pressing on them are just too overwhelming. Also, the scientific advances are rapid enough to keep the cheaters always one step ahead of the testing bodies. Because of all this, I write as a sports fan who is not shocked, but who is at a crossroad.

Doping is here to stay and we as sports fans are now forced to decide how we will respond to it. Should we just give up? Turn in our sports fan membership cards and try gardening? I don't think so. Doping is bad. It is illegal and hurtful. The "oh, he's only hurting himself" explination doesn't fly either. One doper indirectly forces the man next to him to cheat as well, if only to keep his spot on the team. All that being said, doping is not the most horrible transgression in the grand scheme of things. A doper is cheater, not a murderer; so lay off Barry for two seconds. Therefore, we should be able to find a way in which we are able to live in the face of doping (even if we very much wish we didn't have to).

Most people want to be fans ( just look at the MLB attendance records that continue to be broken even in the "steroid era"). The problem is that most people do not like to be played for fools. I think most people agree with me on this. Therefore, I believe the solution to the doping epidemic in the sports world is to, yes of course, apply the most stringent testing policies possible and back them up with harsh penalties, but even more importantly, to publically out any and all dopers. This way sports fans will be in the know. They will know who is cheating, and consequently, who is not. It is the cloud of uncertainty that hangs over sports that is doping worst result. Outing players who test positive will remove this cloud. Fans will then be able to decide who they want to root for, who they are willing to begrudgingly tolerate, and who they will decide they want nothing to do with.

For example, I'm an Indians fan (fresh off a sweep of the formerly first place Tigers, Go Tribe!). and I know that one of the key pieces of our bullpen is a steroid violator: Rafael Betancourt.
Betancourt helps us win games, and as a fan that's what I want: W's for the Tribe. I wish Betancourt wasn't a cheater (he hasn't failed since, so theoretically he is currently clean but his positive put that forever in doubt), I wish we had clean guy pitching for us in the 7th and 8th innings, but in the end I will tolerate him. The fact that I know that Betancourt has failed a test has allowed me to be able to make my own decision on how I feel about him. While I won't ever be buying his number 63 jersey, I'll continue to hope that he stikes out Paul Konerko when the Sox visit the Jake; and ever other time he takes the mound in and Indians jersey, for that matter.

It is time we as sports fans stop wishing for the good old days (which I'm not in any way denying weren't good) and realize that we must learn to live with doping because it's not going away any time soon. The sooner we accept doping (accept its prevalence, not accept that we like it), the sooner we will be able to go back to enjoying sports not as a bastion of idealistic innocence, but rather as an entertaining way to pass the minute and share something with our fellow fans.

As always, please post responses if you'd like.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Boston Celtics: Lottery Nightmare

Hey everyone,
I come to you as a Celtics fan devastated one day after the 2007 NBA draft did us no favors.
Unfortunaley, I think the number 5 pick sets up the C's for at least 3 more years of 30 win-purgatory. Frankly, I think we're screwed for the foreseeable future. I'll break down the team roster to illustrate my point.

Pierce - Paul's our star, but how long does he want to be that? He's going to be 30 next season and is no longer a young man. Pierce is clearly fed up with the youth movement and I think he will ask to be traded within the year. Even if the Celtics accommodate him, they'll never get an even value return - star player trades never do (look at the Iverson and Shaq deals). By the time we can hope to be anything close to competitive towards a championship, Paul will be long gone. Frankly in terms of long range planning, Pierce is a non-factor.

Jefferson - Al Jeff is our guy ... right? Well, maybe. Al Jeff is a 17 and 10 career guy. A heck of a player no doubt, but frankly, not a perennial All-Star. He's a third option on a championship-caliber team.

Szczerbiak - Wally is a nice player yet he is grossly overpaid. Wally might give us 14 a night ( if he's healthy, which is a big if by the way) but that 14 is not worth the money we are paying him. An Allan Houston Exemption rule candidate, perhaps?

West - Really, a replacement level back-up point guard. A nice guy to have on a team, but no one to build a roster around.

Gomes - Gomes is a solid player. Ryan will put up 15 and 6 if he gets 30 minutes a night. He's our third best player right now. But is that a good thing?

Allen - Tony Allen was finally coming into his own before he got hurt (dunking after the wistle, no less). Allen is plus defender and even developed some offensive game lately. But, he's a guy who's strength is athleticism and that athelticism is compromised by his knee injury. I don't think we can count on Tony be anything more than a bench player for the foreseeable future.

Green - Gerald, Gerald, Gerald. A great kid and a great athelete (slam dunk champ, yeah!), but is he an NBA player? Is this kid going to be a legitimate NBA wing-man? I can't say I think so. Frankly, he's one of the worst defenders in the NBA and doesen't have much clue as to what to do on the court. Still, he's only 21 and since he won't get even equal value in any trade for him he's probably ours to live and die by, so we've at least got to give him a chance.

Rondo - Rondo - whom Ainge claims is better than any of the PGs coming out this year (uhh, riiight) - is a solid player around which we can build. Rondo is a heck of an athlete and is a plus defender with great quickness, length and desire. His weakness too, is a fixable one: shooting. For example, look at how a guy like Bruce Bowen has made himself into a shooter when he started out as a defnese-only brick-layer. Rondo can do it if he's got the will. I think he does. I think Rajon can play, and even start, in this league. That said, he will never be a perennial All-Star. He's a starter on a playoff team, but not a star. He's someone we can live with as a winner, not someone who will make us a winner.

Ray - Uh 3-point shot, I guess. C'mon this guy will be out of the league in three years. A nobody.

Telfair - Off the team due to behavioral transgressions. Just think of the Seb Telfair era in this way: would you trade him for Lafrenz ( and his contract) and ROY Brandon Roy, today? Uh, I think so. Great move , Danny.

Pinkney - D-Leaguer.

Perkins - Perk is a high schooler, so we have to give him time to develop. Umm, is four years enough time? A hard worker and a decent rebounder and defender, but in the end, I hate to say it, Perk is an NBA nobody.

Powe - Second round steal? Maybe. But we have to take into consideration that he was an 11 minute-per-game player on a 24-win team. Does that sound like anyone who will lead be an important part of a championship team? Nope.

Scalabrine - Maybe the whitest dude in the NBA, but actually maybe not the worst. Scala is goofy and can't create his own shot, but he does play hard and is fundamentally sound. He could be an 8th man on a playoff team. Though he may be a bit overpaid, he's actually a useful player on this team. (Ouch.)

Ratliff - His back gave out long ago making his expiring contract his only value anymore. It is, however, a value trading chip, but in itself is not a source of wins on the court, per say.

Olowokandi - Former number 1 overall out of Pacific. I think 8 years down the line it's safe to say it: He's not good! The Kandi-Man will probably be gone before next season and has no significant future with the team.

#5 Draft Pick - The Celts best options are Wright, Green, Yi, Hortford, Noah and Brewer. Brandon Wright is a career 14 and 7-er: an athlete, but not someone who will put you over top (and probably not someone that will even be avaible at number 5). Jeff Green is a great talent with tremendous skills and athleticism, but he's no Oden or Durant. Yi is a complete unknown. They say he could be the next Dirk, but he could just as easily be the next Tskitishvili. Either way, he's going to take at least two years to develop and by then Pierce will be long gone. Al Hortford is an NBA ready player with good agility and tenacity, but not quite enough size. He can be a 13 and 8 type starter, but can he be a 20 and 10 All-Star? I doubt it. Joakim Noah is a very unique player. His passion, as well as his defense and ability to run the floor, translate well to the League, but does his slender frame and raw offensive set? Is his odd body type going to fit in the NBA as well as Tayshaun Price's has, or will he be crushed by the strength of the NBA - do the C's have the luxury of taking that risk? Finally, Corey Brewer. I think he's the best fit for the Celtics. A long, hard-nosed, defensive 2 or 3 with significant offensive upside. I don't think he'll ever be an All-Star, but I do think he will be a signifant piece of an NBA championship puzzle some day.

As you can see the C's basically have only 7 players (one draft pick) who would ever be useful on a championsip roster: Pierce, Al Jeff, West, Rondo, Gomes, Scala and Brewer ( or another number 5 pick). The main and underlying problem however, is that Pierce - the team's best player - will be long gone by the time the team gets any good. That means that the team can't wait for Rondo and their draft pick to develop into champioship-caliber players. They must trade the pick. However, here again they run into trouble. Number 5 is not a particularly valuable pick. Let's say the C's package number 5, Theo Ratliff's contract, and Gerald Green, what can thet get in return? KG? No. Amare? No. Gasol? No (remember Memphis wanted nothing less than Deng, and we can't give up anything even close to Luol). Maggette? Maybe. Jermaine O'Neal? Maybe. These are the Celtics' best options. Basically, Boston is stuck with entering '07-08 with either yet another prospect (Brewer maybe), a somewhat soft Al Jeff, a masonary in Rajon Rondo, a 6th man in Gomes, a gimpy and defensively-challenged Wally, a couple of quality backups in Scalabrine, West, Allen and Green (who will still be too green to play any defense our team offense), and a bunch of guys who couldn't even get minutes on the second worst team in basketball, a team that was trying to lose.

OR, they can come into the season with Al Jeff, Corey Maggette (an overrated, overpaid, malcontented, shoot-first wingman) and Pierce and the rest (of course minus Brewer (#5) and Gerald). That team might win 40 games in the hopeless East ... btw, that should be just enough to keep the C's out of the lottery.

Ah, the lottery. It screwed us this year, but in the end it continues to hold our only hope for success. Danny Ainge put all of his eggs in one basket this year and crossed his fingers hoping for either Greg Oden or Kevin Durant (no matter what he tells you). He lost. Even so, his team better hope for better luck in the coming years because it's the only way they can hope to escape the low-lottery (pick 8 to 14) pugatory they're destined for right now. Pierce will either be assuaged by a vetern (Maggette, O'Neil) - who might even put them into the playoffs for the next three years, but never get Boston to a championship ( say hello again to 40 wins) - or he will be faced with yet another "be patient, let them develop into something" project (the number 5 pick) which will force him out of town, looking for a real championship opportunity.

Paul is our hope to success, but we've got a situation in which he'll never be around for that success. The C's, unfortunately, are screwed for the forseeable future ... unless of course we pull a Portland and steal the top draft pick.

Please post your comments on my thoughts, or the Celtics prospects in general.


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