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2018 NBA Draft Team Needs: Southwest Division

Memphis Grizzlies

Team needs:

Combo guard

Tyreke Evans and Mario Chalmers are up for free agency. Evans led the team in points per game and Chalmers averaged 20 minutes per night. The Grizzlies could look to add another guard to complement Mike Conley if one of their free agent guards walks. Evans may command a big contract, which will probably price him out of Memphis. The Grizzlies will probably use the fourth overall pick on a big man but if they decide to use their 32nd pick on a combo guard, Duke’s Trevon Duval is a potential option.  Duval is raw but has good size for his position (6’3”), athleticism and the handle to get where he wants while setting others up.

Forward

This year’s draft is filled with premier big men and Memphis should be in the sweepstakes for a post presence. Marc Gasol has one more year left on his contract and then a player option in 2019.   It wouldn’t be surprising if he decided to leave for a contender a year from now.  Another Blue Devil who could attract the Grizzlies attention is Marvin Bagley Jr.  The Duke power forward is tall, runs the floor well, rebounds and puts the ball in the basket. 

Bagley Jr. has all the tools offensively but the one thing that could shy teams away from is his defense.  Coupled with the right lineups, however, Memphis could hide some of his deficiencies.

Cap space: -10 million, 110 million

Free agents: Tyreke Evans, Mario Chalmers

Houston Rockets

Team needs:

Forward

The Rockets have numerous free agents but since they were so close to an NBA Finals appearance, look for them to return its core and make another championship run next season. Houston could use some more depth along the frontcourt after showing a lack of depth and resorting to seven-man rotations against the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.  The Rockets have the 46th pick in the draft, but there’s no guarantee someone picked that low will even make the roster.  Maryland’s Justin Jackson could be intriguing.  Standing 6’7” with a 7’2” wingspan, Jackson has size and positional versatility. More importantly, his  three-point shooting (43 percent his freshman season) is a characteristic that Rockets general manager Daryl Morey covets.

Cap space: -19 million, 119 million

Free agents: Chris Paul, Trevor Ariza, Tarik Black, Clint Capela, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute

New Orleans Pelicans

Team needs:

Guard

Rajon Rondo and Ian Clark logged heavy minutes for the Pelicans during their playoff run. Rondo has jumped from team to team over the past few years and if he does the same this free agency period, New Orleans will be in the market for another guard. New Orleans has the 51st pick overall but if they decide to test the free agency market, Elfrid Payton could be a younger option. Payton came into his own offensively last year in Phoenix and would be a younger and cheaper option than Rondo.

Backup big man

In 48 appearances for the New Orleans Pelicans in 2017-18, DeMarcus Cousins (No. 15 pictured in the 2016 NBA All-Star game) averaged 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.6 blocked shots per game.

New Orleans won a playoff series without DeMarcus Cousins but that doesn't necessarily mean they are better without him. Even with Cousins, New Orleans could use a backup big man. The Pelicans signed journeyman Emeka Okafor after Cousins got hurt, but he will be 36 years old by the start of next season. If New Orleans decides to use their 51st overall pick on a big man, USC's Chimezi Metu could develop alongside Cheick Diallo to possibly provide a low post duo in the future.

Cap space: -19 million, 119 million

Free agents: DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo, Ian Clark, Jordan Crawford

San Antonio Spurs

Team needs:

Wing

San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard averaged just over 23 minutes, 16.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2 steals in nine games for the team in 2017-18.

Above all else, the Spurs will have to figure out if they will have Kawhi Leonard on the roster after he missed most of this season with a quadriceps injury.  Leonard covers so much ground for the Spurs and to lose him would be a major setback for San Antonio. If Leonard stays or leaves, look for San Antonio to still target another athletic wing, who can long minutes at both the shooting guard and small forward position since Kyle Anderson and Bryn Forbes will hit free agency.  Boise State's Chandler Hutchison is a name to watch for at the Spurs' 18th pick.  Hutchison doesn't shoot the three as well as the Spurs wings that have come before him, but each season he has improved his three-point shot.  Hutchison (6'7") also has good height and can play within the Spurs offense at either the shooting guard or small forward position.

Cap space: -17 million, 117 million

Free agents: Tony Parker, Kyle Anderson, Davis Bertans, Bryn Forbes

Dallas Mavericks

Team needs:

Wing

The Dallas Mavericks signed Harrison Barnes to a max deal but don't have much behind him.  Doug McDermott averaged seven points and two rebounds in 20 minutes per game last season. Dallas could use another wing player that could play off the ball and defend both shooting guards and small forwards. The Mavericks could go with a big man with their fifth overall pick, but if Luka Doncic from Slovenia is available expect Dallas to take a long look at him. Doncic has a polished game for a 19-year old and has the ability to create for himself or play off the ball.

Big man

Doncic could very well be drafted in the top three picks, which means Dallas could fill another one of their needs with pick number 5.  Nerlens Noel is a free agent and Dirk Nowitzki will be 40 years old by the start of next season. The Mavericks could use an athletic big ma  who has the ability to play both the forward and center positions.  Michigan State's Jaren Jackson Jr. is raw but has all the physical tools, can block shots as good as anyone in the draft and showed an ability to put the ball on the floor and shoot threes during his one season in East Lansing.

Cap space: -1 million, 100 million

Free agents: Nerlens Noel, Doug McDermott, Seth Curry, Salah Mejri, Yogi Ferrell

*The 2018-2019 NBA salary cap sits at $101 million and the luxury tax sits at $123 million.

Player stats are courtesy of ESPN.com.

Financial outlook is courtesy of Spotrac.com.

--- By: Troy Jefferson, DraftNasty Staff reports

2018 NBA Draft Team Needs: Pacific Division

Los Angeles Lakers

Team needs:

Shooting Guard

The Lakers got their table-setting point guard in Lonzo Ball, who has the ability to spoon feed baskets for others but with Isaiah Thomas and Kentavious Caldwell Pope facing free agency, the team needs to add another off the ball scorer. If the Lakers want to add a cheaper piece via free agency in order to put money aside for a bigger free agent, Marco Belinelli is an option. Bellinelli fit in seamlessly for a young 76ers team after coming to Philadelphia midseason. If the Lakers use their 25th overall pick on a scorer, UCLA’s Aaron Holiday, who played with Lonzo in 2016, could provide depth behind Ball and play off the ball when he plays point guard.

Forward

The Lakers will be in the Paul George sweepstakes this offseason. Even if the Lakers sign George, they will still have enough money to offer Julius Randle a long-term contract. Randle is coming off his most efficient season, averaging 16 points (55-percent FGs) and eight rebounds per game. If LA chooses to add some depth along the frontcourt with its 25th overall pick, Kentucky’s Jarred Vanderbilt could be worth a shot. Vanderbilt is a left-handed power forward with good position versatility, athleticism and -at times- can’t help but remind you of a young Lamar Odom.

Cap space: -3 million, 103 million

Free agents: Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell Pope, Channing Frye, Isaiah Thomas, Julius Randle

Los Angeles Clippers

Team needs:

Power forward

The Clippers had a lot of young players step up despite losing Blake Griffin. Players like Sindarius Thornwell, Milos Teodosic and Tobias Harris can serve as the new faces in the rebuild around DeAndre Jordan. Los Angeles also has capable three-and-D players like Wesley Johnson and Sam Dekker under contract. However, the Clippers could stand to add an athletic power forward to spell Harris in small ball lineups. With the 12th and 13th picks, LA could go in a few different directions but Kentucky’s Kevin Knox fits the mold of a strong but athletic forward. The Clippers could bring in Knox with the 12th pick and use the 13th pick on the best available prospect, which could be anyone from Alabama’s point guard Collin Sexton to Missouri small forward Michael Porter Jr.

Cap space: -19 million, 119 million

Free agents: Avery Bradley, Montrezl Harrell

Golden State Warriors

Team needs:

Wing

If the Warriors showed one weakness it was when Andre Iguodala went down to injury.  Coupled with the earlier injury to fellow wing Patrick McCaw, Golden State needed another wing defender. The Warriors will bring back Kevin Durant but it remains to be seen what else they will be able to add in free agency.  If Golden State looks to the draft with their 28th overall pick, then SMU’s Shake Milton is a name to watch. Milton shot 43 percent from three-point range last season and owns a 6’11” wingspan.  Milton also averaged four assists and four rebounds per game. The former Mustang would be a welcome addition and could develop into a three-and-D prospect capable of defending multiple positions.

Cap space: -36 million, 136 million

Free agents: Kevin Durant, Nick Young, Zaza Pachulia, Kevon Looney, JaVale McGee

Sacramento Kings

Team needs:

Wing

Justin Jackson is the only true small forward under contract. Sacramento has the second and 37th overall picks in the draft. If the Kings want to add a wing early in the draft, Luka Doncic from Slovenia would make sense. Doncic is a polished player and at 19 years old, he has not yet reached his ceiling.  However, if Sacramento wants to grab a big man and come back in the second round and add a wing player, Kansas’ Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk is a 6’8” sharpshooter.  He has shown before that he can play well alongside former Kansas Jayhawk and current Sacramento Kings guard Frank Mason, Jr.

Big man

Willie Cauley-Stein, Zach Randolph and Kosta Koufos have one year each remaining on their contracts.  Sacramento could look to add another big man who could play alongside Cauley-Stein, stretch the floor and play both the forward/center positions. With the second pick in the draft, Duke’s Marvin Bagley, Jr. would make sense. He has room to improve defensively but he could play beside Cauley-Stein and they could both help each other's deficiencies.

Cap space: 2 million, 98 million

Free agents: Vince Carter, Bruno Caboclo

Phoenix Suns

Team needs:

Center

Phoenix has the first and 16th picks in the first round.  Tyson Chandler is the only true center under contract and he will be 36 years old by the start of next season.  Arizona’s Deandre Ayton played right down the road and is the consensus best prospect in the draft.  Ayton is a 7-foot-1-inch,  250-pound 19-year old with an NBA-ready body. Ayton averaged 20.1 points per game last season along with 11.6 rebounds.  He also possesses a decent jump shot to go along with a back to the basket game. With Ayton and young SG Devin Booker, Phoenix would have a strong foundation to build around.

Guard

Elfrid Payton turned in his best season last year, averaging 12 points per game, six rebounds and four assists. Payton also played 28 minutes per game last season, splitting minutes with a host of players (Troy Daniels, Tyler Ulis and Mike James). If the Suns choose to add a big man with the first pick, look for them to come back 15 picks later and try to address the depth in the backcourt.  Miami’s Lonnie Walker IV is 6’4” and has a 6’10” wingspan.  His size will give him some position versatility defensively at the next level.

Miami (Fla.) G Lonnie Walker IV (pictured for Team Final during the 2016 Nike EBYL Peach Jam) averaged 11.5 points per game for the Hurricanes in 2017-18 and shot nearly 35-percent from three-point range.

Coupled with his scoring potential (11.5 points per game), Walker could be an intriguing pick to log guard minutes behind Ulis and Booker next year.

Cap space: 7 million, 93 million

Free agents: Alex Len, Elfrid Payton

*The 2018-2019 NBA salary cap sits at $101 million and the luxury tax sits at $123 million.

Player stats are courtesy of ESPN.com.

Financial outlook is courtesy of Spotrac.com.

--- By: Troy Jefferson, DraftNasty Staff reports

2018 NBA Draft Team Needs: Atlantic Division

Toronto Raptors

Team needs:

Backup point guard

Toronto’s biggest need is for LeBron James to leave the Eastern Conference, seeing as how he consistently turns up his game and eliminates the Raptors year after year. Toronto will return its core and doesn’t have a lot of cap room with which to maneuver. Look for the Raptors to stay put and try to resign a few of their bench contributors like Lucas Nogueira and Fred VanVleet, who are free agents this summer. Toronto doesn’t have a pick in this year’s draft but Arizona’s Rawle Alkins could be a name to watch in the latter stages of the second round or as an undrafted signee.  Alkins (6’5”) has position versatility and in time could be a key contributor at the next level.

Cap space: -17 million, 117 million

Free agents: Lucas Nogueira, Fred VanVleet, Lorenzo Brown

New York Knicks

Team needs:

Forward

The Knicks future success will be determined by the continued development of recent draft picks Frank Ntilikina and Kristaps Porzingis. Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Enes Kanter are solid pieces to build around as well. New York showed a defensive weakness along the frontcourt once Porzingis went down with an injury.  Look for the Knicks to target a defensive-minded forward in either the draft or free agency.  Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr. has a versatile game and could fit nicely with the Knicks at the ninth pick.

Wing

Lance Thomas and Troy Williams are under contract but New York could stand to upgrade the wing position. The Knicks could use some explosiveness from the forward position.  Michigan State’s Miles Bridges is as explosive as they come and should be available at the ninth pick if New York chooses to pass on a bigger forward.

Cap space: -5 million, 105 million

Free agents: Jarrett Jack, Michael Beasley

Boston Celtics

Team needs:

Backup ball handler

The Celtics are as young and as a complete of a team as their is in the NBA so we’re nitpicking at this point but with Shane Larkin and Marcus Smart set to hit free agency,  Boston will be in need of a backup ball handler if either chooses to take their services elsewhere. I expect Boston to sign one if not both of the aforementioned guards but if they choose to use their 27th pick on a guard, West Virginia’s Jevon Carter fits the bill as a gritty collegiate experienced guard that Brad Stevens has coveted in the past.

Big men

Greg Monroe and Aron Baynes gave the team key minutes all postseason long and are great candidates to return to the team in 2018. However, if Boston chooses to go the draft route, look for them to identify a versatile big who can defend either the four or five positions.  Michigan’s Moe Wagner would be a project and would need to develop his game further to be counted on for big minutes, but who better to learn from than Al Horford.  Wagner has all the skills to be a contributor in the NBA on both ends of the floor for the next 10 years and could be available with the 27th pick.

Cap space: -15 million, 115 million

Free agents: Greg Monroe, Shane Larkin, Marcus Smart, Aron Baynes, Jonathan Gibson

Brooklyn Nets

Team needs:

Forward/ Center

Brooklyn is still working its way back from awful trades that have kept them out of the lottery. The Nets wouldn’t turn down talent at any position but with guards D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Allen Crabbe already under contract, they will probably target big men during the draft. Brooklyn holds the 29th, 40th and 45th picks, so they could use their two second round picks to trade back into the first round. If Brooklyn stands pat, Villanova’s Omari Spellman (6’9”, 245 lbs) could be a choice, as he has a polished offensive game and could mesh well defensively next to Timofey Mozgov.

Cap space: $128,000, $99.9 million

Free agents: Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas, Dante Cunningham, Joe Harris, Quincy Acy

Philadelphia 76ers

Team needs:

Shooting guard

The 76ers' two best floor-spacing shooters, Marco Belinelli and J.J. Redick, are free agents. The two combined for 30 points in the postseason and were two of the top three-point shooters on the team this past season. If Philadelphia chooses to let either of them leave via free agency, then they will have to find another shooting option to accompany their outstanding young core. The 76ers hold the tenth pick in the draft and Texas Tech’s Zhaire Smith is an intriguing option. The 6-foot-4 Smith has a capable jumper, 6’9” wingspan and enough bulk to switch defensively.

Cap space: $1 million, $99 million

Free agents: J.J. Redick, Amir Johnson, Marco Belinelli, Ersan Ilyasova

*The 2018-2019 NBA salary cap sits at $101 million and the luxury tax sits at $123 million.

Player stats are courtesy of ESPN.com.

Financial outlook is courtesy of Spotrac.com.

--- By: Troy Jefferson,  DraftNasty Staff reports

2018 NBA Draft Team Needs: Central Division

Cleveland Cavaliers

Team needs:

Wing

All of Cleveland’s offseason moves begin and end with LeBron James.  If Cleveland loses James, it creates an obvious wing need.  Jeff Green and Rodney Hood are also entering free agency and they could look to add another wing capable of playing off the ball and contributing defensively.  Villanova’s Mikal Bridges is a “three and D” prospect, who can shoot the ball at a high clip (43 percent from three last year) and figures to log heavy minutes covering the opposing team’s best wing player.  Bridges, who should be available with Cleveland’s eighth pick, would fit nicely alongside James and could help space the floor for the Cavs.

Offensive creator

With the absence of Kyrie Irving, James took over the role of initiating the offense. As he gets older, it would be wise for the Cavaliers to explore options to have him play more off the ball.  If he chooses to remain in Cleveland, the team may work to utilize his strengths on the elbow and on the block.  Tyreke Evans enjoyed a strong season in Memphis averaging 19 points and five assists per game.  He has the type of offensive versatility that Cleveland has lacked beyond James.  Despite being an intriguing free agent prospect, he won't garner as much money as some of the upper echelon free agents.

Cap space: -36 million, $136 million

Free agents: Rodney Hood, Jose Calderon, Jeff Green, Kendrick Perkins, LeBron James  

Indiana Pacers

Team needs:

Forward

Behind a balanced attack, Indiana played Cleveland as well as any of the other top teams in the Eastern Conference.  The Pacers will return all of their key players and have the 23rd overall pick in the draft.  At that stage of the draft, most teams target the best player on their board and care less about a specific need.  However, Glenn Robinson III and Trevor Booker are free agents and Indiana could look to bring in another wing/forward.  Cincinnati’s Jacob Evans is a stout defender who can also spread the floor with his shooting and passing skills.  Evans seems like a perfect player as the NBA transitions to small ball lineups.

Cap space: 5 million, 95 million

Free agents: Glenn Robinson III, Trevor Booker

Detroit Pistons

Team needs:

Guard

Detroit is set in the frontcourt with Blake Griffin,  Andre Drummond and Stanley Johnson.  Jameer Nelson averaged 20 minutes a game a season ago but he will be 37 years old midway through next season. Luke Kennard is also the only true shooting guard on the roster. It would make sense for Detroit to look for a combo guard who can play on and off the ball. The Pistons have the 42nd pick in the second round but if they choose to take a flyer on a combo guard, Wichita State’s Landry Shamet is a 6'5" combo guard, who ran the show for the Shockers.  Shamet finished last season with 14 points per game and five assists.

Cap space: -19 million, 119 million

Free agents: Anthony Tolliver, James Ennis, Jameer Nelson

Chicago Bulls

Team needs:

Shooting guard

Free agents Zach LaVine and David Nwaba both averaged more than 23 minutes per game.   LaVine appeared in 24 games while Nwaba saw action in 70 contests. The Bulls added Dwyane Wade two years ago but look for them to stick with their youth movement and either re-sign Nwaba or LaVine.  Another option it to  give former Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine more minutes.

Athletic forward

Paul Zipser is the only true small forward under contract for next season. Chicago has a lot of forwards, centers and guards under contract but the Bulls could use more athleticism.  Big men Lauri Markkanen, Cristiano Felicio and Robin Lopez  can be picked on in pick and roll situations defensively.  Texas’ Mo Bamba should be available at the seventh pick and has elite defensive tools to contribute immediately. With the Bulls, Bamba would have time to develop his offensive game as he plays alongside scoring big men like Bobby Portis and Markkanen.

Cap space: 10 million, 90 million

Free agents: Noah Vonleh, Zach LaVine, David Nwaba, Ryan Arcidiacono

Milwaukee Bucks

Team needs:

Scorers

Out of the 16 playoff teams, Milwaukee finished 13th in three pointers made per game last postseason.  That number could drop with shooters Jabari Parker, Jason Terry and Shabazz Muhammad set to enter free agency. Milwaukee has limited cap space and its core is already under contract for the foreseeable future. The Bucks have the 17th pick in the draft and could look to add another scorer. Maryland’s Kevin Huerter is 6’7” and possesses the height and shooting ability that the Bucks covet (shot 50-percent from the field and 41 percent from three last season).

Cap space: -17 million, 117 million

Free agents: Jabari Parker, Jason Terry, Shabazz Muhammad

*The 2018-2019 NBA salary cap sits at $101 million and the luxury tax sits at $123 million.

Player stats are courtesy of ESPN.com.

Financial outlook is courtesy of Spotrac.com.

---By: Troy Jefferson, DraftNasty Staff reports

2018 NBA Draft Team Needs: Southeastern Division

Washington Wizards

Team needs:

Athletic bigs

The Wizards are locked into contracts with Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, both of which fit the traditional mold of a big man and struggle to guard more athletic centers defensively. Gortat is excellent in the screen and roll game with Wall, but is 34 years old and has seen a steady decline in offensive production the last three years. Ian Mahinmi hasn't fulfilled expectations after signing a five- year, $60 million guaranteed contract in 2014. Star point guard John Wall said he would like to see the front office target an athletic big in the offseason and DraftNasty concurs. Texas A&M's Robert Williams (see below) could slide to the 15th pick.   He has a 7-foot-6-inch wingspan and could provide excellent energy off the bench and play the five if the Wizards choose to go small and play Kelly Oubre at power forward. Williams, who is also 20 years old, could be a long term option alongside the Wizards young nucleus of Bradley Beal, John Wall, Kelly Oubre and Otto Porter.

Former Texas A&M center Robert Williams (No. 44 pictured with the ball) averaged 10.4 points and 9.2 rebounds in 2017-18 for the Aggies. In addition, he finished 13th in the nation in blocked shots per game (2.6).

Backup scoring guard

It's been well-documented that Wall and Beal can shoulder the offensive load but Washington has cycled through backup guards since the two have been together. Tomas Santoransky looked capable filling in Wall's absence last season and averaged 7.2 points, 3.9 assists and 3.2 rebounds in 22 minutes of action. However, Washington went out and signed Ty Lawson for the playoff stretch to add some scoring in the backcourt off the bench.  He shot just 34-percent and averaged five points in 19 minutes per game. If an athletic big isn't available at pick 15, look for the Wizards to target someone like Creighton's Khryi Thomas, who scored efficiently (15 points per game on 53-percent shooting and 41-percent from three-point range) and can matchup with opposing guards defensively alongside Satoransky.

Cap space: +25 million, $124 million

Free agents: Ty Lawson

Miami Heat

Face of the franchise

Miami lacks a draft pick and doesn't have a lot of cap space to sign a superstar in a superstar-driven league. Miami has a plethora of key young role players and could package a future pick and some of their young assets to free up cap space in order to make a play for a star in the future. Long story short, the Heat are paying a lot of money for a team that can't crack the top five in the Eastern Conference. This offseason should be relatively quiet for Miami compared to years past given the front office constraints. Look for the Heat to use this offseason to address financial problems. If the Heat are able to free up some money or trade into a draft pick, look for them to target a player, who can create their own shot. Ohio State's Keita Bates-Diop could be a second round option that could develop into an NBA scorer. Bates-Diop is a mature bucket getter, who would fit into Pat Riley's mode of acquiring polished college prospects.

Cap space: + 5 million, 105 million

Free agents: Wayne Ellington, Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, Luke Babbit

Orlando Magic

Face of the franchise

Aaron Gordon is up for free agency and even with him, Orlando lacks a face of the franchise. The Magic have never been a team to make splashes in free agency, so don't expect them to sign a marquee player and enter the free agency sweepstakes.  The Magic are much more likely to hope they hit on the sixth pick in the draft. With the teams ahead of them probably targeting big men, Orlando should be able to capitalize and grab a point guard.

Point guard

D.J. Augustin and Shelvin Mack have both enjoyed success in the NBA, but both are also journeymen who can't be counted on to log heavy minutes at point guard in a  point guard-driven league. Orlando has a lot of money tied up in wing players and could re-sign Gordon to bolster the front court.  Either way,  they could stand to use an upgrade at point guard. Oklahoma's Trae Young and Alabama's Collin Sexton are the two best point guards in the draft and both will garner heavy attention.

Cap space: -3.5 million, 95.5 million

Free agents: Aaron Afflalo, Mario Hezonia, Aaron Gordon, Marreese Speights

Atlanta Hawks

Shooting guard

Atlanta is coming off of a season of paying dead cap for players who no longer play with the team anymore or never played for the team (i.e. Jamal Crawford.  After agreeing to a buyout, Crawford never played with the Hawks in 2017.  The team could still use some scoring punch from the shooting guard position. The Hawks have the 19th and 30th picks in the draft.  Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo had a big game in the National Championship and can play on-and-off the ball.  After a positive NBA Combine performance, DiVincenzo should be available at pick 19 and would give the Hawks a quality scorer.  The Hawks could then use their 30th pick to address a secondary need like a wing to go alongside Kent Bazemore.

Cap space: -1 million, 100.1 million

Free agents: Malcolm Delaney, Damion Lee

Charlotte Hornets

Backup point guard

The Hornets are good enough to make the playoffs but not good enough to compete with the top teams in the Eastern Conference. They don’t have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to cap space. Charlotte has at least two more years of Kemba Walker, but currently don’t have another true point guard on the roster. Look for the Hornets to use their limited resources to bring in a backup. There may not be a viable option when they pick 11th in the first round.   They will likely look to take the best available player or trade out of the pick. If the Hornets do decide to stay put and draft a point guard, Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous Alexander is an option.  He’s a 6-foot-6 point guard with a 7-foot wingspan.  His skill-set could make him a valuable defender capable of spelling Walker at times in Year 1.

Cap space: -18 million, 117 million

Free agents: Michael Carter Williams, Treveon Graham, Julyan Stone

*The 2018-2019 NBA salary cap sits at $101 million and the luxury tax sits at $123 million.

Player stats are courtesy of ESPN.com.

Financial outlook is courtesy of Spotrac.com.

--- Draftnasty's Troy Jefferson

Tuesday Throwback Report: Party Crasher in San Diego

There are a multitude of names that come to mind when one contemplates the prospects of elite NCAA basketball teams each season. Duke, Kansas, Michigan State, Connecticut, Kentucky, North Carolina and Syracuse are just a few that break through the conscious initially. But San Diego State?

Laughably, one could have been locked away from all things hoops related for nearly a decade and still log that the likes of the Blue Devils and company would have a formidable presence in the midseason rankings. It’s simply that predictable sometimes.

But there are wrinkles. Just as easy as one might be on point in expecting the Jayhawks to be in early contention, one might also blunder and find that the Tar Heels are nothing more than average this season.  And in spite of this type of blunder being less likely, there have been times when North Carolina has found itself mending its wounds.

But San Diego State?

Amazingly, the Aztecs provide a wrinkle that is as much surprising as it is refreshing.  As it stands, San Diego State sits at the head table with top-ranked Duke and the usual suspects such as Ohio State, Kansas, Pittsburgh and the Orangemen, who round out the top-five in the AP poll.

Head coach Steve Fisher’s Aztecs are a polished 17-0 and remain as one of only five teams in Division I with an undefeated mark. This in itself is not surprising.   It started three seasons ago when the Aztecs finished with a 20-13 mark and landed an NIT berth. A year later, San Diego State improved to a 26-10 record, advancing to the NIT semifinals.

The development didn’t hit a snag last season when the Aztecs ran off an impressive 25-9 record and emerged in the NCAA Tournament, where it fell short in the first round to Tennessee. Despite the early exit, San Diego State proved that it had promise, pushing the Volunteers in that contest before narrowly losing 62-59.

So no, that the Aztecs have torn through the season thus far is not startling.  That they are being given credit for doing so this early is a different story. Typically, a team like the Aztecs wouldn’t even be on the radar until March - two, three games into the Big Dance. Butler, for example, wasn’t even ranked at this point in the season a year ago. They, of course, went on to play for the national title against Duke.

And no, the rankings aren’t usually built with the San Diego States, the Butlers, the Davidsons, or George Masons in mind. But here the Aztecs are, boasting a higher ranking than powerhouses such as Connecticut (10th), Kentucky (13th), Louisville (18th) and Georgetown (22th). And here they are, 17 games into the season, demonstrating more staying power than elite programs like Michigan State, North Carolina, and Florida, who after opening the season ranked second, eighth, and ninth respectively in the nation, are now out of the top-25 altogether.

The picture cannot be painted that San Diego State came into the year as a dismissed program. After all, they were ranked a modest but respectable 25th in the country in the preseason AP poll. But Fisher’s squad wasn’t comfortable with modest and quickly launched a stone at the pollsters when it toppled then 11th-ranked Gonzaga 79-76 on November 16th.

Critics who devalue San Diego State’s schedule strength thus far should factor in that the Aztecs also knocked off Pac-10 stalwart California handily, 77-57, on December 8th, less than two weeks after the Bears had beaten then 20th-ranked Temple.  And those who condemn the Aztecs for competing in the Mountain West Conference should consider that Brigham Young also hails from that conference.

And the Cougars are as well off to a fast start, sitting at 16-1 with a No. 11 AP ranking. This not only bodes well for the Conference, having two highly ranked clubs, but it also means that the attention of the college basketball world should be captured when San Diego State and Brigham Young face off on January 26th and February 26th. What’s equally intriguing is that the highly touted Aztecs defense will get an opportunity to slow down NBA prospect Jimmer Fredette, who is averaging 24.9 points per game.

“This league is very good,” Fisher noted in a press conference this week. “We said last year of those teams that went in that it might have been the best ever. I think the depth is genuine; the disparity between 1 and 9 has shrunk significantly.”

Before matching wits with the Cougars, San Diego State will have their perfect record tested in the Mountain West. One such obstacle, for example, will come Wednesday, when the Aztecs takes on a potent 13-3 UNLV team.  Nevertheless, Fisher is as much excited about his team’s possibilities as he is its current place.

“We are pleased obviously with the undefeated mark, but I am happy that we appear to be getting better physically,” he stated.

One sign of this improvement is the recent Mountain West Player of the Week honor that was bestowed upon star forward Malcolm Thomas. It’s the third of such honors this season for the senior who earned the award after averaging 17.5 points per game, 12 rebounds, and two blocks, in wins over Utah and TCU. For the season, the 6’9’’ San Diego native is pumping in 12.3 points per contest, complimented by 7.6 rebounds. As well, Thomas is shooting a precise 59 percent from the field.

“It’s good to receive an award like that,” Thomas said Monday in the Aztecs weekly press conference. “But I have to give credit to my teammates. They give me the confidence to score, rebound, block shots, or do whatever I need to do to win. I really feed off their energy and that is why I get player of the week.”

The energy Thomas speaks of comes from what has thus far been a balanced act. Sophomore forward Kawhi Leonard leads the team in scoring and rebounding, pouring in 15.9 points per game and pulling in 9.6 rebounds. And senior guard D.J. Gay chips in with 11.8 points per contest.

Gay, for one, credits several factors for his team’s play so far.

“I think it has a lot to do with our condition, our athleticism, our ability to turn it up on the defensive end,” the senior professed. “We start to press and create havoc for the other teams and that’s just taking it to another level. Our ability to do that is the reason we are having the success we’re having now.”

And thanks to an anomaly in the national rankings, the basketball community at large is able to witness this striking success in January, rather than postponing credit until March. By then, the Aztecs are being asked to be great twice, as March Madness is a separate season in itself.

Assuredly, the Aztecs haven’t been overly dominant this year, but they’ve been consistent and resilient. Their unblemished mark could be broken Wednesday against the Running Rebels or sometime between now and their meeting against Brigham Young. And even then, it won’t change the fact that the Aztecs have been one of college basketball’s best teams this season.

What this team will or will not do in the NCAA Tournament is irrelevant. Most certainly, a team’s failure in the Big Dance does not undo what perhaps was gained during the regular season. Some will be quick to hold San Diego State to this standard, discrediting this run if Fisher’s crew folds early in the NCAA tourney, forgetting that at this point in the season a year ago Texas was ranked No.1 with a 15-0 mark. Kentucky was ranked second, also with an undefeated record (14-0).

As most recall, neither the Longhorns nor Wildcats played for the national title. In fact, none of the top five at that point even made the Final Four. Duke, the eventual champion, was ranked eighth. It is apparent that the rankings are not a forecast of who will win the national title; what they do provide is a glance at who is playing well. And without question, San Diego State fits the bill.

Gay, who Fisher calls his most important player, admits to recognizing this accomplishment, even while still trying to build upon it.

“We do take each game one at a time, but sometimes you have to realize the situation that we are in and be able to enjoy it,” he acknowledged. “To sit down and reflect on what is going on now and know that we are in a situation a lot of people would dream of being in, you have to be appreciative of that. We take time to think about it but we know that we still have a lot of work that needs to be done.”

-          Patrick Green, DraftNasty.com staff writer, has been writing professionally for more than a decade. He is the author of two novels, Josie’s Missing Syllabus and Son Down; and while both works deal with topics beyond the athletic landscape, each exposes a social scope involving sports as an underlying theme. Green has covered high school, college, amateur, and professional football during his career, having written for newspapers in Augusta, Ga., and Charleston, South Carolina. To learn more about Patrick Green, visit www.greeninkpub.com.  

Thirsty Thursday’s ‘Hot Spot’: Cavalier fans in the ‘Hot Spot’ with LeBron’s return

There are so many things for the NBA to consider later tonight when the Miami Heat travel to Quicken Loans Arena to face the Cleveland Cavaliers.

What type of fanfare will arrive at the game?  Were the tickets swallowed up by the most ravenous fans?  How are they being bargained off outside of the arena?  Will we have enough security on site?

There is one question that hasn’t been asked up to date about LeBron James’ much anticipated return to his former high school and professional stomping grounds.

Is this just what James and the Miami Heat need to get going after starting the season lethargically at 11-8?

As Aaron Goldholdhammer from ESPN 850 WKNR, Cleveland said on ESPN’s Mike and Mike this morning, “This is going to be kind of anti-climatic.  In the last few days, I’ve heard from a few fans that say I’m going to run out on the floor tonight, I don’t care if I get arrested.”

If you’re a Cavalier fan, the last thing you want to hear is that this is anti-climatic.  Especially after people in the streets burned jerseys, threw away James memorabilia and essentially blamed the league’s back-to-back MVP for a potential economic downfall.

Fans are energetic, focused and often insistent on making their points when they feel an opposing player is truly a villain.  But do they have the energy to remain as volatile for 48 minutes as say a Robin Ficker?

Ficker, infamously known as perhaps the most intimidating fan in the history of sports, was even given a nickname-“The Heckler.”  The former Washington Bullets’ diehard fan would often show up to the arena with more information on an opposing team’s players and coaches than an entire NBA staff.  Perhaps his greatest technique was his ability to have the exact same seat directly behind a team’s bench for an entire night.

Let’s face it, this was a guy who even got under the skin of Hall of Famers Charles Barkley and Pat Riley.  Barkley once talked about Ficker in his book. Take this excerpt from the renowned “Heckler” in an article in Dan Steinberg’s DC Sports Blog from November 1, 2006 as an example:

“Some people said there were two Pat Rileys,” Ficker recalled, “because I would make him beside himself.”

His research was never incredulous and it would often serve as the team’s sounding board during an era (1985-’86 through 1996-’97) when they were at least respectable, making the playoffs four times, this despite an eight-year absence in between appearances from 1988-’89 to 1996-‘97.   Through it all the man known as “The Heckler” displayed the venom expected from angry Cavs fans later tonight.

Despite his legendary antics, some owners and coaches didn’t feel his enthusiasm had a place in the game.  Although he was generally clean and didn’t have to be censored, he would show up with megaphones behind opposing benches and even read aloud quotes taken on individual players.  As stated by former Celtic legend Red Auerbach and found in an August 23, 1997 article (Ficker Won’t Be the Mouth That Roars at MCI) by Washington Post writer Thomas Heath-Ficker represented a “disgrace” to the game.  Even with his naysayers, Ficker was able to withstand his critics and stand the test of time for over a decade.

Cleveland Cavalier fans could take some pages from the legendary fan’s notorious capers later this evening.  While many expect them to be vile and disgraceful, the ‘Heckler’ proved time and again that you can have just as much success with good natured anguish and furor.   After all the Bullets simply weren’t that good.

And isn’t that really what the Cavs fans are upset about at the end of the day?  Sure, they feel betrayed by James, but to think that they are happy about his new team being three games over .500 when their own team is currently 3 games below .500 and losers of seven of their last ten games.  It seems perfectly symmetrical with Ficker’s true dispair as a Bullets’ fan for over 12 years behind opposing benches.  Years of futility, or the inevitable possibility in the Cavaliers' case, can make even the most diehard fans of their team very temperamental.  I'm experiencing it right now with the Detroit Pistons.  It's perfectly normal.

What an ingenious thought by Ficker or Cavs fans?  Fans actually showing some frustration over their team not meeting expectations for their own city or organization.   Still, anything the “Heckler” said didn’t involve foul language or need to be censored.  During the late ’80s, he was often featured on NBC’s NBA Inside Stuff and even during NBA highlights on CNN, sometimes even weekly.

But as he stated in that same Heath article (Ficker Won’t Be the Mouth That Roars at MCI) referenced earlier, “Anything I have said could be printed in a family newspaper,” Ficker said.  “I never said one thing I regret.”

Hopefully for the Miami Heat and the NBA we will be saying the same thing around 11:00 pm about the performance of the Cleveland Cavalier fans.  If not, the story involving the game could be a backdrop to a much dirtier scene surrounding it.

---Corey Chavous, DraftNasty staff reports

When It Comes Down to Seconds

Sometimes the first round is fulfilling enough. In other cases, one might welcome seconds. For National Basketball Association teams, it’s not often greed that brings them back to the table after the initial round of the NBA Draft; in most cases, it’s a necessity. Clemson F Trevor Booker (pictured above) is just one of many NBA draft hopefuls later tonight that hope this sentiment has validity.

When the NBA Draft takes place on Thursday evening at 7 p.m. in New York’s Madison Square Garden, history has shown us that it would be wise to stay tuned well after the first round concludes and the camera bulbs stop flashing.

Up to this point, three phases of the Draft have garnered considerable attention. This is no surprise nor is it ill-awarded. The top pick crowns the discussion. Unfortunately, little mystery is generally left in that debate leading up to Draft night. The lottery pot captures the next phase and the mid to late first round the last.

There is considerable energy given to these posts. After all, here is where one gets his Tim Duncan (1st overall pick in 1997), his Brook Lopez (10th overall pick in 2008), or his David Lee (30th overall pick in 2005). It’s safe to say that San Antonio, New Jersey, and New York, are as satisfied with their picks in 2010 as they were when they made them.

But the first round won’t always provide one with a player that will help bring his team and city four NBA titles or provide some glimmer of hope and excitement to a team that lacks any immediate prosperity. Because the first round is also where one gets his Greg Oden (1st overall pick in 2007), his Michael Sweetney (9th overall pick in 2003), and his Erick Barkley (28th overall pick in 2000), players who, for a variety of reasons, don’t end up helping to propel the teams that drafted them.

On Thursday night, the second round selections won’t generate the fanfare that their first round counterparts do, and on Friday morning, they won’t receive the front page headlines. But years from now, some of them perhaps may end up as celebrated sports figures while those that superseded them become barely faint memories, existing more as historical data than present day ball players.

There is a very practical reason for players to jockey for first round position. In a nugget, first round contracts are guaranteed and second round’s are not.

Outside of that, it’s merely texture. Prospects, of course, marvel at status and none likely would welcome openly a second round position if a first round spot could be granted. However, if a current prospect could paint a pattern of his NBA future, which wouldn’t in some way design it after Rashard Lewis, Manu Ginobli, Michael Redd, Gilbert Arenas, or Carlos Boozer’s career thus far?

It’s not the argument here that a prospect would aspire to Arenas’ off court troubles or Ginobli and Redd’s recent injury-plagued seasons. The sentiment is that each of the aforementioned products currently holds air in the discussions regarding the top tier players at their respective positions.

In fact, this summer Boozer will be one of the most sought after free agents in the league. Moreover, it’s impossible to mention the words sharp shooter in the NBA and not have Redd or Arenas in the conversation. And notably, Ginobli was a staple on San Antonio’s championship teams and Lewis is a major reason why Orlando has gone deep into the playoffs the last two seasons.

Yet, they were all drafted through the back door.

In the second round, Lewis was the 32nd pick in 1998, Ginobli 57th in 1999, Redd 43rd in 2000, Arenas 31st in 2001, and Boozer 34th in 2002.

Knowing this should factor into a Draft hopeful’s approach to Thursday night and beyond. Knowing this should impact the way fans approach Thursday night as well.

On Draft night in 1999, Spurs fans were probably asleep by the time Ginobli was picked up. Instead, they celebrated San Antonio’s first round selection earlier that evening, Leon Smith, who was taken with the 29th pick out of Martin Luther King High School. Today, most people don’t even remember Smith and that he played in just 15 NBA games and averaged 2.2 points per contest in the process.

They do know Ginobli’s body of work, however. Since joining the Spurs in 2002, the Argentine has averaged 15 points per game, four rebounds and four assists for his career, made the all-star team once, and helped lead San Antonio to three NBA titles. And in the playoffs, where most players’ games disappear, is where the lefty guard has excelled, pouring in 16 points per game and pulling down nearly five rebounds a contest. Ginobli’s presence in the sport is international, as he led his Argentina national team to a 2004 gold medal finish in the Athens Olympic Games.

Basketball fans remember this.  They don’t remember that Ginobli was the next-to-last player taken in the Draft (There were only 58 picks in 1999.)

This story parallels beyond Ginboli. Redd watched Milwaukee take center Jason Collier in the first round before him and Boozer saw Cleveland nab Dejuan Wagner. Collier was having a mediocre NBA career before his unfortunate death in 2005 and Wagner fizzled out of the league with several season crippling injuries.

All Redd has done is average 20 points per game in his nine year career, marking him as one of the most lethal shooters from behind the arc in the league’s recent history. Boozer, touted as a premiere power forward, has averaged a career double-double at 17 points and 10 rebounds a contest. In four postseasons with Utah, the Duke standout has been even better, pumping in 20 points per game to compliment a whopping 12 rebounds.

Lewis and Arenas have been explosive at times as well. Lewis, a 6-10 shooting forward, has made the all-star team twice, and has averaged nearly 17 points and six rebounds per game for his career, spent early with Seattle and presently with Orlando. And after two seasons in Golden State, Arenas rose into NBA stardom with Washington, and has posted monstrous numbers for his career, at 22 points per contest with nearly six assists.

Each of these players has made an all-star team at least once, has been pivotal in his team making the playoffs, and more than anything, has consistently improved through each NBA season.

They have proven that one doesn’t need to be a lottery choice to have success in the league and eventually get his number retired as shooting guard Jeff Hornacek did after 15 playing seasons, two in which he helped lead Utah to the NBA Finals. When Hornacek was a starter for the Jazz averaging 14 points per game facing off with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in 1997 for the championship, no one cared that he was a 46th overall pick.

It would be all too easy to point the finger at NBA executives, but the truth is they don’t always get it wrong. It would be difficult to argue that Boozer was going to be a better pro than Drew Gooden who was taken with the fourth overall pick in the same Draft or that Ginobli would be leaps and bounds better at shooting guard than the 20th overall selection Dion Glover.

Yes, it’s easy to call the card once it’s been shown, so those who voice adamantly that it was evident how these careers would play out are simply showmen.

It is fair to say that in some instances the decision makers get it wrong, and sometimes really wrong. But in other cases, perhaps players are drafted where they should be, and in the process of preparing themselves for their NBA careers, they challenge themselves to become better and through training thus do.

It’s anyone’s guess who this year’s breakout player will be, because as stated, the cards with the 2010 class are face down.

Some players do spark intrigue as candidates. Clemson’s Trevor Booker is one. As an undersized 6-7 power forward, the South Carolina native will likely go in the middle of the second round. However, the former Tiger demonstrated the athleticism and passion in college that may translate well to the pro game. In four years at Clemson, Booker averaged 13 points and eight rebounds per game.

Alabama’s Mikhail Torrance is a unique prospect as well. At 6-5, the Crimson Tide product can play both guard positions well, something he did while at Alabama. Equally, Torrance has a nice touch from the perimeter and can also drive, elevate and finish at the rim. Interestingly enough, he dribbles primarily with his left hand and shoots with his right. In 32 games last season, the junior averaged 15 points, shooting 47 percent from the field, and dished out 5 assists.

While Booker and Torrance evoke images of promising NBA futures, there are dozens of others who might eventually fit the bill. They won’t be seated at a table near the podium, or be interviewed in the Green Room, or have an opportunity to shake Commissioner David Stern’s hand. In fact, most of them won’t even be in the building when their names are called.

But that won’t matter. A second rounder isn’t sentenced to obscurity but for one night. After that, he controls his longevity and his legacy. Because essentially, the NBA Draft decides how you go in; it doesn’t determine where you come out.

 

Patrick Green, DraftNasty.com staff writer, has been writing professionally for more than a decade. He is the author of two novels, Josie’s Missing Syllabus and Son Down; and while both works deal with topics beyond the athletic landscape, each exposes a social scope involving sports as an underlying theme. Green has covered high school, college, amateur, and professional football during his career, having written for newspapers in Augusta, Ga., and Charleston, South Carolina. To learn more about Patrick Green, visit www.greeninkpub.com.  

Hayward steps out of the dark and into the shadows

In probably the most global professional sport of them all, racial profiling still exists, and the most recent victim is Butler product Gordon Hayward.

Not to confuse the point – the Indiana native has not had his civil rights violated or been antagonized by the legal system, but without a doubt, the talented small forward will be served an injustice by supporters of a league that has players representing more than 28 countries and territories.

In a sport that’s range is so expanse, the perspectives about its players pale.

Hayward, a 6-foot-9, 211-pound small forward, is probably not pounding the floor on this matter. After all, a little more than five months ago, he was trotting along in obscurity as a very good basketball player on a formidable mid-major team. Then March Madness began, and by the time the circus was over, Hayward and his Bulldogs were center stage under the big tent.

Butler may have fallen to Duke in the national title game, but the Bulldogs won in every other imaginable way. Hayward, especially. Though his half court heave to win the game barely missed the mark as the final buzzer blew, the sophomore’s NCAA tournament appearance was all net. Not only had the Indiana native become a national figure in basketball, he had created enough of a buzz that he decided to enter the Draft.

As to be expected with such a surprise player that had the nerve to be so captivating without being preordained by basketball experts, the reaction was uneven. Some onlookers begged for Hayward to withdraw his name from the Draft and avoid the biggest mistake of his career. He would go undrafted and miss the chance to take Butler back to the Final Four. Others were more optimistic, immediately crowning him a top-5 lottery pick.

Both extremists will be wrong and Hayward’s truth will land somewhere in the middle, most likely mid-to-late first round, though it wouldn’t be unrealistic to believe that he could make a run similar to the NCAA’s and improve his stock.

What’s intriguing about Hayward’s rise is that he was relatively the same player in the NCAA’s that he was all season. During the year, he averaged 15.5 points per game and 8.2 rebounds. His six games during March Madness mirrored this effort, as he notched 15.8 points and 7 rebounds a contest en route to earning the West Region Most Outstanding Player.

The story surrounding Hayward up to this point is satisfying.  It will remain satisfying as long as we view him as a basketball player. But that, unfortunately, won’t be the case. Yes, Hayward is white.

And because of this, he must shoulder the absurd expectations, for one, that he will be the next Larry Bird. It’s not unthinkable that the 20-year-old swingman will have a respectable NBA career but to measure him against Bird right now goes without reason. The same was done with Adam Morrison in 2004 after he dominated college basketball at Gonzaga. Morrison not only did not live up to the expectations, he has faintly held on to his playing career in the NBA, currently sitting on the LA Lakers bench in street clothes.

It’s not unnatural for fans to want to see players from a shared background attain great success, particularly in sports where that group is the minority. For example, Venus and Serena Williams and Tiger Woods inspired an entire generation of blacks to fall in love with tennis and golf.  Yao Ming, as well, can be credited with the wave of NBA support found in his native China. This trait transcends all sports, races, ethnicities, and nationalities. For further illustration, Alberto Salazar was revered by throngs of Cubans as he dominated marathons and long distance track and field in the 1980s, a rarity for Hispanic runners.

Essentially, wanting to identify with a celebrity is part of the lure. So it’s understandable for individuals to be in search of the next Larry Bird. Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash have been dominant in the league but have not filled this longing. Yes, the two NBA stars are white but because they hail from Germany and Canada respectively, they haven’t been as celebrated as someone from American soil.

And so, Hayward assumes this pressure, be it willfully or not. Like Bird, he was born and raised in Indiana. Like Bird, he stayed home to play college basketball. And like Bird, Hayward took a small program to the national championship game. These parallels are undeniable. But for right now, these are where the similarities end. Hayward likely wouldn’t shy away from wanting a career like Bird, not because he’s white, but because he was a great player.

It’s silly though to think that it’s fair to compare Hayward only to other white players. In reality, his game is closer to Josh Childress than to Mike Dunleavy, to Jeff Green than to Luke Jackson, and to Luol Deng than to Matt Harpring. Yet most references will have the Butler standout associated with players that share his racial roots. Disregard the notion that he doesn’t have the pure jump shot of Dunleavy, possesses greater handle than Jackson, and does not embody the strength of Harpring.

Hayward’s strengths, however, make him an interesting prospect. He is deceptively quick, sees the passing lanes well even when dribbling in traffic, finishes at the rim well after contact, shoots a potent mid range jumper, and rebounds aggressively.

These attributes fit well with teams picking at 17, 18, and 19. Since Hayward has a similar makeup as Deng, Chicago could build its second unit around the Butler star or play the rookie with the starting lineup in certain situations. Also, Miami should probably look hard at the small forward if he is still available at 18; the Heat are weak at that position and Hayward could realistically find himself in the starting lineup as the season progresses.

And either tragically or epically, Hayward could be there for the Boston Celtics at pick 19. The Celtics don’t have a true backup for Paul Pierce and with the 2008 Finals MVP now on the back end of his career, Boston brass would do well to have someone who could play well enough to shed some of Pierce’s minutes without sacrificing too much.

Hayward’s weaknesses are also apparent and the severity on how they are judged might be the only thing that has him waiting any longer than the aforementioned selections. He sometimes gets lost in a game, drifting rather than dominating, a point that has been raised often in the fact that he didn’t altogether shred the competition in the Horizon League. And while Hayward has demonstrated toughness when going to the hole, a question mark is still swirling regarding his ability to consistently finish at the rim amongst the league’s swarm of shot blockers.

Above it all, Hayward is an NBA player in waiting. And with that comes comparisons of all kinds. Kobe Bryant is compared to Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal to Wilt Chamberlin. Instead of folding under the constant scrutiny of being measured against their predecessors, these players were fueled by it, excelled and thus created their own legacies. Hayward might want to take a page from this script. He can’t control the barrage of comparisons, but he can control what he does with them.

 

-          Patrick Green, DraftNasty.com staff writer, has been writing professionally for more than a decade. He is the author of two novels, Josie’s Missing Syllabus and Son Down; and while both works deal with topics beyond the athletic landscape, each exposes a social scope involving sports as an underlying theme. Green has covered high school, college, amateur, and professional football during his career, having written for newspapers in Augusta, Ga., and Charleston, South Carolina. To learn more about Patrick Green, visit www.greeninkpub.com.  

Washington Wizards draw top pick

The Washington Wizards certainly feel like they won the lottery. The Wizards only had a 10.3 percent chance of having their name drawn first, but that’s exactly what happened during the NBA’s Draft Lottery on May 18.

The team with the fifth worst record in the NBA will now have the right to choose first during the June 24 draft. The lottery win will likely be a huge boost to a team that was mired in controversy this past season. In January, Javaris Crittendon and Gilbert Arenas were suspended for bringing guns into the locker room, and long-time Wizards star Caron Butler was traded in February.

The Philadelphia 76ers, with the sixth worst record, moved into the second spot of the draft. And the New Jersey Nets with the league’s worst record dropped to the third spot, despite the organization’s 25 percent chance of nabbing the first pick.

The remaining order of the 2010 NBA Draft is outlined in the table below.

FIRST ROUND
No. Team
1. Washington
2. Philadelphia
3. New Jersey
4. Minnesota
5. Sacramento
6. Golden State
7. Detroit
8. L.A. Clippers
9. Utah (From New York via Phoenix)
10. Indiana
11. New Orleans
12. Memphis
13. Toronto
14. Houston
15. Chicago (To Milwaukee)
16. Charlotte (To Minnesota via Denver)
17. Milwaukee (To Chicago)
18. Miami
19. Boston
20. San Antonio
21. Oklahoma City
22. Portland
23. Utah (To Minnesota via Philadelphia)
24. Atlanta
25. Denver (To Memphis)
26. Phoenix (To Oklahoma City)
27. Dallas (To New Jersey)
28. L.A. Lakers (To Memphis)
29. Orlando
30. Cleveland (To Washington)
SECOND ROUND
31. New Jersey
32. Minnesota (To Oklahoma City)
33. Sacramento
34. Golden State
35. Washington
36. Detroit
37. Philadelphia (To Milwaukee)
38. New York
39. L.A. Clippers (To New York via Denver)
40. Indiana
41. New Orleans (To Miami)
42. Toronto (To Miami)
43. Memphis (To L.A. Lakers)
44. Chicago (To Portland)
45. Houston (To Minnesota)
46. Charlotte (To Phoenix)
47. Milwaukee
48. Miami
49. San Antonio
50. Oklahoma City (To Dallas)
51. Portland (To Oklahoma City via Dallas and Minnesota)
52. Boston
53. Atlanta
54. Denver (To L.A. Clippers)
55. Utah
56. Phoenix (To Minnesota)
57. Dallas (pick may be conveyed to Indiana)
58. L.A. Lakers
59. Orlando
60. Cleveland (To Phoenix)