I just saw the interviews of Kemba Walker, Brandon Knight and Jim Kelly from Tuesday, and what jumped at me was how well-trained the two guards were when dealing with the media. They’re following the scripts provided by their agents to a tee, not saying anything remotely contestable and remain agreeable to any viewpoint presented by the media. My impressions of both were very positive, Brandon Knight seemed a soft-spoken guy who traveled to Toronto to cover his bases just in case he dropped down. He didn’t have to come here, but did. It says something about him. Walker was more relaxed and had to defend the claims submitted against him about not being a “true” point guard and did it once again by stating how he was forced into a scoring role in college, an assertion that was verified by Jim Kelly, who was impressed with Walker’s much-maligned passing.
The news of the day had to come from Doug Smith who is sadly reporting that the choice of head coach is between Dwane Casey and Lawrence Frank. It’s a tad bit anti-climatic because I had my heart set on a hiring that would have raised a few eyebrows across the league. If what Smith is saying is true, then obviously no decision will be made before the conclusion of the Finals as Casey is an assistant coach for the Mavericks and can’t even be interviewed until then. At this point, I’m leaning towards Frank because of his greater NBA experience, and because he’s liable to explode into smoke on the sidelines at any point. However I do think Casey will get the job because he’s due.
Honestly, I’m losing interest in this coach hunt. I’m pretty sure whoever they hire we’ll be wanting to get fired by December anyway, so let’s just make sure the guy we do sign only has a two-year contract, thus matching Colangelo’s. Frank strikes me as the extremely passionate guy who yells a lot and “looks” like a great coach, but could just be a guy who yells a lot. Casey appears to have more substance to him, as most assistant coaches not named Marc Iavaroni do, and his defensive record speaks for itself. Maybe I’m leaning towards Casey, I don’t know, I feel like I’m in high-school again when my options for girlfriend were between a girl who constantly screamed in my ear about how awesome 311 was, and this other quiet one who questioned whether I really understood Margaret Atwood.
Some clarifications – Bryan Colangelo is not looking to trade DeMar DeRozan but is wanting to acquire another top ten pick. Speculation on who he might want to acquire with the second pick if he drafts a point guard with the first one: Small forward needs addressing and so does center, I don’t see any great defensive centers, so I’ll go with small forward and say he might be angling for either Vesely or Leonard. The underlying story of this draft is that Utah’s pick at #3 and what Minnesota does with their second pick is going to shape this draft for a lot of teams.
Jumping along, here’s a bit of an ESPN Insider on Jonas Valanciunas:
While Valanciunas has tremendous offensive potential, it is based more on his athleticism than his skill level. Right now, he scores most of his points off energy plays like offensive rebounds, fast breaks and in the screen-and-roll game, where he gets a running start to the rim. His lack of strength doesn’t allow him to get close enough to the basket yet to utilize any low post moves. And his passing out of the post is average at this point. But based on the fact that he is a near 90 percent free throw shooter this season, there is an expectation that an offensive game can be developed as he physically matures. That is critical because he shows, at this point, no propensity for playing on the perimeter.
Best case scenario: Pau Gasol
There are athletic similarities between Gasol and Valanciunas but I emphasize here that this is a best case scenario. Both were highly successful at the European junior level as both won Under-18 European titles. And both contributed at the highest level of European basketball as teenagers. Don’t expect for Valanciunas to have the same impact as Gasol did in his rookie season. As the No. 3 pick in the 2001 draft by the Atlanta Hawks, Gasol was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Then, as a 20-year-old in his first NBA season, he went on to average 17 points and nine rebounds.
Now I feel like doing an honest mock draft:
- Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers: He’s the best player in a weak draft class. If this were the 2005 draft he’d be the sixth pick. Cavaliers need players who don’t suck, Irving doesn’t suck. Match made in heaven.
- Derrick Williams, Minnesota: Skill level combined with athleticism and a couple nice games in the tourney. Somewhere between a small forward and a power forward, which makes him like Boris Diaw. Or Linas Kleiza. Nobody knows, but he can score and that’s what counts. The Raptors could trade up to get this pick so that they can draft Brandon Knight.
- Brandon Knight, Jazz: Utah has a long history of great point guards, and by long I mean John Stockton and Deron Williams. I don’t think they trust Devin Harris to be the third in line, so they’ll go with Knight and bring him along.
- Enes Kanter, Cavaliers: The Cavs might trade this pick if they go cold on Kanter. Kanter will put Kyle Fesenko to shame.
- Kemba Walker, Raptors: They’ll settle for Walker if Knight isn’t there.
- Jonas Valanciunas, Wizards: I think the Wizards realize JaVale McGee is a poor defender and an idiot.
- Jan Vesely, Kings: He’ll look good backing up Omri Casspi while Donte Greene demands a trade. Chad Ford still thinks he’s coming to Toronto.
- Kawhi Leonard, Pistons: Tayshaun Prince’s time in Detroit is up. Or at least it should be. Not saying Leonard is the answer since he can’t make a jumper, well, I kinda am saying that.
- Bismack Biyombo, Bobcats: I fully trust Michael Jordan to screw this up, so Biyombo is the obvious choice here.
- Marcus Morris, Bucks: Obligatory Kansas pick in the top 10.
Here’s Charles Barkley on an ESPN radio interview (download):Follow @raptorsrepublic