Derrick Rose is a former MVP. A former top ten player in the league. A former superstar. No matter what anyone tells you, his best basketball is in the past. It has been one injury after another which has all but sucked away his mental ability to use his once explosive legs. He will never be a top 10 point guard again. I could see him settling in as a 15 and 6 guy, but the thought of the Bulls being a title contender just due to the fact that Rose is back is absurd. Sure the Bulls will be a strong team in the watered down East, but it looks like it will be more because of Pau Gasol and Tom Thibodeau’s defense then it is Rose.
Rose has begun to look a bit of a mental job. His prior injuries loom in his head. This past week when he was talking about taking games off to save his body for after basketball is just more of a cop out not to play. He is brittle on the court and now has a hamstring problem to go along with banged up ankles. We have seen Rose age from a young superstar into a weary looking guard who can’t string together 10 games. He looked bad last season before re-injuring himself (35% FG) and looked even worse this off-season in the FIBA games shooting 25%. Rose has only played in 5 of the Bulls’ first 11 games and seems content with sitting on the bench. Remember, this is a guy who had a chance to come back and play in the playoffs a few seasons back but refused to give it a go.
Slowly, Chicago fans have started to murmur about the former MVP. He loves making “The Return” commercials more than it seems he likes to play. Rose’s career seems to be heading towards a bit of a crossroads. Does he comeback finally and play 95% of the games? Does he return to elite status or does he fade into obscurity as just another starting point guard. Will he ever be healthy? As fans we hope these questions will be answered sooner rather than later, but in my opinion I feel like his best basketball is well behind him.
Kyrie Irving, a budding star. Kevin Love, the most consistent double-double machine in the league. Designated scorer Dion Waiters and of course, the King himself, LeBron James. Lets just give them the title right? A young core with a successful international coach and the best player in the world. It is easy for the Cavs to be this year’s sexy pick just like Houston was last season to a lesser extent. The problem that lies in these predictions is that games aren’t won on paper. Chemistry cannot be determined and measured by players’ names and career stats, there is much more that needs to be accounted.
Three games into the season is a minuscule sample size and a team with so many new faces can’t nearly have all the kinks ironed out. I’m not worried about the chemistry or anything like that. It is not the main reason I don’t see this team winning a title. The Curse of Cleveland plays a huge factor but I’m not going to give a history lesson about how this town can’t win. The main reason I don’t see this team winning is the lack of team defense.
Kevin Love is a great offensive player that stuffs stat sheets every night but what else can he do? He is a sieve defensively and has never led his team to a .500 record, let alone make the postseason. I understand the West is loaded, but a super-star of his caliber needs to at least crack .500 in his six years in the league. Love has not won since his days at UCLA and it seems like he might be forgetting that winning swagger.
Former number one pick Kyrie Irving has shown flashes of greatness but has overall been a bit of a disappointment. Don’t believe me? Check out this damning graphic which compares the number one pick of the draft to the last pick of the draft. Has Cleveland really gotten what they paid for? Irving is still young and talented, but I question how he will be able to handle the addition of LeBron James. Who will handle the ball? Both players need the ball in their hands to be at their best. That also leads me to Kyrie’s passing. Irving has averaged a paltry 1.95 assist/turnover in his career which pails in comparison to Thomas’ 2.28. Will Kyrie take a back seat to LeBron and Love and focus on sacrificing his scoring to improve his assist numbers? Or will he continue to focus on getting his stats while putting the team’s should-be leading scorers on the back burners. LeBron has come back to Cleveland saying it is still Kyrie’s team. He wants the young guard to understand what it takes to win and how to sacrifice when you have to, but it is up to Irving to decide whether he wants to listen and mature or if he wants to keep playing the way he has been.
There are plenty of nice pieces on this team. Mike Miller is in LeBron’s back pocket and will try to go wherever he does and brings a tough veteran grit with him. Dion Waiters is nothing but a shot-chucker in my eyes and I do not see anything in him more than trade fodder and a poor man’s Jamal Crawford. The bigs are solid up front with Varejao and Thompson. I think they are both solid defenders that will have to constantly clean up Kevin Love’s deficiencies. Shawn Marion can still play and will play a big role down the stretch for the Cavs.
It’s time to turn our focus back to the King. He has struggled mightily in the team’s two losses posting 17 points and 8 turnovers in the season opener and then just 11 points in a blowout loss at Portland. LeBron looks a lot skinnier… does it have anything to do with the move from Miami? South Beach has been linked to the Bio-Genesis scandal and though you may not hear it in major outlets, there have been whispers that LeBron has been linked to the clinic. Take that with a grain of salt, who knows. What I do know is that LeBron has to bring this young group together and get them to buy into Coach Blatt’s system. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love have no postseason experience and don’t understand what it takes to win. They will have to take some lumps in the postseason before they win it all. Soon the duo will understand that when the spot light is on, things change in the Spring months. The Cavs of course have a great shot of winning the East, but this team is not ready to win a title.
RESULT: Cavs lost in the NBA Finals in 6 games to Golden State
The most over-hyped player coming into the league since LeBron James (who obviously panned out) has a lot of work to do on his game and is someone who does not excite me as much as the “experts”. Wiggins has the athleticism to be a difference maker at the next level, but lacks the overall polish. He will need to add more weight to his slender frame to be able to finish inside which he struggled at times to do at Kansas. The LeBron & Tracy McGrady comparisons are not there for me. I see him with the potential to be a nice player but not one to build a franchise around. Think Andre Iguodala with a little more offensive upside. If he is able to hit his ceiling, I can envision around 20 ppg tops, with 5 or 6 rebounds.
2. Jabari Parker – Milwaukee Bucks
A safe pick for the Bucks. I feel like Parker will be the best scorer out of this year’s draft with the scoring diversity of Carmelo Anthony. The best comparison I see is a reincarnation of Big Dog Glenn Robinson which would be a welcomed sight to see for a Bucks fans after the team managed just 95.5 points per game last season. The talent is definitely there for Parker, but my concerns are his defense and his weight. If Parker can stay focused on both ends of the floor and keep himself in shape, the Chicago-native should feel right at home in chilly Wisconsin.
3. Joel Embiid – Philadelphia Sixers
The big man’s draft stock soared and left many pundits thinking he had a shot at being drafted number one overall if not for the bad back and foot… hold up right there. Especially with centers, injuries are an enormous red-flag. With “experts” saying Embiid may be the next Hakeem Olajuwon, they seem to forget that as of right now, he’s closer to the path of Greg Oden and Sam Bowie. The Sixers drafted Nerlens Noel a year ago and had him sit out the entire season. The Sixers are a bad franchise and it is gambles like this that can cripple a franchise for a decade. Back to back seasons drafting injury prone big men is terrifying. If it works out, then hats need to be tipped for the gutsy pick. Blake Griffin managed to shake off a season-ending injury his rookie season, but Griffin is a workout warrior with a great work-ethic. Fans had to shutter when they heard Embiid is, “The best college big man since Greg Oden”. Yikes. If Embiid ever heals and is 100%, I still feel he is a far cry from Olajuwon. May end up being a nice 15-10-2 center, but as of now I am very pessimistic about his future.
4. Aaron Gordon – Orlando Magic
Has Tyrus Thomas written all over him. Who? Exactly. Uber-athletic forwards that are known for their defense and their raw offensive abilities. The “experts” don’t want to bring up this comparison but lets look at their one-and-done college career stats:
Scary to think that player A was Ty Thomas and where is he now? Gordon is a poor offensive player that might be the next athletic bust, or could stick around as a rotational player. Would not have touched him in the top 10.
5. Dante Exum – Utah Jazz
A good pick for the now exciting young Jazz team. May not steal the starting spot from second-year man Trey Burke, but Exum is a great pick due to his length and upside. A willing passer who will have time to develop, Exum could wind up being one of the best players in this draft five years from now. Don’t envision him being a great scorer, but will have the ability to cause match-up nightmares. Could be the type of player Shaun Livingston could have been before his injury, but a better shooter.
6. Marcus Smart – Boston Celtics
Tenacious defender who knows how to score the ball. Needs to improve his jump shot a lot to truly be an offensive force in this league. Needs to make a decision on whether he is a point guard or a shooting guard; can’t fall into a tweener roll. Could easily average 17-20 points per game in a few years, just needs the right role. Backcourt is getting crowded in Boston with Rondo, Bradley, Smart… decisions need to be made.
7. Julius Randle – Los Angeles Lakers
Recently broke his leg, but Randle knows how to rebound and score inside. Has short arms but I think he will find a way to be successful. Reminds me of Zach Randolph. Will not have a chance to flourish as long as Kobe is on the team. Once Kobe is gone and his leg heals, Randle should be a double-double threat.
8. Nik Stauskas – Sacramento Kings
Big reach. Would not have taken him in top 15. A more athletic Kyle Korver but not nearly the shooter. At best a 15 ppg guy or rotational player. A role player, not a difference maker at pick eight makes me not like this selection.
9. Noah Vonleh – Charlotte Hornets
Good upside with Vonleh. Back to back Indiana power forwards for Charlotte in the draft. Like him a lot more than Zeller. Has potential to be a nice player. Good defender and has the ability to step out side and hit a three.
10. Elfrid Payton – Philadelphia Sixers
Hate the pick. Played against poor competition and is a terrible shooter much like Ricky Rubio. Do not see him averaging over 14 points in his career. Will have to hang his hat on defense. Kendrick Perry had comparable stats in a better conference but did not get drafted. Bust written all over this pick. Sixers luckily shipped him to Orlando.
11. Doug McDermott – Denver Nuggets
Traded to the Bulls, another pick I dislike. Has Jimmer Fredette, Adam Morrison written all over him. Don’t trust that he can defend. Best case scenario is a one-dimensional three-point shooter role player. JJ Redick/Kyle Korver type career is his ceiling.
12. Dario Saric – Orlando Magic
Orlando fans must have had Fran Vasquez flashbacks. Luckily the pick was traded to the Sixers. Don’t like drafting foreigners in the lottery except for special occasions. Have a suspicious feeling that the states will never see Saric play meaningful minutes.
13. Zach LaVine – Minnesota Timberwolves
Athletic guard with a three point shot. A project for the Wolves to develop behind the likes of Wiggins, Rubio, and Kevin Martin.
14. TJ Warren – Phoenix Suns
Shot jacker in college but can find the basket. Not a great three-point shooter but could provide scoring off the bench. Suns fans have to hope he is not the next Julius Hodge however.