It’s NBA Draft Night!

By Jack Drapkin

We’ve been waiting, or at least myself and those of who root for the 28 minor league teams currently parading the NBA, have. Tonight’s the night of hope. There are no draft busts tonight, just questionable decisions and shocking selections. Thon Maker at 10?! Are you kidding me? (By the way it sure looks like the Bucks were right again, note to self don’t question those guys again).

Anyway, the Knicks get their shot at returning to the glory years with the promise of potentially adding Dennis Smith Jr., and the Lakers seem poised to try and bring back ‘Show Time’ with the addition of Lonzo Ball. Meanwhile “The Process” sure seems to be well under way in Philly with the presumed addition of Markelle Fultz.

This is the time to be positive and rejoice for many lottery teams who frankly will be lottery bound again next season. (Looking at you Sacramento, let’s see what Georgios Papagiannis does this season huh).

So here are three things I’ll be looking for come draft night.

Number one:

Does my favorite NBA Draft Prospect Jonathan Isaac sneak into the top-5? I think this comes down to whether the Phoenix Suns pull the trigger at four. Pairing him with Booker, Bledsoe and last year’s selections Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender would  give the Suns an exciting young core.

Number two:

Speaking of the Kings, which draft prospect gets thrown into the tornado that is Sacramento. I think it will be difficult for a non-PG to have success there with the number 5 pick. Therefore, it is vital that the Kings end up with either De’Aaron Fox or Dennis Smith Jr.

Number three:

When will the first senior be selected? The first senior has typically been selected just outside the top-10 the past five seasons. This season should be no different, in fact my prediction is that no senior will be selected in the first 20 selections. If I had to bet I’d say Wesley Iwundu from Kansas State will be the first one selected near the end of the first round. If your reaction is ‘Who?’, I don’t blame you, long gone are the days of 4-year dominate collegiate players.

T.O. 2.0? Not Even Close

By John Camera

The prodigal son returned. Odell Beckham Jr. was back at the Giant’s practice facility last week for mandatory team OTAs and if you listened to much of the mainstream media, you would think Beckham was holding out and threatening not to play until he got a new contract. Beckham is going into the fourth year of a four year rookie contract with a fifth year option that the Giants have already picked up. During interviews, Beckham committed himself to his teammates and to playing, noting that his absence at voluntary mini-camp had nothing to do with his quest for a new deal despite what anyone said, wrote, or tweeted.

Still, since Beckham achieved super stardom quickly into his 2014 rookie campaign, the spotlight has followed the young Wide Receiver for better and for worse. In this case, it has been negative, Beckham’s absence from New Jersey overshadowing other players who decided not to show up for their team’s voluntary practices, including his teammate and fellow blue-chip player Defensive End Olivier Vernon.

With all this noise about Beckham, his contract, and practice, the New York sports media has a wealth of stories to publish based on these rumors that attract readers with a big-name during the deadest part of the NFL off-season. And in the wake of it, one media and fan-driven storyline has been dredged back up from its ugly depths; Odell Beckham is a diva and locker room cancer akin to Terrell Owens.

Beckham hasn’t exactly been a quiet player since achieving his near-immediate fame, enjoying the lime light while fellow stud receivers like Julio Jones shy away from it. But there’s a big difference between being a loud mouth and being a distraction. Detractors of Beckham’s and supporters of the latter point to Beckham’s issues with Josh Norman, and while Beckham escalated things in their infamous 2015 clash, many leave out that Norman initiated the cheap shots and Beckham held back greatly in 2016.

Other issues that have cropped in Beckham’s career include sideline explosions against Tampa and Carolina in 2015 as well as 2016’s incidents against Washington, Minnesota, and the kicking net. Opponents of Beckham’s, not just Norman but other Cornerbacks like then-Bills’ CB Stephon Gilmore have accused him of being a prima donna, cheap shot artist, and generally an annoyance.

Perhaps the biggest piece of evidence Beckham fed critics was his much-publicized boat excursion with fellow Giants’ Wide Receivers as well as Justin Bieber and Trey Songz. Their next game, a Wild Card matchup against Green Bay, saw the Giants’ receiving corps, and Beckham in particular, rack up drop after drop. Those who see Odell Beckham as an antagonist to his team are fair in using these examples in their argument but more often than not, choose to ignore or conveniently leave out what makes Beckham a great teammate and locker room leader.

A scan of several Giants’ Snapchat stories, including Jason Pierre-Paul, Sterling Shepard, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, shows Beckham joking and interacting with his teammates in a positive manner. One in particular depicts Beckham showing DRC a particular dance and another centered on Beckham and Defensive Tackle Jay Bromley having a dance battle. Beckham is not just a guy who sticks to his teammates on offense but seems to get along with everyone on his team.

Beckham is also not a player who is ever content or satisfied with what he has done. His first three seasons have been the best of any receiver in NFL history. And yet, he is still always working at his craft. Beckham trained in the offseason with Vikings Hall of Famer Chris Carter and has discussed how new acquisition Brandon Marshall has given him tips he can take and adapt to his own game.

While some of the things Odell Beckham does has attracted negative attention to himself and his team, Beckham has been an important player both on the field and in the locker room for the New York Giants. He has been a franchise-changing player, perhaps the biggest star the Giants’ have drafted since Lawrence Taylor in 1981. Don’t let anyone tell you Beckham is a locker room divider ala Terrell Owens; they simply aren’t telling the whole truth.

The 2017 NBA Draft Starts with Number Three

By Jack Drapkin

While I would love to be surprised come Draft Night, it sure seems to be that the top two selections are set in stone. Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball are penciled in as the first two picks of the NBA Draft to the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers respectively.

That’s great and the intrigue will be there for their first games in the Summer League, however, for all intents and purposes, the draft starts with the Philadelphia 76ers at pick number three. Boy is it an interesting decision for them.

They have needs at guard and on the wing, with their supposed two best players, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, combining for 36 games over four NBA seasons. The Sixers should really be able to select the best player available.

And boy do they need to get this pick right. Look, Simmons and Embiid and especially Embiid, look like generational players. But with the major injuries Embiid has suffered and the fact that Simmons has yet to hit the floor, it’d be nice to add another prospect with a high ceiling, but also an established floor.

To me, there are four players who are in play for the Sixers, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, Jonathan Isaac, and Malik Monk.

I just don’t think it’s likely they select a point guard here at three as they have gone out of their way to say that Ben Simmons would operate as a point guard and not a point forward ala LeBron James.

So it becomes a question of which wing prospect do they feel suits their team best.

Look, I think the Sixers are in a tough spot here.

Monk has the best shot-making ability of the group but is the most limited in the other aspects of his game, especially the defensive end. For a team, built on size and length, Monk would seem a curious fit at this selection.

Tatum has the offensive acumen, but he is best suited with the ball in his hands. Will there be enough basketballs for an Embiid, Simmons, Tatum trio not to mention outstanding rookie Dario Saric.

Speaking of Saric, his presence along with Robert Covington makes it tough to believe that Jonathan Isaac is the selection here. Isaac seems best suited to play the 3-4 position and with the glut of talent there for the Sixers, it may be tough for him to get playing time.

This leads to my conclusion that Josh Jackson has to be the selection here. His ability to play as an over-sized two guard is vital for this pairing to work. However, I feel it is the best possibility and fit of all the possibilities.

If you’re a Sixers fan, you better hope though that Jackson’s 3-point stroke is legitimate because that team will have major spacing issues if it’s not.

I think the Sixers, end up picking Jackson, but they are a true wildcard in a Draft sure to provide some fireworks come June 22nd.

REPORT: Lakers Would Pass on Lonzo Ball

By John Camera

According to Bleacher Report writer Jordan Schultz, if the NBA Draft was held today, the Los Angeles Lakers would pass on the player many expect them to select, UCLA Point Guard Lonzo Ball. Schultz notes that the Lakers are very concerned with Lonzo’s father, LaVar, and the impact he would have. LaVar has manifested fame through the success of his son and with Lonzo landing in a prime time destination like LA, just down the street from where he played college, LaVar could have an even bigger voice. Along with this, the Lakers’ front office is concerned with Ball’s on-court game, skeptical of whether he can transition to being a true star at the next level.

While his father LaVar is an unknown, who knows how he’ll act when his son is in the place he’s wanted him to be since the beginning of this process, the Lakers concerns with Lonzo’s game are serious and well-warranted.

Ball does has a safety net to fall back on. At the very worst he projects to be a Ricky Rubio type of player who can act as a distributor and play-maker but does little to create for himself. Rubio as a worst case scenario isn’t very bad and the best case prospects for Ball should excite anyone. He could be the second coming of Jason Kidd or Penny Hardaway if he adjusts well to the NBA game. However, there are still deterrents that could prevent him from getting there.

The two biggest negatives to Lonzo’s game are his lack of elite athleticism and his funky, unorthodox shooting motion. Lonzo does not have blazing speed or quickness like some of his contemporaries in this draft class and it could be a factor that may limit him throughout his career; this isn’t a very fixable issue. What is fixable is his lack of great dribble moves that can separate him from defenders, something he will have to work on if he is to create consistent separation at the NBA level.

The other problem Ball will need to clean up to achieve NBA stardom is his shooting motion, which includes a low release point and may limit his dribble jumper at the next level. Ball will need to adjust the shot to get it to work against bigger, stronger, longer defenders or rebuild his mechanics from the ground up. While he should receive credit for being a solid three point and off-ball scorer at UCLA, he will need to do more, such as building a mid-range game, to become an NBA star.

While these are real issues that may hold Lonzo Ball back, it should be noted that he is still the best option for the Lakers if Markelle Fultz is off the board. However, a player to watch for Los Angeles is Kentucky’s lightening-fast De’Aaron Fox. Fox could transform into a John Wall-type player as he fills out and learns to shoot better and turn the ball over less. As is, Fox is a speed demon with good mechanics, basketball IQ, and defending ability. If the Lakers are going to pick between Fox and Ball they have two choices; go with the potential homerun in Fox or take the safe pick and select Ball.


The Best Scorer in the 2017 NBA Draft No One is Talking About

What if I were to tell you there is a player in this draft who averaged 20 points a game in the ACC.

Who did so while leading Wake Forest back to the tourney for the first time in seven years. 

And is not a senior but rather a spry sophomore.

John Collins. The 6’10 230 Forward from Wake Forest has been criminally underrated.

Look this year’s draft class is loaded I understand. However, a player with as multi-faceted an offensive game as Collins should be garnering a lot more conversation as a lottery pick.

Collins put up 30 against Duke, 25 on Louisville..this was no case of a player taking advantage of weak competition. In fact, he tended to rise to the level of his opponent.

Collins is a dominant interior scorer and easily the best big man scorer in this class. He has an array of moves in the mid-range area and a nice touch on his jumper evidenced by 62% shooting from the field.

The owner of the highest Player Efficiency Rating (PER) in the nation last season. It is easy to infer that Collins had his way at the offensive end of the court.

Defensively there are some concerns. The first thing many draftniks will point to is the lack of length he has, with only a 6’11” wingspan on his 6’10” frame. However, with his mobility, he should be able to curtail this issue at the next level.

The defensive factor I am concerned about, effort. Now, the excuse given to a lot of guys who have to carry the load offensively is that they don’t have the energy to produce similar results on the defensive end. While that may be fair, Collins didn’t show consistent effort on that end of the court. He also demonstrated a propensity to commit silly fouls, which may have also limited his defense activity as he would then have to avoid foul trouble.

Look, I think 10-15 years ago this guy is a surefire top-10 pick as an NBA Power Forward. The shift to “positionless” basketball has hurt guys like Collins who’s not quite a Center but doesn’t fit into today’s Forward position either.

This leaves two options, either increase your shooting range to the 3-point line or become a more sturdy defensive presence. I think with time Collins can and will do both, but only time will tell.

Until next time,

Jack Drapkin

Remember to follow me on Twitter @NBADraftWhiz! Shoot me your NBA Draft Questions.

Meet 5 Seniors (Dinosaurs) in the 2017 NBA Draft Class

By Jack Drapkin

In a loaded draft class dominated by diaper dandies, the stock of several seniors has slid under the radar. In fact, if you look closely at many mock drafts it will be hard to find just one senior who is selected in the first round.

Josh Hart is everyone’s favorite pick to be this year’s, Malcolm Brogdon. For good reason, he has the advanced offensive game and serial mentality. However, unlike Brogdon who was an excellent defender in college, Hart still needs work on the defensive end of the court and is not near the athlete Brogdon is. However, Hart is a tremendous worker and an intelligent basketball player. He’s got a shot.

Frank Mason is one of my favorite players to watch period. He and his backcourt mate Devonte Graham, were a joy to watch at Kansas grow over the past three seasons. Look this guy even has a song “B*#$h I’m Frank Mason”. Give it a listen. Mason is too tough, too competitive, and too gifted offensively not to find success at the next level. He won’t be a 1st rounder, and maybe not even a 2nd but he will play in the NBA. Book it.

Alec Peters from Valparaiso has been talked about for what seems like forever. As a 6’9 Forward with a sweet-shooting stroke it makes sense. However, I think his upside is a Channing Frye, Jon Leur-type player, who is limited athletically and is therefore a minus on the defensive end. I’m not sold his game will translate to the next level.

Wesley Iwundu from Kansas State is one of my biggest sleepers in this year’s draft class. Here’s a guy who improved every year he was in school and averaged 13 points, six rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game last season. Oh did I mention, he’s 6’7″ with a near 7-foot wingspan. As an excellent defender Iwundu has everything you look for in a 3 and D guy.

Monte Morris from Iowa State is your consummate floor general. Ever since his freshman year, this guy has been among the nation’s leaders in assist/turnover ratio. This year was no different as he posted a prolific 5.17 assist/turnover ratio. He simply does not make mental mistakes on the basketball court. He’s got a shot at the next level.

Shoot me a message on Twitter @NBADraftWhiz for any of your NBA draft questions!

Chiefs The Biggest Winners of 2017 NFL Draft

By John Camera

It may not look like it on the surface but the biggest winners of the 2017 NFL Draft were the Kansas City Chiefs. They improved their present team, a serious Super Bowl contender, and improved themselves long-term with their addition of their franchise QB of the future. And this future may not be that far away with Andy Reid coaching up their young buck.

That future star? Of course Mr. Pat Mahomes II, the stud Quarterback from Texas Tech whom the Chiefs traded up a whopping 17 spots in the first round to acquire. They didn’t give up a lot considering his floor is Matt Stafford and ceiling is Brett Favre. Kansas City traded their first, third, and first rounder in 2018 to move up to number ten overall. Considering this is a playoff team regularly picking at the bottom of the first round, this isn’t a bad deal whatsoever.

I won’t sugarcoat it; I’m enamored with Mahomes. A smart, athletic, QB with the astounding natural accuracy he has is rare. His footwork at Tech was awful and he still threw darts that were perfectly placed. Being able to be under the tutelage of Andy Reid and the anti-Mahomes, Alex Smith, and settle in as the backup with no pressure right away, is a path to long-term success. We will look back on this trade in a decade and realize what a great one it was for Kansas City, I’m confident of that.

Rounding out the rest of their draft, the Chiefs came in with a boatload of picks and used them well, being aggressive and consolidating to get premium players in trade ups. In the third round, they traded up 18 spots to grab Toledo RB Kareem Hunt, who I liked almost as much as Mahomes. If Hunt keeps his weight steady at the NFL level, his well-rounded ability will make him a long-term starter in the mold of Frank Gore. I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if he stole Spencer Ware’s starting job, while still splitting carries with him, and completely overshadowed Charcandrick West.

Rewinding a bit, the Chiefs used their second round pick on small-school wild card Tanoh Kpassagnon, a Defensive End from Villanova. I expect the Chiefs will fit him next to Chris Jones at 5-tech 3-4 DE but he might get some reps at OLB considering Tamba Hali’s age. With all the talent around him on the Chiefs defense, I think Kpassagnon comes into an ideal situation where he won’t need to be a defensive stalwart right away.

On day three, the Chiefs made several picks that greatly helped their overall depth. Jehu Chesson was a big-play threat at Michigan and could easily develop into a number three or four Wide Receiver in an average Kansas City receiving corps. He was a great value pick-up. In the fifth the Linebacker from Georgia Southern, Ukeme Eligwe, was the selection. Eligwe has big-time talent, originally an FSU signee who moved on to GSU while dealing with off-the-field and injury issues. If he can remain on the field at the next level, Eligwe has the size, speed, and physicality to contribute as an Inside LB backup and special teams standout. The Chiefs last pick was Southern California Safety Leon McQuay III. McQuay is a little lean for the Safety position but he has the speed and ball-skills to be a competent backup and should contribute immediately on special teams.