Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Twins Week in Review: June 21st-June 28th

Three Reasons to be Happy
1. Ninth inning hitting
Now the only problem is the first eight. On Friday and Thursday they scored a total of seven runs in the ninth inning. That would be great if they hadn't scored one in the other 16. As I've said before, this is the most frustrating and weird Twins teams in awhile. At least the last few years we knew what we were getting. This season is like being on a rollercoaster. Ups and downs everywhere.
2. Jorge Polanco
At the moment he's hitting .333, with a slugging percentage of 1.000. He hasn't shown any sign of decline so we can only assume that he'll continue this pace and become the best player of all time.
3. Mauer
Hit well this past week, including some unprecedented clutch hits. He's critical to the Twins being any good down the stretch. Call me a homer, but why is Jeter going to make the all star game but Mauer isn't? It's the same idea, they both have sentimental reasons to be put in, and neither are having very good years. Plus, as an added bonus, Mauer isn't nearly as annoying as Jeter.
Three Reasons to be Frustrated
1. Dropping six in a row
This is a much bigger deal than it seems at the surface. Last year on May 13th they were 18-17 before losing ten straight. They never recovered. Right now I'm terrified that this is the beginning of the end for the Twins hope this season. To keep going they still need to make some moves. Signing Morales was a good start, but their next step should be acquiring another decent starter to go with Hughes and Gibson.
2. The pitching
This is making me feel a lot like the beginning of the season when they showed up in this section every week. You were missed, pitching staff. This last week they gave up 38 runs over six games, coming out to about six and a third runs per game. Of course, this biggest problem, compared to the  beginning of the season...
3. The hitting
Meanwhile, The offense has had some extreme difficulty scoring runs in innings other than the ninth, scoring just one run in the other sixteen innings the last three games and collecting nine total hits in the last two games.
Random Thought of the Week
As I alluded to up top, Derek Jeter is driving me insane. We can't hear anything without hearing about how much "class" and how he "plays the right way" Can retire this? Please? The only thing I feel like could ruin the All Star game for me would be Jeter winning the MVP when he doesn't deserve it. I felt like lighting myself on fire when Rivera won last year. Jeter would be even more sickening because he's been somehow more obsessed over this year.
Dan Gladden Stupidity Moment of the Week
In which we look at something moronic Dan Gladden said while announcing Twins games
This week's moment is a lot like last week's with Gladden using the word "kinda" in entertainingly bad spots. Today he said that Darvish had had, "kinda some neck problems" Yes he actually said that. Keep up the good work, Danny.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Timberwolves Draft: Feels like a Kahn Job

We had four picks last night. We spent one of them on a guard who looked as depressed as a lottery pick can be, and sold two more away. Nice job, Flip. Here are breakdowns of the picks.
Round 1, Pick 13
Zach Lavine, Guard, UCLA
At this point, everybody's heard about the whole "F*** me" line right after he got picked, but despite that, I feel like this is a decent choice. His athleticism is off the charts and unlike lots of players like that, he can actually shoot, at 37% from beyond the arc. His 44% mark is a low representation of his shooting because it's he takes too many bad shots rather than him missing open ones. He really needs to improve his decision making. Luckily, with Rubio he probably won't be handling the ball as often, which should put him in more catch and shoot situations. The one problem I have with the pick is the fact that they could have gone with a safer pick, like Gary Harris. Maybe it's just the mentality David Kahn gave us, but I'm terrified of upside guys the Wolves have had so many lottery picks that haven't worked out, like Jonny Flynn, Wes Johnson and Derrick Williams to name three in the last five years, that now I'm nervous whenever we have a risk reward guy because he never ends up being worth the risk.
Worst case scenario
He never really develops, keeps taking bad shots, becomes just a role player and three point gunner but at least creates a really flashy highlight reel.
 Best case scenario
Learns his place in the offense, takes less shots, but becomes more efficient player, gets better at finishing at the rim, once again creates a very flashy highlight reel.
Round 2, Pick 10 (40th overall)
Glenn Robinson III, Forward, Michigan
Seems like a poor man's Aaron Gordon on the offensive end, great finisher in transition, needs to develop a jump shot. Of course, Gordon is a hard worker while that raises some question marks with Robinson. I feel like there's a decent chance of him becoming a good role player and there isn't a worst case scenario, anybody you get in the second round is just a bonus.
Round 2, Pick 14 (44th overall)
Pathetically sold to Brooklyn
Round 2, Pick 23 (53rd overall)
Alessandro Gentile, later pathetically sold to Houston
Here's where the wheels came off. The Wolves became the first team I've heard of to sell not one, but two second rounders. Did Taylor need the extra pocket money or what? Is this residual effects from having David Kahn as the GM? I can see doing this in the MLB, but there's a freaking salary cap in the NBA. If you ever see Glen Taylor at a restaurant eating nice steak or at a car dealership buying a fleet of Ferraris, make sure to ask him if it was worth the picks.

Monday, June 23, 2014

What Happened to the Rays?

    At the moment I'm writing this, the Tampa Bay Rays are sitting at the bottom of the AL East with a disastrous 31-46 record. Last year they won 91 games and barely made any moves in the offseason. That brings up the obvious question of what went wrong? Not a lot can be explained, but here's what can.
     One of the biggest reasons for the slide is a combination of bad luck this year and good luck last year. Take James Loney for example. Last year he hit .299/.348/.430. This year it's down to .278/.338/378. So what changed? Last season Loney had a batting average on balls in play of .326, which is down to .308 this year. In other words, last year he got the breaks, blooped balls in, beat out infield hits and got broken bat seeing eye singles.
     An even better example of this is Wil Myers. Last year, he hit .293/.354/.478 and cruised to the Rookie of the Year partially because the voters lost their minds.*
*That should have been Jose Iglesias's award. For bizarre reason, the voters decided to vote for the guy with the best future rather than the player who actually had the best season. Yes, I know Iglesias's hitting was unsustainable but that doesn't change that for one year he was better than Myers.
      Sorry about that, but anyway, Myers is hitting a paltry .227/.313/.354 this year, with a big reason to that being luck, or, the copious amounts of it he had last year. Last year he hit .362 on balls in play It's down to .282. He's an extreme version of Loney. This isn't saying at all that Myers can't have a good career, but last year might not have been the greatest reflection of the player he is at this moment.
     In fact, you can apply that to a lot of players on the Rays. Along with Myers and Loney, who are the most obvious because they had such good seasons last year, Yunel Escobar and Desmond Jennings, have both decreased their BABIP from last year.
     Another reason is father time. It's inescapable. Ben Zobrist is finding that out this year. He turned 33 in May and is currently having his worst season since 2010, with numbers in almost every category below his career averages. His isn't bad luck either, he has the lowest line drive rate since 2008, while he's hitting more ground balls than ever.
     Finally they're probably the best terrible team this year. They're losing games, but some of that is equated to bad luck. Their run differential is just minus 39, and while that may seem like a lot, compare it to the D-Backs, (32-47 minus 66) or the Padres (32-44 minus 64) and it's looking pretty good. In fact, the Rangers are 35-40 and have a run differential of minus 46. The Rays are terrible, there's no denying that, but at least now it's somewhat explainable.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Twins Week in Review: June 14th-June 21st

Three Reasons to be Optimistic
1. Yohan Pino
Pino strengthened his case to stay up in the bigs on the never ending carousel of fifth starters (along with breathing and being able to throw the ball 60 feet) with a solid first outing of seven innings, two runs and four hits. I'm not going to freak out, there's a reason he was in the minors until age 30, but he can be solid down the stretch, especially for the Twins.
2. The pitching, no seriously
That is, other than Nolasco. With Pelfrey out he's my new favorite target to pick on when things aren't going well. But other than him, they've been fantastic. The series in Boston they gave up a total of five runs, in Fenway Park. Keep in mind this is coming from the same team who I said at the beginning of the year, "We're going to be seeing lots of 10-9 games" Of course, they got swept too, but I'm leaving that part out.
3. Gibson
He continued his streak of consecutive shutout innings to 22 against the Red Sox, lowering his ERA to just 3.25 during the season. Hughes has been the most the consistent this year, but Gibson's been the only guy on the staff who can be completely dominant and make batters look silly.
Three Reasons to be Frustrated
1. The entire offense
What the hell happened? This is definitely one of the strangest Twins teams of my life. Both their hitting and fielding have off and on switches.
2. Morales
Ok, so we never expected him to hit .500 the whole year, but after his hot start he's cooled down considerably, going something around 0 for around his last 20. (Sorry I can't find the exact figure.) The worst case scenario for Morales and the Twins would be both of them sucking and Ryan not finding any takers at the deadline for him.
3. Stupid Replay
After Escobar dashed home with the winning run I was thrilled and excited, obviously, because after Perkins blew the save, there didn't seem like much of a chance of the Twins winning it. Of course right after Escobar scored, Robin Ventura challenged the play because he has nothing to lose. So have fun with walkoffs from now on, anything mildly close will involve players celebrating, followed by a manager walking out to challenge it, then the players will mill around for a few minutes and then the call will get confirmed. Sounds like a blast.
Random Stat of the Week
1.61
That's the Twins ERA during the Red Sox series, compared to 4.29 for the entire year. Did I mention that this happened in one of the best parks for hitters? I thought Mauer was going to have a field day hitting the ball off the monster. All it takes is one hot streak for the Twins to throw themselves right into the division crown race. Kansas City has already had theirs. I hope the Twins didn't just miss an opportunity.
The Dan Gladden Stupidity Moment of the Week
In which, we look at something moronic Dan Gladden said while announcing Twins games
When the Twins were in Boston, Gladden was talking about Stephen Drew not getting a contract for awhile before resigning with the Sox when he said that he, Wanted "Kinda a multi-year deal" How does one want "Kinda" a multi-year deal? Is that like a year and a half? I spent so long trying to figure that out I got a headache. Thanks, Danny.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Twins Week in Review: June 7th to June 14th

Hey everybody, sorry this wasn't up yesterday, but I lost my internet connection in all the storms so I couldn't get on here.
Three Reasons to be Optimistic
1. Morales
I knew we were signing Kendrys Morales. What I didn't know was that we were signing mid season form Kendrys Morales who had been working out six hours a day the entire time he wasn't employed. And especially not speedy Kendrys Morales who managed to score on a short single to left field.
2. Hughes
The guy whose contract I may or may not have criticized multiple times during the offseason and during April continued his dominance with by shutting down the AL East leading Blue Jays. That sound you hear is Stienbrenner and Cashman kicking themselves. This is the first time for awhile I can remember something like this happening to us. It's always been the reverse. Gomez, Liriano, the list goes on and on.
3. Santana
His stats say one thing, his body language agrees with it. He looks like a veteran at the plate. He doesn't swing at as many bad pitches as inexperienced players usually do and looks confident up at the plate.
Three Reasons to be Frustrated
1. The pitching
That is, pitchers whose names aren't Hughes or Gibson. The other three have a combined ERA of 5.72. Signing Morales was a good step forward, but the Twins still need another decent pitcher to contend.
2. Mauer
It hurts me to say this, because Mauer's one of my favorite Twins of all time, but it's time to move him down in the batting order. Right now he's in a major slump, hitting just .209 in June. Gardy should move him down to fifth or sixth, just to take some pressure off of him.
3. The injury bug
Hicks and Plouffe are on the DL, Escobar and Dozier are banged up and Nunez will probably have to go to there as well. Things are so dire that they called up P-Flo again. That's a good move because he adds some diversity to the infield. (Take a wild guess of which incompetent radio announcer that came from)
Former Twin of the Week
LaTroy Hawkins
This year Hawkins snatched the "He's still playing" award from previous holder Jason Giambi. My personal favorite Hawkins memory didn't happen when he was playing the Twins, but against them with the Orioles in 2006. In the tenth inning, Cuddyer was on first and Hawkins picked him off and had him in a rundown. Then, inexplicably, Hawkins forgot to cover first and Cuddyer made it back in safely. It didn't end up having any change in the outcome (Morneau won it with a homer in the 12th) but it's still one of my favorite Metrodome memories.
Dan Gladden Stupidity Moment of the Week
In which we look at one moronic thing Dan Gladden said while announcing Twins games
Yesterday Martinez hit a fly ball to left center field, the call from Danny was, "Fuld can't get to it, Cabrera will stop at second, (pause) the throw to second is not in time." All of this happened before he explained to us that Martinez went to second and that's why the throw was coming in there. So Cabrera didn't hold up at second. Of course, none of this must have seemed necessary to mention while it was happening. Whatever. Explaining things as a radio announcer is overrated.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Heat-Spurs Game Four: A Running Diary

7:58: We're here at The Wilson Moore Estates for Game four! In case you've been trapped under a rock the last few days here's what happened in five words or less. Game one: No Air conditioning, LeBron cramps Game two: Spurs miss free throws, lose Game four: Spurs go insane
8:11: Bosh wins the tip and we're underway.
8:13: Wade gets called for a foul, second in the game for the Heat. The Heat have been in foul trouble all series. They need to keep the Spurs off the foul line as often.
8:15: After a miss, Boris Diaw grabs the rebound and gets fouled. Do you think there has ever been a fatter starter on a finals team than Diaw? We need to get the Elias Sports Bureau on this. Of course, he's also one of the smarter guys on the court.
8:22: Duncan snags a board and immediately flips it out to Parker. Other than Love, Duncan is the best outlet passer of in the league. He doesn't wing them down the court like Love, but as soon as he gets the rebound he passes it out to a guard as soon as possible.
8:24: Bosh nails a jumper and.... wait, why the hell is James running into the locker room? That was random. There are two reasons: A) He needs to take a leak, or B) There's something wrong. Every Heat fan has to be holding their breath now.
8:29: LeBron's sitting on the bench. The answer was A.
8:31: Leonard hits two free throws. They show a graphic and I find out I've been spelling his name wrong the entire time.
8:33: Allen misses a three. That gives me an idea. Why don't the Heat just play Allen's three in game six on a constant loop during timeouts? Every time a Spur would look up, they would just see their season being destroyed. Over and over again.
8:43: Green sinks a three. Spurs by 14. I'm still not seeing the Spurs win this game. The Heat are too good of a team to go down 3-1.
8:46: LeBron comes in. Comeback will commence shortly.
8:51: Heat miss again and Leonard is fouled at the other end. Maybe not. Then Allen hits a three after getting the ball back. Maybe. Just to get on the record here, I'm rooting for the Spurs in this series. I can't stand the Heat and love how San Antonio just keeps chugging along. So don't think I'm letting that cloud my thoughts on my predictions.
8:53: Bosh gets to the line. It's looking like he showed up tonight instead of his evil twin. He's one of the X-Factors for the Heat. LeBron can't do this all by himself.
9:03: Another turnover for the Heat. The entire Heat team just looks expressionless and out of it, like they have something on their mind. Meanwhile the infection has spread to the crowd. It's as quiet as you'll ever hear a finals game. The fans seem shocked.
9:04: Parker makes another circus shot. This stuff is just normal for him. He probably does it at least five times a game, where he's going a million miles an hour, flips up what looks like a desperation that just kisses off the backboard.
9:06: Combined stats for James and Wade: Nine points, 3-11 shooting. I'm avoiding saying anything obvious right now.
9:10: After two straight blocks on James and Bosh, Mills sinks a three. Everyone except the 12 Spurs are stunned right now.
9:12: Leonard! That's the flashiest play any Spur has made since the late '90s. Then, on the other end, LeBron misses a bunny and the boo birds come out. James has a "If you want me to stay here you better be a bit nicer" look on his face.
9:37: We've seen our first Boris Diaw moment of the game. James just made a pair of freebies, followed by Diaw grabbing the ball and almost tripping over his feet.
9:38: LeBron gets to the rim for a layup. Both him and the crowd is slowly getting back into the game. The Spurs can't let that happen. Now LeBron has the "Yeah, now you love me," look on his face.
9:43: Kawhi just swatted away a shot, the biggest weapon the Spurs have is their stoic-ness. Nothing rattles them. It doesn't matter what's happening. They approach everything the same way.
9:46: Diaw flips up a layup that goes in. I never thought I'd be saying this, but he's causing major matchup problems for the Heat. They need to get someone bigger than Wade on him as soon as possible.
9:52: Duncan flushes it home on a two foot wraparound pass from Diaw. That's a staple of the Spurs. If you go to Youtube and look up highlights. You will see that quite a few times.
10:02: LeBron has 19 points this quarter. That's 17 more than the rest of the team combined. It's every Heat fans worst nightmare. The bad offseason catching up to them and LeBron being stuck to having to single handedly carry the team.
10:08: Mark Jackson on how the Heat can get back into this: "They have to play better on both sides of the ball," That is why they're here, to give us analysis like that.
10:10: Everyone goes insane whenever Udonis Haslem comes into the game. Can a Heat fan please explain to me why everybody seems to have an man-crush on him?
10:14: Another turnover by the Spurs, followed by Wade making a short jumper. Timeout Spurs. Man, I hope they aren't getting rattled.
10:18: Mills for three. Nope
10:25: Another beautiful pass from Diaw. You can credit Pop with this. He instills that pass first mentality into everybody he coaches. Obviously it helps having Duncan, but just about everybody else he has great control over.
10:30: Jeff Van Gundy just told us that Boris Diaw's mom is the best center in French women's basketball history. We're at that time in the game.
10:34: Alright, I'll ask it: How often will you actually use a heart rate monitor attached to your phone?
10:37: Cory Joseph gets into the lane for a basket. Even the Spurs deep bench is better than the Heat's.
10:47: Our final for The Miami Massacre Part II: Spurs 107-Heat 86.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Kendrys Morales Singing: A Sign of Hope

     As you all know, the Twins signed Kendrys Morales yesterday. This is a great move in terms of both physicality and attitude. Let's start with the physical part. At the moment, my dog can hit better than  Kubel. His average is down to .224 including an abysmal .179/.295/.179 slash line in May. Meanwhile the amount of ground he covers in the outfield is measured in inches. Enter Morales.
     Obviously this is an improvement on the diamond. (.277/.336/.449 for Morales, I mentioned Kubel's there but you might get permanent eye damage if you look again) but the biggest advantage of this is the Twins change in attitude. They're thinking of this year to make a run. This is a win-win situation.
     The two options are: keep Morales the full year, contend, implement optimism everywhere, or, it they know they'll be out the race, trade him to someone like Kansas City at the deadline. Depending on how he does, they could receive quite a few decent prospects for him.
     Of course, the Twins would have never gotten Morales without the qualifying offer system. Jayson Stark wrote about it a few months ago, calling it "a mess" among other things. My response to that is, it was Morales's and Stephen Drew's own faults they didn't get signed until now. They should have recognized that they weren't worth more than 14 million dollars, especially Drew, who turned down many multi year deals.
     For the first time in quite awhile, the Twins are trying to go big on a deal. No more, "wait until Buxton, Sano and Meyer are up," talks, it's happening now.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Twins Week in Review: May 31st to June 7th

Three Reasons to be Optimistic
1. Kendrys Morales
Hey, why not? He can only help. Better yet, at least now we know that the Twins are in this. Morales will be a good add to Arcia and Willingham on the guys who can hit the ball a really long way and can't run crew. But seriously, I could genuinely see Morales being a key factor in the quest for mediocrity.
2. Arcia
Speaking of members of the group, he's been on a tear this week, with two homers, including a grand slam against the Brewers in some sweet powder blue 1980s throwbacks. This week brings his average up to over .280 for the season
3. Taking two of three from the Yankees
This the first Ron Gardenhire team to ever win series in any Yankee Stadium ever. Who would you have guessed, the Twins in 2009 and 2010, (combined 181-144, or this year and last year's Twins, (95-127) it's more the Yanks than the Twins. No matter how they look on paper, these Yankees just don't intimidate me like they used to. Tanaka is a keeper, but who else is there? Jeter and Texiera are both old and shells of who they used to be, CC isn't the same and that's without even mentioning A-Rod. Meanwhile, their farm system's depleted by giving up so many first round draft picks from all the big free agents they've signed. Of course, I'm leaving out the part where they get Fernandez and Stanton from Miami for essentially nothing and continue to sign a slew of overpaid free agents, but it's more fun to think about a world where the Yankees suck.
Three Reasons to be Frustrated
1. Dozier
He's been in a mini slump, his average is down to .246, but I wouldn't sweat it, he's still a great defender at second and is continuing to hit for power. Just like Mauer, he'll work his way out of it. I still wouldn't be surprised to see him here over the all star break.
2. The freaking radio broadcast
I'm writing this on Saturday while listening to the game and every couple minutes the broadcast goes out and I just hear a dull buzz for the next couple minutes. I mean, it's not that big of a deal because Dan Gladden's speaking, but it still bothers me.
3. The unloveablilty of this team
Is that a word? If it isn't I'm making it up. There isn't a single fun, piranha, Punto type on the team. Maybe Escobar, but there really isn't anybody who makes you laugh. I want Alexi Casillia back.
Stat of the Week
7.6
That's amount of dollars, in millions Morales will make this year. I assume he'll take the place of Kubel, who's only hitting .224 right now. He's one more way to improve the lineup as can be a difference maker for the Twins if they're still in contention in this weak division.
Dan Gladden Stupidity Moment of the Week
In which we look at something moronic Dan Gladden said while announcing Twins games
Today, during the slight moments my radio was working, Danny was talking about some incidents that happened while he was playing and pronounced them incedences. Just another day in the office for the league's least qualified broadcaster.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

NBA Finals Preview

Ok, I know I'm posting this in the middle of game one, but I promise on my honor that all of this was written before hand.
Point Guard
Mario Chalmers vs Tony Parker
Advantage: Parker
Parker easily takes this one, assuming his ankle is fine. He's just another savvy veteran who finds ways to make himself useful on the court. However, if his ankle turns out to be a problem that could easily swing the series. But it's looking like he'll be fine
Shooting Guard
Dwyane Wade vs Danny Green
Advantage: Wade
I debated this one for awhile. I feel like Wade has enough in him to turn it up for a couple games and maybe even give us a throwback performance. Of course, this is assuming Green doesn't pull a Jimmy Chitwood on us again. Really, will we ever see a performance like that again? At one point he hit 15 of 17 from downtown. Unfortunately for the Spurs, it's tough to repeat that.
Small Forward
LeBron James vs Kawai Leonard
Advantage: James
Sorry Kawai, you're not winning against possibly the best forward of all time. If I'm a Spurs fan, the thing I'm most afraid of is if LeBron goes insane and single handedly drags the Heat to the championship.
Power Forward
Rashard Lewis vs Tim Duncan
Advantage: Duncan
On the flip side of that coin, if I'm a Heat fan, I'm terrified of Timmy having a bunch of old school 25-15 games. Lewis is an interesting situation. Last year he was the thirteenth guy off the bench for the Heat, chasing his ring. Suddenly he's now going to be starting for them this year, as well as winning the Jason Giambi award for "Guy you just assumed retired last year"
Center
Chris Bosh vs Tiago Splitter
Advantage: Bosh
Assuming Bosh gets out of his funk. If not this Spurs take this series easily. The Heat need him to play like he usually does to have any chance of keeping up with San Antonio offensively. LeBron and an aging Wade can't do it all.
Why the Heat will win
They have the best player on the planet, there's a decent chance Wade turns back the clock this series, Bosh could jump out, they still have Ray Allen, Erik Spoelstra is a great young coach, there's a reason they won last year.
Why the Spurs will win
Three reasons: Duncan, Ginobili and Parker. If they all play well, there's no doubt the Spurs win this. Any. Throw in Kawai and Green knocking down threes and Pop on the sidelines this is a really solid team up and down. On top of that, they'll be out for vengeance after losing such a heartbreaker last year.
Prediction
After taking all things into all things into consideration, I'll take the Spurs in six. This year's San Antonio team has improved while the Heat's acquisitions (Greg Oden, Michael Beasley) have done nothing. Spurs get their revenge, Duncan wins MVP, all the Heat haters go home happy.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Lottery Mock Draft

1. Cleveland Cavaliers
Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Embiid's upside here is just too much to pass up. He moves like a guard and has been called a seven foot Serge Ibaka. Also, he's only been playing since he was about 17 so he'll be improving for a long time.
2. Milwaukee Bucks
Andrew Wiggins, SG, Kansas
I could genuinely see Wiggins becoming Tracey McGrady 2.0 in a few years. Both are oversized shooting guards with explosive leaping ability and a smooth defender. Wiggins rode the gamut of projections this season, going from the next Lebron, to overrated disappointment to still going to be a solid player to crunch time choker and back to another solid player.
3. Philadelphia 76ers
Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
You can't read anything about Parker without reading about how he's "the safe pick" and that's right. He doesn't have the upside of Wiggins or Embiid, but you know what you're getting with him. A pretty good 3 and possible stretch 4 with a great feel for the game. The future can be really bright for the Sixers, more on this in a few picks.


4. Orlando Magic
Dante Exum, PG, Australia
I have no doubt that if Exum played in the US he would be right up there with the Wiggins-Embiid-Parker trio in the discussion for the number one pick. Much like Embiid, he plays smaller than he his. That way he can abuse bigger guys off the dribble and post up smaller guys.
5. Utah Jazz
Noah Vonleh, C, Indiana
I might be a little biased here, because I saw him play in person this year, but Vonleh is a beast. I'd take him over Randle any day. Sure Randle can bruise in the paint better, but no center, not even Embiid can claim to be the kind of shooter than Vonleh. The biggest thing that sticks out to me is how casual he looks while shooting. Most of the time when a center makes a three it still looks awkward, not him. He's really underrated from playing on a crappy Indiana team this year.
6. Boston Celtics
Julius Randle, C, Kentucky
Lots of talk have been made about Randle and Parker about their conditioning but people seem to forget this: All this year, they were going to a college.* Next year, they'll be professional athletes going up against much stronger competition. That itself will put them into shape. They'll be getting paid to be athletic and have a lot more motivation than they do in the NCAA.
*I'm avoiding using the word students for obvious reasons
7. Los Angeles Lakers
Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma St
He fits the Lakers need at point guard. Now all they're missing is shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center. Anyway, Smart is a strong, athletic point guard who got an unfair rap after the Texas Tech incident last year.
8. Sacramento Kings
Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
Lots of people have Ennis going here, but I'm a big Isiaih Thomas fan. He's got a great feel for the game. Anyway, back to Gordon. He's a terrific finisher and makes at least one "Holy crap" play every game. The Kings need an exciting, marketable star (sorry, DeMarcus Cousins doesn't count) and Gordon fits all of those categories.
9. Charlotte Hornets
Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Ennis's great start spurred a bunch of "I'd take him ahead of Smart! Smart's a head case who can't shoot and Ennis has the best feel for the game since Steve Nash!" nonsense. But Ennis is a solid player who can definitely be the starting point guard on a contender someday.
10. Philadelphia 76ers
Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Will be a great role player to go with Parker, that's a pretty good lineup down the road with MC-Dub, Stauskas, Young, Parker and Nerlens Noel. If all of those guys live up to their potential that's a really good team.
11. Denver Nuggets
Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
This would be a great pick by the Nuggets. The biggest knock on Harris is his size, but he's pretty good in every other area. He's a career 37% three point shooter, good at creating his own shot, and occasionally a lockdown defender.
12. Orlando Magic
Dario Saric, C, Croatia
If we knew for sure Saric were coming to America this year, he would go higher. He's a good rebounding center with three point range. This could be a steal for the Magic.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves
Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
I haven't had a lot of time to think about the Wolves pick because my only thoughts have been about trade scenarios with Love and a lottery pick. But if McDermott is here they should take him. He's a great three point shooter which is something the T-Wolves were missing last year, along with being the only white guy in the history of the game to be described as someone who "gets buckets."
14. Phoenix Suns
Jusuf Nurkic
Another mystery man. He was great in Europe last season but only played in 12 games. He's a solid, athletic defender who's great at the rim.