SH Blog: Marty Blake dies, Clippers sweep defenseless Lakers, DMC acting the fool again

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Jeremy Lin RaceThe off day of Final Four Weekend was dominated by the NBA.

In addition to a nationally televised afternoon doubleheader that forced Chris Sheridan to temporarily embargo his weekly MVP Rankings, 60 Minutes had a feature on Jeremy Lin, approximately one year after the height of “Linsanity.”

And before you delve into our collection of NBA news, check out the latest effort from columnist and resident historian/voice of reason Jan Hubbard, who sets the record straight on Mark Cuban’s interest in Brittney Griner.

We begin with sad news. Marty Blake died today, and a whole generation of basketball writers said, “Who?” 

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Kotoch: 2013 Draft a Strong Year for One and Done Players

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The NBA draft is all about projections and potential.  A generation ago, most NBA executives’ strategy was to compare prospects based on their collegiate careers. Then the Fab Five arrived at Michigan, and suddenly the process was flipped upside down.  Underclassmen were scrutinized, analyzed and scouted thoroughly by NBA clubs who wanted to get the next big-time prospect.

While prospects with high upside are intriguing, they come with more risk than upperclassmen.  The lottery is annually dominated by underclassmen, primarily freshmen.

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No Mock is a Lock, But Our Mock Rocked

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In the days leading up to the NBA draft, Joe Kotoch provided Sheridan Hoops with six mock drafts.

Not one, not two, not three … six.

His final mock for our site arrived Thursday morning and was entirely posted – picks 1 through 60 – about six hours before the first boos rained down on Commissioner David Stern at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

How did Joe do? Pretty damn good, if you ask us.

Despite the surprise selection of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at No. 2 (virtually no one had him going that high and practically everyone had Charlotte trading the pick) and the seemingly unstoppable ascension of Dion Waiters to No. 4, Kotoch correctly tabbed five of the top 11 picks.

He had Anthony Davis at No. 1, Bradley Beal at No. 3, Damian Lillard at No. 6, Andre Drummond at No. 9 and Meyers Leonard at No. 11.

Within the lottery picks, Kotoch correctly tabbed 12 of the 14 players selected. His misses were Tyler Zeller going 12th (he fell to 17th) and Terrence Jones going 14th (he dropped to 18th).

Overall, Kotoch nailed seven picks in the first round. He also had Jared Sullinger going 22nd to Boston and Tony Wroten Jr. going 25th to Memphis. (Sullinger officially went 21st, but the Celtics had consecutive picks.)

By comparison, ESPN’s final mock draft correctly slotted five players and DraftExpress slotted four. That’s nine correct picks by two of the most respected draft sites – or the same total correctly picked by Joe in the final mock draft on his site, probasketballdraft.com.

For our site, Kotoch also correctly tabbed 26 of the 30 players chosen in the first round. His picks of Draymond Green (26), Jeff Taylor (28), Will Barton (29) and Quincy Miller (30) each dropped to the second round, none lower than 40th.

Overall, a very nice job by Kotoch, who has lots more stuff at probasketballdraft.com.

Dunlap Says It’s ‘Possible’ Bobcats May Trade Down From No. 2

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Mike Dunlap will be asked to cook the dinner in Charlotte. But he won’t be allowed to shop for the groceries.

At least not at the NBA draft.

Dunlap, the former St. John’s assistant hired as the new coach of the Charlotte Bobcats, told SheridanHoops he won’t have much input on the team’s No. 2 pick in Thursday’s draft – if it uses the pick at all.

“I’m secondary,” Dunlap said in a lengthy telephone interview. “These guys (owner Michael Jordan, president of basketball operations Rod Higgins and GM Rich Cho) have been at this a long time, so if they ask me something, I answer. I don’t think (I will have) a significant amount (of input).”

Still, Dunlap allowed that Charlotte may well trade down from the second pick if it makes sense, which is starting to look like a possibility.

“I think anybody in our situation would have that on the board,” Dunlap told the Associated Press. “(Our) people are very smart up top. So options and thinking of your variables is a very smart thing to do.”

In a separate interview with SheridanHoops.com, Dunlap said there was a “possibility” that the Bobcats would trade the No. 2 pick.

“There’s that piece of other organizations calling to do deals, so it puts a degree of wait-and-see all the way up,” Dunlap said in a lengthy phone interview from Charlotte. “But you have these scripts and they have decision A, B, C, D and they’re really high-tech here. They’ve got it down.”

With Kentucky’s Anthony Davis the presumptive top overall pick of the New Orleans Hornets, Charlotte is likely to choose from among power forward Thomas Robinson of Kansas, small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of Kentucky, shooting guard Bradley Beal of Florida and small forward Harrison Barnes of North Carolina at No. 2.

However, the idea of taking Beal was somewhat reduced and the premise of trading the pick somewhat increased with Thursday night’s trade with the Pistons, which sent small forward Corey Maggette to Detroit for shooting guard Ben Gordon and a future first-round pick.

The Bobcats aren’t strong at many positions, but shooting guard appears set with Gerald Henderson – one of the team’s few bright spots last season – now backed up by Gordon, one of the best bench scorers in the NBA.

Even prior to the trade, Dunlap told the AP that Charlotte has “definitely reduced” the number of players it is targeting at No. 2.

One potential trading partner is the Cleveland Cavaliers, owners of picks 4 and 24. That would allow Charlotte – which finished an NBA all-time-worst 7-59 this season — to trade down to acquire an outside shooter.

“The ability to make the three is important because it allows you to play inside the 3-point line,” Dunlap told the AP. “What happens is a defense collapses and it gets crowded in there. I would say that is safe to say that we need to do that. And we need to do a better job with our spacing, too. But as far as the roster goes it’s always nice to have guys who can shoot a basketball.”

Gordon can do that, and there have been rumors that the Cavs are trying to climb above the Washington  Wizards, who have the third pick and may be targeting Beal. Any deal that allows the Bobcats to collect multiple draft picks is a good one.

Dunlap, 54, is still settling into his new job after he made the quantum leap from college assistant to NBA coach. And he didn’t jump from Kentucky, Kansas or North Carolina, either.

He jumped from a St. John’s team that finished 13-19. Dunlap coached most of the season while Steve Lavin recovered from prostate cancer surgery.

“I’m still a bit numb to it all and I think that’s a good way to be because it’s like Christmas and there’s just a jubilation within my family and then all of that,” he said. “But also I understand that there’s work to be done each day.”

Dunlap was chosen earlier this month over a group of finalists that included former Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, Indiana Pacers assistant Brian Shaw and Los Angeles Lakers assistant Quin Snyder. When Sloan removed his name from consideration, Dunlap was brought back in for a second interview.

“It’s one of one in terms of how that’s happened,” Dunlap said of the uniqueness of his hiring. “The point for me is just the gratitude. You realize you’re really lucky and then go from there as a base point.”

“Mike’s selection as the Charlotte Bobcats’ head coach is a well-deserved honor,” Lavin said. “To make the unprecedented jump from college assistant to NBA head coach is testament to both Mike’s abilities as a teacher and our basketball program’s marked improvement over the past 27 months.”

Known as a master strategist and tactician, Dunlap won two national titles at Division II Metro State in Denver and also served two years as an assistant under Denver Nuggets coach George Karl.

Dunlap also served as the associate head coach at Arizona and an assistant at Oregon before joining the St. John’s staff in 2010.

“He is one of the outstanding minds in the game,” legendary former Arizona coach Lute Olson said when Dunlap was hired at St. John’s. “His strengths are in organization and on-the-floor coaching.”

Dunlap isn’t a back-slapping, gregarious personality by nature. But he is making an effort to get to know Jordan as well as his new players.

“It’s still a feeling-out process and a get-to-know-you,” Dunlap said of his relationship with Jordan, the owner who is under as much pressure as anyone to make a quality pick in this draft.

Dunlap also has a link to Bobcats guard Kemba Walker. Moe Hicks, Walker’s coach at Rice High School, is on the staff at St. John’s and Dunlap coached against Walker when the point guard was at UConn.

“For Kemba to know that I had a relationship witih someone that’s important to him is good and that we came from the same conference which is good,” Dunlap said. “That relationship and basically trying to find out common interests for them and not just go straight for the basektball is a good way of going.

“And then anytime I can get out of the building and meet them on their turf is a good thing, whether it’s a meal or whatever. And I’m setting up all that.”

Dunlap is living in a hotel next to the Charlotte arena while his wife, Mollie, and his daughter, Ellie, are in the process of relocating to Charlotte from Manhasset, NY. His daughter is still in high school.

“Sometimes I wake up and I still think I’m in New York,” Dunlap said. “I think I’ve gotta take care of my responsibilities at St. John’s like on the housing or guys transitioning in, compliance.

“It’s just a different world here. Sometimes I’m writing in my notebook and I’m writing the wrong list.”

Adam Zagoria of Zags Blog covers the future stars of the NBA for SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear  Saturdays. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamZagoria.

 

Wizards acquire Okafor, Ariza from Hornets for Lewis and late draft pick

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Rashard Lewis WizardsThe Washington Wizards on Wednesday acquired center Emeka Okafor and forward Trevor Ariza from the New Orleans Hornets for forward Rashard Lewis and the 46th pick in next week’s draft.

Trades usually aren’t made during the playoffs as teams are inclined to wait until the draft and free agency to start making moves in advance of next season. As far as postseason trades go, this is a pretty big one, rivaling the Chris Webber deal in May 1998.

The Wizards were fleeced in that trade but may have done a bit better here. They received two rotation players for Lewis, who is the second highest-paid player in the NBA behind Kobe Bryant and has been in steep decline over the last couple of years due to knee woes.

Lewis likely will never play for the Hornets, who made the move to shed payroll and expand their rebuilding project. He is due $23.8 million next season, the final year of a six-year, $118 million contract he signed as a free agent with Orlando after the 2006-07 campaign.

In December 2010, the Magic dealt Lewis to the Wizards in the ill-fated Gilbert Arenas deal. Despite carrying a contract many consider immovable, Lewis has been traded twice in less than two years.

ESPN is citing unidentified sources that say the Hornets will waive Lewis before July 1, which reduces their 2012-13 commitment to him by $10 million. The Hornets cannot use the amnesty provision on Lewis because he was not on their roster when the one-time provision was offered.

The Wizards continued their strategy of taking on long-term contracts of established players in an effort to rebuild around point guard John Wall. At the March trading deadline, they traded young center JaVale McGee to the Denver Nuggets for veteran center Nene, who has four years and $52 million left on his deal.

Okafor has two years and $28 million remaining and Ariza has two years and $15 million remaining, including a $7.7 million player option for the 2013-14 season.

“Emeka’s defensive presence and rebounding ability will combine with Trevor’s versatility to add new dimensions to our frontcourt, and both players fit in very well with the type of team-first culture that we have been working to establish,” Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld said.

Okafor was the No. 2 pick of the 2004 draft behind Dwight Howard and was traded from Charlotte to New Orleans for Tyson Chandler after the 2008-09 season. He averaged double-doubles his first five years in the league and has career norms of 12.7 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks.

But Okafor was limited by a knee injury to 27 games last season and posted career lows of 9.9 points, 7.9 boards and 1.0 blocks.

Ariza, 26, joins his sixth team. He was the starting small forward on the 2009 champion Los Angeles Lakers but entered free agency and signed a five-year mid-level deal with the Houston Rockets.

After one season in Houston in which he averaged a career-high 14.9 points, Ariza was traded to New Orleans and scored in double figures in two seasons with the Hornets.

Washington’s rotation appears to be Okafor, Ariza, Nene, Wall and Jordan Crawford, with young forwards Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton and Kevin Seraphin off the bench. They are in need of backcourt depth and could take Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal with the third overall pick.

By trading Lewis, the Wizards also can use their amnesty provision on troublesome forward Andray Blatche, who has three years and over $23 million remaining on his deal. It is possible Blatche could be used as a trade asset.

By moving Okafor and Ariza, the Hornets are stripping down to the raw wood in their huge rebuilding project which includes the first and 10th overall picks in the draft and massive salary cap room.

“We are rebuilding our team and this is one step in our new direction,” Hornets GM Dell Demps said. “This trade will provide an opportunity for our young players to develop and create flexibility to add to our core group moving forward.”

Okafor’s departure clears an immediate position and minutes for Kentucky center Anthony Davis, who will be the first pick in the draft. With the 10th pick, the Hornets could pluck a shooting guard such as Kentucky’s Jeremy Lamb, Syracuse’s Dion Waiters or Duke’s Austin Rivers.

Ariza’s departure leaves the Hornets with as much as $30 million in cap room if they renounce all their cap holds. Among them are Chris Kaman ($14 million), Carl Landry ($9 million) and Marco Belinelli ($3.3 million).

New Orleans will use some of its space to sign restricted free agent guard Eric Gordon to a multi-year extension – likely at the maximum salary – which won’t kick in until the 2013-14 season.

In free agency, the Hornets may have enough money to add two rotation players such as forwards Ersan Ilyasova or Kris Humphries and guards Lou Williams or Jamal Crawford.

New Orleans now has the first, 10th and 46th picks in the draft. Washington has the third and 32nd picks.