Archives For June 2009

TrueHoop Network Live Draft Chat

Kurt —  June 25, 2009

Lakers Moves And Draft Day Fun

Kurt —  June 25, 2009

Oklahoma-UNC
We all knew two things: 1) The player selected at 29 by the Lakers was not going to see any meaningful court time on a stacked Lakers roster; 2) The Lakers needed money to resign Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom.

So the deal that the Lakers apparently struck with the Knicks makes sense. ED Note: Okay, I’ve got confirmation on this now from several sources:

The Lakers cannot trade this pick, only the right to the pick once it is made. So on the dias tonight they will say “The Lakers select X” but said player will instantly be traded for cash once the selection is made. That deal just cannot be executed until after the pick is made. NBA rules prohibit the trading or selling of first round picks in consecutive years, and the Lakers 2008 and 2010 first rounders belong to Memphis in the Gasol deal.

And if that number is right and the Lakers really get $3 million for that pick, that is a great deal by Kupchak. Combine that with the money saved not having to pay a first rounder and it is more than $4 million in savings, which covers a lot of what Ariza will get next year.

And I’m good with this. The Lakers need the cash more than a Euro player to stash away for a couple years. And I expect them to take at least one of those guys in the second round anyway.

Now, a few final thoughts heading into tonight.

• My short and sweet take on the Shaq to Cleveland trade: Cleveland is a desperate team and this is a desperation move, but it’s not a bad one. Now you will have Shaq taking up Big Ben Wallace’s useless minutes, and that will be an improvement. He will split time with Big Z (I bet 26 for Shaq, 22 for Z, in that range) so Cleveland gets some frontcourt depth. Shaq has defended Howard well in the past. Shaq can still score in the paint pretty efficiently. I think this makes them better if everything goes right.

But there are 423,856 ways this could go wrong. Shaq brings a lot of ego to Cleveland. He and Big Z are not exactly known for staying healthy. And this is just one piece of what Cleveland has to do — they shot 32% from three against Orlando and Shaq makes it easier to just pack the paint on Cleveland and dare them to beat you with the jumper. They still need some guys on the wing to compete with the Lakers and probably a healthy Orlando or Boston. And I have serious questions if Mike Brown is the coach that can pull it all together. Still, this is a step forward for them.

• I don’t put much stock in these, especially with all the trades we will likely see tonight, but here are the Final results from some top mock drafts regarding the Lakers:

DraftExpress: Nick Calathes 6-5 PG/SG, Florida and Greece (Jon Brockman 6-7 PF Washington; and Lester Hudson 6-3 PG/SG Tenn. Martin in the second round)

Chad Ford, ESPN: Toney Douglas, 6-2 SG, Florida State. (Rodrigue Beaubois, PG, France; and Dante Cunningham, F, Villanova in the second round)

NBAdraft.net: Toney Douglas, 6-2 SG, Florida State (then traded to Knicks). (Darren Collison 6-1 PG UCLA; and Courtney Fells, 6-6 SG NC State in the second round).

• I like Top Chef Masters, but it lacks the drama of the regular Top Chef. The problem is these chefs, while great, have made it to the top. And they all like and respect one another. So if they fall short they still publicize and get a little money for a favorite charity, then go back home to being a rock-star, James Beard Award chef. In the regular Top Chef, these people are cooking for their careers, that gives real drama to it. Still, with no hoops on it’s a fun summer watch.

• Top Chef Masters has about all the drama of the #1 pick in the draft, basically. But what the Clippers do the rest of the summer will be much more interesting.

• Now a little technical site stuff. This post will be up and going through the draft if you want to make comments here and we can discuss the trades and moves here. Later, closer to the draft, I will post the TrueHoop Network Chat up, which you can read/participate in as you choose, or just keep the comments flowing here.

At some point during the draft when we have Lakers news to discuss, I’ll start a new thread where we can break down what they and everyone else did.

SEC Mens Basketball Tournament Quarterfinal : Florida Gators v Auburn Tigers
It’s a cornucopia of stuff today.

Let’s start with Phil Jackson’s announcement that he may want to take some road games off next season and let Kurt Rambis coach them. I will say that once I started working for NBCLA.com this season and being credentialed, one of the first things I really noticed is that Phil Jackson is hurting far more than you see on the broadcasts. It is not easy for him to get around, and in person, watching him walk to the court and around the locker and interview room, it was far more evident how uncomfortable he is.

I think this is a great way to start the transition out of the Jackson era. Jackson not doing some of those back-to-back roadies, some of the taxing trips, missing eight games (give or take) is no big deal. The Lakers will have largely (or exactly) the same roster as this year, Phil has control of this team already, a few missed games will not hurt this. And it gives Kurt Rambis a chance to establish and prove himself. If Jackson is stepping into a consulting role (he’d never totally walk away) in the middle of a championship window the transition needs to be as smooth as possible (and the team should not dramatically move away from a triangle offense it is built to run).

A few fans balked at this because Rambis was not smooth as the coach for the one game he handled this year. But if you want to cut him out for losing one road game in Portland, where the Lakers haven’t won there since 2004, your criteria are a little to high. Rambis will get the chance to grab the brass ring, whether he does or not is on him. But he is a true Laker guy, he deserves the chance.

• This is one of those drafts that in five years is going to have fans of some (many?) franchises saying “How could you let Player X go by and draft some schmoe we cut three years later?” But right now, it’s so hard to predict who the schomes and who the stars will be. Outside of Griffin, there are major concerns in everyone’s game and to me this looks like a bunch of role players, especially once you’re past spot three or four. But a couple of these guys will step up over time, flesh out their game, and the GMs that pass on them will hear about it.

• The TrueHoop Network of blogs is hosting one large — Supersized! — live chat that night, and I will have a link to that up. The draft is not that but a deal for the Lakers fans but it will be a fun and exciting one to watch. And chat about. Also, check out the new TrueHoop Network podcast hosted by the brilliant Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm (and like every other blog in the universe) talking about the top few picks with the bloggers from those teams.

• There already have been and will be on draft night so many trades and moves that any mock drafts out there border on moot.

• I am holding out hope that somehow Nick Calathes drops through to us (not that optimistic, though). ESPN.com analyst David Thorpe told me he thinks Calathes will pan out to be the best PG in the draft.

• Long time friend of the site Xavier sent over some thoughts on two of the other Europeans that the Lakers are looking at. (For those that are new here, Xavier is a professional coach in Spain in the youth program that produced Ricky Rubio, he really knows his stuff and the European players).

Rodrigue Beaubois is a freak guy. He has the physical tools but still don’t know how to use them. Speed and athletic, with a superb wingspan, something like 6?10 or close (correct me if I’m wrong) measuring 6?2. Lacks of true PG skills and though being a good athlete doesn’t move his feet well on D. He plays in France, which isn’t one of the premiere leagues in Europe, so I haven’t seen him play against proven European players. Could be a project ala Sun Yue. Not worth of a 1st round pick if you want him to contribute but if he can wait in Europe a couple years.

The guy the Lakers should aim with its 42nd pick is Victor Claver. I was right with Marc Gasol, believe in me with this one. [Editor’s note, Xavier was telling me Marc was better than we all thought from the day the Lakers drafted him.] If Claver didn’t hurt this season, he probably would have been drafted in the early 20s. He’s not a star, but he really has the tools to be a good role player. At 6?10” is a PF able to move in both forward positions. Can finish at the rim at will and knows how to shoot the 3 (around 40% before injury) but lacks of shoot creation, most of his 3s come from spot up shooting. Slow defending at the wing but not rocky enough down the paint.

He’s pretty smart, doesn’t turn the ball over, mainly because he know what he cannot do and adjust to his role. Right now, after the injury I would not give up a 1st round pick on him, but that might be a blessing. Euros being projected in late 1st round prefer to be selected in the 2nd round because it doesn’t have the same salaries restrictions. They can stay in Europe and sign a better contract than a first round pick. Look at the contract Marc Gasol (former laker 2nd round pick) have in comparison to Farmar (1st round pick). So if Claver lived up to his expectations playing a year or two more in Spain, the Lakers wouldn’t be in the same situation Spurs are with Thiago Splitter, who’s not coming to the NBA because he’s a 1st round so his salary is determined, and he gets much much more money playing for Tau Vitoria.

Game 5: Magic vs. Lakers

We’ve talked finances.  We’ve talked Lamar Odom.  And despite these being very specific topics, Trevor Ariza is the guy whose name has come up in both of these conversations.  This is a testament to his incredible importance to our team’s success and his tremendous contributions to our championship season.  Yes, we are Kobe’s team.  Yes, Pau Gasol has proven himself as an all world player.  And yes, Odom has the versatility and Bynum is the future.  But, no player has grown on us quite like Ariza.  The hustle, the dunks, the steals, the unassuming way that he goes about his business while always competing hard are all ways that he has inserted himself into the portrait of our team.  If I took a poll and asked “Do you want Trevor Ariza to remain a Los Angeles Laker?”, 100% of the answers to that poll would be a resounding YES.  We love this guy.

And what’s not to love?  Over the course of this past season, no player has developed as much as Trevor.  He went from bench player to key starter.  From a slasher and fast break finisher to one of our most reliable three point shooters.  From a guy that was a terror mostly in the passing lanes to the man that played inside Hedo Turkoglu’s jersey for twenty quarters of Finals basketball.  From a player who would consistently defer to one who would not hesitate in taking and making the big shots.  We’ve seen the evolution of a player and we couldn’t be more excited about it.  I mean, by the time our playoff run was over, he would have easily been mentioned as our third or fourth most important player – trailing only Kobe and Gasol and in a virtual tie with Odom.

And while he did hit some very important shots, he primarily achieved this status as our most relied upon wing defensive player.  During our playoff run, he earned his stripes against some of the most difficult covers in the playoffs.  Starting in the second round, Ariza spent significant time guarding Ron Artest, then Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, and then (the aforementioned) Hedo Turkoglu.  All of these players are (or at least were at the time we played them) the primary offensive weapons and/or initiators for their teams.  Look at that list again.  Bruising/All court small forwards, a top ten point guard in the NBA, and a point forward that plays the P&R better than almost any other ball handling forward in the league.  Without his efforts to slow or contain these players we don’t win a title.  Especially when you consider that his ability to cover these players (even if some were only on a part time basis) allowed Kobe not to have to guard these guys for entire games/series (ala Paul Pierce in last years Finals).  And Ariza did it all without ever patting himself on the back or showing any hints of ego.  He put his head down and played hard.  That’s the type of player that every championship team needs.

Plus, not once did he wilt or show any anxiety or fear.  I’ll let Reed explain:

Ariza, perhaps above everyone else, proved ready to join Kobe and embrace playoff pressure. He made so many game/series-changing and saving plays that just aren’t captured in a box score. He did not ever look scared. He has a huge ceiling, is so young, and has proven willing to put in the work necessary to improve his skill set.

But therein lies the rub with Trevor – he appears to be an unfinished product.  So, despite his strong regular season and even better playoffs, there are still question marks with him.  Not negatives, mind you, just questions.  More Reed:

But do we know for sure he’s as good as we think? What if the playoff three point shooting was a bit of a blip? Do we overstate his great playoff moments and understate the games where he made no impact?  Are we tempted to ovepay off of a small track record like we were with Sasha, Luke, etc.?  Is he going to evolve into a Battier, a Prince, a Gerald Wallace, better? Who is a good model and what does he need to do to keep improving (I’d say work on his ballhandling and midrange game — so often he gets chased off the 3 and ends up with some awkward floater in the lane). Could he develop into a consistent scoring option — one that’s not dependent on really open looks? Is he more or less replaceable than Odom, both in terms of skills and mindset?  These are all open questions that spring to mind, not arguments. I personally strongly believe in Ariza. He’s shown me flashes of extreme potential and a willingness to get better. 

Just like Reed, I don’t see these questions as negatives or as arguments against Trevor – just things that are still unknown.  And just like Reed, I have a very strong belief in Trevor and his future development.  But these are questions that should be asked.  And these open questions are ones that start to speak to his value.  Not as a player and his role to this team, I think that’s established – he’s a vital contributor who is clearly a major part of our success.  But his value in terms of the salary that he earns.  All that said, I’m not going to talk numbers right now.  There are too many unknown variables (Buss’ want to keep this current group together balanced against his spending limit, market values that won’t be determined by the Lakers, the value that the player/agent have in mind, team profit margins, etc) for me to speculate on anything related to the finances in retaining Ariza.  As I said in a previous post, it’s not my money and I don’t write the checks.

So, I can’t speak to what salary he’s earned for his next contract.  I can only say that he’s earned the right to stay with the team.  And after the stints of players like Kwame Brown, Smush Parker, Brian Cook, etc, etc that we’ve seen over the years (as an aside – watch out Sasha, you could join this list), I think it bears repeating: Trevor Ariza has earned the right to remain a Laker.  He’s improved his game to the point that he’s already the ideal Triangle small forward, and nearly the perfect one.  He’s a defensive minded player that has shown he can shoot the three ball all while being mentally tough.  He meshes well with Kobe and Gasol, moves well off the ball, and has shown a high basketball IQ in picking up our sets on both offense and defense.  If he makes some small improvements to his game (like the ones Reed mentioned, plus getting a bit more comfortable posting up), he’ll be a true force on a perennial contender.  Everyone knows my bias towards Lamar.  But, I’m just as fond of Ariza.  I think (along with Kobe, Gasol, Bynum, and Odom) he’s one of our best five players.  And just as I’ve said about LO, we need this player.  After all the growth we’ve seen from Trevor, it’d be a shame to see him truly blossom with another team.  I understand that there are aspects to retaining Ariza that are out of the teams control.  I also understand the financial implications to keeping both of Ariza and Odom.  But, in the end, I think this team deserves the chance to defend it’s title.  In a way, I’d feel cheated if we didn’t get to make at least one more run with this entire group in tact.  I can only hope the front office and ownership group feel the same way.

-Darius

Lakers Draft Thoughts

Kurt —  June 20, 2009

“We have three picks, and if we bring back the players we want to we’ll have at least 13 players on our roster. It stands to reason that we’d look to either move a pick, trade a pick, exchange picks for future picks or pick a player and look for them to play overseas for at least a year.”
— Mitch Kupchak

That quote pretty much tells you all you need to know about what the Lakers are going to do in this draft. The Lakers have pick 29 in the first round, then 42 and 59 in the second round.

The first round pick comes with a guaranteed contract, something the Lakers are not going to take on for next season when they are trying to save cash. The Lakers cannot trade this pick — NBA rules prohibit trading first round picks in consecutive years, and the Lakers 2008 and 2010 picks go to Memphis as part of the Gasol deal.

So here’s my guess as to what the Lakers do with that first round pick:

1) They draft a college player in a pre-arranged deal with another team to trade said player for future picks.

2) They draft an international player that can be stashed in Europe for a year or two.

Three guys that may be around at 29 who are International players are:

Jonas Jerebko, 6-9, 210, the Swedish-born forward playing in Italy. He turned some heads at the recent Reebok Eurocamp, playing just one game but hitting 6 of 7 from the floor with 5 steals, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in 28 minutes. One of those makes was an honest-to-goodness skyhook. Considered a good defensive player who on offense has an effective but not very pretty shot, but mostly gets his points and chances on hustle plays. The comparison player is usually Thabo Sefolosha.

Nick Calathes, the 6-5, 185 point guard is an American playing in Greece. He strikes me as the kind of player the Lakers may want if they plan on sticking with the triangle — he’s more of a good spot-up shooter who can slash and finishes well at the rim. Last season he turned the ball over on 19% of his possessions. He can get out and run. If the name sounds familiar, he played a little at Florida. There are questions if he can defend the small, quick NBA PGs.

Rodrigue Beaubois
, the 6-2, 180 point guard out of France. A little bit of an unknown who caught eyes at the Eurocamp. Really long wingspan. Some questions about the consistency of his handle and his shot, but has caught a lot of scout’s attention because he has the tools.

The two second round picks, I still think the Lakers would like to move them. But there is not commitment to taking a player here, so if someone they like drops to them they may take him, send him to Summer League and invite him to camp and see if they can get him in cheap. There basically will be no playing time on the Lakers for a rookie, so if they do go this route said player will likely spend a lot of time with the D-Fenders.

Draft Express has the Lakers taking North Carolina’s Danny Green with the 42nd pick (which they got from the Bobcats years ago in the Kareem Rush trade).

They could go international here as well, taking someone like Victor Claver out of Spain, a 6-10, 218 pound power forward (with that build, power may not be the operative word). He is coming off a knee injury and is someone that needs to develop – this is a guy you are choosing for the dreaded “upside,” but that’s not a bad risk in the second round. The same is true of Slava Kravtsov, the 7-0, 265 Russian center.

Note, this is all info gathered from written reports, leaning heavily on the great Draft Express, as I have not seen these guys play.