It’s unfortunate to say this – but the NBA appears to be much more interesting now that the Golden State dynasty seems to have hit a wall with injuries and the potential departures of the injured Kevin Durant and possibly Klay Thompson. While the top three picks appear rather set in stone, I expect some trade activity starting at #4 in my mock NBA Draft Lottery:
1. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS: Zion Williamson (PF, Duke) A slam dunk for the Pelicans franchise which, assuming new GM David Griffin manages it correctly, should be a prime Western Conference contender within 3 years. Zion projects as an All-Star talent and potential top-10 player in the league in several years IF he can remain healthy.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…the best part of the NBA season is the draft. The regular season, with the exception of the occasional notable game is BORING and PREDICTABLE. The playoffs were thoroughly BORING and predictable.
Last year I wrote this in my draft column about the 2017-18 season:
For now here’s what I do know (yes, know not think):
-Golden State will win the 2017-18 NBA Championship.
-Boston or likely Cleveland will again face the Warriors in the NBA Finals.
-Next Summer, LeBron James will leave Cleveland for a destination in Southern California.
Two of those predictions came true and the third one is an extremely good bet at this stage.
Now it’s the fun time for Suns fans who once again can dream about a light at the end of the tunnel for their team. My predictions this year are a bit out there (from picks 2-16) but we’ll see how correct I end up…
In 1969, the Bucks beat the Suns by a flip of the coin for the #1 overall pick. Milwaukee selected Lew Alcindor (who later became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Phoenix got Neal Walk. One of these two centers became among the best NBA centers of all-time…the other wasn’t as fortunate.
But luck changed for the better on Tuesday night when the Suns were awarded the #1 pick and the chance to draft potential superstars DeAndre Ayton or Luke Doncic.
All NBA-related today as the draft certainly lived up the entertainment value many of us predicted.
-The Suns got their 1st round pick correct (for once)…with the roster they currently have in place. I’ve made it clear that I’m a big De’Aaron Fox fan, the point guard from Kentucky. But with Eric Bledsoe apparently on the roster for the long term, Josh Jackson was 100% the right pick for Phoenix.
-Bledsoe-Booker-Jackson is an exciting foundation especially with last year’s two lottery picks, Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss ready to break out in their 2nd season. This team as it stands is still light years from the Western Conference playoffs but it’s also much better today than it was earlier this week. Plus they may have TWO lottery picks if Miami also doesn’t make the playoffs next season!
-One other Suns note, I LOVED last year’s Suns 2nd round pick of Tyler Ulis…and his performance replacing the injured Bledsoe at the end of last season proved me right. Last night’s picks of Davon Reed and Alec Peters were fine, but neither will have near the impact long term as Ulis.
This is the column I plan to write each Monday this Fall recapping the football weekend…so might as well start a few months early. Let’s call it the Monday equivalent to Friday’s Quick Hitters. Here I’ll recap four hot topics from the weekend with detailed thoughts and opinions regarding what’s going on in the sports world.
FIRST DOWN: Erin Hills was a joke of a U.S. Open course this weekend. It was WAY…and I mean WAY too easy. Congrats to Brooks Koepka for shooting 16 under for the tournament but it’s NOT how the U.S. Open should be won. When I wrote my picks column last week, I was expecting the winning score to be around -3 or -4. Had I known the setup would play so favorably, I never would’ve made some of the bets and predictions that I did. By the way for those of you scoring at home, yes they were all losers.
As I wrote then, “It’s the one tournament that makes a lousy golfer like me (21 handicap) feel better about my game. Now I have no doubt that I’d probably shoot a 150 at Erin Hills…but it’s fun watching players struggle to make par on most holes…like I do for an average 18 holes.” But this time it really didn’t. Yes the course was extraordinarily long and no doubt would’ve eaten me alive considering I can’t hit a drive straight right now, but the tournament wasn’t nearly as fun to watch compared to other years. Too bad.
What’s going on in the sports world as only I can see it…
-This year’s Golden State Warriors were the best NBA team of my lifetime. There…I said it. How can you argue? They had FOUR ELITE PLAYERS, including two of the top five in NBA. And as long as Kevin Durant stays a Warrior, no one is beating them. Period.
-Here’s what SHOULD happen in next week’s NBA Draft: 1. Boston – TRADE THE PICK!! They don’t need Markelle Fultz or any other rookie at this point. They need a veteran scorer like Jimmy Butler or Paul George. 2. LA Lakers – Just take Lonzo Ball and be done with it. He’s the perfect Lakers PG despite the fact that his dad is a pain-in-the-ass. 3. Philadelphia – Trade this pick to Sacramento along with something else for Picks 5 &10. The Kings would get the best player in the draft as I see it, De’Aaron Fox while the Sixers could add multiple quality pieces to their already strong stable of young prospects. 4. Phoenix – If Fox is gone as I predict, then Josh Jackson is the EASY pick. If Philly stays at 3 and takes Jackson, the Suns have to take Fox. Or they trade with the Kings… 5. Sacramento – Anything short of landing star point guards Fultz, Ball, or Fox is a complete failure by Kings management. Then again, look who we’re talking about here…
My weekly wrap-up of all that’s good and not-so-good in the sports world:
-Here’s the winning trifecta for Saturday’s Preakness Stakes. You’re welcome in advance. 1st: (4) Always Dreaming – should win by daylight if he runs similarly to the Kentucky Derby. 2nd: (2) Cloud Computing – Been firing bullet workouts since his 3rd place in the Wood Memorial and I’m a big Javier Castellano fan. 3rd: (6) Gunnevera – Dismiss jockey Mike Smith at your own risk (who takes over for Castellano) on this major closer.
Last night’s NBA Draft Lottery actually kept me up in the middle of the night. What a flawed system! We know it’s rigged (or strongly suspect it) so what is the NBA hiding? Why no more ping pong balls or frozen envelopes? Why does only one person get to see the results picked live?
Three top-10 TV markets got the top three picks…Boston (#9), LA (#2), and Philadelphia (#4). Yet Phoenix (#12) somehow dropped two spots from their projected #2 draft slot (no surprise given the Suns franchise-long jinx but still…).
The draft lottery process also got me thinking what else I’d immediately change if I were sports czar for a day. Here are my top five rules / policies that I’d correct if I had the chance: