Phoenix Suns Guard Archie Goodwin poised to be Breakout Rookie

archie-goodwin-1When the 2013 NBA Draft ended, few people were focused on Archie Goodwin. After all, the University of Kentucky product was only picked 29th overall, and he wasn’t expected to do much, given that he was just 18 years old at the time. But then the Summer League came and everything quickly changed for Goodwin.

The 6’5″ combo guard averaged 13.3 PPG and 3.3 RPG during his seven-game stint in Las Vegas. Perhaps the most telling stat behind Goodwin’s Summer League success was that he hit 57% of his three-point attempts. This is quite an accomplishment for somebody who made less than 30% of their three-point shots in college.

Aside from putting up good numbers, Goodwin has also impressed league observers with his controlled confidence. “It wasn’t a surprise to me how well I played,” he said when discussing the Summer League. “It was a surprise to everybody else. I just feel like I got the opportunity to do the things I was able to do and I showcased it.

archie-goodwin-2“It wasn’t what I learned about myself. It was more or less what I showed everybody else. I was showing everybody else I could do more things than they thought I could.” Goodwin later added, “I always feel like I’m the best player on the court no matter who’s on the court. It’s just a matter of me taking care of opportunities.”

Of course, as NBA fans know, lighting up the Summer League against a bunch of rookies and roster hopefuls is one thing. But competing against the likes of Kobe Bryant and James Harden is an entirely different thing. Star guards like these are used to handling upstart rookies such as Goodwin. And even though the recently-turned 19-year-old has an exceptional ability to get to the basket, he’s going to need more than this to compete with the best.

Goodwin’s new coach, Jeff Hornacek, hit on this topic in a recent interview about his new rookie. “He’s got that ability to get to the basket,” he said before the Summer League. “But when he really attacks the basket, not just think shot. He’s got to think ‘is it open for the shot?’ If not, do something else.

archie-goodwin-3“And those are things that are a little different in the NBA. Things collapse a little bit quicker than in college. In college, once you make the turn those guys can pretty much get to the basket with no problem. In this league, they get around that turn and all of sudden, in their heads they’re thinking “I’m gonna get to the basket” and all of a sudden it’s closed off.”

Obviously Goodwin showed this summer that he’s capable of more than just a quick first step and ability to drive. The 57% clip in which he hit three’s in Vegas shows an improving outside shot. Plus the Arkansas native is a talented and willing defending – a factor which is guaranteed to earn him playing time on the Suns.

It’s quite possible that Goodwin could even step into a starting shooting guard role if he develops early on. The only other shooting guards on the Phoenix Suns roster include P.J. Tucker (6.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG), Malcolm Lee (4.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG) and Gerald Green (7.0 PPG, 2.4 RPG).

None of these guys are exactly All-Stars, so the opportunity is definitely there if Goodwin can seize it. He just has to prove that he can keep hitting outside shots during the regular season and show a nice touch on his floater.

Mike Brown wants NBA’s Top Pick Anthony Bennett to be a PF

anthony-bennet-cavsWhen the Cleveland Cavaliers took Anthony Bennett number one overall in the 2013 NBA Draft, many speculated that the Cavs would use him at small forward. Sure Bennett mostly played power forward at UNLV, but there are a host of reasons why fans thought he’d play the 3 spot. Here’s a look at some of these reasons:

– The Cavs already have 6’9″ Tristan Thompson at power forward. The Texas product more than proved himself capable of handing starting NBA duties by averaging 11.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG and 0.9 BPG. Thompson already shares a similar background with Bennett since the two grew up a mile apart in Toronto and went to the same high school in Nevada’s Findlay Prep (though not at the same time). Now both players will be sharing minutes at the 4 spot.

– Cleveland has a big hole at the small forward position. Alonzo Gee was a serviceable player at this position last year after averaging 10.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG and 1.3 SPG. But he’s also got some deficiencies here, as can be seen in his shooting (41%) and size (6’6″, 219 pounds). Upgrading the starting 3 seems like it would be a good priority.

anthony-bennett-unlv– Bennett doesn’t have the prototypical size of a 4. Sure his 239-pound weight is about average for the position. However, he’s listed at a generous 6’7″, which isn’t ideal.

Taking all of this into account, it was a little surprising when Cleveland head coach Mike Brown came out and said that Bennett will be used at power forward for the immediate future. He stated:

I got it figured. His ability to score in a lot of different ways is intriguing. His explosiveness is intriguing. His standing reach is higher than lot of guys playing power forward in the league, including Kevin Love. He’s got long arms. There’s a desire to want to be better. He has a lot of upside.

Despite Brown saying that he has it all figured out, one can’t help but question the idea of putting Bennett at small forward. Besides already having Thompson, who started all 82 games last season, Cleveland also acquired Earl Clark this offseason. Last year with the Lakers, Clark played solid off the bench after averaging 7.3 PPG and 5.5 RPG in 23 MPG.

Perhaps the Cavaliers plan on bringing Bennett along slowly while starting Thompson and using Clark sparsely. Or maybe Brown is just saying that he wants to use Bennett exclusively as a 4 to surprise everybody.

The latter would make just about as much sense as anything else at this point. After all, Cleveland has created a logjam at the power forward position while they have little else at small forward. Perhaps as the season progresses, we’ll see the number one pick used in different roles. But for now, it’s tough seeing how this situation will work.

2013 NBA Draft Winners and Losers

anthony-bennett-nba-draft-1At this point, most NBA executives and coaches don’t see the 2013 NBA Draft as one that will produce lots of future All-Stars and Hall-of-Famers. But this certainly doesn’t mean that the 2013 Draft wasn’t exciting because there were some high-profile trades and surprising picks. That said, let’s talk about who made out with these trades and picks along with which teams/players ended up losers after draft night.

Winner #1: Anthony Bennett

Seeing as how this wasn’t a talent-rich draft, the number one pick was up in the air. Even still, few people saw 6’7″ UNLV forward Anthony Bennett going as the top pick. In unbelievable fashion, the Cleveland Cavaliers took Bennett with the first overall selection and see him as their swingman of the future.

The Mountain West Player of the Year was just as shocked as anybody when David Stern called him up to the podium. “I’m just really as surprised as everyone else,” Bennett said. “I didn’t have any idea who was going No. 1 or who was going No. 2. I heard everything was up for grabs. But I’m just real happy, glad I have this opportunity.”

Loser #1: Nerlens Noel

nerlens-noelRail-thin Kentucky center Nerlens Noel was about as close to a clear-cut number one pick as anybody entering last night’s draft. Not only did the Cavs pass on him, but so did four teams after Cleveland. Noel’s freefall ended when the New Orleans Pelicans chose him with the sixth pick, although it wasn’t for them.

The Pelicans traded Noel along with a first round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for point guard Jrue Holiday and second round pick PG Pierre Jackson. The 7-footer probably won’t play until at least November, following surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament that he suffered at Kentucky. And this definitely contributed to his descent on the draft board.

Winner #2: New Orleans

The Pelicans brought in one of the NBA’s most talented point guards to usher in a new era that includes a name change and different look. Holiday averaged 17.7 PPG and 8.0 APG last year on a Philadelphia team that didn’t exactly have many weapons. New Orleans is now hoping he can put up similar or better numbers for them.

The only problem will be deciding what to do with their loaded backcourt, which includes PG Greivis Vasquez and SG Eric Gordon. The latter isn’t happy in the Big Easy right now and could be trade bait this offseason.

Loser #2: Ben McLemore

ben-mclemore-draftMany thought that Kansas guard Ben McLemore was a lock to be selected in the top three. After all, he’s already a great shooter and gifted scorer following one year of college seasoning. However, he ended up going to the Sacramento Kings at pick number 7, which surprised many draft fans.

Scouts saw McLemore as a very good all-around player who can create shots for himself off the dribble. But as the draft drew closer, there were talks of him not being aggressive enough to take over games and justify a top-three pick. Now he’ll spend his rookie campaign on the hapless Kings, who’ve been non-competitive for years.

Winner #3: Boston Celtics

The Celtics’ aging core of coach Doc Rivers, PF Kevin Garnett and SF Paul Pierce clearly wanted out of Boston. Meanwhile, the Celtics, even with a healthy Rajon Rondo, seem like they’re better off rebuilding, rather than taking one or two more hopeless shots at a title.

On draft night, all parties got what they wanted as Pierce and Garnett were shipped off to a better team in New Jersey, while Boston unloaded big salaries and got several draft picks. The Celtics will now have New Jersey’s first round picks in 2014, ’16 and ’18, along with the option to trade picks in ’17. The ’14 pick is key since next year’s draft should be loaded with talent.

Loser #3: Both the Charlotte Bobcats and Phoenix Suns

cody-zeller-draftThe Charlotte Bobcats and Phoenix Suns aren’t playoff teams, which would make one think that they’d be gunning for players with tremendous upside. However, both clubs dropped the ball when they passed on Noel and McLemore at the fourth and fifth picks.

The Bobcats took Indiana center Cody Zeller with the fourth selection. And while Zeller is a mobile 7-footer with good all-around skills, he’s hardly the game-changer that Noel or McLemore could be. The same goes for the Suns and picking Alex Lens at the number five slot. On a team that needs so much, opting for a center who figures to have a solid, but unspectacular career isn’t going to get it done.

Winner #4: Victor Oladipo

Indiana shooting guard Victor Oladipo was projected by many to be a top five pick. However, most of these projections had him at the latter end of this range, and guys like Noel, McLemore and Otto Porter Jr. tabbed in the top three spots. So when Oladipo went number two overall to the Orlando Magic, some analysts were a bit surprised.

However, it’s not so crazy when you consider that he’s extremely athletic, has a great first step, takes high-percentage shots, and above all, plays defense better than any guard in the draft. Sure he’s a little short for a shooting guard (6’4″) and isn’t the greatest passer, but Oladipo should definitely make a big impact in Orlando with his shooting and defense.

Loser #4: Shabazz Muhammad

shabazz-muhammadLast year many people saw Shabazz Muhammad as a potential number one pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. And why not since he’s a 6’6″ shooting guard with a 6’11” wingspan, a good three-point shooter, and a player who’s already got the strength to compete with veterans.

However, none of this was enough to overshadow Muhammad’s subpar defense, character questions and lack of an all-around game. He was still a lottery pick, but just barely as the Utah Jazz picked him at number 14, then traded his rights to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Cavaliers shock Basketball World by taking Bennett No. 1

anthony-bennett-nba-draftThe 2013 NBA Draft isn’t even halfway finished yet, but no matter what happens tonight, people are mainly going to be talking about the Cleveland Cavaliers number one pick. The Cavs shocked pretty much everybody involved in the basketball world by taking UNLV forward Anthony Bennett first overall.

Bennett, who won the Mountain West Player of the Year award as a freshman, becomes the first Canadian to go number one in the NBA Draft. He’s also the second UNLV player to be selected with the top pick, an honor he now shares with retired forward Larry Johnson.

Many people who attended the draft were baffled when Bennett was first off the board. According to the DraftExpress mock draft, the 6’7″, 239-pounder was expected to go with the eighth pick. He definitely showed a good overall game by averaging 15.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.2 BPG, and shooting 38.3% from the three-point line. However, he wasn’t exactly considered number one overall pick material coming into tonight. CBS Sports NBA writer Zach Harper summed this up pretty good when he wrote:

Bennett is a big-time scoring prospect, but doesn’t exactly have the cachet of someone you’d expect taken with the top pick. Bennett has a really good face-up game with range out to the 3-point line.

nerlens-noelMany experts thought that the Cavaliers were leaning towards selecting either Kentucky center Nerlens Noel or Maryland center Alex Len. After all, Cleveland has a solid young nucleus with PG Kyrie Irving, SG Dion Waiters and PF Tristan Thompson. So adding a good defensive center would’ve given them another piece to building a future contender. However, they chose to go with Bennett, who’s expected to fill a hole at the starting small forward spot.

Nerlens was another surprise among the 2013 NBA Lottery selections because, not only did he not get taken first, but he also tumbled down to the sixth pick. The New Orleans Pelicans ended his freefall and quickly traded his rights to the Philadelphia 76ers for a package that includes All-Star guard Jrue Holiday.

Nerlens didn’t seem too dispirited about falling down the board as he hugged his mom and smiled at the podium after being picked. “I thought everything was in the air, so I wasn’t thinking I was the No. 1 pick,” the 7-foot shot-blocking specialist said.

victor-oladipoThe Orlando Magic avoided going with a center as well since they took Indiana guard Victor Oladipo with the second overall pick. After getting selected, Oladipo said, “It’s like a weight vest you took off after running five miles. It’s relaxing, man. But at the same time, you know it’s just getting started.”

The Washington Wizards kept Georgetown swingman Otto Porter Jr. in town by taking him with the third pick, while the Charlotte Bobcats took Oladipo’s Indiana teammate, PF Cody Zeller, with the fourth selection. Len rounded out the top five when he was taken fifth by the rebuilding Phoenix Suns.

Besides Noel, another surprising fall in the draft was former Kansas freshman guard Ben McLemore. Many mock drafts had him going within the top three picks, but he wasn’t taken off the board until the Sacramento Kings grabbed him with the seventh choice.

Georgia shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope went to the Detroit Pistons with the eighth draft pick. And Michigan guard/2013 Final Four hero Trey Burke was picked by the Minnesota Timberwolves at ninth, then traded to Utah for the 14th and 21st picks.

Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum was the first mid-major player to be selected as he rounded out the top 10. The Portland Trailblazers love the point guard’s sharp shooting, as McCollum averaged 23.9 PPG while shooting 51.8% from the three-point arc.

2013 NBA Draft: Who will Cleveland pick First?

nerlens-noelThe NBA Draft Lottery was held last night, and the Cleveland Cavaliers truly hit a jackpot. With just a 15.6% chance of corralling the top pick, Cleveland saw their ping pong ball come up first. So they’ll be making the first selection when the 2013 NBA Draft takes place on June 27th.

While nobody is a slam dunk to be chosen No.1 this year, the popular consensus is that Cleveland will take Kentucky center Nerlens Noel. The 7-footer is pretty raw offensively and has a super-skinny frame at just 210 pounds. But he’s got tremendous upside, is a phenomenal shot-blocker, and fills the Cavaliers’ need for another good frontcourt player.

Anderson Varejao currently plays center for the Cavs and has been an excellent rebounder and solid defender…when he actually plays. However, the 6’11” big man has played just 81 games in the past three years, including 25 last season. Because of Varejao’s injury issues, taking a chance on Nerlens certainly isn’t a bad idea. And even if they’re both healthy, Varejao can play some power forward as well.

American v KansasKansas guard Ben McLemore has also been discussed as a potential number one pick. And it wouldn’t be completely unfathomable to think that Cleveland would choose him if they saw something unique. However, this is a team that took shooting guard Dion Waiters with the fourth pick last year. Plus they have Kyrie Irving at point guard, which would make taking McLemore a little overkill.

One more name that’s been thrown out as a potential number one selection is Otto Porter Jr. This is completely a needs-based pick since Cleveland has a big hole to fill at small forward. But as talented as the Georgetown product is, most analysts don’t see him as the absolute best player in the draft.

otto-porter-jrIf the Cavaliers don’t fall in love with anybody, there’s also the option of trading away the top selection. However, this is a bad idea for a team that’s seemingly tanked the last few years in hopes of stockpiling young talent through the draft. It’s also hard to see Cleveland getting fair value on any potential superstar they’d select number in June.

The wheels have definitely been set in motion for the Cavs to return to competitiveness in the 2013-2014 season. Irving is one of the best young point guards in the league after averaging 22.5 PPG, 5.9 APG, 1.51 SPG and shooting 39.1% from the 3-point line. Waiters had a strong rookie campaign after scoring 14.7 PPG and dishing out 3.0 APG. Tristan Thompson is proving to be a good frontcourt player, following a season where he averaged 11.7 PPG and 9.4 RPG.

Plus this club is loaded with solid role players in C.J. Miles, Alonzo Gee, Marreese Speights, Tyler Zeller. Wayne Ellington and Jeremy Pargo. Will all of this be enough for a playoff run next year? Depending upon how their No. 1 pick develops in the upcoming season, Cleveland definitely could be back in the postseason for the first time in four years.

Could Brittney Griner survive in the NBA?

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brittney-griner-nbaIn 1979, Ann Meyers became the first and last woman to sign a contract with an NBA team. She inked a $50,000 no-cut clause contract with the Indiana Pacers, but, unfortunately, didn’t survive her three-day tryout.

Since that time, standout women basketball players have far more avenues to continue their playing careers. There are plenty of female European leagues along with the WNBA. And up until this week, the WNBA is pretty much where everybody expected 6’8″ Baylor Bears star Brittney Griner to be heading….that is, until Mark Cuban made some attention-seeking remarks about her.

Before a game between the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers, Cuban claimed that he’d actually think about taking her in the 2013 NBA Draft. His statement went as follows:

If she is the best on the board, I will take her. I’ve thought about it. I’ve thought about it already. Would I do it? Right now, I’d lean toward yes, just to see if she can do it. You never know unless you give somebody a chance, and it’s not like the likelihood of any late-50s draft pick has a good chance of making it.

She’d still have to make the team. I’m not going to carry her just to carry her. I don’t think, anyways. But I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to giving her the opportunity.

brittney-griner-nba1Cuban went on to say that he thinks Griner would have plenty of marketing potential if she were to try out for his team. But is that where the discussion of Brittney Griner playing in the NBA ends, with marketing potential?

The Houston native has fascinated many basketball fans since YouTube videos surfaced of her throwing down two-handed dunks. Sure she wasn’t the first woman to dunk; however, Griner is the first known lady to be putting down two-handed slams with ease. She certainly lived up to expectations at Baylor too after racking up the following accolades:

– Led the Bears to the 2012 NCAA title and a 40-0 record
– Blocked 736 career shots, more than any college female or man
– Dunked a record 18 times, more than all other college women combined (15)
– Averaged 23.0 PPG or more for her last three seasons

Obviously Brittney Griner was a fantastic collegiate player – quite possible the best ever in women’s college hoops. This being said, it’s no wonder why the Phoenix Mercury are assuredly going to take her with the first pick overall in this year’s WNBA Draft. But is she good enough to transcend the women’s game and actually play in the NBA?

Brittney GrinerStarting with the positives, Griner has a huge wingspan (7’4″) and excellent timing, which easily explains her incredible shot blocking ability. She also developed a nice mid-range game while at Baylor and greatly improved her basketball IQ.

However, Griner weighs just 207 pounds, which at 6’8″ isn’t exactly the ideal NBA frame. Seeing as how she would probably be playing power forward in the NBA, Griner would regularly be competing against the likes of Blake Griffin (6’10”, 250 pounds), Paul Millsap (6’8″, 253 pounds), Zach Randolph (6’9″, 260 pounds) and David Lee (6’9″, 240 pounds). It’s hard to envision a scenario where she wouldn’t be constantly backed down by these guys and scored on at will.

Luckily we won’t ever have to see this scenario because Griner will be picked number one overall on April 15th. Cuban wouldn’t be able to draft her until June 27th, at which point he would have to purchase her rights from the Phoenix Mercury. And while Cuban may be an attention whore, he’ll likely be more focused on rebuilding a Dallas franchise that has spiraled downward following a 2011 championship season.

This being said, the hypotheticals involving Brittney Griner to the NBA are just something for the media to have a good time with. And if there ever is a female player who goes to the NBA, it’ll likely be a talented guard who doesn’t have to bump heads with 250 and 260-pound men in the paint.