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Tag:Jonas Valanciunas
Posted on: December 5, 2011 4:29 pm
 

Valanciunas not playing the NBA this season?

Posted by Royce Young

The Raptors might just have to wait a year too see exactly what Jonas Valanciunas is. They were already planning on that, but it's looking more official now.

The intriguing fifth overall pick in last June's draft tore up the U-19 FIBA games and has slowly become sort of a cult favorite to become a big NBA hit. There was concern with his buyout situation in Lithuania, mainly because he doesn't have one, but ESPN.com reported over the weekend that could be settled, opening the door for him to join the Raptors this year.
[A] source close to the team told ESPN.com on Saturday that there's a small chance they might be able to get him this season. The source said that the team reached out to Valanciunas' agent over the weekend to gauge the center's interest in joining the Raptors in 2011-12. If Valanciunas has interest, the Toronto would have to work out a buyout with his team in Lithuania, Lietuvos Rytas.
His Lithuania team didn't qualify for Euroleague this season and is losing serious money. Bryan Colangelo said after the draft that he could "confirm" that Valanciunas's buyout was in place. However, that doesn't appear to be happening because Valanciunas does have the needed interest. Consider this from Monday via TSN.ca:

According to the Lithuanian Basketball official site LithuaniaBasketball.com, Valanciunas, who the Raptors took with the fifth pick in the 2011 NBA Draft will remain with his current team until the end of the season.

"I'm currently with Lietuvos Rytas and I'm not really interested in those talks, Valanciunas said.  "There's a lot to be done here. I'm in Lietuvos Rytas, not the Raptors."

It's not a shock to the Raptors because again, they anticipated waiting a year to team the seven-foot Valanciunas with Andrea Bargnani, but of course the team would've loved to get some time working with him. Valanciunas, 19, himself even told NBA teams he felt he needed at least another year in Europe to get stronger.

in the U-19 games against Team USA and Florida's Patric Young, who is a projected first-rounder in 2012, Valanciunas had 30 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks.

Again, the Raptors were planning on 2012-13 to welcome their new center to the fold and even then, he might not see much action. He's a raw, talented big man that needs some strength and polish but as he showed this summer, has the chance to be something pretty special if the right amount of patience is shown developing him.
Posted on: August 30, 2011 3:11 pm
Edited on: August 30, 2011 4:03 pm
 

EuroBasket preview: Spain and then everybody else

Posted by Royce Young



Actual competitive basketball being played in an actual arena with actual NBA players! No, this isn't another Drew League versus Goodman League showdown -- it's better. It's Eurobasket 2011 and if you're completely starved for some quality hoops, then welcome your all-you-can-eat buffet of basketball.

You're probably sick of people trying to convince you how quality the European game has become, and while no, it's not the NBA, it is about as good of basketball as you're going to get. And with the labor negotiations going about as well as Charles Barkley in a marathon, this might be one of your last chances to get competitive basketball.

The EuroBasket tournament features 24 countries all with the opportunity to put away an automatic bid to the 2012 Olympics in London. The top two finishers get an automatic bid while four bids to the Pre-Olympic qualifying tournament (for third through sixth) are at stake as well. But it's not only about the Olympic bids. It's about taking home a title for your country against the top competition in Europe. It's a big deal.

It starts up Aug. 31 and runs through Sept. 18. It's going to be a frantic few weeks of hoops with big names like Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Luol Deng and Tony Parker. Let's take a look at the field.

Group A: Britain, Lithuania, Poland, Spain, Turkey, Portugal
Group B: France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Serbia
Group C: Bosnia, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Finland
Group D: Belgium, Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, Slovenia, Ukraine

(A heads up: Every game of EuroBasket can be watched free on ESPN3.com.)

THE FAVORITES

Spain -- Pau Gasol. Serge Ibaka. Ricky Rubio. Jose Calderon. Rudy Fernandez. Marc Gasol. If you're looking for your NBA fix, the Spaniards are your team to watch. They're going to play the most fluid, flashy game of anything and with players like Ibaka, Gasol and Rubio, will blend athleticism and skill together nicely.

It's really Spain's tournament to lose. There's just so much talent on the team, not even including the big names. Sergio Llull, recent first round draft pick Nikola Mirotic and the irresistible Juan Carlos Navarro make Spain the can't-miss team and clear-cut favorite.

NBA players: Pau Gasol (Lakers), Serge Ibaka (Thunder), Ricky Rubio (Timberwolves), Jose Calderon (Raptors), Rudy Fernandez (Mavericks), Marc Gasol (Grizzlies)

Lithuania
-- The Lithuanians are sort of a borderline favorite, but they are playing the tournament in their home country, so that's an advantage. Plus, there's talent scattered throughout the team with players like lottery pick Jonas Valanciunas, Donatas Motiejunas and Sarunas Jasikevicius.

NBA players: Jonas Valanciunas (Raptors), Donatas Motiejunas (Timberwolves)

France
-- Quietly, the French have assembled a pretty stellar team. Most aren't listing them as a top tier favorite, but it's hard to ignore the talent. A core of Nicolas Batum, Joakim Noah and Tony Parker make them a squad strong enough to consider. Add in Rodrigue Beaubois (if he's healthy), Kevin Seraphin, Mickael Pietrus and Kevin Seraphin and that's a quality rotation of players.

They don't have the same level of talent as Spain, but if Batum can emerge as a go-to scorer to supplement Parker, the French team could make noise in the knockout rounds.

NBA players: Tony Parker (Spurs), Nicolas Batum (Trail Blazers), Mickael Pietrus (Suns), Joakim Noah (Bulls), Rodrigue Beaubois (Mavericks), Kevin Seraphin (Wizards), Ronny Turiaf, injured though (Knicks), Ian Mahinmi (Mavericks), Boris Diaw (Bobcats)

Serbia -- One of Europe's most consistent powers, Serbia features a smooth balance of interior scorers and outside shooters. Nenad Krstic is the anchor but don't underestimate players like Milos Teodosic and Milenko Tepic. Serbia doesn't have anything all that flashy, but it's a team that's stayed together for a while and knows how to play extremely well with each other.

NBA players: None

THE DARK HORSES

Germany -- They have Dirk. That's enough to at least warrant consideration. Now after that it doesn't look extremely strong, but it's Dirk and if we learned anything, the dude can play in big moments. He can carry a team that otherwise looks like a batch of just mid-level players to a higher place and win with them. So I'm not doubting him one bit in this tournament.

Plus there's Chris Kaman and Thunder property Tibor Pleiss there with him, which gives Germany a pretty formidable front court.

NBA players: Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks), Chris Kaman (Clippers)

Russia -- One thing that constantly intrigues me with the Russian team is coach David Blatt. He's an American coach that played for Pete Carril at Princeton and has been extremely successful overseas with major clubs. The team has some talent, but nothing to get too excited about. It would take a breakout tournament from Timofey Mozgov or swingman Victor Khryapa a huge showing from Andrei Kirilenko for them to truly contend, but they could be medal contenders.

NBA players: Timofey Mozgov (Nuggets), Andrei Kirilenko (Jazz)

Slovenia -- Slovenia's the Atlanta Hawks of Europe. Always solid, never good enough to win. They have some quality players, but lack enough quality size to compete with Spain, Lithuania or France.

NBA players: Goran Dragic (Rockets)

Turkey
-- Last year's World Championship runners-up to the United States, Turkey has most of that team back. It's a good group and one that could certainly get hot and make a run again, but the World Championship run came largely because of a huge bump from a home court advantage. Not happening again in Lithuania.

NBA players: Semih Erden (Celtics), Omer Asik (Bulls), Ersan Ilyasova (Bucks), Enes Kanter (Jazz), Hedo Turkoglu (Magic)

THE MIDDLE GROUND

Greece -- When their fluid passing is leading to open 3s (which they make), the Greeks are a problem for people. But when they're missing, they're a team easy to run over. They're scrappy and will claw on each possession, but reality is, they just don't have enough talent to hang with the bigger clubs. They do have one of the funner players to watch in Dimitrios Diamantidis, so keep an eye on him.

NBA players: Kostas Koufos (Nuggets)

Croatia -- Much like Slovenia, Croatia is a squad that is always in the conversation, but lacks the firepower to truly contend. Hard to figure where the points will come from for them in big spots. They'll be good enough to likely win Group C, but after that, it'll be a tough road to advance.

NBA players: Bojan Bogdanovic (Nets)

Great Britain
-- I'm intrigued by this British team despite it not having any depth whatsoever. Had Ben Gordon been cleared to play, the Brits would've had a dark horse caliber team. Instead, they'll have to fight to get out of group play. Luol Deng is good enough to carry them some with Joel Freeland and Ryan Richards potentially adding some scoring pop from inside.

Don't worry though: They've already qualified for the 2012 Olympics. Because, you know, they're hosting it.

NBA players: Luol Deng (Bulls)

Italy -- There's a little something to the Italian team. Danillo Gallinari, Marco Belinelli and Andrea Bargnani give them some scoring. Problem is, can they stop anyone? It's a decent team and one that can probably make the knockout round, but not much after that.

NBA players: Danillo Gallinari (Nuggets), Marco Belinelli (Hornets), Andrea Bargnani (Raptors)

Montenegro -- Not a powerful team but one with some consistent shooters and a couple decent interior players. Montenegro could very well be every bit as good as Slovenia or Croatia, but their roster doesn't strike you as anything special.

NBA players: Nikola Vucevic (76ers), Nikola Pekovic (Timberwolves)

THE NO CHANCES

Belgium
NBA players: None

Israel
NBA players: Omri Casspi (Cavaliers) -- Casspi's unlikely though because of injury

Bosnia
NBA players: None

Macedonia
NBA players: None

Georgia
NBA players: Zaza Pachulia (Hawks)

Ukraine
NBA players: Kyrylo Fesenko (Jazz),

THE BLOWOUT FODDER

Poland

NBA players: None

Finland
NBA players: None

Portugal
NBA players: None

Latvia
NBA players: None

Bulgaria
NBA players: None

PREDICTION: If Spain doesn't reach the final, it's a massive disappointment and a massive shock. It's really just a matter of who will challenge the loaded Spaniards. I see the final four teams being Spain, France, Lithuania and a dark horse in Germany. A lot of people aren't necessarily on the French bandwagon, but I see a team with a bunch of talent that could possibly put together a little run. The safe bet is to go with a Spain-Lithuania final (this of course assuming the teams match up correctly in the knockout round), but I'm looking at France to fall to Spain in the gold medal game but still earn that automatic bid to London in 2012.
Posted on: July 11, 2011 1:03 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 1:55 pm
 

Valanciunas shows off in FIBA under-19 games

Posted by Royce Young



It wasn't against Dwight Howard or Tyson Chandler. Heck, it wasn't even against Joel Anthony or Ronny Turiaf. But despite qualifiers, Toronto's first-round pick Jonas Valanciunas absolutely dominated in the FIBA under-19 World Championships.

Not only did Valanciunas lead Lithuania to gold in the U19 games (the U.S. finished fifth), he was easily the tournament's best player. The Raptors new center averaged 23.0 points, 13.9 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game to go with 59 percent shooting from the field and 81.1 percent from the free throw line. He put a bow on his wonderful tournament with a 36-point, eight-rebound and three-block effort in the gold medal game.

Somewhere, Bryan Colangelo is probably just a little bit excited.

But it wasn't just about the numbers against non-NBA players. That stuff is nice, but there's a lot more in play if Valanciunas -- the most intriguing player in this year's draft -- is going to become an NBA force. Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Star saw a little more from Valanciunas.
He showed just about everything the Raptors were hoping for when they picked him fifth overall.

In addition to the gaudy numbers, Valanciunas displayed a genuine love for the game and an intensity and desire to get results at both ends. He showed good fluidity and bounce and kept his foul rate — one of his main weaknesses — mostly under control. He played every minute of the final and looked like he could have kept going, instead bolting around the gym and playing to the many Lithuanian fans in the building before accepting his MVP and championship trophies.

Like I said, the numbers and stats are one thing, but the intangibles that makes an effective NBA players are equally important. You hear words like "motor" and "upside" tossed around a lot and in most cases, they don't mean anything. But stuff like hearing a guy is committed and passionate are good any way you shake them.

Valanciunas will be Lithuania's backup center on the team that will host the Eurobasket tournament in August and September. There, we'll all get a little better taste of what he's capable of as Turkey is in Lithuania's group which features Chicago's defensive stud Omer Asik. Put up 36 points and eight rebounds against Asik and that'll catch some real attention. 

Regardless of perspective, it's hard not to at least take notice of what Valanciunas accomplished as the tournament's MVP. He's probably not NBA ready in terms of walking on to the floor and competing as a starter from day one in Toronto. He's still extremely young and needs to fill our his lanky 6-11 frame. But dominating against your age group and handling top prospects from the United States as well as the rest of the world is something to at least notice.

Posted on: June 29, 2011 12:52 pm
Edited on: June 29, 2011 1:07 pm
 

Valanciunas dominant against US in U-19 games

Posted by Royce Young

The Cleveland Cavaliers were the first team on draft night that had to make a big decision. At No. 4 with Enes Kanter off the board, who do they go with?

There's Jonas Valanciunas from Lithuania who is raw and needs strength and might have buyout issues. There's Tristan Thompson from Texas who is an impact rebounder and defender but doesn't have quite the upside of Valanciunas. Or there were other options like Jan Vesely, Bismack Biyombo or whichever one of the Morris twins is better.

The Cavs passed on Valanciunas and so the Raptors were grateful at No. 5 to pick up the 19-year-old center. And while it's still WAY too early too tell, that pick certainly looked pretty darn good yesterday in a tuneup for the FIBA under-19 games.

Valanciunas dominated against the United States, scoring 23 points and grabbing 11 rebounds as Lithuania worked the U.S. 108-75 in a friendly before the games get going Thursday.

Now of course, before anyone gets too excited, it's just one game, and a game that didn't even count to boot. It also wasn't against anything resembling NBA talent, though University of Florida big man and projected lottery pick Patric Young played against Valanciunas in the game and had only six points.

As the Toronto Sun notes, Valanciunas still needs at least 15-20 pounds on him before he's really able to compete inside against the big physical centers in the NBA, but the guy has serious talent. The Raptors went with the best guy available on draft night and grabbed the guy a bunch of teams were hoping would slip to them later.

Valanciunas has been pegged as another Pau Gasol because of his touch around the basket, and there's no doubt the young Americans trying to guard him probably couldn't tell the difference Tuesday. But it's way too early to make any real determination on things. Still, the Raptors and Bryan Colangelo have to be feeling pretty good that the Cavs passed on Valanciunas right now.

Via PBT

Posted on: June 25, 2011 11:23 am
Edited on: June 25, 2011 6:54 pm
 

Valanciunas' buyout situation settled

Posted by Royce Young

A few days before the draft, some concern arose that Jonas Valanciunas, the big Lithuanian center the Raptors selected fifth, was going to have some major buyout issues.

As a result, there was some speculation that Valanciunas could slip down in the lottery. He didn't and I guess it was because the buyout thing wasn't that big of a deal.

Raptor general manager Bryan Colangelo told the Toronto Sun that the buyout has been resolved with Valanciunas' team Lietuvos Ryta. Valanciunas' deal was for three years with his Euro team. 

"I can confirm the buyout is in place," Colangelo said.

The Raptors can contribute up to $500,000 of the $2.4 million buyout under the terms of the current collective bargaining agreement.

Now that Valanciunas will join the Raptors alongside Andrea Bargnani, Toronto will get a fresh look at its new front line. Valanciunas isn't ready to be an impact player, though, as he needs to add strength, which he admitted draft night. "I have no so strong body," he said. So that'll likely be the focus for the young 19-year-old center. Some have said he's a young Pau Gasol and if that's the case, Toronto will likely be fine waiting however long for him to add strength.

Posted on: June 23, 2011 10:29 pm
Edited on: June 23, 2011 10:52 pm
 

2011 NBA Draft: Top 10 Analysis

Here's a rundown of all of our analysis on the top ten picks of the 2011 NBA Draft.

No.1: Cavaliers select Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke University

Irving has been the top pick since last summer and despite a brief dip after his injury in the winter, he returned to the top spot in a flurry of offensive firepower in the NCAA tournament. Irving gives Cleveland not just an athletic playmaking point guard with a jumper, but a franchise quality player with a humble attitude and great basketball IQ.

The question will be who the Cavs will build around Irving. Anderson Varejao is rumored to be being moved and with the No. 4 pick is expected to be used on a big man such as Jonas Valanciunas or Enes Kanter if available. Irving will function as both scorer and distributor for the team. He volunteered for a thorough physical to remove doubts about his toe and has been completely cleared.

Irving's closest comparison is Chris Paul, though he's not the player Paul was when he was drafted. Still, Irving is described by nearly every analyst as "special" and the kind of player the Cavs needed to get in order to kick off their rebuilding project. Landing the top pick with the lottery selection they got in a trade of Mo Williams to the Clippers, Irving represents what the Cavaliers hopes will be a change of luck for a notoriously fate-challenged franchise.

Irving's athleticism isn't of Calipari-point-guard caliber, but he also has a polished jumper and excellent vision. He's not elite at the level of John Wall, but he does have a great overall mix of abilities. Derrick Williams would have been a solid choice here, but Irving was simply the best player available. The question will be if he will reflect the overall quality of this draft, or if he truly is their franchise player to help rebuild the broken kingdom LeBron James left behind.

No. 2: Minnesota Timberwolves select Derrick Williams, F, Arizona

After weeks of posturing and talking, the Minnesota Timberwolves ended up doing pretty much what we all expected them to do: They drafted Derrick Williams from Arizona.

(Now, before I really get into this, keep in mind the Wolves could very well trade Williams later. Maybe by the end of the night, maybe tomorrow. Just want to get that out there.)

I think everyone agrees that the second best player in this draft was Williams, with some even seeing him as maybe the best. So to take him second overall makes sense. What didn't make sense for the Wolves, and the reason they shopped the pick so hard, is how Williams fits within the already jumbled roster David Kahn has assembled. It makes sense to move Michael Beasley now and clear room for Williams to play. But if that doesn't happen, the Wolves rotation is a total mess of raw talent without any rhyme or reason.

Which is what makes the most sense. A core of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love and Williams isn't a bad trio. Love and Williams are a bit similar and with Williams kind of being a tweener forward, there could be some awkwardness in the two fitting together, but you have to go with him here.

It still makes a lot of sense for the Wolves to move Williams if a deal comes along, but for now, the idea is for Kahn to clear out the clutter a bit and really let his core of young, talented players take over. That's how the Thunder built around Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and at the same, Jeff Green. Those guys had room to fail, then grow and most importantly, develop. Give Williams and company room to breathe and the Wolves might eventually start to make some progress.

In all honesty, Williams may have the most star power of any player in this draft. Love is a very good player -- an All-Star. But I'm not sure he's a true building block star that can carry you. Williams very well might be. He shot 57 percent from 3-point range last season, can play above the rim and score the ball. It's a question of his defense at the next level and a question of where he plays.

There was talk of Enes Kanter at No. 2 as well, but that would've been a copout "fit" pick. Not necessarily a bad selection, but when you're the Wolves, you can't afford to potentially miss out on a star player. Williams was the obvious choice, and the right one.

Now we've just got to see if they hang on to him.

No. 3: Utah Jazz select Enes Kanter, F/C, Kentucky

In a lot of ways, the Jazz sort of held the keys to this draft. What direction were they going to go and where would the chips all fall behind them? Well, they went the direction of Enes Kanter and not Brandon Knight.

Not necessarily a surprise, but a month ago, that definitely wasn't a sure direction for Utah. Kanter is a true center, a 6-11 post player with soft hands and a good touch. Which is what they already have in Al Jefferson.

How does Kanter fit alongside Paul Millsap and Jefferson? We'll see. But it's hard to turn down a player of his caliber in that spot, especially when the Jazz had another pick to use in the lottery. Taking Knight made a lot of sense in a lot of ways, but now the Jazz can fill that spot later on down.

The Jazz are looking at a bit of a rebuild with this roster and in order to do that, you have to take talent. Kanter's got that. He's a bit of a mystery as he didn't play at all at Kentucky, but he was a top college recruit, was excellent in Turkey and by all accounts, will translate well to the NBA.

No. 4: Cleveland Cavaliers select Tristan Thompson, F, University of Texas

Tristan Thompson had made a meteoric rise throughtout the late draft season.  He went from being a mid-teens pick all the way to the fourth pick. His length and size started to catch eyes in the combine and in workouts. His frame and body give him the ability to out-muscle other players, which is rare in a draft low on size. 

Cleveland now has a power forward to pair with Kyrie Irving. The other option, Jonas Valanciunas, won't be available until 2012. Thompson can make an immediate impact. Defensively Thompson's got good ability as well. There are questions about his touch and face-up game, but he showed enough in workouts to convince GMs... like Chris Grant, obviously.

This may have been a reach, but in a weak draft this fills a need. With a surefire lock in Irving, the Cavaliers were able to gamble on who they thought was the best big in this draft. The question will be how he translates to the NBA and if he can put some polish on the raw athletic game he brings off the bat.

The question now turns to whether the Cavs will trade J.J. Hickson, who disappointed last season and who rumors said clashed with Byron Scott. Hickson will likely gather interest on the open market.

No. 5: Toronto Raptors select Jonas Valanciunas, C, Lietuvos Rytas

There were a lot of directions for the Raptors to go with the fifth pick. Bismack Biyombo, Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker were all talked about in this spot.

But with the cards falling where they did, the Raptors simply couldn't pass up an upside player in Jonas Valanciunas. Bryan Colangelo loves himself some international players and Valanciunas was the highest ranked international on the board. Really, it's a match made in heaven.

He probably won't be able to help Toronto next season -- if there is a next season -- as Valanciunas has a complicated buyout to settle that will likely keep him in Europe another season. Which honestly, is probably a good thing. Valanciunas needs more seasoning, needs a little more weight to his frame and a little bit of time to mature and progress.

It's good that the Raptors realize that rebuilding takes time. Instead of trying to land someone that helps now, the Raptors elected to stay patient and hope that Valanciunas can develop into a post presence alongside Andrea Bargnani. Some see Valanciunas as a young Pau Gasol, which might not be a good thing though. The Raps are extremely soft inside and if Valanciunas is going to play with Bargnani, he's going to have to toughen up a bit. He's extremely young and as they say, has that whole upside thing working for him.

Which is what Toronto is banking on.

No. 6: Washington Wizards select Jan Vesely, F, Parizan Belgrade

So the rumors were true. Aggressive. Athletic. Raw. Not the terms usually used with a Euro, but Vesely is not the usual type of Euro. Vesely shows a rare  combination of fierceness in attacking the rim. 

Vesely joins John Wall as a running mate on the break. With the ability to rebound and defend, Vesely has an underrated post game. He knows how to finish in traffic and yes, he's going to make a ton of highlight reels. It matches perfectly with the direction of the Wizards. 

The question will be if Vesely's lack of a jumpshot, comined with Andray Blatche's Blatche-like-ness and JaVale McGee's lack of touch makes for too raw of a front court. Also, should Vesely wind up as a PF at 6-11, things would get crowded down low for the Wiz. As long as the team is going  young and athletic, though, this is a great choice, and Flip Saunders should be able to get a ton out of this kind of weapon.

For all the talk of Kanter, Valanciunas, and Biyombo,Vesely has a decent chance of being the Euro steal of this draft.

Also, upon getting drafted, Vesely's very attractive lady friend planted a huge kiss on him, and later Vesely told ESPN: "I like the John Wall game." Pure Euro gangster.

No. 7: Charlotte Bobcats (from Sacramento Kings) select Bismack Biyombo, F/C, Congo 

The Kings picking seventh, completed a three-way trade with the Bobcats and it was for Charlotte to move up for Biyombo.

What are they getting with the great unknown from Congo? A defensive presence, an athlete and someone that has a lot of room to improve. They aren't getting someone that can score. They aren't getting someone that's going to be part of any offensive set they have. A lot of people have compared Biyombo to Ben Wallace and that's probably pretty accurate.

There are questions about Biyombo's real age, a potential buyout complication and if he really is as good as he showed in a couple showcases. A few months ago, he was a total unknown. But he wowed scouted and GMs in Portland, didn't look great in workouts but because of an ability to change games defensively, Biyombo went high in the lottery.

How does he fit in? I don't think he's a starter from day one, but with Tyrus Thomas alongside in that frontline, the Bobcats definitely have some jumpers. They've got athletes. Biyombo said he thinks he can lead the league in rebounding and blocks, which is what the Cats are looking for. They could've looked for an offensive impact player, but Michael Jordan and new GM Rich Cho are defensive minded people, and Biyombo fits right in with that.

No. 8: Detroit Pistons select Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky

Most projections didn't have Brandon Knight slipping, but he fell right into Detroit's lap eighth. I suppose Joe Dumars said, "We've got to go best available here."

Because just a week ago, the Pistons extended a qualifying offer to Rodney Stuckey who is a yonug, talented point guard that by all appearances, is part of the process with the Pistons. Now, they've got two talented young point guards.

The feeling was that Detroit would go big and liked Bismack Biyombo. But with him coming off the board a pick earlier to the Bobcats, the Pistons had to weight their options. And it was a best available situation and Knight was best available.

Potentially, there's a chance that the Pistons could move the pick elsewhere to someone for Knight. They were involved in a lot of talks leading up to the draft and I'm sure there's a team that was eyeing Knight that could be willing to make a play for him. Knowing the Pistons' situation, offers will probably come in. And maybe Detroit is open to moving their pick.

If not, Detroit's got a young, solid point guard to work with. That's a roster that needs some talent and some youth. There were other options there that might've been a better fit (Kawhi Leonard, Chris Singleton, Klay Thompson) but Detroit couldn't say no to Knight.

We'll see what happens next.

No. 9: Charlotte Bobcats select Kemba Walker, PG, UConn

So... I guess D.J. Augustin didn't show enough last year? Augustin had a career season and looked to be developing nicely, but instead the Bobcats took an undersized scoring point guard who is more of a scorer rather than a distributor. That makes sense.

It's not a terrible pick, especially when paired with their seventh pick in Bismack Biyombo. The Cats have two fairly big reach rookies, and the odds are that one of the two will work out. Either Biyombo's insane athleticism or Kemba's will to win will make them special players, if both of them don't succeed. Meanwhile, Augustin has to go on the trade block, and with Corey Maggette now on roster, the Bobcats will have a lot of shots coming from the back court starting next season... whenever that is.

Walker's defensive questions are considerable considering his size, but there's no denying his pedigree. If Biyombo was the pure athleticsm, pure tangibles selection, then Walker is the opposite, the pure-polish, pure-intangibles lock. He brings a fierceness that owner Michael Jordan is obvioiusly drawn to, and with his pedigree, he'll help the ticket sales department. Walker's translation to the NBA isn't a sure thing, but his popularity and resume is. 

The freak of nature and the unconquerable hero. Not a bad haul for Rich Cho's first draft.

No. 10 Sacramento Kings (from Milwaukee Bucks) select Jimmer Fredette

It's officially Jimmer Time, Sacramento.

The feeling earlier today when the Kings moved back to 10th in a three-way trade that also brought them John Salmons was that they had Jimmer Fredette in mind.

They got him.

The questions with Jimmer obviously start with his defense and where he'll play. But with the Kings moving Beno Udrih and basically committing to Tyreke Evans off the ball at shooting guard, Jimmer will likely start from day one at point guard in Sacramento. In reality, that's a pretty fun, dynamic backcourt in Evans and Fredette.

What kind of pro will Jimmer be though? Is he good with becoming a Steve Nash pass-first type of player or does he want to keep scoring and firing long distance shots? Jimmer is the type of player though that's willing to fit in. He's coachable, smart and has the ability to learn. Can he guard Derrick Rose? Can he guard Russell Westbrook? Heck, can he guard guys like Jose Calderon and Derek Fisher? We'll have to see.

But the Kings have added some punch and some excitement to the roster. With Jimmer, Evans, Marcus Thornton and DeMarcus Cousins, they've got a pretty exciting young core of talent.

Now, can they win? Jimmer will bring a bit of excitement and energy to a fanbase that needs it as the Kings hang on for dear life in Sacramento. But that near car smell will wear off quickly if the team doesn't start winning. Jimmer will bring a little jolt of excitement, but ultimately, winning is what really gets people buying tickets.

And that's what the Kings drafted Jimmer to do.
Posted on: June 23, 2011 8:09 pm
Edited on: June 23, 2011 10:08 pm
 

NBA Draft: Raptors select Jonas Valanciunas 5th

Posted by Royce Young

There were a lot of directions for the Raptors to go with the fifth pick. Bismack Biyombo, Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker were all talked about in this spot.

But with the cards falling where they did, the Raptors simply couldn't pass up an upside player in Jonas Valanciunas. Bryan Colangelo loves himself some international players and Valanciunas was the highest ranked international on the board. Really, it's a match made in heaven.

He probably won't be able to help Toronto next season -- if there is a next season -- as Valanciunas has a complicated buyout to settle that will likely keep him in Europe another season. Which honestly, is probably a good thing. Valanciunas needs more seasoning, needs a little more weight to his frame and a little bit of time to mature and progress.

It's good that the Raptors realize that rebuilding takes time. Instead of trying to land someone that helps now, the Raptors elected to stay patient and hope that Valanciunas can develop into a post presence alongside Andrea Bargnani. Some see Valanciunas as a young Pau Gasol, which might not be a good thing though. The Raps are extremely soft inside and if Valanciunas is going to play with Bargnani, he's going to have to toughen up a bit. He's extremely young and as they say, has that whole upside thing working for him.

Which is what Toronto is banking on.
Posted on: June 22, 2011 6:34 pm
Edited on: June 23, 2011 5:29 am
 

Five GMs who face big dilemmas on draft night

Posted by Matt Moore

It's passed over because we're so far removed from it and because that's not how the machine works, but stop for a second and consider what it's like to be a general manager who actually has control, whose owner trusts him. It's draft night. The future of your franchise rests with you. A pick gone wrong and that can mean a pink slip. Questions from the media, from the fans. You've got to somehow not only see what these kids, and they are kids, have done, but what they will do. And that's not just on the floor, it's in the locker room and outside the halls of the arena.

You've got to look into a kid's soul and see what he's made of, out of basically a handful of workouts, some measurements, and maybe a psych profile, if he consents. And it's not a simple "yes or no," you have to choose someone. You've got hundreds of options, a dozen or so serious options, and you've got to hit the right one. Miss, and it's a black mark on your career that may follow you forever. And no matter how many people you bring in, no matter how much consultation is done in advance, at the end of the night, when it's time to make the call, it's got to be your say. You have to make the decision.

And we think shooting free throws is tough.

With that in mind, here are the top five GMs/front offices facing the toughest decisions of the draft.

1. David Kahn, GM, Minnesota Timberwolves: He can't miss every time, right? After drafting Jonny Flynn to go with Ricky Rubio, who didn't come over, essentially going 0-2 on viable point guard options until this season, then following it up by passing on DeMarcus Cousins and others to reach for Wes Johnson, the Wolves could really use a home run. So naturally Kahn is trying to trade this pick like there's no tomorrow. They've reached out to everyone, and so far no one is biting. So if they keep the pick, the Wolves have to decide whether to take the best talent available, Derrick Williams, even though he creates a logjam at small forward/combo forward position for them, or roll the dice on Enes Kanter. You know, because what they don't have is enough Euro centers with upside.

Kahn's in a bad spot, having to try and hit a home run to save his job by bringing in a veteran star. He announced at the end of last season that "rebuilding is over" for the Wolves, which is pretty insane for a 17-win team. He can't wait to see if Williams will be an impact guy, he needs one now. If he does have to take the pick, Williams is the best overall talent, but that doesn't jive with what he did throughout the past calendar year, bringing in Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph. It's a significant problem and not one you should envy. Even if the Cavs were to suddenly pass on Kyrie Irving for Williams, the Wolves still couldn't take Irving because of Rubio.

In the end, the Euro teen center who hasn't played in two years is the safe option. That's how tricky the Wolves' position is.

2011 NBA Draft
2. Bryan Colangelo, GM, Toronto Raptors: There's talk that Bryan Colangelo is under pressure, even after his contract extension, from above to stay away from a Euro. This is the kind of thing that happens when you draft Andrea Bargnani and then give him a bajillion dollars in extension. In doing so he's managed to create a problem because the best talent and fit at the No.5 spot is likely to be a Euro.

The Raptors need rebounding and size, and Jonas Valanciunas provides both. Sure, the big man is not coming over till 2012, but the Raptors also aren't going anwywhere until then. Another year of letting DeMar DeRozan, Jerryd Bayless, and Amir Johnson lead the team while trying to find somewhere to ditch Bargnani to isn't a bad option. Then when Valanciunas comes over, they'll have another high pick, and worst case scenario the ability to put Bargnani next to Valanciunas with Amir Johnson at the three for defensive coverage of Bargnani's limitations in space.

If not "Choonus" (as no one besides me is calling him), Jan Vesely is a great fit here. An explosive combo forward who won't need the ball and whose limitations in ball handling will be managed by low usage, Vesely brings size, athleticism and aggressiveness. A DeRozan-Vesely-Johnson 2-3-4 combo is just plain nasty.

But Colangelo may not be able to take either of those and may instead have to reach for... Kemba Walker. If the Utah Jazz aren't too spooked by Brandon Knight's attitude, Walker will be the best known-American talent in the draft at that point, and finding a replacement for Jose Calderon will be seen as a smart pick. No one will criticize them for taking Walker, despite Walker not being the type of defender Dwane Casey's going to want to work with and the fact that he's honestly a reach here. Not much of one, but a reach.

So does Colangelo take the Best Player Available or the Most Popular Available? That's the kind of thing impacted by your previous decisions which come back to haunt you.

3. Geoff Petrie, President of Basketball Operations, Sacramento Kings: This should be easy. There's a good chance either Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker falls this far, despite the above scenario. They take that guy, they're good. But for whatever reason, the Kings are still trying to figure out what to do with their backcourt.

Alec Burks has become the hot name to take but he's not a point guard in any way shape or form. He becomes redundant next to Marcus Thornton, even if Tyreke Evans stays at point guard. Jimmer Fredette is too much of a reach.

Kawhi Leonard is the safest pick possible, filling a need at small forward, a polished player who can defend, and leaving the backcourt questions out of the equation. But he may go higher. The Kings are in a danger zone that guarantees their options will be limited, but the decison tree is complicated by the wishes of the Maloofs. Fredette brings ticket sales, that's for sure, but he's going to be an awkward fit with both Evans and Thornton needing shots. What's going to win out, making money or the right decision? Let's just say we don't have high hopes for the voices of reason.

4. John Hammond, GM, Milwaukee Bucks: Hammond's got a lot of holes to fill and is just outside the ability to fill them in the draft. Meanwhile, he's trying to move down. Move down and not make an improvement, the team could slide even further backwards. Make the wrong pick and he's wasted all that opportunity. Power forwards are abundant at the No. 10 spot for Milwaukee, but Hammond's got Drew Gooden, Larry Sanders, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Jon Brockman,and Ersan Ilyasova (who he's reportedly trying desperately to trade). So that's not really viable. He sunk a huge portion of cash into John Salmons which didn't work out, so while drafting a shooting guard sounds like the right move, it comes with usage concerns.

Popular players like Fredette are there, but with Jennings it may only exacerbate a tense situation. And the other option is a fleet of talented but wholly incomplete combo forwards without a decent lock among them. All are long-term prospects, none are sure things. And that's relative to the entire draft process which is a crapshoot.

The Bucks have been active in trade rumors but are trying to find an identity. They seemed like they'd stocked their team with athletic, relatively young players and yet don't seem to have the right combination. The 10th pick doesn't provide them many answers and may leave them eying simply a chance to move out of the spotlight.

5. Daryl Morey, GM, Houston Rockets: No team with a real chance of competing needed a lottery win like the Rockets. With Yao Ming a huge seven-foot question mark and failed attempt after failed attempt at securing a star, they need a big name to put next to the versatile complimentary talent they have. But instead here they are with two picks that help them almost not at all.

Their options are a series of athletic threes and undersized fours (the Morris twins, Jordan Hamilton, maybe Tristan Thompson), when they already have Luis Scola, Patrick Patterson, Chase Budinger, and Jordan Hill to go with Chuck Hayes. Their only real need is at five, and Valanciunas is almost guaranteed to be off the board. With Motiejunas more of a stretch four than a real five considering his defense and effort problems, there's simply not a fit here. Marcus Morris is the most surefire player available here, and he comes with huge question marks and a limited upside.

Morey is charged with somehow turning these elements into a contender, despite the best "star" on the market being Andre Iguodala, which would be like adding a Swiss army knife when you need a broadsword. His second pick in the first round leaves him only with the exciting possibility of drafting a Euro center who won't be available for several years, or a player like Jeremy Tyler who would likely spend at least a year with the Rockets' D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

Morey's been considered a genius and a math wizard for years in this league. With the team stangnated and no help available in free agency or trade, the draft looks like his last chance to pull a rabbit out of a hat. And right now, the hat looks awful empty.


 
 
 
 
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