New Orleans grabs top pick in NBA lottery

Let the NBA mock drafts begin. New Orleans will grab Anthony Davis, and then we’ll see if Micheal Jordan snags Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as Chad Ford predicts, or whether he goes with Thomas Robinson as predicted in the USA Today mock draft.

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I’m confused.

Yesterday, I wondered why Fran Fraschilla is convinced that Xavier Henry lacks lateral quickness, and today, as I was reading ESPN’s mock draft, I saw this exchange:

15. Milwaukee Bucks (Russillo): Xavier Henry, SF/SG, Kansas
The Explanation: I was afraid he would go to Memphis at No. 12. He could be the answer to Michael Redd if he isn’t healthy and the Bucks lose John Salmons.
The Peanut Gallery: Ford comes at him ruthlessly, saying, “Didn’t Cole Aldrich post better lane agility numbers in Chicago?” Fraschilla hits the slow note as well, while Hume knocks Russillo for even thinking Redd might be healthy. Backed into a corner, Russillo can merely muster, “But they need a wing scorer!”

Again, according to ESPN’s own numbers, Henry scored an 11.1 on the lane agility drill, which was the 8th fastest time of the 45 players who participated.

Why is Ford saying that he’s slow?

By the way, Aldrich finished in 11.48 seconds.

Luke Babbitt on the rise

Chad Ford writes that this year’s Tyler Hansbrough is Nevada forward Luke Babbitt.

Babbitt measured around 6-9 in shoes with an 8-9 standing reach. That doesn’t blow you away. However, he had an impressive 6-11 wingspan and essentially measures up with Griffin (6-10 in shoes, an 8-9 standing reach and a 6-11 wingspan).

But Griffin is way more athletic, you say? Not according to the combine numbers.

Babbitt had a 37.5-inch max vertical, a 3.2-second sprint and an impressive 10.98 lane agility score. Griffin’s numbers were 35.5, 3.28 and 10.95, respectively.

Griffin clearly had the strength advantage, benching a 185-pound bar 22 times to Babbitt’s 15. But 15 reps is still an impressive number.

What about production on the court? Griffin clearly had Babbitt bested here. Griffin averaged 22.2 ppg and 14.1 rpg in 32 mpg his sophomore year. Babbitt averaged 21.9 ppg and 9 rpg in 37 mpg his sophomore year. However, Babbitt does bring two things to the table that Griffin doesn’t — 3-point shooting and ball-handling ability. Babbitt shot a blazing 43 percent from beyond the arc this past season and showed excellent ball-handling skills for a big man in the combine.

Of course, Babbitt isn’t as good of a prospect as Griffin was. That’s why we’ve had Babbitt No. 12 on our mock draft for two straight weeks. However, we might have him too low. Based on what I’m hearing, Babbitt could be in play as high as No. 9 to the Jazz.

There’s a difference between averaging 22-14 in 32 mpg against Big 12 competition and averaging 22-9 in 37 minutes in the WAC. Ford’s point is that athletically, Babbitt is right there with Griffin.

Here is what DraftExpress had to say about Babbitt back in February:

On the offensive end, Babbitt possesses an extremely high skill level to go along with an outstanding feel for the game, assets which allow him to score easily and efficiently from all over the floor. The smooth left-handed shooter is hitting with deadeye accuracy from the free-throw (89%) and three-point lines (41%), while also showing strong ability off the dribble, namely with his mid-range jumper.

Using a combination of ball fakes and jab steps along with rangy strides with the ball and excellent footwork, Babbitt does a very good job getting separation for his jumper in spite of his limited athletic ability. Getting open inside the arc, he shows very good ability to hit jumpers on the move, going left and right, with a hand in his face, and fading away from the basket.

Babbitt’s shot has consistent mechanics and a high release point, while he also has NBA three-point range. His ability to hit shots in a variety of situations if very impressive for a player his age, though there are concerns about how his off-the-dribble shots will translate to the next level against longer, more athletic defenders.

I put those two phrases in bold because it seems Babbitt’s athleticism has always been something of a concern. I wonder — is it because he’s white? Maybe scouts see a white player and automatically start to question his athleticism until proven otherwise.

But Babbitt showed at the combine that he’s every bit the athlete Blake Griffin is, at least according to the numbers. Given his ability to score and basketball IQ, this will make him an interesting name to watch in the first round.

Tanking in the NBA

In a recent chat, ESPN’s Chad Ford supported the idea of tanking (with regard to the Pacers).

The NBA gives them an incentive to do so. If tanking now gives me the chance to win MORE games next year, of course you do it. And I think the fans understand. What do you think Pacers fans want? Another three or four meaningless wins in late March/April or John Wall or Evan Turner?

I don’t disagree with Ford with respect to a team tanking to improve draft position. My problem is with the lottery rules that encourage teams to throw games.

We shouldn’t be rewarding ineptitude. All non-playoff teams should have an equal chance to land the top pick. Maybe the top 6-7 picks are randomly selected and the remaining picks are assigned starting with the worst record. Better yet, the entire lottery should be randomized. Then there would be no incentive to lose.

I suppose fans understand why teams tank, and would rather have John Wall or Evan Turner than a few meaningless wins in March or April, but a dad doesn’t want to take his kid to a game to watch their favorite team try to lose.

It’s just uncouth.

ESPN’s Future NBA Power Rankings

Chad Ford and John Hollinger tag-teamed a piece [Insider subscription required] where they ranked all 30 NBA teams with five criteria — players, management, money, market and draft — with an eye on the future.

The top three were the Blazers, Magic and Lakers. The bottom three were the Bobcats, Bucks and Kings. Here’s the writeup for the Blazers:

On paper, no other team possesses as bright a future as the Portland Trail Blazers. It all starts with the players. Nobody, not even Oklahoma City, can match the stable of young talent the Blazers have built. Brandon Roy is already a superstar, and joining him are potential stars like LaMarcus Aldridge (24), Greg Oden (21, even if he looks more like 51), Nicolas Batum (20) and Martell Webster (22). That doesn’t even count the other assets the Blazers have that could eventually pan out, such as talented second-year benchwarmer Jerryd Bayless and a veritable farm team in Europe that includes Joel Freeland, Petteri Koponen and Victor Claver.

Portland also gets strong grades in other categories. The management under GM Kevin Pritchard has been rock-solid, with the only minor quibble being the decision to draft Oden ahead of Kevin Durant — a decision, one should remember, that all 30 GMs were prepared to make, even if a lot of fans and analysts weren’t. In terms of money, the Blazers have no cap room to speak of for the foreseeable future, but being owned by one of the world’s wealthiest men in a rabid city where sellouts are the norm means the Blazers can comfortably go into luxury tax and beyond should the need arise.

Portland market didn’t score as highly in the market category — witness Hedo Turkoglu’s about-face — as sad, dreary winters, the nation’s highest state taxes and a relative lack of diversity for a major metropolitan area limit its attractiveness to free agents. They stay in the middle of the pack in this category largely due to Allen’s largesse, with first-rate team facilities, and the fact that a lot of players grow to like the place once they’ve been there — it helped bring Steve Blake back, for instance.

The draft is where Portland scored poorly, but even that is a positive in a sense — with such a bright future, it can expect to pick in the mid-to-late 20s in coming seasons.

The feature does a pretty nice job of evaluating how each team is positioned heading into the next five years.

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