Biggest Steals of the 2011 NBA Draft

Whether they’ve begun to produce already or not, there are some notable draft picks in the 2011 NBA Draft that just aren’t getting the attention they deserve. Whether they garnered concern over injury, attended a less-reputable school, or are simply undersized, they all fell, for one reason or another. The question is, who fell for the wrong reasons? Furthermore, who will overcome such and emerge as one of the more memorable picks of this draft? Storm Sports answers those questions below.

JaJuan Johnson, F, Boston Celtics (First Round, Pick 27 from New Jersey Nets)
With the loss of Jeff Green, whether that be for one season or his entire career, JaJuan Johnson’s value has skyrocketed. He was the leader of a very good Purdue team, named Big Ten Player of the Year, and quite frankly, should have been a lottery pick. He can score, rebound, pass, and defend, and he’s a much better fit as the Kevin Garnett’s protege than Green was. While Green may be the better all-around player, Johnson is the more Garnett-esque player, and with the proper guidance from the future Hall of Famer, he should be the Celtics starter for years to come. If his work ethic reaches his talent level, he should be a starter on an All Star team someday.

Jimmy Butler, F, Chicago Bulls (First Round, Pick 30)
The final pick of the First Round was one that people didn’t feel would amount to much. Upon closer examination, one thing can be said to all of those people: if you actually watched Marquette play, you’d know how good this kid is. Butler can do a little bit of everything; he can shoot with decent range, he’s a 75-80% free throw shooter, and is an excellent passer. On the defensive end, Butler is the type of player who knows how to disrupt a team’s rhythm. He has great timing and anticipation thus forcing turnovers, blocking shots, and reading double-teams well enough to re-position himself quickly. Additionally, his rebounding is supreme for his size. He fits right into the Bulls’ defense-first system, and should emerge as one of their key role players by the end of his second year in the league.

Chandler Parsons, F, Houston Rockets (Second Round, Pick 38)
The former Gator has already surpassed expectations, starting games for the Rockets in his first year in the league. He’s shown better-than-expected rebounding, and between he and the Rockets’ First Round choice, Marcus Morris, has been the best of the Rockets’ rookie forwards. Parsons career may not bring him to any All Star Games, but he’ll certainly be a valued Role Player for quite some time if he continues to play with efficiency. The biggest knock on him may be the higher upside of his First Round counterpart.

Darius Morris, PG, Los Angeles Lakers (Second Round, Pick 41)
As the Lakers are desperate to find an improvement at Point Guard, which Storm Sports has suggested from the start, they’ve appeared to be blind to what they possess internally. The former Wolverine is capable of dishing and scoring, something neither Derek Fisher nor Steve Blake has been able to do over the past two seasons. That’s exactly breeding Morris as the Point Guard of their future should start right away. Fisher, who is an excellent leader and as clutch as any, can help Morris hone the intangibles. Blake is a reliable player with great range, thus making him a valuable player in helping Morris develop his shot. While Ramon Sessions is a player who has an upside higher than he’s given credit (Storm Sports projects him to be an All Star if given playing time), Morris is a few years younger and offers the Lakers a home-grown future starter.

Andrew Goudelock, SG, Los Angeles Lakers (Second Round, Pick 46)
For a team with no First Round Draft Picks, the Lakers are turning out to have had one of the best drafts in the league. Goudelock has been the best scorer on the Lakers outside of Kobe, Gasol, and Bynum, reaching double figures in 3 of his past 4 games. Already nicknamed “Mini Mamba” by the Black Mamba himself, Kobe Bryant, Goudelock has shown all the signs of being a lights out shooter. He’s also an intelligent player, which is why he’s been seeing such an increase in playing time. He needs to improve as a passer, and his height at 6’3″ is a concern, but overall, Goudelock is exactly what the Lakers need: a consistent shooter on the wing. He’s proving to be the biggest steal of the draft, thus far, as his talent meets the Lakers needs 100%.

Josh Selby, PG, Memphis Grizzlies (Second Round, Pick 49)
Selby is a freak athlete, one heck of a scorer, and an improving passer. It’s unlikely that the former Jayhawk will ever pry the starting job from Mike Conley, the player the Grizzlies have financially and verbally proclaimed one of the pieces of their future, but he has all the makings of a starter elsewhere. If his production is consistent with his talent, he has all the makings of a Star. Selby should be a valuable asset to the Grizzlies, offering them a solid 1-2 punch off the bench with O.J. Mayo. Supplanting Jeremy Pargo as the backup Point Guard goes a long way to assuring that.

Isaiah Thomas, PG, Sacramento Kings (Second Round, Pick 60)
The last pick in the draft has been playing just as well as any rookie taken before him. Thomas has averaged 18 minutes a night in December, and has reached double-figure scoring in 4 straight games. Over that stretch, Thomas has averaged 12.8 points per game, along with 4.5 assists, 2 rebounds, and 2.3 three-pointers made. He has done well to replace Marcus Thornton, who is out with an injury, and is proving that his talent is much more important than his size disadvantage. The question for Thomas will be whether he’s another Nate Robinson or if he can be a pure Point Guard. While neither are bad, he’s more likely to find success if he can be the latter. So far, he has been.

Article written in full by Maxwell Ogden, lead writer for Storm Sports. All statistics credited to ESPN.

LA Lakers

Kobe’s Twilight

is it over for kobe bryant?Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals served as the final chapter in Kobe Bryant’s Era. This is not an attempt to say the last era or decade or so has been defined by Kobe. Rather, the era when a team could be built successfully around an alpha-dog, double-team-drawing Kobe Bryant has ended.

The Lakers stunning sweep punctuated by an embarrassing elimination game is an indictment of the entire team, not just Bryant, and their problems are numerous and glaring. Despite superior talent in both their playoff series, the Lakers struggled to dispatch a David West-less Hornets squad and were swept by a Mavericks team which, could be argued, had only one of the top five players in the series. In both series, it was a lack of quality, skilled play — not talent — that led to their struggles. With their top talent, the question certainly arises as to whether the Lakers were unable to “flip the switch” and play up to the level of their talent. But can it really be called a switch if it was on so rarely this season?

The Lakers had two great stretch of dominance where it seemed like a three-peat was inevitable. At the beginning of the season, they started 13-2 behind great play by Pau Gasol which put him in early MVP conversations in some circles. And right after the All-Star break, LA went 17-1 behind dominant control of the paint by Andrew Bynum.

The rest of the season was characterized by various losing and winning streaks, inconsistency, and lethargy. More revealing, as noticed by’s J.A. Adande, is that the Lakers’ dominant performances were driven by their big men, not Bryant. Consistently great nights from Bryant, even when he shared the ball and shot a high percentage from the field, were simply not enough for sustained success if not supplemented by significant support from Gasol or Bynum.

Against the Mavericks, neither Gasol nor Bynum really showed up. Either Gasol was in some strange funk for his entire playoff stretch or Carmen Sandiego switched him and his brother Marc without anyone noticing. Bynum played better than Gasol, but only dominated in spurts. In fact, when the Lakers got Bynum involved, like in the first three quarters of Game 3, they found themselves with the lead. However, Bynum also spoke to the media about “trust issues” and finished off the series with a gutless cheap shot on the Mav’s J.J. Barea, the smallest player on the floor. Bynum admitted frustration with Barea’s ability to penetrate the middle played a role in his decision to elbow him in the rib cage, but it remains inexcusable. Furthermore, it was, once again, the Lakers’ inept pick-and-roll defense that allowed Barea to look like John Stockton with a killer first-step to the rim.

Without being flanked by his two rocks in the middle, Bryant was unable to pull out a win, much less a series victory. Bryant did not play poorly in the series – averaging 23.3 point and shooting 46% from the field — but he was not dominant enough to pull out victories. He shot 23% from three-point range and only dished out 2.5 assists per game. More telling about the decline in Bryant’s dominance is found in the shots he took. Out of 83 shot attempts, only 15 were inside of 10 feet. The Maverick’s game plan seemed to be to deny Bryant close range looks and take their chances with Bryant’s jump shots. It worked.

Bryant did not even demand the same respect in crunch time that he once had in his younger days. In the last minute of Game 1, Jason Kidd bodied Bryant at half-court, forcing Bryant into a turnover. For the rest of the game, Kidd refused to give Bryant enough free space for as much as a pivot foot. Jason Kidd is also no spring chicken and the fact that he did not respect Bryant’s first step speaks volumes about how much Bryant’s game has changed. Bryant got a decent look at the end through a well-designed in-bounds play, but the shot was too strong.

In the 2011 playoffs, Bryant actually struggled in the 4th quarter as his shooting percentage dipped to 31%, in large part no doubt, to his inability to get good looks close to the basket and being forced to settle for difficult, mid-range fadeaways with multiple defenders in his face. Perhaps the sprained ankle he suffered against the Hornets was responsible for his increased dependence on jump shots, but that simply seems unlikely when his regular season stats are examined.

Just from a year ago, Bryant’s shot attempts at the rim have dropped from 4.9 to 3.5, while his shots from 3 to 9 feet increased from 2.3 to 3.1 attempts per game. His attempts from 10 to 15 feet dropped from 4.0 to 3.2, while his attempts from 16 to 23 feet held at 6.0. These stats suggest what has been evident from merely watching Bryant: he has lost his signature first step and explosion to the rim that marked his game in his prime, and is forced to settle for more jumpers from greater distance — in this case, shots from 3 to 9 feet, and 16 to 23 feet.

If a team wants to contend for championships, its star player and alpha-dog cannot be as limited on the offensive end of the floor as Bryant has become. In no way should this statement be construed as an assertion that Bryant’s career is over. With modern medicine and his legendary off-season workouts, it seems possible that Bryant can play three to five more productive seasons. But his days as the Lakers’ signature player are over.

With the right mindset, he can reinvent himself as a deadly two guard who can thrive when playing off a new alpha-dog’s double teams. The historical precedent is there as Oscar Roberton playing with Lew Alcindor, and Clyde Drexler playing alongside Hakeem Olajuwon come to mind. It is interesting to draw parallels to the fact that both of these examples involved the aged guard playing with a dominant big man, and the swirling rumors about Dwight Howard’s potential future in a Lakers uniform.

Pau Gasol has already demonstrated that he is incapable of being an alpha-dog and Bynum’s young age, bad knees, and shaky mental state inspire more questions than hope. If the Lakers land either Howard or another bona fide alpha dog to play with Bryant, the possibility of future titles certainly remains. However, it requires Bryant’s willingness to relinquish his time as the unquestioned star of the team and yield dominance of the league to players with fresher knees.

Boston Celtics

On the Fence (‘Cause Not to Offend)

By Ryan McGowan

“Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” Obi-Wan Kenobi, Revenge of the Sith.

I hate when one of my teams makes a big trade.  If only because I’m pretty much guaranteed to want to poke my ears out after a few days of listening to the reactions on sports radio, especially when said trade happens in the dog days of February when the only other option for discussion is whether the Red Sox will start Felix Doubront or Stolmy Pimental in the exhibition opener against the BC Eagles.


“The Decision” and Why LeBron is a Loser (Before the Special)

[NOTE: Of course, everything in this column might be completely moot by 10:00 EDT tonight.  The author reserves the right to say “I told you so” but also to backtrack 100% in case of something completely unforeseen.]

By Ryan McGowan

There’s only one word to describe tonight’s “The Decision”—embarrassing.

Freaking embarrassing.

Boston Celtics

A Requiem for a Team

By Ryan McGowan

The last three years were more than I ever would have hoped for on May 22, 2007, when I sat down at my old Brighton house on Newton Street to watch the NBA draft lottery.

At the time, we Celtics fans were hoping for the mathematical near-certainty of landing at least one of the top two picks, widely expected to be Ohio State center Greg Oden or Texas phenom Kevin Durant.  When the ping-pong balls fell in the other direction, landing the Celtics at #5 and the Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle SuperSonics at 1 and 2, the collective chests of Celtic Nation breathed a huge sigh of disappointment.

Another crappy year gone.  Another hopeless offseason coming up.  And certainly another year without a banner, 22 and counting since perhaps the greatest Celtic team ever ramrodded the Association for Banner #16 in 1986.

Boston Celtics

18 and Life

By Ryan McGowan

Dave Cowens, #18 himself, said it best on Friday night.

“Go out there on behalf of the NBA and Red Auerbach and all Celtics present and past,” he said, as he presented the Eastern Conference championship trophy to Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck, “and bring home No. 18.’’

Philadelphia 76ers

Dual Albatrosses doom Sixers future

It was right there for the taking. Or the shaking, if you will. The Sixers, the fans, the organization — so close to shedding the dead weight of Samuel Dalembert and Andre Iguodala’s contracts — and Ed Stefanski let it get away.

There is no guarantee the deal was in place and that Houston would have pulled the trigger, but there certainly was every indication that the Rockets were seriously considering taking Iguodala and Dalembert in exchange for McGrady and trade filler. No matter what it took, this deal should have been made. But Stefanski in his stubbornness (or is it lame-duckness) refused to trade for anything other than players to improve the team this year.

In the end, this last obstinate stroke will be the final nail in the Stefanski era in Philadelphia, one mired in mediocrity and miscalculation.  Unlike most,  I don’t fault Stefanski for the Elton Brand deal. But his refusal to own up to his mistakes and wipe the slate clean for the organization, whether for himself or the next GM, will be what ultimately makes his tenure one that is, and this is hard to fathom, worse than the one helmed by Billy King.

NBA General

Rogue Commissioner: NBA’s David Stern

By Diane M. Grassi

“Considering the fact that so many state governments – probably between 40 and 50 – don’t consider it immoral, I don’t think that anyone should. It may be a little immoral because in reality it is a tax on the poor; the lotteries. But having said that, it’s now a matter of national policy. Gambling is good.”

No, that high profile quote is not attributable to a member of the U.S. Congress, a state governor nor other public official or public figure. Most people had no clue who said it until it was published on December 11, 2009 in a Sports Illustrated interview that writer, Ian Thomsen, had with National Basketball Association (NBA) Commissioner, David Stern. In it, Stern reveals that his stance on legalized sports betting has softened.


2009 NBA Draft and Trade Grades & Analysis

This draft wasn’t top heavy in talent, but it did provide for some interesting prospects for some teams and some blockbuster deals.

The report cards are in.

Here are the winners, losers, and everyone in between.


Breaking Down The NBA Draft

by Trevor Freeman

Ahhhh…..the NBA Draft is almost upon us. The convergence of college and pro that makes for some of the most riveting television of the year. While this year’s draft is considered to be the worst one in years (mainly because a staggering amount of college stars opted to stay in school), it should still be an experience that requires the setting of Tivo and the purchase of Yuengling. As is a yearly tradition, we have put together our mock draft. We begin with a franchise that is desperate for a true superstar…

With the first pick in the 2009 NBA Draft the Los Angeles Clippers select…