NBA Draft Primer: Why Ingram over Simmons is the correct call

Very few would have believed back in October that LSU’s season would end on March 12th. The date of LSU’s swan song wasn’t so much astonishing as the manner in which it occurred. The Tigers effectively wrote their own eulogy with blowout losses at the hands of Tennessee and Arkansas down the gut of the season, but it doesn’t get much more embarrassing than what transpired in the SEC Tournament Semifinals against Texas A&M. 13 first half points. 19% shooting. A 71-38 drubbing was perhaps the most fitting capstone to a Ben Simmons era that had come and gone quicker than you can say “NCAA Tournament.” Countless analysts and experts throughout the college basketball season were broken records in stating that they have no problem with Ben Simmons failing to lead a team to an NCAA Tournament berth, citing his undeniable talent as what trumps any of his team’s ultimate struggles. Yes, the skill for his size is tantalizing. His offensive game is very present-day LeBron-ish. Transcendent vision, relatively poor outside shooting, almost all damage done in the paint, supreme dexterity at the rim. The LeBron comparisons have been surrounding him for quite some time. For such a can’t-miss prospect, missing the postseason is simply intolerable, and the history of NBA top picks would agree. So why now are exceptions being made?

Just as obvious as Simmons’ basketball talent is the reasoning behind LSU not nearly approaching its expectations. Simmons was mantled with plenty of surrounding talent to pilot a formidable basketball team. NBA caliber guards Tim Quarterman and Antonio Blakeney and ex-top 100 prospect Craig Victor were augmentations to the centerpiece. Teams often take on the personality of their indubitable best player. It might be harsh to plant all the blame on one man’s shoulders, as a handful of his teammates underperformed, but Simmons wore his poor values on his sleeve throughout his time in school. He had absolutely zero interest in defending, and his matador defense repeatedly led to uncontested layups or careless swipes at the ball and foul trouble. Insistence on flashiness rather than completing the simple play repeatedly led to careless turnovers. Carelessness off the court frankly had me shocked he was still eligible. “Careless” is the common thread, and it is an accurate summary of what Ben Simmons stands for, trickling down to his teammates as well. The Tigers weren’t even competitive in several of their losses. Rumors of a potential $100 million shoe deal swirled as LSU played games critical to their at-large hopes, but that did not bother Ben Simmons, because “at-large” was not in his vocabulary. As flattering as every LeBron James and Magic Johnson comparison may be, the reality is winning is not important to Ben Simmons, and that couldn’t be more obvious. Meanwhile, in Durham, NC, a perennial powerhouse program was faced with a set of obstacles that neither Mercer, nor Lehigh, nor an Eric Maynor dagger could even provide. The Duke Blue Devils were pressed into playing six for the vast majority of the 2015-16 season, including 38 minutes nightly from the least-heralded Plumlee. In spite of the roadblocks, Duke quietly managed a collection of noteworthy wins and another Sweet 16 appearance. Along the way, a once gangly incoming freshman physically matured and improved with each passing day.

A tale of two teams. Questions of NCAA Tournament participation surrounded them at approximately the same juncture. LSU folded the tent, Duke dug itself out of a 4-4 ACC hole, a mirror image of the case on our hands as the NBA Draft approaches. Brandon Ingram’s off-the-charts character dwarfs that of Ben Simmons, but analyzing the two from a purely prospect standpoint makes the idea of Simmons as the consensus top pick even more puzzling. Ingram already scores efficiently at all three levels, most notably a 41% shooter from beyond the arc, and with further added strength he will only get better at the rim. Conversely, the dexterously-confused Simmons attempted a grand total of 45 jump shots in 33 games (12% of his shot attempts), sinking just 14 (31%). Applause for understanding one’s own limitations, but a jumper that is broken beyond repair does not bode well at the next level. Clogged lanes forced awkward shots and a preference to defer, and that defensive gameplan will be amplified by the remainder of the NBA. While scoring in a half court setting is largely a foreign language for Simmons, Ingram thrives, just as he does in transition, with a deft ability to create his own shot and a superb middle game.

The NBA has such an infatuation with age. The late-blooming Ingram is 10 months younger than Simmons, not turning 19 until September. The NBA, additionally, has an infatuation with length, and justifiably so. Length can solve a lot of issues and make up for a lot of shortcomings. It cannot be taught. It translates to the professional level. Ingram has it. Simmons doesn’t. Ingram puts that physical gift to good use on both ends of the floor. Length alone allowed him to consistently finish through contact in the paint at Duke, finishing either over defenders or contorting and scoring at unusual angles.

IngramAnd1

The same category of contested shots were largely missed by Simmons, hindered by average length and no shooting touch to write home about. With plenty of room and time to fill out his frame, some strength to complement Inspector Gadget arms would transform Ingram into an indefensible offensive juggernaut, able to score from anywhere on the floor and appropriating the Kevin Durant comparisons. Shear length comes in handy, perhaps even more so, on the defensive end of the floor, contesting and blocking shots and distorting passing lanes. Ingram was able to wreak havoc in such a way, averaging 1.3 steals and 1.6 blocks per 40 minutes. The Duke star put that on full display in a matchup with Utah, a team with plenty of size, at Madison Square Garden, blocking three shots and collecting three steals. We can see an example of his length leading to defensive playmaking in post defense against the Utes’ Kyle Kuzma, a 2017 NBA Draft prospect.

IngramBlock

Still relatively frail, Ingram may get outmuscled, but his length makes amends. Again, the inevitability of adding to his frame will only aid Ingram in his quest to become a two-way star.

The NBA, above all, has an infatuation with versatility. Playing multiple positions. Defending multiple positions. Stuffing stat sheets. Simmons, as a triple-double waiting to happen, is oftentimes seen as synonymous with that word. Overlooked is the notion that Ingram is actually the one that checkmarks all the boxes. With Duke being devoid of a competent true point guard this past season, Ingram was, in fact, pressed into some point guard duties while playing center in other lineups. In the NBA, he will likely be able to line up anywhere from 1-4. I have focused much of my energy on Ingram’s scoring proficiency, but his versatility extends to every important aspect of the game. The assist numbers aren’t that gaudy, accumulating a respectable 2.3 per 40 minutes, but Ingram showed flashes as a passer on several occasions throughout the season. Duke had no choice but to play small given their personnel, spacing the floor with shooters and hiding Marshall Plumlee behind the defense for lobs and dump-offs. This system was tailor-made for a player of Ingram’s skillset and is very comparable to what he will be seeing next year. With each game, Ingram became more adept at reading defenses on the fly in Duke’s dribble-drive/drive-and-kick scheme, making the simple play by either kicking out to shooters or pocket passes/dump-offs underneath when bigs helped up like so:

IngramPass

Unlike his counterpart, Ingram never tries to do too much and has shown he brings more than merely scoring to the table. His defensive potential, however, may be the true goldmine in terms of his versatility. Ingram’s aforementioned length will prove to be very disruptive and will allow him to guard power forwards, but devious quickness provides the element of the ability to defend opponents’ point guards. Here, we see Ingram on a switch matched up with NC State’s Cat Barber, one of the quickest players in all of college basketball.

IngramD

Ingram is able to keep Barber in front for an extended amount of time and forces him into a difficult contested runner. You could sift through hours of Ben Simmons film and won’t find a single instance where he showed the willingness to compete like this nor the desire to prove he can guard at all. Concerning defense, Ingram is in a completely different hemisphere than Simmons, and character and general effort, not to mention a more diverse offensive game, are the separating factors firmly placing the Duke product ahead of the Australian lefty.

The Philadelphia 76ers (AT LAST!) will be making the first selection in the 2016 NBA Draft on June 23rd, and all signs point towards them taking Ben Simmons. This has forced me to ask if I am missing something, because this selection defies all of my logic. It’s almost like Hinkie is still running the show.

Hinkie

Simmons has stated he would have no issue playing in Philadelphia, which I am not buying. It is no secret Los Angeles is his ideal destination. Do the Sixers have a real shot at retaining him beyond his rookie contract? The man with his eyes fixated on the League the second he set foot on campus in Baton Rouge. The man fixated on the dollar. The man fixated on flashiness. The man fixated on looking cool. The man who wouldn’t get in a defensive stance if his life depended on it. That’s who will be chosen. The Sixers have now finished dead last in offensive efficiency for three consecutive seasons. Is it really a good idea to infuse an utterly anemic offense with another non-shooter? Philadelphia will be building their franchise around this #1 pick. It is far easier to build around the two-way player, but

Kermit

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Milwaukee Bucks #1 Offseason Priority: Regain the Culture

We are not too far removed from the Milwaukee Bucks being one of the hottest commodities in basketball for the first time in over a decade. In the constant search for something fresh and unique, the Bucks were an obvious attractant for the hoops junkie. A 26-win turnaround and competitive playoff series with rival Chicago completed the perfect storm, and Milwaukee was again on the basketball map. Fans of the Association gravitated towards a literal “freak” unlike anything the game has ever seen, a highly-touted college superstar at Duke, analytics god Khris Middleton, and a head coach still better known for his days as a top player of the generation prior. Many, however, failed to properly recognize the true driving forces behind the scenes that could only explain this borderline-miraculous transformation. You don’t find 26 more wins overnight. Enough young talent was accumulated on the roster to compete on a nightly basis, but to materialize such an improvement, direction was necessary. Scilicet, a complete identity overhaul was vital to rejuvenating “Fear the Deer.” The ’14-’15 Bucks can be added to the laundry list of examples proving the best route to success is an impeccable blend of youth and experience. Said experience is, in large part, what injected a defensive identity, a winning culture into an annually middling small market franchise. Two players, Jared Dudley and Zaza Pachulia, can be specifically pinpointed as the most responsible. Dudley, the talker, the corner-pocket three marksman, very much acted as an extension of the coaching staff, being the undisputed vocal leader and communicating Jason Kidd’s defensive principles. Pachulia, the bruiser, the imposing Eastern European presence, embodied the idea of actions speaking louder than words, providing an excellent example of how the game of basketball should be played. The fingerprints of these two wily veterans were all over this team. They were the glue of the NBA’s #2 defense (99.3), the calling card of the 6-seed in the Eastern Conference. With a defense predicated on length, blitzing ball screens, and rotations and switching almost like clockwork, the likes of Dudley and Pachulia were ideal to fill in the gaps.

So what happened? 2015-16 saw a regression many felt was unforeseen due to justified through-the-roof optimism in the offseason. Yet, seemingly every transaction during the 2015 offseason proved to be counterproductive to the strides made just months prior. Dudley and Pachulia were gone, dealt for essentially nothing. A 2017 first rounder and the pick to be used on Norman Powell were shipped in exchange for Greivis Vasquez, a miserable failure to put it lightly. And of course the big splash. Milwaukee had established itself as a destination. They outdueled New York and Los Angeles for a name free agent, an unprecedented development. The Greg Monroe signing was the final domino to fall, and the Milwaukee Bucks bandwagon was standing room only. The theme of these moves, all in all, was opting for more scoring, the next natural step in the team’s progression. Not taken into account, however, was the defense expended with the acquisition of scoring. Defensive efficiency ballooned to 105.7 in ’15-‘16, good for 22nd in the NBA, while scoring continued to lag behind. Monroe became a clear non-fit just about three games into the season. The ability to switch wasn’t as rampant. Rotations were slow. Pace was down. Monroe’s back-to-the-basket ability did not outweigh his slow-as-molasses lateral movement on D and vertical just high enough to slide a piece of Dunder Mifflin cardstock underneath his shoes. The personnel changes, overall, prevented Milwaukee from successfully duplicating the previous season’s defensive scheme, forcing Monroe to spend more and more time on the bench, rendering his presumed added scoring punch on the other end of the floor mute. This decline begs the question to be asked: Were the Bucks too quick to pull the trigger? Was the overachievement of ’14-’15 actually a setback? When a small market franchise is presented with a golden opportunity to make a statement in free agency, it should undoubtedly be pursued, so I fully condone the premise of the Monroe signing. Sometimes it’s okay to count losses, admit mistakes, and move on, which I hope is our final chapter in the cautionary tale of Greg Monroe.

For the Milwaukee Bucks, nevertheless, “moving on” should mean hearkening back to what once worked. As one of the NBA’s smallest markets, flashiness in free agency is not a plausible route to sustained success. A gritty, defensive-minded, winning culture was lost with the departures of Dudley and Pachulia, and the effects were far more drastic than I had anticipated. Re-establishing defense as the organization’s cornerstone must be the only approach to the 2016 offseason. With Antetokounmpo and Parker max contracts likely in the very near future and a Monroe trade potentially handcuffing Milwaukee with another bad contract in exchange (or just Monroe himself), cheap options on the market will be prioritized. A few impending free agents fit the bill and would allow the Bucks to defend the way they want to, replicating what Dudley and Pachulia provided and then some. Let’s take a look.

Ian Mahinmi

In the 2016 free agent class, Ian Mahinmi is just about the closest thing to a Zaza Pachulia clone as the real thing. Mahinmi, 29, did have, by far, the best season of his career in a contract year, and that may raise a red flag. However, ’15-’16 was his first real opportunity to strut his stuff, starting all 71 of the games he appeared in for a playoff team that took the Toronto Raptors to the brink. Mahinmi’s interior defense was a huge reason why Indiana was just minutes shy of pulling off the first round upset, and was instrumental in a Game 4 blowout victory with a 22 point, 10 rebound, 5 assist performance. Mahinmi as a defensive stalwart is not a new development. A 3.6% block rate places Mahinmi at about the 85th percentile, and a 2.8 defensive +/- at approximately the 95th percentile, so this is no secret. As a very viable rim protector, Mahinmi can bring an improved offensive game and physicality to the table. His style mirrors that of Pachulia, and he’d likely even be able to provide greater production, making the pursuit of this unrestricted free agent a no-brainer.

Ian Clark

Clark has been a favorite of mine since his college days. A 4-year starter, pure scorer, and standout defensive player for Belmont, one of the best mid-major programs in college basketball, Clark burst onto the scene as the 2013 NBA Summer League MVP with some dazzling performances, including 33 points in the championship game. It must say something about his ability that he was able to find a role on the best team in NBA history this season, albeit relatively tame. Clark, a 6-3 combo guard, showcased glimpses of his scoring knack throughout the season, specifically in Golden State’s first round series with Houston when thrust into action. He would be able to offer some spacing and creative ways to score to a Bucks team thirsting for some shooting, but it’s what Clark provides on the defensive end that makes him even more of a sensible free agent target. The 2013 Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year has provided endless energy off the bench for Golden State, annoyingly pressuring ballhandlers and using quick hands and outstanding anticipation defensively to his advantage. We can see evidence of this here, stripping James Harden leading to a layup on the other end.

IanClark.gif

Clark, of course, would see an increased role in a Bucks uniform, a selling point that probably a handful of suitors will have as he is likely to be a sneakily sought-after commodity. As a restricted free agent, Golden State, who is currently paying him less than $1 million, would have the opportunity to match any offer. Yet, Clark makes too much sense, and could see a rise similar to that of Cory Joseph in terms of moving from a limited role on a perennial contender to a greater role leading to greater production. He would have the potential to be a sparkplug scorer and pesky backcourt defender off the bench as a Buck.

Matthew Dellavedova

Speaking of pesky, that may in fact be Matthew Dellavedova’s middle name, and I have about 29 NBA point guards that agree with me. Dellavedova plays with the exact edge and tenacity that the Bucks were lacking. Not only would his play style fill a void, but Milwaukee would also be able to offer a more solidified role as a third guard or perhaps even a starter. Like Clark, Delly is restricted, but obtaining the ideal man for regaining the culture would be worth outbidding the Cavs, which I’m sure wouldn’t be terribly difficult given their cap situation. Dellavedova’s defense is well-renowned, introducing himself to the world with shutdown performances on the MVP in Games 2 and 3 of last year’s NBA Finals. In addition, Delly would give Milwaukee a threat from deep, and the Bucks now know too well the perils of having a non-shooter at point guard. Free from the presence of LeBron, Delly, still only 25, would be able to show his true colors as a voice on the floor, another critical missing piece for Milwaukee. When he’s on the other side, he is easily one of the most hateable players in basketball. But when he’s banking in wrong-foot floaters and diving on loose balls up by 25 for you, you cannot help but love the man.

2016 NFL 2-Round Mock Draft

On the eve of the eve of the draft, we release our consensus 2016 NFL Mock Draft. This did not come without turmoil or incendiary picks. The rules are simple. We each alternate making picks, selecting based upon what we would do as general manager in that situation. Thanks to Deflategate, we each have an equal number of selections this year. Miggy kicks it off with the first overall pick. Jack landed the Packers this year, in both the first and second rounds. I was originally indifferent to when I picked in the order but quickly regretted this after being saddled with the Bears, Vikings, AND Seahawks. No matter, I claimed Waukesha’s finest at 59 overall. Let’s get to it.

Round 1

 

  1. Los Angeles Rams (f/TEN) (Miggy) – Jared Goff, QB, California   

 

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (f/CLE) (Swit) – Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State

 

  1. San Diego Chargers (Jack) – Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State

 

  1. Dallas Cowboys (Miggy) – Joey Bosa, DL, Ohio State

 

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars (Swit) – Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida

 

  1. Baltimore Ravens (Jack) – Laremy Tunsil, T, Ole Miss

 

  1. San Francisco 49ers (Miggy) – DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon

 

  1. Cleveland Browns (f/PHI via MIA) (Swit) – Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

 

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Jack) – Leonard Floyd, OLB/DE, Georgia

 

  1. New York Giants (Miggy) – Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

 

  1. Chicago Bears (Swit) – Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

 

  1. New Orleans Saints (Jack) – Jack Conklin, OL, Michigan State

 

  1. Miami Dolphins (f/PHI) (Miggy) – William Jackson III, CB, Houston

 

  1. Oakland Raiders (Swit) – Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame

 

  1. Tennessee Titans (f/LA) (Jack) – Kendall Fuller, DB, Virginia Tech

 

  1. Detroit Lions (Miggy) – Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama

 

  1. Atlanta Falcons (Swit) – A’Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama

 

  1. Indianapolis Colts (Jack) – Noah Spence, DE/OLB, Eastern Kentucky

 

  1. Buffalo Bills (Miggy) – Sheldon Rankins, DL, Louisville

 

  1. New York Jets (Swit) – Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State

 

  1. Washington Redskins (Jack) – Andrew Billings, DL, Baylor

 

  1. Houston Texans (Miggy) – Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor

 

  1. Minnesota Vikings (Swit) – Josh Doctson, WR, TCU

 

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (Jack) – Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

 

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers (Miggy) – Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State

 

  1. Seattle Seahawks (Swit) – Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State

 

  1. Green Bay Packers (Jack) – Vernon Butler, DL, Louisiana Tech

 

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (Miggy)  Jarran Reed, DL, Alabama

 

  1. Arizona Cardinals (Swit) – Kamalei Correa, OLB, Boise State

 

  1. Carolina Panthers (Jack) – Kevin Dodd, OLB/DE, Clemson

 

  1. Denver Broncos (Miggy) – Cody Whitehair, OL, Kansas State

 

Round 2

  1. Cleveland Browns (Swit) – Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State

 

  1. Tennessee Titans (Jack) – Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame

 

  1. Dallas Cowboys (Miggy) – Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia
  2. San Diego Chargers (Swit) –  Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Mississippi

 

  1. Baltimore Ravens (Jack) – Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson

 

  1. San Francisco 49ers (Miggy) – Jason Spriggs, OL, Indiana

 

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars (Swit) – Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama

 

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Jack) – Keanu Neal, S, Florida

 

  1. New York Giants (Miggy) – Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma

 

  1. Chicago Bears (Swit) – Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State

 

  1. Miami Dolphins (Jack) – Emmanuel Ogbah, DE/OLB, Oklahoma State

 

  1. Tennessee Titans (Miggy) – Germain Ifedi, OL, Texas A&M

 

  1. Oakland Raiders (Swit) – Darian Thompson, S, Boise State

 

  1. Tennessee Titans (Jack) – Jon Bullard, DL, Florida

 

  1. Detroit Lions (Miggy) – Artie Burns, CB, Miami (FL)

 

  1. New Orleans Saints (Swit) – Kenny Clark, DL, UCLA

 

  1. Indianapolis Colts (Jack) – Xavien Howard, CB, Baylor

 

  1. Buffalo Bills (Miggy) – Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

 

  1. Atlanta Falcons (Swit) – Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas

 

  1. New York Jets (Jack) – Chris Jones, DL, Mississippi State

 

  1. Houston Texans (Miggy) – Bronson  Kaufusi, DL/OLB, BYU

 

  1. Washington Redskins (Swit) – Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama

 

  1. Minnesota Vikings (Jack) – Justin Simmons, S, Boston College

 

  1. Cincinnati Bengals (Miggy) – Adolphus Washington, DL, Ohio State

 

  1. Seattle Seahawks (Swit) – Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State

 

  1. Green Bay Packers (Jack) – Yannick Ngakoue, DE/OLB, Maryland

 

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers (Miggy) – Su’a Cravens, LB/S, USC

 

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (Swit) – Joe Schobert, LB, Wisconsin

 

  1. New England Patriots (Jack) – Eric Murray, CB, Minnesota

 

  1. New England Patriots (Miggy) – Shilique Calhoun, DE/OLB, Michigan State

 

  1. Carolina Panthers (Swit) – Taveze Calhoun, CB, Mississippi State

 

  1. Denver Broncos (Jack) – Le’Raven Clark, OL, Texas Tech

Villanova’s remarkable title run reiterates that statistics is king

 

Jenkins

Now there’s two.

Lorenzo Charles. Kris Jenkins. Just two of the 78 NCAA Division I National Championship Games have ended in game-winning buzzer beater fashion. Charles’ tip slam as time expired in 1983 capped one of the most improbable championship runs in basketball history. That run, however, was fueled by NC State’s ball-control offense, capitalizing on the lack of a shot clock, and Jim Valvano’s fouling tactics, combining to form a style that would be considered unbearable to watch by today’s standards. Monday night, on the other hand, provided the nation with quite possibly the very best of those 78 title games, a game that simply had everything. Kris Jenkins carving out a place in college basketball lore. A halftime buzzer beater. Turnaround fadeaways along the baseline were consistently buried. Phil Booth went bananas. A 28-26 score over the final 10 minutes of the game. Am I missing something? Oh yeah, Marcus Paige made this:

Paige

All of this exquisite shot-making took place in a stadium notorious for its negative impact on shooting. Simply put, Monday night was an unprecedented rollercoaster of emotions, whether you had a vested interest or not.

After the confetti fluttered and the dust settled, the Villanova Wildcats were hoisting their program’s second National Championship trophy, and the nation had seemed to forgive and forget their recent tournament transgressions. Winning a National Championship, of course, will unfailingly quell the wrath of the naysayers, but let’s take a trip down memory lane. Since reaching the Final Four in 2009, the Wildcats had repeatedly endured postseason struggle. As a 2-seed in 2010, Scottie Reynolds played his final college basketball game in the 2nd round as his team was toppled by 10-seeded St. Mary’s. A 2-seed again in 2014, Villanova was denied the second weekend by Shabazz Napier. A year later, they suffered the same fate, this time more unforgivingly as the top seed in the East Region. Resultantly, Villanova basketball had understandably developed a bad reputation among college basketball fans and became the butt of the joke somewhat. I am certainly not condoning losing in the 2nd round in three consecutive tournaments as a top two seed. Yet we should further delve into the context of the situation, particularly looking at the previous two seasons. Nova ran into a buzzsaw in 2014. They lost to UConn, the eventual national champions, and if you watched that game you’d understand that nothing could have been done about Shabazz Napier continuously sinking 25-footers as the shot clock expired. With just two losses on the season entering the 2015 Tournament, the Wildcats bowed out at the hands of NC State, a very talented team whose combination of size and ability to make difficult shots allowed the Wolfpack to match up with anyone in college basketball. Both of these losses I would consider respectable. However, as Villanova’s 2016 regular season unfolded in a similarly excellent fashion, the Wildcats were disregarded in any title contender conversation.

The pertinence of this Villanova situation to statistics does not involve a complex array of numbers, but rather an unpretentious answer. The phrase “they’re due” isn’t widely used for no reason. It makes sense. People believe in it. It’s the everyday actualization of the statistical principle that governs every aspect of the world, the Law of Large Numbers. The formal definition of the Law of Large Numbers is as follows: “a principle of probability and statistics which states that as a sample size grows, its mean will get closer and closer to the average of the whole population” (Investopedia). Essentially, the Law of Large Numbers states that everything will converge to its average, converge to the way it’s supposed to be. Sports can be the most tangible evidence of this, and Villanova is a case in point. While sports are governed by statistics, they can also defy statistics at the same time, such as an underdog’s star individual (Shabazz Napier), or a favorite’s inexperience or immaturity. Villanova, as a favorite and a program with strong values and upperclassmen-laden teams, did not portray this over the past three seasons, leading me to believe they were a team that was met with tough luck and plagued by single-elimination circumstance. They were simply too consistent and too good of a team to faceplant in the NCAA Tournament three consecutive seasons. They’re due.

The more important statistical development that allowed Villanova’s run to come to fruition, however, occurred within the 2016 season itself. The Wildcats’ first matchup with Oklahoma seemed to re-establish the college basketball universe’s general consensus on Nova. They couldn’t survive 14 Sooner threes, lost 78-55, and were dismissed as “same old Nova.” That said, how much do we read into an early December game played in Hawaii? The imperative stat of Villanova’s dismal night was their 3-point shooting, going 4-32 (12.5%) from beyond the arc. Miserable outside shooting was not an isolated incident for Villanova during the 2015-16 regular season, especially early. They unusually struggled as a collective unit to make outside jumpers and were below the national 3-point percentage average for a good portion of the regular season. The likes of Josh Hart, Ryan Arcidiacono, and Kris Jenkins toiled around 33% from distance during that period. Hart was a 47% three-point shooter in 2014-15, Arcidiacono 37%, with an improved percentage every year of his college career, and Jenkins 39% and one of the prettiest strokes in all of the land. Judging from these individuals and Villanova as a team over the previous two seasons, these were merely too good of shooters to maintain such a percentage through an entire season. In spite of this, though, Villanova continued to quietly win basketball games. Aided largely by their suffocating perimeter defense and an outrageous 2-point shooting percentage (went 28-32 from 2 in January against Creighton), Villanova suffered only two losses before the tide began to turn. With this defense as a constant, what was going to happen when they started to hit shots? Percentages were going to converge to the mean. Shots were going to fall at a high rate. The Law of Large Numbers said so.

No coach in the country spends more practice time on sound shooting mechanics than Jay Wright. In a loss at Virginia just two weeks following the Oklahoma disaster, Villanova scored 75 points on 60 possessions (1.25 PPP), a noteworthy performance masked by the result. In Big East play, the Wildcats showcased they were capable of explosive performances, burying 13 of 25 (52%) from deep on New Year’s Eve against Xavier and 16 of 29 (55.2%) on February 3rd against Creighton, progressing the percentages toward the mean. A general rule of thumbs in statistics is that a sample size of 30 necessary to generalize findings to the population. Therefore, it is no coincidence that this was the approximate number of games played when the true Villanova began to manifest itself. By the time the NCAA Tournament arrived, Villanova was a runaway train, steamrolling four of their six tourney opponents. We may never see a tournament shooting performance as dazzling as Nova’s. In six tournament games, the Wildcats shot 58.2% from the field and 50% from distance, topping out with a purely maddening 71% in the National Semifinal against, fittingly, Oklahoma. When it was all said and done, Villanova, a team whose 3-point percentage sat at about 33% for 15 or so games, finished the 2015-16 campaign at a more predictable 36.2%, good for 105th in Division I. The shooting arrived. The other qualities never left. The perfect storm culminated in reaching the pinnacle of college basketball.

Maybe the extended poor shooting stretch was a blessing in disguise. Villanova was overlooked, forgotten, and never considered. Most would’ve thought that a Villanova pick was extremely outside-the-box, but in reality it required merely simple reasoning and intuition. In a season marked by no defined best team, we should have seen this coming. Who had the fewest road losses in the country? Villanova. Who played 13 of their games as the #1 ranked team in KenPom, by far the most in the nation? Villanova. Who had the nature of statistics on their side? Villanova. Who won the National Championship? You bet.

State of the Milwaukee Brewers Address

150 days.

150 flippin’ days the Milwaukee Brewers sat atop the National League Central Division. 150 days of #BruceLeeFocus. 150 days of looking like an October lock. 150 days of

We all have had bad days…the days where absolutely everything goes wrong. Try a bad month, a bad 40 days. I guess I can’t provide a better analogy for the Brewers’ catastrophic September because the collapse was something of unspeakable ridiculousness. So soon enough, the wheels came off. October aspirations were derailed by an almost unprecedented collective offensive slump and an 11-25 finish to the season. The Milwaukee Brewers could do no right. Hitting with runners in scoring position was a foreign language. Surely, that would be one of the biggest pitfalls of a team that at times struggled to put the ball in play and swung at unhittable pitches, and had the postseason been reached, an early exit most likely would have been in order for the very same reasons. But postseason baseball is indescribable, and unearthing memories from 2008 and 2011 will never cease to bring goosebumps. The 2014 Milwaukee Brewers had every opportunity to be mentioned in the same breath as those teams, but failed, dare I say, pathetically. When such a collapse of epic proportions occurs, the finger-pointing, of course, ensues. Maybe Ron Roenicke allowed the clubhouse to grow a little too loose. Possibly there was something in-house we did not know of. Or maybe, just maybe, this was an average baseball team the entire time whose ice cold September was evened out by a scorching hot April? The latter is the correct answer if you’re playing along. In regard to the team’s prospects for the 2015 season, I foolishly dwelled on 150 days, figuring the Crew could ride hunger and a number of contract years to the promised land. Instead? The collapse parlayed into 2015, Kyle Lohse and Aramis Ramirez effectively wrote their career eulogies, and the season was over seemingly before it began, which basically left Brewers fans awaiting the end of July since almost Opening Day. A depleted Major League team. A depleted Minor League system. Here we are. It’s August. The deed of selling is partially done, with more deals to come during the month’s waiver period and/or this upcoming winter. The final days of July provided Brewers fans their first sliver of optimism in nearly a calendar year. Four deadline trades garnered a seven-prospect return, two of which we will see in September, with Doug Melvin not settling for less than high upside guys at minimum. The uninformed fans were upset with specifically the Carlos Gomez trade. The intelligent fans understand the process. If you were happy with what was accomplished at the deadline, good, you should be. Replenishment of the farm system was necessary for survival. Every organization, every sport goes through a rebuilding phase. Everything is cyclical. It’s the Brewers turn, so why not embrace it? Who’s ready for nightly minor league scoreboard watching?

The headliner deal, of course, saw Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers, better known by OOWF as Miguel Fuegos, shipped to Houston in exchange for a four-prospect haul, highlighted by the then-#2 prospect in a deep Astros farm system, outfielder Brett Phillips. Gomez, who hits free agency following the 2016 season, was effectively dealt for his replacement. Phillips, whom many prognosticators see as the prize of the trade, is described as being a potential five-tool player at the Major League level, although not as toolsy as GoGo. However, with greater discipline and overall balance in Phillips’ favor, his big league production should match that of Carlos Gomez, but let’s pump the brakes. We’re a few years away. The present-day benefits from this blockbuster swap lie in acquired Dominican slugger Domingo Santana (yes, another outfielder). Brewers fans should look forward to seeing Santana’s bat in the lineup a good bit in the month of September. He has already seen two Major League stints in his career, one of which was an 0-19 faceplant in 2014. Don’t fret, his 2015 punch-in with Houston was much more successful. Signed as a 16 year-old by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009, Santana, now 23, was the player-to-be-named-later in the 2011 deal sending Hunter Pence to the City of Brotherly Love. He was, in fact, somehow accidentally given to Houston (Whaddup, Ruben Amaro?). I digress. Santana has since developed into a mammoth of a human being with monster power. In today’s era of baseball in which on-base propensity is king and the strikeout is viewed as simply another out, Domingo seems to fit right in. At the time of his callup with Houston this season, Santana led AAA in walks. His production at AAA Colorado Springs has picked up right where it left off with the Astros organization. Yet, he is the owner of an alarmingly high strikeout rate (near 30%), which leaves his range of what he could mature into anywhere from Jermaine Dye to Wily Mo Pena. No matter. Optimism is what we seek. Phillips and Santana present exactly that.

Surely everyone would have liked Doug Melvin to acquire more pitching at his final trade deadline at the helm of the Milwaukee Brewers, as seemingly every other deadline deal was centered on young arms (how fitting Melvin’s greatest rewards were position players), but the Brewers didn’t whiff. The second prospect we should see in September is Zach Davies, bartered for the red-hot Gerardo Parra. From the outside looking in, there are things that stand out about Davies, positive and negative. It is difficult to ignore his glaringly slight Big Time Timmy Jim-esque stature at 6’0”, 160. He doesn’t throw particularly hard, sitting mainly in the upper-80s. Nevertheless, he has put up nice numbers at AAA this year. Baltimore, after selecting him in the 26th round out of high school in 2011, was so fond of him that they lured him away from Arizona State with a gargantuan (relative to a 26th rounder) signing bonus, obviously saying something about his talent. Davies is a workaholic, an overachiever, defies flashy measurables with location and an out-changeup, and he projects as a four or five at the next level. Melvin, additionally, acquired a pair of pitchers in the Gomez deal who currently have shop set up in AA, most notably Josh Hader, another player originally drafted out of high school. Hader’s tall, lanky frame and Chris Sale-type delivery have assisted him to a career 9.8 K/9 IP as a professional, and his promising start at AA Biloxi provides yet another reason to want to fast forward to 2018.

All in all, the Milwaukee Brewers were winners at the trade deadline, and Doug Melvin should be the recipient of one final pat on the back. Houston reportedly did not include Brett Phillips until the Brewers included Miguel Fuegos. This was a brilliant deal for Milwaukee. Things appeared gloomy after the New York Mets, well, New York Mets’d themselves out of Carlos Gomez. A deal being completed just 24 hours later came as a shock to me, but thank heavens Melvin was reluctantly willing to part ways with the untouchable Miguel Fuegos. To the Brewers, Fuegos, already 30, is an irrelevant commodity, a smoke-and-mirrors starting pitcher with an 88 mph fastball. Yet he is a quite valuable commodity to other organizations, specifically ones such as the Houston Astros seeking a starter controllable beyond 2015. Fuegos can’t go anywhere until the winter succeeding the 2019 season, which is why the smaller market contenders were so intrigued by the time the deadline rolled around. The trade, in the end, placed a sizeable dent into achieving the goal of revamping the Brewers’ prospect pool. Phillips and Santana, combined with silky smooth shortstop Orlando Arcia and Trent Clark, the left-handed Mike Trout, are a nice foundation of sanguinity. Nothing is perfect, though. The Pittsburgh Pirates managed to coax Aramis Ramirez away for literally almost nothing (Yhonathan Barrios is Rule 5 eligible after this season). Adam Lind, whom I thought provided nice value to an American League team or the St. Louis Cardinals, is still in town. All hopes of moving him were spoiled by the Cardinals’ acquisition of Brandon Moss. I will spare the “best fans in baseball” my vulgarity. Sure, in a perfect world, every tradeable player is wearing a different uniform. In a perfect world, a high profile minor league arm is now a few short years away from bringing his electric stuff to Miller Park. But in an imperfect world, Brewers fans could not ask for much more. Jimmy Nelson has shown ace signs for an extended stretch now, finally proving his July 2014 untouchable status. Taylor Jungmann has exquisitely utilized deception to become a Rookie of the Year frontrunner and a pleasant surprise that looks as though it is going to last into the future. Khris Davis has shown a pulse with his August power surge in a desperate attempt to save his job (or boost his trade stock). See, it’s only bad if you make it bad.

This is a critical time for the Milwaukee Brewers; it’s a time of massive transition. With a managerial change at the beginning of May and the official announcement of Doug Melvin stepping aside, the overhaul is imminent. Melvin should be applauded for his tenure as the Brewers’ decision-maker. He turned Milwaukee into a respectable Major League franchise, but it is undoubtedly time to move on. Melvin is a steroid-era general manager. As a small market franchise in baseball, virtually the only way to compete is through delving into analytics, something that has been absent in the Brewers organization. Front office transition will translate into on-field transition shortly. Expect your Milwaukee Brewers to soon walk more, put the ball in play more, and strike out less. Expect Ryan Braun to move to first base to open up at-bats in the outfield. As a natural infielder, it should be a relatively easy conversion for him. Expect Jean Segura to be gone soon. Expect change. Expect a new Milwaukee Brewers. But most importantly, expect a ring in 2020. It’s all for the better, and remember, patience is a virtue.

A Belated Draft Night Recap: Winners, Losers, and Sleepers

Countless fried pickles were devoured. Fists were slammed into booths after the selection of Rashad Vaughn. Jaws were dropped after the selection of LARROLD NANCE

It was a night filled with unexpectedness at Buffalo Wild Wings’ Boneless Thursday on June 25th. Now that we have had time to digest not only those fried pickles, but also the picks and their relation to free agency, we end Out of Write Field’s two and a half weeks of dormancy and take a look back at draft night, assessing who won, who lost, and who is lurking.

Winner: Los Angeles Lakers

Showtime has returned to Hollywood. An organization founded on starpower found itself thirsting for it on draft night. The search was not long, and Mitch Kupchak made the correct decision in selecting D’Angelo Russell. Talk has circulated about Jahlil Okafor’s style of play being prehistoric in today’s NBA, and I agree to a certain extent, but Russell is simply the better player. Okafor’s NBA limitations are far too glaring (but don’t tell Jay Bilas that), and they begin on the defensive end of the floor. His inability to specifically guard mobile bigs oftentimes exposed him, and there were some games this year where I would categorize his defense as atrocious. His additional lack of athleticism and explosiveness doesn’t leave much room for improvement on the defensive end. Okafor is undoubtedly an offensive player, and a darn good one with his butt on the low block. However, force him to catch the ball 15 feet out and render him a non-threat, which has been a common thread in his summer league games thus far. I think I have presented my case. That’s plenty of talk about who the Lakers didn’t pick. The Louisville, KY product by way of Ohio State has now lured the spotlight away from Kobe Bryant, as the Lakers have at last officially begun the passing of the torch.Russell brings the pizzazz and flair that has been so synonymous with the Los Angeles Lakers through the years. With eyes toward the future, though, Lakers fans may have a pleasant surprise awaiting them in 2015-16. Adding Russell to a backcourt of Jordan Clarkson and Kobe, obtaining two players with legitimate role potential via the draft in Larry Nance, Jr. and Anthony Brown, along with the acquisitions of Lou Williams, Brandon Bass, and Roy Hibbert, all of a sudden we have an intriguing concoction out west, a brew that I believe will compete for one of the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference.

Winner: Houston Rockets

The rim, or the arc. These are the only two areas of the floor where the Houston Rockets will encourage shots attempted. This style of play, more affectionately known by Out of Write Field as “Moreyball,” is the direction of the NBA, whether you like it or not, and the Rockets are more or less its pioneers. Moreyball, predicated on driving lanes, spacing, and catch-and-shoot threes, is an offensive player’s paradise. It transformed Josh Smith and Corey Brewer, two of the worst 3-point shooters in the NBA who actually take threes, into semi-decent players from long distance. Smith, however, now finds himself an unrestricted free agent. Thus, on draft night, Daryl Morey went out and snagged (or rather, was gifted into his lap) another ultra-versatile wing, Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker, remaining true to Moreyball. Dekker has been adamant since draft night about Houston being the ideal fit for him, and he’s right. Wisconsin, admittedly, shackled his skillset a bit, and I’m among the school of thought that the NCAA Tournament Sam Dekker is the real Sam Dekker, and he stood up (please). Fans will find that Dekker is truly a fluid athlete in transition, something he was rarely able to showcase in his three collegiate seasons. And with his almost nonexistent mid-range game, who better embodies Moreyball than Dekker? Yet, Morey, already locking up a young player bound to flourish for his organization, was not done, obtaining another prospect lower than projected in Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell. The “L” is silent, but he is not. The extension of his range was blown slightly out of proportion during his junior campaign, as his jump shot cooled off significantly after the season opener in Puerto Rico against Minnesota. Harrell’s athleticism and ability to play above the rim at 6’8” are what he brings to the Rockets’ system, whose spacing allows the freedom for several lobs in the half court. In the end, Rockets fans could have asked for nothing more from draft night. A team already in title contention accomplished exactly what was necessary; they added two veteran college players prepared to play instantly while also being perfect systematic fits and incredible values.

Loser: Washington Wizards

Not an exorbitant amount of stock should be placed in NBA Summer League basketball, but when you commit a draft night gaffe, I can’t help but track it in the following weeks. Kelly Oubre, now less-affectionately known by Out of Write Field as Kellence “Championship” Oubre, was not what you would call the “best player available” at 15. There were a decently-sized handful of players available that I would have taken over Kellence, let alone trade up to pick. Ernie Grunfeld must have been enamored with Oubre, and I can certainly see why. He showed flashes of greatness in his lone year at KU. But Oubre is very much a tease. The only thing spikier than his draft night shoes is his motor, which runs hot and cold and is solely dependent on how he is performing on the offensive end of the floor. There’s obviously a reason he was glued to the bench for the first month of the season. Don’t call me a Kelly Oubre hater, because I’m not. He rebounds well. He has a smooth shooting stroke lacking a bit of consistency. I simply found moving up to secure him puzzling and believe there were several players available to Washington that will turn out to be better pros. The Wizards were trying to hit a home run when they didn’t need to. Now we find Oubre 11-35 from the field through 2 summer league games. Interesting.

Loser: Boston Celtics

Danny Ainge has himself a guard problem. Sometimes people classify a problem as “a good one to have.” This, however, is not of that variety. Reaching for Terry Rozier at 16 drew the second-largest “EXCUSE ME?” from Out of Write Field on the night of the draft. The Celtics have now accumulated a deep collection semi-good assets that probably will not end up being good enough to land something big. Why do I say that? Let’s look at the real reason Boston finds themselves in the 2015 Draft’s loss column. Ainge made multiple efforts, reportedly three, to make a resonating splash in exchange for a haul of assets. Their exertions to sway HINKIE at 3 failed, with Jahlil Okafor being the prize. Boston later offered a similarly large load to both Charlotte and Miami seeking Justise Winslow, but no dice. Resultantly, instead of walking away with one of the top 5 players from this draft class, the Celtics walked away with Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, and a golden sombrero. They struck out. Big time. The moral of the story? They don’t have many difference makers on their roster, and now they have more “assets” added to the jumble.

Sleeper: Brooklyn Nets

Just when we thought the transfiguration of Billy King was imminent, he goes out and inks Andrea Bargnani. Point being Billy King will most likely forever remain Billy King. There is hope, though. The Nets’ buyout of Deron Williams and their efforts to move Joe Johnson show the organization wants to do things right for a change. This conversion began during the NBA Draft, as the Nets came away a better, younger basketball team with some semblance of a retooling on the horizon. Brooklyn entered the draft in a hole having to swap the 15th pick with Atlanta for #29 (Joe Johnson yay), where they selected hometown hero Chris McCullough. McCullough’s season was cut well-short by a torn ACL, but the Nets quite possibly found a diamond in the rough, nabbing a versatile 4 with length and shooting touch who could have been seen slotted in the lottery in December mock drafts. Brooklyn’s true uptick, however, came as a result of their trade for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, also acquiring Steve Blake in the deal for salary dump purposes. As I mentioned in our mock draft, RHJ is an athletic defender with a nonstop motor and some personality. The one skill young players can wildly improve upon in the Association is shooting, and I fully expect that to occur with Rondae and his work ethic. In the end, as the offseason dust begins to settle a bit, the Brooklyn Nets are younger, more athletic, and are UNDER THE LUXURY TAX LINE? Whoa. Who are you and what have you done with the Brooklyn Nets?

Sleeper: Pat Connaughton (Portland Trail Blazers)

Ironically, both of my sleepers were involved in the same deal, as the Nets sent Connaughton (41st overall) and Mason Plumlee in exchange for Hollis-Jefferson. I, now, finally have to opportunity to wholly introduce the man that has emerged as my favorite prospect in this year’s draft. Why is this the case? Connaughton earned that honor during the latter half of the college basketball season, as he continued to fill a role ideally for a Notre Dame team that was enjoyable to watch, remaining underneath the NBA radar. Connaughton will be accustomed to playing in an NBA manner after thriving as a knockdown catch-and-shoot player with deep range in a spread-court, pick-and-roll, drive-and-kick offense. I always have a soft spot for baseball players who are multi-sport athletes, and Connaughton is a pretty damn good baseball player. He is currently property of the Baltimore Orioles, and he throws gas. He’s built like Clark Kent. He’s a white guy with a 44-inch vertical leap, the second-highest in NBA Combine history. He averaged 7.4 rebounds a night this past season at Notre Dame. Yeah, he’s 6’5”. And who else does that while also going 93-220 from 3 on the season? You get the gist. Pat Connaughton is a one-of-a-kind blend, adding to a Portland Trail Blazers roster that is a one-of-a-kind blend.

Consensus 2015 NBA Mock Draft

Rules: Each of us takes turns acting as the GM of a team, beginning with Jack, then Swit, then Miggy, repeat. We make selections based not upon what we think will occur, but rather what we would personally do in that situation. No trades allowed. Let’s run.

Round 1

1. Minnesota Timberwolves – Karl-Anthony Towns, F/C, Kentucky

Jack: KAT and Wolves, sounds like a finish to a trilogy of Cats and Dogs movies. Perfect fit.

2. Los Angeles Lakers – D’Angelo Russell, G, Ohio State

Swit: I chuckle every time I see ESPN’s NBA Draft TV spot featuring the drafting of Stephen Curry in which the narrator dramatically states, “An MVP will be chosen.” However, if I had to predict a future MVP from this bunch, Russell would be me guy in a landslide. Guards are king now, and I see too much of James Harden in Russell to say he won’t succeed. The Lakers, like many lottery teams, must view Kobe Bryant as irrelevant (because he is) and go best player available, which is D’Angelo.

3. Philadelphia 76ers – Emmanuel Mudiay, G, Congo

Miggy: Samuel Hinkie. Born December 1977. Analytics disciple. Evil genius. Unprecedented dumbass. Well, it’s at least one of the last two and nobody’s really sure which one it is. Asset is his favorite word. He owns 10% of this draft for god’s sake. So what does he do here? There is no conventional wisdom when it comes to HINKIE. Nerlens Noel. Dario Saric. Joel Embiid. The frontcourt seems set, right? Or at the very least there are enough ostensibly talented bodies there. I’m not sure how they’re intended to fit together, but they have ASSETS. Size, rim protection, European mystery, Twitter game. Everything. So I suppose conventional wisdom would necessitate that the backcourt be filled with some talent. For fuck’s sake, they ran JaKarr freaking Sampson at point guard at the end of last season. But as I said, HINKIE plays by his own rules. So why wouldn’t he maximize the intrigue and the mystery? How about KRISTAPS? If you ask Chad Ford, Porzingis is a never before seen, infallible combination of KD, Dirk, and Magic Johnson. And that might even be an understatement. And it definitely seems like the pick if HINKIE wants to delay relevant basketball in Philadelphia until 2026. But instead I went with the second best lead guard in the draft, Emmanuel Mudiay. Surely there are questions. He can’t really shoot yet. He doesn’t consistently take care of the ball. How much can we glean from his season in China? But undoubtedly, the physical tools are there. Like Russell, he excels in pick and roll situations and creates offense better than almost anyone in the draft. He looks the part of a lead guard in today’s league and could very well be a quintessential floor general in an up tempo offense. For a man obsessed with assets, Mudiay could very well be an indispensable one. In HINKIE we trust.

4. New York Knicks – Jahlil Okafor, C, Duke

Jack: The Knicks suck, Jahlil’s good. Possibly better than this pick. Book it.

5. Orlando Magic – Justise Winslow, G/F, Duke

Swit: You will probably notice as this mock draft progresses that I am a big proponent of the “best player available” mantra, especially in this positionless era of NBA basketball. The Magic are knocking on the door of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Kristaps is getting a lot of top 5 love, and he could be a potential fit here as a complement to Rob Hennigan’s defense-first draft of 2014. Justise Winslow, though, was a man among boys from February on in his freshman season at Duke. With how complete he is, and proving to be a much better jump shooter than we had anticipated heading into his lone collegiate campaign (41% from 3), he can easily become a Jimmy Butler-type at the next level. Incredibly safe pick. Best player available.

6. Sacramento Kings – Kristaps Porzingis, F, Latvia

Miggy: So what do you give an organization that probably ranks as the most dysfunctional in all of professional sports? A savior, hopefully? Maybe that’s not even necessary. How about just basketball in Sacramento that the city and the fans can get excited about? Basketball they can be proud of? The days of Bibby and Christie and Peja and C-Webb and Vlade are fifteen years in the past. Well, Vlade is still there. And now he’s in charge. How about that? But now George is trying to run the closest thing Sacramento has had to a bonafide superstar, well, ever. BOOGIEGATE. Snakes in the grass. George, you trying to win now, bro? You do realize the “bright spots” on your team are the consistently inconsistent Rudy Gay, a guy named Sauce Castillo whose one “elite” NBA skill resulted in 32% from deep. And Benjamin McLemore. He is probably the brightest spot. Benjamin. McLemore. But I’m making this pick under the assumption that DeMarcus will still be in Sacramento come October. And I’ll provide him with a potentially elite stretch four to complement his bruising, indefensible play in the paint. For all the mystery and all the mythology that follows KRISTAPS, he has a skill set and a physical makeup that make GMs drool. He is 7’1” without shoes and has the longest wingspan in the draft. He can shoot from the outside. Maybe he’s Andrea Bargnani. But maybe he’s transcendent.

7. Denver Nuggets – Mario Hezonja, G, Croatia

Jack: The Nuggets, Kings and Knicks need to start over. Croatian Kobe’s best available.

8. Detroit Pistons – Stanley Johnson, G/F, Arizona

Swit: Ronald Artest/The Panda’s Friend/Metta World Peace/Metta World Dad. Stanimal compares favorably to the artist formerly known as Ron and comes without all the extra peculiarities. Stan Van Gundy just obtained the stretch 4 he had been yearning for in Ersan Ilyasova. The next step for Detroit would be to boost a roster thirsty for playable wings, and there’s plenty where that came from picking at #8 this year. While Stanimal is not spectacular in one particular area, his physical profile is freakish and he is a true winner (4-time state champion in high school).

9. Charlotte Hornets – Devin Booker, G, Kentucky

Miggy: So what do you give a team that was the worst shooting team in the league last year? SHOOTING! YAY! That one was easy. Although Devin Booker struggles to create his own offense and I’m not really sure how he projects defensively against other NBA two guards, the one thing Devin Booker can irrefutably do, is shoot the basketball. His stroke his sweet and his feel for the game is impressive. And while the comparison to Klay Thompson is convenient and I’m not sure is entirely accurate, the addition of Booker to a backcourt that includes Kemba and Gerald Henderson would surely be a welcomed sight. And if anyone can help him reach whatever defensive potential he has, Steve Clifford is a great candidate. Yet, his most pressing task still might be beating his owner in a game of one on one. The Hornets cannot shoot. Pussy can.

10. Miami Heat – Frank Kaminsky, F/C, Wisconsin

Jack: Kaminsky-Harrison faceoffs all year

11. Indiana Pacers – Willie Trill Cauley-Stein, F/C, Kentucky

Swit: Larrold Bird should be ecstatic if Trill is available. Evidently he is falling to this area due to concerns with the health of his foot. In spite of that, he is still my no. 5 overall prospect. His invaluable defensive versatility is well-documented and is the reason he is considered the draft class’ top defender. I guess he can consistently bury corner pocket threes as well? (Excuse me???):

12. Utah Jazz – Cameron Payne, G, Murray State

Miggy: Here is the end of the #CamPayneCampaign trail. Slogan: Best Player Available. But seriously, there is a lot to be excited about in Salt Lake City. Gordon Hayward. The Stifle Tower. D-Favors. Dante Exum. Well, the book is out on Dante. He is toolsy. He can get to the rim. And fortunately, Quin Snyder gave him the opportunity to go through his growing pains last year. He tried to facilitate at least. And at 6’6”, he’s already a matchup nightmare at point guard. But the other guard spot provokes even more questions. Trey Burke? Rodney Hood? I’m not sure about Trey. He’s small and doesn’t excel at anything enough to be truly successful. He was moved to the bench last year and maybe that’s where he fits best. As an offensively minded second unit guard. So what Cam provides is another option. A left handed, equally offensive minded guard whose pick and roll prowess is second to none. Even if he projects as a kind of Mike Conley-lite, a Payne-Exum backcourt could coexist, and be potentially very successful. Quin Snyder has something remarkable developing in Utah, and Payne will only expedite the process.

13. Phoenix Suns – Myles Turner, F/C, Texas

Jack: Phoenix is in purgatory, might as well take the guy with highest potential.

14. Oklahoma City Thunder – Sam Dekker, F, Wisconsin

Swit: Dekker has been a darling of the NBA analytics community for quite some time now. We all know the prominence of analytics in the front office of Sam Presti, which mutualizes a Dekker-Thunder relationship. Dekker, as primarily a 3, converted a crazy 64% of his two-point attempts in 2014-15, which is second in the draft class to only Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. Much uncertainty lies ahead for the Oklahoma City organization beyond the 2015-16 season. Yet, they can find solace in the Sheboygan product, who can not only contribute immediately to an attempt at one last hoorah this upcoming season, but will undoubtedly be a significant piece for many years to come. I apologize Big Blue Nation, but I am not sorry one bit for this (yes, this Jim Nantz/Billiam Raftery call is my ringtone):

“Eat opponents up like fried chicken, no Kentucky boy.”

15. Atlanta Hawks – Bobby Portis, F, Arkansas

Miggy: The refrain is Best Player Available once again. You know, it’s not everyday that a conference one seed receives a pick just outside the lottery, so in some respects, the rich just get richer. It just so happens that Portis also fulfills a need on this Hawks team. Especially with both DeMarre Carroll and Paul Millsap on the cusp of free agency, the Hawks’ frontcourt depth could be at an all time low. Even though Mike Scott is forever has place the Out of Write Field All Star team, there’s no way in hell he should be playing significant minutes in a conference finals. I mean, Michael Muscala? PERO “I often confuse myself for Kyle Korver” ANTIC? Elton. Brand. Like excuse me? Portis can immediately serve as a uber versatile 4-5 hybrid and will become a fan favorite with his blue collar, non stop motor. If he can continue to extend range, it’s possible he could act as a taller, poor man’s Millsap. And maybe even not that poor. It’s Bobby bitch.

16. Boston Celtics – Justin Anderson, G/F, Virginia

Jack: Stevens uses guys with specific skill sets phenomenally, he’ll find a way to use Justin.

17. Milwaukee Bucks – Jerian Grant, G, Notre Dame

Swit: I was victorious in the three-way rock-paper-scissors duel to earn the honors of owning the Bucks’ first round selection. As a fan, I have zeroed in on four prospects, the only of which remaining here is Grant. I promise in 5 years lottery teams will be kicking themselves that they passed on the Notre Dame guard. Grant, who is also a disgustingly efficient offensive player (122.3 offensive rating in 2014-15 according to KenPom), has the best vision in this draft next to D’Angelo Russell, whipping cross-court passes and patiently finding the open man with the best of them. There may be more pressing needs for a Bucks team on the brink of contention, but Grant is simply too good to pass up.

18. Houston Rockets – Tyus Jones, G, Duke

Miggy: Again I get to take the reins of a team that was on the cusp of a Finals appearance. And apart from the Finals incarnation of the Cavaliers, the Rockets proved to be the most intriguing, utterly perplexing case study in this year’s playoffs. James Harden did a lot of inexplicable James Harden things. Josh Smith did a lot of well, un Josh Smith things. Like pull up threes. That went in. Dwight looked like he thought Hedo and Rashard were still on his team. And you know what, they all played for a team that was two wins away from beating one of the greatest teams of all time. You know who was starting at point guard? Pablo motherfucking Prigioni. Jason Terry. Of course this was only because the uber antagonist Patrick Beverley was injured. But still. Enter Tyus Jones. The diminutive, always coming up in the clutch Tyus Jones. For what he lacks in size and athleticism, he makes up for in basketball IQ and huge ass balls. And while he doesn’t completely appear to adhere to the Moreyball standard, he did seem to make every dagger from behind the three point line or through contact at the rim. And he wins games. This Rockets team might not be that far away. And Tyus can help.

19. Washington Wizards – Montrezl Harrell, F, Louisville

Jack: Playoff team grabbing a guy who can come and help them not be such a bad playoff team.

20. Toronto Raptors – Trey Lyles, F, Kentucky

Swit: Your guess is as good as mine in regard to what direction the Toronto Raptors are going. The safe bet would be to go with the best player available, which in this case is Lyles, conveniently Canadian. We must remember that Lyles played out of position for much of the season due to the Alex Poythress injury. He is, additionally, much more skilled than he was required to show in Lexington and has a legitimate chance to thrive as a faceup 4 in the Association.

21. Dallas Mavericks – Delon Wright, G, Utah

Miggy: Delon Wright is an Out of Write Field darling. He can do a little bit of everything and seemed to be one of the closest things to a walking triple double that college basketball had. First and foremost, the Mavericks need guards. Sure the Rockets point guard situation was laughable. But that’s only because their original starter was injured. The Mavericks point guard situation was and still is legitimately laughable. So much so that they tried to rectify it by giving up a quarter of their roster for the uncoachable, can’t shoot past five feet stylings of Rajon Rondo. So who else do they have to turn to? Raymond “My body fat is higher than my PPG” Felton? Devin Harris? So how about Delon? Especially in light of Monta’s decision to enter free agency, the Dallas backcourt is yearning for someone they can refer to as “dynamic”. And although Delon doesn’t jump out of the gym athletically, his size and skill immediately make him an elite defender at the one. And while he can’t shoot, he is crafty and understands how to play the game. Maybe the offense at Utah held him back. Give him the keys to the Dallas offense and let him run.

22. Chicago Bulls – Kelly Oubre Jr., G/F, Kansas

Jack: Bulls team bringing back a solid if not transcendent squad takes best available

23. Portland Trail Blazers – Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, F, Arizona

Swit: Yet another NBA power of recent years uneasily finds itself in murky waters. With LaMarcus Aldridge looking as good as gone, Portland will have to refuel. An underwhelming year from Nicolas Batum and his sizeable contract impulsed Neil Olshey into a trade for Noah Vonleh that screams “REBUILD.” The deal opens up a spot on the wing for Hollis-Jefferson if available this late. Not a bad gamble at 23 getting a guy who is a jump shot away from being All-Star caliber.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers – R.J. Hunter, G, Georgia State

Miggy: Ronald Hunter Jr. He’s edge of your seat, make you fall out of it good. He was a tournament darling. And he can surely help the Cavaliers. You can’t surround LeBron with enough shooters and with uncertainty surrounding the statuses of K-Love, Iman, and Earl, there is shooting to be found. But the thing about RJ is that he is much more than that. This past year at Georgia State, he became a much better facilitator, a willing passer who is more than capable of succeeding out of the pick and roll. His shooting percentages dropped sure. But this is not so much an indictment of his skill as it is, a result of him being the focal point of the opposing defense each and every night. Teamed with LeBron, I have a tough time believing that he will face the same kind of defensive attention. He is a creative defender, able to force turnovers and he’s a coach’s son; he knows the game. For a Cavaliers team that desperately needs other sources of consistent offense, RJ can offer exactly that. He can spread the floor for LeBron. And maybe even make Coach Blatt fall out of his chair.

25. Memphis Grizzlies – Kevon Looney, F, UCLA

Jack: Memphis can fuck up, not Milwaukee

26. San Antonio Spurs – Anthony Brown, G/F, Stanford

Swit: With seemingly every possible international prospect San Antonio could have taken here withdrawing last week, I was left with no choice. One constant is that the Spurs are going to get their type of player. Anthony Brown certainly fits the mold. Although the 42% two-point percentage as a 6-7 wing is a tad concerning, Brown is a high IQ player with serious 3 and D potential.

27. Los Angeles Lakers – Rashad Vaughn, G, UNLV

Miggy: As I type this, rumors swirl that Rashad has a promise from our beloved Milwaukee Bucks at 17. Let’s hope that isn’t true. He slots much better here. With Russell already in the fold, ostensibly joining a core already including an ever improving Jordan Clarkson and a still mysterious Julius Randle, Vaughn provides similar levels of upside and a jump shot to accompany it. His natural scoring ability is as strong as almost anyone in the draft and he favorably compares to a new teammate of his – Swaggington P. Standing 6’5”, Vaughn boasts prototypical size for the position and something tells me that concerns surrounding his on court maturity (shot selection and basketball IQ) can be somewhat rectified under the tutelage of Kobe Bean Bryant. Vaughn if nothing else, is a bucket getter and can develop into a valuable third or fourth option on this young, developing Laker team.

28. Boston Celtics – Christian Wood, F/C, UNLV

Jack: Should pair well with their solid wood court. 2nd round analysis done? YUP. (He’s also one of the best players available)

29. Brooklyn Nets – Jarell Martin, F, LSU

Swit: Billy King needs everything, but Billy King generally makes poor decisions. A roster comprised of mostly cap-guzzling dinosaurs needs an overhaul. Going upside at 29 is a logical move. I am higher on Martin than most. Many look down upon his tweener status and occasionally questionable shot selection. The reality is that he could roll out of bed and post a double-double this past season and consistently did things that made your jaw drop, like say, performing a between-the-legs dunk… in a game. With this, coupled with the fact that he has only played competitive basketball since his junior year of high school, I rest my case.

30. Golden State Warriors – Terry Rozier, G, Louisville

Miggy: What do you give to one of the greatest teams of all time? A team that already boasts a roster that is somewhat revolutionary in its construction? They don’t seem to need a whole lot. In all honesty, they look like they could very easily repeat. But I’ll give them some backcourt depth and the best player available. Terry Roziay is a frustrating player. His shot selection was baffling at times during his two years at Louisville, but if you can find me a better player at getting to the rim, please let me know. I see a lot of Kyle Lowry in him. He’s tough as nails and a pest on defense. If he can develop a consistent shot, much as Lowry has done, Rozier can become a valuable piece on any team and a potential starter down the road. Maybe a steal at 30, he’s a guy that I’m sure Steve Kerr would love to have. First round over. YUP.

Round 2

31. Minnesota Timberwolves – Cliff Alexander, F, Kansas

32. Houston Rockets – Chris McCullough, F, Syracuse

33. Boston Celtics – Guillermo Hernangomez, C, Spain

34. Los Angeles Lakers – Mouhammadou Jaiteh, F/C, France

35. Philadelphia 76ers – Cedi Osman, F, Turkey

36. Minnesota Timberwolves – Michael Frazier II, G, Florida

37. Philadelphia 76ers – Rakeem Christmas, F/C, Syracuse

38. Detroit Pistons – Pat Connaughton, G/F, Notre Dame

39. Charlotte Hornets – Robert Upshaw, C, Washington

40. Miami Heat – Andrew Harrison, G, Kentucky

41. Brooklyn Nets – Daniel Diez, G/F, Spain

42. Utah Jazz – Jordan Mickey, F, LSU

43. Indiana Pacers – J.P. Tokoto, G/F, North Carolina

44. Phoenix Suns – Joseph Young, G, Oregon

45. Boston Celtics – Nikola Milutinov, C, Serbia

46. Milwaukee Bucks – Arturas Gudaitis, F/C, Lithuania

47. Philadelphia 76ers – Richaun Holmes, F, Bowling Green

48. Oklahoma City Thunder – Olivier Hanlan, G, Boston College

49. Washington Wizards – Shawn Dawson, G/F, Israel

50. Atlanta Hawks – Tyler Harvey, G, Eastern Washington

51. Orlando Magic – Norman Powell, G, UCLA

52. Dallas Mavericks – Julian Washburn, G/F, UTEP

53. Cleveland Cavaliers – Aaron White, F, Iowa

54. Utah Jazz – Josh Richardson, G, Tennessee

55. San Antonio Spurs – Keifer Sykes, G, UW-Green Bay

56. New Orleans Pelicans – Satnam Singh, C, India

57. Denver Nuggets – Jonathan Holmes, F, Texas

58. Philadelphia 76ers – Nikola Radicevic, G, Serbia

59. Atlanta Hawks – Josh Gasser, G, Wisconsin

60. Philadelphia 76ers – Dave Sobolewski, G, Northwestern

HEY! WHAT’S UP? HELLO

Quirky (adj.): characterized by peculiar or unexpected traits

No other word can encompass sports and its most sincere followers more effectively than “quirky.” Adrian McPherson agrees. Dallas McPherson probably does too. We all know that “quirky” is Timothy Kurkjian’s middle name. Quirkiness is vital to enjoying what sports has to offer to the fullest. Sometimes Juan Pierre hits a home run. Sometimes Samuel Dalembert scores 35 points in a single game. Sometimes even Matt LaPorta is the centerpiece of a blockbuster deal involving CC Sabathia. These events, whether in the moment or in retrospect, make the rigid sports fan tick. The three of us can undoubtedly include ourselves in that conversation, which is, above all, what brings us here. Millions of unfortunate souls, like us, are not blessed with the greatest athletic gifts to make childhood dreams become a reality. Most of these people would concur that playing the game holds an unequivocal enjoyment advantage to simply being a bystander. Thus, in order to match the exhilaration of playing, us bystanders must understand sports holistically and embrace the unexpected, because without unexpected you have bland, with bland you have boredom, and no one likes boredom. Allow me to elaborate and hopefully introduce myself to the world in the process.

As I paced through the streets of downtown Indianapolis on the afternoon of Saturday, April 4, 2015, I saw beauty at its finest right before my eyes at every turn of my head. One could not conjure a more delightful scene. With a sun-soaked, 65 degree day and Lucas Oil Stadium as a backdrop, four of college basketball’s giants roamed the streets. In no better setting than Indianapolis, possibly the greatest basketball town in America, four fanbases gathered, clad in blue, green, and red, sharing looks of disgust or Big Ten nods in respect as they passed each other. Stepping inside the Convocation Center, I saw pillars filled from top to bottom with the logos of the 68 NCAA Tournament teams, 68 unique cultures with one common dream. Off to my right, a man in a vintage Indiana cream sweatshirt, joining us in this epicenter of basketball simply out of his love of the game, could not contain his jubilation, belting, “WE GOT THOMAS BRYANT!” at the top of his lungs. He became a kid again. We all did, the thousands of us there. Only one word could serve as the explanation for this madness. “Sports,” I muttered, unable to prevent myself from grinning ear-to-ear. Sports can unify a city or polarize a nation faster than Bill Raftery can say “man-to-man.” Blink and the Kansas City Royals are 10th in baseball in attendance, infiltrating the 2015 All-Star Game along the way. One “Decision” can transform a hometown hero and American darling into a villain partitioning the sports world into exactly two sides. Sports give us Goliaths. The backbone of its popularity. The conversation-starters. The ones that everyone loves to hate. Sports also give us Davids, whose singular purpose seemingly is to slay the Goliaths, blessing us with outcomes that leave even Luther Vandross speechless. Sports is a better glue guy than Josh Gasser, allowing complete strangers to stick together.

As we embark on this journey, we have positively no clue what the future will hold or what the end result will be. However, we have one goal foremost on our minds: sharing our hobby with the rest of the world. We love sports because Brad Johnson has more rings than Dan Marino. We love sports because the lineage of World Series Game 1 starters includes Anthony Reyes. We love sports because Max Paulhus Gosselin became an elite role player for two weeks. Sports are quirky. We’re quirky. Let us show you why it’s a perfect marriage.