NBA Draft Winners and Losers

The NBA Draft might not have been as ripe with trades as we had hoped, but it didn’t lack for excitement. There were prospects who rose and those who fell, but in the end, the draft seemed more predictable than expected. Despite the predictability, the fortunes of several teams were definitely changed. Here are some winners and losers of the draft.

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Winners:

Charlotte Hornets: Noah Vonleh (9); P.J. Hairston (26); (45) Dwight Powell; (55) Semaj Christon

Outside of Cleveland, the Cavaliers’ winning of the lottery probably had the largest effect on the Hornets. They got the Pistons’ lottery pick as a result of the Cavs moving up from the sixth spot to the first. The Hornets scooped up Indiana forward Noah Vonleh at the nine spot, as Vonleh had a mini-slide through the lottery on draft night. While he will join a crowded backcourt in Charlotte, GM Rich Cho is probably very happy to pick up such a great asset in the back half of the lottery. Charlotte also filled its need for shooting by picking up North Carolina native P.J. Hairston late in the first round. Hairston should be able to jump right into the rotation and help out a weak-shooting Hornets team.

Denver Nuggets: Jusef Nurkic (16); Gary Harris (19); Nikola Jokic (41); Roy Devyn Marble (56)

In a mutually beneficial trade, the Nuggets acquired the rights to Jusef Nurkic and Gary Harris from the Bulls for the 11th pick, Doug McDermott. Earlier in the day, Denver also traded for Arron Afflalo, at the low cost of Evan Fournier and a second round pick. The quality of the Nuggets backcourt increased exponentially yesterday, something that should help Denver rebound from their tough 2013-2014 season. In addition, centers beware Jusef Nurkic whenever he lumbers into the NBA. It’s not everyday you play basketball against a bear.

Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart (6); James Young (17)

The  Celtics didn’t make any loud picks, but their selections were high quality. Marcus Smart and James Young should immediately improve a shallow Boston backcourt. Rajon Rondo and Smart will combine to form one of the scariest defensive backcourts in the NBA. Boston took a step in the right direction in terms of building a tough team identity with these picks.

Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle (7); Jordan Clarkson (46)

In the leadup to the draft, Julius Randle seemed like the Lakers’ guy. The heir to Pau Gasol at power forward, Randle should be able to jump right into the Laker rotation and make an impact. In terms of fit, Randle is probably one of the best first round picks in this draft. Clarkson should also be able to make an impact if given some time to develop. Los Angeles has a need at both guard spots, and Clarkson’s size and skill set should make him a serviceable combo guard in time.

Utah Jazz: Dante Exum (5); Rodney Hood (23)

The Jazz should be ecstatic with both of its picks. Both Dante Exum and Rodney Hood fell into Utah’s lap in their respective spots. Exum was projected to go as high as #2, and Hood has lottery level talent. An Exum-Trey Burke backcourt pairing will be deadly, and Hood’s three point stroke will get him minutes immediately on a rebuilding Utah squad. The Jazz could have used a big man, but they should be more than happy with their draft haul.

New York Knicks: Cleanthony Early (34); Thanasis Antetokounmpo (51); Louis Labeyrie (57)

If anything, the Knicks made themselves more exciting on draft night. A day after shipping Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas, Phil Jackson picked up the best player on a one-loss NCAA team (Early) and the Greek Freak’s brother (Antetokounmpo), as well as a Euro-stash player (Labeyrie) who will probably never make an impact on the Knick’s salary cap. Positives everywhere! In all seriousness, Jackson and Co. parlayed a couple of second round picks into one solid player and one project whose name should at least be fun for New Yorkers to say. Consider the draft a success for New York, one of the only ones in the past year.

 

Losers:

Philadelphia 76ers (for now): Joel Embiid (3); Dario Saric (12); KJ McDaniels (32): Jerami Grant (39); Vasilije Micic (52);Nemanja Dangubic (54); Jordan McRae (58)

The Sixers actually used all of their picks! Don’t expect to see all their players on the Sixers roster next year; there’s actually only three who could physically play on the team. GM Sam Hinkie stayed with his M.O. of a slow, painful rebuilding process. He used his two lottery picks on players who will likely not suit up for Philly in 2014-15; Embiid’s foot injury will shelve him until at least December (Philly will likely Noel him) and Saric signed a contract to stay in Europe for at least two more years. However, both players project to be stars in the NBA. Selecting K.J. McDaniels at 32 was a solid pick for the Sixers as well, as they get an uber-athletic Swiss Army Knife kind of player in the Clemson product. The Sixers lineup is so barren that McDaniels could easily be starting by January. Sixers fans, brace yourselves for 2014-15, it could be worse than this last year.

Atlanta Hawks: Adreian Payne (15); Walter Tavares (43); Lamar Patterson (48)

Atlanta was stuck in a tough position at the 15 spot. Two guys who would have been great fits, Zach LaVine and T.J. Warren, were drafted right before Atlanta’s draft spot. GM Danny Ferry decided to draft for talent, taking Adreian Payne from Michigan State. However, considering the depth Atlanta has in the frontcourt, the Hawks could have gone with a better option, preferably a wing like Gary Harris or James Young. Walter Taveras was a good value pick midway through the second round, but he needs to develop overseas for several years.

Toronto Raptors: Bruno Caboclo (20); Deandre Daniels (37)

Toronto definitely won the “Who the hell is that guy?” draft contest with their first round pick. Some draft experts had Caboclo going in the second round, but no one saw him going this early. Apparently, Toronto loved him in pre-draft workouts and promised to take him with their second round pick, but were scared by the notion of Oklahoma City pouncing on the Brazilian. The Raptors reached for Caboclo at 20, indicating that GM Masai Uriji is building for the future. That’s probably not the best sign for Raptors fans, especially since they were just given a smidge of hope with a division title.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Zach LaVine (13); Glenn Robinson III (40); Alessandro Gentile (53)

It doesn’t take an expert lip-reader to understand what Zach LaVine uttered when he was picked by Minnesota. The two-word phrase basically sums up Minnesota’s offseason so far. A Kevin Love departure is imminent; whether the Timberwolves get assets in return depends on if they can make a trade before next summer. The front office gambled on two high-risk, high-reward players with their first two picks: UCLA’s Zach LaVine and Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III. LaVine has world class athleticism, but still doesn’t really know how to play basketball. On the other hand, Robinson needs to develop secondary skills beyond his nice knack for scoring. The Timberwolves are about to embark on a massive rebuild, and the longer it takes, the more pundits will look to this draft as a reason why Minnesota’s rebound was so slow.

New Orleans Pelicans: Russ Smith (47)

Thanks to last year’s draft day trade, the Pelicans were left without a first round pick for the second consecutive year. Granted, last year’s would-be pick (Noel) wouldn’t have helped much, but New Orleans is going to regret missing out on such a loaded draft class. While the Pelicans have a bunch of good young assets, they could have used some mid-lottery talent infuse more energy into their team. If the Pelicans can’t get over the hump and get into the playoffs the next couple of years, they’ll be kicking themselves for not picking in this lottery.

 

World Cup Knockout Stage Preview

After one of the most exciting group stages in a while, the knockout stage is right around the corner. This is when it starts to feel like March Madness, win or go home. Let’s take a look into each matchup and which teams should advance.

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Brazil vs Chile: June 28, noon ET

We knew after the World Cup draw that either Spain, Netherlands, or Chile would face Brazil in the most intriguing Round of 16 game, and it’s Chile that must face the Seleção. After a group stage that was shaky at times but strong overall, Brazil will face their first real test in their attempt to win the World Cup in front of their home fans. Neymar has lived up to his expectations and then some, scoring 4 goals in 3 games, while leading his country at the age of 22. Chile are no pushover either. They may not have as many household names as Brazil, but they certainly play with national pride, spirit, and energy. This match is surely one to tune in to.

Winner: Brazil– Playing in their home country and with a squad that has so many stars, Brazil looks almost unbeatable.

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Colombia vs Uruguay: June 28, 4pm ET

Uruguay will have to find a way to win without Luis Suarez, who has been banned for 9 international matches. They had a hard time the last time they played without Suarez, losing 3-1 to Costa Rica in their first group stage game. Colombia, on the other hand, are coming off a dominant group stage, with a +7 goal differential and playing extremely well as a team. Some questioned how Colombia would perform without injured star striker Falcao, but James Rodriguez has been a great replacement, scoring a goal in each game.

Winner: Colombia– Uruguay would have had a great challenge winning this game with Suarez, but without him there is just no way they can win.

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Netherlands vs Mexico: June 29, noon ET

Many thought Netherlands core was too old to make a deep run, but those questions were put to rest after a 5-1 thrashing of Spain. “Old guys” Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben have 3 goals each, and Wesley Sneijder and Nigel de Jong have been very good role players. And it’s not just the veterans. The four aforementioned are the only 4 starters from the 2010 squad, so that means that new names have stepped it up. On the other side, Mexico is confident after a strong group stage that included a draw with Brazil. Mexico may not have much going for them though, except a coach with the best celebrations in history.

Winner: Netherlands– With their combination of well-known veterans and young guns, the Dutch are contenders once again.

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Costa Rica vs Greece: June 29, 4pm ET

Nobody thought this would be a matchup in the round of 16, and not many expected either to advance, but here they are. Let’s start with Costa Rica. Drawn in a group with Uruguay, Italy, and England, Costa Rica looked like the only team in the group that had no shot at advancing. Not only did they advance, they won the group, beating Uruguay and Italy and tying England while resting some of their starters. Pretty darn good. Greece, on the other hand, looked doomed from the get-go after a 3-0 defeat to Colombia. But with a draw versus Japan and last-minute penalty kick against Ivory Coast, they’re in the knockout stage.

Winner: Costa Rica– Even without big names, Costa Rica plays with energy and spirit that is overlooked yet important.

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France vs Nigeria: June 30, 2014, noon ET

Four years removed from a World Cup disaster, France looks like a serious contender. With a starting XI that all contribute to big clubs in Europe, as well as a bench with multiple solid players, France is one of the most talented teams in the world. Their opponent, Nigeria, is not a world power by any means, but nearly beat Argentina in a 3-2 game. They lost the game, but the Nigerians now know that they can hang with the world’s best.

Winner- France– Les Bleus just has too much talent at every position for Nigeria to be able to pull off a victory.

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Germany vs Algeria: June 30, 4pm ET

When you first look at it, this game looks like it would be over before it even started. The almighty Germans versus the Desert Foxes. This game won’t be tight, but it will be closer than most think. The Germans, of course, have ample midfielders and forwards, like Thomas Mueller, Mario Gotze, and Miroslav Klose, to name a few. If the Algerians would win somehow, it be their speed. In the game against Ghana, Germany’s defense had a tough time with the Ghanaians faster attackers that created many problems. This could also be the game that the Algerians get revenge for the 1982 conspiracy between West Germany and Austria that knocked Algeria out of the group stage.

Winner: Germany: Although Les Fennecs have the pace advantage, the Germans are just too powerful to lose this game.

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Argentina vs Switzerland: July 1, noon ET

Many questioned whether Lionel Messi could ever perform in the World Cup. Those questions have now been put to rest. Messi has scored 4 goals in 3 games, highlighted by a long-range game winner against Iran, and a brace (two goals) against Nigeria, including a beautiful free kick. Their opponent, Switzerland, is fresh off of a hat trick by Xherdan Shaqiri and feeling confident. The big question will be if Argentina’s defense can hold up against a strong Swiss attack after allowing two goals to Nigeria.

Winner: Argentina– Even with a somewhat shaky defense, Argentina’s attack just creates too many problems for Switzerland’s defense.

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Belgium vs USA: July 1, 4pm ET

Alright, America. You got out of work once, now you have to do it for the second time in four work days (unless you have a boss who understands the immensity of this game). Belgium was gifted the easiest group of the World Cup. Although Belgium won all three games, they were all one goal victories against Algeria, Russia, and South Korea. Wow, what a hard path they had to navigate. The US, on the other hand, had to face Germany, Portugal, and Ghana, and made it out. We aren’t scared of you Belgium.

Winner: USA– Why? Because I. I BELIEVE. I BELIEVE THAT. I BELIEVE THAT WE. I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN.

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2014 NBA Mock Draft

In the context of the past five drafts or so, the 2014 NBA draft is shaping up to be one of the most fascinating. While top prospects like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Aaron Gordon are unfortunately not (yet) the Hall of Famers they were hyped to be, they are still talented, franchise-altering players. The depth of this draft class through the lottery and beyond rivals anything we’ve seen in the past. However, the most exciting thing about the draft is what its significance will be in a few years. Will we see a Finals MVP drafted 15th, like Kawhi Leonard? Will an All-Star be drafted in the second round, like Marc Gasol? Will three of the first five picks unite to form a super-team (you should know this one)? That’s the beauty of the draft; no one knows what will happen on draft night, or beyond. With that being said, here’s an idea of what will happen on June 26 at the Barclays Center.

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1. Cleveland Cavaliers- Jabari Parker, SF/PF, Duke (6’8”, 240 lbs)

As lucky as Cleveland has been with regards to the draft lottery the past four years, you have to feel a little bad for the Cavs. Gifted with the number one pick for the third time in four years, the Cavs were all set to choose from the trifecta of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Joel Embiid, far and away the best prospects in the draft. Embiid was a perfect fit in Cleveland, a outstanding defensive big man who didn’t need the ball in his hands very much. But doctors found a fractured bone in the center’s foot, compounded by Embiid’s prior back issues. To make it worse, it was Cleveland’s doctors who discovered the injury. Embiid will likely be out for 4-6 months. Cleveland has a tough decision here: stay with Embiid to fill a team need, or take the safer pick with Wiggins or Parker. Taking Embiid would really be challenging fate; we know what the book is on drafting banged-up centers (see: Oden, Greg). Considering the Cavs past top-five history (Tristan Thompson over King-slayer Kawhi Leonard, Dion Waiters over rebound machine Andre Drummond, Anthony Bennett over literally anyone else), Cleveland should not be challenging fate. If Cleveland takes Embiid, there’s a high chance that Embiid will be revealed to be a cyborg designed by the NBA to test just how disillusioned the Cleveland front office is. Expect the Cavs to play is safe and take Parker, considered the most-NBA ready prospect. Parker was one of the most offensively versatile players in college basketball this past year, exhibiting range out beyond the three-point line but also using his big frame to battle forwards in the post. Defensively, Parker might have some issues, as he isn’t quick enough to guard anyone on the perimeter, yet NBA power forwards will likely abuse him in the post. Cleveland will need to pick a spot for him and develop his defensive skills, but Parker’s  good instincts and offensive skills should help out a floundering Cavaliers franchise.

2. Milwaukee Bucks- Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas (6’8”, 200)

Jabari Parker seemed to be the Bucks target here, assuming Embiid had gone to the Cavs, but Milwaukee will be happy to take high-flying Andrew Wiggins with the second pick. The Bucks are looking to build excitement in a city that hasn’t seen a lot of good basketball recently. The Kansas product’s highlight dunks and above-the-rim play should fill some seats.  Wiggins was the can’t-miss prospect out of high school, the number one recruit, the “Canadian Lebron”. Considering he was overshadowed by Kansas teammate Joel Embiid as the season progressed, one could consider Wiggins’ only college season a disappointment. That wouldn’t be true. Wiggins had a very successful freshman year, exploding for 41 and 30 in back to back games at the end of the year while showing stellar defensive instincts and above-average rebounding skills. Wiggins’ insane athleticism actually projects better on the defensive end, where his quick first step and good length will allow him to guard anyone on the perimeter. His offensive game is what needs refinement, as he needs to improve his handles and find a way to score aside from blazing a path to the basket and trying to dunk on someone. Wiggins will see the floor as a rookie for his defensive prowess and his ability to play above the rim. Alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo, Wiggins should help form one of the more exciting young perimeters in the NBA, capable of swatting shots, and throwing down dunks whilst playing great defense.

3. Philadelphia 76ers- Dante Exum, PG, Australia (6’6”, 188 lbs)

Out of all the teams in the lottery, the Sixers seem like the most likely to make a move. The Philadelphia front office is enamored with Andrew Wiggins, so a trade with Cleveland or Milwaukee is very likely. Philadelphia is stocked with plenty of assets, with two lottery picks and five other draft picks as well as forward Thaddeus Young, a solid two-way veteran with a manageable contract. Out of the first four teams picking, the Sixers are in the toughest position. Most scouts agree that the four best players in the draft- Wiggins, Parker, Embiid, and Exum- are a level above the next tier of players. The two players that fit positional needs on their team- Wiggins and Parker- will be off the board, and the top two players remaining- Embiid and Exum- would fill a position already occupied by a young Sixers player. It’s doubtful that GM Sam Hinkie would hinge the future of his franchise on two creaky rim protectors in Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid. Therefore, the more likely scenario would be the Sixers drafting Dante Exum, the 6’6” point guard from Australia. Exum’s long build allows him to wreak havoc in transition as well as finish through contact at the rim. Exum’s outside shot needs work, as well as his quickness, but his size and exceptional instincts will allow for a relatively easy transition into the NBA. Exum can also learn a lot from another long, young point guard who might have won the Rookie of the Year in 2013-2014. Philadelphia will likely look to trade Exum to for a wing player. Perhaps Exum and the 10th pick for Andrew Wiggins?

4. Orlando Magic- Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State (6’3”, 227 lbs)

Orlando has realized that Jameer Nelson is not the point guard of the past, present, or future, and will look to the draft to find a ball-handler to complement Victor Oladipo in the backcourt. The Magic’s two primary options would appear to be Marcus Smart out of Oklahoma State or Dante Exum all the way from Australia. Exum seemed like a perfect fit for the Magic, but he moves up the board to three with Embiid slipping due to a foot injury. Orlando could take a chance on Embiid at four, but center Nikola Vucevic is young and producing solid numbers. Smart was rumored to be a target for the Magic to trade down for, but with Exum off the board and the Magic desperately in need of a point guard, Orlando will reach a bit for the Oklahoma State sophomore. Smart’s physical play and thick build will make him an instant defensive presence in the backcourt. His outside shot desperately needs refinement, but Smart should be able to get to the rim and make plays for other teammates. Smart’s NBA-ready body should allow him to stuff the stat-sheet as a rookie and form one of the toughest defensive backcourts in the NBA along with Victor Oladipo.

5. Utah Jazz- Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana (6’9”, 250 lbs)

The Jazz have many holes to fill, even assuming they can re-sign restricted free agent Gordon Hayward. A major deficiency for the Jazz is the lack of another efficient post presence to complement Derrick Favors. Enes Kanter has not proven himself to be compatible with Favors, and Rudy Gobert still needs to develop. The Jazz have said that they consider Favors to be a center, not a power forward. Vonleh seems like a good fit to complement Favors’ back to the basket tendencies. Vonleh possesses range out to the three point line, but at the same time is able to battle in the paint. He is an exceptional rebounder and plays with endless energy. Utah would need to develop his offensive game, as he is very raw, but Vonleh has the physical attributes as well as the intangibles to be an important player in Utah for years to come.

6. Boston Celtics- Joel Embiid, C, Kansas (7’0”, 240 lbs)

It’s hard to imagine Embiid falling past the number six spot. Boston lacks a true center, with Kelly Olynyk playing more like a four, and Jared Sullinger standing only 6’9”. While Embiid still lacks great instincts or awareness- due to the fact that he’s only been playing for four years-, his athleticism and mobility for his size are unparalleled in this draft class. An imposing defensive presence, Embiid should add to a strong defensive team in Boston, and the coaching staff will look to develop him into a force on the block. With the kind of upside Embiid possesses, the Celtics can take a risk here, especially considering that they have the Nets’ first round pick from now until whenever the Cubs win the World Series. The Celtics picked Sullinger and Avery Bradley amid injury concerns, so GM Danny Ainge is obviously unafraid.

7. Los Angeles Lakers- Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky (6’9”, 250 lbs)

The Lakers are in an unfamiliar place: the lottery. Los Angeles missed the playoffs for just the fourth time in 30 years. However, missing the playoffs in a year ripe with draft talent could be a blessing in disguise for the wildly competitive franchise. The Lakers have a chance to begin to stock the team for the post-Kobe era, something that the front-office hasn’t done very well, as the Los Angeles roster is littered with NBA journeymen. Julius Randle is a perfect building block for the Lakers to start with. With an NBA-ready body, Randle is prepared to battle for rebounds in the paint and possesses great scoring touch around the basket. The Kentucky product’s best feature is his face-up game, where Randle uses his quickness to get to the basket and then his strength to finish at the rim. If Randle can develop his right hand and find a jump shot, he could be a 20 and 10 guy, similar to David Lee.

8. Sacramento Kings-Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette (6’4”, 185 lbs)

An under the radar prospect playing for a low-level Division I team, Payton’s draft stock has been shooting up, as he has been impressing teams in pre-draft workouts. Before individual workouts, Payton was seen as a late-first round pick. But sources out of Sacramento reported Payton held his own against Marcus Smart and the Kings have expressed their interest in the Louisiana-Lafayette product. He possesses great size and length, something that will make him a great defensive NBA point guard. Payton also has great handles, allowing him to distribute in the paint and create his own shot. At the NBA level, Payton projects as a defensive-minded guard, similar to Patrick Beverley. In need of a point guard should Isaiah Thomas not re-sign, Payton’s motor and sneaky skills should prompt the Kings to reach for him.

9. Charlotte Hornets (via Detroit)- Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan (6’6”, 207 lbs)

The renamed Hornets are looking for a three-point presence to complement their paint-attacking offense. Gerald Henderson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are both poor shooters and the Hornets need more of a three-point threat to keep up with the more and more three-point happy NBA. Stauskas fits the mold perfectly, as he is likely the best shooter in the draft. That’s not to say he is a one dimensional player; Stauskas improved by leaps and bounds this year in terms of creating his own shot and distributing the ball. While his foot speed needs improvement, Stauskas should thrive off of kick outs for now, and Charlotte should hope he develops into a Klay Thompson-type of player.

10. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans)- Aaron Gordon, SF/PF, Arizona (6’9”, 220 lbs)

With the Sixers employing the fastest offense in the league, they’ll be looking for athletes that can run the floor easily and play above the rim. Aaron Gordon is an athletic freak of nature whose high motor and explosiveness make him a great defender and proverbial glue guy. He enters the NBA as a player as likely to win a game for his team by diving into the stands for a loose ball as he is to throw down a 360º dunk. Gordon should be able to score easy points in transition for the Sixers, but his offensive game needs serious work. Only 18 years old, Gordon should develop into a great rotational player for Philadelphia.

11. Denver Nuggets- Doug McDermott, SF/PF, Creighton (6’8”, 218 lbs)

Doug McDermott would be welcome in a Nuggets rotation that lacks a lot of scoring talent. McDermott had one of the most prolific college careers in history in terms of scoring, and projects to continue his high volume yet efficient scoring in the NBA. The Creighton product can score from the post all the way out to the three point line, and he’s able to create his own shot but also can play within an offense. Teams are concerned about his defense and low ceiling, but McDermott has proven he can score consistently for four years in college, and there’s no reason it won’t translate to the NBA.

12. Orlando Magic (from New York via Denver)-Dario Saric, PF, Croatia (6’10”, 225 lbs)

Dario Saric, a forward out of Croatia, remains one of the draft’s largest mysteries, because he plays in Europe and he hasn’t participated in many pre-draft workouts. Saric recently inked a contract that will tether him to an European team for at least two more years. But Saric’s talent is unmistakable. He functions as a point forward, possessing great instincts and ball-handling skills for his size. He has a high motor, which led him to be one of the best rebounders in the Adriatic League. Athletically, Saric is limited, which could hinder his transition to the NBA, and his outside shot needs some work. With time, Saric could develop into a carbon copy of another foreign player who came to the NBA, Boris Diaw. And we just saw how important Diaw was to the Spurs’ championship run. In the midst of a massive rebuild, the Magic can gamble on Saric with their second lottery pick, considering that scouts see him as a top-ten talent.

13. Minnesota Timberwolves- Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State (6’4”, 205 lbs)

With all the Kevin Love rumors swirling around, it seems like the Timberwolves are on the verge of a franchise facelift. While Gary Harris is not a franchise changing player, he’s a start. Harris has a great feel for the game, as he was asked to take care of the ball a lot at Michigan State. His basketball instincts and strong defense should earn him minutes on a Minnesota team that quite simply, doesn’t play defense. The sophomore will try to help the T’Wolves turn over a new leaf should they deal Love.

14. Phoenix Suns- James Young, SG, Kentucky (6’7”, 215 lbs)

Young burst into the national spotlight with strong performances throughout Kentucky’s March Madness run. He was consistently Kentucky’s second best player behind Julius Randle, displaying a nice shooting stroke and a knack for finding the basket. Young’s range should project well to the NBA, though he can be streaky, and when he adds weight to take on bigs on drives to the paint, he should establish himself as a very good scorer. Young needs to work on his defensive intensity and fundamentals, but his long frame will help him invade passing lanes and even get some blocks. Phoenix’s up-tempo offense should suit Young well, and budding stars Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe should be able to get Young plenty of open shots.

15. Atlanta Hawks- Zach LaVine, SG, UCLA (6’6″, 180 lbs)

Athletically speaking, Zach LaVine is as good as they come. His vertical measured out at 41.5 inches at the draft combine and video of him throwing down a behind the back dunk at a Nuggets workout surfaced this past week. LaVine is a great shooter who is lethal in transition, and his above the rim play would bring excitement to the woe-begotten Atlanta franchise. If LaVine can find some three-point consistency, he should be a staple in the Hawks rotation.

16. Chicago Bulls (via Charlotte)- Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse (6’2”, 182 lbs)

Knowing that Derrick Rose will never be a sure thing at point guard, Chicago will look to the draft for a floor general to develop if Rose never returns to MVP-form. Ennis is an elite decision-maker, especially given his youth, and his uncanny knack for finding the open man will translate well to the NBA. While Ennis lacks scoring ability and killer athleticism, these deficiencies can be masked by running pick and roll and set plays for Ennis. If D.J. Augustin and Kirk Hinrich don’t re-sign, Ennis could see major minutes at the point for Chicago.

17. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn)-  Rodney Hood, SF, Duke (6’8”, 208 lbs)

Rodney Hood should provide a prolific three-point scoring threat for a Celtic team that struggled from deep this past season.. Hood shot 42% from range for Duke, which would have been the highest mark for a Celtic playing at least 20 minutes per game. Granted, Hood will need to take a couple steps back, but his sweet shooting stroke should easily translate to the NBA. Jabari Parker’s running mate at Duke needs to add weight in order to absorb contact better and battle for rebounds, but Hood should immediately become a key role player for Boston.

18. Phoenix Suns (via Washington)- Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State (6’10”, 240 lbs)

Payne opted to return for his senior season at Michigan State, and enjoyed an Elite Eight run along with solid statistics for the Spartans. He showed shooting range out to the three-point line, as well as good leadership. Payne’s strong character is something that NBA front offices value even if Payne isn’t as talented as other prospects. Phoenix will surely be happy in landing a high character, multi-talented player in Payne in the latter half of the first round.

19. Chicago Bulls- Jusef Nurkic, C, Bosnia and Hergovina (6’11”, 280 lbs)

Nurkic is a 6’11” bear in the middle of the paint, clogging up the lane the way donuts clog up arteries. Nurkic’s massive proportions allowed him to dominate the Adriatic League, but he was often on the bench due to foul trouble. He projects to be a phenomenal defensive presence, and he moves well for his Honda Civic-like proportions. While the Bosnia and Hergovina native’s offensive game needs refinement as do his instincts, the Bulls would gladly take on a project with such fantastic physical attributes.

20. Toronto Raptors- Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA (6’9”, 230 lbs)

Anderson is one of the most fascinating prospects in this year’s draft class, as he spend the majority of this past season tearing it up as UCLA’s 6’9” point guard. With Anderson’s poor athleticism, he can’t play point guard in the NBA, and he will likely be moved to the wing. Anderson possesses incredible passing skills along with great rebounding instincts and a decent three point shot. The UCLA product’s great basketball IQ and distribution talents will  enchant Toronto this late in the first round.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Dallas via Houston and Los Angeles Lakers)- Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan (6’7”, 211 lbs)

Possessing great size and exceptional athleticism, Glenn Robinson III could very well become a great NBA wing. Robinson III regressed this year, partly due to the improvements from Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert, but still has the physical attributes to see continued improvement. With a strong point guard in Russell Westbrook, Robinson III will get plenty of opportunities to prove himself.

22. Memphis Grizzlies- T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State (6’8”, 220 lbs)

T.J. Warren gets buckets. Regardless of what critics say about his athleticism or his “tweener” status, Warren can put the ball in the hole. Similar to Doug McDermott, the sophomore has a great feel for the game, moving without the ball and setting up easy for his teammates. He’s also a sneaky-productive rebounder. Memphis will love his knack for scoring off the bench and good play on the other side of the court as well.

23. Utah Jazz (via Golden State)-  Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut (6’1”, 175 lbs)

Utah would love to steal Napier from a playoff team at this point in the first round. Napier plays with the kind of swagger you can’t teach. He believes that every shot he takes will go in. This makes up for his lack of size and athleticism. For the Jazz, Napier will be serviceable back up to Trey Burke, but he will also be a great asset on the trade market, for many playoff teams would love to have a warrior like Napier come May.

24. Charlotte Hornets (via Portland)- Jordan Clarkson, PG/SG, Missouri (6’5”, 186 lbs)

Clarkson is a great game-manager, able to create his own shot as well as distributing for others. He’s exceptional in the pick and roll, finishing at the rim thanks to his good size. While his outside shot deserves no respect at the moment, there’s certainly room for improvement. Charlotte would love a backup point guard for Kemba Walker, and Clarkson will have plenty of offensive weapons to set up on the floor for the Hornets.

25. Houston Rockets- P.J. Hairston, SG/SF, Texas Legends (6’5″, 229 lbs)

Hairston’s sweet three-point shot is his calling card, and Houston’s three-point focused offense is perfect for the former UNC standout. He’s sneaky athletic, and his thickness will help him on defense, if he decides to put in the effort. Obviously, the Rockets will have to look into his past and his dismissal from UNC, but provided his red flags clear up, Hairston should be a great fit for Houston.

26. Miami Heat-K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson (6’6”, 196 lbs)

McDaniels was one of the top players in the ACC this past year, despite his relative obscurity. He’s got freaky athleticism, as his highlight tape opens with several high-flying putback dunks. McDaniels is not a horrible three-point shooter, and with some work, it could become add a whole new layer to his game. He is also a great defender, thanks to his exceptional length. His long arms led to 2.8 blocks per game, an incredible mark for a wing player. Despite his low notoriety, McDaniels should enter the NBA as an impactful rotation guy, and with development, could become a great two-way player. The Heat might also reach for a point guard like Spencer Dinwiddie here.

27. Phoenix Suns (via Indiana)- Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA (6’4”, 210 lbs)

Expect Phoenix to trade one if not all of its first round picks to move into a position where it can draft a player with high-end lottery talent. However, if they hold onto the number twenty-seven pick, look for them to take Jordan Adams, a pure scorer out of UCLA. Adams moves well off the ball, possessing good basketball instincts and relying on guile to make up for his lack of athleticism. A versatile scorer, Adams can post up smaller guards using his bulk frame, shoot off the catch, and man the break in transition. He also averaged 2.6 steals and 5.3 rebounds a game, showing that he doesn’t completely check out on the defensive end.

28. Los Angeles Clippers- Cleanthony Early, SF/PF, Wichita State (6’7”, 210 lbs)

Early was the best player on a Wichita State team that was undefeated prior to a second round loss to Kentucky in the NCAA tournament. Early carries great athleticism and a fortitude for putting the ball in the basket.  He can score with his back to the basket as well as possessing an improved shooting range. Early’s great size should help out a thin Clippers wing core, and with tutelage and effort, he can become a solid defensive player as well.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder- Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland (6’11”, 222 lbs)

Clint Capela has the kind of physical and athletic gifts that makes NBA scouts’ mouths water. He runs the floor like a gazelle, playing above the rim offensively and defensively. However, Capela is still a few years away; he has no offensive identity aside from easy transition points and his fundamentals are lacking. The Thunder would love for Capela to fill out in order to step into the void Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison leave when their contracts expire next year.

30. San Antonio Spurs- CJ Wilcox, SG, Washington (6’5”, 201 lbs)

Known for his silky smooth three-point stroke, CJ Wilcox developed into an exceptional scorer during his time at Washington. Though he gained notoriety for his three-point shooting, Wilcox can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. He also can guard almost anyone on the perimeter, thanks to his great lateral quickness. San Antonio looks for high character, two-way players who will buy into Coach Popovich’s system. Wilcox fits the mold.

2014 College World Series Final (8 PM ET on ESPN): What You Need to Know

Last night, Game 1 of the College World Series was played, with Vanderbilt beating Virginia with the score of 9-8. Tonight is Game 2 of the series (8:00 PM ET on ESPN), and Vanderbilt has the potential to win it all in a dominant sweep. Here is an overview of last night’s game, each team’s MLB Draft picks and what to expect tonight.

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In Game 1, a solid single from Derek Fisher drove home two players, leaving Virginia in the driver’s seat of the game after just the first inning. After a scoreless second, Vanderbilt showed how they got to the College World Series, with a massive third inning. Tyler Campbell provided a double to start the inning, followed by a single and several walks, and another double from Campbell near the end. Though the Virginia pitcher Nathan Kirby was pulled early in the second, relief from Whit Mayberry was no solution, with Vanderbilt scoring all nine of their runs in the third inning. Virginia went on to add three runs in the third, two runs in the fifth and one run in the eighth, but came up short by one run. Vanderbilt proved that an early power is better than consistency, and took Game 1.

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Both Virginia and Vanderbilt have immense depth, and rely on their whole squads to take them this far, yet still have a bevy of stars each. Five players from Vanderbilt and eight players from Virginia were taken in this year’s MLB Draft. For Vanderbilt, star pitcher Tyler Beede was taken by the Giants with the 14th pick in the Draft, and Adam Ravenelle (RHP), Vince Conde (SS), Jared Miller (LHP) and Brian Miller (RHP) were taken in the 4th, 9th, 11th and 15th rounds, respectively. For Virginia, star pitcher Nick Howard was taken by the Reds with the 19th overall pick, and and outfielders Derek Fisher and Mike Papi were taken with the 37th and 38th overall picks, respectively. Additionally, Brandon Downes (CF), Brandon Cogswell (SS), Artie Lewicki (RHP), Whit Mayberry (RHP) and Nate Irving (C), were taken in the 7th, 7th, 8th, 21st and 34th rounds, respectively.

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For Game 2, expect Virginia to come out swinging early, Vanderbilt’s streaky bats explode one more time. In addition to each team’s Draft Picks, there are plenty of important players. For Vanderbilt, expect Tyler Campbell, Zander Wiel and Rhett Wiseman to all continue their recent success. In Game 1, Campbell posted 2 hits, 3 RBI and 1 run. Wiel added 2 walks, and 1 RBI. Virginia can’t keep pitching away from Wiel’s big bat, so expect him to crush a few pitches. Wiseman had 1 hit and 1 RBI in Game 1, and expect him to come up clutch again in Game 2. In addition to the Draft picks, expect more out of Virginia, with Daniel Pinero, Derek Fisher and Kenny Towns. Pinero had 3 hits and 1 RBI in Game 1, Fisher had 2 hits, 2 RBI and 1 run and Towns had 1 hit, 1 RBI and 1 run.

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While Vanderbilt had one excellent inning, Virginia deserved to win Game 1 with their relentless offense. Virginia will furiously fight to send the series to Game 3, and ultimately their consistency will do exactly that. Virginia has more depth than Vanderbilt, more senior leadership and this is their year. For Game 3, expect Vanderbilt to come back with a clutch rally, and bring the title back to Nashville. No matter what, their will be at least one more excellent game of baseball, and several prospects that will prove their worth to MLB teams. The diehard and the casual fan alike definitely need to tune into Game 2 of the College World Series tonight.

 

Top 10 Most Exciting MLS Matches (Pre World Cup Break)

Every 4 years the MLS takes a break in the middle of their season to allow many of their top players compete in the FIFA World Cup. Here is Thuuz’s breakdown of the top 10 most exciting MLS matches from the 1st half of the season. The 1st number listed is the final Thuuz excitement rating each match received and the 2nd number is the anticipated pre-game excitement rating that each match started with.

10. Final Excitement Rating: 95 // Pre-game Excitement Rating: 35

May 18: Columbus Crew 3 – Portland Timbers 3

Two teams that desperately needed points scrapped it out in a crazy game. Portland looked good after a 5th minute goal, but Columbus scored two in the next 20 minutes after Portland lost Alvas Powell to a red card, escaping to halftime with a lead. It took until the 80th minute for Timbers captain Will Johnson to net an equalizer, but lazy defense let Crew substitute Ethan Finlay steal a go-ahead goal just seconds later. A lucky bounce let the Timbers’ Gaston Fernandez slip the ball past the goalkeeper and tie the game.

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9. 96 // 53

May 4: Philadelphia Union 1 – Seattle Sounders FC 2

The Sounders used home field advantage, playing strong through a rainy day in Seattle to snag their fourth straight win. The Union ended a 204-minute scoreless streak on a 14th minute own goal off Brad Evans’ head. Both goalies were stellar, especially with the the Union’s Zac MacMath heroically saving a PK. Obafemi Martins extended his scoring streak to three games with a game-tying goal in the 61st minute, and Chad Marshall headed in a corner kick in the 84th to seize victory.

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8. 96 // 72

May 8: FC Dallas 1 – Seattle Sounders 2

Seattle extended their winning streak to 5 games, and their unbeaten streak to 6 with yet another late win. FC Dallas scored in the 14th minute on a PK, and lead the game until the 62nd minute when Lamar Neagle netted a goal off of a cross from Obafemi Martins. Martins, the league leader in assists, also assisted on the game winner, threading the ball into the box for Kenny Cooper to convert in the 88th minute.

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7. 96 // 49

June 7: Vancouver Whitecaps FC 3 – Philadelphia Union 3

This spirited match was the tale of two halves. The Whitecaps left the first half up 2-0, before giving up goals in the 63rd, 65th and 68th minutes. A PK in the 83rd minute tied the game up, but Union goalie David Ousted deserves credit for some incredible saves, including blocks on key shots in the 86th and 88th minutes, as well as stoppage time.

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6. 97 // 36

May 10: Chicago Fire 5 – New York Red Bulls 4

The Fire came into this game desperately needing their first win of the season. They started the game hot, with a controversial 4th minute goal that may or may not have been deserving of an offsides call. Tim Cahill tied it up minutes later for the Red Bulls, his first goal of the season. New York snagged another goal before halftime, but Chicago roared back with goals in the 49th and 53th minutes to snag a 3-2 lead. Shipp cemented a hat trick for the Fire (‘4, ‘54) with a goal in the 58th minute, putting them up 4-2. Shipp crossed the ball to Nyarko for a goal in the 64th minute. In the 66th minute, Wright-Phillips netted a sweet goal before scoring a PK in the 78th, gaining a hat trick for himself and putting New York within one. Henry just missed a header and Wright-Phillips had a bicycle kick blocked in the last ten minutes of the game. The Red Bulls fell short, but the two hat tricks made MLS history.

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5. 99 // 63

April 12: Real Salt Lake 2 – Philadelphia Union 2

US national team midfielders Maurice Edu and Kyle Beckerman traded huge goals in the final minutes of the game to keep it tied up. Recently traded-for Andrew Wenger tied the game for the Union in the second half, after Luke Mulholland gave RSL the lead. Beckerman netted a hard strike in the 85th minute to put RSL ahead, but Edu responded with a header in the 90th to end the match in a tie.

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4. 100 // 52

March 9: Montreal Impact 0 – FC Dallas 2

The first game of the season is always exciting—the break is over, your favorite players are back and there’s a long, entertaining season ahead. This season opener just so happens to have all that, plus an awesome game. Montreal controlled the game early, missing a header off the post in the 18th minute and consistently pressing the attack. Dallas’ Richard Sanchez made another key save in the 25th minute, and good defense took away an Impact opportunity in the 29th. Just before halftime, Andres Escobar nailed 30 yard line drive to put Dallas up 1-0. A free kick just outside the box in the 52nd led to the second goal, and good defense took care of the rest.

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3. 100 // 68

March 9: Chicago Fire 2 – Chivas USA 3

Sometimes, all the action gets packed into one side of the game. Chivas scored in the 56th minute of the season opener off of a PK, and doubled that in the 59th minute with a goal from rookie Thomas McNamara. Not to be upstaged, Chicago’s Benji Joya scored in the 64th minute, his first minute on the field in any MLS game. With just 20 minutes to play, sub Quincy Amarikwa tied the game up. Defender Bobby Burling came up with the late game heroics for the home team, scoring the game-winner in the 88th minute.

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2. 100 // 57

May 4: Real Salt Lake 3 – Chicago Fire 2

With 90 minutes played, Chicago must have felt pretty good about themselves. The winless Fire were leading the undefeated RSL 2-1, about to pull off a massive upset. Forward Alvaro Saborio had scored in the 72nd minute to bring the Claret-and-Cobalt within one, but they were still struggling for traction. In the 90th minute, Saborio pulled through and scored an equalizer, before sending a cross to forward Joao Plata in the 93rd minute for the game-winning goal. These late game heroics extended RSL’s unbeaten streak to 13 games, one of the longest in MLS history.

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1. 100 // 54

April 5: Seattle Sounders 4 – Portland Timbers 4

After getting bounced from last year’s playoffs by the Timbers, the Sounders were out for a little extra revenge, on top of the fact that the two teams already have the best rivalry in the MLS. Seattle came out strong with a goal in the 3rd minute, but the Timbers bounced back with scores in the 9th and 13th. Dempsey tied it up to end the half at 2-2. The Timbers dominated right after halftime, scoring twice in the first few minutes. Just when Portland thought they could both take out their rival and pick up their first W of the season, Dempsey snuck in two goals in the 86th and 87th minutes to dramatically force a tie, and pick up a hat trick for himself.

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