Tuesday, June 21, 2011

NBA Draft 2011 Projections

Hey, I'm back! After an INCREDIBLE NBA playoffs and one of the best finals series any of us has seen in ages, it's time for one of my personal favorite events of the year: the NBA draft. 

Unfortunately, this year's draft is one of the weakest since probably 2000, when the only All-Stars in the first round were the overall #1 pick, Kenyon Martin and Jamaal Magloire, who went 19th. (Wait, he was an all-star? This is news to me, as well)

Fortunately, I think the players in this draft have a bit more potential than that draft. After all the very best players from the 2000 draft turned out to be Martin (definitely a below-average product for a #1 pick), Jamal Crawford, Hedo Turkoglu (who sucks now), and Michael Redd (who has been sitting on the bench with an injury for what seems like 12 years)

So in light of the overall shittiness of this draft, I'm going to do a mock of only the lottery starting from #14. Keep in mind, these are my evaluations, and are probably different from widely regarded opinion. I'm also ignoring team needs. In reality, I don't believe at all that this is how the top 14 shakes out at all, but in 5 years, looking back in retrospect, I believe these will ultimately be the top 14 players from this draft.

14. Jon Leuer - PF - 6'10" 230 lbs. - Wisconsin
NBA Role: Shooter, Rebounder

Jon Leuer? A lottery pick?? What the hell am I smoking, right? Nope, I'm not going crazy guys, this is the type of power forward that succeeds in the NBA right now. Leuer fits the profile of a stretch-4, a la Dirk Nowitzki, albeit a homeless man's version of the newly crowned finals MVP. What is a stretch-4? Leuer is a big guy who can hit perimeter shots, out to 24 feet. I could see his potential ceiling as a solid rotation player off the bench, coming in for rebounding and spotting up for jumpers. Call him Matt Bonner 2.0. He's not going to be the strongest guy down low, but his ability to hit the NBA 3 and stretch the opposing team's big man out to the perimeter will be invaluable. Don't forget, this guy averaged over 25 points a game his senior year on his way to a 1st team all-Big-10 season. Many mocks have this guy going in the 2nd round, but I believe he will have a long, successful NBA career as a role player.

13. Tyler Honeycutt - SF - 6'8" - 190 - UCLA
NBA Role: Shooter, Perimeter Defender

At this point, you might think my opinions are completely worthless, but hear me out. Obviously his biggest weakness is his lack of bulk. At a slender 190 pounds, he's not going to be banging around down low. However, other than that, there's a lot to like about this guy defensively. He's got LONG arms, plays with great effort, and has good bounce, which helped him lead the Pac-10 in blocks this past year. On the offensive end, he's more of a project. He needs to work on his ball skills so that he doesn't turn it over against the myriad of unbelievable defenders at his position in the NBA. His jumper is pretty decent, so he will at least be able to spot up and use his length to get his shot off over defenders. Normally, I would not have rated a guy like him this high, but for some strange reason, Ben Howland's players always seem to come in to the draft vastly underrated. Every Howland product has massively outperformed his estimate as a pro. This is over a period of seven years involving 13 NBA prospects, and all of them except Josh Shipp outperformed; many of them did so by wide margins. (Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, and Aaron Afflalo are good examples) We'll see how Honeycutt fits this model.

12. Bismack Biyombo - PF/C - 6'9" - 245 - Democratic Republic of the Congo
NBA Role: Post Defender, Rebounder

Biyombo is your typical athletic freak who is an absolute BEAST on defense and can't throw it in the ocean on offense. Make no mistake, this guy is a lottery pick based on his potential. At worst, he's Ekpe Udoh. At best, maybe Ben Wallace . . . okay maybe not that good. After all, Wallace was a multiple defensive player of the year. But still, this guy has the tools.

With a 7'7" wingspan, unreal hops, a chiseled 245 pound body at just 4.8% body fat at the combine, this guy has an NBA body, there's no question of that. He runs the floor well and finishes at the rim with explosiveness. Just don't expect him to be hitting jumpers anytime soon.

11. Jordan Hamilton - SF - 6'8" - 230 - Texas
NBA Role: Scorer, Shooter

Hamilton struggled pretty badly when he was forced to play behind 3 stars on last year's Texas squad when he was forced to come off the bench, but after the departure of Damion James and co., Hamilton managed to bring up just about every stat across the board in his sophomore year. He dropped 23.5 points a game and shot 44% from the floor, including 38% from three. While he doesn't possess the quickness to become a dominant slasher in the pros, he does have the ability to power through smaller defenders and make very difficult shots. As a result, he's likely to take some bad shots when he's in the game, although he probably will hit a few of them. The only question is, will he learn to adjust to being a role player, or will his alpha dog mentality get in the way of his talent?

10. Alec Burks - SG - 6'6" - 195 - Colorado
NBA Role: Shooter, Scorer

Burks is a smooth and versatile scorer. He has good length and athleticism and is coveted by several teams now because of his ability to create shots for himself. He is an explosive slasher with the ability to kick it into another gear on fast breaks. He has good shooting ability from mid range, but his long range jumper isn't quite up to par, evidenced by his 29% shooting from three last season at Colorado, and he occasionally has difficulty finishing at the rim. Burks has the physical tools to become a good defender in the NBA, but he's not there yet. I think once this guy puts on some weight and learns how to play, he will be a pretty effective guard on any team. I think down the road he could be a Raja Bell kind of role player. 

9. Tristan Thompson - PF - 6'9" - 230 - Texas
NBA Role: Post Defender, Rebounder

It's hard for me to put my finger on this one. On the one hand, he gets to the free throw line at an incredible rate because of his ability to get in the paint aggressively, he's an above average athlete with size and length who plays with a lot of energy. On defense, he's protects the rim with his good anticipation and timing. But on the other hand, his skill level is far from ideal. Once he gets to the free throw line, he shoots just 49% from the stripe. His jumper is equally atrocious and he's only an average finisher around the rim. Then there is the question of whether or not he has the size to play the 4 in the NBA. Whoever drafts Thompson is getting a raw product, it remains to be seen what his potential ceiling can be if he works hard enough.

8. Klay Thompson - SG - 6'7" - 205 - Washington State
NBA Role: Shooter

Thompson is a sniper with deep range and excellent size for a wing. His mechanics are impeccable, and his stats back it up, as he hit around 50% of his open attempts last year at Washington State. He also made some strides in his ball handling and passing in his junior season, which has upped his draft stock on many mock drafts substantially. Although he does have some athletic and defensive limitations, there's not a better catch and shoot guy in this draft class. He can help a lot of teams right now.

7. Brandon Knight - PG - 6'3" - 180 - Kentucky
NBA Role: Distributor, Scorer

Here is a great example of how players who do well in the NCAA tournament are overvalued on mock draft boards. I would say the majority of the mock drafts I've seen have Knight going 3rd overall to the Jazz. I won't argue with this pick, since the Jazz do need a franchise point guard, and many scouts do seem to agree that Knight is the 2nd best point guard in the draft. And he did have a 30 point game in the NCAA tournament along with two game winning shots. 

That said, he also shot a measly 33% from the floor throughout the tournament while committing 3.4 turnovers a game. That's not really the recipe for success in the pros. Can he improve? Probably, yeah. Do I think he's a franchise point guard who will someday be an all star? . . maybe. I think his upside is better than just about anyone, including Kyrie Irving, because he's a big guard, very athletic, but he's got a lot of things to learn about how to run a team. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the kid, he's got a great attitude, a ton of heart, and his basketball IQ is second to no one in this draft, but Knight is still learning how to run a team. Learning on the fly in the NBA isn't the ideal  way to do it, but there was no way he would go this high in next year's draft, so he made the right choice.

6. Kawhi Leonard - SF - 6'7" - 225 - San Diego State
NBA Role: All-Purpose Defender, Slasher

A lot of teams love Leonard, and it's easy to see why. Standing at 6'6" with no shoes, this guy has a 7'3" wingspan, reportedly one of the largest ever for a player of his size or smaller. His hands are equally freakish, and are comparable with the hands of a 7 footer. Leonard weighed at 227 at the combine, which actually ranks him heavier than most of the power forwards in this draft class, leading some to believe that he is capable of guarding the 4 at the next level. Because of these unusual physical gifts, Leonard is a very good defender just about anywhere on the floor, and is an above average ball handler for a wing. While he was not a great shooter in college, he has made some strides in that department as of late, and has been impressive in shooting workouts. I personally think this guy is the real deal, and will be an impact player. He could potentially develop into a Luol Deng type of forward. 

5. Kemba Walker - PG - 6'0" - 185 - Connecticut  
NBA Role: Distributor, Scorer

Kemba Walker probably has more doubters than believers, especially considering how high he is projected to go in this draft. I, for one, am a solid believer. His critics will point to his relatively low shooting percentages and his obvious lack of size, but I find those arguments to be overly harsh. Walker played on a UConn team which was young, devoid of play makers, and relied heavily on Walker to do much of the scoring, somewhat similar to Derrick Rose's Bulls this past year. Walker is quick, athletic, and has great decision making. Although he will be one of the smallest players ever to go the lottery, there has been precedent that players his size can succeed at this level. Allen Iverson, Chris Paul, and Ty Lawson immediately come to mind. Now, Walker has a LONG way to go to catch those guys, but I believe he can an effective point guard even with his lack of size. I think he compares most favorably with Aaron Brooks and Jameer Nelson.

4. Jonas Valanciunas - C - 6'11" - 240 - Lithuania
NBA Role: Rebounder, Post Defender, Scorer

Valanciunas is no longer being considered for a top 5 pick because of his contract situation with his European club. As it stands, the 18 year old center will be unable to secure a reasonable buyout which would allow him to play in the NBA next season. 

Skill wise . . . Valanciunas has tons of potential on paper. He has the size, length, and soft touch around the rim to be an efficient scorer down low. He has soft, sticky hands, which should allow him to be a great pick and roll screener and finisher. Last season in Europe, Valanciunas converted on an incredible 73% percent of his catches while rolling to the basket. He plays with great energy and effort, and is a great rebounder and shot blocker as a result. 

While he hasn't quite developed the back to the basket post up game which he will need to score in the NBA, he is just 18 years old and his potential has many teams intrigued even though he will probably not step on an NBA court until 2013.

3. Enes Kanter - PF/C - 6'11" - 260 - Kentucky
NBA Role: Rebounder, Scorer

Enes Kanter hasn't played a single game since enrolling at Kentucky due to NCAA violations stemming from his time with a professional club in his native Turkey. Despite that, he is an enormously coveted prospect because of his massive size and his polished offensive capabilities. 

Apart from Kanter's outstanding size, he has good mobility, with the ability to run the floor and finish around the rim in traffic. He has a reliable mid range shot and soft touch on his turn around jumper, which seems to be his go-to post move at the moment.

The only knock on Kanter is his lack of experience in playing competitive basketball. NBA Owners and GMs need to be wary of what kind of effect this prolonged absence from the game could have on his development as a player. With a potential lockout looking more and more likely, Kanter could be held out of competitive basketball for a 3rd straight year, which could really hurt his growth. Other than that, there's a lot to like about the Turkish big man.

2. Derrick Williams - PF - 6'9" - 250 - Arizona
NBA Role: Scorer, Rebounder, Shooter

In terms of efficiency, there's not a forward in this draft who can compare to Derrick Williams' 1.16 points per shot in his second year at Arizona. He is an amazingly versatile player who can put the ball on the floor, get to the free throw line, play either role in a pick and roll situation, post up, and even knock down the NBA 3 with deadly accuracy. He is powerful enough to hold his own against bigger players and athletic enough to jump with the best of them. 

Despite all of that, Williams still isn't a sure thing. Didn't all of these attributes once describe highly touted forward Michael Beasley just a few years back? Williams will need to demonstrate that he can be an effective front court player in the NBA by rebounding better, particularly on the defensive glass, and also cutting down on his turnovers by making smarter plays with he ball in his hands. Other than that, Williams is definitely a tier above everyone else in the draft other than the last guy in this post . . .

1. Kyrie Irving - PG - 6'2" - 190 - Duke
NBA Role: Scorer, Distributor, Shooter  

In a draft full of players with question marks, Kyrie Irving has none. There just isn't a safer pick this year. Irving has everything you want in a lead guard: speed, quickness, court vision, great decision making, ability to finish in traffic, athleticism, leadership ability, dedication, humility, charisma, you name it, he's got it. While none of these attributes is particularly mind-blowing, the full package when put together is truly special. Irving has the unique gift of talent which very few players are blessed with. 

With the ball in any situation, Irving makes the right play time and time again to put his team in the best position to score. Despite only having seen him play 11 college games, it's easy to see how talented he is and how much he can improve a team. He's smart, he rarely turns the ball over, he can defend opposing point guards, he is a great shooter on the catch as well as off the dribble, he's dangerous in pick and roll sets, in transition, or one on one. He has a complete game and knows how to play the point guard position. It's no wonder he's a no-brainer for the number one pick this year.

I could be a biased Duke homer in saying this, but I believe Kyrie Irving has a chance to be a top 3 point guard in the league in 2 or 3 years. I say this knowing D-Will, CP3, Russell Westbrook, John Wall, etc. are already becoming the best group of point guards the game has ever had at one time. I base this on nothing other than pure speculation and the games that I have watched, but it has been a long time since I've seen a guy do things with the basketball like this kid. Most people fall into two categories on this one: He's either got a lot of Chris Paul in him, or he's Mo Williams. I'm obviously in the former category, but I guess we'll see.

Close, but I didn't feel like writing a longer column: Jimmer Fredette, Marcus Morris, Chris Singleton, Jan Vesely, Marshon Brooks, Kenneth Faried, Markieff Morris

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Next Year

Defeat tastes bitter. It's been two years for us Duke fans, so some of you guys may have forgotten what it's actually like. First of all, I just want to congratulate the Arizona Wildcats for playing a flawless game. They outplayed us, and took our will (which was considerable). Therefore, I can accept this loss. In retrospect, we had a great season by most standards. We won 30 games, went to the sweet 16, and won the ACC Tournament Championship.
A pair of blue devil legends

Second, I'd like to recognize Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith for being unbelievable players for Duke for 4 years. Those guys are the epitome of what Duke is all about and why others are so jealous of us. (You can call it hate, but deep down, it's jealousy) Not many teams can trot out 2 national championship winning senior All-Americans. The only other Duke team, or ANY team in my memory, which matched that was in 1992 with Hurley and Laettner.  (Aside from Wooden's UCLA, and Rupp's Kentucky teams of course, but that was another era, and the Florida repeat champions were juniors) 

Nolan and Kyle were among the best to ever play at Duke, and we will cherish the memories of their playing days at Duke forever. I would not be surprised to see both of their jerseys retired.

Now down to business . . . what have we got going on next year? The biggest factor is, of course, Kyrie Irving's decision to go pro or stay at Duke. I'm not going to speculate, because I don't have a clue what he's going to do. Outside of that, these are the keys for success next year:


Nolan, Kyle, Mason, and Kyrie were our 4 best defensive players this year. They could all be gone next year. This is a SERIOUS issue. we cannot afford to lose all of them and expect to win a national championship.

Of our returning players, I would say Mason (if he returns), Seth, Tyler, and Ryan are above average defenders. Miles and especially Andre NEED to work on their quickness and anticipation during this offseason.


Replacing Nolan and Kyle is impossible. We're talking about 2 of the top 10 players to ever wear DUKE on their chests. Having 2 senior all-americans play all out on every play, especially defensively caused the entire team step up their game. However, while we can never duplicate what they meant to Duke, we need someone to lead this group. The best possible candidates for this job are Kyrie Irving and Seth Curry in that order. While Miles will be a senior, I do not believe he is vocal enough to lead this team. He has always played somewhat in the shadow of Mason and Zoubs, and unless he has a Zoubek/Josh Harrellson type of senior year, I don't think we'll be seeing Miles slap the floor on defense to fire up the Crazies. Seth will need to take the reins from Nolan and Kyle if Kyrie goes pro. On the other hand, if Kyrie returns . . . we will have our definitive leader.


Andre is our best returning wing player. I cannot tell you how freaking scared this makes me after 4 years of having Singler out there terrorizing everyone on both sides of the court. Dre cannot possibly expect to play 30+ minutes if he cannot improve his perimeter defense and ball handling. He needs to make the biggest leap of anyone on the team if we are to be successful.


What we really missed this year was that all-purpose super versatile defender who could shut down a team's best player, say, a guy like Derrick Williams. All of our championship teams had that guy. I'm talking about the Lance Thomas/Shane Battier/Nate James/Grant Hill/Thomas Hill guys. Chris Carrawell also fits this description, although he was never lucky enough to win it all. Kyle tried to be that guy for us this year, but it hurt his offense sometimes, and he never truly fit that role. I'm hoping Hairston or Gbinijie can turn themselves into that guy for us.

Next year, we will still have size down low and a major perimeter scoring threat in Austin Rivers. Kyrie's decision to go pro or not will obviously be the biggest factor in our title hopes, but these 4 issues are the next things we need to consider.
Here's my Best/Worst case scenarios for 2011-12:

-Kyrie returns for another year, becomes Duke's leader
-Rivers is everything we heard about and more, and figures out how to blend his game in with Kyrie, learning how to play off the ball
-Seth takes his game up another notch, turns into a consistent double digit scorer off the bench
-Mason and Miles actually develop some offensive post moves and are capable of backing down their defender 1 on 1 a few times per game for a high percentage look.
-Josh or Michael evolves into an elite defender who can shoot the 3, and becomes the starter at small forward by the end of the year (yes, I'm dead serious)
-Our starting 5 is: Kyrie/Austin/Josh/Ryan/Mason
-Ryan Kelly continues his progression as a skilled big man who is always a threat to score, making it impossible to help off of him, starts all year at the 4.
-Andre continues to be instant offense off the bench and improves his defense to the point where he is no longer a liability on that end.
-Seth/Tyler/Quinn/Andre/Michael/Marshall accept their roles as bench players on a ridiculously deep team, but continue to work hard and help the team in whatever way they can when they are on the court.
-Duke is ranked #1 all season long and wins the national championship in one of the toughest fields of all time

-Kyrie goes pro
-At the end of the year, our starting 5 is Quinn/Seth/Austin/Ryan/Mason
-Josh improves enough to play 12-15 minutes a game off the bench , providing energy and defense
-Miles and Mason improve a bit on offense, but still don't dominate the way that they should for their size/athleticism, but do develop a tough enforcer type of mentality
-Tyler and Andre bring defense and offense off the bench, respectively, as they have this year
-Duke stays in the top 10 all year, gets a 1 seed and makes it to at least the elite 8, and has a good shot to win it all against loaded squads from Ohio State, Kentucky, and Carolina

-Kyrie and Mason both go pro
-Austin is good, but because of a lack of consistent offense around him, gets constantly doubled
-Quinn is not ready to run the point as a freshman
-Our starting 5 at the end of the year: Seth/Tyler/Austin/Ryan/Miles
-Josh Hairston inexplicably continues to ride the pine
-Gbinijie and Marshall don't pan out as impact players quite yet
-Duke is a top 15 team, gets a 2 or 3 seed, makes it to the sweet 16 and gets upset by a team on fire from 3.

Well, that's it for now, I'm just glad to finally get a real post in. GO DUKE!!!!!!!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Changing the blog

Okay, I am f***ing terrible at keeping this blog updated. Mostly because I've been busy and stuff, but also because I just don't care enough about anything other than Duke basketball to actually write about it. So I'm officially changing this into a Duke basketball blog.

Friday, December 3, 2010

I've been talking about this guy for years . . .

He’s a senior All-American candidate with a national title ring in his drawer and an NBA contract in his future.
So a few months ago, during one of Duke’s offseason pickup games, it was easy to understand why Nolan Smith did a double-take when he was given an order by Kyrie Irving.
Actually, make that freshman Kyrie Irving.

“Get out of the way,” Irving yelled at Smith as he streaked past half-court and raced toward the basket. “Move out of the way. I got it.”
Despite his freshman status, Kyrie Irving is not backing down from anything at Duke.

More than a month later, Smith chuckled when recalling the story after Wednesday night’s 84-79 victory over Michigan State.

“You don’t really hear that too often – a freshman telling two seniors on the wing to get out of the way,” Smith said. “But we’ve got no problem sitting back and letting him do it, because we know he can.”
Indeed, Irving has proven that in his short time at Duke.

It began during players-only scrimmages in a dimly-lit gym and then carried over to supervised workouts under the watchful eye of Hall-of-Famer Mike Krzyzewski. Now, in front of an entire nation, Irving has blossomed into the top point guard in all of college basketball.

Anyone who questioned that before certainly won’t after Wednesday, when the 18-year-old Irving turned in one of the top performances by a freshman in Duke history by scoring 31 points and dishing out four assists in the top-ranked Blue Devils’ win over No. 6 Michigan State.

Thirty minutes after the final horn, Irving shrugged off his gaudy stat line as he lounged in a chair in the Blue Devils’ locker room.

“This was a big game for me,” he said. “But I try to do that every night.”

That’s what makes Irving – and, in turn, this Blue Devils’ team – so special. He could put up those kinds of numbers in just about every game Duke plays. But after just seven college games and a handful of practices, Irving understands the big picture.

Smith and National Player of the Year candidate Kyle Singler are future first-round draft picks who played an integral role on a team that went 35-5 en route to winning last season’s NCAA championship. Emerging power forward Mason Plumlee is one of the most athletic, skilled post players in the country, and reserves Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry give the Blue Devils two of the game’s top threats from beyond the 3-point arc.

Instead of trying to outshine his teammates, Irving grasps the importance of involving them. It may sound like a small thing, but that sort of maturity impresses NBA scouts more than highlight-reel dunks and behind-the-back-passes. It’s also the reason fans and media members are wondering aloud whether Duke can become the first team since Indiana in 1976 to go undefeated.

“When I came here I was just trying to find my place on this team,” Irving said. “I didn’t know how close a team could be until I came here. We’re definitely a brotherhood. The trust around here is really special. It’s made everything so much easier for me.”

Irving may be a different type of point guard than former No. 1 picks John Wall and Derrick Rose, but he’s every bit as valuable to his team. Not just because of what he does during games, but because of how Irving carries himself when the cameras are off and the stands are empty.

“He’s one of the best point guards I’ve ever seen,” Smith said. “He’s very coachable. He loves being on the court with us. Whenever I have something to say to him, he looks me in the eyes and listens. He’s been a great teammate.

“But he’s on a different level as far as confidence. We know there are going to be games where he’s just going to go – and we’re going to follow him.”

Wednesday was one of those games.

Michigan State took a 17-15 lead on 3-pointer by Korie Lucious with 11 minutes remaining in the opening half. Irving, though, responded with back-to-back three-point plays to put the Blue Devils ahead 21-17. Michigan State tied the game three more times during the opening period but could never take the lead.
Irving, who was often guarded by Michigan State standout Kalin Lucas, scored 18 of his 31 points in the opening half. The game was the second-straight banner showing for Irving against a big-name opponent. Last week he had 17 points and six assists against Kansas State and preseason All-American guard Jacob Pullen.
“I need that, especially this early in the season,” Irving said. “You can’t go out there intimidated or they’re going to take advantage of you.”

Opposing guards are probably thinking the same thing about Irving, who continues to draw praise from his coaches and teammates for being such a sponge during workouts.

“It’s scary,” Smith said. “He still wants to learn.”

Krzyzewski has always emphasized structure. But with Irving things are slightly different. Krzyzewski said he wants Irving to “follow his instincts” at times. He said he’s given him the freedom to make reads instead of always running set plays.

“We’ve changed the way we play because of him,” Krzyzewski said.

Duke scored 84 points against the Spartans. Last year, with Jon Scheyer running the point, Krzyzewski said the Blue Devils would’ve tallied about 63.

The new, fast-paced style has led to plenty of smiles in the locker room – and in postgame press conferences. The normally stoic Krzyzewski was in such a good mood after this win that he cracked a joke when asked to think of a word that best describes his freshman point guard.

“I’m not a big adjective guy,” Krzyzewski said.

He paused for a moment, then smiled.

“Sensational, scintillating,” he said. “Was that not a good attempt by me – a guy with a low SAT verbal [score]? Jesus Christ, I’m using up all my words.”

Save a few, coach. You’re going to need them.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kyrie Irving

289: Bobby Hurley's single-season school record for assists, set in 1991. That might be 2nd by the end of the year. 8.2: Hurley's 1992-93 record for assist average. That's also not safe.

Those 16 assists Hurley handed out in a 1993 win over Florida State? They may soon be moving down a line in the Blue Devils' record book as well.

And don't think for a second, this year's squad won't have a chance to at least threaten the Duke record for scoring average, a hard-to-top 92.4-points per game mark established 46 seasons ago.

So that brings us quickly to Kyrie Irving, Duke's dazzling freshman point guard who will lead the defending national champions onto the floor tonight for their season opener against Princeton.

For Irving, all the pieces are in place for a monster season. We're talking Ridley Scott-explosive.

The kid comes to campus with an NBA-ready game. He has quickness. He has vision. He has admirable panache.

And, oh yeah, he has a ridiculous supporting cast around him.

That is, I guess, if you can consider established All-American stars like Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith supporting cast members.

You can probably tell by now I love Irving's game. I've gone on record in several different forums with an unwavering guarantee: Duke's point guard will be a first-team All-ACC star. Right away.

Now as the Blue Devils keep their preeminent goal of winning a second consecutive national championship in mind, the biggest question revolves around just how well Irving will handle the pressure and expectation that's been thrown at him.
Stress reactions

There's so much we still have to learn about Irving's mental toughness and stamina and ability to accept struggle.

When he was engulfed by reporters at Duke's media day last month, his eyes nearly came out of their sockets.

"This is a new deal for me," Irving said. "I'm not used to this level of attention. But I guess I better start getting used to it."

Without question, his ability to become comfortable as a leading man on the country's most heavily scrutinized team will be a huge challenge.

And during Duke's first official practice last month, coach Mike Krzyzewski saw a fatigue in Irving's mannerisms that should not have been present so early.

The intensity of everything was clearly battering Irving. And the young point guard's eagerness to succeed was also wearing him down.

During a break 30 minutes before the end of the workout, Krzyzewski approached Irving and studied his face.

"You have furrows in your forehead," Coach K said with a smirk.

Irving laughed.

"You're too young to have furrows in your forehead," Krzyzewski continued. "This is what this is right now. You're going to have to do this without having furrows."
Thrown into the fire

As Irving's duties become more and more sophisticated with each passing month, Krzyzewski has given the rookie point guard some basic principles to always keep in mind.

First and foremost, Irving has to remember to take care of the ball, to learn the value of a possession.

It's worth noting that Jon Scheyer made 212 shots and had 194 assists last season yet committed just 65 turnovers in 1,470 minutes played as Duke's offense became one of the most efficient in the country. That was certainly a huge factor in the Blue Devils' ability to win 18 of their final 19 games.

Krzyzewski also wants Irving to get a feel for the difference between being aggressive and being reckless, a major adjustment for any newcomer to the high-level college basketball.

"With a freshman point guard, no matter how good you are, the very first thing to keep control of is wanting to do too much, wanting to force action when there's no action to be forced," Krzyzewski said. "It's about recognizing situations where I should attack or I should set up. . But as coach you don't want to micromanage him where he then loses his instincts. It's just a balance there."

Fortunately for Irving, the balance will come from having great mentors. Krzyzewski plus Smith and Singler will all be around for support and encouragement.

The wildly competitive schedule Duke will play over the next three weeks will also benefit the young point guard in the long run.

A Nov. 23 date with No. 3 Kansas State could materialize at the CBE Classic in Kansas City.

After that, Duke will host a Dec. 1 showdown with No. 2 Michigan State at Cameron Indoor Stadium followed three days later with a trip to New Jersey to face No. 17 Butler in a rematch of last season's national title game.

As crazy as it sounds, Krzyzewski is actually looking forward to seeing Irving struggle some during his first month on the big stage. It's the best way to learn more about his fortitude.

"That's going to be part of his evolution - having a lot expected of him," Krzyzewski said. "So we may as well put him out there."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The "Grand" Power Rankings

Okay, I've been slacking on these way sooner than i thought i would be, but don't worry, im wrapping up all three weeks into one. And no, i am not writing this because of Fred, its just a coincidence they're coming out immediately after Fudson's post. By the way Fred, you are being fined for excessively violent verbal hits. Please mail me a check for 50,000 dollars.

And the Power Rankings.

1. Silver Bullets:

Yes sir, 5-1, completely dominating freeman's all-star squad in the win column, and I left 50 points on the bench last week.

2. Revis and Butthead

Revis is getting burned every Sunday. Maybe freeman's team would have beat any other team last week but that is irrelevant. Only 2 waiver wire pickups? Free's bum knee is clearly affecting his mobility in his swivel chair and can't turn around fast enough to make the moves.

3. Nerd Rage

Giving Charlie the benefit of the doubt here, knocking off the number one team 's gotta move you up. And putting up 137 points when only getting one from Miles Austin is pretty impressive.

4. Cossacks

Pete, congrats on finally getting off your ass and dropping your kicker who doesnt kick anymore. Fourth place through six weeks? a new record for pete.

5. Professional Grade:

Mcnabb is working miracles over in Kentucky. 606 points through six weeks, less points than Got Rice? (1-5), less than Ocho (1-5), but somehow T'nab as he goes by in the streets, is 4-2.

6. Money Affiliated

Fudson's team is all over the place. He wins, he loses, then he loses some more, then he smokes some weed. And then some more weed. and some more weed. And finally some more weed. Roethlisburger is finally back, but antonio gates and desean jackson both out, can't be good fro Fudson.

7. Hater Players

Solid players, nothing amazing, nothing that jumps off the page, just solid.... oddly very fitting for Leon Parker, the Big Fundemental...except for that fadeway. just kidding parker....but really.

8. Got Rice?

Giving Timmy the benefit of the doubt, the '08 champ or '07 champ, or '09 champ, one of those years, and well i guess you can't teach experience. or indifference. Check ur team Chen.

9. Rowdy's Boys:

It's about time for the annual confusing Rob trade which somehow completely works out for him and propels him into the playoffs.

10. Ocho Cinco

Ryan Matthews not panning out, this team needs some moves.

Alright that's all i got, Everybody vote this week, there will be a five point bonus for those who vote that they may not or will not ever receive So vote!!!!

Sunny's Fact of the week: Carmelo to NY before this season is over.
your welcome.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Austin Rivers Commits to Duke!!!!!

I think we can finally put to rest the notion that Coach K’s time and effort for Team U.S.A. is “hurting” Duke. Don’t you agree?

Welcome Austin Rivers, the No. 1 rated high school player.

Who is Rivers (Like I really have to answer this question for any Duke fan, but I will anyway)?

Offensively, there is nothing Doc Rivers’ kid can’t do. He can shoot from almost 30-feet away and his mid-range game will be unheard of for a incoming freshman. He’s wicked quick, with a NBA-ready dribble-drive. He can play either point or two-guard, but if we are to assume that Kyrie Irving goes pro after one year, Seth Curry should have control of the point in 2011. With Nolan Smith’s departure, the shooting guard spot belongs to Rivers (sorry Dawkins).

If you want to find one weakness, word on the street is that Rivers favors his right. It’s not like he can’t go left, but he’s probably never really been challenged to at the high school & summer league level. This will change in college, so expect him to work on it throughout his senior year.

Getting Austin Rivers isn’t truly shocking. Once he de-committed from Florida, all the experts had pegged Duke. However, it was a bit surprising (and nice) that he simply cancelled trips to both Kansas and North Carolina. As a Duke fan, this had to feel especially sweet, after Roy Williams robbed Harrison Barnes last summer.

With the addition of Rivers, Duke clearly has the No. 1 or No. 2 class in 2011. The other solid group belongs to Coach Calipari and Kentucky.

On top of Austin Rivers, Duke now has (SF-4) Michael Gbinije, (C-11) Tyler Adams, and (C-5) Marshall Plumlee.

Some have speculated that the Duke coaching staff may be done recruiting in 2011. I suspect otherwise.

We know that Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith graduate, so they’re done after this year. Like we said before, Kyrie Irving could easily be one and done (especially if the Blue Devils can repeat). What about Mason Plumlee? Obviously I’m doing a lot of projecting (which has gotten me in trouble in the past), but he’s projected to be a middle of the pack first-round pick next year. Would he stay on another year, especially with the opportunity to play along side both brothers? Maybe.

As best as I can tell, Duke still has (PG-3) Quinn Cook and (PF-1) Quincy Miller. Both will be in town for “Countdown To Craziness,” so that’s a good sign.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Vandy League Week 2 Power Rankings

short and sweet

The Undefeated

1. Cossacks-

Pete in unfamiliar territory 2 weeks into the season. But even more unfamiliar territory was when pete actually picked up a free agent sometime last week, I dont even know how Pete knew what to do, I bet he had to read the 'help' section.

2. Silver Bullets-

Drew Brees what happened to those monster 40 pt games, these 20 point blue collar efforts are not cutting it. But still 2-0, not complaining, except about the cumalative 11 points my first round pick has gotten me so far.

3. Professional Grade-

The last 2-0 team, trent has guided his team a whole point above 200 points which is whopping third overall... from last in term of points. But still 2-0. good shit trent, way to cash in on that garbage td by Eli.

The 1-1's

4. Revis and Butthead-

Tough loss, Eli Manning once again proves himself in the clutch, pulling trent's squad ahead by only a couple of points while at the same time pulling his real team closer to losing still by a lot.

5. Nerd Rage

Big Week for Li, 38 points for the Pitt D, probably doesnt happen again, but still Schaub looked pretty good, addai and Frank Gore, let's hope that was a glimpse of things not to come from Gore, otherwise, he'll be scoring every game.

6. Fudson's team-

Fred's team basically came back to life. The Michael Vick experiment seems to be working for both Fred and the Eggles. in fact i think Fred called Andy Reid and threatened to take all his weed away if he went through with starting Kolb again..then Andy would have to be sober on the sidelines while he looks befuddled at the terrible offenseive plays he has just called.

7. Hater Players-

Leon with a solid effort, but no help from Tom Brady who only put up 15 against the Jets defense.

The bottom of the barrel

8. Got Rice?-

Timmy chen keeps having to play the weekly outperformer, however, 89 points would have probably lost to most people anyway.

9. Ocho cinco-

Not sure what's going on with Ryan Matthews....But Austin Collie and Reggie Wayne are off the charts

10. Rowdy's Boys

Pretty good week for Rob, unfortunately had to play Charlie, and more unfortunately the titans high school powered offense had to play the Pitt D.

Vandy League Week 1 Power Rankings

So like every year, i'll try and put these out after the week's over. I'll try to get them out by wed. But later on the year it'll become thur, then sat..then sunday morning right before the games, and finally i'll probably quit, so we'll see how it goes. First of Congrats Fudson, and to Charlie talking all that shit and going down like the Jets.

1. Money Affiliated (Fred Hudson)

Vwhaaat? Yup Fred, you're number one in our hearts this week, you had a tough a week, so the commissioner is throwing you a line. Congrats on snagging the top spot in our first ever worst to first power rankings. Fred's team followed the lead of vaunted new-prodigal son of philly, Kevin Kolb who posted a quality -1 points to set the tone for team money affiliated. But maybe Vick will change things around.

BTW Fudson, 4th and 1, vick in the backfield and reid calls a qb draw from a shotgun? questionable, like many of your draft picks.

2. Rowdy's Boys (Robert Small)

Tough start for Rob, no cowboys on his squad and Ryan Grant goes down for the season and free agent hawk trent mcnabb snags brandon jackson. On the bright side, hopefully favre and top flight wr, andre johnson, will combine for more than 13 points next week.

3. Nerd Rage (Charlie Li)

Steep drop for the pre-season number four but it seems like everyone else shot out of the gates. I don't see Matt schaub putting up single digits again he's a quality q, and the top two wr are solid, but this team needs more from addai, Gore, and crabtree, and pretty much everyone outside the top three. Maybe it was just a bad match-up week for Charles.

4. Ocho-Cinco (Jason Wu)

Ocho was the fifth highest scorer of the week so not bad for the first game. Pretty good from everyone, having almost all of Indy's passing game didnt hurt either, but Ryan Matthews and Jon stewart didnt show up last weekend at all.

5. Professional Grade (Trent Mcnabb)

Mcnabb had no business winning last week. A Ryan Grant injury and an Andre Johnson dud more than anything gave mcnabb the W. however, that Brandon Jax pick-up was smooth, before anyone even knew Grant was out, trent mus have been watching Grant hop to the tunnel. So trent, you get the five spot on pure potential.

6. Got Rice? (Timmy Chen)

I dont know if Timmy gets 24 from chad johnson every week and with shonn green fumbling all over the place (hitting his own guys) his leash might be short in the near future. But otherwise a 115 point day probably would have won most games last week.

7. Hater Players (Leon Parker)

Leon snags the three spot because of one Tom Brady. Its not looking good right now for all of us non-Tom Brady owners. Here's to Tom throwing all his touchdowns to Wes Welker.

8. Cossacks (Pete Kostiuk)

Once again pete, starts out strong, like always, like every year, Pete begins his march to 3-0, which begins his even longer march to 3-11.

9. Silver Bullets (Sunny Majumdar)

Aka 'the greatest fantasy victor', had a solid week, putting up 134 points in spite of poor performances from Brees and Mojo. Jay Cutler keep throwing to my man Matt Forte.

10. Revis and Butthead (Chris Freeman)

We know, 47 points from Arian Foster..but is he going to keep that up? perfect situation for big time run numbers the lead against a bad run D. But CJ busts out for 28 points in a game where he seemed to do nothing and Manning, well, he can still throw the ball. With 163 point bashing, we'll let Free warm up the top spot.

THE END....of the first inaugural Worst to First Power Rankings..all of you went to Vandy you should be able to figure it out, except maybe Fred, Fred if you have trouble, just hit the 'x' on the top right corner and dont worry about it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Austin Rivers

If you somehow haven't heard of him yet . . this is Austin Rivers, Doc's kid. He's absolutely nasty . . his crossover going left rivals Allen Iverson's . .

He is now the #1 player in the class of 2011 on multiple recruiting lists, and he's down to 4 schools: Duke, UNC, Florida, Kansas