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18 posts from May 2008

Friday, May 30, 2008

Riley's Pre-Draft Juggling Act

Pat Riley gave up his dual roles as Heat president and coach more than a month ago to focus solely on running the team. But he remains a man with a split focus this week.

One one hand, he's evaluating potential draft picks this week while attending the NBA's pre-draft camp Patriley_2 at the Disney complex just outside of Orlando. On the other, he remains in preliminary talks with the agent for Heat forward Shawn Marion regarding a potential contract extension.

Riley said negotiations with agent Dan Fegan have been "productive" as Marion heads into the final 30-day window of the opt-out clause in his contract. But you have to wonder just how "productive" those talks are when the two sides clearly want different things.

Marion, who can opt out of the final year and $17.8 million of his contract to become a free agent on July 1, has long said he wants long-term stability and a place where he can finish the final four, five or even six seasons of his career, provided he stays relatively healthy.

His double-double production hasn't dropped off much if at all in recent years, so it's likely he doesn't expect a sharp decline in his salary, either. Which likely means Marion, a four-time All-Star, still considers himself a $13-15 million a year player. But Riley, who is committed to a clear-salary-cap-space-by-2010-to-resign-Wade-and-another-potential-max-player financial model, values things a bit differently.

Marion Committing any significant salary and years to Marion, 30, would run counterproductive to the Heat's plan to clear as much space as possible by 2010. And, as Riley would tell you, there's a chance to be a "room team" as early as 2009.

With all of the emotion that surrounded the Shaquille O'Neal trade for Marion, it was easy to lose sight of what the Heat really got out of the deal. Relief. Flexibility. Sure, Marion is a nice player who would be a great running mate for Wade. But he's even better as an expiring contract entering next season.

Riley has worn two hats well for many years with the Heat. But there's clearly no two ways about this Marion situation, despite how this is being played publicly right now. The truth is, the Heat is in a win-win situation, albeit a potentially uncomfortable one. Just ask Cleveland GM Danny Ferry or Fegan how well things went last offseason in negotiations over forward/center Anderson Varejao.

Should negotiations break down and Marion opt in for the $17.8 million, there's a chance Marion could mope, demand a trade and rekindle some of the issues that came up during that bad ending in Phoenix. And that isn't exactly the way you'd want to start the Erik Spoelstra rookie coaching campaign.

There's also a chance Marion would realize that his best option might be to play out the season and put up All-Star numbers and increase his value on the 2009 free agent market. Even then, it might be a tight market as teams curb spending in order to save for the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh sweepstakes in the summer of 2010. Still, the Heat could offer more than any team.

Should Marion opt out next month, which is highly unlikely, Riley will celebrate Christmas in July. All Riley_and_marion Marion wants is security. And rightfully so. But the Heat might only be willing to offer it at a starting salary in the $8-10 million-a-season range on a short, short-term contract. If that.

If Fegan is skeptical of the Heat's commitment to Marion, he has every right to be. If Riley is unwilling to spend the Heat right back into luxury-tax range, who could blame him?

But somebody's going to have to budge. At least a little bit. For the best interest of both sides. The truth is, there's still likely a long way to go in these "productive" negotiations.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Beasley Burden

Figuring out whether Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley should be the No. 1 pick is tough. But figuring out Michael Beasley all by himself might be even tougher.

Beasley2 And that just might be the most difficult task Heat president Pat Riley faces if things go according to most expectations, with Rose appearing more and more likely a lock to go the Chicago Bulls as the No. 1 pick. Which, of course, would leave Beasley in Riley's lap at No. 2.

There's plenty to like about Beasley, whose 26.2 points per game ranked third in the country last season while his 12.4 rebounds a game led the nation. There are just as many things about Beasley that will leave you scratching your head, wondering, "Did he just really say - or do - that?" The late author Claude Brown didn't exactly have Beasley in mind when he wrote his most famous book, but the former Kansas State power forward is clearly a Manchild entering the Promised Land.

He's clearly mannish in some ways, childish in others. And he embraces both parts of his persona. The best and worst of Beasley's personality was on display during Thursday's Pre-Draft Camp media session.

The same player who considers himself 30 years old in basketball maturity admits he's every bit as immature a 19-year-old as they come. You have to wonder if the same player who has the potential to become the next Charles Barkley has truly learned from his Dennis The Menace past. The same Beasley who scores and rebounds as easily as most folks walk and talk is the same Beasley who is only a year removed from many of the silly antics that got him kicked out of several high schools.

Beasley is many things. An enigma mostly. But consider this: He is just what the NBA has created in its obsession with placing more value on a kid's basketball potential than his quality person potential. The same media circus that covers his quest to become the No. 1 pick also questions why he can be so young and stupid sometimes with his antics.

Beasley was brutally honest and candid when he answered on Thursday. That set him apart from the others he shared the room with. But he didn't necessarily erase any concerns Pat Riley or John Paxson might have about turning their respective franchises over to him from a maturity standpoint.

"I just turned 19 years old in January," Beasley said. "How mature do you want me to be? I’m still a kid. I’m not 20 yet. I’m not legal. I can vote, but that’s about it. On the basketball side of things, I’m 30 years old. Off the court, I don’t know how old y’all want me to be. Do you want me to act 25? 30? 40?. I’m 19. I’m a kid. I’m going to live my life. I’m going to mess up. I don’t know as much as you do or him. I’m learning day by day. I hear a lot about character issues. But I’ve yet to hear what those character issues are. Until I hear somebody tell me, I don’t feel the need to change."

When a Chicago reporter asked what influence his mother has had on him, what advice she's given him about maturity and growing up, Beasley quickly turned the question around and tossed it back.

"Life lessons," he shot back, defensively. "The same kind of lessons your mother taught you. I got into trouble. But I don't do those things anymore. You learn a lot as you grow."

You can't blame Beasley for being a kid, playing a kid's game and wanting to have fun at this point in Rileycook_2 his life. He's a college freshman. But you also can't blame Riley if he's seriously considering parting with this pick for veteran help and another pick later in the draft. The Heat is already battling maturity issues with Dorell Wright and Daequan Cook. Winning games is hard enough when it doesn't come with the added responsibility of grooming character along the way. But that's the NBA today.

Beasley was asked what he would tell Riley during his Miami visit once the subject turned to maturity and some of his immature antics of the past. He said he'd talk about the present and future.

"I’m going to show them me," Beasley said. "Show them that I’m relentless. That I work hard. That I’m a great player, I guess. I’m going to just go out and play. If he likes what he sees, he likes what he sees. If he don’t, I’m all right."

Beasley is many things. His own man - or manchild - among them.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Kerr on Shaq, Dorsey on Rose and Heat

One thing's become quite obvious after less than two full days into the NBA Pre-Draft camp here at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex outside of Orlando: The action in the stands is far more intriguing than anything that takes place on the court.

There was a buzz of activity Wednesday off the court, where GMs and other team execs, including Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Larry Brown, Steve Kerr, Chris Mullin and Elgin Baylor, mingled during the morning session. Here are some of the highlights.

Kerr has no regrets

Steve_kerr_2 None about Mike D'Antoni leaving to New York. None with Shaquille O'Neal coming in from Miami. Kerr, cornered Wednesday by a group of Florida and New York reporters, said he would do the Shaq trade all over again - even after the Suns were knocked out of the first round by the Spurs.

That's not a surprising statement, considering it would be hard to see Kerr saying he wished he never traded for Shaq after all. But Kerr did strongly suggest that Shaq still has plenty to prove, especially now, in order to show that the trade was worthwhile for Phoenix.

"We love Shaq - love what he does for our team," Kerr said. "He's great in the locker room. The fact that we lost to the Spurs in the first round doesn't change that."

Again, what else is Kerr supposed to say?

O'Neal is still due $40 million over the final two seasons of his contract. Kerr said he focus for O'Neal to push himself and stay in proper condition. It will also be critical for O'Neal to accept and embrace whoever the Suns hire to replace D'Antoni.

"I'm open to criticism - I accept that," Kerr said of the backlash from the O'Neal trade in the wake of the Suns' early playoff ouster. "The key is going to be how he responds this summer. He's lived up to everything we expected, and we expect that to continue."

Pfund has no info

At least not any he was willing to offer Wednesday when asked about the Heat's plans for workouts Randy_pfund_2 after the camp. Heat GM Randy Pfund said the Heat hasn't scheduled workouts for the top prospects and that he wasn't certain how many players the team would work out for the No. 2 overall pick.

"The process will let us know what that number will be," Pfund said. "It could be real small, it could be bigger depending on a couple of answers to questions with some of the key people. I do not have an answer to that right now because it could go either way."

Dorsey has insight?

Forward Joey Dorsey, who played with Derrick Rose at the University of Memphis, insists that Rose is Joey_dorsey going to be passed over by Chicago with the No. 1 pick and land in Miami.

"I've talked to him, and that's where I think he's going to end up," Dorsey said after playing in the opening game of the pre-draft camp on Wednesday. "You watch what I tell you."

Pressed further, Dorsey wouldn't reveal his sources. Which means, he'll fit right in with the rest of the media at camp if this basketball thing doesn't work out. Dorsey has been known for saying some outlandish things. Calling out Ohio State center Greg Oden during last year's NCAA Tournament counts among them. If his statements about Rose and the Heat are true, Miami fans have quite a bit to be excited about. If not, they were worth entertaining to say the least.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pre Pre-Drafting at the Milk House

Reporting live from NBA pre-draft camp just outside of Orlando at the Disney Sports Complex, where Day 1 of festivities featured plenty of walking among team execs but not much talking with them media. That's OK. We'll let them get warmed up a bit.

The pace is expected to pick up considerably on Wednesday, when the games begin and the pleasantries give way to serious talks and interviews related to the draft. The Heat is well represented here, with GM Randy Pfund, VP of basketball operations Andy Elisburg and assistant to the president Ed Maull all in the Milk House gym.

Heat president Pat Riley is due in the building as early as Wednesday, but definitely in time for Thursday's measurements/meetings with major draft prospects Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, O.J. Mayo and several other projected lottery picks who won't play in the games but will take part in what amounts to a high-level job fair.

So Tuesday night's drill session and Wednesday's games, for the Heat, have far more to do with the team's No. 52 pick (second round) than the No. 2 overall selection. But if a deal is to be made on draft night or soon thereafter, best believe that this is the place where things got serious. Speaking of the No. 52 pick, there are several prospects here who might be intriguing.

Among those working out and listed to play in games are North Carolina PG Ty Lawson, Alabama PG Ronald Steele, Kansas PF/C Sasha Kaun and Duke combo guard Demarcus Nelson. We will update you on the goings on from pre-draft camp each afternoon (or more frequently if news or interesting tidbits permit). Stay tuned.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Mayo Matters (Another O.J. from USC in Miami?)

It's been three days since the Draft Lottery results arrived in rainy Secaucus. And the downpour of stories, rumors, misdirection and flat-out guesswork from so-called experts, GMs, team presidents and inside sources seem to only get more far-fetched by the news cycle.

Beasley_m First, we hear throughout the past several weeks that Derrick Rose and Michael   Beasley are clearly the cream of the crop atop the draft pool - with a deep drop-off after the second pick. Then, we hear on lottery night from Pat Riley, who seemed more excited about trade scenarios than the transition either Rose or Beasley can help the Heat make after a dreadful 15-67 season.

After that, we hear the Bulls, whose GM wasn't even watching the lottery when it delivered the No. 1 Rose_derrick_2pick despite a 1.7 percent chance to land it, already have hatched up an agreement to take Beasley and leave the Heat with Rose. So I guess somewhere between blowing off the lottery and blowing up his shot at a once-in-a-generation point guard, John Paxson hatched this contingency plan over, eh, breakfast?

Usc_mayo_basketball_la103 And now, there's the ESPN report that links the Heat's No. 2 pick to O.J. Mayo, with Riley suddenly so enamored with the controversial guard from Southern Cal that he's willing to bypass Beasley if both were on the board when the Heat makes its selection.

The good news: This all makes for great debate and entertainment as the days go by.

The bad news: This stuff is going to keep coming over the next 35 or so days.

Not saying that any of the above mentioned either hasn't or won't happen. But it won't hurt to be careful and cautious with what you choose to believe as you read/listen/click into all of the draft talk over the next month. It simply makes you wonder.

You wonder if any of this Mayo-Heat talk is driven by the fact that Mayo is in Chicago working out in Dwyane Wade's hometown, with Dwyane Wade's recently-hired trainer, Tim Grover.

Wade made it no secret he prefers Rose as his backcourt mate. Even after the lottery results, Wade Waderiley still maintained the Heat's biggest need was for a play-making guard. If Rose blossoms in the Windy City, Mayo would be as good a Plan B in the draft as there is at guard. Mayo's personality can be as engaging and convincing as his game. If they can develop a chemistry working out under Grover's guidance, Wade, who can opt out of his contract in two years, might just convince Riley to get Mayo.

I just can't see Miami taking him at No. 2 and calling it a night. Such a move would only make sense if the Heat found a trade partner before the draft and had an agreement in place to swap players after the draft. We reported on Wednesday, from on-the-record interviews, that no fewer than five teams in the lottery are interested in dealing with the Heat for the chance to snag Beasley with the second pick.

Since scenarios are being thrown out there in Floyd Mayweather-like flurries, how about this one.

Mike_miller_2 Let's say things went according to our mock draft from picks 2-5, with the Heat drafting Beasley, Minnesota taking center Brook Lopez, Seattle grabbing Arizona guard Jerryd Bayless and Memphis picking Mayo. It wouldn't be out of the question to see the Heat and Grizzlies, led by former Heat exec Chris Wallace, strike a deal to swap picks, with the Griz throwing recent Heat trade target Mike Miller and second-year PG Kyle Lowry in the mix. Miami would have to send another body or two to match salaries (the official deal also could be delayed a few days to include sign-and-trade options, which would bring Kwame Brown and Ricky Davis in play).

See how easy it is to throw out a rumor/proposed deal, even a rather reasonable, believable one? They're like spam. They can pop up anytime, anywhere these days. And there are going to be quite a few viruses out there disguised as exclusive insight over the next few weeks. Which is why it just might be wise to be careful what you click into-read-hear and believe until you see it on June 26.

Until then, this remains a two-horse draft. And I see Riley and the Heat jockeying - and riding for the long haul - whichever stallion the Bulls don't saddle: Rose or Beasley.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Miami Herald Mock Draft (Version I)

Now that the draft lottery order has been set, with the Miami Heat picking second behind the Chicago Bulls, it's time to roll out the Herald's first version of our NBA mock draft. And we emphasize "first" because our predictions could change before the June 26 draft. Heck, they could change before next week. But we present our projected order based on team needs and best players available.

1. Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose, 6-3 PG - Memphis. The Skinny: The Bulls turned their 1.7 percent shot at Rose winning the lottery into a spot in the driver's seat. And that's exactly where Rose is at his best. The Bulls could use Beasley's scoring and rebounding at the four just as much as it could use Rose at the point. But it will be tough to pass over the hometown kid - and once-in-a-generation type point guard - in Rose. Kirk Hinrich, coming off his worst season, can move to shooting guard and Ben Gordon can move on to another team.

2. Miami Heat: Michael Beasley, 6-10 PF - Kansas State. The Skinny: The Heat desperately hopes the Beasley Bulls go the other way and take Beasley, because it prefers Rose by a wide margin. But Beasley's inside game would be quite the consolation prize - should the Heat keep the pick. You won't find many trios in the league more balanced and explosive than the Wade-Marion-Beasley show.

3. Minnesota Timberwolves: Brook Lopez, 7-0 C - Stanford. The Skinny: If the T-Wolves go for need, Lopez Lopez is the best option. The skilled big man would fit nicely alongside budding superstar Al Jefferson. There are still needs on the perimeter, namely deciding if Randy Foye is a point or shooting guard. But adding Lopez would be another huge step along the path to rebuilding the team post-Kevin Garnett.

4. Seattle SuperSonics: Jerryd Bayless, 6-3 PG/SG - Arizona. The Skinny: Instead of moving one up from Bayless second to first in the draft order and taking a shot at Rose, the Sonics fell two spots back to fourth, where they'll have to settle for Bayless. Seattle adds to an impressive collection of young talent, with Bayless teaming with rookie of the year Kevin Durant and Jeff Green. But Bayless must commit to being a PG.

5. Memphis Grizzlies: O.J. Mayo, 6-4 SG - Southern Cal. The Skinny: The Grizzlies are struggling to sell Oj_mayo tickets, but they would address that problem by drafting the player with arguably the biggest star potential in Mayo. Beasley would have been the perfect addition to a tissue-soft frontcourt. But a Mike Conley-Mayo backcourt, with Rudy Gay at small forward, would be fun to watch - and build around.

6. New York Knicks: Danilo Gallinari, 6-9 SF - Italy. The Skinny: New Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni played Gallinari with Gallinari's father and loves the versatility in the son's game. Gallinari's combination of size and perimeter skills would allow D'Antoni to employ his up-tempo system much quicker in New York. D'Antoni knows he would have never had a shot at drafting this kid had he stayed in Phoenix.

7. L.A. Clippers: Eric Gordon, 6-4 SG - Indiana. The Skinny: It might be very tempting for the Clippers Gordon to go with a local college star. But USC's Mayo will be gone. UCLA big man Kevin Love plays the same position as Elton Brand and athletic Bruins guard Russell Westbrook isn't likely to jump this high. So Gordon's shooting would provide a nice option for Brand, Al Thornton and a healthy Shaun Livingston.

8. Milwaukee Bucks: Joe Alexander, 6-8 SF - West Virginia. The Skinny: If anyone makes a surprising Alexanderjoe jump into the top 10, it will likely be Alexander. The Bucks need help and consistency at small forward in addition to defensive toughness. Alexander is quick and athletic enough to move over to SG as insurance in case the Bucks ship Michael Redd. Or he can settle in nicely alongside Redd.

9. Charlotte Bobcats: Kevin Love, 6-10 PF - UCLA. The Skinny: Would be as natural of a fit as they come Lovek for Larry Brown's system. A big man with skills and toughness would complement Emeka Okafor if the Bobcats have plans to re-sign him. Love would be the low-post answer the Bobcats thought they had in Sean May before injuries sidelined him the past two seasons.

10. New Jersey Nets: Anthony Randolph, 6-11 PF - LSU. The Skinny: It's been a long time since the Randolph Nets have had pure athleticism along the front line. Randolph is very raw, but he's an athletic beast despite his skinny frame. But he's fully capable of running the lane, blocking shots and finishing in transition. The Nets could also opt to go for a pure center in DeAndre Jordan here.

11. Indiana Pacers: DeAndre Jordan, 7-0 C - Texas A&M. The Skinny: With Jermaine O'Neal nearing the Jordandeandrebaylor08 Jordandeandrebaylor08_2 end of his contract - and possibly on the trading block - the Pacers can turn back the clock and start fresh with the oncourt development of a near clone in Jordan. Larry Bird would consider himself lucky if Jordan falls to this spot and bolsters the Pacers retooling process.

12. Sacramento Kings: D.J. Augustin, 6-0 PG - Texas. The Skinny: Having drafted Spencer Hawes, Augustine signed free agent Mikki Moore and traded for young prospect Sheldon Williams for low-post roles all in the past 12 months, the Kings can address its lack of depth at point guard. Augustine is the best pure point available behind Rose. He would also be insurance if Beno Udrih bolts in free agency.

13. Portland Trail Blazers: Darrell Arthur, 6-10 PF - Kansas. The Skinny: Already the youngest team in Arthur the NBA, chances are Portland trades this pick for proven veteran to help carry the team into the playoffs. So the best thing they can do here is grab the best prospect available and work the phones - if they haven't already dealt this pick by draft night.

14. Golden State Warriors: Russell Westbrook, 6-4 PG - UCLA. The Skinny: The uncertainty of Baron Westbrook Davis' future  isn't the only thing that makes this a great pick for the Warriors. Westbrook's athleticism and defense at the point would allow him to fit right into Don Nelson's up-tempo, free-flowing system out in Oakland. Even if Davis is back, Westbrook would be an excellent backup.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Behind the Lottery Scenes

Sights, sounds and a few afterthoughts from the NBA draft lottery in Secaucus, New Jersey.

-Andy Elisburg, the Heat's senior vice president for basketball operations, said he changed his approach Andy heading into Tuesday's lottery after two his two previous visits failed to land Miami a top-two pick. This time, Elisburg arrived three days early, stayed over the bridge in New York City instead of at the Secaucus Embassy Suites, and drowned himself in five Broadway shows over three days.

In his previous trips to the lottery, Elisburg showed up the day of the event and stayed at the hotel across the street from NBA Entertainment studios. Miami ended up with its highest draft pick in history. Now, it must decided whether to use the No. 2 pick on Michael Beasley or Derrick Rose or package the eventual pick in a draft-day trade on June 26.

"I figured if you change the routine, you change the outcome," Elisburg said backstage in a locked and guarded room moments after the Heat landed the No. 2 pick. "I learned a long time ago that there are a certain amount of things you can control - and (the lottery) isn't one of them. But this was our time."

-Attending the lottery wasn't the only team-oriented business Heat guard Dwyane Wade will tend to this Dwade week. Wade departed Secaucus after the lottery to return to Chicago, where he is scheduled to meet Wednesday with Team USA basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo. Wade will give Colangelo a status update on the health of his left knee following three weeks of extensive rehab.

Wade said he recently updated national team coach Mike Krzyzewski on his conditioning. Wade said Tuesday the goal is still to work his surgically-repaired knee into shape in time for USA team training camp in July in advance of the Beijing Olympics. There is a chance that Wade could be replaced on the 12-man roster in favor another player - possibly Chris Paul - if his knee is not ready in time.

"I'm meeting with Jerry as soon as I get back from here, and I've talked to Coach K. already," Wade said. "His main thing is my health and to make sure I'm doing good. He also talked to my trainer, Tim Grover in Chicago, and we're all on the same page. All I can do is continue to get stronger and leave the decision up to them."

- Nearly a month after announcing his retirement from coaching, Pat Riley apparently has no regrets. Riley His appearance at the lottery came as surprise, which left him in the spotlight most of the night. Riley spent nearly 30 minutes at one point chatting and sharing laughs and stories in a circle of execs that included Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy, Knicks new coach Mike D'Antoni, NBA commissioner David Stern and Knicks president Donnie Walsh.

"The first time I stepped down, I thought it was going to be permanent, but it wasn't," Riley later said. "But I'm pretty sure this time, after 25 years, that I've had enough of coaching."

- Jay Z might be the MVP of the rap game right now, but he wins The Most Uncomfortable Executive In Jay_z The Room award for his appearance at Tuesday's lottery. Usually smooth on the mic, Jay responded as if he were caught off guard and unprepared to answer questions about the draft as part owner of the Nets. Still, he tried to put a good spin on his first lottery experience.

"I'm from a neighborhood in Brooklyn, and to come this far and do something like that, it's just a fantastic experience," he said. "It's one of many accomplishments I'm proud of."

- Earlier Tuesday, Kansas State forward Michael Beasley did an interview with ESPN and was asked Beasley which team he has heard from the most, and where he'd prefer to end up.

“I just want to go to a team where we can win and I can fit in real good," Beasley said. "I hear all over the country that Miami (is most interested), I hear New York. But we’ll just see how it plays out."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Judgment Time: Heat will pick No. 2

The Heat will get the No. 2 pick in the June 26 draft. A few thousand fans showed up for the Lottery party at AmericanAirlines Arena and the excitement was apparent with the opening of each envelope, because it became more apparent Miami would have a good shot at the top pick.

Now the question is whether Chicago takes hometown kid, point guard Derrick Rose or decides to go big and take power forward Michael Beasley?

What do you think of getting the No. 2 pick--happy, disappointed? Also, do you think the Bulls will take No. 1, because the Heat almost certainly will take whoever Chicago doesn't?

Lucky Lottery Day?

The Heat has fared well in the lottery before, but never earned higher than the No.4 pick. If the Heat doesn't land a top-two pick, which it would almost certainly need for a shot at point guard Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley, how will you feel? The draft is projected to be a strong one beyond Rose and Beasley, so do you feel the Heat could get a quality player at No. 3 or No. 4?

As a reminder, the Heat is hosting a lottery party at AmericanAirlines Arena tonight from 6-9 p.m. The lottery broadcast begins at 8 p.m. New Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and several players are expected to attend the party.

Also, Mike and I will provide updates on the blog as things unfold tonight. He is in Seacaucus, N.J., for the lottery, where Dwyane Wade and executive vice president of basketball operations will be. Mike will get a behind-the-scenes look at the lottery experience, and actually be in the room when Elisburg learns the Heat's fate about an hour and a half before the broadcast. But he will be sequestered along with the representatives for lottery teams with no access to cell phone or Internet until the Heat's pick is revealed on air.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The (Lottery) Prospect Pecking Order

As a companion piece to Sunday's story breaking down the Derrick Rose-Michael Beasley sweepstakes, we offer our composite ranking of the top 14 draft prospects heading into Tuesday's lottery. But don't call it a mock draft. The rankings, based on numerous interviews in recent days with NBA executives, scouts, college coaches and national analysts, simply rate the projected lottery prospects based on several categories. Among them are NBA readiness, overall talent, potential and college performance.

1. Michael Beasley, 6-10, 235 PF - Kansas State: Led the nation in rebounding and ranked third in Beasley scoring. Widely considered the most complete player in the draft - one who could step onto an NBA court tomorrow and produce a double-double by halftime. Upside: Some compare his overall skill set to Kevin Garnett at the power forward spot. Can score from anywhere on the court and plays with a tenacity and intensity well beyond his 19 years. Downside: Despite his rebounding numbers, his defense was a question mark in college and led to foul trouble. This could be an even bigger issue at the next level as he tries to guard the NBA's most difficult position. Key Stats: 26.2 (ppg), 12.4 (rpg), .532 (FG%), .379 (3FG%).

2. Derrick Rose, 6-3, 190 PG - Memphis: Move over Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Deron Williams and Chris Rose Paul. There's a general consensus that Rose, who led the Tigers to the national title game, is the next big thing at point guard and could be the position's best prospect in a generation. Upside: Rose may have only reached 25 percent of his potential in his lone season at Memphis, which is scary, considering his weaknesses are as difficult to find as he is hard to stop with the ball in his hands. Downside: At times, he's too unselfish, which was a problem in the title game when he deferred a bit too long. His jump-shot can use some work but what he lacks there he makes up for everywhere else in his game. Key Stats: 14.9 (ppg), 4.7 (apg), 4.5 (rpg.), .477 (FG%), .337 (3FG%).

3. Brook Lopez, 7-0, 260 C - Stanford: Calling Lopez a poor man's Tim Duncan right now is a bit of a Lopez reach, but he is considered the most fundamentally sound center in the draft - maybe even more offensively developed than Greg Oden, last year's No. 1 pick. Upside: A solid scorer with a soft touch and a developing mid-range jumper that will make him difficult to defend at the next level. Downside: Back surgery and an academic suspension stalled his development entering his sophomore season, but Lopez overcame those issues. His rebounding numbers (8.2) were a bit low for someone his size. Key Stats: 19.3 (ppg), 8.2 (rpg), 2.1 (bpg).

4. Jerryd Bayless, 6-3, 200 PG/SG - Arizona: Cut from the same cloth as previous Arizona combo Bayless guards Gilbert Arenas and Miles Simon. Bayless is this draft's wildcard, the player we'll look back on five-to-10 years from now and either say he was a Chris Paul-type steal or a Dajuan Wagner-type miss. Upside: Has all the tools and athletic ability to be a dominant guard in the perimeter-oriented game the NBA has become. Not just a shooter but a prolific scorer who has the size and speed to defend that point. Downside: Consistently had stretches of inconsistent play, especially in big-time games. Still lacks an identity as either a point guard or shooting guard. Key Stats: 19.7 (ppg), 4.0 (apg), .407 (3FG%)

5. Anthony Randolph, 6-11, 220 PF/SF - LSU: Even Kevin Garnett and Tayshaun Prince will be amazed Randolph at the rail-thin frame Randolph brings to the NBA. But when it comes to lottery prospects who are all potential, this is it. Upside: After spending just one season on an underachieving LSU squad, there's plenty of upside to Randolph, who has size, speed and incredible coordination for his size and is already climbing up the draft board. Downside: It might take two or three seasons for a team to know what it has in Randolph, who lacks the strength to be a consistent power forward right now and isn't developed offensively enough to play small forward. Key Stats: 15.6 (ppg), 8.5 (rpg), 2.3 (bpg).

6. O.J. Mayo, 6-4, 200, SG/PG - USC: Despite all of the expectations and hype that followed Mayo to Oj_mayo USC, he still delivered the goods in his game. He was highlight material almost every time he touched the ball for the Trojans in his lone college season. Upside: Seems to be equally comfortable as a scorer or set-up man at guard, which will allow him to fit just about any NBA system. A streaky shooter and an explosive athlete who can get his points in a number of ways. Downside: Does a number of things well, but not necessarily one thing exceptionally. A superstar since elementary school, there are questions as to whether Mayo can adjust and accept being a role player initially at the next level. Key Stats: 20.7 (ppg), 3.3 (apg), .409 (3FG%).

7. Danilo Gallinari, 6-9, 210 SF/SG - Italy: Considered the LeBron James of the Italian professional Gallinari leagues. Considering his ability to shoot, drive and finish with creative authority, a more realistic comparison might be to a younger Manu Ginobili. Upside: Only 20 years old but has played in competitive pro leagues for a couple of seasons. Would thrive on the wing in an up-tempo offense, but can handle well enough to create his own opportunities. Downside: Would be a defensive liability early in his NBA career because he's still adjusting to a late growth spurt. Also might have contract issues. Key Stats: 17.5 (ppg), 5.7 (rpg), .405 (3FG%).

8. DeAndre Jordan, 7-0, 250 C - Texas A&M: Could have been the top overall pick in next year's draft Deandre_jordan had he decided to return for a sophomore season. But there's still plenty to like about Jordan. Upside: His raw athleticism, shot-blocking and ability to run the floor well for his size has drawn comparisons to Marcus Camby and Tyson Chandler. Downside: But Jordan still has plenty of work ahead to be anywhere near as effective as those two. He lacks low-post moves, is a bit clumsy with the ball and has a tendency to disappear on offense. Had his worst stretch of games during the tournament season. Key Stats: 7.9 (ppg), 6.0 (rpg), .617 (FG%)

9. Eric Gordon, 6-3, 215, SG - Indiana: He's the Ben Gordon/Monta Ellis of this year's draft class. Eric Gordon Gordon is arguably the best pure shooter in this crop. But after falling into a demoralizing slump late in a tumultuous season, he's going to need a great run of draft workouts to position himself as a sure-fire top-10 pick. Upside: Most NBA types tend to favor players who have one clearly-defined NBA skill. Shooting is that skill for Gordon, who often ignored the college 3-point line and shot from NBA distance just for kicks. Downside: A late-season wrist injury preceded his slump and many say he would have been much better off having stayed one more season in college despite Indiana's coaching change. Key Stats: 20.9 (ppg), 2.4 (apg), .337 (3FG%).

10. Kevin Love, 6-10, 255, PF - UCLA: Whatever the challenge, Love just found a way to get it done Love during a remarkable freshman season with the Bruins. Upside: Strength, knowledge of the game and willingness to accept his role will make him a solid pro for a long time. A consistent double-double machine in the Nick Collison/David West mode. Downside: Played a bit bulky last season and seemed to lack quickness and explosiveness around the basket, which were exposed late in the NCAA Tournament. Key Stats: 17.5 (ppg), 10.6 (rpg), .559 (FG%)

11. D.J. Augustine, 5-11 175, PG - Texas: A cross between T.J. Ford and Jameer Nelson, Augustine Augustine blends an unstoppable ability to penetrate with a fluid jumper that comfortably extends to NBA 3-point range. Upside: Quickness, playmaking skills, shooting touch and ability be a lethal pick-and-roll player will allow him to thrive in the right situation at the next level. Downside: Lack of size might lead to struggles on the defensive end in a league where the point guards are only getting bigger and bigger. Key Stats: 19.2 (ppg), 5.8 (apg), .381 (3FG%).

12. Darrell Arthur, 6-9, 215, PF - Kansas: Didn't produce flashy numbers for national champion Arthur Kansas. But then again, neither did any of the Jayhawks' other top players in a system where the focus was clearly on the sum of the parts. Upside: Footwork, ability to score with either hand, low-post moves and athleticism around the basket make Arthur a NBA-ready player. Downside: But he often played as if he needed to be convinced that he possessed that ability. Attitude and drive must improve. Key Stats: 12.8 (ppg), 6.3 (rpg), 1.3 (bpg).

13. Kosta Koufos, 7-1, 245, C - Ohio State: For the second consecutive year, the Buckeyes will lose a Koufos solid freshman center to the draft. But make no mistake. Koufos is no Greg Oden. But in an age where skilled 7-footers are as rare as Heat victories were this past season, they're often lottery locks. Upside: If his finesse game continues to improve, he could develop into a Mehmet Okur or an Andrew Bogut. Downside: Not much of a physical defender despite his size and lacks a true low-post power game. Key Stats: 14.4 (ppg), 6.7 (rpg), 1.8 (bpg).

14. Russell Westbrook, 6-4, 187, PG/SG - UCLA: Might be as much of a sure bet as they come at the Westbrook position. Westbrook's all-around skills make him a low risk, high reward pick at the edge of the lottery. Upside: Next to Rose, he is the most NBA-ready defensive guard in the draft, but he has the complete package at both ends. Averaged less than 10 minutes a game as a freshman but worked his way into becoming one of the nation's top players as a sophomore. Downside: Inconsistent shooter and is not much of a threat from 3-point range. Assist-to-turnover ratio was average. Key Stats: 12.7 (ppg), 4.3 (apg), 1.6 (spg).


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