Prospect Breakdown: Rashad Vaughn

Rashad Vaughn’s College Stats

Team: UNLV

Vaughn College

Rashad Vaughn’s Las Vegas Summer League Stats

Team: Milwaukee Bucks

Vaughn SL

Rashad Vaughn is good at basketball. Like, really good. At the age of 19, he has a firm grasp on the art of scoring which would not look out of place among some of the more effective scorers in the league today. This is even more impressive because from a physical standpoint, while Vaughn has some good size to play the 2, he doesn’t really stand out athletically. He’s not all that quick, nor is he a flashy dunker. In fact, he tore his left meniscus in February, but he bounced back well enough to put up comparable numbers to his lone college season while in Summer League.

Continue reading “Prospect Breakdown: Rashad Vaughn”

Prospect Breakdown: Maurice Ndour

Maurice Ndour’s Las Vegas Summer League Stats

Team: Dallas Mavericks

Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 11.05.40 AM

 

[Editorial Comment: Ndour has not cut his hair, the introduction to this article mistook Ndour and Jarrid Famous]

I was disappointed to see Ndour’s new haircut in this video from Mavs.com. Rest in peace, dreadlocks… You will be missed.

Really though, Maurice’s hair isn’t the only intriguing part of his repertoire: his physical tools are unique for a Power Forward, I mean the guy is 6’8″ without shoes and has a 7’4″ wingspan. His lateral ability and overall quickness are things you just can’t teach, and as you can see below, those tools are definitely working in his favor. Continue reading “Prospect Breakdown: Maurice Ndour”

2015 Offseason Preview: Miami Heat

Mike Ehrmann/Getty
Mike Ehrmann/Getty

Free Agents: None


“There can only be one state of mind as you approach any profound test; total concentration, a spirit of togetherness, and strength.”

-Pat Riley

Nobody can seem to agree upon the Heat. Some people think Pat Riley has come out of nowhere to build a dark horse contender, and others believe that the Heat are being trumped up far too much. The upcoming season should ultimately prove who is right, and while the Heat are looking almost complete, they aren’t quite finished transforming.

The only free agent Miami decided to not keep was Michael Beasley, whose team option was declined. This isn’t a big surprise, Beasley’s defense was abysmal as always, and he didn’t shoot particularly well. In any case, a hearty round of applause should be extended to Riley for managing to re-sign Dragic while convincing him to leave some money on the table. Dragic might’ve had a down year when compared to his world-beating 13-14 campaign, but he came from a toxic situation in Phoenix and had to adjust to Spoelstra’s schemes on the fly. $90 million over 5 years is a lot more palatable than a $109 million deal over the same time period, especially with the rising salary cap, and the fact that Dragic will be 34 at the end of his deal. Luol Deng also accepted his player option, which can be seen as a win for Miami in light of their other moves. When Deng was off the floor, the Heat had an Offensive Rating of 98.0 (would rank 2nd worst), and when he was on the floor, the Heat had an ORTG of 108.2 (would rank top 12). Deng also shot a career high on eFG%, and the rest of his stats managed to keep in line with his career averages. Although one wonders how much slippage his defense might’ve seen, it’s unfair to judge Deng for his past two seasons – he was stuck in a no-win situation on the Cavs two years ago, and the many injuries last season halted Miami from creating a defensive identity. This all leads up to the decision of Wade, who made it clear he wanted to be paid after years of sacrifice, just like how Bosh was given big money not to leave for Houston. Wade opted out and gave Heat fans a real scare, but eventually was able to come to terms with a one year deal for $20 million. He still isn’t the highest paid player on the team (that honor belongs to Bosh), but it is certainly indicative of the respect that the organization feels for the greatest player in their team history. The scary thing is, this is actually closer to market value than one would imagine, if it weren’t for Wade’s spotty health.

Many will argue that Miami has won the draft, by stealing Justise Winslow with the 10th pick, and selecting Josh Richardson at 40. Winslow is somewhat undersized for a small forward, standing at 6’4.5” without shoes, but thankfully being bestowed with a 6’10” wingspan. Coming from Duke, Winslow has achieved legitimate success as a starter on Mike Krzyzewski’s championship squad. He averaged 12.6 points in only 29 minutes per game on a 48.5 FG%, 41.4 3PT% (with an impressive 2.8 threes attempted per game), and going 64.1% from the free throw line. Winslow also stuffed the stat sheet with 6.5 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, a block, and just under 2 turnovers per game. Being only 19 years old, the all-around game that Winslow has displayed is no small feat, and he is sure to receive some minutes right from the outset. Winslow can guard multiple positions from both a one-on-one and team perspective, and his rebounding ability should serve him well versus smaller power forwards. Still, sheer power won’t work so well for an athlete like Winslow when he squares up against the big dogs of the league, and despite his efficiency, Winslow isn’t the best at creating for himself or others. Finally, his shooting could be a fluke – although he improved upon his shot mechanics heading into college, he still had his struggles at the free throw line, which doesn’t really occur for proven NBA shooters (exceptions like Bruce Bowen do exist, however). Miami’s other pick, Josh Richardson, is no mere throwaway. The senior out of Tennessee has improved upon his game every year in college, finally exploding for 16 points in 36 minutes per game last season, and shooting 36% from three on 4 attempts per game. Richardson made sizeable improvements in his game on a yearly basis except for his two point shooting and his shot blocking (which is mostly irrelevant for a shooting guard). Clearly, to improve his three point shot and his free throws shows a lot of hard work, which could take him all the way to a major rotational role in a few years.

The Heat are trying to rid themselves of Chalmers, Andersen, and reportedly even Napier and McRoberts at the right price. Presumably, this would be to clear up space for the epic free agency after next season, but Chalmers and Andersen are both expiring contracts, anyway. Perhaps the front office has decided the two are out of place, and peddling them off to another team for practically nothing would be a move of addition by subtraction. After all, Chalmers will eventually have to give way to Napier, and Andersen’s effectiveness in anything more than limited minutes has been steadily decreasing (he just turned 37!). McRoberts would be a nice piece off Miami’s bench, but his upcoming salary of $5.7 million after next season is enough to break the bank- Zach Lowe states that he’s reportedly being offered for one or two 2nd round picks. As much as I want to say that I don’t see the point in trading away Napier because of his subpar rookie season, it wouldn’t look like an awful move if he were to be shipped away. I mean, any team in the league would absolutely rid themselves of Napier if it meant enough money to sway Kevin Durant with.


Prediction: If Wade can stay healthy, this team is back in the playoffs for sure. If Bosh comes back strong from his life threatening blood clots, he’ll be enough to make the Heat climb another few rungs on the playoffs ladder. Hassan Whiteside has been gaining national recognition for his defensive abilities, and don’t be surprised if he comes into the season as a more polished post player (perhaps with a jump shot, too). Dragic’s offensive versatility is a great fit next to Wade, and if he shoot at least in the high 30s from three, Miami becomes that much harder to guard. If Deng doesn’t face a severe drop in athletic skill, he can continue to provide the Heat with valuable all-around play. That being said, I just listed a bunch of ‘ifs’. Things might not turn out that way, and the health of that lineup is suspect, Wade especially. This isn’t even beginning to mention the state of the Heat’s bench; a rookie and someone who just missed a year due to injury (Winslow and McRoberts) might turn out to be the 6th and 7th men on this team… which is to say things could real ugly, real quick. The young guns in Napier and Ennis could be featured in larger roles if either one of them were to break out, but the opposite is just as likely.  Finally, Tyler Johnson has improved leaps and bounds, it might be time to unleash his scoring prowess upon the league, even if he doesn’t offer quite as much bang as some would expect. With health, this team can be top four in the conference material, but otherwise? Maybe more of the same – the Heat would toil in mediocrity as the injuries and emphasized weakness of the bench brings down the team. In any case, I’m confident in Miami finishing within in the 4th seed range, and gaining a second round appearance, maybe even a shot at the chip.


 

2015 Offseason Preview: Atlanta Hawks

Dec 13, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Kyle Korver (26) and center Al Horford (15) celebrate a victory against the Washington Wizards in overtime at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Wizards 101-99. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 13, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Kyle Korver (26) and center Al Horford (15) celebrate a victory against the Washington Wizards in overtime at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Wizards 101-99. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Free Agents: Paul Millsap (Unrestricted), Elton Brand (U), Demarre Carroll (U), John Jenkins (U), Pero Antic (Restricted)


 

The Hawks were the darlings of the league during the regular season and the new champions of team-ball, ready to carry the torch passed from the Spurs, until they met an ignominious end at the hands of the Cavaliers in the form of an Eastern Conference Finals sweep. Now, their future is uncertain as the all-star starting five seems to breaking up, while Thabo Sefolosha and Kyle Korver recover from surgery. During a time where their front office is in disarray after the dismissal of Danny Ferry, head-coach-turned-team-president Mike Budenholzer will certainly have his hands full in keeping his core guys. Continue reading “2015 Offseason Preview: Atlanta Hawks”

2015 Offseason Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs face a reloading period. Can LeBron take this team to a title next year?
The Cavs face a reloading period. Can LeBron take this team to a title next year?

Free Agents: Kendrick Perkins (Unrestricted), James Jones (U), Iman Shumpert (Restricted), Matthew Dellavedova (R), Tristan Thompson (R), Mike Miller (Player Option), JR Smith (PO), Kevin Love (PO), LeBron James (PO)


 

The Cavaliers have returned to elite form, and in a major way. The additions of LeBron James and Kevin Love managed to vault one of the worst teams in the league all the way to being just two wins away from an NBA championship. The scary part is, they’re probably going to be even better next season.

Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love managed to prove their worth on a contending team after an underwhelming 20-20 start to the season, which included an injured LeBron as well as calls for the head of rookie coach David Blatt, who made stellar adjustments later in the season, especially in the playoffs. Tristan Thompson elevated his game to another level after Love was lost to injury, and Timofey Mozgov was the defensive anchor the Cavs so desperately needed at the time they traded for him. Even Knicks castaways JR Smith and Iman Shumpert had their moments, and Dellavedova was briefly a hero. But not all is well in Cleveland, who must face the issues of trying to balance their expiring contracts.

Between LeBron, Love, Smith, and Mike Miller, only Miller exercised his player option to stay with the team next season. While James Jones is practically a lock to receive the veteran minimum (and hence be retained), the Cavs are likely going to say goodbye to Perkins and perhaps Dellavedova, who could be overpaid based on his Finals performance. They will also have to run the very minor risk of Love bolting for Los Angeles, Boston, or maybe even Portland (should Aldridge leave), among other teams. Tristan Thompson will command an eight figure salary per year after proving his enhanced proficiency at inside finishing, offensive rebounding, and providing adequate defense throughout the season. Shumpert could also receive an inflated deal due to the nature of Restricted Free Agency, especially because a variety of teams (Mavericks, Bucks, Lakers) are reported to have an interest in him. JR Smith is asking for a salary that would pay him about 8 million per year, which is actually fair market value for his services – hence, the Cavaliers are likely to strike a deal. Going back to Love, the Cavaliers are expected to offer him a max contract that deals out $110 million over the course of five years. Although this sounds steep, if Love were to take a one year contract with a player option, and opt out after next season, he would be owed significantly more money based on the spike in the salary cap. The odds that Love accepts this contract are great for the Cavaliers, seeing as how he has professed a desire to stay with the team long-term for the entirety of last season. Finally, LeBron could ask for the mega-deal he finally deserves, but is likely to stay with Cleveland on a one-year max contract with a player option. From there, this allows him to opt out after next season, and the Cavaliers could extend full Bird Rights in their next contract negotiation. A five-year max deal with the new salary cap would pay out over $200 million to LeBron, and he would make an average of $43 million per year based upon the current projections of the salary cap.

In order to free up some cap space and make subtle upgrades to their bench, the Cavaliers have made some very shrewd choices. During the draft, they traded the #24 pick (which ended up being Tyus Jones) to Minnesota in exchange for the #31 and #36 picks, which landed in the second round. This is significant because second round picks have no cap holds that count against the team, and their minimum salaries on the rookie scale are practically negligible when they are signed. The Cavaliers made the most out of their picks, too, selecting 20 year old Cedi Osman out of Turkey. Osman is a versatile point-forward who not only has size to play numerous positions (he’s 6’8”), but the athleticism to last in the NBA. According to GM David Griffin, it will probably take Osman at least two years to be freed of his contractual obligations in Turkey, but that will give him the necessary time to develop. Although Osman isn’t the most skilled shooter, he has a remarkable motor and is willing to do the all the dirty work a team needs, which fits in well with the other role players on the team. This is very similar in comparison to the 36th pick, Rakeem Christmas. Christmas is a senior out of Syracuse who was labeled with NBA-level potential, but only really came into stride in his final season at college. He is physically similar to Tristan Thompson, with both earning the label of being an undersized power forward/center who gets by on athletic ability. Christmas might have recorded an average vertical, but he also had the second longest wingspan of all measured prospects, ranking just below Robert Upshaw. Weighing in at over 240 pounds, Christmas has an NBA-ready body and could find minutes right away. It is fair, however, to question his upside; he turns 24 later this year. Also, despite making strides in his game, Christmas still shows questionable effort at times, and will have to learn an entirely new method of defense after playing four straight years defending in a 2-3 zone. It will take him some time to truly make an impact, and his ability to guard the giants who man the center position in the league are doubtful at the moment. Finally, with the 53rd pick, Cleveland selected junior Sir’Dominic Pointer out of St. John’s. Pointer is a quick player who can run the floor for easy transition baskets, and also frequently passes to teammates. However, he isn’t the best at scoring in the half-court setting, nor can he shoot from long range, which makes his value limited on that end. He shines defensively, where his aggressive brand of play allows him to guard multiple positions despite his average wingspan, and is the catalyst towards the respectable rate at which he collects defensive rebounds. Still, don’t expect Pointer to receive anything more than spot minutes in the rotation, if at all, until he learns how to fit within the offense.

 

The Cavaliers also have the contract of Brendan Haywood as a trade chip, being able to take back around $10.5 million in salary. A potential trade target is San Antonio, who could offer a combination of Patty Mills, Tiago Splitter, and Boris Diaw in exchange for Haywood’s non-guaranteed deal. These players could make Cleveland a seriously deep and versatile team, and further their chances at contention. Of course, other deals could be pursued, or the Cavaliers could simply end up waiving Haywood themselves if they are unable to find any takers. For now, however, he is their true weapon for building in free agency.


Prediction: The Cavaliers will retain everyone except for Perkins,and the Haywood contract will be used to bring in new blood. With a deeper team, the core of LeBron/Kyrie/Love won’t have to be pushed as hard next season, and they can be better-rested for the playoffs. With another year to build some experience playing together, the Cavs are a very real candidate to win 60+ games, as well as the first seed in the Eastern Conference. Although Atlanta and Chicago could still pose a threat to them, I would pencil in Cleveland for a reappearance in the finals as of this moment. The question is – can they make the final push to win?


This piece is part 6 of the 30 Team Offseason Preview Series by Fazal Ahmed.

2015 Offseason Preview: Dallas Mavericks

Dallas enters another year of Free-Agent fishing. How will the offseason pan out for the Mavs?
Dallas enters another year of Free-Agent fishing. How will the offseason pan out for the Mavs?

Free agents: Rajon Rondo (Unrestricted), JJ Barea (U), Al-Farouq Aminu (U), Monta Ellis (U), Tyson Chandler (U), Richard Jefferson (U) Amar’e Stoudemire (U), Charlie Villanueva (U), Greg Smith (U), Bernard James (Restricted)


 

By now, most people believe they have the Mavericks’ approach to team building figured out, and to some extent, they’re absolutely right. In an interview with Grantland Continue reading “2015 Offseason Preview: Dallas Mavericks”