Dec 07, 2013 2:15 PM EST
Although there wasn’t a conference crowned the champion of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge because of a tied 6-6 outcome, plenty of story lines and questions emerged from the event. We take a glance into some intriguing aspects seen in the challenge.
Syracuse Backcourt is Special
There was a big void to fill at Syracuse with the departures of Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche, but freshman point guard Tyler Ennis and junior shooting guard Trevor Cooney showed in a 69-52 win over Indiana that they are more than capable of taking over the backcourt.
Ennis impressed in an all-around display with 17 points on 6-for-8 shooting to go with eight assists, seven rebounds, and only one turnover in 38 minutes of action. He’s a mature, pass-first floor general who makes an impact in all areas of the game.
Cooney adds a lights-out shooter next to Ennis. In the win over Indiana, Cooney had a game-high 21 points on 6-of-12 shooting with a 5-for-9 showing from three-point range. With his ability to stretch the floor, Cooney opens up driving lanes and leaves a risky decision for defenders who leave him to play help defense. With the new backcourt leading Syracuse, the Orange are a legitimate championship contender.
"They played well. They really have the whole Hawaii trip," Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said of Ennis and Cooney in an article by Brent Axe of Syracuse.com.
"Those two kids have really played well. One is a first-year player and the other guy didn't play a lot last year. I don't think you could ask them to play on a higher level than what they played. It's really amazing the level they have played. They have really picked up the whole team. I don't think you can say enough about the way they played this year."
Cook Shows Potential
Duke may have two future lottery picks in Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, but it was sophomore point guard Quinn Cook who led the Blue Devils to their biggest win of the early season.
Cook did it all, with 24 points, nine assists, four rebounds, and two steals in the victory. Despite Jabari Parker’s lowest scoring outcome of the season, Duke was never panicked because of the stellar play from its point guard.
“Quinn was magnificent,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski told Steve Wiseman of The Herald Sun. “Even though he didn’t score in the first half he managed the team well. We told him to be very aggressive in the second half.”
If Cook can remain a consistent scoring option for Duke then the Blue Devils will be tough to defeat. Another scoring option would certainly help relieve Parker and Hood, who are combining for 48% of Duke’s total scoring.
Rice Playing Inspired
Despite a 67-64 loss to Georgia Tech, Rayvonte Rice of Illinois showed that he’s playing with a chip on his shoulder this season.
The hometown native of Champaign wasn’t offered a scholarship to Illinois out of high school and signed with Drake, where he averaged 13.8 points per game during his freshman season and 16.8 in his sophomore year. When Bruce Weber was fired and John Groce replaced him, Rice saw an opportunity to transfer to his dream school and Groce was more than accepting of a new addition. "I don't know if I've seen a guy who's sitting out on a transfer make the number of strides that Ray did," Groce told Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune. "It's hard for guys … to understand that there's a light at the end of the tunnel and they have to grind every day to get to that light. He grinded."
After sitting out last season due to transfer rules, Rice is averaging 18 points and 5.9 rebounds per game this year. He had 24 points against Georgia Tech on 8-for-15 shooting.
Charles Odum from the AP added, “Rice, a junior transfer from Drake, is the first player to score in double figures in his first eight games at Illinois since Kiwane Garris opened his career with 10 straight games of 10 or more points in the 1993-94 season.”
With the loss of Brandon Paul, Illinois needed the talent that Rice has provided.
Michigan Misses Burke
It’s surprising that a team who returned three potential first round picks is 5-3 early on with losses to Iowa State and Charlotte, but Michigan is off to a slow start which was highlighted in a 79-69 defeat to Duke. It wasn’t a game the Wolverines were expected to win, but the ten-point margin seemed much closer than the game actually looked.
Michigan has gotten decent play at the point guard position from freshman Derrick Walton, but there are big shoes to fill when replacing the National Player of the Year. Burke simply took this team to another level that this year’s team lacks. Walton is averaging less than half the amount of points (8.6) and assists (3.0) that Burke did last season (18.6 and 6.7). Again, it’s a very tough position for the freshman to be thrown in, but it shows exactly how big Burke was to the lineup.
“I think I just need to keep remaining confident in myself, and the inconsistency will go out the window,” Walton told Adam Renuart of isportsweb.com.
Despite being held without a field goal against Duke, Nik Stauskas has shown his scoring ability by scoring 20 points or more in five of the seven games he’s played in this season. He was also returning from an ankle injury, which may have limited his impact. Caris LeVert has also shown progress, but this team is far from where they want to be.
However, we must remember that it’s still early in the season and the youngsters will adjust. Head coach John Beilein added, “They are 19 year old kids trying to figure things out, and the coaches don’t have all the answers either. It’s a game.”
We Still Don’t Know UNC
With wins over Michigan State and Louisville, the Tar Heels could be considered a top ten team. But, then again, with losses to Belmont and UAB, North Carolina may just be the most unpredictable group in the country.
Part of the equation may revolve around sophomore point guard Marcus Paige. When Paige scores over 20 points, UNC is 3-0, but when he scores under the 20 point mark, the Tar Heels are 2-2. With such a reliance on Paige’s scoring, North Carolina must get points from Paige each game. He’s also the only threat from behind the arc, as Paige has taken 66 percent of North Carolina’s attempts from three point range. Even more shockingly, he’s made 86 percent of the team’s three pointers.
There’s also the uncertainty of a backup scoring option. Brice Johnson, James Michael McAdoo, and J.P. Tokoto have shown flashes of supporting this role, but there’s a lack of consistency in the scoring department.
North Carolina has been the most unpredictable team this season, but the win over Michigan State will be a quality victory on the resume during the selection process.
"You can't tell in college basketball what's going to happen," North Carolina head coach Williams said to CBS Sports. Safe to say, this will be a long, fun season.
Dec 05, 2013 5:23 PM EST
- “Fix It” is a series that shows how each NBA team has the potential to improve, focusing on how team success can be built over the long-term instead of simply year over year. The ultimate goal is to create a team capable of winning consistently for a decade.
The Atlanta Hawks are possibly the worst nightmare for an NBA general manager; an average team with poor attendance – they have finished in the bottom 10 for attendance in 12 of the past 13 seasons – that goes to the playoffs but cannot elevate into contention. While the team is currently on a seven-year streak of making the playoffs, they’re also on a 54-year streak of not winning an NBA championship (second longest in the NBA). This has been due mostly to poor choices in the draft (Marvin Williams over Chris Paul, Shelden Williams in 2006) and an inability to break out of their cycle of mediocrity in the playoffs.
The Good: Danny Ferry. Having served as the Vice President of Basketball Operations for the San Antonio Spurs, Ferry has seen first-hand how signing previously incorrectly utilized players to fit your system can benefit a team. So rather than signing a bunch of players to one-year contracts like the Los Angeles Lakers, Ferry focused on signing players who will help out his team both as better fits for their system and as trade assets. Great examples are the contracts of Kyle Korver (four years, $24M) and Paul Millsap (two years, $19M). Each signed a reasonable contract that keeps them as a viable asset if a deal comes along. While for the time being this team will continue the trend of mediocrity, they have enough tradable assets that they could potentially be the Houston Rockets of the East, ready to pounce on a James Harden or Dwight Howard type of deal.
The Bad: Mediocrity doesn’t pay. This team has only drafted three All-Stars in franchise history…three. Without bottoming out, this probably won’t change anytime soon. So while late first-round pick Dennis Schroeder has an immense amount of promise, the likelihood that he becomes Rajon Rondo is slim, leaving this roster with only one real cornerstone in Al Horford. Without another star (or two) to pair Horford with, this team is going to continue to go nowhere. They also appear headed for another bottom 10 finish in attendance (currently 26th).
The Fix: Stay the course. Continue handpicking players that fit your team in free agency, trades, and the draft. Ferry has stocked up his own picks, along with three extra second round picks from the Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat as well as the right to swap first-round picks with Brooklyn in 2014. Additionally, the Hawks have six expiring contracts this season that could allow them to be a trade partner to a team trying to shed a salary, landing them a quality player prior to the trade deadline.
Dec 04, 2013 7:28 PM EST
As a promising athlete out of a self-destructing area in Washington, D.C., Tre Kelley saw friend after friend fall victim to violence, fall into the disaster everyone expected from them. At 11, Kelley picked up the phone to the news that his mother had been murdered cold – the most significant tragedy among a long list of friends in jail, critical condition or deceased.
Just this year, 28 now, Kelley became numb to the fact his father passed away, and all these events lead him to ponder questions about his life. Looking back, he wonders: How did I make it out of Northeast Washington, D.C., out of a growing line of deaths there, and into professional basketball with the NBA D-League’s Austin Toros now? He left physically unscathed, but he desperately wanted a story to take home about how he persevered through the shattered lives of his close ones.
“For me to still be here, it’s a great blessing,” Kelley said by phone. “For me to be fairly young and still have an opportunity to achieve my goals, it says a lot. Anything that goes on in life – the failures, people losing jobs – you just can’t compare to losing your mom, losing your dad and losing friends in the street. You can’t compare losing games to those things.
“Nothing compares to getting those calls, hearing those words from my family members when I found out that I lost my mom, lost my dad. It all allows me to drive myself and make a great story out of this. It really drives me.
“Where I come from, people just don’t make it out of there, man. It’s a rough, rough place. You just don’t get a chance of making it out, and I’ve heard so many bad tales about people who had a chance to go to college on a scholarship, and they throw it all away.”
Once the Memphis Grizzlies waived him in the 2010 training camp, Kelley played parts of two seasons overseas where he starred in Europe, and where he scored two 50-point performances in China. Through it all, his sights remained on finding a way back into the NBA, so he decided to return to the Development League with Austin.
Kelley was a consistent, sure scorer in his collegiate career at South Carolina, but he’s grown as a passer averaging his most assists as a pro so far this season. Within an Austin organization well run by the San Antonio Spurs, Kelley has nurturing coaches, a stable system, and he knows this made him a viable NBA hopeful last season.
In Kelley’s mind, this new season represents another chance toward a call up, another reason to prove himself for his rugged old neighborhood.
“I’m really confident in getting called up, because I feel I’ve worked really hard,” Kelley told RealGM. “I’m really focusing on keeping my body in shape, keeping my game sharp. The Toros are a great organization, and I really appreciate the Spurs and Austin. I want to stand out every game, whether it’s points or assists or defense, and I think that’s what you have to do in the D-League.
“There’s no basketball like the NBA in my eyes. From the practices to the games, the margin of error it has compared to other leagues, no league can compare to the NBA. It showed me how professional basketball is. Any time you get a chance to play basketball at the highest level – even in training camp – it helps you.
“I’ve played overseas, played in the D-League, and basketball is just not the same as the NBA.”
For Kelley, teammates and coaches in his brief NBA time had taught him lessons he still implements now, a know-how of techniques to take care of the body, a clearer grasp about the intricacies of running a pro offense. Lionel Hollins had a lasting impact on Kelley, stiffening the six-foot guard’s mindset.
“The guys in Memphis, the way they work, the way they prepare for games and help their bodies recover after the games, that was my best experience,” Kelley said. “After I left there, they went to the Western Conference semifinals and they’ve been a great team ever since.
“Just seeing the work that those guys put in, I definitely learned a tremendous amount from those guys. Especially when you’re trying to make it back to the NBA, I learned exactly how the game is played from them, from coach Hollins.”
From the death of his parents to close friends getting lost on the D.C. streets, Kelley understands those NBA cuts from Memphis and Oklahoma City – as well as Miami in 2007 and 2008 – are such distant, minor disappointments for him. Instead, he remembers grasping that basketball scholarship to the University of South Carolina, in a way he saw people squander. Through every traumatizing event, Tre Kelley’s still chasing a life that so many around him couldn’t.
Dec 04, 2013
The Western Conference is nine degrees warmer on average than the Eastern Conference, which must be considered as a factor in why it has been a far deeper conference over the past two decades.
Dec 03, 2013
There are eight NBA games on Wednesday night and what better way to add excitement than entering the $55 Daily Fantasy Basketball Championship Qualifying Event at DraftStreet.
Dec 02, 2013
Aaron Gordon isn't putting up other-worldly stats, but he's been doing the little things on an Arizona team that is loaded with the presence of T.J. McConnell, Nick Johnson, Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski and Rondae Holis-Jefferson.
Dec 02, 2013
The category of points in the paint is clearly important enough to be on the box score. You could argue that it should be at the top of the box score instead of the bottom. It’s the one stat that can determine how dominate a team can be either offensively or defensively or both.
Dec 02, 2013
The week after Thanksgiving features a shockingly large amount of great games, many of them involving the Pacers. The league’s only one-loss team goes on the road to face the Clippers, Blazers, Jazz, Spurs and Thunder in an eight-day span.
Nov 26, 2013
Typically in college basketball, point guards see the most dramatic improvement between their freshman and sophomore seasons. Trey Burke, Michael Carter-Williams and Shane Larkin were prime examples last season. Now it's Marcus Smart, Marcus Paige and Jahii Carson.
Nov 25, 2013
Strangely, none of the major market teams have the competitive advantage of their location and a top-flight organizational reputation. History and money are still (largely) on their sides but players have become more conscious of organizational quality in recent years.
Nov 25, 2013
The NBA-best Spurs average 107.3 points per 100 possessions, while allows 95.1 on defense, giving Gregg Popovich's team a +12.2 differential.
Nov 25, 2013
Taking Thanksgiving off actually helped give the NBA a more stacked schedule the other days of the week, leading to quality games throughout the holiday weekend. We have some quality tests for teams trying to establish themselves and a few truly high-level matchups of teams expected to make noise in the playoffs.
Nov 21, 2013
With Joseph Young and a mixture of other key transfers, Oregon is looking like a contender in the Pac-12 conference.
Nov 21, 2013
Sign up at Draftstreet and pick an NBA fantasy team for Friday’s games. The top 10 scores win entry to their Daily Fantasy Basketball Championship Qualifier and a free shot at Basketball Fantasy Glory.
Nov 20, 2013
Transitioning to a new generation of consoles provided an opportunity for game development teams to create new properties or transform existing ones to take advantage of new hardware. For NBA 2K14, the boldest decision was debuting a completely new mode on the next generation version of the game, called MyGM designed at replicating the experience of a GM.
Nov 19, 2013
RealGM spoke with Alexis Ajinca to talk about the restart of his career, his plans to get back to the NBA, France's national team and much more.
Nov 19, 2013
It’s early in the season, but Adreian Payne might be the most improved returner in the country. With Payne and other key experienced pieces in the mix for Michigan State, the Spartans should hang around the top of the rankings for most of the season.
Nov 18, 2013
The Suns are off to a fast start behind new additions in Eric Bledsoe and Miles Plumlee in what was supposed to be a season focused on the 2014 NBA Draft.
Nov 18, 2013
There are some interesting matchups this week that should help sort out the NBA hierarchies somewhat, with the Clippers having a particularly challenging week against four different potential playoff teams.
Nov 18, 2013
Does a team's performance in cupcake games matter? How did Marquette score 35 points at home? Plus a few words of praise for Michigan St.'s Branden Dawson.
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