EYE ON BASKETBALL: Nowitzki was just a little bit better Tuesday night. And that was because of his efficiency. Durant was good in that area, too, scoring 40 on 18 shots, missing only eight. His three turnovers were just one worse than Nowitzki’s two. But that difference was very much the game. Nowitzki responded to what his team needed. But more than that is the fact that the Mavericks could count on points when Nowitzki touched the ball. It wasn’t an opportunity or a good chance, it was a near certainty. “Give this guy the ball, he’ll get points.” At the most basic level of basketball, it was the very definition of success. When Nowitzki touched the ball, he failed only twice, missed only three times. There are a lot of questions about whether efficiency is really as valuable as some make it out to be. In Game 1, it was very much the difference between a win and a loss for the Mavericks.
ESPN DALLAS: So far, so good. Terry produced 24 points in the Mavs’ Game 1 win, which was two more than the total of all of the Thunder’s reserves.And Terry might not even be the Thunder’s biggest problem off the Mavs’ bench. Itty-bitty J.J. Barea is in the conversation after making repeated trips to the paint while lighting it up for 21 points in 16 minutes. That performance by the Mavs’ backup point guard definitely can’t be considered a fluke. After all, Barea had 22 points and eight assists in the finale of Dallas’ sweep of the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, a performance overshadowed by Terry’s record-setting shooting performance.
DAILY THUNDER: The most the Mavs ever led by was 16 and the Thunder actually got to within five once late in the fourth quarter. It’s easy to say, but really, a single stop and a basket and the Thunder could’ve had a shot to steal what was nearly a perfect performance by the Dirk and the Mavs. Is that reason to be encouraged? Maybe, maybe not. The Thunder lost the game, but I don’t think we saw anything that just screams, “The Thunder have no chance!” Russell Westbrook did not play well at all, but not in the way you think. He attacked the rim well, took mostly good shots (11 of his 15 attempts were in the paint) but just didn’t make anything. “I could bet my whole house that Russell Westbrook won’t go 3-15 again,” Durant said. “You can quote me on that.”
BALL DON’T LIE: How lucky did Cleveland get on Tuesday? While the Cavaliers owned the lottery’s second-highest odds of winning the top pick after finishing the year with the league’s second-worst record (19-63), it was actually a ping-pong ball they’d received in a mid-season trade with the Los Angeles Clippers for beleaguered point guard Baron Davis that netted them No. 1 — a scenario that only had a 2.8 percent chance of coming to fruition. Their own entry, which had a 19.9 percent shot at the top slot, wound up drawing No. 4.
SB NATION: If you think the story of a 14-year old with a health condition representing the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2011 NBA Draft Lottery when the team improves their draft prospects by winning the rights to the #1 overall pick has the makings of a Hollywood movie, you’re not the only one. For Cavaliers fans, the outcome of tonight’s Lottery is a summer blockbuster. For the Minnesota Timberwolves, however, it’s a movie with an all to familiar ending.
CLIPPERBLOG: It’s easy to say you would rather have Baron Davis and the first pick in the draft, regardless of the strength of draft class, than Mo Williams and money. But it doesn’t work like that. The Clippers made the deal based on an overwhelming combination of mitigating factors, not the least of which being the likelihood of the pick having incredibly deflated value. As Olshey said, “Adding Mo Williams and $8.5 m in cap room gives us better odds of improving than a 2.8% chance of winning the lottery.” Someone like Irving or Derrick Williams could become a star, but you can’t make a decision based on such a longshot, and neither is a sure thing to contribute more as a rookie than Mo Williams, Eric Bledsoe or another veteran the Clippers could acquire through a trade or free agency. Given the makeup of the current roster, with six players under 23 years old, Olshey played the percentages with the pick.
A WOLF AMONG WOLVES: Nonetheless, for a queezy, hilarious moment, it looked like the Wolves might find themselves with that number one pick after all and the unenviable task of having to do all of the following: 1) acquire a really good basketball player, 2) appease a Spanish teenager, possibly by 2a) trading the first pick in the draft while still 2b) not alienating their entire fan base and 3) avoiding showing the entire rest of the league all their cards. Given the team’s track record, I can’t say I was hopeful about this working out, but I was surely amused by the idea of watching them try. Now, though, we’re faced with a different situation. The second pick is a strange country, equally capable of producing Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley and Hasheem Thabeet. Derrick Williams, by all accounts a pretty good player (although I must confess that I have seen him play a total of one half of one game) appears to be close to the consensus choice.
SLC DUNK: And there we go. I admit it was a bit of a letdown getting just the third overall pick after moments ago being elated to get into the top 3. We were so close. In most years that wouldn’t be the case (unless we had missed out on the likes of LeBron or Howard or the like). But as I half-heartedly wrote before, it would be just our luck to move into the top 3 and just miss out on the top two picks in Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams. Both could be All-star level players. Either one would have been the closest thing to a can’t-miss pick in the draft. Now? Now the Jazz have work to do. Interviews and workouts with the top players in the draft will help the team decide who to pick next month and whether or not it’s going to be worth possibly trading up to the #2 spot. With Kaaaaaaahn picking there though, anything could happen. The Jazz may just end up picking as if they had won the #2 spot.
RAPTOR BLOG: Cue the conspiracy theories. Did David Stern rig the draft lottery so that the Cavaliers could rebuild after being forsaken by LeBron James? Some will undoubtedly say so now that they have both the first and fourth picks in this upcoming draft. The Raptors dropped from third to fifth in tonight’s lottery, which makes it that much more likely that Bryan Colangelo will put that pick on the trading block to see more immediate results.
BULLETS FOREVER: There is always the possibility that Grunfeld could dangle the sixth pick and Andray Blatche and see what kinds of offer they receive. The other hope is that Grunfeld and Co. have been preparing for this eventuality all year, and they have some sort of plan for who they want to select at six. I guess we can hold out hope that Enes Kanter working out against a chair is going to send his draft status plummeting. Likely? No. But we can always hold out hope. Maybe Grunfeld can spin some gold out of this straw. Maybe he can find another Dirk Nowitzki. Personally, I would look at moving out of the six pick and acquire a veteran with a few years of upside left.
SACTOWN ROYALTY: The Kings have fallen a combined seven of a possible eight spots in the past three draft lotteries. The Kings are really terrible at draft lotteries. But at least the Kings are not the L.A. Clippers and did not trade Kyrie Irving for the difference in salaries between Baron Davis and Mo Williams. The prospects at No. 7 will include names like Brandon Knight, Bismack Biyombo, Donatas Motiejunas, Tristan Thompson, Jan Vesely and many others.
PISTON POWERED: After the television segment ended, everyone flooded the floor of the studio. The victorious nine-man Cleveland contingent – which included members of the Gilbert family (most notably, Nick, who stole the night), Bernie Kosar, Josh Cribbs and Joe Haden – dominated the scene, but representatives of several other teams stuck around. (Greg) Monroe, after doing a quick interview, headed for the exit. He hasn’t had much to celebrate in the NBA, and tonight was certainly no exception. Although Detroit used to treat its players to more thrills, that was never the case for this event. This is just the Pistons’ eighth lottery pick, and they moved up only once – in 2003. They took Darko. So, Detroit has never benefited from moving up in the lottery. Not that there was much the Pistons could have done to reverse that fate.
CHARLOTTE OBSERVER: Silas represented the team in Secaucus, N.J., in hopes of duplicating his lottery success when he was coaching the Charlotte Hornets in 1999. With only five out of 1,000 chances to move into the top three, the Hornets jumped from 13th to third in the lottery and selected point guard Baron Davis. But the Bobcats had just a 1.7 percent chance of getting the top pick and a 3 percent chance of moving into the top three.
BREW HOOP: The first surprise of the night came when Cleveland’s name didn’t come up at number eight–the pick they acquired from the Clippers in exchange for taking on Baron Davis’ big contract. With their own pick still to come, Cleveland fans were no doubt hoping to claim a pair of top three picks, but it was not to be as Minnesota (with the worst record in the NBA) and Utah claimed the next two picks. The draft evaluation process begins in earnest tomorrow with the pre-draft camp in Chicago, with fifty of the draft’s top prospects expected to be measured, interviewed and put through light drills over the rest of the week.