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MAMBINO 2014 NBA Mock Draft

The time is upon us once again MAMBINites: the NBA Draft, a haven for hoophead nerds everywhere, is finally here.
This particular year’s edition has been through all sorts of permutations–once called the greatest draft since 2003, expectations have since been tapered. Bloggers and writers projected no less than five franchise-caliber superstars coming into the NBA this June, but as the NCAA season wore on, it was apparent that this wasn’t going to be the epic class we thought.
Nevertheless, the MAMBINO crew is just as jakked up for this year’s annual rite of passage as we ever are. This draft may not have a James-Wade-Anthony-Bosh-type cache, but it is certainly filled with difference makers and All-Stars. We’ve racked up our selections for lottery picks 1-14, giving you a solid profile of what WE think Thursday’s event at Barclays Center in Brooklyn will look like.
Full disclosure: we wrote this one up a week ago, but Joel Embiid’s foot injury threw our entire post into disarray. In many ways, this is the MAMBINO 2014 NBA Mock Draft 2.0, but we’re proceeding in this new and daring world where a 7-footer has foot and back problems. New AND daring!
With the 1st pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers select Jabari Parker from Duke University
El Miz: The Joel Embiid njury should change nothing. If I was the GM of the Cavs and my boss was not Dan G, then Embiid would be the pick. I’ll roll the dice on the injury Wheel of Fortune for the player with the most upside by far in the draft. But Dan G does not want an injured center who may not play until the calendar turns to 2015. Dan G wants to win and win soon, and “he is sick of winning the lottery”! He makes this clear, banging out late night e-mails in Sans Serif asking “who will win rookie of the year, please advise” and “do any of these guys have asthma, please advise.”… Read more...

Did the Thunder do enough this offseason? Oklahoma City Thunder Season Preview

(Posted on behalf of massive fan of Oklahoma City professional basketball, Thunderstolt.)

Starting Five: PG Russell Westbrook, SG Thabo Sefolosha, SF Kevin Durant, PF Serge Ibaka, C Kendrick Perkins
Key Bench Players: PG Reggie Jackson, SG Jeremy Lamb, PF Nick Collison, SF Perry Jones III
Notable offseason additions: C Steven Adams (12th overall pick)
Notable offseason subtractions: SG Kevin Martin
FACT OR FICTION: The quiet Thunder offseason was a failure for a team with title aspirations?
FICTION. The relatively quiet offseason for the Thunder was a story in itself. While other teams in the Western Conference like the Clippers, Warriors and Rockets were making big moves to bolster their rosters, the Thunder stayed pat. Kevin Martin, in the eyes of OKC, didn’t warrant what Martin was expecting in his next contract and lost him to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Martin is the only player in the nine-man rotation from last year who won’t be suiting up in OKC this season.
But those who were yelling for OKC to do more in the offseason should realize the Thunder led the NBA in point differential and possessed the No. 1 offense and No. 4 defense last season. There is cause for concern though, as the past 12 months have seen the Thunder go from James Harden, to Kevin Martin, to Jeremy Lamb as the shooting guard off the bench for Scott Brooks.… Read more...

What To Do About "Bad" Russ Westbrook? Questioning an OKC Fan

(The Oklahoma City Thunder fell in LA last Sunday 105-96 to a resurgent Lakers squad. The loss was in part because Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol took control of the game late, but also was pinned on the Thunder’s two young stars. Russ Westbrook and Kevin Durant shot 16 for 48, just one part of a relatively lifeless Thunder team tired from the last bout of a 6-game road trip. The loss immediately spurred several questions at MAMBINO HQ to our resident OKC fan, Thunderstolt)


KOBEsh: On Sunday we watched Russ shoot 6-22, igniting anew any controversy regarding Westbrook’s actual effectiveness in games and questioning how he’s best used. After talking to Bockerknocker following the slugfest against the Lakers, I have several questions, but let’s start with the first:

Do you feel like Russ has reached an “Eli Manning”-esque place in performance? As in, you know you’re always going to get a few clunkers along with 40-plus point Finals games? Do you just accept him for what he is at this point, or do you feel like his game is going to change?

MAMBINO’s 2012-2013 NBA Season Preview Wrap-Up

After six weeks, our massive 2012-2013 team-by-team preview has come to an end. Shout out to the entire ridiculously pseudonymed MAMBINO writing crew–El Miz, Bocker Knocker, The CDP, El Mariachi, AO, The King, Mr. Marquez and Thunderstolt–for all their contributions. They turned out better than I could have possibly imagined; insightful, well-considered, funny and most of all, right. 

If you haven’t already, check out our predictions for expected Eastern and Western Conference finishes, as well as our 30 team preview series. You’ll dig.

Coming this week: our picks for all the MVP, DPOY and ROY awards, as well as most and least disappointing/improved/suprising and of course, 2012-2013 NBA champion.

Southeast Division 
Atlanta Hawks 

Central Division
Pacific Division

Northwest Division

Philadelphia 76ers
Toronto Raptors

Winning Three More Games – Oklahoma City Thunder Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Russ Westbrook, SG Thabo Sefolosha, SF Kevin Durant, PF Serge Ibaka, C Kendrick Perkins

Key Bench Players: PG Eric Maynor, SG James Harden, G/F Daquan Cook, PF Nick Collison, F Perry Jones III
Notable offseason additions: F Perry Jones (28th overall pick)
Notable offseason subtractions: PG Derek Fisher, C Nazr Mohammed
How do the Oklahoma City Thunder win three more games? That’s it. Just three more?

With the NBA Finals notched at a 1-0 advantage Thunder, OKC went on to lose an unfathomable four games in a row to the Miami Heat. Each passing game the Thunder seemed to look younger and younger, with James Harden looking more like a petrified kid wearing a Brian Wilson costume than a future All-Star. Kevin Durant and Russ Westbrook still shined under LeBron’s total eclipse of the court, but both young stars couldn’t do enough to prevent the gentleman’s sweep. 

Think about that: it’s not just that the Thunder were beaten by the better team: they essentially were swept out of the Finals after being spotted a game. Yes, two of those contests were only decided by six points, but those losses happened because of the superior execution by the more seasoned villains from South Beach. OKC didn’t get beaten by coincidence or luck or suspect circumstance. They didn’t even “come up just a bit short”. They got mauled right out of the Finals. Three more games? Yes, they only have to win three more games. But what they need to close a gap of 144 minutes is far more complicated than just a few more W’s. 

Coming into the summer, the Thunder knew how much better they had to get. It wasn’t a secret–the youthful exuberance on the faces of the OKC stars was gone, replaced with a humility only served up by such a scalding loss. Lots of wholesale changes were bandied about by the media at large, especially when analyzed financially. The Thunder had secured both Durant and Westbrook to long-term contract extensions, but F Serge Ibaka and Harden remained unsigned beyond 2012-2013. If indeed the core needed some changes to win the NBA title, perhaps the coinciding cap crunch OKC would inevitably fall into could be the catalyst for a major trade.

But the summer came and went, and the Thunder made only a few cosmetic changes in personnel. New to the team is rookie Perry Jones III, a forward with big potential but huge questions about his aggressiveness and true desire in improving as a basketball player. The Baylor forward was once projected as a lottery lock with Lamar Odom comparisons, but after staying in school through the 2011-2012 season, his stock plummeted in accordance with his ca

A Five-Game Series: Early Thoughts on the 2012 NBA Finals

Two games in, this Finals is shaping up to be everything we thought it’d be: exciting, epic, historic and potentially, dare I say, one of the greatest of all-time. This could all be a premature evaluation, but if you came to this blog looking for even-handed opinions rather than bold statements, then maybe you should head over to a lesser organization.

The series is knotted at one game a piece, and we’re down to what amounts to a five-game death match for the NBA title. On Sunday, both the Heat and the Thunder are headed to Miami for three games, and then (basketball Gods permitting), back to Oklahoma for two more.

To get the pulse on the most important storylines arising from this week’s games, we’ve assembled the MAMBINO basketball-heads to break down what we’ve seen, and what’s coming, roundtable style. Read on!

Russ Westbrook has seemingly turned into a modern-day AI over these playoffs, averaging 21/5/6, on 39% shooting in the last 10 games. Is he hurting the Thunder with this high-volume, low efficiency scoring?  
BockerKnocker: Conventional wisdom (and ironically, hero ball) dictates that the best player should take the most shots. But while everybody will pile on Russell Westbrook for his poor shooting percentages, the Thunder have compiled a 25-6 record this season when Robin has more field goal attempts than Batman. And in Game 2 specifically, when Kevin Durant left the game in foul trouble, it became harder to tell Westbrook that he shouldn’t be shooting the ball.

Is he hurting OKC when he misses a shot? Yes, but the kid more than makes up for it by BEING THE BEST ATHLETE IN THE NBA. Why must we require a point guard to be in a box? Pass-first PGs are put on such a pedestal nowadays; Steve Nash won two MVPs without playing a lick of defense! Westbrook is the premiere antithesis of the old guard’s theory, yet the dude still dropped 18 dimes in these first 2 games, while committing only 4 turnovers. Can’t we celebrate him for doing things that no other point guard can do, like tip dunking Durant’s missed layup last night? These things give him an excuse to wear those ludicrous, no-lens Sally Jessy Raphael specs and the Urkel getup.

Okay, fine, there is absolutely no excuse for looking like that. But lay off the man. He’ll be just fine.

The Thunder have battled back from deep deficits, with a successful come back in Game 1 and coming damn close in Game 2. How is Scott Brooks getting his team down so much early?

Thunderstolt: Anyone who watches the Thunder consistently throughout the season knows they often don’t have the best starts (essentially playing 2-on-5 on offense with Thabo, Perk, and Ibaka will do that) and its been glaring now with the bright lights of the Finals.  Brooks justifies the starting lineup (which has not changed since Kendrick Perkins was acquired last season) with the fact that the defensive-minded unit outscores its opponent by an average of 7 points per 100 possessions even though the it is one of the worst offensively (24th in the league according to stats).  Essentially, Brooks trades off marginally bad offense for fantastic defense.
Hey Thunderstolt, I own you!

Thabo and Serge both had huge individual games in the WCF (Thabo in Game 3 & Serge in Game 4) but those seem so long ago because neither one has been able to replicate anything close to that since.  That won’t cut it in the playoffs when lineups not seen the entire season are used.  Spoelstra used a starting lineup last night of Chalmers, Wade, LeBr


"I’m Kind of Freaking Out" – Keys to an OKC Victory in the NBA Finals

Along with The CDP doing aces on the Miami Heat keys to victory in the Finals, we’ve dispatched our main man Thunderstolt to look at the OKC side and determine what the keys to victory are. Keep in mind that this has been edited, as he’s barely slept, can’t eat and quite frankly, is barely a human being right now. This is him at his most serene, probably the result of some sort of placebo. As the title of the post says, earlier today his first message to me was “I’m kind of freaking out.” Peace be with you, brother. Let’s get to it!

He saw this coming.  From the moment he told Clay Bennett he would be his GM, Sam Presti saw this as his vision.  His vision has brought them to within four wins of raising a banner. 

Presti has done his job.  Now its time for Scott Brooks and his staff to finish theirs for this 2011-2012 season.  The good news is the Thunder doesn’t have to change much from the previous three series to be successful in the Finals.

It seems fitting the first championship foe ever for this Thunder squad is against the Heat – after the next two weeks either KD or LeBron will have a ring and a banner to raise this fall.  Soak that one in.

Other than that quick little hit, I going to stay away from the obvious KD vs LBJ narrative because I’m pretty sure 99% of the blogosphere is writing about that (My thoughts on that matchup: The two best players in the league going at it for their first title and we’re in for a hell of a series. That cover it? Okay, good). So let’s stick to basketball, shall we? Presenting the Thunder’s keys to victory.

Russell Westbrook vs The World

As I mentioned in my last post for MAMBINO,  Westbrook has evolved as a player not only throughout this lockout shortened regular season but over the last 15 playoff games as well.  He has kept his foot on the gas pedal when need be, but surprsingly has pulled back to get other guys involved as well.  His defense in the playoffs has been underrated, relentless and most importantly, he is finding ways to contribute to wins other than the stat sheet. 

This could be a big, BIG series for Russ.  Westbook has been a sponge in these playoffs not only from what his coaching staff is telling him but from opponents as well.  In my four years of watching the Thunder play, I don’t think I have ever seen Russ use a screener more than once in a set.  Against the Spurs, they ran him ragged through screen after screen as Tony Parker used the same big man to find a crease in the defense.  You know what happened?  Russ threw it back right at ’em and started using his big men to use a screen two or three times until he saw daylight to drive to ball and either find a slashing big man or shooter in the corner.

More than likely Chalmers will start on Westbrook to start the series but that could have disasterous ramifications if they stick with Mario too long.  Westbook will see Chalmers, Wade, LeBron, Battier and anyone else who Coach Spoelstra thinks can slow him down for stretches.  Russ must keep doing what he has been doing and playing with poise and composure.  He has been fantastic at picking his spots thus far and they need him to continue that for the Thunder to make the final step.  Plus, the idea of Westbrook having more shot attempts in the Finals and Thunder winning would make Skip Bayless’ head explode (so America wins, as well as OKC!). Depending on what the Heat defense gives him, that could be a reality. 

Like A Bosh 

Chris Bosh is the key cog on both ends of the floor for the Heat, Thus, Serge Ibaka must … Read more...

Spurs/Thunder Mid-Series Check-Up

With two dramatic victories this weekend by the Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder, both the Eastern and Western Conference Finals series have essentially been reduced to 3 game series. The final four teams all held home-court serve, so it’s down to three games apiece every other day this week to decide who heads towards the championship round. For NBA fans in Miami, Boston, Oklahoma and San Antonio, the next 6 days are going to be sheer agony – none of these cities are going to be sated by a mere conference crown. They’re all title contenders whose goals start and end with an NBA championship. Win or lose, nothing’s been accomplished except for taking years off the lives of these four fan bases.

The one silver lining to BockerKnocker’s Knicks and my Lakers getting bounced weeks ago is that our hearts have been rapidly calcified in the wake of our collective playoff disappointment. No longer feel the palpitations associated with a ball clanging hard off the back iron or careless pass floating to the other team. I happily and calmly watched this weekend’s action with wavering attachment depending on whoever had the lead. The Lakers fan in me wanted the games to end up in a tie, just so that everyone would be miserable. However, the basketball fan in me felt the slightest tickle in my cold, black heart watching Rondo pick apart the Miami defense and Kevin Durant continue his ascendancy to another level of stardom.

However, we need to check-in with people that still have a pulse, feel feelings and of course, care about the game’s outcome past pathetic Lakers apologist biases. Two MAMBINO correspondents, have graciously agreed to help us out and take the temperature of these series with the score tied at 2-2.

First up, ThunderStolt on his Oklahoma City Thunder:

KOBEsh: In the first two games, San Antonio looked like an unstoppable offensive juggernaut, shooting a combined 50% from the field and averaging 110 points a game. They were on a freakin’ 20-game win streak. In so many ways, they looked completely unbelievable – getting open shots whenever they wanted, and completely effortlessly at that. The OKC defense was reduced to rubble, and the only thing that Scott Brooks could do to slow down the Spurs attack was to play the much maligned “Hack-a-Splitter’ (which, to Brooks’ credit worked). In your words, the Spurs just flat-out looked like the better team.

So what’s changed the last two games? In Game 3, it seemed like San Antonio came back to Earth a bit, only scoring 82 points, shooting 39% and not looking like the Harlem Globetrotters. However, in a Game 4 loss, they still racked up 103 points, shot 47% from three and 50% from the field. How are the Thunder winning these games? What would you say is the main component that’s changed? 

Thunderstolt: The key word here is effort. the Thunder are winning games with effort.  In games three and four the Thunder have put together games chalked full of effort to a man.  Scott Brooks said it best: to beat this Spurs team, you cannot have only one effort on a single defensive possession but two, three, and even four times in a 24-second shot clock – you must account for those five guys because when you don’t, you give up a layup or wide open three.  
Granted, in game four the Spurs topped 100 points and were efficient from the field. However, the Thunder were hounding them all night long and the quality of the shots the Spurs were taking were far below that of game one and two, when they were getting … Read more...

MAMBINO NBA Playoffs Roundtable

Look, we know you guys get sick of just me and BockerKnocker dominating the page. We get it. Handsome doesn’t translate on the internet, otherwise you’d probably want more of us. But technology being the way it is, we’re going to share the MAMBINO wealth and open up a NBA Playoffs roundtable to our stable of fine friends and writers – AO, El Miz, Thunderstolt, The King and of course, us two idiots. We’re going to ask a few key questions in any series, and give our aficionados room to answer. Let’s go!


Q: Can the Sixers win this series now? Seriously?

BockerKnocker: This is unfortunate. The Philadelphia Lucky Charms didn’t just “steal” Game 2 from the Chicago Bulls. They looked them dead in the eye, smelled the blood left in the water by Derrick Rose’s torn ACL, told Chicago they would win, and then did just that. So it can’t be called “stealing” if Chicago essentially gave their apartment keys to Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams and watched while they ransacked the place. And it must have been tough to see Chicago native Evan Turner take one game back to Philly after Turner told the world that he preferred to play Chicago over Miami. Oh, and I almost forgot that Scottie Pippen sent a pre-game letter to the team trying to rally the troops. So if one of the game’s best players of all-time can’t get you psyched up to beat a freaking 8-seed at home, then YES, the Sixers can definitely win this series.

Q: What do the Bulls have to do to turn this around? Who has to step up just to beat Philly?
BockerKnocker: The obvious answer is first-time All-Star Luol Deng, who must shoulder most of the scoring load that Rose would have gladly taken. Luol, I get that you’re hurting, but if you’re gonna suit up, this team won’t win if you score 8 points.

But I think the real answer is Carlos Boozer. It’s one thing to make superstar-level money and not back up your contract with superstar-level play, but it’s another to put up the same numbers when a key player goes down for the count. If he can’t contribute more than 9 points and 5 rebounds in a game that the team so desperately needed to shake off the stink of Rose’s injury, then Boozer has fully earned the nickname “Beach Muscles.” And that would be extra fitting, because the way things are going, he’ll have an early start to the summer.

I just read that part over again. 9 points and 5 rebounds in Game 2!? The guy is owed approximately 47 million dollars (!!!) through 2015. He needs to be Amnestied. And not after the playoffs. NOW.


Q:  Other than the obvious injuries to STAT & Shump, what has gone wrong?

If this wasn’t digital, you’d see BockerKnocker’s tears on the page

El Miz:  Everything. Newly minted DPOY by the NBA and the Great Mambino, Tyson Chandler got the freakin’ flu in April.  I’ve never heard of this happening before — I thought there was global warming or something. Should anybody get the flu after winter?  Coming into this series (and coming into this season), the front court was clearly the strength.  Chandler has been huge all year; he’s been awesome on the defensive end, has come up with a number of huge rebounds and defensive plays, is so efficient offensively, and is really the one guy the Knicks have that the Heat don’t really have an answer for.  Without him at 100%, the Knicks had to play essentially perfe… Read more...

The NBA All-Stars, NHL style

In Pucklius’ explanation of how the NHL has destroyed the other sports when it comes to All-Star weekend, he pondered the potential of the NBA adopting the Fantasy Draft format. Since David Stern won’t return my phone calls, I have decided to give you, loyal reader, the best glimpse possible as to what could have happened if Stern didn’t die 5 years ago. Voting for the real All-Stars ended yesterday. The starters will be announced tomorrow, live on TNT at 7 p.m. ET.

I will take over one squad. KOBEsh, the other. We will go back and forth with picks, until the 24th and final All-Star is chosen. At the end, you can decide who picked the better team.

BockerKnocker selects LeBron James, Miami F, as Captain (8th selection)

Crap, we gotta play real
games now?

For the sake of this post, I get to be LeBron James. Let’s get the business out of the way: about 29 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals in 37 minutes per game so far this year. Absurd numbers for the most exceptional talent (read: “talent,” not player) in the game, and maybe the world, today. He could average far less than those numbers and there still wouldn’t be a good reason not to pick him as captain, unless the game was being hosted by the good folks in Cleveland. LeBron has a few character traits that make any fan squirm at the thought of giving him any sort of leadership role, but this is for a game that means absolutely nothing. And that, my friends, is LeBron’s playground. The guy approaches the 4th quarter of an All-Star game in the exact way that we all wish he would approach the 4th quarter of a Finals game. And as a side note, I’d love to see him have the opportunity to pass up picking D-Wade, as well as the possibility of not picking Chris Bosh altogether.

KOBEshigawa selects Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers G, as Captain (14th selection)

Showing LBJ who’s The BOSS

Of the two young balding superstars in the league, I’m really happy I get to be the one who’s doing so more gracefully. All the good jokes have probably been made, so I’ll spare you; Kobe’s summer knee surgery in Germany, coupled with 7 months off without any competitive basketball has really given the Mamba new life. He’s currently throwing up numbers that for the most part are above his career averages: 30 points, 6.1 boards and 5.4 assists on 45.5% shooting. He’s playing a massive amount of minutes for a Lakers team that seems to need the ball in Kobe’s hand every play. If the Lakers can get it together after their rough opening schedule (18 games in a month, against the Bulls, Clips, Pacers and Dalls, with roadies at Magic, Heat, Blazers, Utah and Denver), Kobe could pick up his 2nd MVP trophy. Just sayin.

BK selects Dwight Howard, Orlando C (6th selection)

Very, very tempted to have LeBron and Durant play together, but that will happen this summer. And since neither of them is one of my favorite players, I’ll have no problem sending them to the ‘Lympics. Dwight’s stats obviously justify the pick: he’s averaging 20 and 15 with 2 blocks per game. But the interesting thing to note here is that officials relax their foul calls in the All-Star game. If you watch Howard play, he’ll pick up at least 2 offensive fouls that aren’t really fouls. The officials just don’t know how to call a game when he’s involved, much like his Superman predecessor Shaquille. Even the most non-European of post defenders will flop because they just can’t stop the man-beast straight up. Dwight w… Read more...