I noticed that Todd McShay had Dareus as the best player in the draft and there have been some evaluations and Sports "science" stuff to indicate that he's a better prospect than Ndamukong Suh. Anyone remember when I lambasted McShay for grading Gerald McCoy above Suh? If you thought I was above bringing this up again you are mistaken...
In their rookie seasons:
McCoy had 22 tackles, 3 sacks, 9 tackles for loss, and forced 2 fumbles. Very strong showing, he was definitely a worthy first round selection. We all witnessed what he did to Texas in 09, we never doubted he was a talent.
Suh had 66 tackles, 10 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, and 1 forced fumble.
Whatever McShay may think, Dareus will not be better than Suh either, the House of Spears was a once in a generation talent. This generation's Warren Sapp, since Haynesworth doesn't give a crap. The Lion's decision to go ahead and add another dominant defensive tackle to the mix must be terrifying the rest of the NFC.
Everyone else on the defense merely needs to be competent and in the right place when you have 2 defensive tackles who command double teams. As it happens, they have Avril and Vanden Bosch at defensive end and a very strong nose tackle in Corey Williams already. They could easily move Suh to nosetackle in passing situations and play Fairley at 3-tech, it's a loaded defensive line with a lot of options. Terrible group to gameplan against.
As far our crew, Sam Acho's treatment by the public evaluators is pretty puzzling to me. No upside? Questionable in space? Limited explosion as a pass-rusher? Not strong enough against the run?
The dude played defensive tackle on passing downs, logged 8 sacks for 2 consecutive seasons doing it, and set a record in the cone drill. If I were a 3-4 team I would be all over Acho as a SOLB or even WOLB. You know he can handle your schemes mentally, his energy level and effort is outstanding, and his production in college was very good. Again, the fact that he was a strong edge rusher AND someone counted on to get interior pass-rush as a tackle should say everything to zone-blitzing 3-4 teams. I could even see him as an inside backer.
Curtis Brown and Aaron Williams were treated fairly well, if teams don't see the value in having a guy like Aaron Williams who is physical against the run and strong in coverage than I'm not sure what lessons they were drawing from the Green Bay defense last year in their use of Woodson. Perhaps they didn't learn any lessons.
The truest lesson of last year's Green Bay defense is to find 2 or 3 blue chippers who can dominate multiple facets of the game and then surround them with competent guys who can follow assignments.
This is the 2nd consecutive year without a first round pick from Texas, but you can reasonably expect the notion of Texas as a breeding ground for soft, moody players to disappear with the success by Colt, Shipley, Acho, Houston, etc.
It will be phenomenal news for the 2011 season if we have someone rated as a first-round pick in the next draft because most of our stars are underclassmen. Randall will need to have an explosive season or demonstrate an ability to handle NFL-level double teams to go in the 1st. Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho are definitely NFL prospects but linebackers don't go high unless they are absolute terrors. I think Acho is the more explosive player and he could have a huge year if he's healthy all season but I don't see either of them as a Cushing or Clay Matthews.
David Snow is the other Senior who has produced in the past and while I'm a huge fan, center is another position where you need to be really dominant to warrant first round money.
You can bet that Geoff Ketchum is rooting hard for Tray Allen to have a big season at left tackle and justify his selection as the best player in the state coming out of high school. At least it's likely that he'll start there, since his main competition seems to be injured Greenlea, injured Poehlmann, and Harsin suddenly deciding to break up the awesome interior to stick undersized Hopkins at left tackle.
If Okafor has a big enough year to be a first round pick that's cause for excitement cause it will probably mean he had a monster season. Ditto for Vaccaro, I see potential in both of these guys but I don't expect either to blow up enough to draw a draft grade that would lure them out before their senior seasons.
Gideon's treatment in the draft process will be very interesting as I'm sure he'll be asked by reporters about his chances in the NFL. I can't imagine that his 4.7 (projection) pro day 40 time and junior film would get him anything more than a free agency signing.
I'm rooting for the Thunder, of course, and I'm excited by the consequences the Perkins trade has had for the squad. As solid a player as Perkins is, the real value of that trade was in ditching the lifeless bodies of Nenad Krstic and Jeff Green. It would be easy to see the post-trade results and say, "Perkins is one of the best centers in the league" but the reality is that he's an average center (in a good way) who is taking minutes formerly held by terrible players.
Serge Ibaka is also seeing increased playing time and looking like the next Dikembe Mutombo. How far he develops offensively will determine the Thunder's ceiling over the next few years. If he continues his defensive excellence and develops more offensive moves than that team should be competing for titles for the next decade, all of the supporting pieces around Durant and Westbrook are very solid.
In the meantime getting past the Grizzlies is more difficult than many of us would have guessed and I expected them to be a tough out. Marc+ZBo and playing inside-out is being affirmed by Memphis' success as the superior means to winning basketball games. Younger Gasol's shooting percentages have been god-like and the fact that teams can't handle Randolph with a single defender combined with ZBo and Marc's passing abilities is a nasty situation to deal with. Add in Allen and Battier's defense and you have a team perfectly designed to defeat the perimeter-oriented teams of the modern game.
I expect the Thunder to get out alive because their team is deeper and I think Perkins and Ibaka can handle the Grizz interior just enough that Durant can make the difference. It's not hard to imagine the Grizz taking any remaining team to 7 games though, if not beating them.
You may all remember I sang the praises of the new Heat lineup last offseason, claiming that DBerri's Wins produced statistical analysis would indicate that a team with Wade and James surrounded by scrubs is going to be very good. Now that we've seen it over a full-season and through 1 1/4 playoff series this view has been affirmed. Either of these players is capable of a single-game explosion that carries a team to victory, containing both of them enough to win 4 games out of 7 is a seriously difficult task and one that Boston is clearly incapable of.
If you were drawing up a blueprint of how to beat the Heat it would be having someone who can defend the basket against penetration, a la Duncan 5 years ago or Howard now, 2 legitimately good perimeter defenders with enough height to play back against the drive and then offer a contest on a jump shot, and then an offense built around a low-post scorer who commands double teams.
Any team that relies on scoring from perimeter players is going to be frustrated and overwhelmed being defended by James and Wade, scoring consistently against the Heat has to be achieved by a guy who can't be defended by these two. The rest of the league can thank God that Bosh isn't a better post defender.
Then, even a team with a dominant low-post player has to deal with Wade and Jame's athletic ability to come help on a double team and still arrive on the perimeter to contest jumpers. It's like dealing with the Bulls when they had Pippen and Jordan, really difficult.
So, teams that match the blueprint? Well, your hated Lakers of course. The challenges of dealing with the mismatches presented by Gasol, Odom, Bynum and Kobe are really too much for any team if the Lakers play intelligently. Fortunately that's a big if, it's hard to keep 4 stars content enough to put in the sacrifice necessary to win championships. Especially when the leader is selfish, blames teammates for losses, and isn't the best player.
Kobe blaming the bench for not getting the ball inside to Gasol and Bynum enough was comically stupid. My friend Ryan pointed out over some Pluckers wings the other night that if Steve Blake and co. got the ball to Gasol every opportunity they had it would barely match the opportunities Kobe has to do the same thing.
If Kobe was a better leader he would take it on upon himself to make sure that what's essential to victory, feeding the forwards, is happening. Usually he does this just enough to get them through but I could easily see him getting sucked into an alpha matchup with Wade and James that thwarts everything the Lakers need to do in order to win. Anyone who doesn't want to see that happen? Well probably yes actually, I'm sure many of you would rather pluck out all your nosehairs than see one of those 2 teams get the title.
Anyone else match the description of teams who could overcome the Heat? Low-post based with strong perimeter defenders? The Memphis Grizzlies present that kind of troublesome matchup, but surviving until the finals would be very difficult for them. The Thunder don't get enough scoring inside and I think Durant and Westbrook would have too much trouble in that matchup to carry the load offensively.
The Mavs are actually intriguingly good since few teams have ever had a great answer for Dirk Nowitzki. Chandler has made them competitive in the paint like they haven't been since Diop and Dampier roamed there and Kidd is quietly still a star player because of what roles he can play on their team. He's not fast enough to stay in front of a Rose or Westbrook, but he can body up Kobe Bryant and he's big enough to contest midrange shots from guards. His rebounding, passing, and the fact that his traditionally limited offensive skillset has been effectively reduced to shooting open 3's has given some new life to his career.
Should they get past the schizo-Lakers than a rematch with the Heat could be in play, where they are probably slowly overwhelmed by not having anyone on the roster to deal with Wade and Lebron.
The Bulls aren't going anywhere unless Boozer gets it together because Rose's 40% shooting act and Noah's efforts inside aren't winning a championship anytime soon, I don't care what the MVP voters think.
If you grant my assumption that no one in the East can handle playoff-mode Wade and James that leaves the Lakers and the Grizzlies as the teams with the personnel to manage that task. Since I'll be rooting for the Thunder to go as far as they can and upset the Lakers that pushes me to go with the Heat as your 2011 NBA champion.