Miami HEAT big man Chris Bosh addressed the media at All-Star Weekend.
2014 NBA Draft Mock Lottery
After talking to a number of league sources in recent days, I decided to put together a mock lottery for the 2014 NBA Draft. A lot will change between now and draft night, but here is an early look at the top of the draft:
A few notes:
- Executives remain infatuated with Joel Embiid and his upside. More and more executives believe that he’ll be the No. 1 overall pick. However, it really depends on which team wins the lottery. If it’s a team that already has a long-term answer at center, Embiid may go slightly lower than expected.
- Noah Vonleh is someone to watch throughout the pre-draft process. The 18-year-old is 6’10 with a 7’4 wingspan and executives rave about his potential and his ability to score inside and out.
- You probably recognize the name Dario Saric from last year’s pre-draft process, when he received some hype before ultimately pulling his name out. This year, he’ll be a lottery pick.
- Jabari Parker slips to No. 5 because I’ve talked a few executives who are concerned that he’ll be a tweener in the NBA.
For more coverage of the 2014 NBA Draft, check out our NBA Draft section.
George, Hibbert May Lead Pacers to Promised Land
At the 2012 NBA All-Star Weekend in Orlando, Roy Hibbert pulled Paul George aside and made a prediction. The teammates were in town for different reasons – Hibbert was making the first All-Star appearance of his career while George was participating in the Rising Stars Challenge and Slam Dunk Contest – but Hibbert predicted that they would be soon be perennial All-Star teammates.
At the time, it was far from a sure thing. George had averaged just 7.8 points as a rookie and he was still extremely raw as a sophomore. But Hibbert, who is four years older than George, saw just how hard the Fresno State product worked on his game and was blown away by his potential.
Hibbert, of course, was right. George would go on to make the All-Star team in his third year and this season, the both Indiana Pacers represented the Eastern Conference at All-Star Weekend in New Orleans. When George starts talking about how everyone doubted him, Hibbert likes to chime in and remind him that he had at least one ardent supporter and believer early on.
“If you ask him who was the first person to say the sky is the limit [for him], he’ll tell you that I was the one,” Hibbert told me last year. “I’ll take all of the credit for that. I remember being with him in Orlando last year for the All-Star break and I told him the sky is the limit. I told him that he’s going to be an All-Star and he’s going to be great. He’s been putting in the work and he deserves everything.”
Hibbert is excited about how George has developed, and he believes he still has room for more growth. He’s starting to do the little things that separate good players from great ones, such as changing his nutrition, spending time in the weight room and having a consistent sleep schedule among other things.
“He has grown up a lot, on and off the court,” Hibbert said of George. “Last year, he used to eat pizza for breakfast on game days. Now, he is taking his health and nutrition [seriously] and getting sleep. He comes in early and gets some shots before games. He took it one step further than what Reggie [Miller] did – he lifts before every game and then sometimes lifts after games at home too. He is developing into a nice pro.”
Now, George and Hibbert are the Pacers’ catalysts. The team is built around them – two players who are capable of dominating on both ends of the floor and strive to do just that. George is filling the stat sheet on a nightly basis and averaging 22.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.8 steals. Hibbert is one of the NBA’s best interior presences, averaging 11.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and a league-best 2.5 blocks. Both players excel in head coach Frank Vogel’s system and put their team’s success over their own. They were honored to make their second All-Star appearance.
“I appreciate the coaches seeing my body of work,” Hibbert said. “I just try to play the game the right way and I’m happy I got picked by the coaches. … It’s great. I’m happy to be here. I was nervous, thinking that I wasn’t going to get in, but team success helped me get in and my body of work. I’m happy the coaches [chose me], and I’m happy for Paul to be able to go out there and start.”
“I’m still wide eyed,” George said. “Even with this being my second one, there is still a lot of stuff that is new to me. I just learned from the first experience that the main thing is having fun. It’s a real loose and fun environment here, and I’m happy to share it with Coach Vogel and Roy.”
While everyone is talking about Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James in the Most Valuable Player race, Hibbert believes his young teammate should hoist the trophy.
“Paul [is the MVP],” Hibbert said of his teammate. “I mean, we’re the number one team in the East. He plays both sides of the floor. To me, it’s not just about scoring; he distributes the ball and he does literally everything. … I’d say it goes Paul, Kevin, LeBron.”
Hibbert’s improvement in recent years has been remarkable as well. He’s the frontrunner for this season’s Defensive Player of the Year award because few players can affect a game defensively like Hibbert. Not only does he swat away nearly three shots per game, he alters many others and scares the opposition from going in the paint. Rather than just relying on his size and natural abilities, Hibbert studies what other players do on offense so that he has a better chance of shutting them down.
“It’s knowing tendencies,” Hibbert said. “I watch a lot of film on guys to see how they shoot the ball. I try not to jump off my feet to contest shots around the basket and definitely not further away from the basket. So knowing tendencies [is helpful]. When they pump, I put my hands up, crowd them and then they’re probably going to pass it back out.”
Now that the Pacers are once again an elite team with likeable stars, fans are responding in Indiana.
“There is a good vibe,” Hibbert said. “Before, people never used to come to the games, but were slowly getting them back. We have had a couple sellouts during the week as opposed to just the weekend.”
Both Hibbert and George have come a long way since the center made that prediction in Orlando. They’re now two-time All-Stars signed to max contracts on the best team in the East. All that’s left is getting past the Miami HEAT and winning a title. This could be their year.