This past Thursday, June 27, 2013, the best young players in the world gathered in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Center with hopes of hearing their names called by NBA Commissioner, David Stern. The 2013 NBA Draft was one of the most intriguing drafts in a few years because there was no clear first overall pick, as players draft stocks rose or fell almost daily. The draft was also considered to be a role players’ draft, making it difficult to choose between players at the same position. The Cleveland Cavaliers eventually selected Anthony Bennett from UNLV with the first overall pick. There were also four ACC former standouts that were picked in the first round of the draft, tying them with the Big East and Big Ten. These four players have tremendous potential and will eventually play important roles on their respective teams.
The Phoenix Suns used their fifth overall pick on Alex Len, the Ukranian big man from the University of Maryland. Len is a solid big man with a nice touch and his upside combined with his height made this an easy pick for the Suns. Len is also a very deceptive rim protector, and his defensive awareness is at a very high level for a player that has not been playing basketball for a long time. Surprisingly Len was selected over Nerlens Noel, who was predicted to be the first overall pick in this draft at one point. Len will be joining three veteran big men in Phoenix, Luis Scola; Marcin Gortat and Jermaine O’Neal, who will provide him with positive advice and guidance on how to be a good big man in the NBA. Although he will be joining these seasoned veterans, Len will be asked to play from day one in Phoenix and he will be a solid addition to a young and upcoming roster in Phoenix.
The Dallas Mavericks made a great steal in the draft after they slid down the draft twice. They selected standout sophomore point guard, Shane Larkin, from the ACC Champion Miami Hurricanes. Larkin was one of the most explosive guards in the nation this year after a rather quiet freshman year. Any opportunity I was afforded to watch Miami play I was glued to the TV because watching Larkin play was actually fun. While Larkin is undersized at 5-11, he makes up for it with his basketball I.Q. and athleticism; Larkin is also very skilled, he uses his quickness to get in the paint, he puts pressure on the defense and he finishes well. When teams do not have guards as quick as him they will have to give him a little space and Larkin is a very good outside shooter as well as off the dribble shooter. Larkin could step into an important role as a back-up point guard for the Mavs this year, as Mavericks’ coach, Rick Carlisle, said; “He could compete for playing time right away.” The Mavs are currently pursuing Rajon Rondo, who would be the perfect mentor for Larkin, but if that deal is not done Larkin could see himself competing with Darren Collison, Mike James, and Rodrigue Beaubois for playing time and a potential starting spot.
The Brooklyn Nets with the 22nd overall pick selected Mason Plumlee, former Duke standout. While Plumlee slipped a little lower on the draft board than projected, he will be a perfect fit in Brooklyn as they have continued to prepare their roster for a championship run. Plumlee would back-up Brook Lopez, but he is a very different player from Lopez and he will be a great compliment for him coming off the bench. Plumlee’s length and athleticism is already on the NBA level and he will be a very valuable role player for the Nets as a result. The Nets just worked out a deal with the Boston Celtics to acquire three veteran players, Kevin Garnett; Paul Pierce and Jason Terry, who have all won NBA Championships and at one point in their careers were the best or one of the better players on their teams. The Garnett addition will make the job of preparing Plumlee easy for the Nets’ first year coach, Jason Kidd. Garnett and Plumlee have similar builds, and although Plumlee is nowhere near Garnett’s skill level, competing against him and Lopez everyday will prepare Plumlee to be on the floor immediately. Another thing Garnett will teach Plumlee is how to play power forward and center. Garnett has played both positions in the NBA and it is possible that Plumlee could also be asked to play both positions for the Nets.
The last player from the ACC that was selected in the first Round was Reggie Bullock, former UNC shooting guard. The Los Angeles Clippers selected him with the 25th overall pick. Bullock was never a star in college, but he can be a solid addition to a team as a prospect that will be ready to play in the NBA eventually. Bullock is a solid shooter and a decent defender, but he struggles to score off the dribble and that makes him very one-dimensional. He does not have much upside but if he continues to improve his jump shot he could find his niche in the NBA.
There were three other ACC players that were selected in the second round. ACC player of the year, Erick Green, was the first pick of the second round. Fellow ACC counterparts, Duke’s Ryan Kelly and NC State’s Lorenzo Brown, later followed him. Unfortunately Duke former standout Seth Curry, brother of NBA star, Stephen Curry, went undrafted and will have to take the undrafted free agent route. He as well as the other three players who were selected in the second round could all find niches in the NBA and contribute when needed.
Miami Hurricanes big man Kenny Kadji certainly is an NBA prospect at 6'11" 240 pounds, but what I would question is his ability to defend the post at the next level.
Kenny is an above average athlete for his size as you can see in his highlights -- he's no Kevin Durant so his ability to shoot from the three point line is not impressive and this is not a knock on his ability, he's going to make his money from 17 feet and in.
Kenny will have a long NBA career as post defender who can be a double double guy.
Unfortunately, in the ACC’s last year as we have known it, there has been plenty of speculation about whether or not the ACC was having a down year. Selection Sunday may have put a close to this argument when only four of the twelve ACC teams received bids to this years’ NCAA tournament. This is extremely low compared to the number of teams the league usually sends to the big dance. To put it into perspective the MWC (Mountain West Conference), which is typically not one of the most esteemed conferences and does not usually have more teams in the tournament than the ACC, had five teams receive tournament bids. Of the remaining eight ACC teams, only three were invited to the NIT (National Invitational Tournament). These facts are not a surprise when 4 teams in the conference had records under .500. ACC fans have come to expect much more.
Taking all of these factors into consideration, one cannot help but raise the question: In the last year of the current ACC, did the conference end in a less than stellar fashion? The answer is a resounding yes!
Yes, the conference did have two teams, Duke and Miami, receive number two seeds. Miami had also built a strong case for a number one seed by winning the conference regular season and tournament championship, but unfortunately they became the first ACC team to not receive a one seed after accomplishing these feats. Miami’s success may be due to the longevity of their team, and not falling victim to the one-and-done phenomena; ten of Miami’s thirteen players are either juniors or seniors and along with a tremendous sophomore, Shane Larkin, one would expect them to be very successful.
Miami’s success, regardless of their longevity, came as a surprise; but one team that ACC fans know to expect a lot from in the postseason is Duke, led by their Hall of Fame Coach Mike Krzyzewski. Duke also had a case for a number one seed before a mid-season injury to senior Ryan Kelly. Duke was 18-1 with Kelly in the starting lineup, but a few bad losses, including a quarterfinal lost to unranked Maryland in the ACC tournament, was the reason they received a number two seed.
Miami and Duke both had great years and in all honesty carried the conference this year. While North Carolina and North Carolina State both received bids to the big dance, they also both received eight seeds and will be playing very tough opponents in the first round and will have to face one seeds, Kansas and Indiana respectively, if they advance to the round of 32.
The additions of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Louisville next year and Notre Dame in 2015, all of which are in this year’s tournament, the ACC will most definitely regain its position as the best conference, and most competitive in the country. However for this year, the ACC, without a one seed and only four teams in the tournament, has just been mediocre.
Winning at Cameron Indoor is always a near-impossible task considering the Blue Devils had won 92 of their previous 97 home games prior to Saturday night. The Blue Devils were especially motivated for the Hurricanes this time around, as the 27-point shellacking they experienced at the Bank United Center earlier in the year was fresh on their minds. Despite the hostility they knew they were about to face in Durham, the Canes went into the game confident in their own ability as one of Duke’s previous five home losses had come at the hands of this very same Canes team last season. Sports analysts everywhere hyped this game as easily the biggest in the ACC and arguably the biggest in all of college basketball thus far. This game featured another prominent storyline prior to tipoff: the return of Ryan Kelly. Most people predicted that Kelly would play ten to fifteen minutes at the most and would have a minimal impact on the outcome.
As it turned out, Kelly torched Miami for 36 points as he led the Blue Devils to a 79-76 win over the Miami Hurricanes. The Canes had no answer for Kelly’s outside shooting as he alone hit seven of the Blue Devils’ eleven three pointers compared to six threes combined for Miami. Despite Kelly’s historic night, the Canes were able to stay in the game by exploiting Duke’s poor penetration defense. Shane Larkin led the way for the Canes with twenty-five points and four assists followed by Kenny Kadji’s seventeen points and ten rebounds. The difference in the game last year for the Canes was Reggie Johnson’s impact in the paint. He dominated Duke inside for twenty-seven points. This time around, Mason Plumlee and the rest of the Blue Devils held Johnson scoreless, as he missed all five of his shot attempts and failed to force Duke to double-team him down low. The two teams remained within striking distance of each other for most of the night before Duke finally got the first double-digit lead for either team after Quinn Cook’s three pointer with 1:56 left. The Canes rallied back, and had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer before Rion Brown’s three-pointer rattled out.
The Canes have plenty of positives to take away from the game despite the loss. The Canes being able to stay in the game shows that the win earlier in the year was no fluke. The Canes are able to match up well with the Blue Devils and have a legitimate chance to beat them in the ACC tournament if the two teams meet again. Once again, Miami shut down Seth Curry by holding him to seven points on two of eight shooting. In fact, if it were not for Ryan Kelly, the Canes would have handily beat Duke again. Of course, the Blue Devils will have Kelly at their disposal the rest of the season but it is highly unlikely that he will score 36 points again on ten of fourteen shooting from the field. Jim Larranaga will have his defense prepared next time around to better handle Kelly’s perimeter play. Shane Larkin had his way with the Blue Devils again, and Duke could not stop the Canes from penetrating and getting to the basket. The Canes also had a rare poor shooting night from the three-point line.
With the Canes already having clinched the one-seed in the ACC and with limited competition in the ACC this season, it is highly probable that these two teams meet again in the ACC Championship game in Greensboro. This time, it will be the Canes who look for revenge.
Durham North Carolina – Ryan Kelly goes nuts and drops 36 points for the No. 3 ranked Duke Blue Devils in a closely contested 79 – 76 win against No. 5 Miami Hurricanes.
Kelly coming off a 7 week injury hiatus and lit up Cameron Indoor knocking down 7 three's – 10 of 14 from the field and 9 of 12 from the charity stripe. "I guess I was ready for it," Kelly said. "That's all I can say."
Duke clearly will be the ACC Tournament favorite with Kelly back in the line-up.