Steve’s Round 1 Mock Draft 1.0

The national championship has concluded and if your NFL team has not made the playoffs then congrats, it’s DRAFT SZN! This is the debut of my very first actual mock draft. Sure I’ve gone through hundreds of mock simulations this season, but now that half the draft order is finalized, we can truly get to work. No trades in this mock, that’ll come later once we can truly get a lay of the land.

Without further ado…

*I used PFF and The Draft Network’s top team needs as well as my own knowledge to base these picks.

1.01 Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

The no brainer here. For anyone thinking that he may not go first overall, just stop, there’s no point. Then again, it’s Jacksonville, who the hell knows with them.

1.02 New York Jets – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio St.

This is up in the air for me. Personally, I think Sam Darnold has shown enough to think that he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL. The big question will be is if he is better than who is available when the Jets are picking. I think not. So my QB2 Justin Fields is the pick here and Darnold will be moved to another team.

1.03 Miami Dolphins – Penei Sewell, OT Oregon

I foresee the Dolphins trading back from this spot to a QB hungry team but I’m skipping trades for now. If the Dolphins stay put and figure they want to give Tua another year (they should) Sewell is the obvious choice to the anchor a O-Line for the future.

1.04 Atlanta Falcons – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

Supposedly, Arthur Blank may ready to move on from Matt Ryan and even Julio Jones to begin a total rebuild. If this happens the rebuild should start with BYU’s Zach Wilson. He’s got all the arm talent in the world and could be just the fresh start that Atlanta is needing.

1.05 Cincinnati Bengals – Jamar Chase, WR, LSU

Bengals will be upset they’ve missed the Sewell sweepstakes but teaming Joe Burrow up with his former LSU teammate Jamar Chase will be a great consolation. Chase is my WR2 but you can’t really go wrong with any of the top 3 WRs.

1.06 Philadelphia Eagles – Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama

Philly needs weapons, in a bad way. Devonte Smith more than fits the bill. My WR1 is the 2nd receiver taken in the class to reunite with former Bama (and Oklahoma) quarterback Jalen Hurts.

1.07 Detroit Lions – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn St.

Parsons has dominated from the linebacker position and gets to the ball with great speed. His ability to blitz from the 2nd level is impressive and has many believing he can play off the edge in stints. Detroit could use a dynamic player like this on that end of the ball.

1.08 Carolina Panthers – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota St.

The Panthers quickly found out the hard way that Teddy Bridgewater isn’t the answer at QB for their team. Trey Lance had a meteoric rise in 2019 posting insane film and numbers. 28 TDs and 0 INTs is nothing to be scoffed at regardless of what level you’re playing it. ESPECIALLY when you’re as aggressive with the ball as Lance is. He may be the most raw QB in this class but since they’ve contractually tied themselves to Bridgewater so there doesn’t have to be a rush to start him immediately. (even though they probably should)

1.09 Denver Broncos – Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan

You can never have enough pass rushers. Broncos already have Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, one of which is 32 and coming off an injury and the other who’s due for a pay day after 2022. Get young and stay productive on the defensive line and you will have very few problems.

1.10 Dallas Cowboys – Patrick Surtain, CB, Alabama

Dallas has felt the loss of Byron Jones heavily as they’ve ended up having the worst pass defenses in the league the past year. The best cornerback in this draft won’t fall out of the top 10 and slips to Dallas in my first mock, and can hopefully be a cure to their issues.

1.11 New York Giants – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

Giants spent last years pick on a LT this year they look to upgrade the weapons around Daniel Jones in what I think will be his last chance as a starter this season. Jaylen Waddle is thought of by many to be the best receiver in this class but with the rise of his teammate Devonta Smith and Jamar Chase a likely top 5 pick, Waddle slips out of the top 10 and into the Giants hands.

1.12 San Francisco 49ers – RaShawn Slater, OL, Northwestern

San Fran could use an upgrade at the line position, they traded for Trent Williams last season who has been on IR but could use some refreshing at other slots as well. Slater has played both tackle positions and is seen as a guy who could easily be worked to inside to play guard and even center. A jack of all trades if you will for the 49ers.

1.13 Los Angeles Chargers – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech

Chargers have their quarterback in Justin Herbert and they already have weapons in place, now it’s time to protect him. They traded their LT, Russell Okung, away last year to bring in guard Trai Turner, so drafting a tackle in the first round makes sense in what appears to be a solid class.

1.14 Minnesota Vikings – Alijah Vera-Tucker, iOL, USC

Minnesota is pretty stout on offense but could really use some work upgrading their interior line. With Slater off the board they take the next best versatile linemen in Vera-Tucker. Another guy who’s played LT and is being seen as a true guard at the next level.

1.15 New England Patriots – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

Long story short. The Patriots may have the worst skill group in the league. The hope is that one of the big 3 receivers falls to them but in this mock they get arguably the best “pass catcher” in this draft anyways in TE Kyle Pitts. Belichick loves his tight ends so it’s a natural fit in that regards and if they keep QB Cam Newton, he’s had his fair share of success with a tight end as his #1 options as well.

1.16 Arizona Cardinals – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

Arizona’s got some questions all over the roster and how they missed the playoffs is beyond me, they’ll go BPA here with Caleb Farley who I think is a top 15 pick. Patrick Peterson may be on the wrong end of 30 and even if he isn’t getting another lockdown corner is never a bad thing!

1.17 Las Vegas Raiders – Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami

Raiders need pass rushing help. Maxx Crosby lead the team with 7 sacks which is solid but I think there is still more to be desired there. Unfortunately this isn’t a deep pass rusher class on the face but Rousseau is a raw prospect who has high potential to be a solid pass rusher.

1.18 Miami Dolphins – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

Miami elected to protect Tua with their first pick and now they’ll look to get him a weapon with their 2nd. This receiver class looks to be quite deep and Bateman is one of the best the group. Him being WR4 is pretty crazy but that’s just how good the top 3 are supposed to be.

1.19 Washington Football Team – Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama

The Football Team played themselves out of a Top 4 QB in this draft but that can be addressed in FA. If it is look for the Team to go O-Line. Again a rich tackle class this year will have plenty of QBs happy this year.

1.20 Chicago Bears – Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas

The Bears got problems. Do they keep Trubisky? Do they need more weapons? I got no clue, so we’re going O-Line. Maybe this helps Mitch if they keep him around.

1.21 Indianapolis Colts – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

Unsure what the Colts will do here with QB being a big question mark going into the offseason. I do know that they need CB help so that’s what we’ll slot them for now until they truly enter the QB sweepstakes.

1.22 Tennessee Titans – Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas

Like the Raiders the Titans need to find some more sacks. They’ll take a shot on a EDGE this draft hoping he can be that guy. Tennessee is usually strong defensively but this where they’ve been lacking for the past couple seasons.

1.23 New York Jets – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio St.

The Jets went with Fields here with the 2nd pick, so we’re gonna be cheesy and give him his best friend on the field, Chris Olave. Jets start early with surrounding their franchise QB with weapons.

1.24 Pittsburgh Steelers – Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame

Another tackle needy team, Pittsburgh also has some questions surrounding themas it relates to their historic QB. For now we’ll assume Big Ben is staying, so Pittsburgh will look to keep him standing for one more season.

1.25 Jacksonville Jaguars – Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan

Jags got their man with Lawrence, now they have to keep him up right so he can use that golden arm of his. Look for them to dip into this tackle rich class.

1.26 Cleveland Browns – Christian Barmore, iDL, Alabama

Barmore made himself some money in the National Championship. How much money is question but for now he’ll be the first iDL taken in what seems to be an iffy class. Browns add a good player to a already strong defensive line.

1.27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

Tampa Bay finds themselves in that weird limbo of having a old as hell QB and being stuck at the end of the rounds because he’s so good. So they’ll need to hit on a late round QB. Mac Jones has probably played his way into the first round and some even have him as a top 10 pick (Lol). Maybe he’s Brady’s successor in Tampa.

1.28 Baltimore Ravens – Terrace Marshall, WR, LSU

Somehow the Ravens need weapons. That sounds really weird because most people fear this team as is, but really it’s Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews and that’s about it. Hollywood Brown has his flashes but he’s a true #1, he’ll need a running mate.

1.29 New Orleans Saints – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa

Saints need LB help so who better than the dude who just picked up the Bednarik and Nagurski award.

1.30 Buffalo Bills – Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia

Bills know what they’re doing, and they know they could use some cornerback help. Best available here is Stokes out of Georgia.

1.31 Green Bay Packers – Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida

Green Bay has finally done it. They’ll get Aaron Rodgers a first round receiver. Davante Adams is obviously a supreme stud but having a gadget guy like Toney who can work the slot will be wonderful for a team built like the packers.

1.32 Kansas City Chiefs – Wyatt Davis, iOL, Ohio St.

Chiefs don’t need much, but they could use a guard, Wyatt Davis seems like a guy who can slot in and start for 12 years.

2020-21 Player Preview: Gordon Hayward

Charlotte has been building up a lot of good grace with basketball heads and media figures alike over the past season or so. They’ve been able to boast an impressive young core of lottery picks, 2nd rounders and undrafted guys led by James Borrego, who has done one of the leagues more underrated coaching jobs since taking the helm in 2018. The LaMelo Ball pick, though maligned by some, was a calculated shot at a high upside player who many smart analysts believe to be the best player of his class – a skilled initiator with great size who projects very well to the direction the NBA is currently headed.

Ultimately, there was too much good grace being afforded to the team – not to say it wasn’t deserved, it just didn’t feel like the Charlotte we’d grown to know…

In many ways, Gordon Hayward is about as ‘Charlotte Hornets’ as it gets from a free agency signing. A perceived overpay for a player who is in a battle with his own body to reclaim some of his prime years due to a combination of frustrating and catastrophic injuries. Whilst the signing gave everyone a chance to criticize Michael Jordan’s ownership and have another big laugh at Charlotte fans, there’s more than enough reason to have belief that this signing can be a success for the team in the short term at the very least.

Short memories are a problem in most sports, and basketball is not exempt – so it has been easy for many to forget that the health of Gordon Hayward was discussed by many as the X-Factor of the Eastern Conference we watched a mere 3 months ago.

Boston found themselves 0-2 down in the series by the time Hayward was able to return, and though likely still compromised by injury he was able to contribute effectively as a 6th man as the teams split the next 4 games 2-2. Though not enough to stop Miami making it through to the finals, it was clear he made his presence felt.

His performance in Game 3 gave a little bit of everything you’d want to see out of a star wing player, including a particularly relevant quote from former coach and current commentator Jeff Van Gundy.

“Thats why they pay him 30 Million Dollars a year, it’s cos he’s good”

Ultimately, it’s that ‘little bit of everything’ that Hayward will have to provide for this to work out for Charlotte, and he’s more than capable of filling almost every need the team would’ve had down going into last off-season. Perimeter shooting, perimeter defense and a wing player who can initiate but also play efficiently… Hayward fits the bill.

For the 2020-2021 Season, it feels very safe to say that Hayward will be the best player on the team, which begs the question of whether he’ll be able to carry the demands this role will bring. He will have a lot of responsibility handling the ball, will almost definitely take the most shots on the team and will be asked to do a good share of work on the defensive end as well, likely clocking around 35 minutes a night – a return to the role he was assigned in his last season in Utah, the version of him the team is hoping they see this season

Will he be able to get back to that form? If the last 2 seasons are anything to go by, he still has the ability – but it’ll be as much about the durability that will determine whether his season is a success. When he’s out there, I have no doubts you’ll be able to pencil him in for a 25-5-5 with strong defensive contribution, something this young team will be so so dependent on.

And that for me, is as important as any other part of Hayward’s play this season. For as much as we’ll need him to play well for both the benefit of himself and the team, it is the way this will help the younger guys on the roster that will be instrumental for this team getting better going forward.

We’ll need him to take some of the initiating burden off of LaMelo, we’ll need him to provide spacing to see if Malik Monk’s career can be salvageable in Charlotte, we’ll need his defensive ability to see if Miles Bridges can hold up more effectively in big crunch situations.

It may seem like a lot, but Hayward wouldn’t have taken on the challenge if he didn’t feel he was up to it, and I for one won’t be betting against him having an All-Star level season in his 1st year in Charlotte.

2020-21 Player Preview: Terry Rozier

When Terry Rozier was brought over to Charlotte in the sign-and-trade deal last season involving Kemba Walker, I won’t lie, I was salty about it. I didn’t like it at all, especially the contract, and as the season went on I was never truly impressed with what Rozier brought to the table. This season however is a completely different case. At the time of writing this though it’s only been preseason (EDIT: 42 points in the first game LOL), Rozier’s approach to this season has me believing that we have a confident player who’s ready to show that he can be a pivotal piece on a good team.

Rozier’s catch and shoot ability has really jumped off the page to me so far this season, he’s got good shot selection and is making difficult shots. He’s also doing so with extremely high confidence. Last season he shot a personal best 40.7% from three on about 7 attempts per game. During the preseasons 4 games he went 12/22 from behind the arc, thats 54.5% and it looks wonderful. He’s looking like he can score from every level.

Transition 3s.


Middy pull-ups.

Tougher middy pull-ups.

Impressive reverse finishes around the defense.

Rozier is doing it all so far this season, and you just have to love it. You have to wonder what’s in the Hornets gatorade at times with how some of these guys are developing as shooters. We saw it with Kemba Walker, Devonte’ Graham, Caleb Martin’s form has improved, even Miles Bridges has become a capable shooter. Maybe this is nothing because it’s not like these guys were particularly bad shooters in college and maybe we’ve lucked out on development but it is interesting nonetheless.

Especially if you’re a contending team in need of a guy who is specializing in catch and shoot that could provide a scoring spark off of your bench. This piece was published on The Charlotte Observer questioning Hornets fans who think it’s a good move to trade Rozier. Sure those points are valid. Rozier could be seen as a veteran mentor to our young guys and losing him could stifle the development of LaMelo Ball who appears to work well with Rozier.

True points. I’ll look at it from the other side though. Say we wait until the trade deadline which isn’t confirmed yet, but is being targeted as March 25th. At that point in the year what if Ball has found his comfort zone and is creating his own shot and doesn’t need a guy like Rozier on the court to succeed. Wishful thinking, maybe? Charlotte still has Devonte’ Graham who I think can excel even more with more catch and shoot opportunities, and now theres pieces such as Gordon Hayward who we can lean on, Miles Bridges, PJ Washington, Jalen McDaniels, Cody and Caleb Martin to a lesser extent all can be competent three point shooters at a lower volume. Maybe you’re grasping at thin air with some of those names but it’s possible. Rozier isn’t unmovable is the point I’m willing to make.

Rozier’s contract is pricey, floating at around $18 million for the next couple of years. If Charlotte sees the development they like from their young guys, and they can move Rozier for an expiring deal, young assets and draft capital I think you just have to do it. On the other hand It may end up being another point guard that gets traded though with Graham being on the final year of his contract. Maybe it makes more sense to just keep Rozier and move Graham, that way you don’t need to bring in a bad expiring deal and you still get a good package in return.

Only Mitch Kupchak knows what will happens, but while he’s on this team I think we can all be excited for what Rozier is bringing to the table this year. He’s passing the eye test, stat test, and he’s wins before the game even starts with his pre-game attire. Consider me a fan.

Carolina Panthers GM Candidates

The time has finally come (again). Panthers fans around the globe; Twitter GMs, Teddy Bridgewater lovers, Ford F150 fans, and Cam stans alike can all come together (again). For the Carolina Panthers and Marty Hurney have agreed to part ways (again). The man who has held this team down in mediocrity for just about as long as I have been alive is finally gone (again).

We shall not bag on Hurney, enough of that has been done. We will only move forward to new beginnings. Starting with this article. It’s time to get familiar with some names who David Tepper should be looking at, and no, Louis Riddick will not be on this list. I do not understand the hype, sure he’s on ESPN, helped build Philadelphia’s “dream team” (for what that worth), dashing fellow, but this is the same guy who said Kyle Allen was the future here, thought Eli Apple was a better prospect than Jalen Ramsey, and also thought Solomon Thomas should have been picked over Myles Garrett who he thought should have gone 3rd. Everyone has misses but those are obvious gimmes, and he’s loud about it. I’m OK!

Moving on, when I’m thinking of who our next GM should be, I want someone from a winning organization, or at least an organization that has been trending in the right direction. Along with Tepper we want someone who will be analytically focused but there’s not really any way for me to know if they are or not, if any of these names hate analytics then I will scratch them off. Also, Tepper just wants the best of the best. So with that said let’s look at some names (in no particular order).

* denotes a minority candidate. New NFL rule rewards 3rd round comp picks.

Lake Dawson* – Assistant Director of College Scouting – Buffalo Bills

Mr. Dawson may be a name that rings a bell to Panthers fans as we interviewed him back in 2018 after Hurney’s return as interim GM. Obviously, we stuck with Hurney. Other experience for Dawson includes VP of Football Ops for the Tennessee Titans from 2011-2015, not the best years in Tennessee but the work he’s done in Buffalo since then has been excellent and with over a decade of experience and recent success, Dawson is sure to be one of the hotter names this year.

Terry Fontenot* – VP/Assistant General Manager-Pro Personnel – New Orleans Saints

Could we see Tepper dip into the Saints organization yet again? Last year we saw former Saints coach Joe Brady, brought in to be Carolina’s offense coordinator, and Teddy Bridgewater was signed to be the teams placeholder at QB for the season. Fontenot has been with the Saints for 16 years now, and yes as Panthers fans, we hate him for it. BUT, there is no denying the part he has played in helping New Orleans build a successful franchise. A pro scout for seven years, before being promoted to his current position Fontenot has played a crucial role in the Saints success, he even helps the Saints advance scout their opponents. I would not be surprised if he were on the Panthers shortlist.

Brandon Hunt – Pro Scouting Director – Pittsburgh Steelers

Hunt will be another top candidate during this years GM carousel. He’s been with the Steelers for a decade now and has been instrumental in rebuilding the defense into the respectable unit that is today. What I love the most is that Hunt was the driving force for the Steelers to go out and trade for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who is already a 1st team All-Pro in his young career. Someone who is not scared to make savvy trades is a big bonus for me. Tepper, being from the Steelers organization, may be one of the first to look Hunt’s way.

Mike Borgonzi – Director of Football Operations – Kansas City Chiefs

Touted as Kansas City’s secret weapon, Borgonzi has supposedly been a key player in building the Chiefs into the dominate force that they are today. At his best he is a supreme talent evaluator and plays a big part in the draft. Patrick Mahomes and that armada of weapons? That’s him. If Tepper wants the best of the best then there’s no better place to look than the Chiefs organization. He is the right hand man to GM Brett Veach and nothing gets done without Borgonzi knowing about it. If you’re in rebuild mode like the Panthers are, you would want a guy like Borgonzi leading the charge.

Luke Kuechly – Pro Scout – Carolina Panthers

Too soon? 100%. Would I love it? Absolutely. In my short, 25 years of life. Kuechly is the smartest defensive player I have ever seen play the game. Maybe the smartest overall. However we have no idea what a Kuechly draft pick (or really any Kuechly move) looks like as he was only signed to the scouting department back in June, but I would bet on him knowing what a good football player looks like. Tepper already has a cap expert in place to help with that end of things since Kuechly has no experience there. If you think age is a problem. Browns GM Andrew Berry is the youngest GM in the league at 32 (now 33). He was actually being looked at by Carolina just last year but Hurney was in place with that weird minimized role yet still the GM mumbo jumbo. Kuechly isn’t that much younger Berry, he’ll be 30 in April, the idea isn’t THAT crazy. You get someone who is close to the team and already understands the direction, loved by the fans, and just flat out knows ball. I would bet that Kuechly will be the GM of a team within in 5 years, and it might as well be this team.

2020-21 Player Preview: Devonte’ Graham

Devonte’ Graham, 6’1, 195 pounds, G

After a slow start as rookie, Devonte’ Graham had an excellent sophomore season and finished fifth in Most Improved voting. Te’ improved in nearly every category across the board this past year:

The big driver of Graham’s impact was his improved three point shooting. Te’ was a great shooter at Kansas so I expected him to be better than the 28.1% that he shot in his rookie year but I really didn’t see him bombing over nine threes a game. He’s a special shooter:

Te’ in transition. Cash.

Stepback Te’. Cash.

Te’ off a handoff. Cash.

Don’t go under on Te’ in pick and roll. Cash.

Every time the ball left his hands, I thought it was going in. Only three players played in at least thirty games, shot over nine threes a game, and made at least 37% of them: Damian Lillard, Buddy Hield, and our own Devonte’ Graham. That’s a special class to be in.

Te’ is also a special passer. He has great vision and has all of the passes in his bag. He excels at the pocket pass and for my money is one of the ten best guys in the league at it. He developed a good connection with PJ Washington on it which bodes well for our future:

As you can see, Te’ is a pretty special shooter outside the arc. Inside the arc, not so much. Te’ shot just under 40% on two pointers this past year. Only 13.2% of his shot attempts come at the rim and he only shot 54.3% there. In the floater range (3-10 feet), he only shot 27.4% from the field. He struggled a lot when teams sold out on his three point shooting and forced him to go inside.

In addition, even as the primary scorer for the Hornets, Graham shot under four free throw attempts a game. These are the areas that Devonte’ has to improve in to take the next step as an offensive player. The biggest area out of those that I can see him improving on is his shooting from floater range. Graham isn’t the biggest guy out there so I don’t see him improving too much at the rim or getting fouled a lot. You have to be a healthy Isaiah Thomas level athlete at that size for you to be really good there. However, a lot of good small guards have that floater in their bag. With his shooting ability, Te’ should be able to easily get into the paint as teams sell out on his shooting. That will allow him to get into floater range pretty frequently. He has to be able to hit those and take advantage.

The other thing I’m looking for is how Te’ works off ball this year with added ball-handlers in LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward. I hope to see his shooting leveraged a lot. He should be able to be really good as a spot-up guy and hopefully, we can even see him take advantage of his shooting gravity off-movement. Te’ was a pretty special player offensively last year and ranked in the top 15 in offensive PIPM per bball index. We can’t trust all in one metrics without context but I think it does give a good gauge of how good offensively he was last year. All of this value came with the ball in his hands though so it’ll be interesting to see how this shifts this year. It’ll be important to watch as we look at the Hornets long term outlook.

Overall though, I expect that Devonte’ will have another good year. Gordon Hayward should make it a lot easier for Te’ and will take a lot of pressure off. The other question in the room is that Devonte’ is entering the final year of his rookie deal. He is restricted so the Hornets will be able to match anything but look for them to get an extension done before it comes to that. He deserves it.

2020-21 Player Preview: LaMelo Ball

Well it appears the cat has finally caught the mouse. The cat being the Charlotte Hornets and the mouse being a player that we may consider a face of the franchise that is. Hornets fans around the globe will remember the 2020 draft night for a long time. For the first time in forever(?), things finally went our way and for most people, we got the guy who we thought was the best player in the class. That player being LaMelo Ball of course.

The question at hand is, can he live up to this hype?

Personally speaking, while I do have high expectations for Ball, I recognize that he also has his limitations and may not be a true #1 option on a contending team, feel free to prove me wrong of course. I think he’s your #2 guy. This isn’t a bad thing, all I’m saying is he may not be THE guy who you can look to when it’s a 1 point game with time expiring. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the potential to be an absolute stud. He does. It’s weird. I’ll break it down some more in the later paragraphs.

We all know his story by now, if you’re a basketball fan and you don’t, then you’ve been living under a rock. At just 19 years of age the kid has 6x the amount of instagram followers as the actual Hornets instagram account. Thats also more than Mavs superstar Luka Doncic, also right on the heels of back to back MVP Giannis Antetokoumpo. While only playing four preseason games, this kid can already be considered a “star” in terms of media presence. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Hornets highlights on big media sites this often before. Again, four preseason games. He hit back to back 3s the other day and that YouTube video has more views than Kemba Walkers best scoring highlights.

However this isn’t an article about Ball’s instagram followers and how many likes he can get the Hornets on Twitter. This is about what he can bring to the court and what we should expect this in his rookie season. Already laying the foundation of his stardom, it’s easy for some people to be blinded by who he is as a player. Talking to some people, you can infer that they haven’t seen Ball play since he was in high school. Thinking that he’ll have easy success from three point range, or that scoring at an extremely high clip is to be expected from him.

When in reality, most of us probably understand that just isn’t his game anymore. Although… he may think that it is at times. The first exhibition match against Orlando showed that he is not afraid to put some shots up and it truly was a joy to watch. He posted 18 points on 41%, going 4-9 from deep. That’s not too bad at all. It seems with each preseason game he’s got more of a feel for the pace of an NBA game.

In his first game against Toronto we saw him command the boards and dazzle us with his passing ability. Reeling in 10 rebounds and adding 4 assists. His ability to attack the ball at its highest point and immediately transition that into a fast break is extremely elite. Apologies for the quality, but it’s the only clip I could find. See below.

Raptors do a good job of getting back on D there but, he’s going to catch plenty of teams off guard starting breaks like that. Through these four games, Ball hasn’t exactly jumped off the stat sheet in terms of assists, but that’s not really his fault. Preseason sloppiness and unit rotations are likely playing a big role in that, once he inevitably gets into the starting lineup box score watchers may be very pleased. He processes what’s happening in the game very quickly. You can see on those football passes he just takes 1 quick glance and knows where to place it.

I’m not entirely sure he knows how to pass without adding flair to it.

The behind the backs and the alley-oops have all just been fun, and I love it. Scoring is probably the main that thing that I have some concern over. This is the reason why I stated he may not end up being a true #1 primary initiator, but it may not be as bad as I initially thought. He may not be lethal (yet) but in these past couple games, especially in the first Orlando game he’s shown that when he is set, he can get his shot to fall, as I said earlier, knocking down 4 deep balls.

Playing with Devonte Graham and Terry Rozier more than in the first two games worked pretty well for Ball. Having a guy on the court like Graham forces the defense to pay him more mind than Ball at the moment, giving him openings like above. The below 3 instances are probably the closest thing we have so far to him “creating” his own shot. Michael Carter-Williams lets him take that 3 pretty much but I’ll personally count that as a shot off dribble.

While everyone raved about that ugly jumpshot falling, I was more impressed by these three finishes at the rim.

Those are three layups that I honestly expected to see in games 1 and 2. While Ball was in Australia, I felt like I had seen enough to believe that he could be an OKAY finisher around the rim even though most people thought otherwise. With such a long and skinny frame he’s able to manipulate his body into odd angles to allow him to finish such difficult layups, but other factors cause him to not be able to create more of these opportunities. I feel like those layups should NOT go in, but he’s able to make it work and has done so before.

This may be what propels him into actual stardom. When that shot isn’t falling, can you still find other ways to score? So far, his floaters look horrible. It’s okay, we’ll work on that, but having the ability to get layups like those to go at such a young age I think is huge. Hopefully he can do so with some consistency.

Moving over to the defensive side of the ball I’m actually pleasantly surprised with him so far. Labeled as unwilling to play defense coming into the draft (for good reason), so far he has at least shown that he is willing to buy into James Borrego’s system and try on defense. It hasn’t been pretty at times and I feel he tries to play hero ball resulting in some open looks, but you can say for certain that he is active. He plays defense like he’s a high school free safety.

Loved this sequence from the Orlando game.

So that’s pretty much what I mean when I say he tries to play hero ball on defense. He’s over-helped and left Cole Anthony who was cooking from 3 wide open in the corner. He did this plenty of times during this game and got burnt for it. On this occasion it works and he gets the offense moving full speed in transition. If Cody Zeller doesn’t trip up that’s probably 2 points. On one hand I love the aggression but he has to be careful with who he tries to bait down there. Leaving MCW wide open in the corner is one thing, Cole Anthony is another.

He’s also been horrible in navigating screens, but that’s something we can work as he bulks up and just get more PT. Overall though, much better than anticipated. You would have to believe that his high basketball IQ allows him to play defense the way he does. Knowing when to swipe or knowing when to get in lanes can be beneficial, but smart players will kill him. He can’t leave a man like that playing against the leagues best. Also at 6’8 I would bank on him being at the very least a capable on-ball defender, being able to guard both the 1 and 2 and hopefully the 3 later into his career once the weight starts to come.

So what can we expect this season from LaMelo Ball? I would say what you already know. Get ready for a fun year. It’s going to be flashy, it may not be pretty at times, but this will be a league pass favorite for some non-hornets fans. His ability to push the ball quickly, extravagant passes and crafty finishing will leave many mesmerized.

On the other hand box score watchers may be put off. I wouldn’t expect a high scoring average from him. I could see around 12-14 PPG, 6 assists, 5 rebounds. I think that’s a pretty solid rookie season. I am in the camp that thinks he’ll win rookie of the year, but that may just be me homering. I think there’s going to be games where he just goes ballistic and drops an absurd amount of points, which will have voters making their minds up off of those few performances. Again, it’s only the preseason and his highlights are EVERYWHERE.

With all that said. Where can I buy some Big Baller Brand gear?

3 Main Objectives for the 2020 Carolina Panthers

Whether you call it a rebuild, retooling or just an outright tank, its clear to most that the Carolina Panthers will not be a team in contention this season.

For the first time in years fans won’t go into the season with Super Bowl dreams or even realistic playoff aspirations, but instead with a fascination at what the team will look like playing under a new coaching staff for the first time in nearly a decade (Perry Fewell era discounted.)

Though joy may be hard to come by this year, there are a few ways Carolina can put together a productive season in terms of building for the future to ensure we can soon become a contender once again…

1. Find some hits amongst the Defensive draft picks:

Having already ended last season as one of the worst defensive teams in the league, the loss of Top Corner James Bradberry and Franchise Legend Luke Kuechly pretty much guarantees that things will not be pretty on that side of the ball this year.

Despite this, there’s still a chance that a few individuals could show some promise as key contributors going forward, or at least you’d hope so given that the 2020 NFL Draft saw Carolina go Defense with each one of their picks.

Derrick Brown will look to avoid being Vernon Butler 2.0 as he comes in to partner KK Short on a D-Line that also includes 2nd Round Pick Yetur Gross Matos, who could prove to be a steal for the team after many projected would go at the back end of the 1st Round.

Do-It-All defender Jeremy Chinn is definitely the most hyped of the group with fans very excited for his future. Also watch out for defensive back Troy Pride Jr. who will begin the campaign as a starter at Corner for the team.

2. Address the Curtis Samuel and Taylor Moton situation:

When Marty Hurney said that he had not opened contract negotiations with either player coming into this season, the fanbase let out a collective sigh of disappointment but certainly not shock, as is the disappointment that Marty has trained us to expect.

After rumours that a day 2 pick had been tabled for Curtis around the time of the Draft, the team came out strong in saying that he would not be leaving and had a big role to play in Joe Brady’s offense. For him to still be in contract purgatory after that statement is indicative of a team that maybe has not fully decided its direction, a tough indictment on Hurney and the incompetence that his 2nd stint as GM has brought. One would think you’d want to sign him for the bargain deal you can get him on now instead of risking paying him more in the event he has the blow up season we all know he’s capable of.

Though the Samuel situation is frustrating, the Moton one is absolutely infuriating. At the hardest position to come by other than Quarterback, Moton is a gem at Offensive Tackle and deserves to have already been paid by Carolina for the performance he has put in over the last 2 years.

However it continues to look more and more likely that the 4th year player will hit the open market next off-season and leave the team in James Bradberry-esqe fashion – another unforgivable exit by a player to continue the theme of the last few years. Locking him up to a long term contract is an absolute must for this season, and like I say, it’s shocking that this hasn’t been dealt with already.

3: Avoid Mediocrity:

This seems like an obvious point that would apply to any team, but with the 2020 Panthers it is absolutely imperative that should the team not be able to be good, they should be as terrible as possible.

It has been suggested by some that a 6-10/7-9 season would be a success and give the team something to build on after all the change we have seen occur over the last year. But for the Panthers to have any real success in the near future, it is more change that will have to come rather than the team building on what they already have.

An average season would not only make the team more bullish on QB Teddy Bridgewater, but also put a contract extension in play for Hurney, who as we all know has made a living off of mediocrity.

It is obvious that the team themselves do not plan to tank this season, however I do think there is a roadmap where the team can stay competitive week to week, let the young players develop and still lose enough games for the team to be in with a shot at drafting one of the blue chip QB’s available in the 2021 Draft.

That, hopefully followed with the exit of Marty Hurney, and I think we could look back and say that this season whilst not being pretty, was absolutely necessary to bring about a brighter future for the team

Hornets Offense In The Making

In the last thirteen games of this shorter season James Borrego displayed a good amount of changes in the rotation that allowed him to organize his offense in a different way. All Hornets fans still have in mind JB’s words about a fast paced team, shooting a lot of threes, and play a modern brand of basketball. Nothing of that has happened during his first two years as Charlotte head coach and this is widely related to the personnel he had to deal with.

NBA coaches have to change their style looking at where the team is good or bad, and that’s what Borrego did in the first two years. Things are changing in Charlotte, bad contracts are expiring and the front office is starting to build a team that is suited to JB’s play style through free agency and draft.

Hornets offense in the making James Borrego

This year we saw the rotation being shaken with Kemba Walker’s departure and with the roster being built by mostly young players. As the season progressed players that had a big role in recent years like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams and Nic Batum were no more playing or left the team. That allowed JB to try out different things like having different solutions at the Center position or playing multiple skilled forwards that can handle the ball.

Borrego offensive mindset lean towards to what teams like Dallas or Milwaukee try to do, but to arrive at that level you need unique players with a good amount of talent in the roster and, you know, the Hornets just aren’t there. The thing with these ideas is that JB tried to push a bit more in the last games of the year, and we will try to understand what can be traslated in the future.

Offensive principles on the floor

Before we start it is important to underline that because of the lack of a true modern center it is not proper to talk about a 5 out offense, especially when PJ Washington is not out there playing the small ball center. For the majority of the time Zeller, Biyombo and Hernangomez were on the court and no one of them is capable of stretching the floor. JB tried to solve this problem while using them for high screens or giving them the ball for DHOs or give and go situations with the ball handler, but that was not enough for the offense to be good.

In the clip we can easily see how Borrego tried to solve that problem. Zeller is at the top of the arc with the ball and the Hornets go for a delay action as on both sides of the floor the play can be run. All the player aside from the center are on the perimeter. Here Rozier fakes the pick and Graham does a great job moving the ball.

The heavy use of schemes like the delay action and the chicago action allowed Borrego to achieve spacing even without a true center to build a 5 out offense. It is much more proper to look at our offensive scheme as a 4 out, that still guaranteed the team to operate in some directions.

The first thing that impressed me with the new lineups and the overall organization of the offense is Devonte’ Graham percentage at the rim. During the year Te’ had a rough time at going and finishing at the basket, but as the season progressed teams tried to run him out of the 3pt line giving him the chance to be a better finisher. If we add this to the willingness of playing small and open the court we can explain how his percentages at the rim went from an awful 34.6% to a much better 41.7%. Numbers are still low but you gotta considered that he is undersized and that attacking the rim isn’t his bread and butter.

As we can see from the clip, the spacing was great during the stretch even with the problem of not having a consisten stretch 5. After a ghost screen by Miles, Devonte’ is able to go downhill and display his floater game, which improved too in addition to his rim finishing. Overall his 2P% went from a 39.7% to a good 46.4% during that stretch.

2P% is going to be the key for Devonte’ heading into the next season as we’ve seen the great impact he can have while shooting 3’s. Teams are adapting to his game and he need to be consistent in other areas in order to help the Hornets succeed, but he will need to be helped with great spacing and different schemes.

Another element that Borrego wanted to improve is giving Miles the space to get downhill easily and more often. Bridges started to have the ball in his hands in a lot more situations in his sophomore year and he showed a lot of problems at attacking the basket continuously. The main source of his problems is related to his inability to handle the ball, especially in traffic. That didn’t let him to show his explosiveness as he was forced to settle for contested runners or jump hooks.

In order to help him Borrego tried different situation with either him or PJ driving to the basket after some movement to clear the space and allow them to finish with less problems. In this action we have Zeller at the top of the key directing traffic and clearing the dunker spot, he plays the DHO with Bridges who just need to beat his man while the other players are on the perimeter giving him the right space. This also shows how much is important to have a 5 who can properly handle and pass the ball.

Another example of action used by Borrego is displayed in the next clip. Bridges has the ball at the top of the arc, Rozier and Biyombo cut in order to move the defense while Cody Martin goes for the ghost screen to bait the switch. Siakam focuses on Martin for one second and loses Bridges who has the space to finish with his runner.

The same principles were applied for PJ Washington. He has better handles and he is better overall at getting to the rim than Bridges, but they were treated the same way. As we can see in the next clip, after a ghost screen, PJ is able to go one on one with his defender and easily reach the basket.

Washington displayed good things during his rookie season, that’s why Borrego tried to exploit his versatility in order to discover new options. Using him as a small ball 5 was one of the keys for getting more spacing and to open new possibilities for the offense. Having a player as a 5 that has his characteristic can open a lot of scenarios for a team, this should be the key for the future moves roster wise. However no one is sure that he can handle that position for a ton of minutes in the future.

The next clip shows us one good option that a team can run with a stretch 5. We can see that 3 players are on the perimeter on the weak side, spacing the floor. PJ and Cody Martin play a side pick and roll in which the #25 pops out and, after the drive, he is in the corner hitting the three pointer.

With the departure of Marvin Williams, PJ was able to shift to the small ball 5 much more than the first part of the season. Add this to a heavier use of forwards like Caleb Martin and Jalen McDaniels and you have 5 players on the floor who can drive and space the floor. The possibility to attack the closeouts allowed offense to create better looks and to move the defense.

The next video is everything we would like to see for our offense going forward. 5 players that can handle the ball, shoot it and pass it. In this particular case we have three drives with a great ball movement in order to pursuit the best shot available.

The last offensive key opened by a good spacing is offensive rebounding. With Miles, PJ, McDaniels, and the Martin twins ready to attack the board it is easy to threath the other team, especially if this long forwards can get to the right spot running from the perimeter. Here you can see 5 players on the 3 point line, PJ included, with McDaniels and Bridges reaching the interior without problems as the shot goes in the air.

Transition to the future

The Hornets were not great on offense the whole year because an overall lack of talent in the roster. For the majority of the year Devonte’ Graham almost carried the whole offensive load alone but going on with the season opponents decided to change the way they defended the Hornets. This forced Borrego to try out different things, but he really needs the right personnel to pursue his ideas.

The roster costruction should follow the principles we underlined up here like pursuing skilled and versatile players with the ability to handle, pass and shoot the ball. Also, in order to play a proper 5 out offense you would need a stretch big that does what Lopez and Porzingis do for the Bucks and the Mavs. Easier said than done, but this should be the goal going forward while looking at both free agents or college players.

JB is a young coach which still does make a huge amount of mistakes, but he displayed some good ideas talking about offensive schemes, allowing him to have better suited players will surely make his job a lot more easier.

2020 NBA Draft Preview: Precious Achiuwa

I’ve seen a lot of people buzzing about Memphis’ Precious Achiuwa, so I wanted to see what all the hype was about. Let’s dive into his strengths and weaknesses and see if he actually makes sense in the lottery for the Hornets.

Precious Achiuwa, Memphis, F/C, 6’9, 225, 7-2.5 wingspan


After watching the tape, I’m much more intrigued by Achiuwa’s defensive potential but I think it is still important to dive in to what he can do on the offensive end. This past year with Memphis, he was very productive and averaged 15.8 points and 10.8 rebounds a game and was the AAC’s player and rookie of the year. However, there’s only a couple of offensive skills that I’m interested in for his projection to the NBA: his offensive rebounding, shooting ability, and ability to attack closeouts.

At Memphis, Precious was a very effective offensive rebounder, grabbing three a game (11.4 ORB %). With his good timing and jumping ability, Precious was able to create extra possessions for his team. This has value and is one of the avenues that Achiuwa can provide a positive impact on the offensive end.

The big question with Achiuwa though and what will ultimately decide whether he can be positive on the offensive end is if he is able to shoot from distance. His college numbers provide a mixed bag as he shot 32.5% from 3 this past year on a little over one attempt a game. This is decent enough for a big who is growing as a shooter but his FT numbers are abysmal (59.9% on about six attempts a game). FT% has often been a good indicator for players that can shoot in the NBA so that leads to some caution but it isn’t the end all be all. Achiuwa’s form isn’t bad:

I’m not a shot doctor but I think with some tweaking he is a good bet to be able to shoot corner 3s at least and maybe some above the break. If he can become capable at above the break 3s, he can provide value as a pick and pop big. But again, I think he can serve as a spacer at the corners and with his quick first step, he should be able to attack closeouts:

Against 4s and 5s, Precious should be able to utilize his quick first step to get good angles to the basket and finish. If he’s able to shoot and be a threat, that’ll only make it easier for him as a driver and he can provide value as a catch and shoot or catch and go guy in the offensive end.

Other than that, I don’t see any other avenues for offensive value for Achiuwa. I’ve seen comps for him as Bam Adebayo or Pascal Siakam and I just don’t see it. I don’t see the passing ability/decision-making ability of a Bam or the ability to self-create like Siakam.

You just don’t want Precious making decisions on the court in my opinion. He only averaged one assist compared to almost three turnovers a game. He just isn’t a good decision maker:

I don’t see him being good as a short roll guy at all. He just doesn’t have good vision. In addition, his shot IQ is low and he doesn’t show a good ability to self-create:

He’s not the type of guy to create on his own (21.2% on two point jumpers this year):

This isn’t to hate on Precious. He can still make a positive impact on the floor. It’s okay to not be Pascal Siakam or Bam Adebayo. If Precious can fix his shot and shoot 35-37% from three on a decent enough volume he will be fine on the offensive end.


This is where the intrigue comes from for Precious. He’s a versatile defender who should be able to switch between the 4 and the 5. I think he’s a 4 in the NBA and don’t think he can anchor a whole defense but he should be able to play the 5 for stretches which gives him more value than if he was just a straight 4 or 5.

I’m really interested in Achiuwa’s weak side rim protection at the 4 position. He shows pretty good awareness and is able to utilize his length to get blocks and steals:

Precious is able to cover a lot of ground on the defensive end and his wingspan allows him to get his hand on balls that others may not be able to. This is just an awesome play here:

In addition to his rim protection ability, Achiuwa has shown some capability to be a good switch defender:

Achiuwa can be vulnerable sometimes as he gets shook here:

So I wouldn’t call him a Bam level switch defender but I think he’s definitely more than capable to switch and should be pretty good in that area.

With his versatility as a rim protector and a switch guy, I think Precious can be capably play both the 4 and 5 positions and should be a high level defender.

The majority of Achiuwa’s value in the NBA will come from his defensive versatility and I think he can really help a team on that end as he learns and gets more polish as a defender. How good he can be as an overall player in my opinion is if he shoots it. If he can, he provide value as a spacer and from attacking closeouts. I see him as a theoretical 3 and D big that would be amazing to have as a third big and probably should be able to be a starter.

I think the Hornets are picking too high though for a guy like Achiuwa. He is a first rounder in my opinion but not really a lottery level talent. And that’s totally fine. I think he will be a impactful player but I’d rather take a chance on a higher upside guy or get a guy that plays a more premium position.