Digging the Draft

602082.jpg

Digging the Draft

The excitement. The drama. The picks. The trades. The genius. The idiocy. The uncomfortable interviews. The hilarious entourages. The gut-wrenching Green Room. The suits designed by Stevie Wonder on LSD. My God, the UPSIDE!

Ladies and gents, its the NBA Draft. And if youre a sports fan, theres nothing like it.

Its not drawn out over four Chris Berman-burdened days like in the NFL. Its not jam-packed with hundreds of high schoolers who will never make it or wont be heard from for years like in baseball and hockey. Its one night, two rounds, 60 players all looking to make an immediate impact. All ready to realize a lifelong dream, and change the course of their lives and this game as we know it.

OK, maybe thats an overstatement, but who cares? Especially since for the first time in a long time, Celtics fans dont have to live vicariously through the excitement of others.

Lets face it: Its been a while since weve had reason to get excited about the draft here in Boston. That's what happens when you have great teams, with few needs and crappy draft positions; when the immediate future of your franchise is already set in stone.

But this year is different. Regardless of what happens with Kevin Garnett, the future of the Celtics is cloudier than it's been since Draft Day 2007. Sure, the page hasn't entirely turned on this era of excellence (although KG could change that), but it's getting close. Throw in Boston's two first rounds picks and a draft class that's deeper than Michael Sweetney's belly button, and we're all expecting the Celtics to make some noise.

How, and with whom? Your guess is as good as mine. You've heard the same names, watched the same highlights and scoured the same mock drafts: Royce White. Jared Sullinger. Andrew Nicholson. Terrence Jones. Fab Melo. Quincy Miller. Jared Cunningham. Tyler Zeller (Oooh! I like that kid, says every Celtics fan over 45). Acie Earl. Joe Forte. They're all on the Celtics radar. They all might help in some way, shape or form. Then again, they all might be off the board by the time Celtics pick. In a way, that takes some of the wind out of our sails. But on the other hand, it just adds to excitement.

That as much as you and I and everyone outside of the Celtics war room will spend the next eight hours trying to makes sense of what might happen, we just don't know. And on top of that, the Celtics don't know either. They can fall in love with as many players as they want. They can make promises or not make promises or build a high-speed bus to cruise Royce White around the country. No matter who the Celtics want, if one of 17 teams Houston, NO and Portland all have multiple picks before Boston want him first than the C's are SOL. It's a scary proposition, but creates so much anticipation. It will leave us at home, on the couch, remote in hand, slamming on the fast-forward button, just begging for a way to make it all happen faster.

And then there are trades. We haven't even talked about trades! With the Celtics there will always be trades, or at least rumors of trades. When you consider Danny's pension for wheeling and dealing, and Doc's proven reluctance to rely on younger players, there's nothing close to a guarantee that the Celtics stay where they are in the draft. Adrian Wojnarowski is already reporting that Boston's aggressively trying to move up into the lottery and turn the potential for two quality young players into one big time baller. And the reports won't stop there. We'll be hearing rumors right up until the moment David Stern creeps up to the podium for the 22nd time.

It's going to be chaos.

It's going be awesome.

Despite months of preparation, and weeks of speculation, for two-plus hours we'll watch the Celtics future unfold, unscripted and in real time. No doubt the results will leave us talking to tomorrow, and will be felt for years to come.

It's the NBA Draft. It's time to get excited.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

NBA Question of the Day: Who will be the MVP?

nba-finals-lebron-james-steph-curry.jpg

NBA Question of the Day: Who will be the MVP?

Click here for the gallery.

From now until training camps open, we'll be asking questions about the NBA and the upcoming season. Today: Who will be the NBA MVP?

BOSTON – It’ll be months before we have a feel for who the best players in the NBA will be this season.
 
But it’s never too soon to start looking at potential NBA candidates, is it?

This year’s MVP race will have plenty of contenders of course, some being familiar faces while there’s likely to be at least one or two who emerge as the season progresses.
 
Here’s a look at five players who should emerge as league MVP candidates this season:
 

5. Damian Lillard, Portland
 
Only 26 years old, the former rookie of the year award winner has been selected to a pair of All-Star games. But that’s not what will make him an MVP candidate this season. He plays for the Blazers, a team whose rebuild following LaMarcus Aldridge’s departure to San Antonio, has taken off quicker than expected.
 
Expectations were extremely low for a Portland team that shocked the NBA world and finished with the fifth-best record in the West and advanced to the second round last season.
 
Terry Stotts emerged as one of the league’s better coaches and guard C.J. McCollum garnered the league’s Most Improved Player award.
 
But the engine that makes the Blazers go is Lillard.
 
The 6-foot-2 guard’s ability to score from the perimeter, off the dribble and all points on the floor, makes him an extremely difficult cover.
 
And while the addition of ex-Celtic Evan Turner will help take some of the playmaking pressure off Lillard, this is still his team and will go only as far as he can lead them.
 

4. LeBron James, Cleveland
 
As we saw in Cleveland’s run towards the franchise’s first NBA title last season, James can become the most dominant player at both ends of the floor when the game matters most. And while those qualities will certainly make him one of the best in the game, James isn’t likely to be as dominant as we’ve seen in past years.
 
And the reason can be summed up in two words: Kyrie Irving.
 
Irving really had a coming out of sorts in the NBA Finals when he outplayed two-time league MVP Stephen Curry which was one of the biggest reasons for Cleveland’s championship aspirations coming to fruition.
 
And let’s face it.
 
James can win this award every year and those who vote for him would have plenty of legitimate reasons to do so.
 
But this season, James will likely be sharing more of the limelight than ever with Irving who may be called upon to pick up more of the offensive slack depending on how things play out with free agent J.R. Smith.
 

3. Stephen Curry, Golden State
 
As the reigning league MVP each of the past two seasons, it will be difficult for Curry to do enough to garner a 3-peat.
 
When he won his first MVP award, Golden State was poised to win its first NBA title in 40 years. And last season’s MVP hardware came at the tail-end of an unprecedented season in which Golden State became the gold standard for regular season success with 73 wins.

But this regular season will be one in which Curry’s numbers are likely to take a dip with the arrival of Kevin Durant.

Still, Curry will continue to be the player most of the league’s shooting guards are measured against and far more often than not, fall short in their efforts to be as good as Curry.
 
The addition of Durant will certainly shift some of the immense on-the-floor attention Curry usually gets, which should make for an easier time for Curry.
 
But here’s the thing.
 
Just like opponents will be focusing more attention towards Durant, the same holds true for the media and fans which means Curry may in fact become a more efficient player this year with fewer folks actually recognizing it.
 

2. Paul George, Indiana
 
With a year back in the game following a horrific knee injury, Paul George is poised to re-enter the league MVP race with a vengeance.
 
The 6-9 George comes into this season with a number of factors working out in his favor to at least give his candidacy a legitimate shot of getting started.
 
For starters, he’s as healthy as he has been in years. In the past few years, that has been one of the biggest factors that has kept him from being in the league MVP conversation. Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird has assembled a talented group whose collective strengths work well with what George brings to the game.
 
And speaking of the Pacers, those additions along with George’s ability should lift Indiana into being among the top five or six teams in the East. The closer to the top they finish, the better George’s chances become.
 

1. Kevin Durant, Golden State

Even though Durant has joined a Golden State team that has been to the NBA Finals each of the past two seasons, he will come in and immediately become the alpha male of this team.

Durant probably won't wind up winning a fifth scoring title, but he will still be among the leagues’ top scorers and lead the Warriors offensively.
 
And while the success of Golden State will hinge heavily on the contributions of many, their regular season success will be credited in large part to the addition of Durant which can only enhance his chances of winning league MVP for a second time in his career.
 
He will be the first to tell you that his focus going into this season has absolutely nothing to do with being the NBA’s MVP.
 
And I believe him.
 
Durant signed with Golden State to win a championship; it’s that simple.
 
And in doing so, he bypassed the comfort of staying with Oklahoma City or penning a new narrative in his basketball journey by joining a team trending towards a championship but not quite there yet.
 
But for him to win a championship, it would mean continuing to be a dominant force while meshing his skills with an even more talented group of teammates.
 
For Durant to put up numbers similar to those he has in the past AND win more games towards a title, will be more than enough to assert his place among the game’s top players.
 
It’s what you would expect from the MVP.