Beyond the Lottery: Kyle Singler

Kyle Singler started for legendary Coach Mike Krzyzewski all four of his years at national power Duke University. In his junior year, the 6’9” 230-pound small forward was named Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four after leading the Blue Devils to their fourth national title.

The fact that Duke occupies a glamorous and envied position in the realm of college hoops motivates their opponents throw it into overdrive and battle with added intensity. Playing in the ferociously competitive Atlantic Coast Conference, Singler was tested night in and night out by elite athletes, including many with professional potential and aspirations. He participated in 148 games in this collegiate pressure cooker and averaged more than 17 ppg and 7 rpg in his final three seasons in Durham. Singler accepted whatever role Coach K asked him to occupy, and this translated into his being on the court 87 percent of the time during his junior and senior years.

Singler had season highs of 30 points and 12 rebounds and played all 40 minutes six different times this past year. An unselfish player with good hoops instincts, Singler can pass the ball, rebound the ball and play in transition. At 23 years old, the Oregon native possesses the maturity on and off the court to make his transition to the NBA more easily than a more talented, but less experienced underclassman.

There are a number of reasons a player like Singler will not be selected in the lottery. He tends to play below the rim due to his average athleticism and can be a liability on the defensive end where he lacks the lateral quickness necessary to stay in front of sleek, explosive perimeter players. However, on the flip side Singler’s experience, basketball-IQ, good size for a number 3 and willingness to accept his role on the court and then execute with a high-energy motor will make him a solid addition to an NBA team.

Beyond the Lottery: Reggie Jackson

Boston College guard Reggie Jackson stands 6’3” but has a 7’ wingspan. He is exceptionally fast and gets to the rim easily and fluidly, either with his great first step or effective crossover dribbling. Once at the rim, he possesses tremendous jumping ability and body control.

This past season Jackson averaged 18.2 points per game (third best in the conference), 4.5 assists and 4.3 rebounds. He shot 50% from the field, 80% from the line and 42% from 3-point range. Jackson’s ability to attack the basket as well as shoot from bonus-point land makes him a tough cover for the other side’s lead or off guard. And that tremendous wingspan gives Jackson a great natural advantage when he’s getting his hands in passing lanes and disrupting ball movement.

The 21-year-old Colorado Springs native improved across the board during his three seasons in Chestnut Hill. He was named to the All-ACC First Team for the 2010-2011 season. Jackson is a natural scorer who can take control on the offensive end. The Eagles were a team in re-group and re-building mode this year, and the combo guard didn’t have a lot of help which allowed opposing teams to ‘key’ on him. This season-long pressure to be ‘the man’ for the young BC squad will serve him well at the NBA level where the challenge of competing with bigger, veteran, more talented perimeter players will be a nightly occurrence.

Esteemed long-time Boston Globe sports columnist and BC alum Bob Ryan has written that Reggie Jackson is the most athletic and explosive guard in school history. With his above-average offensive arsenal and the potential to be a lock-down defender, Jackson will be a good addition to a team in need of backcourt depth If he can improve his passing and court vision to become more effective at the point guard position.

Beyond the Lottery: Kenneth Faried

Morehead State University power forward Kenneth Faried ranked third in the NCAA in rebounding his sophomore year. After his junior season, the 6’8” 225-pound Faried finished in the number two glass cleaning spot nationally. And in this past 2010-11 hardwood collegiate campaign, the four-year starter led the 345-team Division 1 in boards (averaging 14.5 per contest) and was named a second-team All- American. Faried is the all-time collegiate leader in total rebounds with 1,673. He passed a record that had stood since 1997 by a guy with some basketball cred – future Hall-of-Famer Tim Duncan.

The 21-year-old New Jersey native wasn’t heavily recruited out of Newark’s Technology High School, but found a great home with the Eagles at the fairly small, rural public college in northeast Kentucky. Over his four seasons in the Ohio Valley Conference, the ultra-energetic 2X OVC POY improved not only his bread-and-butter skill of rebounding, but also his scoring, shot-blocking and field goal percentage.

His NBA-caliber athleticism, jumping ability and constant willingness to bang and perform the dirty work of an effective, smothering defense-focused player are his main strengths. Although he racked up most of his numbers in a smaller D1 conference, Faried played well against top-quality, ‘glamour’ programs when MSU faced off against bigger foes. In fact, he collected 17 rebounds in 13th seeded MSU’s stunning upset of 4th seeded in-state rival Louisville in the 2011 Big Dance.

Scouts have stated that Faried may be too small to play the 4 at the next level and that his offensive repertoire is limited, especially his face-the-basket skills and free throw shooting. However, the pluses with this hard-working Garden Stater are difficult to overlook. His intangibles in regard to hustle, motor, body-positioning and active hands cannot be taught. Not to mention there is the huge potential upside of landing on an NBA team where he’ll get to focus on sharpening his strengths without the burden he faced at Morehead, where he was often asked to do everything in order for the scrappy Eagles to succeed.

Around the League: B.S. Report

Had a chance to talk at length with THE Sports Guy Bill Simmons, one of the most knowledgeable and entertaining sportswriters around. Appreciate him having me on his B.S. Report podcast.

Czar’s NBA Finals Wrap-up: 2011 Champion Dallas Mavericks

Congratulations all around to the Dallas Mavericks organization, coaching staff, players and fans on winning their first NBA Title. This tremendous accomplishment has been over a decade in the making for Mark Cuban and longtime face of the franchise Dirk Nowitzki. It was a hard-fought series, but the Mavs closed it out and capped off an amazing postseason run thanks to a total team effort.

The 2011 NBA Championship was one of the most thrilling six-game series in recent memory. Dallas probably surprised a lot of people when they went down to South Florida and beat the Heat on their home court in elimination Game 6. The talented Miami team played extremely well at home during the playoffs, and most expected them to force a Game 7.

But Dallas came out with energy, confidence and focus. DeShawn Stevenson got the Mavericks going with a few big threes early in the game. Jason Terry stepped up again and dealt out another great performance. Jason Kidd, Brian Cardinal, J.J. Barea and Tyson Chandler all contributed at key moments. And though Nowitzki struggled during the first half, he delivered down the stretch to help clinch the series. Dirk’s incredible display throughout the tournament earned him the Finals MVP award, a cherry on top of the Title that had thus far eluded him.

For Miami, falling short in the last round was a disappointing end to a pressure-packed season. Even though the Game 6 loss will leave a bitter taste in their mouths all summer, the fact that the Heat still have a young nucleus of gifted stars should be somewhat of a consolation. As many former champions have stated, you must first taste defeat to understand what it takes to win and to savor the victory. The Heat’s experience in the NBA Finals will serve as a building block towards becoming future champions. Just as the Mavericks grew from their defeat in the 2006 Finals, the Heat will learn from the pain of losing and return next season better and stronger as a result.