February 22, 2011

Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: How Far Can This Team Go?

At the beginning of this year, when Enes Kanter was presumed to be eligible at some point for the Kentucky Wildcats this season, fans had very high hopes -- even Final Four hopes -- for this team, which did not seem all that unreasonable.  Add great shooting, great passing, and great talent to a major force in the paint and the sum often comes up to NCAA championship contender.
But something happened on the way to the Final Four for Kentucky, and that something was the NCAA declaration that Enes Kanter is not, nor will ever be, eligible to play basketball for an NCAA institution, except for an intramural team.  When the appeals were exhausted, so were UK fans' patience.  But in the end, that particular Final Four contender was a dream that will never be realized.
The fear, though, that Kentucky might not have enough of a post presence to compete has been dispelled by the excellent rebounding and solid interior play of Josh Harrellson and Terrence Jones.  So far, everyone on this team has been what they were supposed to be this season with the possible exception of Darius Miller.  As a junior, many expected Miller to be much more of an impact player than he has been, although he has shown some signs of becoming that player in the last two games.  But aside from that and the revelation that is Harrellson, there have been no real surprises on this Kentucky team save for one other very important one -- a 3-6 road record (I'm counting the Portland Pilots in the Rose Garden as a road game).
We have already examined in detail what the statistics say, and they tell a reasonably convincing story that Kentucky has lost on the road not because they shoot poorly, or because their offense is substantially worse, but because for whatever reason, the Wildcats have not been able to stop opponents in their own gym.  Cases in point:  Mississippi Rebels, a season 35% 3-point shooting team, racks up 8-17 for 46% against UK, their fourth-best output of the season, and all the other teams they shot better against were terrible.  Florida Gators, a 66% free throw shooting team makes 18-22 versus Kentucky (82%), their second-best percentage all year.  Vanderbilt Commodores, 11-20 from 3 for 55% against UK, their best showing of the year, to go along with 20-23 from the line, their second best percentage this year.
The bottom line is, and has been, that UK has struggled with hot opponents on the road.  SEC opponents in particular have made 3-point shots at a very high percentage, as well as an uncharacteristically high percentage of free throws.  In other words, Kentucky's opponents have simply played some of their best basketball against the Wildcats, and even though Kentucky played well in every one of those games, they didn't play quite well enough.
What a coach sees, though is that his defense is not performing on the road.  You know you aren't going to get the benefit of a friendly whistle in most SEC road games, and so you have to make up for it by forcing bad shots.  But when you do that and the team makes them, it's tough to take.
Kentucky will now travel to Fayetteville to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks in an attempt to win their third SEC game in a row and first road win in over a month.  Of course, Kentucky needs this to continue their march toward a top four seed, and another road setback, particularly to the low-RPI Hawgs, would do great violence to that hope.  Joe Lunardi of ESPN currently has Kentucky a 5-seed, but more than one more loss before the SEC tournament could easily put the 'Cats closer to a 6 or 7 than a 5, although that may not be a bad thing considering the 6 doesn't face the 1 until the regional final.  A 5 gets the 1 seed in the Sweet Sixteen.
So how far can Kentucky go?  Here is a brief SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis:


  1. 3-point shooting.  Great perimeter shooting is always a huge advantage in the NCAA tournament.  Kentucky is over 40% on the year and almost 40% in conference, good enough for 10th in the land and 3rd in the SEC.
  2. Good free throw shooting.  Kentucky is now up to 71% overall, 73% in conference.  That's solid.
  3. Guard play.  Kentucky's guards are really skilled and don't turn the ball over.  The Wildcats are currently the 10th best ballhandling team in the nation.  They can beat you off the bounce, at the rim, and just about everywhere else.
  4. Terrence Jones.  Terrence Jones is just a man-child that is close to getting the "beast" classification hung on him.
  5. A shut-down defender in DeAndre Liggins.


  1. Depth.  Seven deep is barely deep enough in the NCAA tournament, but currently, UK is getting very few minutes from the seventh man.
  2. Rebounding.  Despite a good overall effort from Harrellson and Jones, Kentucky is only 99th nationally and 9th in the SEC in OR%
  3. 3pt shooting defense.  The stats don't lie.  Kentucky is currently allowing 35.5% 3-point shooting in conference games, and that's 9th in the league.  Yes, some is due to otherworldly percentages as I mentioned above from a few foes, but it has to be considered a weakness.
  4. Size.  Even with Harrellson and Jones in the game, Kentucky is not a big team inside.
  5. Post play.  Unlike last year, Kentucky cannot pound the ball into the paint at will, and others can.


  1. Win out, especially considering UK would have to beat 2 current top 25 teams to do it,  and Kentucky has a chance at a 3 seed, which is a good place to be if you can't be a 1 or 2.
  2. Tournament setup.  A middle seed this year might not be a bad place to play in the tournament.  Kentucky has easily handled teams that will wind up in this range all year.
  3. Defensive improvement.  If Kentucky improves as little as 5% in defensive efficiency, it will be a very dangerous team come tournament time.
  4. Neutral court games.  Kentucky has played very well versus opponents on neutral courts.


  1. Injury.  This Kentucky team is thin, and every player is needed for it to succeed.  An injury to any one of the top six players is a major threat to this team's success.
  2. Continued overachievement by opponents.  We have run into several buzz saws, but that might not be the last of them.
  3. A bad loss.  Kentucky's worst loss so far was to Ole Miss on the road, but a bad loss to a weak team (either Arkansas or an early SEC tournament round) could really hurt this team's NCAA seed.
  4. Two road losses.  If Kentucky loses its remaining two road games, a top four seed will not happen
It is pretty optimistic, at this point, to think Kentucky might get as far as the Elite Eight, but there is plenty of upside left in this Wildcat team, particularly defensively.  If the 'Cats can up the defensive part of their effort without sacrificing much offense, there is really no telling how far they can go, although a lot will depend on the matchups they draw in the tournament. 
Luck is always a factor in any one-and-out tournament.  Kentucky is due for a little of that.

The Raptors HQ Media Roundtable - All-Star Break Edition

4.  RHQ:  Amir, DeMar, Ed...along with sprinkles of Jose, Jerryd, Julian, and even Andrea.  There's definitely some raw talent here, so my next question, as we wind down on this round-table, is one that pertains to the upcoming off-season.  In terms of need, what position or type of player do you think this club needs most of all to take a significant step forward?
TC:  The Raps need a defensive/rebounding seven footer and a dynamic point guard - but what team doesn't, right? They also need three-point shooting on the wing, veteran leadership and to maintain cap flexibility as their rebuilding will be a multi-year process. 
One of the problems facing the club in that pursuit, though, is the very draft that the team hopes to improve through. While Kyrie Irving would be an ideal piece, it would probably take a top-two pick to nab him. If the Raptors aren't lucky enough to land there in the lottery, you're dealing with a lot of project power forwards like Perry Jones and Jared Sullinger. The Raptors already have their share of project forwards, and while upgrades may be available to them, swapping out someone that they have to make room and fill a need puts a lot of pressure on an incoming pick before they've ever played a game. 
The alternative might be Enes Kanter, a legit centre in the Andrew Bogut mold that may fit the team's needs, but will have to play incredibly well to keep the locals from rampaging in the streets over the selection of another European big man. While Kanter shares none of Bargnani's faults, it would be hard for Colangelo to keep from being preemptively flamed for again dipping into the Euro pool after so many high-profile missteps (Turkoglu, Kleiza, even Bargnani to some). Of course it shouldn't matter where a player comes from if they are they are the best player on the board, but for a team in desperate need of good publicity this is a legit factor facing Colangelo this June. It says here that the best thing for the Raptors might be a huge second half push by Harrison Barnes, either making him a safer pick or pushing a guy like Irving down to within the Raptors' grasp. 
Regardless of what happens in the draft, though, this team needs an identity. They need a cornerstone that represents the kind of things an organization would want to build around (efficiency, defensive intensity, accountability, leadership). That man is obviously not Andrea Bargnani and probably isn't DeMar DeRozan, either. For years fans of the Raptors have longed to be known for something other than shooting jumpers and playing soft, and more than any other need that this team has going into the offseason, addressing that identity should be priority number one.

February 18, 2011

2011 NBA Mock Draft-First Round (2/18/11)

Team needs have NOT been taken into account with this 2011NBA Mock Draft.  We will begin to factor in team needs once the NBA trade deadline has passed later this month.  Click on the players’ name for a complete scouting report and an NBAcomparison.  Here is a list of outstanding trades for the 2011 NBA Draft.  Check out a 2012 NBA Mock Draft and The Sports Bank’s nfl-mock-draft-2-16-11/”>2011 NFL Mock Draft.  Also take a look at our 2010 NBA Draft Lottery Re-Do.

1. Cleveland- Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke, 6-1, Fr.
A tremendous play-maker, Irving is lightning fast with the basketball.  He is also a talented scorer who has made an early impression with his maturity while running the show for Coach K before suffering a toe injury that may cost him the rest of his freshman season.

2. Minnesota- Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State, 6-9, Fr.
A physical force down low with an NBA-ready body, Sullinger figures to be the next in the lineage of OSU big men to be one-and-done.  He may not be the best athlete in the world but is quicker than you would expect from a 6-9, 265 pounder.

3. Sacramento- Derrick Williams, F, Arizona, 6-9, So.
Williams is a tremendous athlete who lives around the rim.  He runs the floor well, is a solid rebounder, and has really improved his face-up and perimeter game since his freshman season.

4. Toronto- Enes Kanter, F/C, Kentucky, 6-10, Fr.
It looks like college hoops will not get a chance to see Kanter suit up for the Big Blue, but he is a talented big man who is a lottery lock regardless of whether or not he ever suits up for UK.

5. Washington- Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina, 6-8, Fr.
The prototypical NBA wing player, Barnes can stroke it from deep, create his own shot, handle the rock, and attack the basket.  He has not lived up to the hype so far at UNC but is still a great talent.

6. New Jersey- Terrence Jones, F, Kentucky, 6-9, Fr.
Jones is a smooth lefty who can take bigger defenders off the bounce or post up smaller opponents.  He will be able to play either forward spot at the next level and should be ready to contribute right away due to his impressive physique for a freshman.

7. Detroit- Perry Jones, PF, Baylor, 6-9, Fr.
Jones is a long, athletic, explosive forward who by every indication will be a one-and-done.  He needs to add strength and range to his outside game before he can be a factor in the league.

8. L.A. Clippers- Jonas Valanciunas, F/C, Lithuania, 6-10, 1992
A back-to-the-basket player, Valanciunas is not as versatile as most European big men but has plenty of up-side.  It will be interesting to see if he declares for the 2011 Draft or waits another year so he can continue his overall development.

9. Milwaukee- Jordan Hamilton, G/F, Texas, 6-7, So.
A pure scorer who can take you off the dribble and also has outstanding range on his jumper.  He has great size for an NBA wing player, but needs to improve his ball-handling, shot selection, and defensive tenacity.

10. Charlotte- Jan Vesely, F, Czech Republic, 6-11, 1989
Vesely likely would have been a lottery pick in the 2010 draft but decided not to enter the draft.  Another year overseas should only benefit his all-around game and make him more NBA-ready in 2011.

11. Golden State- Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Diego State, 6-6, So.
The Aztec sophomore has incredible athleticism and a non-stop motor that makes him a factor on the glass.  His jump shot is far from NBA ready, but based on potential, he is a sure-fire first rounder.

12. Houston- Donatas Motiejunas, F/C, Lithuania, 7-0, 1990
He pulled out of the draft process late this past off-season because he was likely falling out of the lottery.  Motiejunas is a versatile seven-footer who can vault back up the board if he shows some steady development in his all-around game and body.

13. Phoenix- Kemba Walker, PG, UConn, 6-1, Jr.
Walker has been on a tear this season.  He has improved his decision-making and outside shooting which were questions heading into the season. The Bronx native is lightning quick with the rock and has seen his stock soar since an outstanding performance at the Maui Invitational.

14. Memphis- Jimmer Fredette, G, BYU, 6-2, Sr.
An absolute sharp-shooter from downtown, Fredette runs the point at BYU but whether or not teams think he can handle that spot in the NBA will determine where he ends up getting drafted.

15. Indiana- Alec Burks, SG, Colorado, 6-6, So.
Burks is a big time scorer who thrives off the bounce.  He might be the best of a weaker class of true shooting guard prospects and still has room for development.

16. Philadelphia- Chris Singleton, SF, Florida State, 6-9, Jr.
One of the best defenders in college, Singleton’s offensive game is improving but still a work in progress.  He is not very effective attacking the basket and needs to improve his outside shot.

17. New York- Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky, 6-3, Fr.
A great play-maker, Knight is also an effective outside shooter.  He is a scoring point guard who also knows how to distribute the rock.  Knight needs to learn how to be a true point guard before turning pro.

18. Utah- Marcus Morris, F, Kansas, 6-9, Jr.
A physical presence due to his strong body, Morris can also has range out to the three point line.  He will probably be able to play either forward position at the next level but needs to improve his ability to take defenders off the bounce in isolation situations.

19. Denver-Kyle Singler, SF, Duke, 6-9, Sr.
Singler surprised many by announcing he would return for his senior season.  His size and ability to shoot the rock are positives but lacks the ideal NBA athleticism to be a three.  If Gordon Hayward can go in the lottery though, so can Singler.

20. Portland- Trey Thompkins, F, Georgia, 6-9, Jr.
Thompkins has a nice variety of moves on the block including a good turnaround jumper.  He has a nice combination of physicality and athleticism.

21. Portland (from NO)- Josh Selby, PG, Kansas, 6-3, Fr.
After sitting out the first nine games of the season, Selby started his collegiate career with a bang but has slowed down lately.  He is a terrific athlete and scorer, but is more of a combo guard than a true point guard.

22. Phoenix (from ORL)-William Buford, SG, Ohio State, 6-5, Jr.
Buford is a talented scorer who needs to become more aggressive at attacking the basket instead of falling in love with his jumper.  He has played well of late which helps his stock.

23. Atlanta- Markieff Morris, PF, Kansas, 6-10, Jr.
Markieff is a little more of a low post threat than his twin brother Marcus, but not quite as polished with his perimeter game.  His outside shot is showing improvement and he stays active on both ends of the floor.

24. Oklahoma City- Kris Joseph, SF, Syracuse, 6-7, Jr.
Joseph is at his best when attacking the basket but has shown strides with his outside shot.  Still, his athleticism should earn him a spot in the first round.

25. New Jersey (from LAL)- Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas, 6-9, Soph.
What a horrible situation.  Robinson’s mother recently passed away suddenly within a month of his grandfather and grandmother’s deaths.  Robinson’s decision to turn pro may be purely financially based as he has a nine-year old sister who now needs to be looked after.  From a basketball standpoint, Robinson would be best served returning to Kansas, but he has shown the potential to be a solid NBA player and would be worth a first round pick.

26. Chicago- Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead State, 6-8, Sr.
Faried is an outstanding rebounder but needs to work more on his face-up game.  He is a bit under-sized to be the ideal NBA power forward, but makes up for that with his non-stop work ethic on the inside.

27. Dallas- Nolan Smith, G, Duke, 6-3, Sr.
Smith has emerged into a legit Player of the Year candidate and his ability to play either guard position should get him first round looks.  He may not be a star at the next level, but could be a valuable role player off somebody’s bench.

28. Toronto (from MIA)- JaJuan Johnson, PF, Purdue, 6-10, Sr.
Johnson is a lengthy post player who runs the floor well and can consistently knock down 18-foot jump shots.  He has shown steady improvement during his time at Purdue.

29. Boston- Jeffery Taylor, SF, Vanderbilt, 6-7, Jr.
Taylor is an extraordinary athlete and has improved his three-point shooting this season.  He needs to become more of a threat in driving to the basket, but should get first round looks due to his extraordinary athleticism.

30. San Antonio- Marshon Brooks, SG, Providence, 6-5, Sr.
Brooks’ stock is on the rise as he is averaging about 24 points and 7.5 boards per game for the Friars.  He has come out of nowhere to be one of the better wing scorers in the country and will garner late first round possibilities.

2011 NBA Mock Draft-First Round (2/18/11)

February 14, 2011

2011 NBA All-Stars: Where They're From

With NBA All-Star season upon us once again, it's time for our annual survey examining the backgrounds of the world's best basketball players - where they came from, how much college ball they played, when they were drafted, how they got to their current teams. (Here's last year's look). Let's go:

Dwyane WadeChicago, IL35Draft
Amar'e StoudemireOrlando, FL09UFA
Dwight HowardAtlanta, GA01Draft
LeBron JamesAkron, OH01UFA
Kevin GarnettMauldin, SC05Trade
Paul PierceInglewood, CA (L.A.)310Draft
Chris BoshDallas, TX14UFA
Joe JohnsonLittle Rock, AR210RFA/Trade
Derrick RoseChicago, IL11Draft
Rajon RondoLouisville, KY224Draft/Trade
Ray AllenDalzell, SC35Trade
Al HorfordPuerto Plata, DR33Draft

Kobe BryantL. Merion, PA (Philly)013Draft/Trade
Tim DuncanSt. Croix, US V.I.41Draft
Carmelo AnthonyBaltimore, MD13Draft
Dirk NowitzkiWurzburg, GER09Draft
Pau GasolBarcelona, ESP03Trade
Manu GinobiliBahia Blanca, ARG057Draft
Deron WilliamsThe Colony, TX (Dallas)33Draft
Kevin LoveLake Oswego, OR15Draft/Trade
Kevin DurantRockville, MD (DC)12Draft
Chris PaulWinston-Salem, NC24Draft
Russell WestbrookLong Beach, CA24Draft
Blake GriffinOklahoma City, OK21Draft

It's been an especially top-heavy year for the Western Conference. As of this writing, 23 of the top 31 ranked players in PER play in the West. As such, we're also making sure to consider "Near All-Stars" - these are guys who were listed as All-Star caliber by some of our preferred analysts, such as John Hollinger, Kevin Pelton, and Kelly Dwyer (West | East).

As such, we offer 13 more players as "Near All-Stars":

Josh SmithAtlanta, GA017Draft
Carlos BoozerJuneau, AK334UFA
Steve NashVictoria, BC415UFA
Zach RandolphMarion, IN119Trade
LaMarcus AldridgeDallas, TX22Draft
David WestGarner, NC/Teaneck, NJ418Draft
Tony ParkerParis, FRA028Draft
NenêSão Carlos, BRA07Draft/Trade
Lamar OdomNew York, NY14Trade
Eric GordonIndianapolis, IN17Draft
Kevin MartinZanesville, OH326Trade
Monta EllisJackson, MS040Draft
Luis ScolaBuenos Aires, ARG056Trade

We plotted all of these guys onto a Google map to quickly examine the question: Where do the best basketball players in the world come from? (All-Stars in blue, "near All-Stars" in red; click + and - for different views)

View 2011 NBA All-Stars - Where They're From in a larger map

Obviously, this is just an overview look and things don't change that much from year to year. Still, there are a few trends we've noticed:

- Dallas emerging as hotbed for top talent: With the explosive rise of Russell Westbrook to All-Star status, the L.A. Southland (Pierce, Westbrook) now joins Dallas (Bosh, D. Williams) and the Chicagoland area (Wade, Rose) as the metropolitan areas which produced multiple All-Stars. 

But stretch it out to All-Stars and "Near All-Stars", and Dallas-area native LaMarcus Aldridge, who continues his surge of exceptional play, gives the Metroplex a third All-Star caliber player, all under 30.

What's even more impressive is the pipeline of potential top talent from the Dallas-Fort Worth area in upcoming years. Baylor's Perry Jones, a Dallas native, could go as high as no. 1 in this year's Draft. Meanwhile, LeBryan Nash, who is a senior at Bosh's alma mater, Lincoln High, is rated no. 6 in the high-school class of 2011 (he will attend Oklahoma State).

Even further, 7-footer Isaiah Austin, who attends Grace Prep in Mansfield (south of Fort Worth/Arlington) is the no. 3 ranked player in the class of 2012, while Julius Randle of Dallas is the early no. 1 among the class of 2013, with another area player (Keith Frazier from Irving) ranked as the no. 7 soph.

Obviously, it's a long way from "potential" to "NBA All-Star", but the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is quietly emerging as a metropolitan area which can produce world-class basketball players as well as anywhere in the world. 

- The New York drought continues: We move from an underrated basketball city back to the one which has become wildly overhyped: the Big Apple. Lamar Odom and potentially Joakim Noah threatened to end the drought of New Yorkers in the All-Stars, but came up short. That means that once again, there are zero NBA All-Stars from New York City, and there hasn't been one since Ron Artest in 2004. Say Queensbridge.

[We discussed the topic "What Happened to the NYC Ballplayer?" at length in our 2009 post.] 

One thing that's notable is that the action - and probably, the coaching - is taking place across the Hudson in Jersey. St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, New Jersey has the chance to pull off an amazing double: it could produce back-to-back no. 1 overall picks in the NBA Draft. Injured Duke PG Kyrie Irving currently sits no. 1 in DraftExpress's 2011 Mock Draft, while senior SF Michael Gilchrist, a player with Pippenesque qualities who will attend Kentucky, could certainly go no. 1 overall in 2012.

Al Harrington, Sam Dalembert and Derrick Caracter are current players in the league from coach Kevin Boyle's storied St. Patrick program. Earlier this year, we caught a televised game between St. Patrick and Winter Park, FL (which features ESPN's no. 1 ranked senior, Austin Rivers). Boyle's well-coached, hard-working team was a joy to watch - we made a note to keep an eye out in case St. Patrick meets Hall of Famer Bob Hurley's St. Anthony's team somewhere down the line in the Jersey state playoffs. 

- Where are the next great Europeans?: Hit "-" a few times to back the map out, and you'll notice that, once again, there are only two All-Stars from Europe (Dirk and Pau), and both players have now hit 30 years old. Certainly, the internationalization of the NBA continues apace, with many players from around the world playing key roles around the league.

But where are the next great players from Europe? Guys like Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Fernandez have not lived up to billing as potential stars, and Ricky Rubio's development has stalled as the point guard position has concurrently become overloaded with stunning young talents. Traditional powers Serbia and Croatia - who gave us Divac and Petrovic and Kukoc - are down to just four NBA players combined (Darko, Peja, Vlad Rad and Krstic).

Young players like Frenchmen Roddy Beaubois and Nic Batum, plus Italian Danilo Gallinari, certainly have a ton of potential, but also a lot to prove. Similarly, the 2011 draft class of four possible international lottery picks (Jonas Valanciunas, Enes Kanter, Donatas Motiejunas, and Jan Vesely) has a lot of promise but a lot of uncertainty.

It's improbable though not impossible that Marc Gasol could someday find his way to All-Star Game if the right circumstances come together, but it's hard to see him becoming a true All-NBA player. Joakim Noah is technically a candidate, since he may play for the French national team, but he was born and schooled in New York, played NCAA ball, and also just became a French citizen in 2007.

In 2007, a German was the NBA MVP and a Frenchman was the NBA Finals MVP, and it seemed like the vanguard of the future. Was the preeminence of Dirk, Pau and Tony the summit for European stars rather than a sign of more to come?

- College conference breakdown: Here are the standings of All-Stars and near All-Stars by NCAA conference. The first number is taken from the total of all 37 players above. The second number is strictly for the 24 All-Stars.
    ACC             4 / 3
    Big 12          4 / 3
    Big East        3 / 3
    SEC             3 / 3
    Big Ten         3 / 1
    Pac-10          2 / 2
    Atlantic 10     2 / 0
    Conference USA  1 / 1
    WCC             1 / 0
    Southern        1 / 0
    None           13 / 8
It's a fairly even spread among the power conferences, especially with first-time All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love bringing the Pac-10 back into the fold. The Westbrook/Love combo also allows UCLA to join Wake Forest (Paul, Duncan) as the only school to produce two 2011 NBA All-Stars, with the two Bruins being the only combo who were teammates in college.

- NCAA experience not necessary:: Wow, that last number above really stands out as a staggering change over the last 20 years. A third of NBA All-Stars never played a minute of NCAA basketball, more than half played no more than a year, and only one All-Star - grand old man Timmy Duncan - played a full four years of college basketball.

The average college-basketball experience for the 2011 All-Stars is as follows: East: 1.5 years, West: 1.3, Overall: 1.4 (down from 1.6 in 2010 and 1.8 in 2009).

Why has the quality of play in NCAA basketball declined so drastically over the last generation? It's as simple as these numbers. The best basketball players in the world no longer play college basketball for any meaningful amount of time.

Compare to the 1990 NBA All-Star Game - the players in that game played an average of 3.5 years of college basketball, more than two times the current average! Only 9 of the 24 All-Stars that year had played *fewer* than four years of college, and not one player had played fewer than two years.

We loved college basketball in the '80s and '90s, but now find the game extremely overrated, and often hard to watch. It's nothing personal. We just want to see good basketball, and we now rarely see the best players in the world make it to their junior or senior years.

- Dunk contest prediction: Since this will be our only pre-All-Star post, we're going to throw this in here. We love watching the nightly Blake Griffin highlight reel as much as anybody, but we're not convinced that he will be as impressive of a contest dunker as he is a game dunker. The source of Blake's ability to inspire awe in us stems from his power and explosiveness - plus that combo coming down on someone's head - more than his creativity. As such, we're predicting that crazy-ass JaVale McGee will outdunk Blake on Saturday night, though we'd still bet that the combo of home court and crowd favorite will carry Griffin to the contest win.

2011 NBA All-Stars: Where They're From