Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, April 15, 2015 at 12:01 PM
THE NBA'S FINAL NIGHT: TIME TO DRAW THE CURTAIN ON THIS 2014-15 REGULAR SEASON AND HERE'S WHAT TO WATCH, PLUS IT'S NBA AWARDS TIME TOO!
THE NFL DRAFT REPORT: HERE'S THE TOP CORNERBACKS
Leave it to the NBA to have so much drama built into this final night of regular-season play - there's still playoff berths to be secured and higher seeds to be snagged and, lest we not keep up with the here-and-now times, key players to be rested too!
The bottom line to all of tonight's craziness is that there are 14 games on this Wednesday night docket - only the playoff-bound Los Angeles Clippers and the going-nowhere Phoenix Suns are idle this evening - and so there's lots to be decided on this bring-down-the-curtain evening but here's the biggest topics at hand:
EASTERN DIVISION - The lowdown following last night's wild 99-95 double-overtime win by Indiana over Washington means the Pacers are "in" with a win this evening at Memphis or if Brooklyn loses at home to lowly Orlando … is there really a lot in Indy's tank after that tilt that included a first OT where nobody could hit the broad side of a barn? It'll be interesting to see if the Pacers' Paul George (10 points in 18 minutes last night) can energize this team that shot 40-of-105 from the floor against the Wizards. Yikes!
The winner gets a first-round date with Atlanta 'cause the other series are set: #2 Cleveland vs. #7 Boston; #3 Chicago vs. #6 Milwaukee; and #4 Toronto vs. #5 Washington.
WESTERN DIVISION - It all comes down to this for the New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder (both at 44-37) and note N'Orleans has the tougher task with a home game against #2 seed-seeking San Antonio while OKC is at a still-tanking Minnesota team and remember the Pels own the tiebreaker … tell us whether or not Anthony Davis is gonna go for 25 & 12 and we'll let you know whether New Orleans snags that final berth. Heck, you already knew Thunder PG Russell Westbrook is gonna chuck up 40-to-50 shots here tonight, right?
The West news besides the fight for the final playoff berth is this:
A Spurs win this evening wraps up the #2 seed but if San Antonio loses at New Orleans and Houston beats visiting Utah, then the Rockets nail down the #2 seed and don't forget the scenario where the Spurs could fall all the way to the #6 seed should the Rockets and Grizzlies both win.
Maybe NBA playoff-bound teams don't go gung-ho when it comes to seeding but we will say this: The Las Vegas pointspreads often reflect what teams "need to win" for better seeds and so check with us to see if there are any real overlays tonight.
Okay, so it's time to hand out our Jim Sez NBA Regular-Season Awards, so here goes …
MVP - STEPHEN CURRY, Golden State Warriors
We know, we know. There's been an MVP debate raging for the past three months but gotta tell you we had our mind made up weeks ago - and how can you not hand-deliver the award to Golden State's superstar guard who enters this final night of play averaging 23.9 points per game, 7.7 assists per game with 158 steals … all team highs. P.S., it helps that the Warriors have 66 wins and have been high atop the very, very good NBA Western Conference since the get-go.
2nd Place - James Harden, Houston; 3rd Place - (tie) Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City, and Anthony Davis, New Orleans.
Coach of the Year - Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta
This is splitting-hairs stuff as we've decided that the sideline boss of a 60-win Hawks team should just nose out the coach of a 66-win Golden State squad and our major reason for this selection is simply Budenholzer doesn't have Mr. Curry on his side!
2nd Place - Steve Kerr, Golden State; 3rd Place (tie) - Brad Stevens, Boston, and Jason Kidd (Milwaukee).
Rookie of the Year - Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota
The one-and-done guard from Kansas gets the nod here despite the fact his Timberwolves are on the verge of finishing with the NBA's worst record (that's 16-65 entering tonight's tilt against Oklahoma City) - Wiggins is averaging a team-high 16.8 ppg and plays a team-best 36.2 minutes per game but we don't think this award is the slam dunk that everyone seems to believe.
2nd Place - Nikola Mirotic, Chicago; 3rd Place - Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia.
Defensive Player of the Year - DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers
We know it's not all about blocked shots but, hey, this Clips' star does have 181 blocks this year to go along with his 15 rebounds per game and he remains one of the best "rim protectors" in this man's league the past quarter-century or so.
2nd Place - Draymond Green, Golden State; 3rd Place - Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio.
THE NFL DRAFT REPORT
Here is our continuing look at the top players by position for the upcoming NFL Draft (April 30th) - today it's Cornerbacks:
TRAE WAYNES, Michigan State - Considered a top 10 prospect overall in this rich draft, the six-foot, 185-pounder from Kenosha (WI) appears all arms-and-legs but he's a great competitor with great instincts on when to break on the ball. Love the fact he learned his craft in fundamentally-solid Spartans defense. Many draft boards have 'em going #11 to Minnesota but don't be shocked if he's plucked earlier as Atlanta at #8 could snatch 'em up.
BYRON JONES, Connecticut - Great length and athleticism makes this native son of New Britain a sure-fire first-round pick but $64,000 question is does he slide down into the 20s or is someone daring enough to snatch 'em up in the teens? Exceptional jumper who stands 6-feet-1, 200 pounds really wowed at workouts probably is a good fit at #18 with Kansas City (and the word is Philadelphia at #20 wants 'em big-time).
KEVIN JOHNSON, Wake Forest - This six-foot, 188-pounder from Clarksville (MD) offers up great cover skills and how about the fact he started all 41 games that he played in at Wake? Considered neck-and-neck with Jones (see above) at a late-teen/early 20's type pick and best guess here is the Philly Eagles will snap 'em up with that 20th selection if he's still sitting there.
JALEN COLLINS, LSU - Not afraid to get physical with opposing wide outs and has the speed to track down speedy dudes as evidenced by catching Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon on a 65-yard run last year. This Mississippi native still has some rough-around-the-edges parts of his game and thus would expect him to last till late Round I or early Round 2.
MARCUS PETERS, Washington - Best trait for this six-foot, 197-pounder from Oakland is that he's super-aggressive when attacking the ball and/or the intended receiver of that ball. Peters does have a checkered history as he was chucked off the team in early November 2014 - expect him to be high on the Round 2 draft boards with the home-town Raiders said to be interested.
ERIC ROWE, Utah - It's possible if not very likely that all six of these CBs highlighted here will be Round I draft picks later this month and the hype on Rowe is that he wowed everyone at the NFL Combine and could actually play either safety or corner in this league. At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds he has great size for the CB position and might sneak into the latter part of Round I with New Orleans at pick #31 or Super Bowl champ New England at #32.
NOTE: More NFL Draft Reports plus there's MLB and NBA Notes too in the next edition of Jim Sez - and don't forget the NBA Playoff Previews later this week!