I caught up with Cleanthony Early while he was in baggage claim at LaGuardia Airport in Queens, NY. As I was exiting I noticed the long, slender forward was standing up leaning against a pillar waiting for his luggage. He appeared to be by himself, no crowd, no one asking for autographs, it almost looked as though he was just a regular guy. That is when I approached him, am humbly said, “Early?” He looked up as if how on earth could this guy recognize who he was amongst the other passengers. I said again, “Early? Is that you?” His surprised expression turned to one with satisfaction and humbleness. He replied, “Yea whats going on?” I responded, “Hey man, I like your game. Don’t get used to this, not being by yourself, not being asked for autographs, because you’re going to be a STAR!” He replied “I appreciate that, real rap”.
While most people caught onto Early late in the year during the NCAA tournament, I on the contrary noticed Early during Wichita State’s previous tournament run during the 2012-2013 season. He was a headache for Louisville scoring Heading into this past season, is where I really began to notice the similarities between his game and Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. If you know the game, then it is easy to see how well each of the previous 1st team MWC players compare to each other. They both shoot effectively from the wing position, they both have above average ball handling skills, and they both are active on the boards. Now after Kawhi’s NBA finals, he has certainly elevated his game to the next level and is a much more overall polished player than Early. But Early is not far behind, and based on his journey and work ethic, I expect Early to make an immediate impact just as Leonard did for San Antonio.
If you don’t want to go with the eye test, and need something more substantial than take a look at their stats side by side the year prior to entering the draft (see below).
Depending on the club that drafts Early will determine his early success, as we have seen in the past some organizations do not have the same developmental programs as other teams. Many mock drafts have Cleanthony going to Miami late in the 1st round. This would all but cement the off the bench scoring that Miami needs to make another trip to the finals (assuming everyone returns). Not only would he provide an immediate scoring threat off the bench but, possibly be in contention for Rookie of the Year as long as Spoelstra gives him even Ray Allen-type minutes. Welcome to the NBA Cleanthony.
Best fit for Lance Stephenson
After mirthfully watching Lance’s antics as well as his game during the entire Eastern conference finals, some of us forgot about his upcoming free agency while others had no idea what was on the horizon. In his 3rd campaign, he continued to show progression throughout his early career. This season was his coming out party having career best in all categories, averaging highs in points (13.8), rebounds (7.2), and assists (4.6). Lance Stephenson is the new Ron Artest only with more versatile offensive repo tare and higher potential to be great. Another New York City street kid from Brooklyn who under the right Coach could be a consistent All Star and go deep into the playoffs. He is a star—who was snubbed from the Eastern conference all star team because of his bravado and the fact that a small market team such as Indiana already featured the likes of George and Hibbert in the all-star game. In light of his season, Lance is a highly valuable, and big time sought after free agent and here are the top 5 landing spots in my opinion.
5. Indiana Pacers; Push comes to shove, Lance can always stay in Indy. Besides Paul George’s more than welcoming post game 6 comments, Lance gives this team much needed tenacity. With the way the league is developing you need two guys, Paul isn’t enough and who knows Hibbert’s fate?
4. Detroit Pistons; Unfortunately Stan Van Gundy has little room for bad attitudes and players who don’t conform (see Dwight Howard). But if he deemed Lance to be coachable, he could turn this franchise around instantly. He already possesses the Motown demeanor, alongside Brandon Jennings makes for a talented backcourt. After breaking the bank on Josh Smith and BJ last off season, Van Gundy may have to pull off some trades to make this happen.
3. Charlotte Bobcats; I don’t know if Mike is a Lance-guy but if he doesn’t object, immediately pay that man. Adding Lance to this roster creates a New York City backcourt of Kemba and Lance that would be guaranteed to sell out Time Warner Cable Arena again and again. Not only would the backcourt be exciting, but teams are forced to leave Al Jefferson in the paint alone, and if not they have to deal with an high velocity attacking guard combination. Lance is an upgrade over Gerald Henderson, and because of the weak East, look to see this team finish out at a 5th or better.
2. Chicago Bulls; Let’s say Melo doesn’t work out, Lance Stephenson should be at the top of the list. You give Derrick Rose an overachieving side kick. Noah will not go any mid-season menstrual cycles (as other eastern conference centers), and with a developing Butler and a young star emerging in Taj Gibson, the Bulls would be poised to challenge anyone, including the Heatles.
1. Memphis Grizzlies; What better team to allow Lance to evolve into a Superstar but with the Grizz’. Memphis has been searching the planet for a perimeter scorer since they drafted Rudy Gay in 06’. Lance brings a proven offensive game, with more opportunities to score. Although Memphis runs their offense through their bigs, Zach is also a free agent, and getting long in the tooth. Adding Lance not only gives you offensive power at the guard but then Tony Allen can come off the bench and provide depth. Van Gundy’s undertone during his commentating of the eastern conference finals suggests he likes Lance enough to smoke screening GM’s to think he would not covet his abilities.
Created Hiphop and Home Runs in 2014 out of his broadcasting studio in Queens, NY. Visit daily to find updates and breaking news in the urban sports community
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