Jordan's debate over No. 2 pick could go down to the wire


Jordan's debate over No. 2 pick could go down to the wire

The drama of who will go first in Thursdays NBA Draft was settled months ago, as Chicago native Anthony Davis took college basketball by storm en route to leading Kentucky to a national championship and sweeping every individual honor he could rack up in the process.

But what apparently still hasnt been decided is which player will hear his name called after the Hornets select Davis.

The seemingly cursed Bobcats reportedly favor Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson, though North Carolina small forward Harrison Barnes, Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal and small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Davis Kentucky teammate, are supposedly still in the mix to varying degrees. The odds of Beal going to Charlotte dropped when the Bobcats acquired former Bulls guard Ben Gordon in a trade with the Pistons, while team owner Michael Jordan has to worry about the stigma of picking another player from his alma mater after drafting bust Sean May a few years back and Kidd-Gilchrists raw offensive game might not be a match for the scoring-challenged squad.

However, although it appears Robinson is the obvious choice, Cleveland is reportedly interested in acquiring the second pick from Charlotte - for its own No. 4 pick and either the 24th pick or two early second-rounders - to ensure that Washington, selecting third, doesnt pick the player the Cavaliers want.

In that scenario, Robinson would still be on the board for the Bobcats with the fourth pick, unless the Wizards decided to pick the D.C. native, despite having acquired veteran frontcourt help from New Orleans, in the form of center Emeka Okafor and small forward Trevor Ariza.

When it comes down to it, all of those teams need significant help and while all four candidates for the second pick have their positive qualities, no rookie will be a savior. Whether or not any trades are made, it comes down to whether a physically-mature power forward who should be able to start from Day 1 of his career, but possibly never become a superstar (Robinson), an average-sized shooting guard with a beautiful-looking stroke and a limited sample size of success (Beal), another supposed sharpshooter, this one with size, as well as questions about his upside and ability to get to the rim (Barnes) or a tenacious defender, energy player, open-court athlete and an unpolished offensive game (Kidd-Gilchrist) is the player that can help a terrible team improve to the point where a light can be seen at the end of the tunnel.

On paper, they all seem right and they all seem wrong, but thats the beauty of the NBA Draft, basically a crapshoot with a lot of research done, as theres no way to measure work ethic, heart, off-the-court influences and other intangibles, not to mention the chance that injuries stymie a promising career.

If the Bobcats do keep the pick, Robinson - who looks like a 10-year starter and maybe never develops into an All-Star, but helps Charlotte immediately with his motor and winning mentality - is the safe bet, but this time of year, youre damned if you do and youre relegated back to the lottery to serve your penance if you dont.

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut

Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson

How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?

The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.

So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?

Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.

The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.

The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?