Draft Night Debacle

I have a problem. No, make that an issue. When there is a weakness in life, the goal is to improve upon said weakness, correct? If that is the case, why didn’t coach Budenholzer and the Atlanta Hawks improve their one glaring weakness last Thursday in the NBA Draft?

Atlanta held picks No. 15, 50 and 59. Three opportunities to add a big man. By the end of the night, it was three strikes and you’re out. The Hawks decided to trade the draft rights of Kelly Oubre Jr. whom they selected at No. 15 to the Wizards for pick No. 19 and two future second-rounders. Perfect I thought. Bobby Portis, who fit Atlanta’s most dire need of being a lively body inside, was still on the board. The Hawks add two more picks and get the guy they need, a win-win situation. Nope. Instead Atlanta selected Jerian Grant, a guard and dealt him to New York for Tim Hardaway Jr. The 15th pick in the draft eventually turns into a role player coming from the most dysfunctional team in the league just like that. Poof.

Hardaway averaged 11.5 points with the Knicks last season and saw his shooting averages plummet across the board, shooting 38.9 percent from the field and 34.2 percent from three. Hardaway at least gets after it defensively, right? Nope. He ranked 94th out of 100 qualified shooting guards in defensive plus-minus. Strike one on Bud and Assistant General Manager Wes Wilcox.

The Hawks proceeded to draft two Euros that will never step foot on American soil for a NBA game. Marcus Eriksson, a Swedish shooting guard recovering from an ACL and meniscus tear and Dimitrios Agravanis, a Greek big man who likely makes Mike Muscala look like a perennial All-NBAer. Strike two and strike three.

Why draft players you know you have no chance of grooming instead of proven commodities from the states? Cliff Alexander out of Kansas was a top prospect coming out of high school just a year ago. He had his ups and downs at Kansas and had to go pro early due to a chance he wouldn’t be eligible next season. The former McDonald’s All-American went undrafted and is a cautionary tale of one-and-dones, but still would have been interesting to take a flier on late in the second round.

Robert Upshaw, a 7-foot center from Washington, also went undrafted. He led the nation in blocked shots this past season at 4.5 per game and would have been an excellent buy-low option for Atlanta to mold. Much like Alexander, Upshaw has off court issues and was kicked off the Huskies halfway through the season. If he would have kept his nose clean, many thought he could be a first round selection. Once again, why not roll the dice on a player like this with the 59th pick?

If you don’t like head cases, how about Darion Atkins? A 6-foot-8 forward with springs and a defense-first mindset. Atkins anchored Virginia’s packline defense and was named Lefty Driesell National Defensive Player of the Year and ACC Defensive Player or the Year and helped hold third overall pick Jahlil Okafor to just 10 points and five turnovers.

With Pero Antic announcing he is leaving the Hawks to return overseas, the mistakes made in the draft put even more pressure on the front office to make something happen this offseason. Atlanta is left with Al Horford and Mike Muscala as their only true big men. Is Atlanta banking on convincing a serviceable big man to sign during free agency? They will have enough trouble bringing back both Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll. Are they putting their eggs all in one basket with last year’s second rounder, 7-foot-3 Walter “Edy” Tavares?

The clock is ticking after a great regular season. Cleveland exposed Atlanta in the conference finals and pounded them into submission on the glass. If Atlanta is unable to land a few big men or swing a trade, I’m not sure I like their chances as a real contender. Hopefully Bud and Wilcox are confident that they can add the right guys, if not, the ghost of Danny Ferry might haunt them.

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2015 NBA Draft Reactions and Grades

1. Karl-Anthony Towns – T’Wolves

  • The ability to get the job done on both ends of the floor along with a strong character makeup was enough to give Towns the nod over Okafor. Towns displayed a nearly unguardable hook shot, fluid mobility and the ability to protect the paint in college. If he is able to develop a consistent jump shot, then Towns may become a top five center in the league. He should be able to contribute defensively right away and still crack the double digit point barrier his first season. The Minnesota front-court is now crowded with the addition of Towns alongside Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng. It would behoove Minnesota to move Pekovic and clear up more cap space. He currently is making a team-high $12.1 million with four years remaining on his contract.

2. D’Angelo Russell – Lakers

  • The Lakers got the best talent available, but a guard, especially a rookie, playing alongside Kobe Bryant is a poisonous relationship. Bryant dominates the ball and commands attention, not letting the point guard run the offense. For Russell’s development and the future of the Lakers, it would benefit them if Kobe retired sooner rather than later. Russell’s ability and knack for the game allowed him to average over 19/5/5 in his only season at Ohio State. Russell could have a similar impact to Russell Westbrook but less explosive. Russell has the potential to duplicate his college numbers in the pros once Kobe Bryant retires and take the helm as the face of the franchise.

3. Jahlil Okafor – Sixers

  • Okafor’s defensive liability kept him from being the number one overall pick. The Sixers don’t look like they have any sense of direction, drafting three consecutive centers in the lottery. Joel Embiid already looks like a lost cause, and with NINE power forwards/centers on the roster, someone has to be moved. Jalen Rose’s comparison of Okafor to Brook Lopez was unfounded. First, the ESPN crew said that he was a “double-double machine” but struggled to protect the rim. So of course, Rose compares him to a weak rebounding big man, who blocks a lot of shots. Makes sense right? The closest comp for Okafor is Al Jefferson. An ultra-skilled big man inside who can score in a plethora of ways and has a nice jumper, but struggles defensively. Jefferson, now a 10-year veteran, was the 15th pick in the 2004 draft. Would you draft a player of his caliber third overall? Jefferson’s career numbers are: 17 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. That is a nice career however you want to slice it, but everything will be predicated on Okafor’s ability to defend.

4. Kristaps Porzingis – Knicks

  • An out-of-touch team president who is too stubborn to see when he is wrong, Phil Jackson marches to the beat of his own drummer and ignores history with the pick of Porzingis. Over the past 15 years, (before this draft) 23 International players have been selected in the lottery, only two have become all-stars. Jackson needed to sell the fan base that they were serious about turning things around, but instead decided to make a joke of the process and draft a guy who will be closer to team Andrea Bargnani than he will be to Dirk Nowitzki. With a draft pick this high, you can’t afford to take a gamble on a guy who may never amount to nothing. Picks like these can cripple an already downtrodden franchise. At same point, you have to realize history repeats itself. This was not the right time to take him.

5. Mario Hezonja – Magic

  • See above. If there is such thing as a “safer” pick, then I would give the nod to Hezonja over Porzingis. Even if he doesn’t work out, he could have the ability to mold into a role player as a three-point specialist. Between Marco Belinelli to Drazen Petrovic is somewhere Hezonja hopefully develop into.

6. Willie Cauley-Stein – Kings

  • Here is another red-flag, reach of a pick. Cauley-Stein has very limited offensive skills. Why would you pick a one dimensional player in the top 10? WCS projects to be the next Tyson Chandler but more athletic and not as good a rebounder. This was a very bad pick. His ceiling may be 10 points and 10 rebounds. He will not be a game changer like DeAndre Jordan. WCS has a lot of work to do on his game offensively to even be considered a threat.

7. Emmanuel Mudiay – Nuggets

  • Off the court there may be some question marks, but on the court Mudiay is a strong bodied point guard that should be NBA ready. The top point guard in the nation had issues heading to SMU and decided to play overseas in China. Ty Lawson is already expecting a trade and if so, the Nuggets will gladly hand over the keys to Mudiay. He may become a tough score first point guard, but still have the ability to notch six assists a night once he reaches his peak. Arguably was a top 4 talent.

8. Stanley Johnson – Pistons

  • Another physically strong player that should see minutes very early on. Not sure if he will ever become an all-star but could be a strong player with Caron Butler type upside.

9. Frank Kaminsky – Hornets

  • We know Michael Jordan has a thing for white guys out of college, but it hasn’t gone great thus far (Adam Morrison, Cody Zeller). He and the front office also have an affection for Big Ten big men, drafting three straight with the aforementioned Zeller, Noah Vonleh (since traded) and now Frank the Tank. Kaminsky is very skilled but people question his athletic ability. An interesting comparison would be Channing Frye but with more ball skills and a low post game. A big man who is adept at shooting the three, a decent rebounder and a competent shot blocker. Kaminsky, in the right role, could average 15 points and 7 rebounds with the ability to stretch the floor. I liken him more to Frye than Anderson due to his ability to block shots.

10. Justise Winslow – Heat

  • Many considered Winslow a top five talent, but he slipped a bit in the draft. He is signed with Roc Nation Sports and has already displayed a knack for making bad decisions off the court after recently blowing off a national radio appearance five minutes before he was supposed to go on. Winslow has the potential to be the next great SF and do a little bit of everything. A more diverse Corey Maggette, but he could also settle into a role player. His development should be carefully watched in South Beach. In five years, Winslow might be one of the best valued picks in the draft.

The Best and Worst of the Rest


16. Terry Rozier – Celtics

  • One of the picks I hated the most was Rozier heading to Boston. Rozier was a shot jacker in college for Louisville with a knack for making bad decisions. He had nearly similar stats to those of Russ Smith who he played with and was drafted 47th in 2014:

Smith: 18.2 pt, 3.3 reb, 4.6 ast, 2.0 steals, 46.8% FG, 38.7% 3pt
Rozier: 17.1 pt, 5.6 reb, 3.0 ast, 2.0 steals, 41.1% FG, 30.6% 3pt

This smells like another Tyrus Thomas/Aaron Gordon comparison. It just doesn’t make sense. Rozier’s best case scenario would be becoming a shot-first point guard off the bench. Bad pick.

21. Justin Anderson – Mavericks

  • Exceptional pick for the Mavericks. If Anderson stayed healthy the entire season, UVA very well could have made a run to the Final Four and Anderson could have easily slid his way into the top 15, much like Sam Dekker was attempting to do after a great NCAA Tournament run. Anderson improved his three-point shots by leaps and bounds and actually led the ACC in 3pt percentage before getting injured. He is the best athlete in the draft and has an incredible makeup off the floor. He is already an above average NBA defender and will be stronger than most of the players he will be guarding. His ball handling still needs to improve after hurting his wrist but if Anderson gets the right amount of playing time and his jumper remains true, he may become the sleeper of the draft. He could fill in the role Shawn Marion left as a do-everything type of guy. At his ceiling, Anderson could average 18/6/3 along with a block per game.

23. Rondae Hollis-Jeferson – (Nets via Blazers)

  • RHJ has no discernible offensive skills what so ever and hangs his hat on defense. 3&D guys are the craze in the NBA, there aren’t many “D” only guys remaining. RHJ will have a tough time filling up stat sheets and will be relied upon as a stopper only. A Bruce Bowen type pest but stronger would be his ideal fit, but RHJ doesn’t have a three-point shot to help him stick around in the league.

28. R.J. Hunter – Celtics

  • Hunter struggled with his shot, but the former Georgia State Panther is a free-shooting 6-foot-7 guard who can become a boom or bust selection. Joining the Celtics will be a nice fit with Isaiah Thomas’ ability to drive and dish to the corners. Hunter’s long-range prowess likens him to Klay Thompson/Jamal Crawford, minus Crawford’s handles. Hunter is long but his defensive ability is still up in the air. He could become a nice role player or could become the next Kevin Martin.

32. Montrezl Harrell – Rockets

  • A year ago, Harrell was assumed to be a potential lottery pick, but now he slides to the second round. Harrell is a high intensity, hard-nosed player that has toed the line of being labeled dirty. His upside is Kenneth Faried, but his downside is Joey Dorsey. I lean more towards Dorsey.

43. Joseph Young – Pacers

  • Young was a dynamo for the Oregon Ducks scoring 20.7 points per game en route to capturing Pac-12 Player of the Year honors. Young should be a scoring guard off the bench. Rodney Stuckey, Isaiah Thomas and Mo Williams all come to mind. Great value for a pick this low.

Draft Grades


Atlanta Hawks: D+
It was a rough night for the Hawks. Atlanta refused to fill the need of drafting a big man and instead shipped away the 15th pick for Tim Hardaway Jr, who comes from the most dysfunctional locker room in the NBA. Hardaway Jr was rated as one of the worst defensive guards in the league and brings off the court questions. What type of player wears their own NBA jersey to a baseball game in hopes of being recognized? The Euro picks in the late second round were a waste. Big men Cliff Alexander and Robert Upshaw went undrafted and hold more upside. Upshaw led the NCAA in blocked shots before getting dismissed by Washington. He has off court issues, but the 7-foot center would provide a big body to protect the paint if he is able to stay out of trouble. The most troubling part of the night was what Assistant GM Wes Wilcox said after the draft about the team’s goals: Acquire additional assets – Add shooting – Improve at shooting guard. This shows a complete disconnection from the front office to what is going on on the court. The Hawks got bludgeoned by the Cavs on the boards but that still wasn’t enough for the Hawks to go big man. It looks like they are putting all their eggs in one basket with last year’s second round pick Walter Tavares. Atlanta has a lot of work to do this off-season. Will they resign Millsap and Carroll? Will they add a competent big man to protect the paint? We will see.

Boston Celtics: B
Brooklyn Nets: B-
Charlotte Hornets: B+
Chicago Bulls: B+

Cleveland Cavaliers: B+
Loved the selection of Tyus Jones, but he was traded to Minnesota and the Cavs added Cedi Osman and Rakeem Christmas to go along with Sir’Dominic Pointer. Old age and a lack of healthy bodies crushed Cleveland in the Finals. Christmas had a breakout year with Syracuse and could provide good minutes off the bench. Pointer is a lively body who can help out defensively. Lets just see if David Blatt has learned to trust the bench and the young guys.

Dallas Mavericks: A
Denver Nuggets: A
Detroit Pistons: B-
Golden State Warriors: C+
Houston Rockets: C+
Indiana Pacers: A-
Los Angeles Clippers: A
Los Angeles Lakers: A

Memphis Grizzlies: F
The worst three-point shooting team in the NBA for nearly five years now passed on maybe the best shooter in the draft in R.J. Hunter to select another big man, Jarell Martin, to backup Zach Randolph. Again, why do teams not fill needs? The “Grit-N-Grind” hasn’t worked do the an absolute lack of outside shooting. Hunter is long and can improve his defense. His three-point shot would open things up inside. Instead the Grizz decided to stay stubborn in their ways and refuse to finally address a need. The trade for Andrew Harrison helps out, but he will struggle to find playing time and won’t have the impact Hunter may have. Decisions like these are what separates the pretenders from the contenders. You have a weakness? Fix it!

Miami Heat: A
Milwaukee Bucks: B-
Minnesota Timberwolves: A+
New York Knicks: D+
Oklahoma City Thunder: B+
Orlando Magic: C+

Philadelphia 76ers: D
Like a train wreck you can’t stand to look away from, the “Trust the Process” propaganda was too much to stomach. Four more big men, make it six total in the past three years. There is no rhyme nor reason to what the Sixers are doing. Every other team is going small, so the Sixers are trying to be the first team to run an all center line up out there? I understand drafting the “Best Available” but it has gotten out of hand with NINE bigs on the roster now. Joel Embiid is about to catch the label as a bust if he misses another season. He does not seem focused or serious at all about getting better both on the court and health wise. There is no cohesion with its parts on this Philly team. Okafor will be able to score but will leak points defensively and hope Noel can clean up behind him. The selection of J.P. Tokoto was terrible. A D-League player at best, Tokoto was a non-factor during his career at UNC and has limited to no upside.

Phoenix Suns: B+
Portland Trailblazers: B+
Sacramento Kings: D-
San Antonio Spurs: B
Toronto Raptors: A
Utah Jazz: A-
Washington Wizards: B

The Pitfalls of Drafting International in the Lottery and a Review of Last Year’s Draft Predictions

I got some right, but I also got some wrong. Last year I decided for the first time to record my opinion on each NBA Draft lottery pick and follow them throughout the season–and eventually each player’s career– to see whether I know what I’m talking about or if I’m just another blinded fan who thinks they know it all. I’ve always been known to go against the grain and follow my own train of thinking. That sometimes has made me come off as a skeptic or even a “hater”. I like to think for myself, create my own opinions and match them up against those of the big names on TV who are getting paid to give their critiques.

The 2015 NBA Draft is tomorrow and yet again I am looking forward to seeing where each player gets picked and whether they will be a contributor or not. After doing some research of my own, I’ve discovered that there are some trends in the league: It is extremely risky to take an International player in the lottery. Since 2000, there have been 23 International players selected in the top 14 (lottery) picks. How many of those players have produced lottery worthy careers? Well, lets start with the two best players.

Only Yao Ming (1st overall, 2002) and Pau Gasol (3rd overall, 2001) have been selected to an All-Star game. Yao was a Chinese sensation and was selected to the All-Star game every season during his 8-year career. Yao was one of the most skilled big men to over play the game, but foot problems derailed the 7-foot-6 center’s longevity. He retired at the age of 30 and compiled career averages of 21 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.

Gasol is still chugging along in the NBA and just enjoyed a season with the Chicago Bulls in which he averaged 19.4 points and a career-high 12.3 rebounds. The 34-year-old Spaniard has made five All-Star games over his 13-year career and averaged over 18 points and 9 rebounds a game.

Outside of these two outliers, the other 21 players have struggled. Only six players have averaged double-digits in their careers (Nene, Andrea Bargnani, Danilo Gallinari, Ricky Rubio, Enes Kanter, Jonas Valanciunas). Two players have yet to play in America (Fran Vasquez – Orlando, 11th pick, 2005 & Dario Saric – Philadelphia, 12th pick, 2014) and four played less than five years in the league (Vasquez, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Yaroslav Korolev, Mouhamed Sene). If you have no idea who those aforementioned players are, trust me, you are in the majority.

It’s dangerous to take a gamble on a guy who you’ve seen play for one week and only has grainy Zapruder film footage of his game. Drafting Internationals outside of the lottery has blossomed much more success. Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Marc Gasol, Nicolas Batum and Marcin Gortat are just a few players that have had exceptional careers and were drafted either in the late first round or second round.

Some of the greatest busts in the past 15 years have been DeSagana Diop (Cleveland, 8th pick, ’01), Nikoloz Tskitishvili (Denver, 5th pick, ’02), Darko Milicic (Detroit, 2nd pick, ’03), Yaroslav Korolev (Clippers, 11th, ’05) and Mouhamed Sene (Seattle, 10th pick, ’06). Darko would be the most famous of this bunch. He was sandwiched between LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony and ended up becoming a human victory cigar, taking the court only in garbage time in Pistons wins. Obviously Fran Vasquez was also a bust in the fact that he never even attempted to come overseas to America after being selected by the Magic.

But the one player I remember the most and will never forget what Fran Fraschilla kept saying about on draft night, was Yi Jianlian. Fraschilla kept repeating the phrase, “He’s hip-hop, he’s new school.” What in the world does that even mean? He was trying to pawn Yi off as a do everything forward that was not another soft Euro… what did we end up getting? A 5-year career with averages of 7.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 40% shooting.

This year’s draft will likely feature Kristaps Porzingis and Mario Hezonja. Porzingis is supposed to be a 7-foot Latvian that can shoot the three and also block shots. Hezonja is assumed to be a strong all around player with high upside. As you’ve seen in the past, sometimes you draft a guy expecting to get the next Dirk Nowitzki and end up with a Yaroslav Korolev. Buyer Beware.

2014 Prediction Results (so far) [2014 Draft Predictions]

1. Andrew Wiggins – I was very critical of the selection and thought he was the most overrated player in the draft. Wiggins rookie numbers looked good offensively, but if you dig deeper I’m still not sure he can be the absolute go-to guy on a playoff caliber team. Injuries riddled the Wolves and Wiggins was thrust into the No. 1 scoring option role. His stats: 16.9 points and 4.6 rebounds were solid, but he shot 43% from the field and 31% from deep. He wasn’t the most effective but still is very young. I compared him to Andre Iguodala with more offensive upside. Iggy’s third season’s line went: 18.2, 5.7, 5.7 and 44% from the field. I Wiggins isn’t too far off from putting together a season like this if he continues to work on his shot and get some help around him.

2. Jabari Parker – Parker was deemed as my safest pick of the draft. He shot 49% and averaged over 12 points and 5 rebounds per game before going down with an injury. His health and weight control now murky up his career path a little, but if he is 100% and is in shape, I still feel like he will be the best scorer out of this class when all is said and done.

3. Joel Embiid – When this pick came in, I said the Sixers would bemoan the selection. It is also the type of pick that keeps a franchise is the doldrums of the basement of the league for years. Embiid missed his entire rookie season with injuries just like the center that was selected the year before him, Nerlens Noel. Now people have come out saying Embiid is in danger of missing the 2015-16 season as well and is having his dedication called into question about whether he wants to be a great player or not. They really nailed it on the head when they compared him to Greg Oden coming out of college. Red Flag.

4. Aaron Gordon – The similarities to my comparison of Tyrus Thomas are frightening.  Last year a posted both player’s college stats and they were identical. Now compare their rookie numbers and it is jaw dropping.
                             Gordon: 5.2 ppg, 3.6 reb, 0.5 blks, 44%
                             Thomas: 5.2 ppg, 3.7 reb, 1.1 blks, 47%

5. Dante Exum – I like the pick of Exum, but after looking at the International stats I gave you earlier, it might be an uphill climb for the Aussie. He shot just 35% and struggled in many different facets. His 22 minutes per game were a lot for a 19-year-old but it is great experience for him. His sophomore season will be interesting to see whether he has learned anything and taken any steps forward.

6. Marcus Smart – Smart did a little bit of everything in Boston in his first season. His shot came and went as expected, but his defense was always reliable. 1.5 steals per game in just 27 minutes as a rookie is extremely impressive. He averaged over 7/3/3 and should see even more playing time next year. I predicted him to score 17-20 ppg before his career is over and I still think he can reach that level of offensive efficiency in due time.

7. Julius Randle – A broken leg might have been a blessing in disguise. He should come back a year wiser and have more talent around him. I still think he has the potential to be a Zach Randolph clone and should be a top scoring option once Kobe Bryant retires.

8. Nik Stauskas – Didn’t like the pick then. Still don’t like the pick now. Sacramento and it’s revolving door of head coaches along with evil scientist Owner Vivek Ranadive gives Stauskas a less than favorable situation to flourish in. He could become a poor man’s Kyle Korver, but it will be tough for him to avoid being the next Jimmer Ferdette.

9. Noah Vonleh – Vonleh didn’t see a lot of time as a rookie. He is still the tender age of 19 and has time to grow. Vonleh spent a lot of time in the D-League and on the DL.

10. Elfrid Payton – I ridiculed this pick a year ago, but he put up solid numbers across the board without a reliable jumper. He is following the path of becoming the next Rajon Rondo and produced better numbers than Rondo did in his rookie season. One could argue he actually outplayed Rondo this season:
                               Payton: 8.9/4.3/6.5
                               Rondo: 8.9/5.5/7.9

11. Doug McDermott – McDermott struggled with injuries and his shot. I likened him to Adam Morrison and I have to stick with it. Luckily for him, Chicago ridded themselves of Tom Thibodeau and will have a more bench and offense friendly coach in Fred Hoiberg.

12. Dario Saric – Saric has decided he will not play for the Sixers this season. Fran Vasquez 2.0?

13. Zach LaVine – Played a lot more than he probably could have imagined in his rookie season. LaVine averaged over 10 points per game and showed off his great athleticism and three-point shot and was a pleasant surprise, but where does he fit in with Ricky Rubio healthy?

14. TJ Warren – Was up and down from the D-League and performed well with the Suns. 6.1 points per game on 53% shooting gives him a good stepping stone to build upon.

Dansby Helps Georgia Remain Hotbed of Talent for MLB

Another year, another run of Georgia talent primed for success in the pros. The Peach State has given baseball the likes of Buster Posey, Jason Heyward, Adam Wainwright, Brian McCann, Josh Reddick and many, many more. Dating back to 2007, former Georgia high schoolers have peppered the draft in the first round. Heyward was selected 14th overall eight years ago.

In 2008, Tim Beckham out of Griffin High School was the No. 1 overall pick to the Tampa Bay Rays. He was followed by Buster Posey at No. 5 (FSU via Lee County), Gordon Beckham at No. 8 (UGA via Westminster) and Ethan Martin at No. 15 from Stephens County High School.

2009 saw Donavan Tate go third overall to the Padres after a prestigious prep career at Cartersville while Zack Wheeler of East Paulding was nabbed at No. 6 by the Giants.

Delino DeShields (Woodward Academy) went No. 8 to Houston and was followed by Jake Skole (Blessed Trinity), Kaleb Cowart (Cook), Cam Bedrosian (East Coweta) and Chevy Clarke (Marietta) in the 2010 edition of the MLB First-Year Players Draft.

Byron Buxton, who just made his MLB debut on Sunday, was the second overall selection in the 2012 draft out of Appling County. Lucas Sims (Brookwood) and James Ramsey (FSU via Wesleyan) followed Buxton at picks 21 and 23.

Clint Frazier of Loganville led the way for a trio of Georgians in the 2013 draft. Frazier was selected fifth overall while Austin Meadows (Grayson) landed at No. 9 and was followed by Travis Demeritte (Winder-Barrow) at No. 30.

Last year Max Pentecost (Winder-Barrow) led Kennesaw State to the College World Series and was drafted 11th by the Toronto Blue Jays. Michael Chavis (Sprayberry) was scooped up at 26 by the Red Sox.

Dansby Swanson is next in the long list of Georgia prep stars to get drafted highly. Swanson was a standout at Marietta High School before being selected first overall this year by the Diamondbacks after a great two seasons at Vanderbilt after an injury plagued freshman campaign. The shortstop stole the show as he won Most Outstanding Player honors at the College World Series when he helped the Commodores to their first ever championship.

Swanson has hit .350 with 15 homeruns, 62 RBIs and 16 stolen bases this season. His makeup and work ethic has had scouts raving about him since his breakout season in 2014. After hitting three homers a year ago, Swanson’s recent power surge all but solidified his position as the top prospect in the draft. Not only does he make contact at a high clip, his new found power allows him to spray balls into the gaps and even launch some into the seats.

Three other former Georgia high schoolers achieved their dreams of being drafted in the first round. Cornelius Randolph followed Tim Beckham as the next shortstop from Griffin High School to be drafted in the first round. Randolph went No. 10 to the Phillies and was slated to play at Clemson next year. He has an advanced bat and plate discipline beyond his years which encourages scouts that he can move up the ranks quickly.

Tyler Stephenson from Kennesaw Mountain went 11th overall to the Cincinnati Reds and was the first catcher selected in the draft. At 6-foot-4 225 pounds, Stephenson isn’t the prototypical catcher. He is a very fluid athlete with raw power potential and the ability control the game from behind the plate. Stephenson was originally pegged as a pitcher before the leaps and bounds he has made as a backstop in the past year.

Tennessee junior Christin Stewart went 34th overall to Detroit. The former Providence Christian Academy outfielder hit 15 homeruns with 47 RBIs and a .311 batting average this year.

Possibly the biggest steal of the draft went 37th to Houston. Daz Cameron, the AJC’s Baseball Athlete of the Year and son of former LaGrange star and MLB All-Star/Gold Glover Mike Cameron, was a consensus top 10 talent but dropped all the way to the compensation round due to signability. The Florida State signee is a great value pick for the Astros if he decides to sign.

Peach State’s Finest on Display at FIFA World Cup

The FIFA Women’s World Cup isn’t as ballyhooed as the men’s version but still the worldwide event is likely to bring fellow countrymen together. FIFA has been under hot water and investigation after ex-President Sepp Blatter was accused of bribery and attempting to fix matches in previous World Cups, but the face of corruption has recently stepped down after being re-elected on May 29.

The storyline now shifts to the actual action on the pitch and the redemption the USA seeks after falling to Japan in the 2011 World Cup Finals in penalty kicks. The United States enters as a heavy favorite among the qualifying teams along with Germany, Japan, Brazil and host Canada.

The growing amount of stars load up the experienced and deep American team. Veteran Abby Wambach heads up the scoring attack and is flanked by 25-year-old Alex Morgan. Sydney Leroux has 35 goals in 70 appearances while Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd facilitate from the middle of the field. And of course, in goal is Hope Solo, one of the most loved yet scrutinized players on the national team due to her recent off field issues.

Solo’s sullied image includes being arrested for two misdemeanor counts of assault, harassing the police, an abusive relationship with former NFL tight end Jerramy Stevens which resulted in Solo being suspended from U.S. Soccer for 30 days and private nude images being leaked. The chaos surrounding Solo could pose a distraction for the U.S. but head coach Jillian Ellis insists otherwise.

            Georgia Peaches

Two Georgia natives have stayed out of the headlines and look to contribute to this year’s team. Morgan Brian and Kelley O’Hara don’t play the prominent roles of the aforementioned players, but both have the potential to be fixtures in the lineup for years to come.

Brian, a 22-year-old midfielder from St. Simons, is the youngest player on this year’s team. She starred at Frederica Academy where she won a state title and was twice named a Parade All-American and Gatorade Georgia State Player of the Year. While in college at the University of Virginia, Brian won the Hermann Trophy twice, signifying her as the best player in the nation. She became the fifth player to ever win the award two times during a career. Since playing at Virginia, the exciting midfielder has been selected to the Houston Dash of the NWSL. She has made 29 appearances with the USA senior club and has scored four goals.

Lauren Holiday, a teammate of Brian’s on the national team told The Washington Post’s Steven Goff just how special of a player Morgan is. “Morgan was not just a college player when she came into this team. Her confidence, her sophistication on the ball, it was beyond her years,” Holiday explained.

Defender Kelley O’Hara at age 26 has also gained praise during her 60 caps with the national team and has worked her way into the rotation. O’Hara grew up in Peachtree City and played at Starr’s Mill High School. Like Morgan Brian, O’Hara also captured a state title after scoring 20 goals and adding 16 assists in 2006. She too was named Gatorade Georgia Player of the Year and continued her career at Stanford University. She also was awarded the Hermann Trophy in 2009 and finished her Cardinal career with 57 goals and 32 assists. O’Hara currently teams up with the USWNT’s active leader in appearances, Christie Rampone, on defense for Sky Blue FC.

Speed and determination has helped the former forward transition into being one of the toughest defenders on the team. O’Hara was initially cut from the 2011 World Cup roster before being added on as a reserve and has used that as fuel to get better every day. She was a part of the 2012 Olympic team that beat Japan in the gold medal match, 2-1. Kelley was one of three players to play every single minute for the United States during the tournament and was a crucial part of the squad’s success.

Keep an eye on these Georgia born and bred players. Unsung heroes can be found anywhere on the big stage and there is no reason why one of these two Georgia peaches can’t come up big with the entire world watching.