Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Every Franchise’s Got A Lovable Baller (Pt I.)
When you check the NBA’s team rosters out, on every squad there’s a player you like the most out of that respective bunch. Here are my choices:
The HEAT’s A) top offensive player. Maybe someday Mike Beasley will take D-Wade's place on ‘O’, but for now nobody fills it up better than Miami 's latest Olympic gold medallist. B) top playmaker. We've seen Wade twist his body to sink some of the more incredible shots the league has seen in recent years. He takes a pounding by getting so close to the bucket, but once he's there he makes some pretty incredible things happen in traffic. C) top clutch player. Is there anybody else on this Miami’s that would ever take the final shot of a close game? No way. What else? It undoubtedly comes as a huge shock that I like one of the league's biggest superstars. Yeah, but who doesn't like this guy?
Oklahoma City Thunder
(I’ll write it three times - I gotta get used to that new name... OKC Thunder... OKC Thunder...)
OKC’s offensive player, he was the team's leading scorer as the Rookie of the Year in 2007-08 at 20.3 points a game. Expect that number to go up in the 2008-09, and look for his 2.4 assists a night to take a jump as well. He’s a clutch performer, too. Not only is Kevin Durant the team's most clutch player, but last season he proved to be sixth-most clutch player in the league according to 82games.com. As a rookie. Safe to say OKC feels good with the ball in Durant's hands when they need a bucket. He was much better down the stretch of the season than he was earlier in the year. In April he posted a scoring average of 24.3 points, dished 4.1 assists, and grabbed 6.4 rebounds, by far his best month for each category. (Send your hankies to Seattle. Seriously.)
Before K-Love was a senior in high school people (outside of The Sports Guy, of course) and were questioning how good of a pro he could be he's on track to prove them wrong. He is in the best shape of his life and his incredible basketball IQ could be just what the Minnesota offense needed. With Al Jefferson alongside him in the post Love should be a real force on the boards. Expect a lot of plays run through Love because he's one of the few players on this team along with (gulp) Bassy Telfair that can get people the ball in places they can score. Hey, everyone loves Love.
Griz’s top scorer, Rudy G. led the team in scoring last season with 20.1 points per game and will only get better as the team around him improves. He’s not a weakling in the clutch category, too. He was the man in Memphis, as much as one of the worst teams in the league can have a man. Mike Miller was probably their best clutch player last season, but in his absence Gay will rise to the occasion. Really, until someone proves otherwise, Rudy is the franchise player in Memphis. He doesn't get enough attention because the team loses so much, but with the right combination of players around Rudy this team can go far. He encourages his teammates, demands more from them, and is one of the most explosive players in the league when the break gets going.
Los Angeles Clippers
The second-year forward will have ample opportunity to do what he loves best - score. After a slow start as a rookie, Thornton blossomed as his minutes increased. Coach Mike Dunleavy Sr. believes he's capable of scoring over 20 points a game - and the Clips will look to him as one of the team's primary offensive weapons.
New York Knicks
While some say he’s unheralded, it’s tough to call Lee unheralded considering Knicks fans love him (their only 2007-08 pleasure) and GM's around the league inquire about him constantly, but the fact remains that David Lee has never been named a starter and has averaged just 25 minutes a game over the course of his career. Once again, it appears he will spend the 2008-09 season coming off the bench. Still, whenever he steps on the floor and sees consistent minutes, he is a double-double machine. He is also a very efficient player, finishing among the team leaders in both FG% and FT% two years in row. I can’t help myslef... I gotta show David even more love - on a team that endlessly irritates NYC basketball fans with their consistent refusal to play defense or hustle, Lee sticks out like a sore thumb. It is the intangibles, blue-collar work ethic and endless hustle supplied by Lee that have been in such short supply in New York as of late. Lee also plays with a unique unselfishness and cerebral court awareness.
The Bucks’ new addition, RJ turns their small forward position from a weakness into a strength and provides a perimeter threat to replace Mo Williams. Milwaukee lacked size at small forward last year, but now have a mismatch waiting for opponents with Richard manning the spot. He also will replace the scoring of Mo Will, which allows the Bucks to have a point guard (Luke Ridnour?) that focuses more on controlling the tempo of the game, distributing the basketball and reducing turnovers.
Being their top defensive player, it was supremely important for the Cats to get Emeka Okafor taken care of this summer. He's easily the team's best defender and can hold his own with basically any other center in the league. Okafor has his shortcomings on the offensive end, but defensively he's a rock.
The League’s top-tier playmaker for years to come, he'll start off slowly, but once he gets going he's going to split opposing defenses wide open. He'll be very fun and exciting to watch once he finds his groove in the NBA. The kid was the #1 pick in the draft... he’ll be phenomenal down the road. (Note: Nobody's really sure what the Bulls are going to get this year with Rose, but we all know what he's capable of. If he can integrate his undeniable talents early this season without too many growing pains, Chicago will see some serious improvement.)
New Jersey Nets
When he was a Maverick, I hated him cuz he’s so good defending Tony Parker and so quick to score on you. Now, as a Net playmaker at 25, Devin Harris is already a top-flight point guard. Playing with Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas has taught him to move without the ball; now that he's in Jersey, he handles all of the primary playmaking duties and has done a relatively good job taking care of the ball (2.7 turnovers per game as a Net compared with 6.5 assists per game). Jason Kidd may have been the franchise, but acquiring a solid 25-year-old point guard who is signed through 2013 for a 35-year-old that makes $21 million a year is the type of move that can reverse New Jersey's fortunes. During last season, his fourth, Harris proved he can dish (ranked 15th last season in assists per 48 minutes), score (15.4 PPG as a Net) and get to the line (21st in free throws per 48 minutes). And who can feel bad about entrusting the ball to a guy who hits well over 80 percent of his free throws?
Although just in his third season, Danny Granger lead the team with more than 19 points in 36 minutes on the floor. If all goes well with contract negotiations, he will be the future of Indiana basketball. His agent believes he can be an important building block: "I think Danny's best basketball is ahead of him". He'll certainly get a chance to show that this season, as the team will look to him as a catalyst for everything they do offensively. He exhibits nowhere close to the capacity for clutch play that the Pacers great Reggie Miller displayed nightly through his career, but Granger is also a clutch scorer. Most of his shots in crunchtime are simple jumpers, providing a high-percentage shot in a low-percentage environment. His desire to be "the man" in Indiana will be key to their success in 2008-09. (Note: it’s not a secret that he’s excited about the challenges and opportunities ahead. He wants to lead the team, and more importantly he believes in his teammates. Good luck, Danny.)
Sure, fans in Atlanta know what an outstanding player Horford is, but almost everyone largely ignores him and he was completely dissed when it came time to vote for Rookie of the Year. He appeared in 81 games as a rookie, starting 77, and averaged just under a double-double for a playoff team. Don't expect him to be the Hawks' best-kept secret for long. One thing that often gets glossed over when experts talk about building successful teams is the character of the players. The Hawks have made character a priority, and no one personifies that better than Al. Humble and soft-spoken off the court, fired up and hungry on the court, Horford is going to be a huge part of Atlanta's success for years to come.
The second part of this series will be posted someday in September. Before I go, I wanna tell you... it’s good not having your own blog - at least from ‘free-time’ standpoint. But when your mailbox is full of e-mails like “Hey FiCS, good job, can you say who has higher fantasy value, Darko Milicic or Marko Jaric?”, it’s worth the work. (Last note: that aforementioned duo is likely headed to NYC for Zach Randolph. That’s a damn good trade. It’s comic when these three guys are involved in one trade, but seriously, good trade.)
p.s.: D-Wade’s answer on “Who has the bigger ego, Shaq or Barkley?”: *I'm gonna say Shaq. It's been documented. He's renamed himself eighty times, he proclaimed himself the most dominate center ever, which he is, but still he self-proclaimed it.*
Posted by Foreigner in CS - Sep 10 2008 7:07PM
Posted by Luke_Mellow at 7:07 PM