Tag:Ricky Rubio
Posted on: August 3, 2011 10:47 am
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Rubio's not going back unless season is lost

By Matt Moore

With the NBA locked out for the foreseeable future and players flocking overseas (okay, not really, they're just all saying they're flocking overseas), surely Ricky Rubio will be the first one to abandon his newly embraced Wolves for the sweet bosom of his former team, FC Barcelona, right? Not so fast, mi compadre. From MundoDeportivo.com (via a loose Google Translation):
Mundo Deportivo:If confirmed, the lockout, do you consider the option of playing at the Regal Barcelona?

Rubio: Well, if it confirms the 'lockout', yes. I think to waste a year would be counterproductive, not if they were only a few months. I think we should appreciate everything I thought and still think that the 'lockout' will be short, or that it will not stop the season starts, so I made my decision, but if I return to Europe, my first choice is the club.
via Ricky: "If there lockouts Barca is my first choice".

This is all good news for Wolves fans. Not only is Rubio not heading over unless the entire season is lost, but he's confident and committed to sticking with Minnesota now that he's come over. It's good to hear that he's not waffling or running back into FC Barcelona's arms immediately. At the same time, it's better if he stays in shape with the Spanish club if the whole season is lost rathern that just working out on his own. It's the best of both worlds, really. 

Rubio will be playing in EuroBasket this year for the national team as expected for yet another stacked Spanish team. And if the season is lost, expect FC Barcelona to be stacked with NBA players like Marc Gasol and even possibly his older All-Star brother. 

(HT: SLAM)
Posted on: July 28, 2011 12:20 pm
 

Rubio says he needs to buff up

By Matt Moore

As excited as people are to see Ricky Rubio play in the NBA, there are questions. In particular, Rubio's frame holds a lot of concern. He's a spindly kid, and though he's nearly 6-4 and still only 21, he just hasn't filled out enough for people to feel totally confident about how he'll handle the NBA's physicality. The good news is, Rubio's aware of it. From FIBA.com:
Rubio can expect the changes to be big, both on and off the court.

"I think it will be physically harder than Europe - I will need to do more weights," he said of the NBA's playing style.
via ESP - Rubio Ready For The Next Step | FIBA.COM.

Rubio's considered to be a quality defender off the bat, but against bigger guards like Deron Williams, Chauncey Billups, and Even Jason Kidd with his muscle, Rubio will be blown back in post situations and fighting through screens. You see so many young players really start to put on muscle after a few years in NBA weight training programs, and that kind of set up will do wonders for Rubio. Those slick passes and shifty moves need some umph. 

An awareness of this is a great sign for Wolves fans. It would be really easy for Rubio to play the "my game is good enough" card. We see it all the time in the NBA. But instead, Rubio's admitting to something that he needs to do to adjust. That self-awareness will help him isolate things to improve upon and not get wrapped up in himself (which has been a concern from those who have interacted with him). Additionally, knowing the NBA is going to be a challenge and he can't just waltz through it is what you want to hear from a star young player. Rubio's off to a great start with the Wolves, without having played a game, and without being able to even get inside the arena yet.  
Posted on: July 25, 2011 9:00 am
Edited on: July 25, 2011 9:07 am
 

Larry Brown to interview for Wolves job

By Matt Moore

Larry Brown! You're the next contestant on... "Who Wants To Coach A 17-Win Team That's 'Done Rebuilding?!" 

From the Minnesota Star-Tribune:
After interviewing Rick Adelman and Don Nelson over the weekend, the Timberwolves intend to interview Larry Brown and possibly one or two others in this first phase to replace fired coach Kurt Rambis.

When the Wolves will interview Brown, who has coached teams to both NBA and NCAA titles, is uncertain because of a recent death in his family, according to a league source with knowledge of the team's search.
via Larry Brown next to talk to Wolves' Kahn | StarTribune.com

The Star notes that there is a previous connection between GM David Kahn and Brown, Kahn worked as a student reporter when Brown coached at UCLA. Setting aside the fact that this puts into perspective just how long Brown has been doing this, it should be noted that Kahn himself has been around for two decades in pro basketball's management side, and nearly 10 before that as a writer. He knows everyone. 

Brown's an odd fit in Minnesota, as he is most places. He's known to clash with younger players and to be notoriously hard on young point guards. The Wolves are a clashing young outfit with a notoriously young point guard. Kahn has gone on record saying that rebuilding is over in Minnesota, yet the roster isn't ready to compete for a title, or a playoff spot, or .500 ball yet (it would seem; it's entirely possible Rubio and Derrick Williams are the difference in winning more games than they lose for the Wolves, but they're not skyrocketing into a top seed or anything). Brown would essentially be trying to rehab his image after failed stints in New York and a dispiriting end in Charlotte. 

Brown is also linked to be vying for a spot on the Celtics' support staff. That kind of puts it in perspective. Minnesota interviews Boston assistant coaching candidates for its head coaching position. Then again, Brown's a Hall of Famer, so it's not as if he's a terrible choice. Maybe Brown could make an impact. It's certainly not as crazy of an idea as Don Nelson, who interviewed Sunday with Minnesota



(HT: HoopsHype)
Posted on: July 16, 2011 3:13 pm
Edited on: July 18, 2011 3:42 pm
 

Some teams are probably missing Summer League

Posted by Royce Young



The NBA's annual Vegas Summer League would be wrapping up right about now. Young players would be finishing up a week of gambling, partying and hopefully, at least for their coach, getting better.

Summer League has always been sort of approached by most as nothing more than a perk of July, just something to sort of help bridge the gap. Nobody really pays attention to it except for the hardest of hardcore fans, general managers, scouts and coaches. And bloggers. Summer League basically is blogger paradise, because it's something to write the crap out of for a couple of weeks in mid-July.

Except this summer, because of the you-know-what, there is no Summer League. No rookies to overhype because of a good, random game against a bunch of D-Leaguers. No second-year fringe players to latch onto and get excited about because of a quality week. And no players to completely write off because of a 2-12, five-turnover game. For shame. For damn shame.

And while most just write off what happens in Vegas as unimportant, any time players take the court and compete, there's something of value there for the players, the organization and the coaches. Basketball is about development. It's about getting better. Summer League is a vehicle for new draft picks to get a feel of pro basketball and a feel of playing with a couple of teammates. It's a place for guys to prove themselves a bit. In reality, it's kind of important, even if it's generally ignored by the general basketballing public.

But I can guarantee you a good number of teams were mighty disappointed when Summer League fell through because of the lockout. There's progress to be made, and a week in Vegas is an excellent place to start, especially for rookies. Some teams and players are going to feel the sting of missing out on the opportunity. Here are the ones I see feeling it most.

Minnesota Timberwolves
No team would've benefited more than Minnesota's young roster. First, it would've been the first look at Ricky Rubio on American soil. He would've played against NBA talent and had a chance to run the show for his new team.

It also would've given all of us a chance to rush to snap judgments about his game and, therefore, his career, based on a couple of Summer League games. It would've been great.

But on top of some run for Rubio, Derrick Williams, Wesley Johnson and a few other youngsters could've put away a week or so of games. Every second those guys play together, the better they'll get. They need time to develop, and Summer League is a place for that. Instead, it's going to have to happen on some private court without any coaches. Not the ideal situation for young players to learn and improve.

Cleveland Cavaliers
Pretty much the same scenario for the Cavs as it is for the Wolves, or any young team with talent. Kyrie Irving could've used the extra time on the floor, but not just because he could get a feel for offense or learn the pace of the NBA game or anything. For Irving, it's more that he just needs to play, period.

He only played in 13 games for Duke last season and after returning from his foot injury, played a couple of games in the NCAA tournament. He has barely played any competitive basketball at all in the last year. For a 19-year-old, that's not a good thing. The more play you get, the farther you move ahead.

Not to mention the No. 4 overall pick, Tristan Thompson, getting some play, too. Obviously, that would be great, but to me, it's more about Irving. It's his franchise now, and the objective in Cleveland now is moving him along. Something small like Summer League is one of the first steps forward in doing that.

Sacramento Kings
The Kings' inclusion really is more of a selfish reason. Because with Summer League, you know that every game with Jimmer Fredette woudl be a total experience. Vegas is close to BYU, and Jimmer has quite the following in the area. But, really, it could be in Maine and The Jimmer would walk in like a rock star.

The Kings do need him and Tyreke Evans, though, to get some experience playing together. Who's running point? Is it Jimmer? Is Reke going to handle those duties too? Are they going to tag-team it like Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry? These are some of the questions you can sort of at least start to find answers for, if only they were actually playing.

Oklahoma City Thunder
Despite reaching the Western Conference Finals, the Thunder really do have a ton of room to grow. The roster is extremely young with some pieces that need developing. Two of the most important being Cole Aldrich and this year's pick, Reggie Jackson.

With Aldrich, he simply needs to play a little. He spent most of his rookie season in the D-League with the Tulsa 66ers, and while that's good for development, Summer League gives him a chance to be a focus in a competitive setting as well as a primer for what he needs to work on heading to fall camp. Aldrich is far from a lost cause, and the Thunder are willing to stay patient. But part of that being patient comes because you think a guy is going to improve. And to do that, he's got to play.

With Jackson, Summer League could've helped signal a little where he might fit in. Is he a point guard? Shooting guard? Combo guard? Is he a scorer the Thunder want to use off the bench next season? Is he someone that even will challenge for minutes? The Thunder clearly liked Jackson enough to promise him a spot in the first round, but without him working out for anyone before the draft, he's still largely an unknown for everybody.

Miami Heat
Yes, seriously, the Heat. No doubt that for the most part, the roster is set. LeBron, Wade and Bosh handle pretty much all of the heavy lifting, and veterans Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem pick up the remaining slack.

But the Heat need to develop young talent. Players like Dexter Pittman need an opportunity to grow a bit. Where the Heat lacked most last season was having cheap, young talent to infuse with LeBron, Wade and Bosh. Instead, Pat Riley went with trying to work in guys like Mike Bibby, Juwan Howard, Eddie House and whoever else was willing to take the veterans minimum to chase a title.

A week in Vegas for Miami's youngsters like Pittman and rookie Norris Cole could go a long way to restructuring the role players on the roster. And on top of that, it's a chance to maybe scout three or four other unsigned guys to take a look at later on. Miami needs some young talent, and the Vegas Summer League is one of the best places to look.

Washington Wizards
John Wall is going to be a star. I don't have any doubt. But he's still raw and still has a whole lot to learn about running a team. I remember how much Summer League did for Russell Westbrook a couple of years ago as he was prepping for his second season. It helped Westbrook learn how to slow down a bit, learn when to look for a shot, when to look to set up and when to push. Wall would've been the best player in Vegas, much like Westbrook was always on another level when he was there. But it taught him how to play under control -- to a degree -- while also being able to run around anyone. That would've been a good lesson for Wall.

Then there's Jan Vesely, who is mostly a mystery as he prepares to maybe step in as Washington's new small forward. We know he can jump and dunk, but can he defend? Can he rotate over and help? Can he shoot? If Wall and Vesely are the offensive attack of the future for the Wizards, having them play together, if even for just a week, would be huge.

Utah Jazz
Even more than Kyrie Irving, Enes Kanter hasn't played competitive basketball in a long time. He was forced to sit out all of 2010-11 for Kentucky because of a NCAA violation, and while he's had some workouts and a little five-on-five action here and there, he hasn't been in a real game setting since he moved from Turkey to the United States. The Jazz liked him enough to take him fourth and maybe force a re-shuffling up front, so obviously they're invested in the young big man.

And on top of him, don't forget the Jazz had another lottery pick in wing Alec Burks, who could surprise a lot of people as an NBA-ready scorer. He was terrific at Colorado as he sort of came out of nowhere to climb into the lottery. A little burn for both him and Kanter could've gone a long way for the Jazz, who are committed to the youngsters in life after Deron.
Posted on: July 13, 2011 4:32 pm
Edited on: July 14, 2011 12:41 pm
 

NBA threatens Blazers GM Buchanan with $1 M fine?

The NBA reportedly threatened Portland Trail Blazers Acting GM Chad Buchanan with a $1 million fine. Posted by Ben Golliver. lockout

The second the NBA lockout went into effect on July 1, the league took great care to make its players disappear. The NBA ordered mammoth fines if team executives made public reference to current players and, in a particularly petty move, scrubbed NBA.com of references to current players.

As of yet, no fines have been publicly announced for violating the league's lockout-induced gag order on team executives.

However, the Portland Tribune reports that at least one has been threatened with a $1 million hit for a seemingly innocuous comment.
The league office has prohibited the teams’ employees from commenting on players. Employees can talk about team issues, evidently, but not about players.

“There’s a line in the sand that the NBA has drawn for everybody, but nobody knows exactly where the line is,” one NBA team employee says. “Everybody is scared, not wanting to be the first to be hit with a fine.”

Witness a recent interview with Trail Blazers acting General Manager Chad Buchanan. When it was observed that it’s too bad there is no summer league scheduled, Buchanan replied, “Yeah.”

Shortly thereafter, the league threatened Buchanan with a $1 million fine, according to one source. 

Update: Buchanan went a little further than simply saying "yeah," telling The Oregonian in June that the cancellation of Summer League was "disappointing" and "not ideal." 

Clearly, that's ridiculous. It's also a little scary that the NBA league office is monitoring public comments that closely. But, hey, it's their perogative and their policy.

That policy faces a much more interesting test case thanks to Minnesota Timberwolves president David Kahn.

On Tuesday, the Timberwolves called a press conference to announce the firing of head coach Kurt Rambis. During the question-and-answer portion of the press conference, Kahn made reference to at least two current Timberwolves: center Brad Miller and guard Ricky Rubio.

Speaking about the youth of his team, Kahn said it was possible that even with the addition of the 35-year-old Miller, who was acquired in a draft day trade with the Houston Rockets, the Timberwolves could still have the youngest average age in the NBA. Kahn also briefly discussed Rubio in response to a question about what the Spanish point guard would do during the lockout.

To make matters worse, Kahn's comments were streamed live on video on the team's official website, NBA.com/Timberwolves. In other words, the NBA league office can't help but be aware of them. (An edited, condensed version of the press conference archived on the site leaves out the references to both Miller and Rubio.)

The NBA has reached its first pivotal fork in the road during this lockout period when it comes to this policy. Commissioner David Stern can either look the other way on a blatant violation of his very clear, oft-repeated and referenced  gag order policy or he can fine Kahn as his office has reportedly threatened to fine Buchanan. If the league chooses to fine Kahn, who was fined $50,000 last year for comments made about forward Michael Beasley, does it keep its word and go for the full million dollars? After posing in dictatorial fashion for the last two weeks, the NBA can't let the first obvious violator off easily, can it?
Posted on: July 11, 2011 7:47 pm
 

Blake Griffin, Kevin Love play Jenga in video

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin and Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love face off in a game of Jenga. Posted by Ben Golliver.

kevin-love-blake-griffin

It feels like it has been absolutely forever since we've seen two of the NBA's most promising young power forwards.

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin and Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love both made the 2011 All-Star team, but they also both failed to qualify for the NBA playoffs. It's been months since either has been in the headlines, other than when Love expressed some skepticism that Ricky Rubio would actually come play for the Timberwolves.

That changes today, as the pair face off in a game of Jenga for a pretty hilarious "behind the scenes" style video.

Shot to help promote the ESPYs, the NBA's reigning Slam Dunk Champion and Most Improved Player get ultra-competitive as they attempt to pull Jenga pieces without knocking over the tower.

"Concentation," Griffin says when asked how playing the game might help him during the NBA's lockout.

"A good hobby," Love interjects. "Keeps your mind focused on the task at hand. We both play down on the blocks."

"Also, the floor is made of wood and Jenga pieces are also made of wood," Griffin concludes.

 Here's a look at the video courtesy of YouTube user ESPN. Stick around for the winning and losing reactions, which are pretty hilarious.




Hat tip: The Basketball Jones.
Posted on: July 11, 2011 6:23 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 10:23 pm
 

What teams risk in a lockout: Northwest Division

A look at what is at stake for the NBA's Northwest Division if a whole season was lost due to the lockout. Posted by Ben Golliver.

ricky-rubio

Talk of losing an entire NBA season is a bit ridiculous. But it's a possibility. And with all this hardline talk going on, it seems like neither the players nor the owners are wanting to budge. There's incentive for teams to get a deal done and not just for the money, but because a year without basketball and more importantly, basketball operations, could greatly affect each and every NBA franchise.

Earlier this week, we took a look at the Southeast Division, the Atlantic Division, the Central Division and the Southwest Division. Let's continue with the Northwest Division.  

MINNESOTA Timberwolves


The NBA's worst team won just 17 games last year, had the league's seventh-worst home attendance and is generally mentioned at the top of the list of examples that "prove" the NBA's economic system is broken. That's because their local television, ticket and memorabilia revenue simply cannot compete with the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics of the world. Despite all of that, the Timberwolves might very well have more to lose than any other team in the Northwest Division if the league were to miss an entire season.

Let's start with 2009 lottery pick Ricky Rubio, who against all odds took the plunge and decided to finally join up with Minnesota. For multiple seasons, Rubio has represented hope, carrying Timberwolves fans through ugly winters and late-season collapses. The wait was excruciating. The uncertainty about whether he would or wouldn't stay in Europe further into the future made it worse. Now that he's on board, he's been greeted at an airport, introduced to his teammates, sold some jerseys and rallied the collective fan spirit a bit. To lose an entire season would make that interminable wait that much longer. It would also rob Rubio of a valuable development and acclimation year, which would be an absolute disaster. This is a point guard who needs to start on Day 1, entrusted with the full support of his coaching staff and allowed to make mistakes and build chemistry with his teammates while learning on the job. No season means no opportunity to do any of that.

Aside from Rubio, there are financial risks as well. That might be surprising, because the Timberwolves currently are the only team in the NBA that does not have anyone on their books for more than $6.3 million next season, a fairly astonishing accomplishment. Of course, there's a catch: All-Star power forward Kevin Love is on his rookie deal. Indeed, Love is heading into the last pure season of his rookie deal before Minnesota either must issue him a qualifying offer or sign him to an extension. Worse yet, it's possible that Love, one of the league's premier rebounders, will command a mini-max extension or close to it. The point here? He's set to make just $4.6 million next season, a bargain for his production. If the season is lost, the Timberwolves miss out completely on that outstanding value and are one year closer to biting the bullet on extending him without having reaped full benefits. That's tough.

Last but not least, a lost season is the perfect excuse for any franchise to delay tough decisions or to talk themselves into trying to make things work. With an imbalanced roster full of mixed and matched pieces, the Timberwolves, despite their accumulated talent, are going to struggle mightly again next season. The pains of those struggles, theoretically, could be enough to finally convince owner Glen Taylor to pull the plug on president David Kahn, a man who hasn't shown the ability to construct a team and outright wasted two second round draft picks on technical mistakes during the 2011 NBA Draft, by trading a hurt player (Jonny Flynn) and drafting someone who lied about his age (Tanguy Ngombo). A year without games, then, is a year without losses, which means another year for Kahn to preach patience and wiggle out of responsibility for this mess. The sooner Kahn is gone, the sooner this ship turns around. A lost season will make "sooner" feel like never.

OKLAHOMA CITY Thunder

While the Timberwolves need to get headed in the right direction, the Oklahoma City Thunder are already there. With the best designed roster in the league, two young All-Stars, an undisputed Northwest Division title and a Western Conference Finals appearance under their belt already, and a passionate fanbase that is guaranteed to provide 40+ home sellouts next season, the Thunder would happily start the season today. A lost season, then, would be a nightmare.

Name something, anything, and it's at risk for the Thunder. They lose the value of Russell Westbrook playing on a rookie deal. They lose the value of James Harden on a rookie deal. They lose the value of Serge Ibaka on a rookie deal. They lose one year of Kevin Durant's Hall of Fame playing career. They lose another season of playoff experience. They lose a very good chance at making a run at an NBA Finals. They lose a season of having their top eight players (Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefalosha, Nick Collison, Eric Maynor) all locked into affordable contracts. They lose the chemistry and momentum that goes with having an entire nucleus together for multiple years.

What's worse: they have nothing to gain from a work stoppage, other than perhaps the money that would come with increased revenue sharing. Without a single bad or untradeable contract on their books, there is no financial reason OKC would root for a year away from the game. In fact, any change to the Collective Bargaining Agreement that firms up the cap would make it more difficult for the Thunder to keep all this talent in house. That means they wouldn't get the chance to win now and their ability to win later could be compromised.

Usually, young teams that make a deep run through the playoffs can't wait to get back on the court for a second go-around. Multiply that feeling by about 10 and that's the situation facing OKC. 

PORTLAND Trail Blazers

lockoutYou might think the injury-plagued Trail Blazers would welcome some time off to lick their wounds and assess the damage, but missing an entire NBA season wouldn't necessarily be a good thing for this franchise. Really, it's a muddled picture.

The main benefit is clear: the Blazers have a very difficult cap situation next season, thanks to a mini-max contract for guard Brandon Roy, who is apparently no longer capable of reaching his previous All-Star level of play. Saving the $15 million owed to Roy, as well as the $10.5 million owed to aging center Marcus Camby, would be a tempting proposition for most small-market owners. Money aside, saving the miles on Roy's knees wouldn't hurt either.

Blazers owner and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, however, has dealt with serious health problems in recent years and is clearly in spend-big, win-now mode. He would cut a check tomorrow for five times his team's total salary cap if it meant a shot at the NBA Finals, no questions asked. It's difficult to imagine a financial enticement that would make it worth Allen's while to take a year off. 

Aside from Roy, the other big question is center Greg Oden. Missing an entire NBA season doesn't play in Oden's favor, as he hasn't taken the court for an NBA game since December 2009. A lost season means his layoff would extend nearly three full years to October 2012. That's a long, long time to be away from basketball. Complicating that further for the Blazers is the fact that Oden is a restricted free agent this summer. The Blazers would retain matching rights on Oden if a season was lost but they would be forced to offer him an extension without being able to see whether he recovers fully to be able to take the court and, more importantly, withstand injury once he's out there. Oden could command a mid-level type of offer on the open market, which would be a major investment for Portland, because the Blazers have already committed to nearly $80 million in salary for next season, with contracts to Roy, forwards LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace and guard Wesley Matthews already on the books into the future. Without another center on their roster who is in their long-term plans, though, the Blazers wouldn't have a choice. They'd have to pay up. Given that situation, you want as much information as possible; a lost season would mean no information.

Finally, the Blazers have a big question at the starting point guard position. His name is Raymond Felton, and he was acquired in a draft day trade for previous point guard Andre Miller. Felton is in a contract year and hasn't played meaningful minutes with any of his current teammates, except for a stint in Charlotte with Wallace. Felton will require a good-sized contract extension next summer as well and the Blazers would surely like to see how he gels with their core, particularly Aldridge, before they commit to him long-term. Without any starting quality options on the roster, they would again find themselves stuck in a corner, forced to do what it takes to retain Felton without a readily available back-up plan.

To boil it down: the Blazers have enough questions without a lost season. Missing a full season would simply create an array of complications and made some tough roster decisions that much more difficult and, potentially, costly. 

DENVER Nuggets

Sure, the Denver Nuggets lost franchise forward Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks, but they did an excellent job of stripping their roster down to allow for a quick bounceback rebuilding effort. The Nuggets, somewhat like the Thunder, are in a financial position where their salary cap situation makes it more advantageous for next season to take place unhindered. The Nuggets currently don't have a truly horrible contract on their books, although the mid-level deal for Al Harrington and the $15 million or so left to be paid to Chris Andersen over the next three years are regrettable. Indeed, the Nuggets have committed to less than $40 million in salary for next season, pending a potentially major financial commitment to big man Nene, who has decided to test the free agency waters, and a decision on guard J.R. Smith.

The biggest risks for Denver would be missing out on the value of point guard Ty Lawson on his rookie deal and managing whatever concerns might arise about Denver's ability to use its salary cap flexibility to continue work on its rebuilding situation. Most analysts believe teams with salary cap room will be in a position of strength, regardless of how the new CBA shakes out, so perhaps that uncertainty is more of an annoyance than a true concern. 

The Nuggets have a lot of questions. How will they spend their money? Who will they bring back? Who will they let go? Are the players under contract currently good enough to compete for a playoff spot in the Western Conference next year or is it better to continue slashing and burning for another season? These are good questions to have because they all point to one fundamental truth: The Nuggets have flexibility thanks to their young, cheap assets. The worst case scenario is that Nuggets fans have to wait a year to watch a promising, athletic upstart group entertain. That's not too bad. 
 
UTAH Jazz

If I'm the Jazz, I'm totally cool with taking a year off. A lost season means that Utah would save $14 million owed to Al Jefferson, $10.9 million owed to Mehmet Okur, $9.3 million owed to Devin Harris and $8.1 million owed to Paul Millsap. While Millsap is probably worth his number, the other three certainly aren't worth theirs, especially on a team that lost its foundational identity when it shipped franchise point guard Deron Williams to the New Jersey Nets at the trade deadline.

Right now, Utah's finances are pretty tight, with $61.5 million already committed for 2011-2012. Look ahead just one year, though, and that number drops to $48.7 million. To make things even nicer, Jefferson, Harris and Millsap will all be expiring that season. The Jazz will be poised to take advantage of their new-found flexibility, keeping the parts that fit (probably only Millsap) and dispensing with the rest.

The biggest risk in a cancelled season for Utah would be the lost development for younger guys like Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and 2011 first-round picks Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. In Favors, they have a potential franchise forward who needs to start enjoying a loose leash so he can blossom into the player the Jazz expect him to be. Forcing him to take a year off does him no good and, depending on how he responds, could do him some harm. Kanter, meanwhile, looks like an even bigger risk on paper because he was forced to sit out last year at Kentucky, his only year at the college level, due to eligibility issues and because he hasn't yet tasted the NBA game. A lost season would mean two full years away from competitive basketball, not an ideal situation for someone the Jazz selected with the No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft. As for Hayward and Burks, they are lesser concerns. Both have shown promise and clearly have room for improvement. Losing a year wouldn't be critical, but it would be better for them individually if it could be prevented.

On balance, the financial rewards seem to outweigh the development risks for the Jazz.

Salary numbers courtesy of StoryTeller's Contracts.
Posted on: June 27, 2011 2:16 pm
Edited on: June 27, 2011 3:16 pm
 

Derrick Williams is Rookie of the Year favorite

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams is the odds-on favorite to win 2011-2012 Rookie of the Year. Posted by Ben Golliver.

derrick-williams-large

Derrick Williams might have been the No. 2 selection in the 2011 NBA Draft, but he's sitting in the pole positon to win the 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year award. 

Bodog.com
has released its early odds for which member of the Draft Class of 2011 will take home the Rookie of the Year award. Williams, a dynamic combo forward out of Arizona, leapfrogged one-and-done Duke point guard Kyrie Irving, drafted by Cleveland Cavaliers, to claim the No. 1 spot. The No. 10 selection, BYU guard Jimmer Fredette, selected by the Sacramento Kings, also finished ahead of Irving.

Here's a look at the top 10. Strictly for entertainment purposes only.

Why does Irving slide? Two reasons. To win Rookie of the Year, you must be as NBA-ready as possible and have the opportunity to play boatloads of minutes so that you can accumulate stats.

In Irving's case, he missed a good chunk of his rookie season at Duke, raising questions about how ready he is to be an impact player in the NBA from Day One. Second, the Cavaliers have a muddled point guard position with Baron Davis, Ramon Sessions and Boobie Gibson hanging around. That will likely get sorted out before next season rolls around, but it will be difficult to trade Davis, who is sure to get some serious burn.

Williams, on the other hand, is arguably the best physical specimen in this year's class. The Timberwolves have nothing to lose and, while Michael Beasley is on the roster and has a similar game, Minnesota has every incentive to turn Williams loose. With Rubio in the fold, look for the Timberwolves to continue to play an up-tempo game, with Williams given the green light to shoot and attack as often as he likes. One possible area of concern: Williams and Rubio, by virtue of playing on the same team, could cancel each other out.

Fredette represents the dumb money on this list. With no limit on his shot attempts in college, he compiled absurd scoring numbers. While he enters Sacramento figuring to get plenty of minutes, Tyreke Evans will command a very large chunk of the team's possessions, as will emerging big man DeMarcus Cousins. If Fredette doesn't defer, he will be marginalized. Ownership might be infatuated with him, but winning over his teammates is far more important.

Kanter appears to be more NBA-ready than most, but he enters a very crowded frontcourt in Utah. Surely he will carve out a solid role. But will it be enough to put up real numbers?

One solid dark-horse candidate: Kemba Walker. While he might not start from Day One because of D.J. Augustin, Walker will find plenty of available minutes in Charlotte's torn-down backcourt. The Bobcats are entering Year One of a major rebuild and thus will have Walker's development as a top -- perhaps the top -- priority. He enters the NBA after three years in college, and he proved that he was a star on that level. 

Ultimately, I would expect this to boil down to a three-man race between Williams, Irving and Walker. Williams is a worthy early favorite.
 
 
 
 
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