Posted on: December 10, 2010 2:50 pm
Posted by Royce Young
It's never too early to start thinking about the All-Star Game. Well, I take that back. It probably is too early. But I wrote the body of this post before the intro so I'm pressing on anyway.
We're a quarter of the way done with the 2010-11 NBA season. Everybody has at least 20 games under their belt. We've learned a lot. The Heat can be good, the Spurs are great, the Lakers oddly struggle at times, Blake Griffin is exciting and Boston won't let you score... ever.
But on top of that, a few players have started that whole breakout thing. And a lot of the old good ones have stayed really good. The NBA truly has a ridiculous amount of talent right now. Seriously, this is a great time for the league. Except for that lockout stuff but I'm not going to mention that.
So because I think a lot about non-important things like the All-Star Game and Chick-Fil-A sauce, I began to notice how tough it's going to be to narrow down a 12-man roster for both conference. If there were an At The Quarter All-Star Team, it would already be quite a task to select that.
So naturally, here's my At The Quarter All-Star Teams:
PG: Deron Williams (21.8 ppg, 10.1 apg)
I'd say the starting Western point guard spot is the toughest to pick in the whole league. Look at the candidates: Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Stephen Curry. But Williams is the starters right now because he's commandeering an elite Western team, along with having terrific numbers.
SG: Kobe Bryant (26.6 ppg, 4.5 apg)
Kobe is the type of player that will probably be an All-Star Game starter for life since the fans vote make that happen, but it's well-deserved at this point. He's second in the league in scoring and is having a classic Kobe season. Big shots, big plays and big numbers on the biggest stage.
SF: Kevin Durant (27.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg)
By his standards, he's struggled a bit. His percentages are a bit down, he's missed a few games because of an ankle sprain and then a sore knee and he's seen his teammate Russell Westbrook steal some of his Thunder. But KD still leads the league in scoring and is still the leader on a very good Thunder team.
PF: Dirk Nowitzki (24.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg)
If I were voting, Dirk would be getting my MVP vote. Which would be weird because the season's only 25 percent done and I also don't have a vote. But Dirk is having one of his finest seasons and leading the hottest and second best team in the league (tied with Boston at 17-4). The Mavericks have found a new identity behind defense and ball pressure, but Dirk is the same old awesome Dirk.
C: Blake Griffin (20.0 ppg, 11.7 rpg)
Remember when the West used to be so stacked with big men that figuring out the starting front court was a nightmare? It's not that way anyone. There's been a shift to point guard in the West for those issues. But really, who do you start here? The best "center" is probably Tyson Chandler and maybe Al Jefferson right now. Both have been good, but I'm going to fudge and give it to Griffin. His numbers are worthy at 20-12, but he's everything that an All-Star should be. He has the league buzzing, every night is a potential highlight-fest and he's the most can't-miss guy going. To me, if we're selecting an All-Star team right now, he's got to be on it.
Russell Westbrook, PG: Westbrook leads Western point guards in scoring, plus he's got better "LeBron" numbers than LeBron at 23.7 ppg, 8.6 apg and 5.5 rpg.
Chris Paul, PG: Weird to have CP3 on the bench considering he's in the top two or three for MVP, but again, the West is stacked. His team's little slide lately isn't helping either.
Manu Ginobili, SG: The best team in the league doesn't have an MVP candidate? Who says so? Because Manu is certainly playing like one, at least in my mind.
Monta Ellis, SG: Ellis barely gets the nod over Eric Gordon who is also having a really good year. They score virtually the same amount but Ellis has simply been a bit more efficient.
Luis Scola, PF: The Rockets may be struggling and disappointing, but Scola hasn't. Coming off a big World Championships where he raised expectations for himself, Scola has lived up to it in every way.
Kevin Love, PF: He's leading the league in rebounding, and it's not close (15.5 per game, Joakim Noah is next at 12.3). This season there have been 11 20-20 games. Love has six of them.
Tyson Chandler, C: The last spot is where things get a bit hairy. Chandler has been having a re-birth of a season with the Mavericks, protecting the rim and playing solid offense. And just barely does he get the nod of Al Jefferson for the lone center on the roster simply because playing both ends counts for something.
Tough cuts: Stephen Curry, Steve Nash, Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay.
PG: Derrick Rose (25.1 ppg, 8.1 apg)
Rose wondered why he couldn't be an MVP candidate before the season. And there's no doubt he should be, if only he could get his team to win a few more games. But he leads all point guards in scoring (fourth in the league) and is dishing out a career-high assist average. Rose is the total package right now at point and really, one of the top two or three players in the entire conference.
SG: Dwyane Wade (22.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg)
His numbers are down a bit, but there's an obvious reason why. I'll be honest, if there was another really impressive shooting guard in the East, Wade wouldn't be such a lock. But because the East is pretty thin there (Stephen Jackson? Ray Allen? Vince Carter?) Wade is the starter by default.
SF: LeBron James (24.1 ppg, 7.3 apg)
Despite what his numbers say, he's still the most talented and gifted player in the game. And it's not like the stats aren't excellent anyway. He's just set a bar so high for himself there that all of a sudden 24-7-5 doesn't look so great.
PF: Amar'e Stoudemire (25.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg)
Not only are the Knicks winning, but Amar'e has been fairly awesome this season. He's third in the league in scoring and has just broken a franchise record held by Bernand King for most consecutive games with 30 points (six). That's like, pretty good.
C: Dwight Howard (20.9 ppg, 12.1 rpg)
Forget the fact there's not a ton of competition here. Howard has maybe been the most productive NBA player this season. He's scoring at a career-high rate, plus putting up his typical big rebounding and blocked shots numbers. His developing post game is no joke and he's becoming the total package at center.
Rajon Rondo, PG: His 14.1 assists per game are obviously eye-catching, but he's also turning it over 4.0 times a game, second in the league.
Raymond Felton, PG: Yep, seriously. He's playing on a winning club and his numbers are great! No really, they are! Look at them, I promise I'm not lying!
Ray Allen, SG: Nothing spectacular from the league's best shooter, but his stats are solid, his team is good and he's already hit a number of big shots just a quarter of the way in.
Danny Granger, SF: Come real selection time, he might get squeezed for a bigger name, but he's made the team once. He's a great scorer and now that he's on a decent team, he's deserving.
Kevin Garnett, PF: As long as he's still moving his way up and down the court, he's an All-Star. Plus, don't look, but he's actually having a pretty darn good season.
Roy Hibbert, C: A chic pick for Most Improved, the 7'3 Pacer big man has a well-developed game. Post moves, power moves and even a distance jumpshot.
Andrea Bargnani, C: Probably a stretch especially since Al Horford likely deserves it more, but Barge Nanny is sixth in the East in scoring and in his last few games has really looked fantastic, punctuated by a 41-point explosion against the Knicks Wednesday.
Tough cuts: Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Paul Pierce, John Wall, Shaquille O'Neal
Tags: Amar'e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Danny Granger, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Luis Scola, Manu Ginobili, Monta Ellis, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Raymond Felton, Roy Hibbert, Russell Westbrook, Tyson Chandler
Posted on: December 7, 2010 4:15 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2010 5:18 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Every season, there's a surprise team. Somebody not many people picked as having much of a shot that positions itself for a playoff run. In the Eastern Conference, it's not all that hard. Wiggling into either the seventh or eighth seed doesn't require the best of seasons.
So that's why before the 2010-11 campaign even started, teams like the Knicks and Pacers had a cautiously optimistic view of the season. But here we are at the quarter mark and wouldn't you know it, both teams are positioned in the top eight in the East. It's early yet, but there's reason for hope in both cities right now.
But before you get too pumped up Knicks fans, consider that New York has had a pretty favorable schedule the past few weeks. After dropping six straight and to 3-8 overall, the Knicks ripped off five in a row, then lost and now are on another five-game streak. They've won 10 of 11 and have pushed their record to 13-9.
In that stretch however, only one of the teams the Knicks defeated had a winning record, and that's the slipping Hornets. The one "good" team New York played, it lost to at home (Atlanta). So maybe everyone should just chill for a second. Still though, winning in the NBA isn't easy and these are games the Knicks wouldn't have won last season. Beating average and bad teams is the start to a playoff run and that's what New York is doing.
The Pacers on the other hand, have stayed relatively consistent throughout the season. Unlike the Knicks, there hasn't been the peaks and valleys. The longest losing streak for Indiana is two and the longest winning streak is two. The Pacers have beat good teams, including the Lakers at Staples, the Heat in Miami and the Nuggets. For the most part though they're losing to the good teams, beating the bad and splitting with the average. But again, a major step forward for them
So what's making the difference for each squad this season? A couple things:
Improved defense - The key word here is "improved." It's not great (109.1 in defensive rating, 20th in the league), but it's better. They lead the league in blocks and it's clear they work really, really hard. The defense isn't going to be winning them games. But it might not be losing them any either.
Raymond Felton - You probably haven't realized how well Felton is playing. I don't blame you. I didn't notice until the other day. He's eighth in the league in assists per game (8.5) and seventh in scoring for point guards per game (18.1). He's hitting 37.6 percent from 3 and has a career-high percentage from the field. Felton is easily putting together his best year as a pro. It helps to have Amar'e Stoudemire and Mike D'Antoni's system, but a player has to play well, and Felton is.
Role players - Rookie Landry Fields has been stellar off the bench and now in his starting role. Toney Douglas has provided them an outside spark. Shawne Williams in just five games has made an immediate impact. The Knicks are finally getting contribution from their bench and it's making a difference. They only have one star in Stoudemire, but the cast of extras is what's making it work.
Amar'e - He came to New York to be big time and Stoudemire has played that way. He's had 30 points in five straight games and is averaging a career-high 25.3 points per game. He's meshed well with Felton and is actually playing some of the better defense of his career. Not saying a ton, but he's working. Also, Stoudemire - and the whole team for that matter - is getting to the line more than ever, making the offense look even better than it is.
Defense - Does this team kind of feel like a surprise group from last season? Young, tough, competitive and surprisingly sound on the defensive end? Aren't the Pacers a bit like the 2009-10 Thunder in some ways? Danny Granger isn't Kevin Durant, but this team is winning behind a strong, disciplined defensive structure. They are seventh in defensive rating and that number is climbing.
Roy Hibbert - Hibbert completely transformed himself over the offseason. He dropped weight, added muscle and refined an already quality post game. He's probably the top candidate for Most Improved right now really. He's huge at 7'3 and has become one of the premier big men in the entire league. Hibbert is averaging 15.5 ppg and 8.6 rpg, but he's also dishing out over three assists a night. He's a difference maker and someone the Pacers are riding right now.
Josh McRoberts - At one point, McRoberts was the punchline to a lot of jokes. Now he's a legit starting NBA power forward. His numbers aren't spectacular, but he works hard, hustles and is a good post defender. After the Pacers traded Troy Murphy to acquire point guard Darren Collison most felt Indiana needed another big man to be anywhere close to competitive. They probably still do, but McRoberts has been serviceable and someone that will make a fine bench piece if that interior player does come.
Shooters - I don't know if any team in the league can get it rolling quite like the Pacers. Between Brandon Rush, Mike Dunleavy, James Posey and Danny Granger, these guys can pile up points in a hurry. They all shoot the 3 wonderfully as evidenced by the fact the Pacers are second in the league in made 3s a game (behind the Knicks, mind you). They are built on the defensive end, but because of the 3-point shot, the Pacer offense gets by.
We're still a long, long way off from April and the final Eastern standings. But considering what's behind these clubs, it's not hard to see them making the postseason. The Knicks are bullying bad teams and the Pacers are basically mediocre. But in a soft bottom-half of the East, these could be playoff teams. Which would be a major step in the right direction for both franchises. And something both fanbases have been waiting for a return to.
Posted on: December 1, 2010 1:11 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2010 1:11 pm
Posted by Matt Moore
Each game is made up of elements which help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the night before's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what lead to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.
THE BIG ONE: Lakers drown in a pool of Kobe
Kobe Bryant shot 9-25 last night, and given the chance, I'm pretty sure he'd shoot 18 of 50. For whatever reason, Bryant is unable to comprehend that more and more there are nights where he "doesn't have it" and continues to keep shooting the Lakers out of games, despite the fact that their offense makes it nearly impossible not to produce when executed with any reasonable set of effort. Bryant got hot in the third quarter of this game, and then:
That happened. And then more of that. Generally, lots of that. But the bigger problem of course was LA's defense, as noted by Silver Screen and Roll :
Xavier Henry's emergence was downright baffling last night. His shot release is something akin to a sideways-launched screwball with the release time of a short documentary film but last night it was falling. The Lakers gave it to him, trusting the rookie would fail. He did not.
The final two possessions of this game were downright baffling. Conley dribbles off a Marc Gasol pick, Gasol rolls, and Conley attempts to throw a lob pass over Pau Gasol. Conley was right with his decision, wrong with his execution, and Pau took it away with those long meaty paws. Fast break to Kobe, who takes O.J. Mayo into the lane, Gay comes over to help, Kobe hesitates, then jumps. O.J. Mayo is not a tremendously athletic "burster." He has great top speed but not great leaping ability. He jumped higher than I've ever seen him jump, forcing Bryant to kick out to Artest who had Rudy Gay close on him. Game over.
GO-GO-GADGET LINE OF THE NIGHT:
Amar'e Stoudemire: 35 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block
Danny Granger: 37 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block
Raymond Felton has gotten it. Not "is starting to get it." He has gotten it. Amid his 21 point, 7 rebound, 10 assist, 3 steal performance in last night in a win over the Nets, Felton took a high pick from Stoudemire and rolled right. As the defense sagged baseline to cut off his approach, he bounce passed to Stoudemire who finished with a fury. It was Nash-like. It looked straight out of Phoenix circa 2006. And it's the precise kind of play that Felton needed to make earlier in the season that he's making now.
With Felton on an absolutely ridiculous binge as of late, the Knicks find themselves right back in the thick of things. Felton is never going to be Steve Nash, ever, ever, ever, but if he's a dirtier, sturdier, better defensively version of Steve Nash? The Knicks can go places, like a first round playoff entrance. And after a decade of failure, that's a huge start.
The Knicks are coming around and fast.
Josh McRoberts ALLEY-OOP. THIS IS NOT A TEST. JOSH MCROBERTS ALLEY-OOP
Brook Lopez gave a commanding performance in a loss last night, the first time he's looked like himself this season. He had the mid-range short-J going, which is a huge part of his game.
Roy Hibbert again looked phenomenal, even though his dominance wasn't needed with Danny Granger destroying everything in his path.
Tim Duncan had a very Walton-esque (as someone described it on Twitter) triple-double with 15 points, 18 rebounds, and 11 assists. Golden State had no answer for anything the Spurs are doing and have really fallen back into their bad defensive habits of seasons past.
Tyreke Evans is not right. Maybe it's the ankle, maybe it's the attitude, maybe it's coaching, but he is simply not the force of nature he was last season. For whatever reason, moving him to shooting guard has not worked out. Even if he may not make logical sense at the point guard position, if your team plays better with him there, how can you argue against it until you get a better backcourt partner than Luther Head?
Posted on: October 16, 2010 2:46 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2010 3:21 pm
Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger is expected to miss at least a week with an ankle injury.
Posted by Ben Golliver.
During the first quarter of Indiana's 101-98 preseason win over the New Orleans Hornets on Friday, Pacers forward Danny Granger suffered a left ankle injury driving to the basket, according to IndyStar.com .
“It swelled right up,” Pacers coach Jim O’Brien said about their best offensive player. “I don’t know how long it’s going to take for him to get healed. Clearly we need him to be healthy. But we can’t do anything about that until we find out how severely sprained it is.”
Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star checks in on Twitter today to report that the Pacers expect Granger out 7-10 days with the left ankle sprain.
With Granger sidelined, Indiana will have to make due with Mike Dunleavy Jr., James Posey, Dahntay Jones and rookie Paul George on the wing.
Posted on: September 24, 2010 11:46 am
Edited on: September 24, 2010 11:48 am
Posted by Royce Young
The Pacers were part of the deal of the summer, a four-team trade that landed them Darren Collison and James Posey. They still acknowledge they're rebuilding, but now, it feels like a corner might start turning. They're still missing pieces and have questions headed to camp, but for the first time in a while, a plan looks evident.
Training camp site: Indianapolis, IN
Training camp starts: Sept. 28
Key additions: Darren Collison (trade), Lance Stephenson (draft), Paul George (draft), James Posey (trade)
Key subtractions: Troy Murphy (trade), Earl Watson (free agent)
Likely starting lineup: Darren Collison, PG; Mike Dunleavy, SG; Danny Granger, SF; Josh McRoberts, PF; Roy Hibbert, C
Player to watch: To be determined power forward. Right now, the Pacers have Josh McRoberts starting at the 4. I think it's safe to assume Larry Bird has plans to make a move to have someone new there. Tyler Hansbrough is also in the mix but he's battling a condition that's hampering his ability to get on the floor.
Chemistry quiz: Any time you add a new point guard to the mix, questions come up about how the team will play together. Darren Collison isn't a complicated guard. He's pretty straightforward in the way he plays and the way he carries himself. He shouldn't have any issues fitting in to Jim O'Brien's system.
Camp battles: Two positions: The aforementioned power forward situation and also shooting guard. Is it Mike Dunleavy? Brandon Rush? Dahntay Jones? Rookie Lance Stephenson? Could lottery rookie Paul George slide down and play the 2? The Pacers have a number of rotation questions coming in and in both cases, might not have the player to fill them actually on the roster.
Handcuffed: The Pacers were a team that fought the law a bit this offseason. Brandon Rush was tagged with a five-game suspension for a drug violation and Lance Stephenson was accused of pushing his girlfriend down some stairs. So you can definitely assume there are some distractions and questions to be asked on media day.
Camp invites: A couple of interest include Magnum Rolle, a second-round pick and Lance Allred, the first deaf player to play in the NBA.
Biggest strength: 3-point shooting. One of O'Brien's staples is to create the 3-point shot. Now with Collison creating space for shooters, guys like Danny Granger, Mike Dunleavy, Brandon Rush and James Posey will have the ability to crank up a number of 3s.
Glaring weakness: Roster holes. Again, who plays power forward? Who plays shooting guard? The Pacers took a big step in correcting a roster issue by acquiring Collison, but the trade sent power forward Troy Murphy elsewhere. Indiana isn't done making moves and it plans on improving the lineup, at this point, those guys aren't on the team.
Posted on: September 13, 2010 12:06 pm
Edited on: September 13, 2010 12:08 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell ... The NBA season is right around the corner, and NBA training camp starts in just a few short weeks. To get you ready for the NBA season, we've put together 25 pop quizzes. Pencils ready? We continue our Pop Quizzes with this question...
What player makes a Durant-like leap into a new stratosphere?Everyone wants to crown the next great NBA player. But going from solid star player on your team, to recognized NBA wide superstar is a different story.
Kevin Durant won the Rookie of the Year award, then followed that season up with a quality second season. Most folks thought he'd be the next big thing, they just weren't sure when. But his third season was a leap of another kind.
Durant became the NBA's youngest scoring champion at 21 years old, took his previous 23-win team to 50, got his group to the playoffs, pushed the eventual champions as hard as anyone and also finished second in the MVP voting. Durant in 2009-10 appeared on national TV only four times (not including the playoffs). Going into this season, he's rapidly becoming one of the faces of the league as he's slated to be on the big stage 26 times.
And after this summer's performance in Turkey, well, some are even elevating Durant to the top of the heap. But that's a whole other story.
We're asking what player could be next. Not the next Durant, but the next player to go from borderline star to the next level. Maybe he's already an All-Star. But is he a superstar? Who could be the next guy mentioned along with the top players in the league? Five candidates:
Tyreke Evans, Kings - Last season's Rookie of the Year definitely had his moments. He averaged 20.1 ppg (odd, that's exactly what Durant averaged when he won Rookie of the Year...), shot 46 percent from the floor and dished out nearly six assists a game. Evans blew people away with his ability to get to the rim and with a reportedly improved jumper, he might be unguardable .
Now his hangup is that he doesn't officially have a position. Most can't figure out if he's a point guard, a shooting guard or something that we don't even know about. No bother though, because Evans is going to get points wherever he plays.
Now can he get to the next level? He absolutely has the ability to. But what really began to take Durant up was how his elevated play improved his team. That will be crucial for Evans. If the Kings are in the basement again this year, it doesn't really matter what Evans is doing. But if he plays well and the Kings win, he could certainly be an All-Star.
Derrick Rose, Bulls - The world is waiting. Waiting on Derrick Rose to become what we know he can be. He's the kind of player that reveals glimpses, flashes, small tastes of just how ridiculously good he can be.
But he hasn't been able to put it together for a consistent period of time.
Now however, Rose has the best supporting cast he's had yet. He no longer has to be point guard, creator and scorer all wrapped into one. He can relax and pass off to Carlos Boozer. He can penetrate and kick to Kyle Korver . Or his still can take games over all by himself.
Greatness awaits Derrick Rose. It's just a matter of when he breaks out. And I'm guessing this year.
Russell Westbrook, Thunder - Before you dismiss, consider Westbrook's stats: 16.1 ppg , 8.0 apg and 4.9 rpg . Only one other player in the league averaged at least 16-8-5. His name? LeBron James.
Westbrook had a case to make the All-Star team last season with Chris Paul out and Deron Williams pulling out at the last minute. Jason Kidd got the hometown bid, but Westbrook was right there. His game has steadily improved since he came into the league two seasons ago without a position. He has a jumpshot that's improved, he handles the game like a legit point man and he's probably the fastest end-to-end player in the league.
No matter what, Westbrook will be overshadowed by Durant, but with Durant's high profile, his teammates' rise as well. Durant's not the only guy getting all those appearances on national TV. Westbrook impressed people that hadn't seen him much in Turkey with his athletic ability and his lack of fear. The more people see him, the more blown away they'll be.
Rudy Gay, Grizzlies - Sometimes big money can make a guy complacent. Sometimes though, it can motivate him to prove people wrong.
A lot of fans, media and heck, even Rudy Gay himself, were shocked with his massive contract extension. And Gay has had to hear how he wasn't worthy of the big payday. Either he can be satisfied and just cash his checks and put up 19 and 8, or he can use it as a little extra to push him and his Memphis squad to a different level.
The Grizzlies weren't far off last season. Behind Gay's improved play, Memphis made a small playoff push for a time. The talent is there for Rudy. Actually, he's got more than enough talent. His issue is that on some nights, he disappears. He goes from dropping 25 on Tuesday to 10 on Wednesday. When he starts to put it all together, he has the makings of a star. It's easy to forget that he's just 24.
Danny Granger, Pacers - Over the past two seasons, Granger has averaged 25.8 ppg and 24.1 ppg . He shot over 44 percent from the field and over 36 percent from 3. He also averaged over five rebounds just as an extra.
Yet in the world of small forward talk, Granger gets left out. He's one of the top scorers in the league, yet most forget about him. That to me, is the definition of a breakout player waiting to happen.
Much like these other guys, Granger has been playing for a team that's not winning. Tough to be a recognized star when your team stinks. The Pacers might not be good this year, but they certainly should be better. And if Granger is the man leading that charge, maybe he starts to get a bit more recognition. The points are there. He scores at basically the same clip Carmelo Anthony has during his career. Now it's just about people seeing it.
Posted on: September 2, 2010 1:17 pm
Edited on: September 7, 2010 1:22 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell ... The NBA season is right around the corner, and NBA training camp starts in just a few short weeks. To get you ready for the NBA season, we've put together 25 pop quizzes. Pencils ready? We continue our Pop Quizzes with this question.. .
What teams might people be sleeping on?When the season starts, everyone is in first place. And when the season starts, everyone has the hopes of being that sleeper team that comes out of nowhere to shock the basketball world. Everyone thinks their team could be the next Oklahoma City Thunder, the next Tampa Bay Rays, the next New Orleans Saints. Even the most pessimistic fan has that small bone in their body that thinks, "What if?"
But for some squads, it's just not realistic. Just like there has to be a best team, there also has to be a worst team. We've already tried to focus in on that really, really bad team. But what about the squads maybe flying under the radar? Not just teams that might come out of nowhere and make a playoff run, but teams like last season's Memphis Grizzlies who were simply just better than expected. Or teams that people simply aren't giving enough credence to. So, who are this season's sleeper candidates?
The Kings are almost approaching "trendy pick" territory, which is extremely dangerous. That's the area the Clippers were in last season and where teams like the Houston Texans have perpetually been stationed. It's like sports purgatory. You're better than terrible, probably mediocre, but because of elevated expecations, you're set up to be a disappointment. It's a really odd place. And the Kings might be in that category.
But the reality is, there's a ton of talent on that roster. Tyreke Evans is obviously waiting to break out into superstardom, smart moves brought in Carl Landry and Samuel Dalembert, two players that help a lot and of course drafting maybe the most talented player last June in DeMarcus Cousins helps. The roster has talent, and lots of it, but it's about overcoming youth and learning to win. The Thunder figured those things out last season as they put together an unexpected 50-win season. That expectation might be a little high for this young Sacramento squad, but seeing them as a potential .500 team or maybe even pushing for the postseason in March isn't too hard to picture.
By playing much better basketball and finishing the last two months of the season 12-10, the Pacers played themselves out of a higher lottery pick. But what they might have done, is played themselves into a better 2010-11 campaign. Momentum heading into an offseason is always a good thing and even with a rag-tag roster that didn't feature a real point guard, the Pacers were able to compete. Now with Darren Collison, a proven point man, Indiana has something to get a little more excited about.
Of course losing Troy Murphy stings. Stings a lot in fact. Indiana is desperately searching for an interior replacement for Murphy, but for now, the Pacers will try and survive on Danny Granger's scoring, Collison's creating and the continued development of Roy Hibbert. The Eastern Conference is looking at a changing of the guard with teams like Cleveland falling down the line a bit. The eighth spot is wide open in the East, and the Pacers might just have enough to get there.
New Jersey Nets
Don't laugh. Seriously, don't. Everyone knows the Nets weren't truly as bad as their record indicated last season. It was a snowball effect that started in training camp and eventually led to the team flirting with the worst record ever. Simply put, that roster was just too good to win only 14 games last year.
But with the additions of Jordan Farmar, Travis Outlaw and Troy Murphy, there has definitely been a talent upgrade. An interior duo of Brook Lopez and Murphy is definitely one of the best combos in the East. Add in rookie Derrick Favors whose ceiling is so high even he can't touch it and the Nets are a lock to be better. Will they be a playoff team? Probably not. But can they be a vastly improved squad that at least can talk a little postseason around February and March? Definitely.
Portland Trail Blazers
What are they doing on here? Well, hear me out. Most aren't considering the Blazers a true Western contender this season. Most don't think Portland has what it takes to get to the Western finals. Playoff team? Certainly. But a team to be reckoned with? Hardly.
And that's where I think people might be wrong.
Everyone knows the well chronicled injury issues the Blazers faced last year. Starters missed lots of games, bench players missed lots of games, everyone missed lots of games. The team was ripped apart with injuries, but yet somehow, someway, made it into the playoffs and won over 50 games. So imagine that Blazer roster at full tilt. Of course that's a big if, because assuming Greg Oden will be healthy for a full season is like assuming Gary Busey won't say something crazy on TV. But even just having Brandon Roy, Joel Pryzbilla, Andre Miller and Nicolas Batum all together for a full 82 means that's a pretty scary roster. Is this your traditional sleeper? Not really because everyone already knows they're good. But the question is, just how good?
Posted on: August 24, 2010 1:58 pm
Celtics guard asks to be cut for personal reasons, final roster set.
Posted by Matt Moore
A shocking development came down the pipeline of Team USA today, as Rajon Rondo has been cut from the team, after asking to withdraw for personal reasons . Head of USA basketball Jerry Colangelo thanked Rondo for his effort and commitment and issued a statement of support for the Celtics guard. Rondo had been the starter for Team USA, but had also looked lackadaiscal and dispassionate for long stretches.
The final cut was widely talked about being between Stephen Curry, whose game fits well on the international stage but who has been battling injury, and Russell Westbrook, the lowest name guard on roster. With Rondo out, they both make the team. Losing Rondo hurts in several key areas however. While a lot of talk has been about the lack of shooting on Team USA, an area Rondo was not equipped to help in, his pressure perimeter defense and distribution skills were unmatched among the plethora of guards Coach K and Colangelo decided to take overseas. Losing him means Derrick Rose will need to step up considerably on both sides of the ball to be the distributor, with Chauncey Billups primarily playing shooting guard for the club.
The final Team USA roster, finalized today with Rondo's withdrawal:
Chauncey Billups (Denver Nuggets)
Tyson Chandler (Dallas Mavericks)
Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Rudy Gay (Memphis Grizzlies)
Eric Gordon (Los Angeles Clippers)
Danny Granger (Indiana Pacers)
Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers)
Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Lakers)
Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls)
Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)
The 2010 FIBA World Championships begin Saturday.