Tag:Amir Johnson
Posted on: May 27, 2010 3:55 pm
 

Top Ten Drafts Last Ten Years: # 2

Thanks to an error message, this is the second time I'll be typing this up.  I officially hate CBSsportsline.  Make my resubmission worth it, people.

 figured since I didn't do a playoff preview this season for each team as I did last year, I'll do a fun little countdown to this year's draft, since that's where my team is going to be instead of the postseason.  The current draft on our countdown is actually the last draft in NBA history that allowed for high school seniors to be eligible to be drafted.  After this draft, eligible draftees (unless you are a foreign player, go figure) had to be one year removed from high school before they were eligible to be drafted.  For this reason, the 2005 NBA Draft is kind of historical, although it can be looked at historically for other reasons.  Two franchise players were drafted in the top five and one of the teams that passed on them is still regretting it to this day.  You may be a tad confused, but let's clear up any confusion on what I mean by diving into the draft coming in at the number two spot in our countdown.

Top Ten Drafts of the Last Ten Years
#10: 2000 NBA Draft: http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/21869382

#9: 2007 NBA Draft: http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/21895619

#8: 2006 NBA Draft: http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/21928696

#7: 2001 NBA Draft: http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/21957208

#6: 2002 NBA Draft: http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/21979856

#5: 2009 NBA Draft: http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/22042511

#4: 2008 NBA Draft: http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/22065028

#3: 2004 NBA Draft: http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/22091609

#2: 2005 NBA Draft:

Round One:
1) Milwaukee Bucks - Andrew Bogut, C, Utah
2) Atlanta Hawks - Marvin Williams, SF, North Carolina
3) Utah Jazz - Deron Williams, PG, Illinois
4) New Orleans Hornets - Chris Paul, PG, Wake Forest
5) Charlotte Bobcats - Raymond Felton, PG, North Carolina
6) Portland Trail Blazers - Martell Webster, SG, Seattle Prep School
7) Toronto Raptors - Charlie Villanueva, PF, Uconn
8) New York Knicks - Channing Frye, PF, Arizona
9) Golden State Warriors - Ike Diogu, PF, Arizona State
10) Los Angeles Lakers - Andrew Bynum, C, St. Joseph High School

One thing you'll notice in this top five and one thing to remember going forward, the defending national champion North Carolina Tar Heels actually have quite a few players drafted here in the first round (in fact, four were lottery picks).  Just something to observe moving forward.  But the first player taken was not a Tar Heel, but an Australian Center who made a name for himself in the 2004 Olympics and followed it up with a terrific sophomore season for the Utah Utes.  Andrew Bogut has finally shown some consistency that lets the Bucks know they've found their pure center for the future, but he's also been very injury prone for his five seasons in the league.  Marvin Williams was thought by some to be the best prospect available in the draft.  Only 19 at the time of the draft, the Hawks, even though Williams did not play a position of need, took a chance on Williams.  He's shown some potential in his five seasons with Atlanta, but has not been consistent or anywhere near as good as the point guards taken after him; point guards who the Hawks could desperately use at this point.  Deron Williams took a year to get familiar with the Jazz system and the NBA, but the team has been rewarded handsomely with their patience.  Williams is the face of the franchise and one of the best players in the game.  The same can be said about the player taken right after him: Chris Paul.  Fun little fact, the Hornets and Bobcats actually had a coin flip to see who would pick first between the two if the draft worked out to where neither had a top 3 pick.  It didn't look like anything major at the time, but the Hornets won the toss and took Chris Paul, a perennial all star, Olympic Gold Medalist and the runner up to the 2008 MVP award, while the Bobcats took Felton who, although having a solid career, has not blazed the path that either Paul or Williams have.  Webster actually came into the league possesing a ridiculously pure jump shot, but has turned into a defensive specialist as his career has gone on.  He's also shown a vulnerability to injuries, though.  Toronto was soundly criticized for their selection of Villanueva, which many people felt was a reach and not a true position of need since Toronto had a good, young power forward in Chris Bosh.  Villanueva turned out to have a good rookie season in Toronto, though, and has managed to stay a solid rotation player for all three teams he's played on, although he's been largely inconsistent in his production.  Frye actually had a terrific start to his rookie season, winning the Rookie of the Month award with Chris Paul in November, but tailed off as the season went on and fell out of favor in Portland.  However, he's experienced a career resurgence with his hometown Phoenix Suns this season.  Diogu was seen as a potentially lethal low post scorer and showed flashes his rookie season in Golden State.  However, he's been injured a lot since then and has not been a consistent rotation player since his rookie season.  The Lakers, picking in the lottery for the first time since 1994, took a chance on a very talented high school center in Andrew Bynum to be the new center for the team after Shaquille O'Neal was traded to Miami in 2004.  Bynum has eventually become a staple at the center position, but has been injured for a majority of his career and has shown any dependability as far as his availability is concerned.

11) Orlando Magic - Fran Vazquez, PF, Spain
12) Los Angeles Clippers - Yaroslav Korolev, PF, Russia
13) Charlotte Bobcats - Sean May, PF, North Carolina
14) Minnesota Timberwolves - Rashad McCants, SG, North Carolina
15) New Jersey Nets - Antoine Wright, SG, Texas A&M
16) Toronto Raptors - Joey Graham, SF, Oklahoma State
17) Indiana Pacers - Danny Granger, SF, New Mexico
18) Boston Celtics - Gerald Green, SF, Gulf Shores Academy
19) Memphis Grizzlies - Hakim Warrick, PF, Syracuse
20) Denver Nuggets - Julius Hodge, SG, North Carolina State

A lot of untapped potential and underperforming players in this bunch.  Vazquez was taken by Orlando and they hoped to pair him up with Dwight Howard, but Vazquez stated, after being drafted, that he had no desire to play in the NBA, enraging Orlando fans and making the Magic look foolish.  The Clippers looked foolish for taking Korolev at 12 as well, but because Korolev got on the court for the team.  He made absolutely no splash his two seasons with the Clippers and quietly exited the league by 2007.  The Bobcats traded up to take May, the reigning NCAA Tournament MVP and another North Carolina product, but he hasn't been able to stay on the court due to injuries and weight issues.  His future in the league is seriously in jeopardy.  The Timberwolves, picking in the first round for the first time in five years due to a league punishment for a contract given to Joe Smith in 1999, took a chance on McCants, who was coming off an underwhelming season in North Carolina.  McCants showed flashes of potentially being a solid scorer in the league, although he had no lasting power and is now out of the league.  Antoine Wright has managed to become a solid defensive player in the league and has managed to become a starter for New Jersey, Dallas and then Toronto in his career.  Graham has been a rotation player for both Toronto and Denver during his stay in the league, but hasn't made a significant splash.  He may get a long look in Denver next season though.  Granger burst onto the scene as a scorer in 2008 and then won the 2009 Most Improved Player award.  Currently the face of the Indiana franchise, Granger is still as explosive scorer as there is in the league.  Green was a fantastic athlete coming out of high school and participated in a few slam dunk contests, but looked lost out on the court and struggled in game situations.  Minnesota and eventually Dallas took additional chances on Green but, at only 24, he's now out of the league.  Hakim Warrick has stayed as a solid big man off the bench for the duration of his career but has not taken that next step that's been expected by some.  Hodge, meanwhile, showed absolutely no flashes of consistency or productivity for two seasons with the Nuggets and was out of the league by 2007.

21) Phoenix Suns - Nate Robinson, PG, Washington (traded to the Knicks)
22) Denver Nuggets - Jarrett Jack, PG, Georgia Tech (traded to the Trail Blazers)
23) Sacramento Kings - Francisco Garcia, SF, Louisville
24) Houston Rockets - Luther Head, SG, Illinois
25) Seattle Supersonics - Johan Petro, C, France
26) Detroit Pistons - Jason Maxiell, PF, Cincinnati
27) Portland Trail Blazers - Linas Kleiza, SF, Missouri (traded to the Nuggets)
28) San Antonio Spurs - Ian Mahinmi, C, France
29) Miami Heat - Wayne Simien, PF, Kansas
30) New York Knicks - David Lee, PF, Florida

A solid list of role players were taken with the final ten selections in the first round.  The Suns continued their trend of using their draft pick for other teams and Robinson became a slam dunk sensation in New York (pun definitely intended).  He's also shown attitude issues and has been benched on two different squads so far in his career.  Time will tell where his talent takes him.  Jack, conversely, has been the type of player to maximize his talents and has been a steady, gutsy player for his career in the league.  Garcia has been a solid rotation player for Sacramento his entire career but has had problems with injuries the last two seasons.  Luther Head, meanwhile, was seen as a shooting specialist and has been in and out of rotations with different teams for his career, but may have found a home in Indiana this season.  Petro continued Seattle's trend of drafting a center and then seeing what happens (Robert Swift the year before this draft; Mouhammed Sene the year after this draft) although Petro's the only one out of the three who still has a place in the league.  Maxiell burst onto the scene as a tremendous hustle and energy player for Detroit his first few seasons in the league and was handsomely rewarded with a contract, but has not been able to perform with added roles and expectations.  Kleiza took awhile but became an explosive offensive player for Denver off the bench before going back to play overseas this past offseason.  Mahinmi is the only swing and miss so far for the Spurs this decade, but I like Mahinmi a lot (I've been able to meet him on two separate occasions) and I'll attribute his inability to crack the rotation and play consistently due to the injuries he's sustained over his career.  Simien, meanwhile, was out of the league by 2007 and, after playing overseas for a couple seasons, retired from basketball in 2009 to pursue a career with his Christian ministry.  Good luck to him!  David Lee became a fatnastic hustle player for New York and was immediately a crowd favorite in the Garden.  He's since emerged into an all star for the Knicks and may be a wanted commodity this coming offseason.

Round Two Notables:
33) New Orleans Hornets - Brandon Bass, PF, LSU
34) Utah Jazz - C.J. Miles, SG, Skyline High School
36) Milwaukee Bucks - Ersan Ilyasova, SF, Turkey
37) Los Angeles Lakers - Ronny Turiaf, PF, Gonzaga
40) Golden State Warriors - Monta Ellis, SG, Lanier High School
45) Philadelphia 76ers - Louis Williams, SG, South Gwinnett High School
49) Washington Wizards - Andray Blatche, PF, South Kent Prep School
50) Boston Celtics - Ryan Gomes, SF, Providence
56) Detroit Pistons - Amir Johnson, PF, Westchester High School
57) Orlando Magic - Marcin Gortat, C, Poland

A solid list of second rounders here.  Bass showed potential in New Orleans but never did crack coach Byron Scott's rotation.  He went to Dallas and became a great bench player for two seasons with the Mavericks before signing on to play with Orlando this year.  I actually played against C.J. Miles in high school and, after becoming the target of scorn from Utah's fans and coaching staff, finally showed flashes of being a really good player this season.  Ilyasova actually signed with Milwaukee in 2006 and then asked to be released so he could return overseas.  However, he came back this season and had a signifcant impact for a Bucks team that made the playoffs.  Turiaf was a terrific college player who some teams backed away from because of an enlarged heart, but he's managed to be a fan favorite and great bench player everywhere he's played.  Monta Ellis was a great find for Golden State in the second round and by 2007, was assuming an increased responsibility and becoming a fantastic scorer in this league.  A moped accident in the 2008 offseason, shortly after signing a brand new lucrative contract extension, irritated Golden State fans and management, but he made up for it, largely, this season.  Lou Williams took a couple seasons before becoming a great bench player for some postseason teams in Philadelphia.  Blatche has been a head case and in and out of Washington's rotation, but showed signs during the second half of this season of becoming a really, really good player in the league.  Gomes has managed to become a solid rotation player for both Boston and Minnesota during his career.  Amir Johnson receives the distinction of being the last high schooler ever drafted in the NBA.  He was counted on to do a lot in Toronto last season but underperformed and is now playing in Toronto.  Gortat, meanwhile, emerged as a backup for last year's Eastern Conference Champion Orlando team and received a huge contract last offseason, but didn't take the steps forward this season that some expected.

Notable Undrafted Players:
Jose Calderon, PG, Spain - Signed with the Toronto Raptors
Kelenna Azubuike, SG, Kentucky - Signed with the Golden State Warriors in 2006
Chuck Hayes, PF, Kentucky - Signed with the Houston Rockets
Josh Powell, PF, North Carolina State - Signed with the Dallas Mavericks
Ronnie Price, PG, Utah Valley - Signed with the Sacramento Kings
Will Bynum, PG, Georgia Tech - Signed with the Golden State Warriors
Fabricio Oberto, C, Argentina - Signed with the San Antonio Spurs

Another great group of undrafted players.  Calderon was convinced to come to Toronto and struggled with his shot his rookie season but eventually burst onto the scene as a pure point guard for Toronto in 2008.  He's been in and out of the starting line up since then but has remained a solid player for Toronto.  Azubuike became an explosive offensive talent in Golden State's system but has struggled with injuries, like many of Golden State's players, the last couple seasons.  Hayes coupled up with Carl Landry to create an old school, physical bunch of forwards with the Houston Rockets and started all 82 games for Houston this season.  Powell eventually cracked the rotation with the Clippers as time went on and then signed with the Lakers, where he won a championship with the 2009 Lakers team.  Ronnie Price eventually returned to Utah as a back up point guard for the Jazz and is still a dependable bench player for the Jazz.  Bynum eventually became a good bench player in Detroit and burst onto the scene last year.  Meanwhile, Oberto signed with the Spurs in 2005 and eventually started on the team that won the 2007 NBA Championship. 

2005-2006 NBA Rookie of the Year: Chris Paul
All Stars from the 2005 NBA Draft: Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Danny Granger, David Lee

2005-2006 NBA All-Rookie First Team:
Chris Paul
Charlie Villanueva
Andrew Bogut
Deron Williams
Channing Frye

2005-2006 NBA All-Rookie Second Team:
Danny Granger
Raymond Felton
Luther Head
Marvin Williams
Ryan Gomes

Posted on: June 2, 2009 4:42 pm
Edited on: June 2, 2009 4:43 pm
 

Derrick Rose's Problems Are NBA's Fault

I started a thread today on the Derrick Rose situation in Memphis and this current situation heightens my argument that the NBA Age Limit is entirely unecessary.  I did not originally post this first part as a blog, but I evaluated the NBA age limit in a post on February 4th of this year.  So I'm going to start off with that and leg that thread segway into the current Derrick Rose problem.

"With the 56th pick in the 2005 NBA draft, the Detroit Pistons select Amir Johnson."  And that was it.  No longer were men under the age of 19 allowed to play in the NBA.  Amir Johnson holds the distinction of being the last high school player ever to be selected in the NBA's illustrious history.  The NBA draft has brought in many a fine high school selections: Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O'Neal (he once was really good), Kobe Bryant and LeBron James (just to name a few).  But people also will point at players such as Kwame Brown, Shaun Livingston and Sebastian Telfair and point out the character flaws and halt in progression of their game.  But how exactly does the NBA's age limit hold up?  This all needs to be taken a serious look at.

Amar'e Stoudemire is one of the most talented players in the league.  When he was injured for the Suns 2005-2006 season, he spent a majority of it away from the team and gathered a lot of resentment from teammates as a result of it.  This season, he's constantly bickered about his role in an offense that's faltering and would spend more time talking about how awful the team is doing rather than doing anything about it on the court.  I look at a player like Stoudemire and his maturity level and can't help but think maybe a little bit of college seasoning would have done wonders for his game.  His personality and character will never match his potential on the court.  He'll always be solid, but he'll never be great.  But would he have been great simply by spending a year in college?

What exactly has college done for Greg Oden and Kevin Durant?  They still entered the league as underdevloped, still maturing (both mentally and physically) players who were given a few years to progress.  Does one year necessarily do the trick?  Was Oden's one year at Ohio State enough to make him the first overall pick in the draft?  Most would say he had that spot sewn up for whenever he decided to declare.  However, the NBA's rule disallowed Oden and Durant, two legal adults, from being able to persue a career.  Therein lies the problem.

It's very difficult to determine the maturity of a person and whether or not he or she is ready to contribute to an NBA franchise.  But let's face facts here, players are signed out of high school in baseball all the time.  All of us are able to leave high school and get a job in whatever field we want, in many cases we could latch onto fortune 500 companies as interns and with the right motivation and knowledge of the business elevate to six figure salaries in a half decade.  What the NBA has essentially done is denied players their right to provide for their families and making a living for themselves.  What justification can the NBA provide for denying players at 18 a right to make a living by basis of their maturity, but then simply allow them in at 19?  Is the one year that much of a progression in character for the NBA?  Is that one year in college going to allow that person to tap into their potential and immediately contribute, as opposed to what would happen if they left high school early?

Let's not be foolish here.  This is all about marketing.  By forcing these players to enter college for at least one season, the NBA allows these players to garner recognition on the college scale, develop fan bases beyond their hometowns or wherever the location of the franchise that selects him is, and also is able to pick and choose which players they want to endorse and put as a face for the league.  Greg Oden was the future of the NBA before he ever played a single game.  His exposure at Ohio State put a face on the name, and once the season was over the NBA went full speed on promoting someone who was now a household name. 

The NBA also might try and put a spin on it and say that it's "immoral" to give these kids so much money so soon in their lives, but let's not pretend that perks and side money don't exist in the college ranks.  What business did Kevin Durant, a kid from Washington D.C., have going to Austin to play college basketball?  The Longhorns have a mighty fine basketball program, but they're not top tier level and shouldn't realistically have much appeal to a kid from the northeast.  Furthermore, how exactly did a college freshman with no job on record obtain consistent front row tickets to San Antonio Spurs games?  Do you think he donned an apron at a fast food joint and worked for that treat?  Highly unlikely.

Not only that, forcing these players to attend college takes away a degree from someone with realistic hopes of obtaining a bachelors degree.  Someone who wants to play sports for four years and move on to a more established career is now no longer allowed to because so many people are going to college for one year just to get noticed and serve out the one year commitment for the NBA (at least O.J. Mayo was honest about it).  In the two drafts prior to the age limit put on entrees into the NBA draft, twenty one players from high school were drafted by NBA franchises.  In the three years after the rule was put into effect, twenty one college freshman were drafted by NBA franchises.  You tell me, what difference is this rule really making?

Is it allowing players with questionable maturity (Stoudemire and Kevin Garnett to name a couple) grow up?  Or is it simply prolonging a player's declaration for the NBA draft, preventing those serious about college from obtaining scholarships and furthering a school's chances of being exposed for under the table deals being cut (ala USC with O.J. Mayo, who was very outspoken about not wanting to attend college). 

I admit that going to school for at least two or three seasons would do everyone some good.  But if the players don't want to go, what are the possibilities that they're going to take that one year of education very serious?  For them, their college careers begin and end with the spring semester.  We need to stop putting lipstick on a pig, admit that it's a pig, and quit pretending that this age limit is doing anything to better the product of the NBA or college basketball.


Originally posted on June 2nd, 2009

Let me start this off by disclaiming that I am currently a college junior and believe that anybody can succeed in school with effort and dedication.  Now that I got that out of the way, I genuinely feel for Derrick Rose.  Earlier this year I did an article stating that the NBA's age limit is going to cause problems, such as when we saw Kevin Durant, as a college freshman with no job on record, showing up in the front row at Spurs games.  I noted that immaturity from players like Kevin Garnett and Amar'e Stoudemire and all of the failed stories are probably the reason why the implemented the age limit, but I forecasted problems ahead because you're making these players go to college when they don't want to.

O.J. Mayo is a prime example.  He openly stated he didn't want to go and only went for one year.  As a result, he now has USC in trouble because of his involvment with an agent and as a result of Mayo's actions, as a result of someone who was forced to go to that school when they did not want to, people who genuinely want to or have to play in college are going to have to play under sanctions or, in Memphis' case, have their accomplishments stricken from the record as a result of David Stern.

Derrick Rose is a great player.  He seems like a good person.  He's never been a fluent speaker but Jalen Rose went to school for three years at Michigan and listening to him analyze is like listening to an 11 year old casual fan talk about basketball.  But I was dissapointed when I heard the rumors that he now is under scrutiny for his actions regarding a scandal at the University of Memphis.  Rumors have it that Rose's grades were altered by an unknown perpetrator and that someone stood in for him at his SAT.  I'm sure John Calipari or someone in the Memphis program knew of Rose's shortcomings as a student and set all of this up to get him into their school.  Coaches like Calipari love this one year rule because it allows him to rack up wins and, given his track record, he's willing to do anything to get these players on his squad.

However, Derrick Rose is the one who's facing all the problems now, not Calipari, because of these rumors and allegations that have trickeled down to him.  Rose does not deserve any of this.  He most likely would have decared for the 2007 NBA Draft if high schoolers were allowed to, and I believe that his shortcomings as a student and inability to pass classes should not be translated into him being a bad person.  I'm sure Derrick Rose is a good person, but now he will have to deal with these allegations for the rest of his life.  The media will always bring it up, opposing fans will tease him for it, and all this because David Stern said these players have to go to college for one season.

I'm going to college to become a high school basketball coach.  If someone told me I had to spend one year outside of my element, say in a autopsy laborator, to become that basketball coach, even though the autopsy lab has nothing to do with what I'm going to do with the rest of my life, I would be irate.  Not only am I being forced into a situation that I did not choose, these players openly do not care about college.  Is that the right attitude?  No, that's not a great mentality to have.  But you cannot blame Rose for not being a great student because he was being forced to go to college in the first place. 

Derrick Rose is now a victim of David Stern's ridiculous age limit and I envision he, O.J. Mayo and others to only be the beginning of many troubled college programs and players as a result of this ridiculous sanction placed on eighteen year olds who have a right to make a living in any other job field.

I just think it's a shame that someone who was forced to go into an evironment is now going to be ridiculed for life as a result of his needing help in that environment.  John Calipari and Memphis are as much to blame as the NBA because they allowed it all to go down instead of doing it the right away, but does David Stern genuinely believe that these college programs will do it the right way?  How many retired NBA players have admitted to the gifts and benefits they've received as college stars?  How many AAU coaches miraculously wind up as assistant coaches at these big school just so they can lure one of their formers to players to the said university?  David Stern is going to tarnish the game of college basketball because he's forcing kids to go there.

Derrick Rose was an eighteen year old high school graduate.  Not everybody who graduated high school with us was wise enough for college.  That doesn't make them bad people.  I know a guy who couldn't succeed in any area of college yet makes more money than I ever coulrd because he went to a technical school and is a genius with computer.  Derrick Rose went to college to play basketball because David Stern told him he had to.  Maybe he was not cut out for college.  Yet because of Stern's stubborness, Rose has egg on his face.  And I truly believe that this is David Stern's fault.

Posted on: April 11, 2009 10:42 am
 

2009 NBA Playoff Preview: Detroit Pistons

Previous Previews:
Western Conference:
Los Angeles Lakers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14206197

Houston Rockets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14288379

Denver Nuggets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14321911

San Antonio Spurs - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14346631

Portland Trail Blazers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14386245

Utah Jazz - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14393609

New Orleans Hornets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14427724

Dallas Mavericks - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14440073

Eastern Conference:
Cleveland Cavaliers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14152907

Boston Celtics - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14220509

Orlando Magic - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14229507

Atlanta Hawks - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14238342

Miami Heat - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14373942

Philadelphia 76ers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14376757

Well now that teams are clinching divisions and spots in the postseason I thought it would be cool to go ahead and preview each team that is going to be a part of the 2009 NBA Postseason. I will do one for each team as they clinch a playoff spot and since we already have teams that have clinched, we will start with them. Now we will continue with the former NBA champion Detroit Pistons.

Strengths
When you think about Detroit, you think about a team with a lot of experience and a team where the core players all boast championship rings.  Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace are, surprisingly, the only holdovers from that 2004 championship team, but they all started and played their own prominent role en route to winning that championship.  Hamilton and Prince, in particular, are the most valuable players on the team because the offense really runs through those two players.  When Hamilton has received big minutes and been in the lineup, the team has really responded with solid play and looks to be at their best and most effecient.

The Pistons still play solid defense as well.  Rodney Stuckey, last postseason's biggest surprise in Motown, has good size for a point guard and is capable of staying in front of his man.  Tayshaun Prince has a well received reputation as one of the better man defenders in the league, and when the situation calls for it you expect the Pistons to come up big on defense.  Also, the Pistons have a deep rotation and throw a lot of players at you.  Will Bynum has been a spectacular surprise as of late for Detroit and their bench really plays hard and seems to be a cohesive unit.  They can give the starters, who have so much importance on this team, valuable rest and don't force Michael Curry to overexert his starters.

Weaknesses
Even though Antonio McDyess and Rasheed Wallace are two solid power forwards, neither are a true center and neither can consistently score around the basket.  It's well documented that Wallace has fallen in love with the three point shot as of late, and it really affects the Pistons in the long run because he's almost dominant down there in the paint.  Unfortunately, he doesn't take it down there as much and he's a big key for the Pistons.  With him in the lineup and playing well offensively and defensively, the Pistons have a chance to really make a run at a championship, but as we saw last year when Garnett lit him up and this season in his production offensively, Wallace's head no longer seems to be in the game.

Also, even though the Pistons have bodies, their bench lacks serious consistency.  Arron Afflalo, Jason Maxiell, Walter Herrmann and even Will Bynum have been good in spurts this season but none of them have gotten into a rhythym where the Pistons should feel confident relying on any of them for an extended period of time.  Also, with Maxiell playing like a reserve who received a huge contract, and with Amir Johnson and Kwame Brown as the other big man options for Detroit, the Pistons look to really struggle if they play an opponent that boasts a ton of size.  The Pistons are without a doubt a guard-oriented lineup and they like to play small for mismatches, and also because they don't have options in the post. 

Why They Will Win It
The Pistons are one of those teams who is capable of making a run.  The talent and experience is there, and this team has made six straight Eastern Conference Finals.  Even though this season has been a trainwreck in so many ways, the Pistons still are not at a lack of confidence, with Rasheed lately stating that the team would be ready to turn it on when the postseason came around.  Turning the switch on and off is dangerous, but the Pistons have been notorious for doing it the past few seasons.  That just proves that they can do it again this year.

Why They Won't Win It
The Pistons have looked out of sync without Billups all year.  Rodney Stuckey is a really good player, but he's not a true point guard and the Pistons discounted a lot of chemistry to acquire Allen Iverson's contract.  The Pistons can turn the switch on and off, but they haven't shown this year that they can play with any bit of consistency or togetherness.  Rasheed Wallace's production really seems to have affected this entire team as a whole, and with his inconsistent performances the Pistons have struggled, as he is their only true option under the basket.  This is a team with a ton of experience from past years, but it's a team that hasn't had much success this season.

Conclusion
You'd like to declare the Pistons dead but you still can't until they lose in the postseason.  With the players that they have, and with a team that has all the confidence in the world, a part of you still believes they could possibly make a run in the postseason.  They match up well with anybody, however they don't have any size and haven't seem interested at all this season.  With their record and with their performance, credit and optimism is undeserved for this Detroit squad.  However, by reputation alone, this is a team that, in the right matchup, could win a playoff series.  But, with what they've displayed on the court, it's hard to believe that they will do so.

Coming up next: the Chicago Bulls.

Posted on: February 4, 2009 12:24 am
 

Evaluating the NBA Age Limit

"With the 56th pick in the 2005 NBA draft, the Detroit Pistons select Amir Johnson."  And that was it.  No longer were men under the age of 19 allowed to play in the NBA.  Amir Johnson holds the distinction of being the last high school player ever to be selected in the NBA's illustrious history.  The NBA draft has brought in many a fine high school selections: Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O'Neal (he once was really good), Kobe Bryant and LeBron James (just to name a few).  But people also will point at players such as Kwame Brown, Shaun Livingston and Sebastian Telfair and point out the character flaws and halt in progression of their game.  But how exactly does the NBA's age limit hold up?  This all needs to be taken a serious look at.

Amar'e Stoudemire is one of the most talented players in the league.  When he was injured for the Suns 2005-2006 season, he spent a majority of it away from the team and gathered a lot of resentment from teammates as a result of it.  This season, he's constantly bickered about his role in an offense that's faltering and would spend more time talking about how awful the team is doing rather than doing anything about it on the court.  I look at a player like Stoudemire and his maturity level and can't help but think maybe a little bit of college seasoning would have done wonders for his game.  His personality and character will never match his potential on the court.  He'll always be solid, but he'll never be great.  But would he have been great simply by spending a year in college?

What exactly has college done for Greg Oden and Kevin Durant?  They still entered the league as underdevloped, still maturing (both mentally and physically) players who were given a few years to progress.  Does one year necessarily do the trick?  Was Oden's one year at Ohio State enough to make him the first overall pick in the draft?  Most would say he had that spot sewn up for whenever he decided to declare.  However, the NBA's rule disallowed Oden and Durant, two legal adults, from being able to persue a career.  Therein lies the problem.

It's very difficult to determine the maturity of a person and whether or not he or she is ready to contribute to an NBA franchise.  But let's face facts here, players are signed out of high school in baseball all the time.  All of us are able to leave high school and get a job in whatever field we want, in many cases we could latch onto fortune 500 companies as interns and with the right motivation and knowledge of the business elevate to six figure salaries in a half decade.  What the NBA has essentially done is denied players their right to provide for their families and making a living for themselves.  What justification can the NBA provide for denying players at 18 a right to make a living by basis of their maturity, but then simply allow them in at 19?  Is the one year that much of a progression in character for the NBA?  Is that one year in college going to allow that person to tap into their potential and immediately contribute, as opposed to what would happen if they left high school early?

Let's not be foolish here.  This is all about marketing.  By forcing these players to enter college for at least one season, the NBA allows these players to garner recognition on the college scale, develop fan bases beyond their hometowns or wherever the location of the franchise that selects him is, and also is able to pick and choose which players they want to endorse and put as a face for the league.  Greg Oden was the future of the NBA before he ever played a single game.  His exposure at Ohio State put a face on the name, and once the season was over the NBA went full speed on promoting someone who was now a household name. 

The NBA also might try and put a spin on it and say that it's "immoral" to give these kids so much money so soon in their lives, but let's not pretend that perks and side money don't exist in the college ranks.  What business did Kevin Durant, a kid from Washington D.C., have going to Austin to play college basketball?  The Longhorns have a mighty fine basketball program, but they're not top tier level and shouldn't realistically have much appeal to a kid from the northeast.  Furthermore, how exactly did a college freshman with no job on record obtain consistent front row tickets to San Antonio Spurs games?  Do you think he donned an apron at a fast food joint and worked for that treat?  Highly unlikely.

Not only that, forcing these players to attend college takes away a degree from someone with realistic hopes of obtaining a bachelors degree.  Someone who wants to play sports for four years and move on to a more established career is now no longer allowed to because so many people are going to college for one year just to get noticed and serve out the one year commitment for the NBA (at least O.J. Mayo was honest about it).  In the two drafts prior to the age limit put on entrees into the NBA draft, twenty one players from high school were drafted by NBA franchises.  In the three years after the rule was put into effect, twenty one college freshman were drafted by NBA franchises.  You tell me, what difference is this rule really making?

Is it allowing players with questionable maturity (Stoudemire and Kevin Garnett to name a couple) grow up?  Or is it simply prolonging a player's declaration for the NBA draft, preventing those serious about college from obtaining scholarships and furthering a school's chances of being exposed for under the table deals being cut (ala USC with O.J. Mayo, who was very outspoken about not wanting to attend college). 

I admit that going to school for at least two or three seasons would do everyone some good.  But if the players don't want to go, what are the possibilities that they're going to take that one year of education very serious?  For them, their college careers begin and end with the spring semester.  We need to stop putting lipstick on a pig, admit that it's a pig, and quit pretending that this age limit is doing anything to better the product of the NBA or college basketball.

Posted on: December 22, 2008 1:06 am
 

NBA Power Rankings Through December 21st, 2008

1. Boston Celtics (1) - There's no better team in the league than Boston and they're head and shoulders above the rest of the league.  They're going to approach the NBA's record 72 wins in a season though I can't see them overtaking that record.  It's not outside of the realm of possibility, though and they're the class of the league. 

2. Cleveland Cavaliers (3) - Delonte West has settled in extremely well at the shooting guard position for the Cavaliers.  They're an unorthodox bunch, what with a 6'9" point guard, two big men (one who rebounds, one who scores) and two shooting guards but they find different ways to win.  Mike Brown's insistence on defense has really done wonders for this team and everyone, including some Cavaliers players, are finally starting to see why this mentality is so critical to success.  Just look at Boston.  An aggressive, smart defense will always keep you in ball games.  LeBron James will find ways to win many close ball games.

3. Orlando Magic (4) - They've really legitamized their placement atop the league this week with big victories over both San Antonio and the Lake show.  This group is dangerous when everyone's connecting.  They got Dwight Howard back from injury and had a tremendous week from Jameer Nelson and he was huge in both of the victories.  They're a group of misfits but they find a way to work and they play hard.  Stan Van Gundy has done a tremendous job with this organization.

4. Los Angeles Lakers (2) - Kobe Bryant has tried to do it all this week and for the first time all season, the Lakers look vulnerable.  We know these tough patches come every year so I don't believe it's anything worth throwing up the white flag, but there is trouble with this team.  Andrew Bynum isn't having the season he was supposed to have this year but they're getting really good production out of Trevor Ariza and Jordan Farmar off the bench.  Lamar Odom doesn't seem as comfortable off of the bench as he did in the starting lineup.  When he started against New York this week, he looked a lot like the player who was a huge contribution to last year's squad.  I think Lakers fans really undervalued his importance but I doubt he'll start next season as a Laker.

5. New Orleans Hornets (8) - The Hornets are on a roll right now and are doing a tremendous job on the defensive side of the ball.  Tyson Chandler has looked energized this week and James Posey continues to be a tremendous force off of the bench.  Peja Stojakovic's injury is cause for concern and this week will be the true test as to if the Hornets run is legitimate, and they need a healthy Peja to really have a fair shake.

6. Atlanta Hawks (7) - Even though they loss to Boston this week (who hasn't) how strange was it to have people circling a game at Atlanta?   This squad has the attention of the best team in the league and has had them on the verge of defeat two times this season.  They ended the week with a strong defensive performance against Detroit and this team continues to overacheive.  Al Horford has proved last season was no fluke.

7. Portland Trail Blazers (11) - I can't seem to get a firm enough understanding of this squad and I move them up between the top half of the league every week.  Brandon Roy is right behind LeBron James and Dwyane Wade this season as far as MVP candidates are concerned and his 52 point performance against Phoenix Thursday night was amazing.  The players play well as a team and they all know who the go to guy is.  Minnesota fans have to look at Randy Foye and shake their head.

8. Houston Rockets (9) - Ron Artest seems pretty comfortable off of the bench and, honestly, Shane Battier's game may be better suited starting off for the Rockets.  Rafer Alston's injury doesn't help matters but Aaron Brooks has done a fine job in the starting role.  The team finds ways to win basketball games and Yao Ming deserves acclaim for his job so far this season as the anchor for this team.

9. Denver Nuggets (5) - This is the lowest the Nuggets have been since Chauncey Billups' arrival but they've hit a wall this week.  After Carmelo Anthony's tremendous week last week, he shot horrible from the field this week.  Their lack of explosiveness in the front court is crippling and they still seem to lack something to be taken serious as a Western confrence contender.

10. San Antonio Spurs (6) - I may have gotten too crazy with their run last week but the Spurs had two tough losses to New Orleans and Orlando this week.  I'm shocked at the lack of minutes being distributed to Ime Udoka and Bruce Bowen but Popovich knows best about this squad.  Kurt Thomas has seen a huge increase in minutes lately and I'm wondering if the Ian Mahinmi experiement is ever going to come to fruition.

11. Utah Jazz (10) - The Jazz organization is so caught up in the Carlos Boozer situation (his injury, whether or not he'll return next season) that they're letting it overshadow a very dissapointing start to this season for Utah.  They've been very inconsistent this year and they still struggle on the road (unless they're playing Detroit).  Deron Williams has yet to regain that level of play he's displayed the last two seasons but I see it only as a matter of time before he gets his feet back.  When he does this team will take off, but it needs to happen soon. 

12. Dallas Mavericks (12) - Dallas has had a quiet season but with the return of Josh Howard I think this team is ready to start taking strides.  Jason Kidd can't do much at this stage in his career, but he can run an offense and Dirk Nowitzki's production with Kidd on the court is a testament to that.  They take advantage of lesser competition and that's a huge upgrade from the beginning of the season.  They just need to find ways to beat the better teams.

13. Phoenix Suns (14) - The Phoenix Suns have quietly had a huge week and a monster performance from Brandon Roy is all that kept it from perfect.  I know Shaquille O'Neal is a punchline on these forums but his play this year has been solid for this team.  I don't believe all that much has been lost from last season, but this talented bunch isn't having fun and I guess that means you complain regardless of record.  I'm getting tired of the whining in Phoenix but that's a tradition Mike D'Antoni instilled that can never be replaced amongst that bunch.

14. Miami Heat (15) - Dwyane Wade had a tremendous week and this team as a whole had a tremendous week.  A big Friday night victory against the Lakers was followed with a solid performance against New Jersey and this team seems to have finally developed some kind of a groove.  Shawn Marion may not be playing up to his potential and Michael Beasley may be a huge dissapointment (statistically speaking) in the rookie class, but they have to love what they found in Mario Chalmers and I think Daequan Cook is doing a tremendous job in his important role off of the bench.  They got a solid little team if they can get physical inside. 

15. Detroit Pistons (13) - Rodney Stuckey has performed very well since his insertion into the starting lineup.  They have, legitimately, no front court, though, and that bench that was so widely praised at the beginning of the season looks incredibly weak without Stuckey on it.  Players like Aaron Afflalo, Walter Herrmann and Amir Johnson have dissapeared and have not lived up to preseason expectations.  Jason Maxiell plays like a guy who received a huge contract instead of the guy who for the past couple of seasons looked like he was playing for his career.  It's amazing to see how lackadaisical this team is.  I don't think Flip Saunders was the problem.

16. Chicago Bulls (17) - Drew Gooden's injury is an inconvenience but the Bulls continue to play solid basketball.  They may lack consistency but they're a legitimate playoff threat with Derrick Rose surprisingly playing at the current level of play he's displayed.  They'll be around all season. 

17. Milwaukee Bucks (20) - The Bucks have had a really solid week and have played well since Michael Redd's return from injury.  They've been under the radar all season long but have to be pleased with the production that Scott Skiles has gotten out of this bunch.  They're weirdly assembled but they play hard every night and that's reason enough to believe in them.  Scott Skilles proves once again that he's a tremendous coach.

18. New Jersey Nets (16) - Devin Harris' performance against the Mavericks was unbelievable and New Jersey has to feel it made out like bandits with that trade.  Eduardo Najera also played in that game against the Mavericks but quickly collected another DNP.  They've gotten good minutes out of Ryan Anderson lately and Rod Thorn's done a good job building this team from the ground up.  I can't see Vince Carter staying past the deadline if the Nets have an opportunity to trade him, and he's played well enough this season to where I can see some team taking a chance on him.  They need to continue and complete the rebuilding cycle.

19. Philadelphia 76ers (21) - Well the destruction I wished on that franchise didn't happen and they've played well under new coach Tony DiLeo.  Elton Brand's injury will show if this team is really better suited to run a spread out, fast court game.  I think that fits the styles of their players better and I think they'll play well without Brand for a month. 

20. New York Knicks (19) - Seven man rotations and no defense, D'Antoni ball is in full effect over in New York.  All cheap shots aside, he's done a good job with that bunch and even though Al Harrington has cooled down considerably, Nate Robinson has picked it up with a very good week for the Knicks.  They probably won't make the playoffs but the fact that people are believing they have a shot speaks for the job D'Antoni has done with this overacheiving bunch.

21. Los Angeles Clippers (23) - Marcus Camby has awoken this week and played at level that he displayed while with Denver.  The Zach Randolph trade has worked out well for the Clippers but Baron Davis' play is holding this team back.  You have to wonder if his priorities are in order, but I guess if you willingly sign for big money to play for the Clippers your priorities are already put into question.  They can't move him, he has to work out there, but he can't continue to shoot this team out of ball games.

22. Indiana Pacers (24) - The unfortunate flu epidemic nailed the Pacers locker room and they played inspiring ball near the end of the week even though they were without three of their top four scorers in Marquis Daniels, Danny Granger and Troy MurphyJarrett Jack gave them a tremendous week as did T.J. Ford and overall, I'd say both Ford and Rasho Nesterovic have been nice additions to the Pacers team.  They lack any kind of consistency but have talent over in Indiana.  I just don't know if it will ever be fully tapped.

23. Memphis Grizzlies (22) - The Grizzlies lost both of their games in a quiet week and O.J. Mayo finally scored in single digits in a game.  Yes, I know it was a quiet week in Memphis.  I'd like to see Hakim Warrick start to get more minutes over in Memphis, though.  He does well given the lack of opportunities he truly has.

24. Golden State Warriors (25) - Jamal Crawford single handedly got the Warriors a victory, and they're getting good production out of Marco BelinelliMonta Ellis is gearing up to return sometimes in the next month but this team still lacks a true point guard.  Hopefully, though, Ellis can return to form and give this Warriors fan base reason for excitement this season.

25. Charlotte Bobcats (27) - Boris Diaw looks rejuvenated in Larry Brown's offense and has done a fantastic job in his new starting role.  Raja Bell looks unhappy in Charlotte and who can honestly blame him?  Aside from that, though, the Bobcats look to be open to the thought of trading Raymond Felton.  To me, it's amazing that he hasn't succeeded there but D.J. Augustin's performance is quietly pushing him out of favor with the organization.

26. Toronto Raptors (18) - The drop may be a tad drastic but this team is in awful shape.  Chris Bosh is getting booed, they're losing to Oklahoma City and they don't play as a team anymore.  Bryan Colangelo has truly done a bad job with this bunch but they're just not that talented to begin with.  Jermaine O'Neal has done fine this season but it was fair to see all season that he just couldn't be that inside guy that Toronto truly needed.  This team needs to do a lot of restructuring within the organization.

27. Sacramento Kings (26) - Reggie Theus' firing infuriated me but I'm not surprised.  A team full of outcats from other organizations probably should be in playoff contention.  When Brad Miller is your most consistent start you're not going to be in great shape and new coach Natt's 1-3 record since taking over isn't surprising.  Theus deserved better for what he did last season and I don't think stressing that this team play hard and try to win should be overlooked simply for playing younger players and accepting poor performances.

28. Minnesota Timberwolves (28) - The Timberwolves are reeling big time and Kevin McHale is winless as Minnesota's coach.  Al Jefferson is a fine player but he can't do it all by himself.  This shouldn't come as a surprise as, even in his last seasons, Kevin Garnett couldn't do it by himself in Minnesota.  This is a poorly run organization and the team is horribly assembled.  They may never get better with McHale at the helm. 

29. Washington Wizards (29) - Mike James has played well since arriving in Washington but it's made no change to their record.  Who can be surprised?  Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison are playing really hard and it's difficult to watch those two players fail but the organization as a whole just has no real direction.  They're in a hole, too, with the contract that was given to Gilbert Arenas

30. Oklahoma City Thunder (30) - They finally got a win this week!  They're playing hard every night now, which is an upgrade, they just don't have the talent on the team to win.  Kevin Durant has played fine ball since Brooks was introduced as interim coach but after him, nobody is consistent enough to really give this team a chance to win on a nightly basis.  They're still a few years away.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com