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Tag:Baron Davis
Posted on: July 8, 2010 2:28 pm
 

NBA Coaching Carousel 2010

Well with the final job opening in the NBA seemingly being filled the other night, all teams that felt the need to go in an opposite direction at the end of this season now have their guys to create optimism and hope for the future.  Some teams decided to go the traditional route and have a process that consisted of extensive searches, finding hungry assistants with enthusiasm and who have no prior success but no blemishes either.  Otheres went for the big names or the recycled coaches, but have hope that those coaches can turn it around with their rosters.  Here we'll evaluate each coaching hire, what it registers on the name recognition (to create excitement for the fans) and what it means from the basketball side of things.  By the way, the record for the outgoing coach will be their record with the team while career record will be used for the incoming coaches. 

Philadelphia 76ers
Outgoing Coach:
Eddie Jordan (27-55)
Incoming Coach: Doug Collins (332-287; 15-23)
Overall: The first job to be filled this offseason was the 76ers job, which went to former Philadelphia player Doug Collins.  Collins has been around the league before.  He coached Michael Jordan with the Bulls in the late 80s and again with the Wizards from 2001-2003.  He also had a stint coaching the Detroit Pistons in the mid 90s.  Collins teams have always been notorious for doing great during his initial run with the team, but he's been very bad at player management and has seen his players quit on him in both Detroit and Washington.  After a lengthy run in television, most people never thought we'd see Collins back as a team's head coach, but he's got a terrific basketball mind, is fantastic with X's and O's and while the talent isn't jaw dropping in Philadelhpia, if he just gets the team in the right direction before he retires, it's a great hire.  I have faith in him doing that.
Grade: B+

New Orleans Hornets
Outgoing Coach:
Jeff Bower (34-39)
Incoming Coach: Monty Williams (First Time Head Coach)
Overall: Williams' hire was met with a lot of "who" reactions from many people inside and outside the New Orleans Hornets fan base.  Williams, who was the lead assistant for the Portland Trail Blazers, is a former player and has been an assistant coach in the NBA for six years now and is meeting the job with infectous enthusiasm and hunger.  He did a fine job standing in as Portland's head coach during Nate McMillan's injury this season and won a championship as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs in 2005.  His name won't register much on the name recognition scale, but there's a new optimism amongst Hornets fans who didn't know much about him before the hiring process.  An article where Craig Brackins states that Williams was guarding him and pushing him around during his draft workout to test how he'd react to NBA defenses is fantastic as well. 
Grade: B

Chicago Bulls
Outgoing Coach:
Vinny Del Negro (82-82; 4-8)
Incoming Coach: Tom Thibodeau (First Time Head Coach)
Overall: It's not a slam dunk, necessarily, that Thibodeau is a guaranteed upgrade over Vinny Del Negro, but Thibodeau is the most decorated assistant coach in the NBA and rose to prominence for his involvement with the Boston Celtics defense his last three years there as an assistant coach.  Thibodeau was also linked to the Hornets job, but expressed open support for the Chicago job during the entire process.  He wants to be there and the time seems right for him to try his hand at being a head coach.  Natural cynics point to questions about his offensive gameplans, but Thibodeau has a championship pedigree and has the kind of personality that will command respect in Chicago.  It's a good hire.
Grade: A

Atlanta Hawks
Outgoing Coach:
Mike Woodson (206-286; 11-18)
Incoming Coach: Larry Drew (First Time Head Coach)
Overall: There were a few people linked to the Atlanta Hawks gig after the team, probably wrongly, fired Mike Woodson this offseason.  Seeing Woodson bring the Hawks from a 13-69 team his first season to a second straight Conference Semifinals appearance this season was not enough for Atlanta, who felt that Woodson had taken the team as far as he could take them.  When you make that bold of a proclamation, you'd think you'd go after a coach with championship experience as that's what you felt Woodson was lacking.  Instead, they go the cheap route and take Drew who is a fine assistant coach, but doesn't have head coaching experience let alone championship experience.  Some people point to his relationship with Johs Smith as being a big reason he landed the job, but you're not hiring the guy to babysit.  It seemed like an unnecessary lateral move.  The Hawks fired Woodson just 'cause it felt right, but then didn't want to pony up the cash to bring in a coach that carried the attributes they thought Woodson lacked. 
Grade: C-

New Jersey Nets
Outgoing Coach:
Kiki Vandeweghe (12-54)
Incoming Coach: Avery Johnson (194-70; 23-24)
Overall: Going into this offseason, New Jersey was hoping to continue to build from the ground up.  Last season, they were selling the cap room the team had made in their firesales over the last couple of seasons.  Now they're selling the prospect of a good, young team in Jersey.  But if you have a good, young team, it'd make sense to hire a young, hungry assistant.  Avery Johnson's a really good coach.  He took a Dallas team that couldn't get over the hump and then brought them to the NBA Finals in his first full season as Head Coach.  But he quickly soured in Dallas, being apart of the greatest collapse possibly in NBA history in the 2007 playoffs and then getting bounced out of the first round a second time in 2008, at which point many Dallas players told owner Mark Cuban they were tired of Avery.  Seeing Avery's act tire in Dallas, it's a possibility he won't be a great fit in New Jersey if they are forced to go into next season still with a "young, talented team."  He probably would have been better suited in Atlanta (a job he was linked to) but New Jersey still gets a good coach who won a championship as a player and made it to the Finals as a coach.  That's a huge upgrade over any coach they've had since Byron Scott left.
Grade: B

Cleveland Cavaliers
Outgoing Coach:
Mike Brown (272-138; 42-29)
Incoming Coach: Byron Scott (352-355; 33-24)
Overall: Fired for his inability to get the team to an NBA Championship, Cleveland somehow thought that Michigan State coach Tom Izzo would be the guy to do it, even if he'd never coached a game at the NBA level.  Thankfully, Izzo turned them down and Cleveland was forced to go after a real basketball coach.  However, as was the case with Atlanta, it seems like a lateral move if you fire a guy for being unable to win a championship, and hire a guy who has never won one either.  However, Scott oversaw two rebuilding processes in New Jersey and New Orleans and both franchises achieved the best success in their respective histories during Scott's time as head coach.  He, too, has a reputation of players turning on him after awhile, but if LeBron James does leave Cleveland, at least they have a coach, in Scott, who has sat in on two fantastic turanarounds with the Nets and Hornets. 
Grade: A

Los Angeles Clippers
Outgoing Coach:
Kim Hughes (8-25)
Incoming Coach: Vinny Del Negro (82-82; 4-8)
Overall: With the Clippers being the Clippers, hiring Vinny Del Negro may entice a few groans from some of their fans but Del Negro actually did a fine job in Chicago.  Every fanbase needs a scapegoat for certain situations, and Del Negro was that guy with the Bulls.  In all actuality, his first year on the job, not much was expected of the team and Del Negro oversaw the Bulls return to the playoffs.  In his second season, he saw the Bulls get rid of important players during the stretch run so that they could be players this offseason (a move that resulted in Carlos Boozer.  Great job, Chicago!) and Del Negro overcame a front office not dedicated entirely to winning and multiple injuries to the players on his team to lead Chicago to the playoffs again.  Even still, fans complained of Del Negro's inconsistent rotations and questionable late game exectuion, and personally blamed him for Chicago's shortcomings instead of the front office.  With that being said, I'm surprised that another team in the league saw fit to give Del Negro a second chance so quickly.  But now's the time to see if Del Negro really can make it in the league as a head coach.  I worry of how he'll handle the egos of some of the players on the Clippers roster (Baron Davis) but that's a challenge of an NBA Coach.  Del Negro is still a mystery, all things considered.  There's an old saying in Tennessee, I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee, that says "Fool me once, shame on.. shame on you.  You fool me, can't get fooled again."
Grade: B-

Posted on: May 16, 2010 11:01 pm
 

Hornets History With Lottery Picks

I'm pretty bored and, actually, pretty interested in the Hornets upcoming draft selection.  This will be the team's first lottery pick in a couple of years and after the success of last season's draft (in case you haven't heard me bragging like a school girl all season, the team drafted Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton), pressure is on Jeff Bower to repeat that success with a higher pick in this season's NBA Draft.  Entering a very pivotal point in franchise history, the team needs to respond accordingly with a solid pick who can pay dividends immediately here.  Since the Hornets have a short history, I'm able to go back and look at everyone of their lottery picks and since I have nothing to do until I go to work in four hours, let me begin the Charlotte/New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets' history with lottery picks.  By the way, for their averages, I'm only going to go by the players' averages with the Hornets.

1988: Rex Chapman, SG, Kentucky, 8th overall (220 Games, 16.2 PPG, 2.9 APG, 2.8 RPG) - The first player ever signed in Hornets history, Rex Chapman was the franchise's first draft pick before their expansion 1988-89 NBA Season.  Chapman was immensely popular right away, as he was a fantastic shooter and was one of the best white dunkers in the NBA's history.  The Hornets didn't achieve much success while Chapman was here, but he did participate in two Slam Dunk Contests and finished tied for 2nd in the 1990 contest.  Chapman would start to suffer from injuries in his third year with the Hornets, and the team quickly traded him during the 1991-92 season to the Washington Bullets for Tom Hammonds.

1989: J.R. Reid, PF-C, North Carolina, 5th Overall (325 Games, 9.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.1 APG) - Coming off the first season in franchise history, the Hornets obtained the 5th overall pick and selected a North Carolina player (making the Charlotte fans happy) to man down the center position.  Although undersized for center, Reid played pretty well for the Hornets before they moved him to a more natural power forward position in his second season.  After hsi second season, the Hornets moved Reid to the bench for Larry Johnson.  After Johnson's great rookie season, Reid was eventually traded during the 1992-93 season to the San Antonio Spurs for Sidney Green, a 1993 1st Rounder and a 1996 2nd Rounder.  Reid would eventually resign with the Hornets in 1997 and was a pivotal bench player for a Hornets team that made the conference semifinals in 1998 before being traded midway through the 1998-99 season with Glen Rice and B.J. Armstrong to the Lakers for Eddie Jones and Elden Campbell.

1990: Kendall Gill, SG, Illinois, 5th Overall (266 Games, 15.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.5 SPG) - Gill was taken out of the University of Illinois in 1990 and immediately stepped in as the Hornets starting shooting guard.  Participating in the Slam Dunk Contest his rookie season, Gill was a very effective scorer and efficient starter for the Hornets.  He was still on the team when they made the conference semifinals in 1993 but was eventually traded to Seattle.  He would rejoin the Hornets for a brief stint in 1995-96 before being traded, again, this time to New Jersey. 

1991: Larry Johnson, PF, UNLV, 1st Overall (377 Games, 19.6 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 4.1 APG) - When drafted in 1991, Larry Johnson immediately become the star for a Charlotte Hornets team that seemed to be lacking one.  A prodigy at UNLV, Johnson immediately stepped up in his rookie season, winning the Rookie of the Year award and leading the Hornets in scoring and rebounding.  Eventually, Grandmama would become a pivotal player for some mildy successful Hornets teams in the early 90s before suffering a major back injury in his third season.  While recovering from the back injury, Johnson developed a long range shot but his rebounding and low post play suffered and he was eventually traded to the New York Knicks for Anthony Mason in the 1996 offseason.  Johnson, however, is probably best known for signing his twelve year, 84 million dollar contract while with the Hornets (the largest deal in NBA history at the time), which led to heated contract talks with Alonzo Mourning that would eventually result in Mourning being traded and the team breaking up its nucleus.

1992: Alonzo Mourning, C, Georgetown, 2nd Overall (215 Games, 21.3 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 3.2 BPG, 1.3 APG) - Lucking into this position, the Hornets actually had to overcome long odds to obtain the 2nd overall selection in the 1992 draft.  After consensus number one Shaquille O'Neal was drafted by Orlando, the Hornets took Alonzo Mourning and took off.  Immediately in Mourning's rookie season, the Hornets made their first postseason appearance in franchise history and made it to the conference finals on a terrific moment in Hornets history during the 1993 playoffs, where Mourning hit a fallaway 20 footer to upset the historic Boston Celtics and advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.  However, after seeing the deal that Johnson got, Mourning demanded that much money and was eventually shipped to Miami for Glen Rice.  A polarizing figure in Hornets history, most fans appreciate the moments Mourning gave the team but don't have many fond memories of him as a person with Charlotte.

1994: Traded 11th pick to the Seattle Supersonics

1996: Kobe Bryant, SG, Lower Merion High School, 13th Overall (Never played with Hornets)
- Yes, for all who don't know, Kobe was originally drafted by the Hornets.  In what will, uneducatingly, be referred to as a blunder for the Hornets, the move actually wasn't really at the fault of the Hornets.  They were merely a team in the middle.  The New Jersey Nets actually wanted Kobe Bryant 8th overall but Kobe's agent told New Jersey that he did not want to play there, so they instead passed and drafted Kerry Kittles.  The Lakers would then call the Hornets, who were drafting 13th, and asked them to draft Kobe Bryant, and in return they would give the Hornets all star center Vlade Divac.  The Hornets happily obliged and Divac gave them two solid seasons while Kobe went on to win four championships with the Lakers.  While this selection may look really bad, it's really to no fault of the Hornets (unless you want to blame the scouting department, in which case there's 12 teams in front of the Hornets who deserve similar blame) that they were the ones that drafted and traded Kobe.  But it does look bad.

1999: Baron Davis, PG, UCLA, 3rd Overall (381 Games, 15.3 PPG, 6.7 APG, 3.8 RPG, 1.9 SPG) - Although facing slim odds (1.3% actually) to land a top 3 pick, the Hornets were able to obtain the 3rd overall selection in 1999 and used that pick on UCLA point guard Baron Davis.  After bringing Davis along slowly, he began to show promise for the Hornets in his second season and, by the third season, had joined Jamal Mashburn as the faces of the Hornets franchise.  Originally a fantastic slasher and finisher around the basket, Davis eventually developed a three point shot that made him almost impossible to guard.  After signing his contract extension the same offseason that the Hornets relocated to New Orleans, though, Davis started suffering injuries that would plague his next two and a half seasons with the Hornets.  After butting heads with head coach Byron Scott, being accused of faking injuries and demanding a trade during the 2004 offseason, Davis was eventually traded during the 04-05 season to the Golden State Warriors for Speedy Claxton and Dale Davis.

2005: Chris Paul, PG, Wake Forest, 4th Overall (345 Games, 19.3 PPG, 10.0 APG, 4.7 RPG, 2.4 SPG) - One interesting thing to note here; in 2005, the Hornets and the Charlotte Bobcats finished with identical 18-64 records and the teams had a coin flip at an owner's meeting befor ethe draft lottery.  In case neitehr team picked up a top 3 draft selection, the coin flip determined which team would select ahead of the other.  At the time, both teams had a 50% chance they'd get a top 3 pick, but the Bucks, Hawks and Trail Blazers grabbed the top three picks, giving the Hornets the 4th overall selection ahead of the Bobcats.  The Hornets would take North Carolina native Chris Paul and the Bobcats would take Raymond Felton.  Things couldn't have worked out better for the Hornets.  Paul stepped in and won the 2006 Rookie of the Year award and by his third season in the league, led the Hornets to the first division championship in franchise history and finished 2nd in MVP voting that season to Kobe Bryant.  Still the team's franchise centerpiece, the Hornets are still looking for the formula as to how to build a successful team around Paul and look to do so this offseason.

2006: Hilton Armstrong, C, UConn, 12th Overall (209 Games, 3.6 PPG, 2.7 RPG) - A solid prospect out of UConn, Armstrong was one of five Huskies drafted in the first round in 2006 and became the Hornets second big man off the bench in his rookie season.  Armstrong showed flashes his rookie season (including leading the Hornets to a victory in Detroit in a game where three Hornets starters were injured) and was expected to build on that in 2008.  He never did and in 2009, when given 21 starts in place of the injured Tyson Chandler, Armstrong still looked passive and lost out on the court.  He was eventually traded to the Sacramento Kings this season where he was then traded to the Houston Rockets who eventually released him.

2007: Julian Wright, SF, Kansas, 13th Overall (179 Games, 4.0 PPG, 2.3 RPG) - In need of a big man, the Hornets went against their need and drafted the best player available in Julian Wright at the 13th selection.  A high flyer who can play tough man to man defense and finish around the basket, Wright developed a little bit of a jump shot his rookie season and was a key contributor off the bench for that successful 2008 squad.  After the team signed James Posey, Wright's progress halted last season in what was considered a major dissapointment.  Coming into this year, after a great showing in the Summer League, Wright eventually was named the Hornets starter for the opening game at small forward but only lasted seven games before being benched in favor of original starter Peja Stojakovic.  Still waiting on Wright to develop, it's looking more and more like this will be another Hilton Armstrong case of wasted potential for a great talent.

All in all, I was actually kind of surprised at some of the really good players the Hornets have drafted with their lottery selections.  However, the last two look pretty bad and the Hornets need to look to have better success wherever they should end up this season as this draft pick will be looked at to do a lot for the Hornets next season. 

Posted on: April 21, 2010 4:59 pm
 

Top Ten Postseason Moments of the Decade

Watching the playoffs always brings up memories of what you used to watch and enjoy in postseasons past.  Only being 22, my earliest NBA Finals memory dates back to what I consider the greatest NBA Finals series I've ever seen, the New York Knicks vs. the Houston Rockets in 1994.  But my peak playoff observing years didn't really happen until around 1998 or 1999. so to give the best comprehensive list I can, I'm doing off the top of my head and putting in order the top ten postseason moments of the last decade.  Now this can be at any series (first round, semifinals, conference finals and NBA Finals) and I'll date them to allow for more clarity on certain topics.  Hopefully fans from all teams will remember in agony, remember in bliss or us fans who cheered for teams without much postseason memories of the decade can remember moments that, even though we had no emotional attachment, just made us say "wow."  So here it is, GoHornets21's Top Ten Postseason Moments of the Decade.

10. Boston Celtics comebacks (from 21 down against the New Jersey Nets in Game 3 of the 2002 Conference Finals and from 21 down against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals) - In 2002, the Celtics were making their first appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals since the glory days of the Larry Bird era in Boston.  Celtics fans were eager to see the team possibly match up against the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals that season and a matchup with the New Jersey Nets left many thinking that it could happen.  After splitting the first two games in New Jersey, the series shifted to Boston for a crucial game 3 in the Eastern Conference Finals.  However, the Nets took a commanding lead through three quarters and were up by 21 going into the 4th quarter.  Paul Pierce would take over in the 4th quarter and lead the Celtics to outscoring the Nets by a score of 41-16 in the 4th quarter which would equal the biggest comeback in the history of the NBA postseason.  The Celtics, though, would not win another game in that series.  Fast forward six years later (a very long six years for Boston fans) and the Celtics finally made the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.  With the Celtics holding on a 2-1 series lead, a crucial game 4 in Los Angeles looked destined to take a turn for the worst when the Lakers jumped all over Boston in the 1st quarter, taking a 35-14 lead at the end of the first.  But just as he did six years prior, Paul Pierce would take over and the Celtics would end the 3rd quarter on a 21-3 run to cut the lead down to 2 entering the 4th quarter.  With 4:00 left in the 4th quarter, Boston's Eddie House would hit a shot to give the Celtics their first lead of the game, and would give Boston the lead for the good.  The huge come from behind win was the biggest comeback in NBA Finals history and would all but clinch the Celtics first NBA Championship in two decades. 

9. Steve Kerr's Game 6 performance versus the Dallas Mavericks (Game 6 of the 2003 Western Conference Finals) - Famous for hitting the final shot in the 1997 NBA Finals that gave the Chicago Bulls their fifth NBA Championship, Kerr had won four championships already as a member of the Bulls and the Spurs when he was on the bench for the Spurs in the 2003 Western Conference Finals.  The Spurs were facing a young, upstart Dallas Mavericks squad that was in the Conference Finals for the first time in 15 years.  After taking a 3-1 series lead, the Spurs were at home in game 5 and looked to close out the seemingly overmatched Mavericks.  But after Dallas shocked the Spurs in game 5 with an upset victory in San Antonio, the series shifted back to Dallas for game 6.  Hoping to send the series to a game 7 where anything can happen, the Mavericks came out and looked fantastic for three quarters and looked to have the Spurs on the ropes.  But then the Spurs turned to Steve Kerr in the third quarter, and Kerr would hit four three point shots to overtake the Mavericks and give the Spurs the lead.  Shellshocked, the Mavericks would fall apart in the 4th quarter and the Spurs would clinch the series and go on to win the NBA Championship.

8. Refereeing Controversies (Sacramento Kings vs. Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals, Dallas Mavericks vs. Miami Heat in Game 5 of the 2006 NBA Finals and Phoenix Suns vs. San Antonio Spurs in Game 3 of the 2007 Western Conference Semifinals) - Fans of three certain teams look at the postseason the last decade with great resentment.  Those fans are fans of the Mavericks, Suns and Kings.  In all three matchups, a crucial game would result ina  huge free throw disparity, questionable foul calls and create controversies that still exist to this day.  With the Kings up 3-2 in the Western Conference Finals against the two time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, a game 6 at Staples Center left the Lakers looking defeat in the eye.  With the Lakers at home, they would shoot 18 more free throws than the Kings in the fourth quarter for a four point victory and send the series back to Sacramento where the Kings would lose a game 7 in overtime.  Years later, former NBA official Tim Donaghy would suggest that the NBA fixed that game 6 to give another game in one of the best playoff series of all time.  A few years later, young NBA star Dwyane Wade would get superstar treatment during the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.  With the Mavericks up 2-0 in the NBA Finals and up by 13 with 6 minutes left in the 4th quarter in game 3, the Heat would stage a great comeback to steal game 3 and stay alive in the series.  In game 5, though, with the series tied at 2 apiece, Dwyane Wade would make 21 free throws, including two on a very questionable call with 1.9 seconds left in overtime, to win the series.  For their conduct after the game, Dirk Nowitzki and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban would be fined $5,000 and $250,000 respectively for their actions.  The Heat would eventually win the series in the sixth game.  In 2007, the Suns and the Spurs met up in the NBA playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons and would engage in one of the most personal playoff series of the decade.  After Amar'e Stoudemire accused the Spurs of being a dirty team, the teams would match up in San Antonio for game 3 with the series tied at 1 game apiece.  With contraversial referee Tim Donaghy at the helm for the game, the Spurs would receive a plethroa of questionable calls in their favor as San Antonio shot 36 free throws and 3 Suns starters finished with at least 5 fouls in a tightly contested game 3 victory which would give the Spurs a 2-1 series lead.  All games have left fans from each respective team bitter even to this day.

7. Tayshaun Prince's block on Reggie Miller (Game 2 of the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals) - Making the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight season, the Detroit Pistons looked set to not squander another opportunity at an NBA Championship.  Matched up with the first seed Indiana Pacers, the Pistons were entering game 2 already having lost the first game in Indiana.  Looking to win a game at Conseco Fieldhouse, the Pistons were holding on to a slim lead in the final minute of game 2.  After receiving a fantastic outlet pass, Indiana Pacers legend Reggie Miller looked free for a laypu that would tie the game for the Pacers.  Out of nowhere, second year players Tayshaun Prince would catch up to Reggie and, seemingly at the last possible moment, reached out and swatter Miller's layup attempt and effectively gave the Pistons the game 2 victory.  The Pistons would eventually win the series after taking Game 2 jand Prince's block is the big reason why they did.

6. Robert Horry's Game 5 performance against the Detroit Pistons (2005 NBA Finals) - The 2005 NBA Finals, for anyone who watched it, was a terrific matchup of two of the most consistently successful teams of the decade in the San Antonio Spurs and the Detroit Pistons.  The Spurs had already won two championships in 1999 and 2003 and the Pistons were the defending NBA Champions when the two matched up in 2005, making for a tough, tightly contested matchup between two defensive minded teams.  When the series was tied at 2 games a piece entering a critical game 5 in Detroit, things looked to finally get heated after four blowouts in the first four games of the series.  What ensued was utter chaos.  In a tightly contested game that featured 18 ties and 12 lead changes, the Spurs looked to Robert Horry off the bench, who did not score his first basket until the final play of the third quarter.  Then Horry took over.  Highlighted by a fantastic slam dunk and shooting 5 of 6 from the three point line, Robert Horry's final shot would prove to be a crippling blow to Detroit.  With the Spurs down by 2 in overtime, Horry would inbounds the ball to Manu Ginobili, and Rasheed Wallace would leave Horry to double Ginobili in the corner.  When he sensed this, Ginobili passed it back to Horry, who drilled a three pointer to give the Spurs the 96-95 victory and a 3-2 series lead in the NBA Finals.  Scoring 21 points off the bench (19 in the 4th quarter and OT), Horry turned in one of the greatest single game performances in NBA Finals history. 

5. LeBron James' Game 5 performance against the Detroit Pistons (2007 Eastern Conference Finals) - Now in the Eastern Conference Finals for the fifth straight season, the Pistons were matched up with a young, upstart Cleveland Cavaliers team that was led by 23 year old phenom LeBron James.  With the Pistons widely expected to use their experience to overmatch Cleveland and take the series, the Cavs shocked a lot of people to tie the series at 2 apiece heading to The Palace at Auburn Hills for a critical game 5.  Still expected to come through when it mattered, the Pistons and Cavs battled it out until the 4th quarter, when LeBron James, criticized the first two games of that series for being too complacent, would take over the game and will his Cavaliers to victory.  LeBron James would score 48 points in game 5, including the Cavaliers' final 25 points.  Again, he scored his team's finals 25 points.  LeBron would score all 18 of Cleveland's overtime points, including a dunk to tie the game and second it to a second overtime, and would then hit a layup with 2 seconds left in the second overtime to give the Cavs the 109-107 victory.  LeBron's performance shocked Detroit and the Cavs would close out the Pistons in game 6 and make the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. 

4. Robert Horry's buzzer beater against the Sacramento Kings (Game 4 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals) - Going back to the 2002 Western Conference Finals, the two defending champion Los Angeles Lakers and their bitter rival Sacramento Kings would match up in one of the most memorable series in NBA history.  With the Kings taking the first two games in Sacramento, they would lose game 3 in Los Angeles but still be primed to take control of the series if they could pull off a game 4 victory in Staples Center.  The Kings led by as many as 24 points in the first half before watching the Lakers slowly chip away at the lead.  On the court for the final possession, Horry, one of the NBA's historically clutch players, would see Lakers superstars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal miss consecutive shots to tie the game before Sacramento center Vlade Divac would hit the ball away from the basket, hoping for the clock to run out and allow the Kings to take the almost insurmountable 3-1 series lead.  Horry, though, was waiting and squared up, caught the ball and launched a three pointer that hit nothing but the bottom of the net to give the Lakers the 100-99 victory.  The Staples Center went nuts and the Kings looked shocked as Horry's shot tied the series at 2 games apiece.  The Lakers would eventually win the series in seven games, and his shot is the biggest reason why that happened. 

3. Golden State Warriors upset Dallas Mavericks (2007 Western Conference Quarterfinals) - After a heartbreaking defeat in the 2006 NBA Finals to the Miami Heat, the Mavericks claimed to be a team on a mission entering the 2007 season.  Reeling off an NBA best 67 victories, the Mavericks looked focussed, deep and talented enough to win the first championship in franchise history.  They were matched up in the first round with a Golden State Warriors team making their first appearance in 13 seasons and being led by former Mavericks head coach Don Nelson.  In a move that would beg largely criticized, Mavs coach Avery Johnson would try to match Nelson's small lineups instead of using his size advantage and the Warriors would take full advantage of it.  After losing the first game in Dallas, old skeletons of playoffs past would escape Dallas' closet and the Mavericks would enter a state of panic.  Despite winning games 2 and 5 in Dallas after a Warriors team led by Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson would implode and receive plenty of technicals, the Mavs could not win in Golden State, losing by a combined 47 points in those 3 games as the Warriors would shock the Mavericks and become the second 8th seed in NBA Playoff History to upset a first seeded team.  Johnson would eventually be fired the next year in Dallas and the Mavericks have still not removed the stigma from this series' lost (although they're looking to this season). 

2. Derek Fisher's shot with .4 left to beat the San Antonio Spurs (Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conferece Semifinals) - In the 2004 Western Conference Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antnio Spurs, winners of the NBA's last 5 Larry O'Brien Trophies, would match up in a very memorable series.  With the teams trading victories, the series would continue in San Antonio for a crucial game 5 tied at 2 apiece.  In a rough, physical, fantastic ball game, the Lakers took a 72-71 lead with 11 seconds remaining on a tough Kobe Bryant jumper.  The Spurs would get the ball back, and Tim Duncan would hit a falling fadeaway shot to give the Spurs the lead with 0.4 seconds left.  With 0.3 being the least possible amount of time for a team to get a shot off, the Lakers only had a catch and shoot option to try and pull off the victory in San Antonio.  With Gary Payton inbounding the ball, he would pass the ball in to Derek Fisher who somehow caught it, turned around and swished a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer to give the Lakers the 74-73 victory and giving the Lakers the 3-2 series lead.  With game 6 in Staples, the Lakers would end the Spurs hopes at a repeat and would win the series, and eventually the Western Conference Championship as a result of Fisher's miraculous shot.

1. Detroit Pistons upset Los Angeles Lakers (2004 NBA Finals) - Notice how in moment number two, I only mentioned that the Lakers won the Western Conference Championship, and that was because they were matched up with the Detroit Pistons in 2004.  The Pistons (see Tayshaun Prince's block) had their own moments to make the finals, but looked out of their league against a Lakers team that included Gary Payton, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone and Shaquille O'Neal; four future hall of famers.  Making their fourth NBA Championship in five years (winning the previous three) and having home court advantage, the Pistons looked to be fodder for a Lakers team that was finally playing its best basketball of the season.  But the Pistons, with a great lineup of Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Prince, Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace, and led by legendary coach Larry Brown, would not be scared in their matchup against the Goliath Lakers.  The Pistons would shock the Lakers and steal game 1 in Staples Center with an 87-75 victory to take home court advantage in the series.  Although Kobe Bryant would lead the Lakers to a game 2 victory to tie the series at 1, when the series shifted to Detroit, the Pistons took control and dominated the Lakers by 20, 8 and 13 points respectively to win the NBA Finals 4-1.  In what is considered by many the greatest upset in NBA History, the Pistons not only beat the Lakers, but completely dominated them for much of the five games that they played, leaving no doubt that it was a convincing victory for the Pistons. 

Posted on: December 2, 2009 5:38 pm
Edited on: December 3, 2009 6:52 pm
 

Worst Teams In The NBA Of The Last Decade

0-17.  That's right; 17 straight losses to begin an NBA Season.  The New Jersey Nets have done the unthinkable and joined an elite list in the NBA's illustrious history.  Three franchises, only three in the entire history of the NBA, have started off a season with 17 straight losses.  No team has lost 18 straight.  While the Nets record indicates they'd be among the worst this decade, it's hard to see where they fall with teams of the past few years.  So I thought it'd be fun to do a little research and come up with my own list of the ten worst NBA teams of the last decade.  Beginning in the 2000-2001 season and concluding last season (which technically only  makes it 9 seasons), all teams were candidates for this list.  The ten that made it had problems with youth, problems with injuries, problems with coaching, problems with talent, problems with attendance and, obviously, problems with winning.  So without further adieu, here's the Ten Worst NBA Teams of the Last Decade.

10. 2006/2007 Boston Celtics (24-58) and the 2007/2008 Minnesota Timberwolves (22-60)
Head Coaches - Boston Celtics: Doc Rivers.  Minnesota Timberwolves: Randy Wittman
Leading Scorers - Boston Celtics: Paul Pierce .  Minnesota Timberwolves: Al Jefferson
Years In Review  - The reason I group these teams together is because at least a handful of players found themselves on both squads as a result of the Kevin Garnett trade.  After injuries to Paul Pierce, Tony Allen and company in 2007, frustration fully showed its face in the Boston Garden.  After finishing the season with a 24-58 record in 2007 and then missing out on the top pick, which would have londed Boston Greg Oden , the Celtics traded five of their players in order to obtain one from Minnesota: franchise player Kevin Garnett.  The players included in that deal (Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes , Sebastian Telfair , Gerald Green and Theo Ratliff ) would go to Minnesota and carry the same amount of inconsistency and agonizing defeat to Minnesota.  Jefferson and Gomes are clearly good players, but they're not capable of taking a team and leading it to any kind of respectability.  And since more than a handful of players carried the same amount of problems into Minnesota in 2007 that they had developed in Boston, these two teams will forever be joined in terms of NBA ineptitude since the turn of the century.

9. 2008/2009 Washington Wizards (19-63)
Head Coaches - Eddie Jordan (1-10) and Ed Tapscott (18-53)
Leading Scorer - Antawn Jamison
Year in Review - After investing over 100 million dollars to retain star point guard Gilbert Arenas , the Wizards, who were coming off of a 43 win season the year before. looked, at the best, destined to be regulars in the Eastern Conference Playoffs each season.  An impressive trio of Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler were supposed to lead the Wizards to success in the Eastern Conference, even though the team had shown no such promise before investing that much money to Jamison and Arenas.  Only a few months after handing Arenas that six year contract, the Wizards received word he would be undergoing another knee surgery and would miss, basically, the entire season.  Arenas played two games and another of the big three, Caron Butler, also struggled to stay healthy; missing 15 games during the season.  Additionally, starting center Brendan Haywood was only available for 6 games that season and things looked bad all season for the Wizards.  Having to rely on very raw big men (Andray Blatche , JaVale McGee and Dominic McQuire), very young guards (Nick Young and Javaris Crittenton ) and career journeymen (Darius Songaila , Mike James and Juan Dixon), it's no surprise that the Wizards stumbled their way to an ugly 19 win season.  They had the talent of a playoff team, but when you lose your best players, you see just how bad things can get.  The Wizards were exhibit A of a top heavy team.

8. 2000/2001 Washington Wizards (19-63)
Head Coaches - Leonard Hamilton
Leading Scorer - Richard Hamilton
Year in Review - In the late 90s, the Wizards were a team with a lot of money invested in a few players but were getting few in return in terms of the win/loss column.  After only one playoff appearance (in 1996/97), the Wizards looked ready to shake things up.  For a few seasons they were an old, mediocre team.  In 2000/2001, they became a team that imploded.  Rod Strickland, Mitch Richmond and Juwan Howard all began the year as a big three for Washington, but Strickland and Howard ended the year in different locations.  The team was led by a head coach, Hamilton, who was a personal hire for then head of basketball operations Michael Jordan.  Hamilton could barely control the roster, famously being cussed out by Tyrone Nesby when Hamilton took Nesby out of the game.  The Wizards were an ugly display of basketball on the court all season long and, the very next  year, Michael Jordan would take off the sport coat and put on the cape.  When the consecutive 37 win seasons that followed were considered a success, it shows how bad things had gotten in Washington; concluding with this 2000/2001 team.

7. 2005/2006 New York Knicks (23-59)
Head Coach - Larry Brown
Leading Scorer - Stephon Marbury
Year in Review - Trying desperately to recapture respectability, the Knicks handed Isiah Thomas the keys to the franchise in 2008.  He followed that up by making a plethora of moves to bring in all kinds of new players in an attempt to shake up the New York franchise.  While it initially ended in a playoff appearance for the Knicks in 2004, the Knicks quickly looked like a makeshift team thrown together in an attempt at a quick fix with no real plans for the future.  Isiah then pulled out the ace of spades and hired the coach who would take the Knicks back to respectability: Larry Brown.  With Brown at the helm, pundits and fans alike immediately predicted big improvements for a Knicks franchise that looked very discombobulated the year before.  What ensued was an insanely ugly season in the city that never sleeps.  Brown immediately clashed with Stephon Marbury and the Knicks actually regressed, losing eleven more games than they had the previous year.  Brown bashed the team publicly, looked very uninterested as the season wore on and would eventually be fired in the offseason.  With insane money being given to a recently retired Alan Houston (20 million), Stephon Marbury (17 million), Jalen Rose (16 million), Steve Francis (14 million), Maurice Taylor (9 million),  Eddy Curry (8 million), Quentin Richardson (7 million), Jerome James (5 million), Jamaal Crawford (7 million), and Malike Rose (7 million), the Knicks were officially a severely bad NBA team that was spending an insanely bad amount of money. 

6. 2007/2008 Miami Heat (15-67)
Head Coach - Pat Riley
Leading Scorer - Dwyane Wade
Year In Review - When your leading scorer for the season only plays 51 games, things are more than likely going to be tough for your franchise.  The fact that this team was only two years removed from an NBA championship made things incredibly worse.  Entering the season with the duo of Wade and Shaquille O'Neal still on the roster, few could have predicted the futility and agony that would be bestowed upon Miami Heat fans the next season.  With starters Udonis Haslem , Jason Williams , Wade and O'Neal missing a major amount of time early in the season, the Heat were immediately far behind schedule in terms of success.  To make matters worse, because big things were anticipated for the Heat that season, they were regulars on national television and fans were forced to watch the putrid display of basketball put on by the squad.  Even when the Heat traded O'Neal for Shawn Marion , a player who had stayed relatively healthy his entire career, even if caught the injury bug and missed a majority of his time with the Heat.  At the end of the year, only Ricky Davis played in all 82 games for Miami.  But with Davis, Mark Blount , Daequan Cook and Chris Quinn becoming regulars in Miami's rotation, the losses piled up.  Mercifully, Wade would be healthy the next season and Miami would make the playoffs.  But that season remains a painful one to observe for NBA fans alike.

5. 2000/2001 Golden State Warriors (17-65)
Head Coach - Dave Cowens
Leading Scorer - Antawn Jamison
Year in Review - Entering the year with really past their prime players like Mookie Blaylock and John Starks still on the roster, Golden State was quickly becoming a regular among the bottom of the NBA.  Things would peak, though, in the 2000/2001 season for the Warriors in terms of futility.  Antawn Jamison was still a young player, currently in his third season, but the rest of the team around him was not producing at all.  Midseason trades for Larry Hughes and Bob Sura were made with intentions fo building for the future, but things were really bad all season long.  With Blaylock, Adam Keefe, Erick Dampier , Adonal Foyle , Chris Porter and Vonteego Cummings **** becoming regulars in the Golden State rotation, things were tough for the fans in the Oracle.  Things would eventually get bright in Golden State for a couple of seasons, but unfortunately for one of the better fan bases in the NBA, things are tough again in San Francisco.

4. 2002/2003 Denver Nuggets (17-65)
Head Coach - Jeff Bzdelik
Leading Scorer - Juwan Howard
Year in Review - Similar to the situation above, the Nuggets were a consistently mediocre NBA franchise by the time the 2002/2003 season came along.  Similar to the situation above, things peaked in a negative way in 2003 when the Denver Nuggets only won 17 games.  After a trade in the offseason for Marcus Camby and rookie Nene Hilario, the Nuggets were expected to make more of a push towards respectability than had previously been experienced in Denver.  However, injuries to Camby quickly followed and the Nuggets became a really bad team really fast.  Players like Mark Bryant, Junior Harrington, Ryan Bowen, Rodney White, Donnell Harvey, Nikoloz Tskitishvilli and Vincent Yarbrouugh (I had to look that up) were receing heavy minutes in Denver's rotation.  Top to bottom, this is a tough looking roster that really could not score (84.2 PPG).  Carmelo Anthony would follow, however, and the Nuggets luck would change just one season later.

3. 2004/2005 New Orleans Hornets (18-64)
Head Coach - Byron Scott
Leading Scorer - Lee Nailon
Year in Review - Going into the 2004 season, the Hornets had been a regular in the NBA postseason.  Although they were entering the Western Conference, they had been to the finals 7 of their previous 8 years.  However, it was becoming increasingly evident that the team as constructed was not going to win a championship.  For Hornets fans, the incredibly bad 2004/2005 season began.  With new head coach Byron Scott and general manager Jeff Bower leading the way, the Hornets underwent an incredibly swift rebuilding process and shed contracts of Baron Davis , David Wesley, Darrell Armstrong and Jamal Mashburn along the season.  The Hornets other all star player, Jamaal Magloire , was only available for 26 games.  As a result of all the trades, the team was regularly led by Lee Nailon, Bostjan Nachbar, Dan Dickau, Casey Jacobsen, Chris Andersen , Jackson Vroman, Maciej Lampe and a rookie J.R. Smith .  Not surprisingly, wins weren't regular in the Crescent City.  P.J. Brown was the only Hornet to play in all 82 games and the Hornets consistently played in front of some of the smallest crowds in recent memory.  In the offseason, Hurricane Katrina would hit New Orleans and things could have gotten much worse for the franchise.  But they drafted Chris Paul , got David West healthy and made a quick turnaround to respectability. 

2. 2004/2005 Atlanta Hawks (13-69)
Head Coach - Mike Woodson
Leading Scorer - Al Harrington
Year in Review - The Hawks were regulars at the bottom of the league every year at the beginning of the decade.  It was a slow, painful process and things looked bleak for many years in Atlanta.  After hiring new coach Mike Woodson, drafting Josh Childress and Josh Smith , and trading for Al Harrington, the Hawks were now looking for plan A, B, C, D or E at the time to try and turn things around.  It didn't work.  Harrington responded with career highs in scoring and rebounding, but the team was completely bad, losing games by an average of 10 PPG.  The Hawks would acquire Tyronn Lue during the season and subtract Jon Barry, Kevin Willis and Kenny Anderson during the year but the defeats remained.  In the offseason, the Hawks would acquire Joe Johnson for Boris Diaw and would start the process to becoming the much better team that they are now.  But for those few years, and especially this season, the Hawks were regulars among the worst teams in the NBA.

1. 2002/2003 Cleveland Cavaliers (17-65)
Head Coach - John Lucas (8-34), Keith Smart (9-31)
Leading Scorer - Ricky Davis
Year in Review - As is regular in this countdown, Cleveland was a consistently bad franchise for a number of years entering the 2002/2003 NBA season.  Things weren't promising at all entering the 2002 season for the Cavs, but they did get worse really fast in Cleveland.  With Davis and Zydrunas Ilgauskas leading the way, the Cavaliers consistently turned the ball over, got blown out, played horrid defense and played in front of some horribly empty crowds at the Gund Arena.  No transactions were really made throughout the season, no real rebuilding moves were made, a coaching change happened but the same team produced the same bad results all season long.  Rookie Dajuan Wagner showed some promise but only played in 47 games.  Meanwhile, rookie Carlos Boozer , Jumaine Jones, Darius Miles, Smush Parker, Chris Mihm and Milt Polacio got heavy minutes in Cleveland and none of them were capable of changing pace.  The season was awfully bad but was quickly forgotten when Cleveland landed the number one pick and drafted LeBron James in the offseason.  But that season was a horrible one to watch for Cleveland fans and one that's only forgotten because of the talent of James. 


Posted on: November 13, 2009 2:27 pm
 

Making The Argument For Jeff Bower

Right now, it's pretty tumultous to be a fan of the New Orleans Hornets.  As I stated in yesterday's little post, things around the franchise are hectic in all areas.  From management to players to ownership, the Hornets are in a critical point in the franchise's history.  So with that being said, you have to be confident that you have someone who can turn the ship around.  Now I know a lot of people are blaming the current state of the Horents on Jeff Bower and you very well can, but let's evaluate his moves as a general manager from a whole.  He's not looking too well now, but we all know that basketball is circumstantial.  The Hornets have the 12th highest payroll in the league, but they don't have money like the Lakers and Knicks to throw around at players (and I know throwing money did not work for the Knicks so I'm not saying it's always an advantage), but when you want to commit to winning a championship it's difficult to do so as a small market team.  Teams like the Spurs are the exception to the rule.  They routinely have terrific drafts regardless of where they're drafting and find cheap, yet productive, free agents who really can impact a team (Roger Mason Jr., Matt Bonner, etc.).  But this is why the NBA has such a small fan base compared to baseball and football, because there is no parody in the league.  Actually, that's why football is the biggest sport in the nation.  Because every year, going into the season, you can have hope for your team in football.  Teams routinely make 5th and 6th round draft choices that produce right away.  A great head coach can be hired and turn things around in only one season.  You've had the Panthers go from nowhere to a Super Bowl and never be the same again.  Some would look at that as a bad thing, I think it keeps fans of all teams interested.  Here, even teams like the 76ers who have been above average the past few seasons won't get anyone to show up for their games, because even though the team will win 41 games and make the postseason, they'll do nothing when they get there.  So what do you do in the case of the Hornets, who have always been around average or above average but have never broke the barrier as a small market team?  They came close in 2008 and took big chances to build upon that and win immediately.  That chance backfired in a really bad way and now the team is paying the consequences.  But had they stood pat that offseason and not gone after anyone, people would have criticized management for not taking chances when they were so close.  So overall, fans are fickle and management is in a no lose situation.  But I'm here to tell you that Jeff Bower has done a good job as the general manager of the Hornets and I'm going to argue for him to stay on board in New Orleans.

The most often criticized move of the Jeff Bower regime, currently, is the contract given to Peja Stojakovic.  At the time of the signing, in the 2006 offseason, Peja Stojakovic was a consistent 20 point threat and was one of the deadliest shooters in the league.  When you're a team that's playing out of town in Oklahoma City and as a team that's never been an attractive destination for players, you're kind of forced to overpay to get above average talent to your team.  Peja Stojakovic probably was a smarter investment at near the 9-11 million dollar a year range at that time, but the Hornets gave him 65 million and 5 years to convince any kind of big name to come and play for them.  Again, that's management attempting to build a winner regardless of the restrictions.  It didn't pay off immediately as he missed 69 games in his first year of the deal (and if that injury had happened prior to him becoming a free agent it's safe to say the Hornets would not have made that kind of investment to Peja).  However, the next year paid off really well for the Hornets and Peja.  He wasn't scoring at the rate he used to, but he shot over 40 percent from three point range and made countless clutch shots for the Hornets and became one of the most popular players amongst fans.  As a three point catalyst, he was crucial to the Hornets winning the Southwest Division and making it to game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals in 2008.  The very next year his back injuries reemerged and he hasn't been the same player since, so in only that sense is it a bad contract.  Had Bower had a miraculous crystal ball and could have predicted the injuries that would emerge with Peja, I seriously doubt the team would have made that kind of investment with Peja.  However, with the contract in place, the Hornets can't do anything to distance themselves from Peja.  I'm sure they tried to move him in the offseason, but with that price tag, the only way they could have moved would have been to add the relatively cheap David West to the package and if they had done that, fans and players would have accused the franchise of cost cutting and would have bashed Bower.  So again, in a no win situation, Bower is forced to put Peja out on the floor.

The signings of Morris Peterson and James Posey go hand in hand.  Neither are as expensive as Peja's, but both were brought in as complimentary swingmen who could really add unspoken intangibles to a team on the rise.  The signings were a year apart, so I'll argue Peterson's first.  When Peterson was brought in, he and Rasual Butler were supposed to provide a formidable pair at the two guard position.  Peterson never has emerged as the player the Hornets thought he would be when they first brought him in.  They gave him a 4 year, 28 million dollar deal (again overpaying) to get him to start at shooting guard.  For years, Peterson had been regarded as a fan favorite who hustled, played defense and knocked down shots.  He was viewed by many as one of the more unheralded players in the NBA and the Hornets really took a chance on him and gave him the starting shooting guard position.  He's never materialized and I'll never know why.  However, 9 out of 10 general managers would have done the same thing that Bower did.  Again, maybe not at that price tag, but in order to convince players to come over you have to give them the best deal.  Which brings me to James Posey.  Is Posey a 4 year, 24 million dollar player?  Not at all.  He wasn't even when he was in Boston, playing on a one year contract with the Celtics and proving invaluable during the Celtics 2008 championship run.  As one of those clutch, defensive role players that every championship team needs, the Hornets felt he was just the man to help get this team over the top.  The Hornets had Julian Wright emerging as a backup small forward and he was entering his second year, so Posey was not a necessary signing, but it was an aggressive move to show that the team was still committed to brining a title to New Orleans.  The Hornets were already spending a lot of money at that point, and with the contract extension given to Chris Paul ready to kick in in the 2009 offseason, they made a huge risk by bringing in Posey.  A lot of teams were interested in Posey, but nobody wanted to offer 4 years.  So the Hornets decided to do so to ensure that he would sign, and he did.  James Posey is the same player he was when the Hornets brought him in.  He'll give you around 9 points a game and play hard defense, bring the intangibles; the whole nine yards.  But his efforts go unnoticed because the Hornets are struggling.  He's not a saviour to a team.  He's more of a complimentary player whose efforts would be better appreciated on a championship team (as they were in Boston).  His contract is no different to the one the Spurs gave Malik Rose.  Malik Rose was a huge crowd favorite in San Antonio and was a hustle guy/role player.  The Spurs gave him a 7 year, 42 million dollar deal at his peak and he didn't change his style of play.  The Pistons just did this with Jason Maxiell.  These players aren't anything more than what they are on the court.  But you make an investment in a player because you want them to stay.  When they first pop on the scene, the market for them is huge and you want to do anything to keep the player on your squad.  This may happen with the Jazz and Paul Millsap as well, but that's the risk you take when you invest your money into role players.  Teams like the Lakers can get away with contracts like Luke Walton sitting on the bench.  The Hornets really can't afford to do so and that's why the Posey deal is killing them right now.

But Bower has made countless great moves to bring the Hornets back to the forefront.  As an assistant coach to both Paul Silas and Tim Floyd, Bower's been with the Hornets organization in various roles since 1996.  After being given the general managers position in 2005, he oversaw a complete turnaround of the Hornets franchise.  He was given a team that was starting the season with four starters (Baron Davis, Jamal Mashburn, Jamaal Magloire and David Wesley) on the injured list.  The team had a lot of money invested in those players and a few others on the bench.  That wasn't going to work.  The team won 17 games his first season as general manager, but he oversaw the dismantling of that underachieving, often injured bunch (sound familiar to this year's squad?) and made key moves in putting the Hornets future together.  As the team's primary talent scout, he played a huge role in drafting David West in 2003 at the 18th pick and drafting J.R. Smith the very next season at the same spot.  Also, in the 2004 offseason, the Hornets moved from the Eastern Conference to the deadly Western Conference.  Knowing that you couldn't win with the roster he had, he got rid of everybody.  Darrell Armstrong and his salary were sent to Dallas for Dan Dickau: an expiring contract.  David Wesley was sent to Houston for Jim Jackson and Bostjan Nachbar, Nachbar being a promising young player and Jackson being an expiring contract.  Baron Davis was sent to Golden State for Speedy Claxton and an expiring contract in Dale Davis in a move that looked horrible at first, but freed up the space to eventually sign Peja and lock up David West longterm.  He brought in Bryon Scott to lead the bunch and endured a very tough 17 win season.  In the offseason, just by being apart of the deal that brought Antoine Walker, James Posey and Jason Williams to the Heat for the 2005-2006 season, the Hornets were given Rasual Butler and Kirk Snyder.  Those two players played hard for the Hornets in the first season in Oklahoma City and they were huge steals for Bower.

One thing that cannot be underappreciated by Bower was his ability to keep the team together and afloat when they had to relocate to Oklahoma City because of Hurricane Katrina.  With the help of Byron Scott, the Hornets kept a solid, promising team together and always put a competitive team on the court when it could have been very easy to look at the situation as a loss cause and completely collapse (see how the Saints handled being away from New Orleans after Katrina).  In that same offseason that the Hornets had to go to OKC, they drafted Chris Paul.  He and J.R. Smitih were supposed to be the tandem of the future for New Orleans, but once Smith started to undermine Byron Scott and regressed his second season, the Hornets turned a negative into a positive and moved him to Chicago for Tyson Chandler.  Tyson Chandler would develop immediate chemistry with Chris Paul and would start for three seasons witih the Hornets.  The next two drafts brought Hilton Armstrong and Julian Wright to New Orleans and both players have showed promise sparingly.  They've never capitalized and it's safe to say Hilton never will, but one bad draft pick in five or six years isn't a reason to fire the general manager.  Especially when you picked both of them around the 13-15 range. 

So let's look back at it all, he was able to trade J.R. Smith for Tyson Chandler, was able to trade Chandler for Emeka Okafor which allowed the team to still be able to compete this year while giving them minor salary cap relief (a move most general managers would not have been able to pull off, in fact he almost didn't pull it off when he sent Chandler to Oklahoma City for Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox).  He worked with his limitations and brought in Darius Songaila and Ike Diogu to try and shore up a thin frontcourt, things just haven't materialized.  But they haven't been bad moves.  Had George Shinn not wanted to pony up 2 million dollars to the salary cap to keep Rasual Butler, the lack of a true shooting guard would not be a problem right now for the Hornets.  Bower has someone to answer to and he has a limit to what he can spend, and he's still put out a team that most people are upset hasn't won a championship yet.  He's still put out a team that expects to win.  That's big for a small market general manager.  He continued to build the franchise even when they were in Oklahoma City and throught drafts, trades and signings put together a great team for the 2008 season.  Did the spending go a little overboard with the James Posey acquisition?  Sure it did.  But the fact that the franchise attempted to go for it all when they were close to a championship shows that it's a team trying to win.  At the same time, there's a reason the same teams were able to go after big name players this offseason and the same teams had to cut costs and try and be competitive.  Because the NBA salary cap sucks.  It puts a lot of small market teams at a disadvantage.  Teams like the Lakers can get away with having huge contracts on their team because they'll make it all back with TV deals, ticket sales and overall revenue based off of Kobe Bryant's jersey sales alone.  So it's easy to say, as IP did, that "Kobe's not bigger than the Lakers."  The Lakers have always been good.  That's why Kobe's not bigger than the Lakers.  The Lakers are a gifted franchise who should always be competitive with any kind of competent management. 

Do I want to accept losing and do I want to make excuses for Jeff Bower?  No.  But I understand the situation and I know why the team made the moves they did.  So I can't, in the same breath, sit and blame Bower for the same team that he was praised for a few years ago.  He tried to shake things up and keep the team competitive even though the franchise was over the luxury tax this offseason.  He still may; you never know.  As the interim coach now, it's basically his chance to win with the players he put together or bring in a big time coach who can win (Tim Floyd is not the answer and if he hires him as Head Coach I demad that this post be stricken from the records and I will personally call for Bower's termintation).  I still have hope in the Hornets and if the franchise decides to strip it bare and build it back up again, I would like Bower to still be the general manager of the team.  Why?  Because he's oversaw a rebuilding process that resulted in a big turnaround before.  There's reason for me to believe he could do it again.
Posted on: July 8, 2009 1:02 am
 

Hard Times For The Hornets

Life as a Hornets fan is very cyclical.  Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson and Muggsy Bogues gave everyone hope before contract disputs between Johnson and Mourning forced the two to refuse to co exist and lead to both of them being shipped off to the Heat and Knicks, respectively.  Baron Davis, Jamal Mashburn, David Wesley and company came within a game of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001 before losing to the Milwaukee Bucks in game seven of that series.  They proceeded to slowly let injuries cripple the team before they were destined for medicority until the God awful 2004-2005 rebuilding season.

Last year's Hornets were supposed to give us fans new hope once again.  At this time last season, the acquisition of James Posey looked exactly like what the Hornets needed to push them over the top.  After all, they had one of the best players in the league in Chris Paul, one of the most underrated players in the league in David West and they now had a player that brought defense and championship intangibles to help this young squad learn how to win.  But then the circle completed this season and dark days look to be ahead for the Hornets once again.

Contracts ruined the promising 1993 team and injuries to Davis and Mashburn slowly crippled, no pun intended, that promising 2001 team.  However, both of those cost the Hornets this season and look as if they will curse the team for the next few seasons.  Chris Paul is still one of the best players in the league.  David West, although no longer underrated, is still as viable a second option as you will find in this league.  But the Hornets spent big time to land Posey.  At the time, there's nothing wrong with that.  After all, crunching numbers in regards to salary isn't becoming of a possible championship team.  As much fault as George Shinn receives, he paid to make this team win this season.  However, things quickly fell apart once again for the Hornets.

At this time, most of us Hornets fans were given hope that we'd be celebrating a possible first championship in franchise history.  At worst, another postseason run looked to be in the cards.  However, things didn't go that way at all.  Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojakovic and Morris Peterson, three of the five starters that pushed the Spurs to a 7th game in the 2008 Western Conference Semifinals, all missed substantial time and Paul and West were therefore forced to play heavy minutes while nursing elbow, knee, back and groin injuries.  The end result was a dissapointing 49-33 season.  The end result was an embarassing performance in the 2009 postseason against the Denver Nuggets.  The end result was what looks to be one of the most dissapointing offseasons in Hornets history.

David West may have to be traded so that the team can unload either Chandler or Stojakovic's ridiculous salaries.  When you're a small market team, you usually tend to have to overspend on above average players so that they can come to your franchise.  It's payed off for the Magic with Rashard Lewis, for now, but it hasn't worked out that well for the Hornets with Stojakovic.  Two of his three seasons have been littered with back injuries and, although he had a really good 2008 season, he's nothing more than a spot shooter; an expensive and inconsistent spot shooter at that.  How they can convince anybody to take him off their hands I won't know.  Chandler is a player who has spent eight seasons in the league and has shown a knack for injuries in all of those seasons.  It's well publicized that the team wanted to trade him to the Oklahoma City Thunder only for the Thunder to rescind the trade due to Chandler's big toe problems.  However, it was his ankle that forced him to be a sad figure at the end of the season and in the playoffs.

Times are especially hard for the Hornets because the team is flat broke.  Although attendance this season was at an all time high since the team's relocation to New Orleans, ticket prices were among the lowest in the league and have to remain at that level in order for fans to show up.  Last season's attendance numbers were attrocious until the team caught fire around February.  Due to the inability to make any money off of the fans because of the city that they reside in, the Hornets are forced to make up for their payroll with victories and extended apperances in the postseason.  Needless to say, giving consistently big minutes to Sean Marks at the center position isn't going to set you up for success in the playoffs.

The Hornets have Chris Paul to build around, so this rebuilding process won't be as bad.  And they can still attract a Brandon Bass or a Joe Smith to come on board and may add Jannero Pargo back to the team (although I don't see why they need to do that since they drafted Collison).  But make no mistake about it, this is an uncertain time for Hornets fans.  One year ago, all the reason in the world for optimism.  Currently, nothing to get excited about.  It's funny how sports works.

Posted on: May 29, 2009 11:29 am
 

Ranking No. 3 Draft Picks of Draft Lottery Era

Well I volunteered to do a recap and ranking of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd overall draft picks of the draft lottery era and the 1st and 2nd picks are in the book.  With the strong first pick and horrid second pick behind us, we now look at a selection that's filled with players ranging from bad, to solid, to really good.  There is no great, or franchise, player on this list but you'll be surprised to see how many contributors and talented all stars there are that were selected third overall.  This was a tough list for me because it's pretty top heavy.  But here we go: Ranking the No. 3 Draft Picks of the Draft Lottery Era.

24) Chris Washburn, C, Golden State Warriors out of North Carolina State University in 1986 NBA Draft (72 Games, 3.1 PPG, 2.4 RPG) - Long viewed as one of the biggest draft busts in NBA history, Washburn was an extremely talented athlete, gifted with extremely soft hands and incredible speed for someone his size.  A high school prodigy of sorts, Washburn was extremely inconsistent at North Carolina State under legendary coach Jim Valvano.  However, teammates would question his work ethic and criticize the fact that he never went to class.  He also served jail time for stealing a stereo while in college.  After one good season at NC State including a game where he outplayed eventual number one draft pick Brad Daugherty, Washburn declared for the NBA draft and was snagged third overall by the Golden State Warriors.  The Warriors looked to bring him along slowly, to cope with his immaturity.  However, it didn't work as Washburn was largely ineffective and rarely got off of the bench in Golden State.  After only three seasons in the league, Washburn was suspended from the NBA for life after testing positive for cocaine three times in three years.

23) Dennis Hopson, SF, New Jersey Nets out of Ohio State University in 1987 NBA Draft (334 Games, 10.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.6 APG) - As a dynamic scorer at the colleigate level, Hopson was projected to be a fantastic offensive weapon at the next level, even drawing comparions to Michael Jordan.  However, after New Jersey selected Hopson, he struggled on the court and clashed with coaches and only lasted three seasons before being shipped, ironically, to Jordan's Bulls.  Although he won a championship in 1991 with the Bulls, Hopson barely got on the court and frequently was dismissed by Jordan.  He spent one more year with the Kings but never caught on with another team after only five years in the league.

22) Adam Morrison, SF, Charlotte Bobcats out of Gonzaga University in 2006 NBA Draft (130 Games, 8.7 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.6 APG) - While in college, Morrison could score from all angles and was unstoppable while with Gonzaga.  After a fantastic junior season in which he and J.J. Reddick took the college world by storm, Gonzaga declared for the 2006 NBA Draft and was looked by many as a newer version of Larry Bird.  One of many questionable executive decisions by Michael Jordan, Morrison showed flashes of the dynamic scoring that made him such a high draft pick in his rookie season, but in the preseason of his second year in the league, Morrison suffered an extremely ugly looking ACL tear.  He missed all of his second season and then struggled to get off of the bench in his third year with the Bobcats before being shipped to the Los Angeles Lakers and being left entirely out of their rotation.

21) Raef LaFrentz, F-C, Denver Nuggets out of University of Kansas in 1998 NBA Draft (563 Games, 10.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 1.1 APG) - As a very steady player at the University of Kansas, racking up many individual accolades as a Jayhawk, LaFrentz graduated from Kansas and was promptly selected third overall in the 1998 NBA Draft.  In a sign of things to come, LaFrentz suffered a torn ACL in his rookie season with the Nuggets and would play only 12 games in the lockout shortened 1998-1999 season.  However, over the next three years, LaFrentz would emerge as a solid inside presence, routinely averaging among the league leaders in blocked shots before being traded to the Dallas Mavericks in his fourth year, the last year of his rookie contract.  LaFrentz benefitted from the spending binge that relatively new owner Marc Cuban was in the middle of in Dallas and received a huge 7 year deal from Dallas and promptly lasted one of those seven seasons as the starting center for Dallas.  After being traded to the Boston Celtics, knee problems continued to hamper LaFrentz and he played only two full seasons with the Celtics before being traded to the Portland Trail Blazers.  LaFrentz does not get into the games in Portland, although he is still contractually a member of the Trail Blazers.  Of the seven year deal he signed with Dallas, LaFrentz has played only 314 out of a possible 574 games.

20) Darius Miles, SF, Los Angeles Clippers out of East St. Louis High School in 2000 NBA Draft (446 Games, 10.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.1 BPG) - Before your Kwame Brown's and LeBron James', Darius Miles was the highest selected high school player in NBA history.  Miles immediately took the league by storm in his first few seasons in Los Angeles with his dynamic aerial game and being named to the 2000 All-NBA 1st Rookie Team.  After being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who hoped to turn Miles into a superstar, Miles was largely inconsistent and his production took a huge nosedive.  Sensing what was on the horizon, Miles was then shipped to the Portland Trail Blazers where he would then contribute to the "Jail Blazers" nickname with continuous antics off the court.  Miles would openly clash with Trail Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks, even calling him racial slurs, and was a huge factor in why Cheeks was fired from his position in Portland.  Miles was inexplicably given a huge contract by Portland, and after suffering through knee problems Miles was forced to sit out the entire 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 seasons due to recovery from microfracture knee surgery.  He's probably best known, though, for a situation this year where if he were to play ten games this season then he would count against the Blazers salary cap for the next two years.  After public disputes from the Portland organization, Miles signed on to play 34 games with the Grizzlies this year.

19) Benoit Benjamin, C, Los Angeles Clippers out of Creighton University in 1985 NBA Draft (807 Games, 11.4 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 1.3 APG) - An intimidating presence at 7'0" and 250 pounds, Benjamin was drafted to man down the middle for the Los Angeles Clippers in the 1985 NBA Draft.  Benjamin would prove to a stellar, if not good, player for the Clippers for the duration of his five and a half year stint with the Clippers.  Benjamin would leave the Clippers for the Supersonics in 1991 and that would begin a chain reaction that saw Benjamin play for nine different teams in his fifteen year career. 

18) Billy Owens, SF, Sacramento Kings out of Syracuse University in 1991 NBA Draft (600 Games, 11.7 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 2.8 APG) - After a smooth colleigate career for the Syracuse Orange, Billy Owens was drafted by the Sacramento Kings in the 1991 NBA Draft and refused to go to Sacramento, inciting a hold out.  After unsuccesfully attempting to get Owens to sign, the Kings traded his rights to the Golden State Warriors for Mitch Richmond in what is largely regarded a lopsided trade in favor of the Kings.  Owens drew many comparions to Larry Bird but rarely showed effort and spent the majority of his career not trying in practice and suffering through problems with his weight.  Owens did have a few good seasons in Golden State but he never did develop into a solid player.  Ironically enough, he went to play in Sacramento for a few seasons before disappearing from the league after the 2001 season.

17) Al Horford, F-C, Atlanta Hawks out of University of Florida in 2007 NBA Draft (148 Games, 10.8 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.1 BPG) - Drafted as one of many lottery picks by the Atlanta Hawks in the early turn of the century, the Domincan born Al Horford would go on to win two national championships for the Florida Gators before going pro after his junior season.  Horford would become the first legitimate center in Atlanta's history since the days of Dikembe Mutombo and would become an intregal part on two Hawks playoffs teams, being part of a revival of sorts in Atlanta.  Horford has the potential to be a really great player although he's not showed that he can consistently be a great player at this level in the league.  The potential is there, though.

16) O.J. Mayo, G, Minnesota Timberwolves out of University of Southern Cal in 2008 NBA Draft (82 Games, 18.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.1 SPG) - An extremely talented offensive weapon, O.J. Mayo is an eccentric character known best for admitting he was only going to school for one season to meet the NBA's age requirement.  After choosing Los Angeles to play his only season in college, O.J. Mayo would come under scrutiny after being investigated by the NCAA for possibly hiring an agent while in college.  Mayo, though, left it all behind and left after the one season in USC.  Mayo would be drafted by Minnesota but immediately be traded to the Memphis Grizzlies where he continued his scoring knack in his rookie season.  It's unclear whether he will ever become much more than simply a scorer, but Mayo was a successful rookie and the jury is still out on him.

15) Mike Dunelavy Jr., SF, Golden State Warriors out of Duke University in 2002 NBA Draft (499 Games, 12.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.7 APG) - The son of current Los Angeles Clippers coach Mike Dunelavy Jr., Dunleavy would play three successful colleigate seasons with the Duke Blue Devils, being a key contributor on the 2001 NCAA Championship team.  Billed as a versatile player with a fantastic jumpshot, Dunleavy seemed to be a lock at the next level for the Golden State Warriors.  Dunleavy would spend all four nad a half of his seasons of his time with Golden State being yanked in and out of the starting lineup and going in and out of shooting slumps.  After being routinely criticized and booed by the Golden State fans, Dunleavy was traded to the Indiana Pacers in 2006.  While in Indiana, he has shown flashes of the promise that made him the third overall selection in the 2002 NBA Draft.  He averaged a career high 19 points a game in the 2007-2008 season before suffering through injuries in the 2008-2009 season.  Time will tell if the great 2007-2008 season for Dunleavy was a fluke or a sign of things to come.

14) Charles Smith, PF, Philadelphia 76ers out of University of Pittsburgh in 1988 NBA Draft (564 Games, 14.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.4 BPG) - After being drafted by the 76ers, Charles Smith's rights were immediately traded to the ill-fated Los Angeles Clippers.  Smith, an olympian for the United States in 1988, went on to become among the Clippers leaders in points and rebounds among the next few seasons before being traded to the New York Knicks.  While with New York, he will probably be best remebered for missing four consecutive layups in a crucial game 5 for the Knicks in the 1993 Eastern Conferece Finals.  Smith soon fell out of favor in the Knicks lineup and was shipped off to San Antonio where he finished his career as an unimportant reserve on the 1996-1997 Spurs team.

13) Chris Jackson, SG, Denver Nuggets out of Louisiana State University in 1990 NBA Draft (586 Games, 14.6 PPG, 3.5 APG, 1.9 RPG) - Partnered with Shaquille O'Neal at LSU, Chris Jackson was part of some very successful seasons for the LSU Tigers.  A fantastic scorer, gifted with a beautiful looking jump shot, Chris Jackson had a handful of extremely successful seasons with the Denver Nuggets, even winning the 1993 NBA Most Improved Player of the Year award.  Jackson continued to routinely average in the 20 points a game range until the end of his career in Denver.  After about his fourth season in the league, while being a key contributor to the Denver Nuggets, Jackson became a devoted member of the nation of Islam and would change his name to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.  Mahmoud would then receive much criticism by refusing to stand for the Star Spangled Banner played before games and would battle with fans as a result of it.  Mahmoud was even suspended by the NBA for refusing to stand.  After being traded to the Sacramento Kings, Abdul-Rauf would become a shell of his former self and would quietly exit the NBA in 2001. 

12) Christian Laettner, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves out of Duke University in 1992 NBA Draft (868 Games, 12.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.0 SPG) - As a college player, there's probably none better than Christian Laettner was in four seasons at Duke.  As the starting center for the Duke Blue Devils in a four season stretch where they won two National Championships and made the final four all four seasons Laettner was a player.  Laettner used this to win every college player of the year honor, be named the 1991 Most Outstanding Tournament player and then actually winning a gold medal on the extremely famed 1992 USA Olympic Basketball team.  In the 1992 NBA Draft, Laettner was drafted behind Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning and became an all star in Minnesota.  However, Laettner never developed into the great player that he was in college and after productive, but quiet, seasons in Minnesota, he was traded to the Atlanta Hawks.  While in Atlanta, Laettner was a member of some mediocrely successful Hawks squads before floudering on benches in Detroit, Dallas, Washington and Miami.  A stellar player throughout his career, Laettner never was great and never delivered on the promise he showed in college.

11) Ben Gordon, SG, Chicago Bulls out of University of Connecticut in 2004 NBA Draft (392 Games, 18.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.0 APG) - An extremely talented scorer, Gordon teamed with Emeka Okafor to lead some very successful UConn Huskies teams in his colleigate years before declaring for the NBA Draft after his junior season after winning the 2004 NCAA Championship and being named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.  Viewed as a hybrid guard of sorts, nobody felt as if Gordon had the size to consistently play shooting guard or the ball handling skill to be a point guard, but he continued to be a dynamic scorer at the professional level.  After shooting up the draft due to pre draft workouts, Gordon would be drafted third overall by the Chicago Bulls and would go on to become the first rookie in league history to win the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award.  Viewed as an extremely clutch player and one who is tough to guard when hot, Gordon has carved a niche in this league as one of the better scorers in the NBA and looks to be a hot commodity in free agency in 2009.  Time will tell what the future holds for Ben Gordon.

10) Sean Elliott, SF, San Antonio Spurs out of University of Arizona in 1989 NBA Draft (742 Games, 14.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.6 APG) - A great athlete with fantastic shooting touch, Elliott was brought into San Antonio in 1989 and shared a rookie season with San Antonio great David Robinson.  Elliott and Robinson would go on to be staples and key contributors to some successful Spurs squads, spending only one of his 12 seasons outside of San Antonio.  Elliott is probably best known for what is dubbed as the "Memorial Day Miracle."  With the Spurs up 1-0 in the 1999 Western Conference Finals, still without a championship in the franchise's history, Elliott would get hot in the second half and lead the Spurs to a furious comeback against the Portland Trail Blazers.  Down by 18 in the third period against Portland, Elliott would catch an inbounds pass that was almost stolen by Stacy Augmon before standing idly above the out of bounds line and launching an improbable shot that would give the Spurs the 86-85 victory.  The Spurs would go on to win the 1999 NBA Championship, and Elliott would admit that he played the entire season with a severe kidney ailment.  Elliott would become famed in the NBA as the first player in NBA history to play an NBA game after receiving a kidney transplant from his older brother.  A legend in San Antonio, Elliott eventually succumbed to the kidney ailment and retired in 2001.

9) Shareef Abdur-Rahim, PF, Vancouver Grizzlies out of University of California in Berkely in 1996 NBA Draft (830 Games, 18.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.0 SPG) - After one successful freshman season at Cal, Shareef Abdur-Rahim would be selected third overall by the Vancouver Grizzlies in the talent loaded 1996 NBA Draft.  Statistically speaking, Abdur-Rahim never dissapointed.  He routinely put up fantastic numbers for the largely unsuccessful Vancouver Grizzlies franchise and signed an extension to stay on board even though the team routinely was among the worst in the leauge.  Abdur-Rahim would also win a Gold Medal with the 2000 USA Olympic Basketball team.  After being traded to the Atlanta Hawks, Abdur-Rahim would continue the formula of putting up great numbers on bad teams and would continue to be among the league's best inside scorers even though he never made the postseason.  After signing as a free agent with the Sacramento Kings in 2005, Abdur-Rahim finally made the postseason as a reserve player for the Kings in 2006.  However, Abdur-Rahim's production would continue to drop while in Sacramento and a knee injury that forced him to fail a physical for the New Jersey Nets in that 2005 NBA Offseason eventually caught up to him in 2008, where the persistent knee injury forced him to retire at the age of 32 after only playing six games in the 2007-2008 season with the Kings.

8) Jerry Stackhouse, SG, Philadelphia 76ers out of University of North Carolina in 1995 NBA Draft (854 Games, 18.4 PPG, 3.7 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.0 SPG) - Following a dynamic career for the North Carolina Tar Heels, Stackhouse was viewed as one of the many "Next Jordan's" and would promptly declare for the 1995 NBA Draft following his sophomore season.  After being drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers, Stackhouse proved that he could become a multi talented player on the offensive side of the basketball.  After clashing with 76ers superstar Allen Iverson in his second and third seasons, Stackhouse would be traded to the Detroit Pistons where he put together the greatest stretch of offensive production in his career.  Stackhouse would win the 2001 NBA Scoring title and would lead the Pistons to the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2002 before being traded to the Washington Wizards.  After unsuccessfully partering with Michael Jordan in Washington, Stackhouse would be shipped to the Dallas Mavericks where he became a great leadership figure and bench contributor for the Mavericks.  Many various injurise have gotten the best of Stackhouse since his arrival in Dallas and it looks as if they will get the best of him and force him to prematurely end his career.

7) Deron Williams, PG, Utah Jazz out of University of Illinois in 2005 NBA Draft (310 Games, 16.2 PPG, 8.7 APG, 2.0 RPG, 1.0 SPG) - After a successful performance in the 2005 NCAA Tournament with the Fighting Illini that saw Williams lead Illinois to the National Championship Game, Williams would forego his senior season to enter the 2005 NBA Draft and be drafted as the point guard to finally replace John Stockton in Utah three seasons after he retired.  After being brought along slowly in his rookie season, Williams would leap onto the scene in his second year in the league and then become an established superstar in the league after leading the Jazz to the Western Conference Finals in 2007.  Williams has continued to lead the Jazz to the postseason in the two seasons following and won a gold medal on the 2008 USA Olympic Basketball team.  The sky is the limit for Williams, who is already arguably the best point guard in the league.

6) Baron Davis, PG, Charlotte Hornets out of University of California in Los Angeles in 1999 NBA Draft (673 Games, 16.9 PPG, 7.3 APG, 4.0 RPG, 1.9 SPG) - Baron Davis would overcome an ACL tear in his freshman season at UCLA to have an extremely successful sophomore season with the UCLA Bruins before declaring for the 1999 NBA Draft.  After being drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, Davis would be named the team's starting point guard in only his second year in the league and would then become a huge contributor for two successful postseason runs for the Hornets during their last two years in Charlotte.  In 2002, the Hornets moved from Charlotte to New Orleans and Davis would then become a routinely injured player.  After missing games in both the regular season and postseason with the Hornets, Davis would be shipped to the Golden State Warriors and would look rejuvenated after being moved to his homestate of California.  However, Davis clashed with Warriors coach Mike Montgomery and it would look like more bad luck for Davis.  However, Don Nelson's rearrival in Golden State prompted the Warriors run to the 2007 postseason.  While in the 2007 postseason, Davis would win over fans and critics alike with a fantastic performance for the eight seeded Warriors, leading a humongous upset over the first seeded Dallas Mavericks.  However, Davis would again become a problem for the Warriors when he clashed with coach Don Nelson and then told the team one thing and did another when he opted out of his contract to sign with his hometown Los Angeles Clippers.  Proving that he'll probably never overcome his immaturity, Davis battled injuries and his coach in the first year of his five year contract with the Clippers and time will tell how this deal pans out.

5) Penny Hardaway, G, Golden State Warriors out of Memphis State University in 1993 NBA Draft (704 Games, 15.2 PPG, 5.0 APG, 4.5 RPG, 1.6 SPG) - After foregoing his senior season to enter the 1993 NBA Draft, Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway would be selected third overall by the Golden State Warriors and immediately be traded to the Orlando Magic for the draft rights to number one overall pick Chris Webber.  Hardaway would then partner with young Magic superstar Shaquille O'Neal to lead the Magic to becoming one of the most popular and successful teams of the late 1990s.  Penny and Shaq would lead Orlando to the 1995 NBA Finals and Penny would win a Gold Medal with the 1996 USA Olympic Basketball team before suffering his first of many knee injuries in the 1997 season.  Following Shaq's departure and Penny's battles with injuries, the Magic would suffer and trade Hardaway to the Phoenix Suns.  While in Phoenix, Hardaway teamed with Jason Kidd to lead the Suns to the Western Conference Semifinals in Hardaway's first season in Phoenix and Penny would be rewarded with a lucrative contract from Phoenix.  But shortly after signing that contract, Hardaway would undergo microfracture knee surgery and would then never be the same player that he once was.  Hardaway's fall from grace was difficult to watch and the injuries are probably the biggest factor as to why he dropped so hard, but he was undeniable his first few years in the league and was one of the best players the league had to offer for a handful of seasons.

4) Grant Hill, SF, Detroit Pistons out of Duke University in 1994 NBA Draft (787 Games, 18.5 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.4 SPG) - Destined for greatness almost from the start, a young Grant Hill would win two national championships as a key contributor for the very successful Duke teams of the early 90s.  After spending all four seasons and being a posterboy for all things wonderful in college, Hill was available for the Detroit Pistons to select in the 1994 NBA draft and he quickly took the league by storm.  Making the "point forward" position in the NBA prominent for the first time since the days of Magic Johnson and Scottie Pippen, Hill would take the league by storm with his dynamic on court style and by routinely posting triple doubles.  Hill would win co Rookie of the Year honors in 1995 with Jason Kidd and would go on to be a great player in Detroit for six seasons.  However, after injuring his ankle in the 2000 postseason, his last with the Pistons, Hill would sign a lucrative seven year deal with the Orlando Magic and immediately succumb to the ankle injuries.  The Magic envisioned teaming him with young star Tracy McGrady but Hill struggled to get on the court in Orlando, playing only 47 of a 328 possible games the first four years of his contract with Orlando.  Hill would eventually return to the league, although not as the same player he once was, and has played in 82 games both of the last two seasons with the Phoenix Suns.

3) Carmelo Anthony, SF, Denver Nuggets out of Syracuse University in 2003 NBA Draft (445 Games, 24.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.1 SPG) - A fantastic offensive forward with one of the best inside-outside games in basketball, Anthony would lead the Syracuse Orange to the 2003 National Championship in his freshman season and be named the tournament's most outstanding player, leaping onto the scene and then deciding to join the famed 2003 NBA Draft.  After being selected by the Denver Nuggets, Anthony battled throughout his rookie season with LeBron James over competition with the 2004 NBA Rookie of the Year award.  James would eventually win the award and then go on to stardom while Anthony went through the motions, having productive but relatively quiet seasons in Denver.  However, after the arrival of George Karl, Anthony would finally blossom into a fantastic offensive weapon.  Although Anthony would win a Bronze Medal and a Gold Medal with the 2004 and 2008 USA Olympic Basketball teams, respectively, postseason success would avoid Anthony for the duration of his career with Denver, culminating in a sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008 NBA Postseason, but Anthony would finally get out of the first round in 2009 and is currently in a battle with the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.  The sky is still the limit for Anthony.

2) Pau Gasol, F-C, Atlanta Hawks out of Spain in 2001 NBA Draft (584 Games, 18.8 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.7 BPG) - After being drafted by the Atlanta Hawks and then immediately being traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Gasol would take the league by storm in 2001.  Largely unknown when drafted, Gasol would go on to win the 2002 NBA Rookie of the Year award and would eventually be a part of the most successful stretch in Grizzlies franchise history when they made the postseason three straight seasons.  The Grizzlies would soon, though, return to their losing ways and Gasol would demand a trade on more than one occasion.  After being traded midway through the 2008 NBA season to the Los Angeles Lakers, Gasol would be a key contributor on the revitalizing of one of the most successful, storied and popular franchises in the league.  Routinely criticized for his soft demanor in the paint, Gasol has still been productive his entire career and posseses fantastic range on his jump shot and amazingly soft hands for a player his size.  If he ever develops a killer instinct, Gasol could become one of the better players in the league.

1) Chauncey Billups, PG, Boston Celtics out of University of Colorado in 1997 NBA Draft (837 Games, 15.1 PPG, 5.6 APG, 2.9 RPG, 1.0 SPG) - After being drafted by the Boston Celtics after two stellar seasons for the Colorado Buffalos, Billups would experience something midway through his rookie season that would become a staple for the next few years of his career.  At the trade deadline, Billups would be traded to the Toronto Raptors.  After his rookie season ended, Billups was traded to the hometown Denver Nuggets where he spent one and a half seasons before being traded to the Orlando Magic.  After playing two successful seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Detroit Pistons would give Chauncey Billups a chance and he would reward them handsomely.  In his six years with Detroit, Billups, or "Mr. Big Shots" would be the catalyst of a team that went to six straight Eastern Conference Finals from 2003 until 2008.  Billups would make two NBA Finals apperances with Detroit in 2004 and in 2005, and after winning a championship in 2004 with Detroit, Billups would be named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player.  After playing under the radar the remaining years in Detroit, Billups would again be traded to the Denver Nuggets where he led the Nuggets out of mediocrity and turned them into one of the better teams in the league.  His performance earned him votes in the 2009 NBA Most Valuable Player voting.  Largely recognized as a player capable of playing big in crucial moments, Billups has continued that trend this season where he now has Denver in the Western Conference Finals, the seventh straight time in his career he has made the conference finals.
Posted on: January 5, 2009 1:07 am
Edited on: April 16, 2009 11:56 pm
 

NBA Power Rankings Through January 4th, 2009

1. Los Angeles Lakers (4) - Rejoice, Los Angeles!  The beloved Lakers have reclaimed their top position.  The hottest team in the NBA is boasting one of its hottest players in Kobe Bryant.  As of late, Kobe and Pau Gasol have elevated their play to around the level they were at around the postseason last year.  The bench is getting good production even with Jordan Farmar missing time with his injury.  I don't believe adding another point guard is critical for the moment but it wouldn't hurt if they could land one for cheap.

2. Atlanta Hawks (5) - The Hawks suffered a crushing loss with a near halfcourt heave at the buzzer from Vince Carter at New Jersey.  That was only their second loss in twelve games.  Victories over Cleveland, Denver, Houston and Detroit highlight that stretch and prove that this team is not a flash in the pan.  I'm sure they won't maintain this level of competition all season long as the team is largely unproven, but don't try to dispute what they've accomplished so far this season.  Not only is this team legitimate, they're talented. 

3. Boston Celtics (2) - And just like that, with a loss to a depleted Portland team and to a bad New York team (coming off a week in which they lost their first game in forever in addition to a loss to a bad Golden State team) and the Celtics all of a sudden look vulnerable.  I'm not going to jump off of the bandwagon and say that they're cooked, it's not a matter of if but when this team rights the ship and gets back to playing the defense that made them impossible to beat through November and December.  Kevin Garnett has slowed a bit so far this season and Paul Pierce has had to carry this unit for basically the whole season.  The role players have also slowed a tad, which is the main reason for the team's struggles but they'll get it back together and they'll still be there in the end.

4. Orlando Magic (3) - Something doesn't quite seem right with Hedo Turkoglu this season.  All of his statistics have dropped from last season and his field goal percentage is at a laughable 38 percent.  That's either meaning he's struggling to do too much in a contract year, or maybe last season was more of an aberration for the turkish born star.  Overall, the Magic have been solid all season long and if he captures the form he showed last season then they'll be right up there at the top of the eastern confrence.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers (1) - Rejoice, Cavs haters!  Zydrunas Ilgauskas has gone down to injury and the Cavaliers dropped two games this week, including an embarassing defeat at the hands of Washington today.  For at least a week anyways, the team looked like last season's team, which relied entirely too heavily on LeBron James.  What's happened to Wally Szczerbiak this season?  He's the definition of a non factor, and with his expiring contract, if he showed any bit of production they could get a really good player in return for Wally World.  But so far his value is worth about the same as Eric Snow's.

6. San Antonio Spurs (6) - Manu Ginobili had a huge week for the Spurs.  Greg Popovich has done a fine job with his roster and has seemingly settled on a nice rotation.  Tim Duncan is having the best year he's had in the past two or three and Tony Parker is currently playing like their best player.  They're a dangerous unit and they're going to be there in the end, regardless of their difficult start. 

7. Denver Nuggets (7) - Carmelo Anthony played hero on two separate occasions for the Nuggets this season, even if they were underwhelming in barely defeated Oklahoma City and blowing a 26 point lead at home to New Orleans.  An injury to Nene for the Oklahoma City game showed no immediate hamper on the Nuggets, but if he misses any prolonged period of time they're in bad shape.  They lack serious depth in the frontcourt.

8. New Orleans Hornets (9) - They still lack the consistency that they showed for so much of last season but Chris Paul is playing the best ball of any player in the NBA.  The fact that he's not up there with Kobe Bryant in all star voting is unbelievable and truly speaks to the knowledge of the average NBA fan.  David West has really picked up his game as of late and don't look now, but the Hornets rank among the league's best at the defensive side of the ball. 

9. Detroit Pistons (15) - I've ridden no team as hard this year as I have the Pistons, but Rodney Stuckey has resurrected what was a dead season for Detroit after the Allen Iverson trade.  The readdition of Antonio McDyess is as much a factor as any in the team's current winning streak and even though they may not be blowing teams out, victories are victories and the Pistons are winning ball games.

10. Portland Trail Blazers (8) - Playing without Brandon Roy hurt this team this week as they looked bad against New Orleans and the Lakers.  Overall, they managed to pull out a victory against Boston and they're still playing hard even without Roy in the lineup.  McMillan will never let this team play a weak game but they can't win without their all star guard in the lineup.

11. Dallas Mavericks (11) - Today's loss at Memphis was embarassing but Dirk Nowitzki has carried the Mavericks to a very strong season thus far.  They're a team of wing players and that will doom them in the playoffs, but they will exceed any expectations they were given this season.  Rick Carlisle has done a really good job with the Mavericks this season.

12. Phoenix Suns (13) - Shaquille O'Neal is having his best year since his last year in Los Angeles for Phoenix and the team is maintaining a steady play so far this season.  Jason Richardson hasn't added much since his addition, but the team continues to win so his presence alone must be enough for the Suns to get by. 

13. Utah Jazz (12) - Word of Carlos Boozer now needing surgery has to demoralize this squad even with Paul Millsap playing as fantastic as he has this season (I forgot to mention him in my most improved players list last week).  The C.J. Miles experiment has worked well with him playing so steady this season.  He's never going to be more than an average starter in this league but he's solid enough to where the Jazz can continue to use Andrei Kirilenko on the bench, which has worked very well for them so far this season.

14. Miami Heat (14) - An injury to Shawn Marion has thrusted Daequan Cook into the starting lineup and I think with a shipping of Marion and his expiring contract at the deadline, that can be a nice spot for Cook.  Michael Beasley has been underwhelming so far this season but has shown flashes of being a nice player in this league.  It's safe to say that he was a tad overhyped coming into the draft, though.

15. Houston Rockets (10) - Tracy McGrady's play this season has been absolutely pathetic.  He's beyond bad at this moment and Yao Ming is shooting a percentage in the low 40s the past few games as well.  With Ron Artest in and out of the lineup as well, this team is currently in a great deal of turmoil and it's evident when you watch them out on the court.  Aaron Brooks has tailed off considerably since his start this season but the talent is still there for this team to turn it around.  You just have to wonder if their players are tough enough to do it.

16. New Jersey Nets (16) - They're incredibly inconsistent and continue to be without a victory when Devin Harris is out of the lineup, but the Nets still, week after week, find themselves in the picture in the NBA.  Vince Carter has had his fair share of last second theatrics this season and that's been a major reason for the Nets' position at the moment.  They have to wonder if a postseason appearance is worth a possible run at a championship in the next two or three seasons when it comes to Carter, but we'll see what it is they're offered for Vince.

17. Milwaukee Bucks (17) - The Bucks are a team that's so difficult to put a finger on, because they have no player who's consistently great every night and they don't really scare you in any facet of their play.  Yet they've been near .500 all season long and they're still in the playoff race thus far.  That speaks wonders for Scott Skiles, even though I'm confused at his reluctancy to give Ramon Sessions big minutes.  I've seen an increase in Tyronn Lue as of late and I don't believe he's better than Sessions.

18. Toronto Raptors (23) - Two weeks ago the Raptors were left for dead, and since then they've had a very impressive past two weeks.  Chris Bosh has found the form he displayed earlier this season and the team is winning ball games without Jermaine O'Neal and Jose Calderon in the lineup.  Anthony Parker has been a steady player at the shooting guard position and the Raptors have found themselves back in the discussion as far as the playoffs are concerned.  It's a nice turnaround for a team that I wrote off just two weeks earlier.

19. Philadelphia 76ers (19) - If you were to look up the word "bland" in the dictionary, you would see this team's photo right beside it.  Their play hasn't inreased without Elton Brand (even though I thought it would) and maybe they are what they are, a below .500 team that can't score and that isn't even that special on the defensive side of the ball.  It seems like the two years of momentum that was built up by this squad was ruined with possibly unfair expectations with the Elton Brand acquisition.

20. Chicago Bulls (18) - A loss at home to Minnesota highlights a woeful week for the Bulls which was heightened even further with a horrible showing by Derrick RoseBen Gordon deserves serious all star consideration this season beyond the three point shootout and he's been the team's steadiest, most consistent option thus far.  That probably is why they're down here at 20, but he deserves a little bit of credit after the way he was blasted and treated this offseason.  He may, yet, see his big payday this offseason.

21. Indiana Pacers (25) - Mike Dunleavy is set to debut this week for the Pacers and that should help a team that still is looking to make a run at sneaking into the last playoff spot.  Danny Granger has been tremendous this season even in the dissapointing year for the Pacers and Jarrett Jack has been tremendous since being inserted into the starting lineup as of late.  T.J. Ford has done fine off of the bench but you have to wonder if he's the type of player that would be content with coming off of the bench.

22. Charlotte Bobcats (22) - I still can't speak enough for Boris Diaw's play since coming over from Phoenix.  This Bobcats team has raised its level of play since that trade and currently has shown that they can be a pesky bunch to put away.  Adam Morrison, on the other hand, is now officially ready to be labeled as a bust.  He was a horrible selection as a 3rd overall draft pick (don't even get me started on Sean May).  Little known Matt Caroll is better at what Morrison does than Morrison is and that's why Morrison scored for the first time in six games Saturday night.  I still remember when Dick Vitale said we were all stupid for saying J.J. Reddick and Morrison wouldn't be great in the NBA.

23. Memphis Grizzlies (20) - Darius Miles made his debut this week for the Grizzlies and Steve Francis may be set to dress up anytime soon.  It's amazing that those two players found their way onto the Grizzlies roster, but it's safe to say both are in dire need to prove that their careers aren't over in the NBA. 

24. New York Knicks (24) - The Knicks have lost all of the good will they built up with a strong opening to the season, but still continue to play hard for coach D'Antoni.  Al Harrington off of the bench has payed huge dividends as of late, including a victory today over Boston.  David Lee has been tremendous this season and if they package him with a contract of Jerome James or Eddy Curry they can get another building block for the rebuilding of this proud franchise.

25. Minnesota Timberwolves (28) - The Timberwolves got back to back victories for the first time all season and got Mike Miller back from injury.  Still, though, a lot is left to be done in Minnesota in order to get this team back to respectability.  Kevin Love has been inconsistent in his performance this season and doesn't look like a great acquisition by Kevin McHale (and nobody honestly believed he would be) but I think, with the investment they made in him, that he needs to be shown more minutes as the season progresses. 

26. Los Angeles Clippers (26) - Baron Davis, in addition to his pathetic displays on the court this season, caused controversy with a recent report of his wanting to return to the team he shafted just five months earlier.  His homecoming has been nothing short of brutal but the team has got to be happy with the play of Marcus Camby and Eric Gordon as of late.  They look like a team capable of hanging in tough games as long as Davis doesn't continue to shoot them out of ball games.

27. Washington Wizards (29) - The Wizards, with a run over Cleveland today, move out of the bottom two for the first time all season.  Getting Caron Butler back this week has been good for the Wizards and the increase in minutes for Javaris Crittenton is a solid move by coach Tapscott.  Andray Blatche has been a nice spot for what's been a dreadful season thus far and the Wizards are now starting to play harder each and every night.  It's not going to amount to any kind of success this year, but it's a far cry from the team that regularly would get beat by 20 every night just a couple months prior.

28. Golden State Warriors (21) - With Stephen Jackson and Corey Maggette now publicly speaking about trade requests the horrid season for the Warriors has now reached rock bottom.  The dissapointing performance has taken a back seat to the fact that the group of players that they've assembled has now made the franchise one without any kind of positive direction.  It's tough to be a loyal Warrior fan, and this season is a perfect explanation of why that's so.

29. Sacramento Kings (27) - Kevin Martin came back this season and looked fantastic in his return and Brad Miller has been a steady force all season for Sacramento, but they still continue to lose.  This team looked like a team with a direction this season, but so far this season hasn't shown anything other than that they're a team without much talent or direction.  It's tough to see what the future holds for this franchise.

30. Oklahoma City Thunder (30) - The Thunder are really playing good basketball as of late and I wanted to move them out of the last spot for the first time all season, but can't justifiably do so.  Jeff Green, this season, has looked like a player that was worthy of the draft slot they used on him and Kevin Durant have played at a very high level as of late.  They're playing with more intensity than they did earlier in the season and have showed signs of a team that's on the right path as of late.  That's good for that loyal fan base.

 

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