Tag:Jermaine O'Neal
Posted on: February 10, 2010 1:46 am
 

NBA Midseason's Acquisition Report

We're approaching the all star weekend in the NBA; the unofficial midseason point for NBA teams.  At this point, we all have a pretty good understanding and grip on what certain teams are going to be able to do and what a lot of teams are unable to do.  Lots of trades are being rumored to go down even though nothing looks concrete as of yet.  But why are teams in this situation?  A lot of them are where they are because of the moves they made this offseason.  Last year, I wrote a report on how the NBA's biggest offseason additions worked by the all star break.  Some, like the Mo Williams acquisition for the Cavaliers, worked.  Some, like the Jermaine O'Neal experiment in Toronto, flopped.  So we're going to give it a shot again.  Here's a look back at the biggest player movements during the offseason and how they've worked thus far in the 2009-2010 NBA Season.

Detroit Pistons sign Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva
Ben Gordon (30 Games, 16.1 PPG, 2.6 APG, 2.1 RPG, 83.8 FT Pctg., 32.3 3PT FG Pctg., 43.0 FG Pctg.)
Charlie Villanueva (46 Games, 13.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 80.6 FT Pctg., 32.8 3PT FG Pctg., 44.0 FG Pctg.)
Detroit Pistons record (17-32)
After trading away Chauncey Billups and his expensive contract for the expiring deal of a still relevant Allen Iverson last season, the Pistons fell off the face of the Earth and backed into the postseason only to get embarassed by Cleveland.  The Iverson experiment did not work at all in Detroit, and with all of this free cap space and coming off of a unfamiliar terrible season in Detroit, Joe Dumars felt the pressure to put that money to good use.  What he did was devote 55 million dollars over 5 years to Ben Gordon and 35 million dollars over 5 years to Charlie Villanueva.  These moves obviously have not worked.  At the time, it seemed like Dumars was simply making moves to make them and that's really come across as the season's progressed.  Gordon and Villanueva have not clicked with the regular Pistons in the rotation and are symbolic of a lackluster franchise.  With the money and length of the contracts given to those two players as well, things look even more damp for Detroit for the near future.  Gordon has struggled to stay healthy and both players have not only struggled with their shots, they've struggled to find any consistent groove either off of the bench or in the starting lineup.  Grade: F

Cleveland Cavaliers trade Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic to the Phoenix Suns to acquire Shaquille O'Neal
Shaquille O'Neal (46 Games, 11.8 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.2 BPG, 51.5 FT Pctg., 55.8 FG Pctg.)
Cleveland Cavaliers record (41-11)
Coming off another "close but not close enough" season for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the franchise entered another offseason of "what big name player can we acquire to throw on the wall and see if it will stick?"  During last year's terrific run, Cleveland was rumored to acquire Shaquille O'Neal at the trade deadline but balked on the move.  After watching Dwight Howard destroyt the team in the Eastern Conference Finals, they basically admitted that they let the fans down by not making the move last year, by making the move this offseason for Shaq.  Early in the season, Shaq really struggled to get acclimated in the lineup for Cleveland and fans really criticized the move.  But here as of late, Shaq has really improved his play on the court and his presence as a player on the court is invaluable, regardless of what numbers he is putting up.  Not to mention, he's got a very valuable expiring contract as well.  Ever since the Cavaliers lost Mo Williams and Delonte West to injury, Shaq has been asked to do a lot more and has valiantly responded with some strong numbers during the Cavs' current winning streak.  Time will tell if this works out in the postseason, this move was made only for a championship and anything short of that makes this another failed attempt.  But so far this season, Shaq's played well and the Cavaliers team looks great.  Grade: B

San Antonio Spurs trade Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas and Fabricio Oberto to the Milwaukee Bucks to acquire Richard Jefferson
Richard Jefferson (49 Games, 12.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.1 APG, 69.2 FT Pctg., 34.9 3PT FG Pctg., 44.9 FG Pctg.)
San Antonio Spurs record (29-21)
Given the team's rapidly increasing age and history problems, the Spurs looked at last season's first round exit as a sign of declining production in San Antonio.  So they entered the offseason aggressively and immediately traded three spot starters, one who had won 3 championships with the team (Bowen) and one who started for the team's 2007 championship (Oberto) to pick up an all star player in Richard Jefferson.  At the time, it looked ingenious.  Given the age of the players the Spurs gave up, they picked up a younger player who was in his prime, coming off averaging at least 18 points a game in 5 of his last 6 seasons with the Nets and Bucks.  However, Jefferson's lack of a consistent jump shot and inability to produce offensively in a half court system have really made his defeciencies as a problem shine.  With the Spurs struggles this season, he's largely become a scapegoat and his sharp decline in production is a large reason why the Spurs have struggled against some of the league's best teams.  He's managed to stay healthy, but he's left a lot to be desired offensively and defensively and has not made any difference on a rapidly aging Spurs team.  The four time champions may be ready to deal Jefferson already.  Grade: D

Boston Celtics sign Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels
Rasheed Wallace (46 Games, 10.0 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, 80.0 FT Pctg., 29.4 3PT FG Pctg., 40.3 FG Pctg.)
Marquis Daniels (20 Games, 5.8 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.9 APG, 57.1 FT Pctg., 47.6 FG Pctg.)
Boston Celtics record (32-17)
After last season's dissapointing laundry list of injuries, the Celtics put up a strong effort against the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic before going down in 7 games.  Largely the team missed Kevin Garnett not only for his leadership, but also because he was their most effective offensive big man.  Glen Davis stepped in admirably and did a great job (which earned him a new contract with the Celtics as well) but the Celtics still needed depth in the worse way.  Enter Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels.  Wallace was to be that forward/center off the bench who can stretch the court with this three point shot, step in and play defense and who could play alongside either Garnett or Kendrick Perkins, or could even play alongside both of them in big sets for the Pistons.  Wallace's offensive production has really dissapointed this season and almost 40% of his shots are three point field goal attempts.  Given that he's shooting under 30 percent from long distance, it doesn't seem like such a good idea to camp out at that three point line for Wallace.  But he's done that for the last few seasons and you have to expect that from him.  Because of the injuries to Garnett and Big Baby this season, Wallace has been invaluable as that extra big man and has really played a lot more than Doc Rivers probably expected to play him.  Daniels was supposed to finally be that guard off of the bench for the Celtics who could spell Paul Pierce.  Given Pierce's big minutes last season and the team's lack of a true backup for him, a lot was expected of Daniels and he's struggled to stay on the court due to injuries.  I'll leave the jury out on him and only give this grade based on the Wallace acquisition.  Grade: C

Los Angeles Lakers sign Ron Artest
Ron Artest (48 Games, 11.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.1 SPG, 68.5 FT Pctg., 40.1 3PT FG Pctg., 42.8 FG Pctg.)
Los Angeles Lakers record (40-13)
When Trevor Ariza and his agent, someone the Lakers brass wanted no part of after their negotiations with Andrew Bynum, demanded more money, the Lakers immediately turned their back on Ariza and went after Houston Rockets defender/headcase/Kobe Bryant enemy Ron Artest.  Long one of the most controversial yet colorful characters in the league, Artest looked like an immediate upgrade in terms of player talent over Ariza (in a move of fate, Ariza would sign with the Rockets).  Artest has really struggled to find a role in the triangle offense and looks as if he's lost a step or two defensively for the Lakers but he's played well as of late and this move was made entirely for the postseason.  With that being said and with the Lakers record showing no problems, the Artest struggles haven't had any drastic affect on their record.  I'll still give Artest room to grow.  Grade: C+

Orlando Magic trade Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee and Tony Battie to the New Jersey Nets for Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson
Vince Carter (45 Games, 16.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.8 APG, 85.2 FT Pctg., 33.2 3PT FG Pctg., 39.6 FG Pctg.)
Orlando Magic record (35-17)
Even though Carter's numbers are down across the board, that had to be expected with the move to the defending Eastern Conference Champion and incredibly deep Orlando Magic.  What wasn't to be expected was Carter's low shooting percentage and lack of involvement in the execution of the offense.  When point-forward and primary playmaker Hedo Turkoglu became a free agent, the Magic thought he wouldn't be worth the money he'd command and immediately made a move to acquire Carter from the eager to shed talent New Jersey Nets to be the team's replacement for Turkoglu.  Statistically speaking it looked like a major upgrade, but Carter struggled, and so far really hasn't been able to become the playmaker that Turkoglu was for that Eastern Conference Champion squad.  Nor, with his shooting percentage, has he been able to be a more effeceient offensive player than Turkoglu.  The team and Carter really hit a bump in January with Carter shooting 29 percent from the field for the month.  But here of late, especially with a 48 point outburst on national television last night by Vinsanity, things look as if they're turning around for Orlando and Vince Carter.  Given the progress they've made as of late, I'm going to be generous with his grade.  Grade: B-

Atlanta Hawks trade Acie Law and Speedy Claxton to the Golden State Warriors for Jamal Crawford
Jamal Crawford (49 Games, 17.6 PPG, 2.9 APG, 2.4 RPG, 85.3 FT Pctg., 37.2 3PT FG Pctg., 46.0 FG Pctg.)
Atlanta Hawks record (32-17)
The Hawks steady incline continued last season with the team going from making the postseason for the first time in nine years back in 2008 to winning the team's first postseason series in ten years in 2009.  So in order to continue taking those steps forward, the Hawks looked at their fantastic starting five and deemed it necessary to give a drastic upgrade to the bench.  After Crawford's struggles in Golden State last year and him openly being told he was not going to be welcomed back by the Warriors, the Hawks saw a player ripe for the picking and immediately acquired him in a trade after the draft.  Given the team's really cheap price for Crawford (in terms of what had to be sent to Golden State), the Hawks have made out like bandits in this deal.  Crawford has not only been the best sixth man all year long, he's been incredibly efficient scoring the basketball and has even been a player Atlanta looks to in the clutch.  Furthermore, he's come through in the clutch plenty of times for the Hawks.  With the team making strides in their record as well, this move has really paid dividends.  Whether or not it gets them past the Conference Semifinals to that natural step up to the Conference Finals is still to be seen, but so far this move has worked otu great for the Hawks.  Grade: A

Toronto Raptors acquire free agent Hedo Turkoglu in four-team trade
Hedo Turkoglu (47 Games, 12.4 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.3 APG, 78.4 FT Pctg., 38.3 3PT FG Pctg., 40.3 FG Pctg.)
Toronto Raptors record (28-23)
After getting a lot of publicity and praise during the Magic's run to the NBA finals last season (funny seeing how Orlando's run to the Conference Title really impacted a lot of these moves), Turkoglu entered an offseason in which he was, undoubtedly, going to get paid.  After the Magic basically said "thanks for your services but you're expendable" and traded for Vince Carter, a return was ruled out.  After a rumored deal with the Portland Trail Blazers was announced, it looked like a match made in heaven for a Portland team looking to take that next step.  Then, out of nowhere, Turkoglu was announced to be taking huge money from the Toronto Raptors, a team with a boisterous Turkish population significant enough to make Turkoglu want to move on in.  Turkoglu was the centerpiece of a lot of moves the Raptors made this offseason.  Early on in the season, the team and Turkoglu were dreadful and to this day, although he and the team have made strides, Turkoglu really hasn't looked comfortable in Toronto's offensive system and sometimes looks confused on what he's being asked to do.  Time will tell if Turkoglu and Toronto can continue to make the strides they've made lately but, all things considered, they've underachieved this season.  But with the progress they've made, I'll give them a break.  Grade: C

New Orleans Hornets and Charlotte Bobcats swap Emeka Okafor for Tyson Chandler
Tyson Chandler (25 Games, 6.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 72.0 FT Pctg., 50.0 FG Pctg.)
Charlotte Bobcats Record (24-25)
Emeka Okafor (52 Games, 11.1 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 59.3 FT Pctg., 52.7 FG Pctg.)
New Orleans Hornets Record (27-25)
After a falling out with Bobcats coach Larry Brown, Bobcat original Emeka Okafor and his large contract were likely to be moved last offseason.  After putting the team over the luxury tax and being unable to remain healthy all season, largely hurting the team's chemistry and production, the Hornets and fan favorite Tyson Chandler looked likely to part ways as well.  And then this trade happened.  What was basically a straight up swap of centers really worked towards what both teams wanted.  Chandler had an expiring contract of great value and was a hustle, defense, athletic big man that Brown wanted on his team.  Okafor was cap relief for this season (although not for the long term) and someone who played all 82 games for the Hornets to take onto their team.  Both players have really struggled with their new teams.  Chandler's been booed by the Charlotte fans, has not been able to stay healthy (again) and hasn't produced when he's been on the court.  Okafor hasn't duplicated numbers he was expected to add on to playing with Chris Paul.  Because the Bobcats are in the Eastern Conference, it's likely they'll still make the playoffs but Okafor may not be enough to get the Hornets into the postseason in the West; especially with the injuries to Chris Paul.  So what was largely an odd trade made this offseason, neither team has really suffered or benefitted as a result of it.  Although the Hornets are probably ecstatic that they have a center who can play every game.  Grade for the Hornets and Bobcats: C

Posted on: December 22, 2009 2:58 am
 

Worst NBA Contracts Of The Last Ten Years

2010 is coming.  If you have watched basketball at all the last two seasons, all that's mentioned is the future destinations of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and company.  While those two are dynomite and will be worth whatever amount of cash a team throws at them, players like Chris Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer have Juwan Howard written all over them.  Because teams are guaranteed to overspend, we're going to look back at the ten worst contracts of the last ten years, starting in 2000 and ending now.  We'll list each player by the team he signed with, the length and amount of the contract and their statistics for the duration of their contract.

15. Gilbert Arenas, G, Washington Wizards: 6 Years, 111 Million Dollars in the 2008 offseason (27 Games, 21.4 PPG, 7.2 APG, 4.0 RPG, 1.1 SPG) - Some people may say that it's way too early to include Gilbert Arenas in this discussion, but why wait for the continuted, inevitable decline of the Wizards franchise?  Two years into this deal, in fact as soon as the ink dried on the dotted line, fans and analysts alike knew that this was bad news for Washington.  Arenas was coming off of the historically fatal microfracture knee surgery and a season which he had only played 13 regular season and 2 postseason games.  Furthermore, the Wizards were coming off successive first round exits in the postseason and had resigned Antawn Jamison to a similar contract in terms of annual salary.  So when they turned around and invested 111 million dollars (outbidding themselves) to retain Arenas, the Wizards had invested tons of money into a team that hadn't even won 50 games as a unit.  Arenas rewarded the Wizards by having a third surgery on his knee and missed all but two games last season.  He's come back and put up decent numbers this season (with a shooting percentage in the low 40's) but the Wizards are near the bottom of the Eastern Conference after being preseason favorites for a run at the postseason.  With a lack of young talent, a lot of money invested in their current players and with the return being constant defeats, things look bad for the Wizards, and they're going to wish they had 111 million dollars to spend elsewhere.

14. Luol Deng, F, Chicago Bulls: 6 Years, 71 Million Dollars in the 2008 offseason (74 Games, 15.4 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.2 SPG) - A really nice player with a really solid game, Deng was acquired as a rookie by the Chicago Bulls and contributed to some solid teams that made the postseason.  He showed flashes of being a solid player, but he never seemed like a superstar.  When the 2008 offseason came, the Bulls were forced with the decision of retaining either Deng or guard Ben Gordon long term; or let both of them walk.  The Bulls decided to give that money to Deng and signed Gordon to a one year offer.  Gordon became the leading scorer for the Bulls, led the team to an almost upset over the defending champion Boston Celtics in the 2009 postseason and turned that into a 55 million dollar with the Detroit Pistons.  Deng watched the postseason from the bench in street clothes.  Deng is healthy and playing solid basketball for the Bulls this season, but there's no denying that he's not worth the money that he's receiving.

13. Erick Dampier, F-C, Dallas Mavericks: 7 Years, 73 Million Dollars in the 2004 offseason (389 Games, 6.7 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.3 BPG) - Notorious for playing big in contract years and then turning that into a payday, Dampier became a 12 point, 12 rebound force in the 2003-2004 season for Golden State and was looking like a prize center in the 2004 offseason.  Most critics pointed to his increase in production in a contract year being a bad sign, but Mark Cuban ignored all red flags and signed Dampier to a huge long term deal.  Dampier has held down the starting center job for Dallas since being acquired, but it's mostly been by default and because of the paycheck that he's receiving.  There's no denying that he dogged it his entire career only to play big in his contract year and get paid handsomely.  Because he hasn't prevented the Mavericks from continuing to be a solid franchise, Dampier escapes being further up on this list. 
Author's Note: Dampier is currently having the best year of his contract.  One other thing that should be noted, he has the option to opt out of his contract this offseason.  Coincidence?

12. Michael Redd, G, Milwaukee Bucks: 6 Years, 91 Million Dollars in the 2005 offseason (247 Games, 23.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.1 SPG) - Always a nice player, Redd had been the best player for some really mediocre Milwaukee Bucks teams in 2004 and 2005.  The deadly sharpshooter was sought after by the upstart Cleveland Cavaliers, with hopes that Redd could partner up alongside a young LeBron James and become the nail in the coffin for teams that were paying too much attention to LeBron.  Because of all the attention Cleveland was giving Michael Redd, fan interest forced the Bucks to engage in a bidding war with Cleveland.  What followed was the contract that Milwaukee eventually gave Redd to become their franchise player.  While Redd continued to be as good as he was before signing the contract, he was never a great player and is extremely one dimensional.  Sometimes shooting the Bucks out of games, Redd has become a villian of sorts in Milwaukee as the team has routinely played better when he's not in the lineup.  After leading the Bucks to the postseason in the first year of his contract, the Bucks have become embarassingly mediocre since and Redd is viewed as the most glaring of some bad personnel decisions in Milwaukee. 
Author's Note: Look for Andre Iguodala to become a Michael Redd-type bad contract in Philadelphia.

11. Larry Hughes, G, Cleveland Cavaliers: 5 Years, 70 Million Dollars in the 2005 offseason (251 Games, 13.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.4 SPG) - The Cavaliers were jilted at the altar by Michael Redd, so with all of the free cap space they had, they went after a different shooting guard to become the Scottie Pippen to LeBron's Michael Jordan.  The money they had was given to Larry Hughes.  Always a player with a ton of untapped potential, Hughes became a solid force for some surprisingly successful Washington franchises before his contract went up and looked to have finally reached the level of play he was capable of by the time Cleveland signed him.  However, Hughes never justified the contract that Cleveland gave him.  Cleveland tried him at point guard, shooting guard, sixth man and defensive stopper before growing tired of his inconsistency and knack for injuries.  They shipped him off to Chicago and from there he was shipped to New York where he currently plays.  Hughes and his contract have been heavily criticized and extremely disliked everywhere he's been (and fans have let him know about that) but the Knicks are holding onto his contract for the free cap space it will create this offseason.

10. Samuel Dalembert, C, Philadelphia 76ers: 6 Years, 63 Million Dollars in the 2005 offseason (339 Games, 8.6 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 2.1 BPG) - A freakishly long and tall player with a lot of shot blocking potential, Dalembert, because of his size and difficult to pronounce name, drew a lot of comparisons to Dikembe Mutombo and was viewed as a solid player on the rise by the time Philadelphia gave him his contract.  Even though he had the ideal body and athleticism to become a dominat rebounder and shot blocker, Dalembert never materialized as anything more than mediocre.  Even though he's held down the starting center position for Philadelphia for the duration of his contract, he's a classic case of someone with all of the potential in the world who just never developed.  Every offseason becomes "maybe this is the year" for Dalembert, and every year he puts up maddingly inconsistent numbers and dissapoints both Philadelphia coaches and fans. 

9. Allan Houston, G, New York Knicks: 6 Years, 100 Million Dollars in the 2001 offseason (229 Games, 20.0 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 2.4 APG) - At the time of his signing, Houston a Knick favorite and had led the team to the NBA Finals just a couple years prior in 1999.  Two years later, the Knicks had declined sharply and were outsted in the first round in 2001, the same year that Houston's contract expired.  The Knicks, even though they were financially strapped and largely medicore, gave  Houston a 20.7 million dollar per year contract that prevented the team from making any free agent moves.  The next two years, the Knicks would miss the postseason and would turn to Isiah Thomas to save the franchise (and we'll see how he did later in this list).  After two seasons, Houston would start to have problems with his knee and would miss a large portion of the third and fourth years of his contract.  The injury eventually forced Houston to retire in 2005.  The contract destroyed the Knicks so badly that the NBA adopted an "Allan Houston Rule" which granted NBA teams the option of releasing one player to not count against the luxury tax. 
Author's Note: Look for Kevin Martin to be this generation's version of Allan Houston

8. Kenyon Martin, F, Denver Nuggets: 7 Years, 92.5 Million Dollars in the 2004 offseason (290 Games, 12.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.1 BPG) - At the time of this signing, Kenyon Martin was a fine player who had played on two Eastern Conference Championship teams with the New Jersey Nets.  Once the number one pick in the 2000 NBA Draft, Martin blossomed once the Nets acquired Jason Kidd and became a fan favorite for the ferocity with which he would slam the basketball.  Elsewhere in the NBA, the Nuggets, fresh off of drafting Carmelo Anthony, were viewed as a team on the rise that was one big man away from taking the next step.  It seemed like a match made in heaven.  Only problem is, Kenyon Martin had zero post moves, had Andre Miller to give him the ball instead of Jason Kidd and joined a frontcourt of Nene and Marcus Camby, who were basically the same players as Martin.  Martin struggled to fit into the Nuggets rotation and the team continued to lose in the first round, never taking that next step with Martin on the roster.  Microfracture knee surgeries, being sent home from the team in the postseason by head coach George Karl, and frequently clashing with fans followed and Martin's contract looks worse by the day.  He's rebounded well the last couple of seasons to stay healthy and has emerged as a great defensive power forward, but he'll never be worth every penny the Nuggets gave him.

7. Andrei Kirilenko, F, Utah Jazz: 6 Years, 86 Million Dollars in the 2004 offseason (299 Games, 11.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.9 BPG, 1.2 SPG) - In the wake of the departures of Karl Malone and John Stockton, the Jazz franchise shocked everyone during the 2003-2004 season when they narrowly missed making the postseason.  They were led that year by Andrei Kirilenko, known as AK47 because of his initials, number and because he and the gun shared the same birthplace (Russia).  Kirilenko was a multi talented player who filled every stat you could think of and could play multiple positions on the floor.  So after that surprise year, the Jazz signed Kirilenko to this contract extension.  While the team experienced a surge of sorts in the years to follow, the addition of Carlos Boozer and subsequent move to small forward for Kirilenko proved to be fatal for his career.  For whatever reason, Kirilenko's numbers dipped dramatically in the 2006-2007 season and clashed with coach Jerry Sloan on numerous occasions.  Probably most famous for crying over his playing time in the Jazz's 2007 postseason run, Kirilenko has long since noted his desire to leave the NBA.  Even once flirting with retirement, Kirilenko has since promised to play professionally in Russia once  this contract goes up in Utah.  Jazz fans can't wait for that day, either.

6. Eddy Curry, C, New York Knicks: 6 Years, 60 Million Dollars in the 2005 offseason (222 Games, 15.2 PPG, 5.8 RPG) - Once viewed, along with Tyson Chandler (someone else who narrowly avoided this list), as the future cornerstones of the Chicago Bulls franchise, Curry frequently dissapointed and lost in Chicago.  In a contract year with the Bulls, Curry proved to be the team's go to man in the paint and turned out a solid season, although he missed the end of the regular season and all of the postseason due to a heart problem (no jokes necessary).  Still in his early 20's by the time that contract expired, Isiah Thomas saw Curry as a center his team could build around and quickly signed Curry to a long term deal.  What ensued was frequent losses by the Knicks, public humiliation veered towards Curry's weight and injury problems, and Curry becoming the butt of every joke amongst NBA fans and analysts alike.  Curry has suffered a lot of personal tragedy as well and has tried to make it back on the court to play for Mike D'Antoni's Knicks, but he's still a guy that nobody will take on their team and that the Knicks would love to get off of their's. 

5. Stephon Marbury, G, Phoenix Suns: 4 Years, 76 Million Dollars in the 2003 offseason (240 Games, 18.0 PPG, 6.5 APG, 2.9 RPG, 1.2 SPG) - Now one of the most notorious players in the history of the NBA, Marbury, without an agent, signed a humongous contract extension with the Phoenix Suns following their first round playoff exit in 2003.  Known as a flashy scorer, team success had always alluded Marbury.  Three months after he signed the extension, Marbury was traded to his hometown New York Knicks to be the franchise player for Isiah Thomas' vision of what the Knicks should be and actually led New York to the 2004 playoffs.  However, that was it.  By the time the extension kicked in in the offseason, Marbury's numbers sharply declined and he would clash with Lenny Wilkens, Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas (following trends he started in Minnesota and New Jersey) before, last year, being famously paid to stay away from the Knicks franchise.  Mike D'Antoni and company were able to finally agree to a buyout with Marbury and he would sign with the Boston Celtics, where he looked awful on the court.  Also involved in a sexual harrasment lawsuit filed against the New York Knicks, Marbury famously threatened Isiah Thomas, stating that he "had things on him" that could prove to be detrimental to Isiah.  Those "things" never came out, but what was revealed was how bad of a blunder Marbury's contract extension and stay in New York had been.

4. Raef LaFrentz, F-C, Dallas Mavericks: 7 Years, 70 Million Dollars in the 2002 offseason (314 Games, 7.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG) - A shot blocking force in Denver, 7'0" Raef LaFrentz could be a force in the paint and could shoot long range jumpers by the time he was traded to Dallas.  After being traded to Dallas, LaFrentz would sign a huge contract in the offseason to be Dallas' center of the future next to big man Dirk Nowitzki.  LaFrentz lasted one year.  One of many Mark Cuban overpaid blunders (Erick Dampier, Michael Finley, DeSagana Diop, etc.), LaFrentz shines above all of those mentioned because he simply did absolutely nothing after signing the contract.  He was traded to Boston, then to Portland, and did not play at all last season due to reoccuring knee injuries.  LaFrentz is now out of the league but Portland used his expiring salary to sign Andre Miller and resign Brandon Roy.  So he lives in spirit.

3. Jermaine O'Neal, F-C, Indiana Pacers: 7 Years, 126.6 Million Dollars in the 2003 offseason (374 Games, 18.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 2.1 APG) - Long viewed as a dissapointment after being drafted out of high school in Portland, O'Neal was traded to Indiana where he received an increase in playing time and rewarded Indiana with an increase in production.  After winning the 2002 Most Improved Player of the Year award, O'Neal followed the season up with another 20 point, 10 rebound season and was a hugely sought after free agent in the 2003 offseason.  Flirting with the San Antonio Spurs, O'Neal was offered the contract by Indiana and quickly signed it, becoming the Pacers' franchise player.  While Indiana was successful during O'Neal's peak years in 2002, 2003 and 2004, O'Neal's injuries and contract contributed (along with the infamous Malice at the Palace) to the downfall of the Indiana Pacers franchise.  Viewed as a symbol for Indiana's failures, Pacers fans turned on O'Neal and he was traded to Toronto.  After a failed stint there, he was traded to Miami where he is now the starting center for the Heat.  Injuries were a big reason why this contract simply did not work out, but at that much money and for that many years, there's no pardon for Jermaine O'Neal.

2. Peja Stojakovic, F, New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets: 5 Years, 65 Million Dollars in the 2006 offseason (175 Games, 14.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.2 APG) - Once an intregal part of some terrific Sacramento Kings teams, Stojakovic entered the 2006 offseason coming off an injury riddled second half stint with the Indiana Pacers.  One very young team that was willing to take a chance on the 6'10" sharpshooter was the young Hornets.  With young players like Chris Paul and David West on the roster, the Hornets were looking for Stojakovic to be the efficient veteran to turn to in the clutch to help teach the younger players how to win.  Given a maximum deal and making the first big splash of free agency, Stojakovic signed with the Hornets and immediately dissapointed.  Only playing 13 games his first season, Stojakovic had a strong second season: playing in 77 games and shooting over 44 percent from behind the arc.  But his shooting percentage and overall production declined sharply the very next season and he was subsequently benched this offseason.  Stojakovic has found his way back into the starting lineup and remains a bittersweet fan favorite in New Orleans, but his contract has single handedly halted the development and progression of a young and promising unit.

1. Ben Wallace, F-C, Chicago Bulls: 4 Years, 60 Million Dollars in the 2006 offseason (205 Games, 4.9 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 1.6 APG, 1.2 SPG) - A four time NBA Defensive Player of the Year award winner and even the reigning 2 time DPOY, Ben Wallace entered the 2006 offseason as the prize of a very weak free agent class.  A defensive specialist who was always known to give max effort at the center position, the Bulls, looking for a player to hold down the center position and take the team to the next level, gave all of their free cap space to Ben Wallace to lure him away from the Detroit Pistons.  Outside of his comfort zone in Chicago, and playing on a team that didn't preach defense like the teams in Detroit did, Ben Wallace severely struggled in Chicago.  His numbers went down across the board, his defense slipped and he was exposed big time.  Facing expectations for the first time his career, Ben Wallace crumbled under pressure.  He was eventually shipped to Cleveland where he started on some successful Cavaliers teams but was never the player he used to be, and the player he used to be had no business making that kind of money.  He was eventually traded to Phoenix last offseason and after being bought out by the Suns considered retirement, but Ben has rejoined the Pistons and has found some of his old youth in Detroit.  But Ben Wallace still tops the list of the ten worst contracts of the last ten years.

Posted on: June 17, 2009 7:37 pm
 

Biggest Draft Busts of NBA Draft Lottery Era

Now that the season is over and the draft is underway, the time is here and now to revisit my draft observations and start to look back at the biggest draft busts of all time.  There are quite a few go through, actually, and I know some people are going to point out that I left some out, but I'm taking into account the player, the players drafted after them, and the player's performance and attitude.  So here it goes: the biggest draft busts of the NBA Draft Lottery Era.

16) Adam Morrison, SF, Charlotte Bobcats Drafted 3rd Overall in 2006 NBA Draft out of University of Gonzaga (130 Games, 8.7 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.6 APG) - I only wanted to include 15 players, but I just want to remind everyone of how big of a draft bust Morrison has turned out to be.  While in college, Morrison would score from all angles and was unstoppable while at Gonzaga.  After a fantastic junior season in which he and Duk eguard J.J. Redick took the college world by storm, Morrison declared for the 2006 NBA Draft and was looked by many as a second coming 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 break into the rotation in this third year with the Bobcats.  Morrison was shipped to the Los Angeles Lakers midway through the 2008-2009 NBA Season but is an afterthought in the rotation and did not make the playoff roster for a team that won the NBA Championship.  He's a future free agent this offseason and it's questionable whether Morrison will have any kind of future in the NBA.

15) Todd Fuller, PF, Golden State Warriors Drafted 11th Overall in 1996 NBA Draft out of North Carolina State University (225 Games, 3.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG) - One of many awful Warriors draft picks in the Dave Twardzik era, Fuller was never really any good and never showed promise of being much of anything in his career, having a career high of 15 points and lasting only two seasons with the Warriors; four seasons in the league overall.  And if you want to look at the players drafted after him, you could have had a productive all star at every position: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic, Jermaine O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

14) Los Angeles Clippers - The Clippers gave former general manager Elgin Baylor handfuls of opportunities to get it right in the first round during the draft lottery era, and he flopped almost every time.  In 1985, Benoit Benjamin was drafted 3rd overall (807 Games, 11.4 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 1.3 APG), Reggie Williams was drafted 4th overall in 1987 (599 Games, 12.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.3 SPG), Charles Smith was drafted 3rd Overall in 1988 (564 Games, 14.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.4 BPG), Bo Kimble was taken 8th overall in the 1990 NBA Draft (105 Games, 5.5 PPG, 1.5 RPG), LeRon Ellis was taken 22nd Overall in 1991 (91 Games, 3.0 PPG, 2.4 RPG), Randy Woods was taken 16th in 1992 (151 Games, 2.4 PPG, 1.7 APG), Terry Dehere was taken 13th in 1993 NBA Draft (402 Games, 8.0 PPG, 2.6 APG, 1.5 RPG), Lamond Murray was taken 7th in 1994 (736 Games, 11.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.3 APG), Lorenzen Wright was taken 7th overall in the famed 1996 NBA Draft (778 Games, 8.0 PPG, 6.4 RPG),  Maurice Taylor was taken 14th in 1997 (534 Games, 11.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.2 APG), Darius Miles was taken 3rd overall in 2000 (446 Games, 10.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.1 BPG), Melvin Ely 12th overall in 2002 (343 Games, 5.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG), Chris Kaman 6th overall in 2003 (385 Games, 10.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 1.2 APG), Shaun Livingston 4th overall in 2004 (157 Games, 7.3 PPG, 4.6 APG, 3.1 RPG), and Yaroslav Korolev was taken 12th in 2005 and hasn't played a minute in the NBA.  There are a few solid names and numbers, but year after year of opportunities to draft an above average player and the Clippers flopped all of them.  In fact, the most respectable players drafted by the Clippers in the draft lottery era are Lamar Odom (1999), Tyson Chandler (2001) and Antonio McDyess (1995).  Chandler and McDyess both had their rights traded to other squads before ever suiting up for the Clippers, and Odom didn't make it past four years with the Clippers.  One glaringly bad selection is being saved for later in this countdown.   God save Blake Griffin.

13) Danny Ferry, F, Los Angeles Clippers Drafted 2nd Overall in 1989 NBA Draft out of Duke University (917 Games, 7.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.3 APG) - Taken by the ill fated Clippers, Ferry refused to report to Los Angeles and after playing a year in Italy to protest, he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers and given a very lucrative ten year guaranteed contract by Cleveland.  The guy he was traded for?  Ron Harper.  A tremendous colliegate player with size and a shooting touch, Ferry was supposed to be a great player but hardly produced in Cleveland.  He did, however, win a championship on the end of the bench for the 2003 San Antonio Spurs.

12) Ed O'Bannon, PF, New Jersey Nets drafted 9th Overall in 1995 NBA Draft out of University of California in Los Angeles (128 Games, 5.0 PPG, 2.5 RPG) - The star and Final Four MVP for the 1995 UCLA Bruins, O'Bannon wasn't big enough for the league and struggled to score when drafted by the New Jersey Nets.  Hardly making any kind of niche in this league, O'Bannon lasted a year and a half with New Jersey before being shipped to Dallas.  His entire NBA Career was two seasons.

11) Future Michael Jordans - Harold Miner, SG, Miami Heat drafted 12th Overall in 1995 NBA Draft out of University of Southern California (200 Games, 9.0 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 1.2 APG) and Dennis Hopson, SF, New Jersey Nets drafted 3rd Overall in 1987 NBA Draft out of Ohio State University (334 Games, 10.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.6 APG) - Jordan's dominance in the league prompted many analysts to try and find the "next Michael Jordan" to come in every single draft.  A fantastic scorer at Ohio State, Hopson struggled on the court and clashed with his coaches before being shipped to Chicago and quietly exiting the league after five seasons in the league.  Miner won two NBA Slam Dunk Contests and his athletic ability prompted the media to christen him "Baby Jordan."  Outside of dunking, Miner wasn't very talented in any area of the court and he only lasted four years in the league.  The closest either of these players got to Jordan was when Hopson sat on the bench in 1991 and won an NBA Championship with Jordan's Chicago Bulls.

10) William Bedford, C, Phoenix Suns drafted 6th Overall in 1986 NBA Draft out of University of Memphis (238 Games, 4.1 PPG, 2.4 RPG) - Bedford was an imposing presence in college for the Memphis Tigers and was projected to be a huge NBA star.  Drafted sixth overall by Phoenix, Bedford only lasted six seasons in the league and struggled with drug addiction the entire time.  He was arrested for drug possession twice in 1996 and 1997, accused of transporting 25 pounds of marijuana in 2001 and arrested two more times for marijuana before being given a ten year sentence in 2003.  Bedford is currently serving time in Fort Worth, Texas and will be in prison until 2013.

9) Rafael Araujo, C, Toronto Raptors drafted 8th Overall in 2004 NBA Draft out of Bringham Young University (139 Games, 2.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG) - A prime example of what happens when you draft for need instead of by talent, Araujo was taken eigth overall by Toronto in 2004 and lasted only three seasons in the league.  His play on the court was abysmal and he's one of many examples of why you should never draft a player simply for his size.  He was out of the league by 2007 after he was traded to Utah.

8) Eddie Griffin, F, New Jersey Nets drafted 7th Overall in 2001 NBA Draft out of Seton Hall University (303 Games, 7.2 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.7 BPG) - An extremely talented ball player, Griffin had many flashes of brilliance in college at Seton Hall, but had many character problems and even got into a fight with a teammate during a practice that was the beginning of the end for a promising Seton Hall season.  Once viewed as a possible selection for the first overall pick, Griffin was drafted by the Nets.  Griffin's rights were traded to the Houston Rockets for the rights to Richard Jefferson and Griffin quickly drank himself out of the league.  Succumbing to alcohol problems, Griffin rarely played as a result of his problems and his performance didn't show much promise either.  He was released in 2003, and missed every game until 2004 as a result of being in a rehabilitation clinic.  He came back to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves and was a good story before his off court problems and on court production continued to dissapoint critics until Minnesota released him in 2007.  Griffin eventually died in August of 2007 after his car was hit by a train.

7) Jonathan Bender, PF, Toronto Raptors drafted 5th Overall in 1999 NBA Draft out of Picayune High School (237 Games, 5.6 PPG, 2.2 RPG) - Billed as a Kevin Garnett clone, the Indiana Pacers immediately traded established forward Antonio Davis for the rights to Bender and looked to make him a cornerstone for the future of the squad.  Davis went on to be an all star in Toronto and Bender never got off of the bench in Indiana.  Injuries and inconsistency kept Bender grounded and he quietly exited the league in 2006.

6) Nikoloz Tskitishvili, PF, Denver Nuggets drafted 5th Overall in 2002 NBA Draft out of Georgia [Europe] (172 Games, 2.9 PPG, 1.8 RPG) - Tskitishvili played profesionally in Italy and won the 2002 Italian championship under current Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni.  Viewed as an extremely talented player with a ridiculous skill set, Nikoloz was quickly taken by the Denver Nuggets in 2002 and billed as a do-it-all type player who can score in transition, run the floor, score from the outside but was a foreign product who teams had hardly seen play.  As a result, he was simply word of mouth when he was drafted by Denver and his performance on the court was awful.  A worst case scenario for foreign drafted players, Nikoloz is possibly the worst lottery pick in terms of talent and quickly left the league after the 2007 season.

5) Robert Traylor, PF, Dallas Mavericks drafted 6th Overall in 1998 NBA Draft out of University of Michigan (438 Games, 4.8 PPG, 3.7 RPG) - Note to NBA: don't draft someone in the lottery who is nicknamed Tractor.  Standing at 6 foot 8 and generously being billed at 284 pounds, Traylor was an imposing presence in college and bullied around opposition in the paint.  When drafted by Dallas, his draft rights were immediately traded for the rights to German prospect Dirk Nowitzki.  Nowitzki is a future hall of famer, and Traylor's production on the court was abysmal.  Traylor regularly battled obesity to the point where he was out of the league by 2005. 

4) Michael Olowoakandi, C, Los Angeles Clippers drafted 1st Overall in 1998 NBA Draft out of University of Pacific (500 Games, 8.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.4 BPG) - So big a bust that he deserves a slot all his own, seperated from the Clippers, Olowokandi is the worst of all of the draft blunders made by the doomed Los Angeles franchise.  After only one solid season for the Pacific Tigers, Olowokandi was drafted to be the man in the middle of the future for the Clippers and rewarded them with mediocre production.  He showed flashes of being a solid player, but once he signed to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Olowokandi hardly got off of the bench.  Suffering through injuries his entire career, Olowokandi was drafted first overall in a draft that produced six different NBA All Stars in Mike Bibby, Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce and Rashard Lewis.

3) Chris Washburn, C, Golden State Warriors drafted 3rd Overall in 1986 NBA Draft out of North Carolina State University (72 Games, 3.1 PPG, 2.4 RPG) - An extremely talented athlete gifted with extremely soft hands and incredible speed for someone his size, Washburn was drafted third overall under much publicity for Golden State.  A high school prodigy of sorts, Washburn was inconsistent at North Carolina State and teammates would question his work ethic and criticize his penchant for skipping class.  After serving jail time for stealing a stereo while in college, Washburn would have one good season and declare for the NBA Draft.  The Warriors lookd to bring him along slowly to cope with his immaturity but it didn't work.  Washburn was largely ineffective and rarely got off the bench.  After only three seasons in the league, Washburn was banned from the NBA for life after testing positive for cocaine three times in three years.

2) Kwame Brown, C, Washington Wizards drafted 1st Overall in 2001 NBA Draft out of Glynn Academy High School (462 Games, 7.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.0 APG) - Brown holds the distinction of being the first high schooler to ever be selected first overall in an NBA Draft.  Highlighted as the first of many bad executive decisions made by basketball legend Michael Jordan, Brown struggled to display any production or maturity in his first few years as a Wizard.  In his th ird season he showed real signs of a breakthrough, but injuries and problems with his teammates cost him his job in Washington.  He was sent home by the Wizards during the 2005 NBA postseason and was on the negative end of two of the most lopsided trades in recent memory, being traded to the Lakers for Caron Butler and then being traded to the Grizzlies for Pau Gasol.  His future looks to be primarily as a backup center in the league.

1) Darko Milicic, F-C, Detroit Pistons drafted 2nd Overall in 2003 NBA Draft out of Serbia (337 Games, 5.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.2 BPG) - There were a lot of great players in the famed 2003 NBA Draft.  Going into the draft, it was almost assured to all that Darko Milicic would be the first player selected after LeBron James.  The Detroit Pistons, fresh off of a conference finals appearance, were able to land the No. 2 pick after a prior deal with the then Vancouver Grizzlies for Otis Thorpe.  Milicic arrived with much fan fare in Detroit but was never able to get off of the bench.  Viewed as too young by fans and coach Larry Brown, the 18 year old Milicic sat on the bench for two Pistons teams that went to the finals and Darko won a championship in his rookie season on the 2004 Pistons team.  Midway through his third year with the Pistons, still unable to get off of the bench, Milicic was traded to the Magic and showed the promise that people hoped for.  However, after landing a solid deal from the Memphis Grizzlies as a result of that promise, Milicic has largely dissapointed and stands out as a ridiculously underachieving talent in a draft that included players such as Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and even Chris Kaman, Kirk Hinrich, T.J. Ford and David West drafted after Milicic.  Even though the Pistons achieved great success at the early part of this century, this pick is largely viewed as "what could have been" as most say the team would have achieved more than one championship if not for this draft blunder.
Posted on: June 2, 2009 4:42 pm
Edited on: June 2, 2009 4:43 pm
 

Derrick Rose's Problems Are NBA's Fault

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Originally posted on June 2nd, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on: April 16, 2009 11:42 pm
Edited on: April 16, 2009 11:56 pm
 

Final 2008-2009 NBA Power Rankings

1) Cleveland Cavaliers - The Cavaliers were the best team throughout the entire season, expressing dominance at home, boasting the greatest player in the game and a fantastic group of shooters that could really spread the floor. Their commitment to defense, though, is what's been the true reason for their elevation of play.

2) Los Angeles Lakers - Kobe Bryant really was in neutral all season long, letting Pau Gasol carry the brunt of the responsibility, and for that reason the Lakers are dangerous come playoff time. Now that Andrew Bynum is back, it'll be interesting to see who finishes the games in Los Angeles. With Bynum out last postseason, Odom and Gasol finished games and it looks as if Odom may very well be the odd man out this year.

3) Boston Celtics - Losing Kevin Garnett is killer if that's really true. Hopefully he comes back and the Celtics can defend their championship at full strength. Doc Rivers and Paul Pierce did a great job righting the ship this season regardless of who was out due to injury, and players like Glen Davis, Kendrick Perkins, Rajon Rondo and Tony Allen as of late have really given the Celtics a nice core of young players as well.

4) Portland Trail Blazers - The Trail Blazers provided one of the most exciting seasons among any team in the league this year. Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge were the catalysts for a team that boasts just some spectacular role players and two legitimate centers. With the best home fans in the league (sorry Utah) the Blazers are poised for a tough run in this year's postseason.

5) Denver Nuggets - Chauncey Billups arriving really provided the spark this team needed to get out of their mediocre ways. A new effort on defense was shown, and Carmelo Anthony was able to, quietly, have the best season of his young career. The return of Chris Andersen, though, is the best story on this team full of characters and talent.

6) Houston Rockets - The Rockets were able to overcome the losses of Tracy McGrady and Rafer Alston with some fantastic play in the second half of the season. They're one of the better defensive teams in the league and they make up for their defeciences with an unbelievable display of effort on the court.

7) San Antonio Spurs - The loss of Manu Ginobili is critical in the postseason, but the Spurs have overcome injuries all season to all of the big three to give themselves the Southwest Division Championship. Quite a season by the Spurs when you consider all that happened to the team.

8) Orlando Magic - The Magic faded down the stretch, but still boast the game's most dominant center and a fantastic array of shooters. Hedo Turkoglu's injury is critical (as was Jameer Nelson's back in February) but the Magic still found a way to win 59 games due to their new commitment on the defensive end spearheaded by Dwight Howard.

9) New Orleans Hornets - Another team that was decimated by injuries this season. By the visual test, the Hornets really underachieved and regressed this year, but all things considered they did a fantastic job masking their weaknesses this season to get into the playoffs and put themselves in position to make a run. Health, though, could really do them in.

10) Dallas Mavericks - The Mavericks peaked at the right time, at the end of the season. Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry had fantastic seasons and Jason Kidd headed a very effecient offensive group. They're fantastic at home and can really score the basketball.

11) Atlanta Hawks - Mike Woodson deserves some recognition for the job he did getting this Hawks team to build off of last season to emerge into the squad that they currently are. They have a team full of talented, unselfish players and can really make a run in the postseason.

12) Utah Jazz - Unfortuantely, one of the most talented teams in the Western Conference cannot win on the road and that simply puts too much pressure on them to win at home. Deron Williams has done it by himself the last month of the season and the Jazz have to hope they haven't exhausted their star point guard. The Jazz's decline, coincidentally, can be traced back to the return of Carlos Boozer and the shift of Paul Millsap back to the bench.

13) Miami Heat - Dwyane Wade really carried this team to new heights this season. However, the contributions of rookies Michael Beasley and especially Mario Chalmers shouldn't be overlooked, as these three give the Heat a dangerous unit heading into the postseason. Wade is head and shoulders above everyone on the team, but there's not a bunch of scrubs lacing it up with Wade.

14) Chicago Bulls - A fantastic midseason trade helped the Bulls pull of a spectacular run at the end of the season to get them into the playoffs. A bad loss at home helps people forget the fantastic basketball the team was playing en route to their run. Vinny Del Negro did a mighty fine job considering his lack of any experience coaching at any level.

15) Philadelphia 76ers - Losing Maurice Cheeks really hurt this team. I know they posted a better record without him, but they surged in last season's second half and faltered in this season's second half. Elton Brand was heavily criticized, but he'd help in the half court game they may have to play in the playoffs.

16) Phoenix Suns - A pathetic defensive display is what keeps Phoenix out of the postseason for the first time since 2004. Shaquille O'Neal had a very nice bounce back season for the Suns and it was nice to see Grant Hill play all 82 games. However, this team is a mediocre assortment of aging and average players and look to be heading in the wrong direction for the future.

17) Detroit Pistons - Who would have thought the trade that brought in Allen Iverson would have that much of an affect on this team's chemistry (besides me, of course)? The Pistons emerged as shells of their former selves this season and moonwalk into the postseason hoping to flip the switch on again.

18) Indiana Pacers - The loss of Mike Dunleavy really hurt this team, and having to reacclimate Danny Granger right in the middle of their surge to the postseason made the Pacers stumble a bit and is the biggest reason they didn't make the postseason. However, if Dunleavy can come back next year and mix well with the good draft picks this team has ,Brandon Rush and Roy Hibbert, then the Pacers (my presseason pick for the 8th seed) can make a run at the playoffs next season.

19) Milwaukee Bucks - Richard Jefferson emerged as a really solid player this year. He's always been good, but holding this depleted squad in playoff contention for as long as they did speaks wonders for Jefferson and still underrated coach Scott Skiles. They have quite the find in Ramon Sessions and this team is headed in the right direction with the right offseason moves.

20) Charlotte Bobcats - The Bobcats made a push for the postseason before faltering down the stretch. However, looking at the players that they acquired simply for the playoffs, this is no longer a team on the rise. They have good, young players but they have a mixture of solid veterans as well. There's no excuse for them to not make the postseason next year.

21) New York Knicks - Mike D'Antoni's refusal to play defense kept the Knicks out of the playoffs this year. David Lee, Nate Robinson and Wilson Chandler emerged to become fantastic players for New York and it's nice to see Madison Square Garden care again. The moves they make this offseason will be critical to the future of this team.

22) New Jersey Nets - They had a great first half to the season, but their lack of raw talent came back to hurt them as the season progressed. Vince Carter did a great job as the leader of this team, but he is the most likely candidate to be moved this offseason for New Jersey. They have to like what they saw from Devin Harris and Brook Lopez this year, and this is a team headed in the right direction.

23) Golden State Warriors - Injuries to Stephen Jackson, Monta Ellis, Andris Biedrins and Corey Maggette this year didn't help matters this year and if you couple that with the fact that the Warriors were the youngest team in the league, their record shouldn't come as a surprise to you. However, this team is really talented and with the right seasoning could be poised for another playoff run next year or the year after. They still could use a true point guard.

24) Toronto Raptors - Unfortunately, the acquisition of Jermaine O'Neal and the midsesason trade of O'Neal for Marion did nothing for the Raptors postseason hopes. Chris Bosh, after a hot start, had a really average finish and Jose Calderon did not elevate his game as expected following the big contract. This is a team that has a very interesting offseason approaching them, but they have to like the improvement of Andrea Bargnani this season.

25) Oklahoma City Thunder - Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and company give that fantastic fan base a lot of hope for the future. They're another big man and, possibly, a legitimate shooting guard away from the playoffs as early as next season. Keeping interim coach Scott Brooks was the right thing to do, as well, seeing as how that team responded to him at the end of the year.

26) Minnesota Timberwolves - Losing Al Jefferson killed their season, as before that Minnesota was really starting to play solid basketball. I still don't know how they're going to play Kevin Love and Jefferson together, but Jefferson and Randy Foye give Minnesota a nice one-two combination for the future. Mike Miller was a huge dissapointment this season, and Minnesota should look to make a few moves in the offseason including finding something to do with Miller.

27) Memphis Grizzlies - O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley have the Grizzlies heading in the right direction. They still didn't take the step forward that I was expecting from them, but they showed moments of cohesiveness. If they can somehow land Blake Griffin, this team will be set to really leap forward next season. However, Rudy Gay didn't progress as much as what was to be expected this season, and he needs to bounce back next season.

28) Washington Wizards - Injuries ruined this team but unfortunately, they're not very talented even when healthy. This is a team heading nowhere in a hurry with all of the money they have tied into Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison. The Wizards are probably going to give it another run next season, fully healthy, but I wouldn't expect anything more than a possible appearance in the postseason.

29) Los Angeles Clippers - Expectations and an insurgent of talent in Clippers couldn't keep the Clippers from being the Clippers this season. Everyone on the team missed significant time due to injury, and they never meshed as a unit. Even though they have fantastic individual pieces, you have to wonder if this team will work well as a unit at all. They'll probably get another shot next season.

30) Sacramento Kings - Kevin Martin, Spencer Hawes and company should be embarassed at the effort put up in Sacramento this season. The lack of talent on the team cost a good coach, Reggie Theus, his job and Martin couldn't do much to salvage any kind of hope for even next season. This team is a long way from any kind of contention and they have holes at every single position on the floor. It doesn't look good for a struggling franchise, and it's a shame to see all of those empty seats at Arco Arena on a nightly basis.
 

 

Posted on: April 5, 2009 12:06 am
 

2009 NBA Playoff Preview: Miami Heat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well now that teams are clinching divisions and spots in the postseason I thought it would be cool to go ahead and preview each team that is going to be a part of the 2009 NBA Postseason. I will do one for each team as they clinch a playoff spot and since we already have teams that have clinched, we will start with them. Now we will continue with the team that, one season removed from 15 wins, is returning to the NBA postseason: the Miami Heat.

Strengths
The Heat are a team built around the strengths of their best player, Dwyane Wade.  Wade is having an MVP caliber season and has done a fantastic job elevating his game this season and staying healthy, leading Miami into the postseason after last season's dreadful performance.  Wade leads a talented, if underwhelming, team into the playoffs and the Heat go into the playoffs with upset on their mind.  This Heat team has Wade, Udonis Haslem and Dorell Wright (although he hardly plays) remaining from the 2006 NBA championship team, so this is a team with players who know what it takes to win in the postseason.  For a team as young as Miami is, that experience is vital to their success.  In the playoffs, where the pace is slowed down and the games get more physical, games usually come to key possessions and any team that has a player like Wade with the ball in his hands in crucial situations, the Heat have a chance to win any game that they're in.  Dwyane Wade has done a great job expanding his game to include the three point shot, and the Heat actually posses a few shooters that can help stretch the floor in Mario Chalmers, 3-point shootout winner Daequan Cook, Chris Quinn and Yakhouba Diawara

The Heat are also a unique team, because they can win in grind it out types of games that can put an emphasis on the importance of Dwyane Wade, and they also are a team that is athletic enough to run the floor and play fast with teams that try to use that to their advantage.  Players like Wade, Haslem, Michael Beasley, Jamario Moon and Jermaine O'Neal may not be at home underneath the basket, but all of them are capable of scoring inside the paint and taking smaller defenders to the basket if called upon.  Offense remains the biggest asset the Heat have. 

Weaknesses
All things considered, the Heat are a very small team.  Playing O'Neal at center may have its advantages on the offensive side because he can knock down 15 foot jump shots and help pull the defense away from the basket, but he gets bullied around by bigger players.  Udonis Haslem will be called upon to guard these bigger players when O'Neal can't, but 6'9" is a generous listing for him and there's only so much he can do that undersized.  Jamaal Magloire has really fallen off the face of the Earth relevance wise and could give minutes at the center position, but won't be much of a difference maker on either side of the basket. 

Also, this is a team that relies too much on Dwyane Wade.  He's the only game changer on the Heat, so if they need someone to facilitate he's the one required to do so.  If they need a basket, they turn to Wade.  If they need someone to run the offense, they turn to Wade.  That's going to catch up to them when teams have seven games to zero in on Wade and figure out new strategies to contain him.  Other players have to step up, and nobody has emerged as a consistent second option to take some of the pressure off of Wade.  Also, this team is prone to turnovers and can fall behind early.  When that happens, Wade is the only way that this team can climb back into games.  That kind of dependence on one player is dangerous in the playoffs, especially when the Heat fall into helter skelter styles of play.

Why They Will Win It
The Heat have one of the best players in the game, and when you have him, you're capable of winning in the postseason.  Dwyane Wade is good for at least a few victories any series and has lifted the play of his teammates this season to the point where they are in the playoffs.  The other players on the team understand their roles and really do try their best to fill those roles and they seem comfortable stepping aside for Wade.  They're a versatile offensive squad and they follow the leadership of Wade and really give it their all every night that they step onto the floor. 

Why They Won't Win It
Even though the team has one of the top five players in the league, they're really talent deprived.  They're very young and very small, and those factors matched with total dependence on Wade don't bode well as far as a run to the championship is concerned.  They don't have many options at center and don't have any big men aside from Haslem who really thrive in tough, physical situations under the basket.  And Haslem is too small to have to do it all by himself.  The team has effort and plays hard, but sometimes it comes down to the fact that your opposition has more people to turn to and more ways to attack you than you do.

Conclusion
The Heat go into every single game believing they can win simply by the amazing presence and performance this season of Dwyane Wade.  In any one game, Dwyane Wade is more than capable of carrying this squad to a victory and he does so on a consistent basis.  He can carry them out of the first round by his grit and determination alone, but it's not plausible to believe that he can single handedly carry this Heat team to a championship.  Depending on their draw in the first round, the Heat are capable of making it to the semifinals which is fantastic considering the team that they've fielded this season.  Wade has done a tremendous job with this team, but a lack of options and lack of help will do them in against much better teams. 

Coming up next: the Philadelphia 76ers.

Posted on: February 4, 2009 12:24 am
 

Evaluating the NBA Age Limit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on: 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