Tag:Kenyon Martin
Posted on: June 1, 2012 5:52 pm
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Ranking No. 1 Draft Picks of Draft Lottery Era

With the 2012 NBA draft looming and with it widely assumed that Anthony Davis will be the newest addition to the list of number one draft picks in NBA history, I figured I would rank the top number one draft picks of the lottery era; which happens to be where the Hornets are selecting.  The lottery was put into place in 1985 to prevent teams from intentionally tanking a season just so that they could get the number one draft pick.  Once put into place, the team with the worst record in the league has gotten the number one draft pick only four times.  It's hard to rank these players as some are very young in their careers and others still have years to tack on the achievements.  A lot of the last few draft picks will be ranked by potential and performance in their young careers so don't get upset if they're too far down or high on the list.  This is a list I've tried to tackle before that I've been able to adjust due to being a little bit wiser and with stuff going down between the players over the last few years.  So here it goes: ranking the top No. 1 Draft picks of the lottery era.

27) Michael Olowokandi, C, Los Angeles Clippers out of University of the Pacific in 1998 NBA Draft (500 Games, 393 Starts, 8.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 59.7 FT Pctg., 43.5 FG Pctg., 10.7 PER, 88 Offensive Rating, 104 Defensive Rating) - The Kandi Man receives the dubious honor of being ranked the worst No. 1 Draft Pick of the Draft Lottery Era.  Viewed as one of many abysmal Clippers draft picks, Olowokandi was drafted first overall after a fantastic senior season at the University of the Pacific.  Seen as a highly skilled 7-foot athlete, the Clippers drafted Olowokandi to be the anchor in the paint for the routinely unsuccessfull franchise.  Instead, Olowokandi mixed flashes of brilliance with long droughts and fought injuries in Los Angeles before eating up the Timberwolves salary cap.  He spent his final few years with the Boston Celtics before quietly leaving the league in 2007.

26) Kwame Brown, C, Washington Wizards out of Glynn Academy High School in 2001 NBA Draft (585 Games, 270 Starts, 6.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 57.3 FT Pctg., 49.2 FG Pctg., 12.6 PER, 102 Offensive Rating, 106 Defensive Rating) - While not being the worst number one draft pick of the draft lottery era, Kwame Brown does hold the distinction of being the first high school player to ever be selected first overall in an NBA draft.  Highlighted as the first of many bad executive moves made by basketball legend Michael Jordan, Brown struggled to display any production or maturity in his first few years as a Wizard.  In his third season he showed real signs of a breakthrough, but injuries and problems with his teammates cost him his job in Washington.  He had one good year with the Lakers before famously being traded to the Grizzlies for Pau Gasol.  Since then, Kwame has bounced around the league as a serviceable reserve big man and that looks to be his future for as long as he's in the league.

25) Greg Oden, C, Portland Trail Blazers out of Ohio State University in 2007 NBA Draft (82 Games, 60 Starts, 9.4 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 66.6 FT Pctg., 57.7 FG Pctg., 19.5 PER, 117 Offensive Rating, 103 Defensive Rating) - A huge seven footer with a personality that reminded some of Shaquille O'Neal, Oden had high expectations going as far back as high school.  Because of the NBA's age limit, Oden played one season with Ohio State before declaring for the NBA Draft.  He was met with high fanfare in Portland but struggled to stay on the court at all and has now had three microfracture knee surgeries since 2007.  The jury's still out on him as he still wants to play, but 82 games in five years is no great start.  It also doesn't help that Kevin Durant went to the Seattle Supersonics with the second overall pick directly after Oden.  He was productive on the court when he was on it but it looks like Oden's body will let him down.

24) Pervis Ellison, PF, Sacramento Kings out of University of Louisville in 1989 NBA Draft (474 Games, 245 Starts, 9.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 1.5 APG, 68.9 FT Pctg., 51.0 FG Pctg., 15.2 PER, 105 Offensive Rating, 106 Defensive Rating) - "Never Nervous" Pervis Ellison was a fantastic colleigate player at the University of Louisville before entering the NBA with humongous expectations.  However, after being named the number one draft pick, Ellison immediately underwent surgery to remove bone Spurs from his foot and ankle in what would be a sign of things to follow.  Ellison didn't last long with the Kings before being traded to the Washington Bullets, where he showed signs of his lofty selection by winning the 1992 NBA Most Improved Player of the Year award.  However, knee problems resurfaced for Pervis and he spent the last years of his career as a reserve for the Boston Celtics.

23) John Wall, PG, Washington Wizards out of University of Kentucky in 2010 NBA Draft (135 Games, 130 Starts, 16.3 PPG, 8.2 APG, 4.6 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 77.7 FT Pctg., 41.6 FG Pctg., 16.7 PER, 100 Offensive Rating, 108 Defensive Rating) - John Wall came out of the University of Kentucky having grabbed every one of college basketball's big individual awards and as part of a team that produced five first round draft picks.  Wall has been known for his dance more so than his game in his two years in Washington as he's had to deal with a coaching change, ownership transfer and a true lack of talent in his two years in Washington.  The raw talent is there for him to be a very good point guard in this league and he's dealt with some unfair criticism in his time in the league, but the jury's still out on him.

22) Andrea Bargnani, PF, Toronto Raptors out of Benetton Treviso in Italy in 2006 NBA Draft (398 Games, 291 Starts, 15.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.3 APG, 82.4 FT Pctg., 36.5 3PT FG Pctg., 44.0 FG Pctg., 14.6 PER, 104 Offensive Rating, 111 Defensive Rating) - As a seven footer with fantastic range on his jump shot, Bargnani drew many comparisons to Dallas Mavericks great Dirk Nowitzki and was drafted first overall by Toronto in 2006 to couple with fellow big man Chris Bosh.  Bargnani, though, had seemed to be so infatuated with the three point shot that he didn't focus on any other aspect of his game.  For someone his size, his rebounding numbers remain poor and his defense has always been spotty.  After suffering a severe sophomore slump, Bargnani bounced back to have a solid third season with Toronto and eventually seemed to put it all together this past season.  He may never become an elite player but Bargnani looks like he'll have a really good career for the rest of his time in the NBA.

21) Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers out of Duke University in 2011 NBA Draft (51 Games, 51 Starts, 18.5 PPG, 5.4 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 87.2 FT Pctg., 39.9 3PT FG Pctg., 46.9 FG Pctg., 21.4 PER, 109 Offensive Rating, 110 Defensive Rating) - Irving was drafted in another conspiracy fueled draft that followed the departure of LeBron James from Cleveland.  Irving stepped in and immediately had one of the better rookie seasons in recent memory; essentially running away with every individual accolade.  Coming into the draft following a freak injury at Duke that limited his freshman season, there were concerns about Irving and his durability (to be fair, he did miss 15 games this season as well) but the potential is there for Irving to be a very, very special player in Cleveland.

20) Andrew Bogut, C, Milwaukee Bucks out of University of Utah in 2005 NBA Draft (408 Games, 400 Starts, 12.7 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.6 BPG, 57.4 FT Pctg., 52.2 FG Pctg., 17.0 PER, 106 Offensive Rating, 104 Defensive Rating) - Bogut, being a seven footer with a fantastic skill set and equipped with a nice post game while being a very adept passing big man was a lock as the number one draft pick in the 2005 NBA Draft.  After playing for Australia in the 2004 Olympics, he got lots of praise from the Olympic Games and the expectations were huge for him in his sophomore season with the Utah Utes.  Bogut did not disappoint and then declared for the NBA Draft.  So far, Bogut has had difficulty staying on the court but his production has been solid when he is on the court.  He was the starting center for the Bucks during his entire stay there and has shown flashes of being a very good, pure center.  He was recently traded to the Golden State Warriors at the trade deadline and time will tell if he'll ever reach his full potential.

19) Joe Smith, PF, Golden State Warriors out of University of Maryland, College Park in 1995 NBA Draft (1,030 Games, 619 Starts, 10.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.0 APG, 79.0 FT Pctg., 45.5 FG Pctg., 15.4 PER, 107 Offensive Rating, 106 Defensive Rating) - Joe Smith turned two great seasons manning down the middle for the Maryland Terrapins into the number one draft pick in the 1995 NBA Draft.  After being selected by Golden State, he was solid for the Warriors for his first two seasons in the league but once it was evident he would never be great, he was shipped off in the middle of his third season.  Smith then spent time with just about every team in the NBA, nearly challenging Jim Jackson's record of teams played with in his career (for the record, he played with twelve).  Even though he's been a solid contributor and role player to playoff teams for the duration of his career, Smith will most likely always be remembered for costing the Minnesota Timberwolves five first round draft picks after being promised a multi-year deal in the future if he were to sign for below market value at the time so that the team could add more players.

18) Danny Manning, PF, Los Angeles Clippers out of University of Kansas in 1988 NBA Draft (883 Games, 398 Starts, 14.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.1 SPG, 72.9 FT Pctg., 51.1 FG Pctg., 16.9 PER, 106 Offensive Rating, 106 Defensive Rating) - A legend for the Kansas Jayhawks, Manning seemed to be a slam dunk as the first overall draft pick in 1988 by the Los Angeles Clippers.  Manning, though, suffered a knee injury in his rookie season that would haunt him for the remainder of his career.  After a few disappointing seasons, Manning emerged as an elite scorer for the Clippers, even making the 1993 All Star Game.  However, injuries caught back up to Manning as he finished his career at the end of benches for his last few years in the league.  Manning did, however, win the 1998 Sixth Man of the Year award with the Phoenix Suns.

17) Glenn Robinson, SF, Milwaukee Bucks out of Purdue University in 1994 NBA Draft (688 Games, 668 Starts, 20.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 82.0 FT Pctg., 34.0 3PT FG Pctg., 45.9 FG Pctg., 17.5 PER, 102 Offensive Rating, 107 Defensive Rating) - Billed as a fantastic scorer, Robinson won two Big Ten scoring titles in his two years of eligibility for the Purdue Boilermakers before entering the 1994 NBA Draft.  Although he put up fantastic numbers throughout his career, Robinson largely went unnoticed in Milwaukee.  He achieved success during the early turn of the century when he, Sam Cassell and Ray Allen helped the Bucks make it to the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals but Robinson eventually fizzled out in Milwaukee.  He was traded to Atlanta and then to Philadelphia and his contract was once property of the New Orleans Hornets before finishing his career in San Antonio.  Robinson did win a championship as a reserve for the Spurs in 2005.

16) Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles Clippers out of University of Oklahoma in 2009 NBA Draft (148 Games, 148 Starts, 21.7 PPG,11.5 RPG, 3.5 APG, 59.3 FT Pctg., 52.4 FG Pctg., 22.5 PER, 112 Offensive Rating, 106 Defensive Rating) - Blake is certainly not the most popular player in the league anymore but let's not forget how insanely productive he has been on the offensive boards in just two seasons.  He joined a porous Clippers team and had to miss the entirety of his rookie season after an injury to his kneecap during a preseason game against this Hornets squad but bounced back just fine after that: winning the 2010 NBA Rookie of the Year award and then helping lead his team to the Conference Semifinals for only the second time in franchise history this season.  He still has room to improve defensively and in his overall game but Griffin has been insanely productive in his first couple of years in the league.

15) Kenyon Martin, PF, New Jersey Nets out of University of Cincinnati in 2000 NBA Draft (696 Games, 641 Starts, 13.0 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 63.3 FT Pctg., 48.1 FG Pctg.,15.2 PER, 101 Offensive Rating, 101 Defensive Rating) - Figured to be the best prospect in a very weak 2000 NBA Draft, Martin was taken by the New Jersey Nets after a successful senior season for the Cincinnati Bearcats.  Viewed as an injury risk when he was selected, Martin turned in four great seasons with the Nets, routinely picking up his performance in the postseason and being a part of two Nets teams that won Eastern Conference Championships.  However, when Martin signed with the Denver Nuggets, his injuries caught up to him and he was forced to undergo the dreaded microfracture knee surgery.  He's since played in China during the lockout before returning to play for the Clippers this past season.  His explosiveness that was his trademark has been limited but he still remains a formidable player in this league and a spectacular defensive power forward.

14) Larry Johnson, PF, Charlotte Hornets out of University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 1991 NBA Draft (707 Games, 699 Starts,16.2 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 3.3 APG, 76.6 FT Pctg., 33.2 3PT FG Pctg., 48.4 FG Pctg., 16.3 PER, 112 Offensive Rating, 107 Defensive Rating) - Johnson was a dynamic player at the collegiate level for the Runnin' Rebels before entering the 1991 NBA Draft.  Selected by the upstart Charlotte Hornets, the 1992 NBA Rookie of the Year would team with Muggsy Bogues and Alonzo Mourning to bring the Hornets out of mediocrity at the beginning of his career.  After signing an unprecedented ten year deal with the Hornets, frustrations grew between Johnson and Mourning which led to "Grandmama" and Big Zo being immediately shipped away from Charlotte.  Johnson went on to start for a New York Knicks team that made the 1999 NBA Finals, but was a shell of his former self in New York due to severe back injuries.  He's probably best known for an epic four point play during a crucial game 3 of the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals with the Knicks.

13) Derrick Coleman, PF, New Jersey Nets out of Syracuse University in 1990 NBA Draft (781 Games, 672 Starts, 16.5 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.3 BPG, 76.9 FT Pctg., 29.5 3PT FG Pctg., 44.7 FG Pctg., 18.0 PER, 105 Offensive Rating, 103 Defensive Rating) - Coleman was a fantastic player for the Syracuse Orange in college and was viewed, by many, as one of the best prospects in recent NBA History when selected in the 1990 NBA Draft.  Coleman would win the 1991 NBA Rookie of the Year award and many expectations were given to the bulky power forward.  Coleman was solid during his time in the league but never broke into that "great player" status that many envisioned he would.  Coleman had many problems with his weight over the span of his career and left on bad terms with all of the teams he participated on.  He's gone on to be a makeshift humanitarian of sorts since his retirement but had to recently file for bankruptcy.  His career will be looked at with an asterisk as he never was as great as he should have been.

12) Brad Daugherty, C, Cleveland Cavaliers out of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1986 NBA Draft (548 Games, 546 Starts, 19.0 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 3.7 APG, 74.7 FT Pctg., 53.2 FG Pctg., 18.9 PER, 114 Offensive Rating, 105 Defensive Rating) - A collegiate great for the North Carolina Tar Heels, Daugherty was selected by the Cavaliers in the 1986 NBA Draft and turned out a fantastic career with Cleveland.  As part of a draft class that also brought in Mark Price and Ron Harper, the Cavaliers experienced years of above average success, even making the 1992 Eastern Conference Finals.  However, as is the case with a lot of players on this list, Daugherty suffered drastic injuries to his back at the end of his career and was forced to retire at the age of 28 in 1994.  He's since joined ESPN's crew as a commentator for NASCAR.

11) Yao Ming, C, Houston Rockets out of Shanghai Sharks in China in 2002 NBA Draft (486 Games, 476 Starts, 19.0 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 1.6 APG, 83.3 FT Pctg., 52.4 FG Pctg., 23.0 PER, 112 Offensive Rating, 99 Defensive Rating) - Towering over competition at 7'6", Ming was a lock at the top of the 2002 NBA Draft when the Rockets won the draft lottery.  Coming into the league with much fan fare and expectations, Ming rarely disappointed when he had been on the court.  Skilled with fantastic shooting touch for a player of his size, Ming was one of the best centers in the league for the duration of his career but had many leg problems that prohibited him from achieving "great" status.  After continuously battling with his legs and feet, he retired last off season.

10) Elton Brand, PF, Chicago Bulls out of Duke University in 1999 NBA Draft (860 Games, 830 Starts, 18.3 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.9 BPG, 1.0 SPG, 73.9 FT Pctg., 50.1 FG Pctg., 21.3 PER, 111 Offensive Rating, 104 Defensive Rating) - A quiet but very effective low post scorer for the Duke Blue Devils, Brand declared for the 1999 NBA Draft after his sophomore season and won the co-Rookie of the Year Award with Chicago, an award he shared with Houston Rockets guard Steve Francis.  Brand was inexplicably traded after two seasons with the Bulls, and continued his stellar play with the Los Angeles Clippers.  A very talented and loyal competitor, Brand's career has been void of much success.  He made the conference semifinals in 2006 and with the 76ers this season but, aside from that, hasn't won a first round series in his career.  Over a two year stretch from 2007 to 2009, Brand only played in 37 games due to an achilles injury and it's limited him as a player.  Brand will probably never reach the elite level that he once was at but his career is still with great individual success.

9) Derrick Rose, PG, Chicago Bulls out of University of Memphis in 2008 NBA Draft (279 Games, 278 Starts, 21.0 PPG, 6.8 APG, 3.8 RPG, 81.5 FT Pctg., 31.0 3PT FG Pctg., 46.4 FG Pctg., 19.9 PER, 110 Offensive Rating, 107 Defensive Rating) - Drafted in 2008, Rose was a hometown boy who took Chicago by storm when he won the Rookie of the Year award and brought the team to the postseason in his rookie year.  Since then he's become the youngest player to ever win the NBA MVP Award in 2011, took his team to the Eastern Conference Finals last year and been the key player for a Bulls team that's had the best record in the league the last two seasons.  He suffered a tough ACL injury in the postseason and the efficiency in his individual numbers has decreased before then with his high usage rate (due to Coach Tom Thibodeau's poor offensive schemes) and it remains to be seen what kind of player Rose will be when he gets back.

8) Dwight Howard, C, Orlando Magic out of Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy High School in 2004 NBA Draft (621 Games, 620 Starts, 18.4 PPG, 13.0 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 1.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 58.8 FT Pctg., 57.7 FG Pctg., 22.5 PER, 111 Offensive Rating, 98 Defensive Rating) - A fantastic athlete for a player of his size, Howard was a high school prodigy and was a surprise at the first overall selection in 2004.  After the Magic passed on the proven Emeka Okafor to select Howard, he immediately rewarded the Magic with flashes of brilliance in his rookie season with Orlando.  Howard has led the Magic to the playoffs the last six years of his career, saw the team make it to the NBA Finals in 2009 and has won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award three times.  He's rubbed people the wrong way with his antics off the court towards the Orlando Magic franchise the last couple of years, but there's no denying that the sky is still the limit for this big man.

7) Chris Webber, PF, Orlando Magic out of University of Michigan in 1993 NBA Draft (831 Games, 827 Starts, 20.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.4 BPG, 1.4 SPG, 20.9 PER, 104 Offensive Rating, 101 Defensive Rating) - A highly skilled member of the famed Fab Five Michigan Wolverines days, Webber seemed to be a lock for the number one overall selection after declaring for the 1993 NBA Draft following his sophomore season.  Originally drafted by the Magic, Webber was immediately traded to the Golden State Warriors for Penny Hardaway and won the 1994 Rookie of the Year Award with the Warriors.  However, Webber battled with Warriors coach Don Nelson during his rookie season and was shockingly shipped to the Washington Bullets after his rookie season.  Although he put up good numbers with the Bullets (then ultimately the Wizards), Webber's best years came when he was traded to the Sacramento Kings for Mitch Richmond.  Webber led the Kings to the most successful stretch in franchise history, even reaching the 2002 Western Conference Finals as a member of the squad.  Webber never did win a championship, though, and spent his last years with the Kings and 76ers battling through knee injuries before finishing his career with a brief return to Golden State.

6) Patrick Ewing, C, New York Knicks out of Georgetown University in 1985 NBA Draft (1,183 Games, 1,122 Starts, 21.0 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 1.9 APG, 1.0 SPG, 74.0 FT Pctg., 50.4 FG Pctg., 21.0 PER, 106 Offensive Rating, 99 Defensive Rating) - Viewed as a can't miss player out of Georgetown, Ewing was the prize of the first ever draft lottery in 1985.  The New York Knicks would win that draft lottery and would immediately announce their intentions to select Ewing.  Ewing was a fantastic low post presence for the Knicks throughout his career.  For all of his success, Ewing's reputation changes based on who you talk to.  Being a tough interview his entire career in New York, he was often the subject of criticism at the hands of the New York Media for being unable to win a championship, although he made the 1994 NBA Finals.  Currently becoming recognized as a top assistant coach in the league (currently with the Magic), Ewing never did win a championship but continued to produce after winning the 1986 Rookie of the Year award, even being named one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players in history in 1997 and being enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

5) Allen Iverson, PG, Philadelphia 76ers out of Georgetown University in 1996 NBA Draft (914 Games, 901 Starts, 26.7 PPG, 6.2 APG, 3.7 RPG, 2.2 SPG, 78.0 FT Pctg., 31.3 3PT FG Pctg., 42.5 FG Pctg., 20.9 PER, 105 Offensive Rating, 106 Defensive Rating) - An explosive scorer during his entire tenture in basketball, Iverson was the first overall selection in the famed 1996 NBA draft.  Iverson went on to take the league by storm, winning the 1997 Rookie of the Year award and successfully pulling off a cross over on the league's best player: Michael Jordan.  Iverson would take Philadelphia to unprecedented success, even making the 2001 NBA Finals with the 76ers.  Iverson, though, had a reputation of being a selfish and immature player and clashed with many coaches and teammates in Philadelphia.  After finally demanding a trade in 2006, Iverson was shipped to the Denver Nuggets where his reputation proceeded to take huge blows.  While in Denver and Detroit (and later in his return to Philadelphia), Iverson continued to show a huge problem playing with has not yet officially retired (although he's been out of the league the last two seasons with no offers to return) but his past success cannot be denied.

4) David Robinson, C, San Antonio Spurs out of United States Naval Academy in 1987 NBA Draft (987 Games, 985 Starts, 21.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 3.0 BPG, 2.5 APG, 1.4 SPG, 73.6 FT Pctg., 51.8 FG Pctg., 26.2 PER, 116 Offensive Rating, 96 Defensive Rating) - A fantastic athlete that came to national prominence with the Midshipmen, former gymnast David Robinson was a risky selection by the Spurs in the 1987 NBA Draft by account of his having to serve two years with the United States Navy after his graduation.  Because of this, there were rumors that he may sign with another team when eligible to play in the NBA.  However, Robinson joined the Spurs in the 1989 NBA off season.  A fantastic athlete, Robinson racked up many awards during his tenure with San Antonio: the 1990 NBA Rookie of the Year winner, 1992 Defensive Player of the Year award, an NBA Sportmanship Award, Citizenship Award, 1995 Most Valuable Player of the Year and two time Olympic Gold Medalist with the United States of America.  Robinson's career was overshadowed by a difficulty winning big games and a perceived lack of toughness.  After the arrival of Tim Duncan, though, in 1997, Robinson would win two championships with the San Antonio Spurs and play his entire fourteen year career with San Antonio, be named one of the NBA's 50 greatest players in league history in 1997 and also being elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.

3) LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers out of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in 2003 NBA Draft (689 Games, 688 Starts, 27.6 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 6.9 APG, 1.7 SPG, 74.6 FT Pctg., 33.1 3PT FG Pctg., 48.3 FG Pctg., 27.2 PER, 115 Offensive Rating, 102 Defensive Rating) - A local Akron, Ohio, prodigy, LeBron James was met with ridiculous expectations during his high school days at St. Vincent - St. Mary's and eventually surpassed all of those expectations after entering the NBA.  As a raw eighteen year old prospect, LeBron won the 2004 NBA Rookie of the Yer award and in his third season in the league led the perennial doormat Cavaliers to the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.  Over time, LeBron James eventually led the Cavaliers to their first NBA Finals Appearance in franchise history in 2007, has racked up three NBA MVP Awards (in 2009, 2010 and 2012) and shaken the NBA to its core when he decided to form the first super-team when he left Cleveland to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.  Still seeking that ever elusive championship ring, people can critique LeBron's game all they want (and, trust me, they will) but there's no denying how great he is and how great he still will be.

2) Shaquille O'Neal, C, Orlando Magic out of Louisiana State University in 1992 NBA Draft (1,207 Games, 1,197 Starts, 23.7 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, 2.3 BPG, 52.7 FT Pctg., 58.2 FG Pctg., 26.4 PER, 113 Offensive Rating, 101 Defensive Rating) - O'Neal was an athletic seven footer entering the league with an abundance of personality, a skill set unmatched by anyone in recent memory and with high expectations.  O'Neal was a lock for the first overall selection in the 1992 NBA Draft and took the league by storm in his first season with Orlando, winning the 1993 NBA Rookie of the Year award.  O'Neal led the Magic to the 1995 NBA Finals in only his third season in the league before signing with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1996 NBA Off season.  The rest, as they say, is history.  O'Neal would team with coach Phil Jackson and a young Kobe Bryant to win three NBA Championships, three NBA Finals MVPs and the 2000 NBA Most Valuable Player award all with the Lakers.  Following a very public dispute with Kobe Bryant, Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat in 2005 where he teamed with a young Dwyane Wade to win the 2006 NBA Championship with the Heat.  O'Neal would eventually become a bit of a "ring chaster" near the end of his career, flailing in stops in Phoenix, Cleveland and Boston before finally retiring last off season.  Although he's achieved fantastic success in his career - winning on the court, selling platinum records and starring in major motion picture films - O'Neal's career is overshadowed by his squabbles with teammates and coaches and has left on bad terms with all of the teams with which he's played.  But don't let it distort your view of O'Neal as a player.  On the court, there's few who were as great as O'Neal.

1) Tim Duncan, PF, San Antonio Spurs out of Wake Forest University in 1997 NBA Draft (1,111 Games, 1,109 Starts, 20.3 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 3.1 APG, 2.2 BPG, 68.8 FT Pctg., 50.7 FG Pctg., 24.7 PER, 110 Offensive Rating, 95 Defensive Rating) - A quiet, yet talented big man at Wake Forest, the former aspiring Olympic Swimmer from the Virgin Islands took the world by storm in college and was a lock as the number one draft pick once he graduated from Wake Forest in 1997.  One of the four four year collegians on this list, Duncan joined another number one draft pick in David Robinson and turned the Spurs into a championship team in only his second year.  Long viewed as a small market team seemingly always incapable of winning big games, Duncan went to San Antonio and has won four championships, three NBA Finals MVPs, two regular season Most Valuable Player of the Year awards, the 1998 Rookie of the Year award and has been the staple in the middle for the Spurs for all of their championship teams in franchise history.  Turning a historically underachieving team into a mini dynasty of sorts, The Big Fundamental, as he is called, is one of the most notorious players in the league due to his huge levels of success while being largely a quiet and private person.  But the fact that Duncan went to a franchise that had never won a championship and was able to be the centerpiece for four (and potentially five) NBA Championships during his run there is quite remarkable.  And it's led to him, arguably, being the best Number One draft pick of the draft lottery era.
Posted on: May 19, 2010 1:38 pm
Edited on: May 20, 2010 3:17 pm
 

Top Ten Drafts Last Ten Years: # 8

I figured since I didn't do a playoff preview this season for each team as I did last year, I'll do a fun little countdown to this year's draft, since that's where my team is going to be instead of the postseason.  Well now that we got our debates about whether or not 2007 was worth the #9 selection, I'm going to give in to my loyal readers and say I was probably wrong by putting the 2007 draft so low.  I was so deadset on proving that it was a bad draft, that I let some really bad drafts off the hook.  Be that as it may, I stand by my journalistic pride and proclaim that this draft was better than 2007, regardless of what I'm about to say.  But here it is, ladies and gentlemen, the number 8 draft on our list is the 2006 NBA Draft which features some really bad trades (sorry Chicago and Minnesota fans), really questionable selections (I'm looking at you Atlanta) and overall, just not a deep talent pool.

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

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

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#8: 2006 NBA Draft:

Round One:
1) Toronto Raptors - Andrea Bargnani, C, Italy
2) Chicago Bulls - LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, Texas (traded to the Trail Blazers)
3) Charlotte Bobcats - Adam Morrison, SF, Gonzaga
4) Portland Trail Blazers - Tyrus Thomas, PF, LSU (traded to the Bulls)
5) Atlanta Hawks - Shelden Williams, C, Duke
6) Minnesota Timberwolves - Brandon Roy, SG, Washington (traded to the Trail Blazers)
7) Boston Celtics - Randy Foye, SG, Villanova (traded to the Trail Blazers, then traded to the Timberwolves)
8) Houston Rockets - Rudy Gay, SF, UConn (traded to the Grizzlies)
9) Golden State Warriors - Patrick O'Bryant, C, Bradley
10) Seattle Supersonics - Mouhamed Sene, C, Senegal

Looking at this list, I'm now aware of my 2007 mistake.  Tihs is not a very impressive list at all.  Morrison and Williams have already made all time busts lists and Morrison continued a rough stretch for Michael Jordan in terms of his ability to draft players.  Morrison struggled his rookie season before tearing his knee up and is now sitting on the far end of the Lakers bench.  Williams never showed hope in Atlanta and was eventually traded to Sacramento and somehow found his way to Boston's bench this season and may have found a home as a nice utility big man for the Celtics.  Bargnani showed a lot of potential his rookie season, had a sophomore slump, showed a lot of promise last year but didn't take that step forward this season as expected.  Aldridge and Roy are the best out of this bunch and Portland was able to snag both on draft night with slick trades.  Conversely, the guys they were traded for, Tyrus Thomas and Randy Foye respectively, are no longer with the teams they were traded to.  Thomas kept Bulls fans waiting for a few years before he was traded to Charlotte this season.  Foye frustrated Minnesota fans with his inconsistency and then frustrated Washington fans with the same problem this season.  Rudy Gay was traded for Shane Battier on draft night and has become a great scorer for the Grizzlies and will be a sought after free agent this season, but has yet to achieve much in his short career.  Meanwhile, O'Bryant and Sene (who continued Seattle's trend of drafting centers just to draft centers; ironically not one of them worked out) are no longer in the league at all and looked out of place everytime they were on the court.  Not exactly what you're looking for out of your top ten draft selection.

11) Orlando Magic - J.J. Redick, SG, Duke
12) New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets - Hilton Armstrong, C, UConn
13) Philadelphia 76ers - Thabo Sefolosha, SG, Switzerland (traded to the Bulls)
14) Utah Jazz - Ronnie Brewer, SG, Arkansas
15) New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets - Cedric Simmons, PF, North Carolina State
16) Chicago Bulls - Rodney Carney, SF, Memphis (traded to the 76ers)
17) Indiana Pacers - Shawne Williams, PF, Memphis
18) Washington Wizards - Oleksiy Pecherov, C, Ukraine
19) Sacramento Kings - Quincy Douby, SG, Rutgers
20) New York Knicks - Renaldo Balkman, PF, South Carolina

Another group of ten very mediocre players.  When Redick is the best out of the bench, you know it doesn't look good.  In fact, the Magic were largely criticized when they drafted Redick, but the team was patient with the Duke star and he eventually paid dividends this season.  Both of the Hornets two picks in the top 15, Armstrong and Simmons, are no longer in the league.  As far as the Sefolosha for Carney trade that went down between Chicago and Philadelphia, neither player is going to blow anyone away but Sefolosha has developed a reputation as a terrific defensive player.  Carney, on the other hand, is a dime a dozen scorer but has found a way to stay on rosters in the league.  Brewer was a high flyer who could play defense and was welcome for the usually grounded Utah Jazz.  However, they traded him to Memphis this season to get under the luxury tax and then Brewer injured himself, leaving it unknown if he'll ever reach his true potential.  Meanwhile, Williams was talented but too much of a head case to make it in Indiana while Pecherov was a big man who could shoot from long range but hardly found his way on the court in Washington and is struggling to do the same in Minnesota.  Douby (the 2Pac look a like, google it) struggled to stay in Sacramento's rotation and is now playing overseas.  Balkman was a blasted pick for Isiah Thomas and the Knicks, but he had a fine rookie season.  After that, though, he's done nothing and is sitting on Denver's bench now. 

21) Phoenix Suns - Rajon Rondo, PG, Kentucky (traded to the Celtics)
22) New Jersey Nets - Marcus Williams, PG, Uconn
23) New Jersey Nets - Josh Boone, PF, UConn
24) Memphis Grizzlies - Kyle Lowry, PG, Villanova
25) Cleveland Cavaliers - Shannon Brown, PG, Michigan State
26) Los Angeles Lakers - Jordan Farmar, PG, UCLA
27) Phoenix Suns - Sergio Rodriguez, PG, Spain (traded to the Trail Blazers)
28) Dallas Mavericks - Maurice Ager, SG, Michigan State
29) New York Knicks - Mardy Collins, PG, Temple
30) Portland Trail Blazers - Joel Freeland, PF, United Kingdom

The Phoenix Suns continued their trend of drafting players and then trading them to other teams that they seemingly did the entire decade.  Rondo became the second coming of Christ in Boston and has turned into one of the best point guards in the league.  Rodriguez, on the other hand, never quite caught on in Portland, Sacramento or New York and may go back overseas this offseason.  Williams and Boone were supposed to finally replace the duo of Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin in New Jersey, but neither worked out at all.  Lowry turned out to be a really nice player for Memphis and was eventually traded to Houston last season where he's continued his strong play.  Brown bounced around the league for a little bit before being traded to the Lakers last season and then breaking out as a bench player for the league champions.  Ironically, he joined Farmar, the 26th pick, in Los Angeles.  Farmar looked like the point guard of the future in Los Angeles before Derek Fisher rejoined the Lakers.  Farmar now is in and out of the Lakers rotation and will probably be playing elsewhere next season.  Ager was a great shooter in college but never cracked the rotation in the NBA.  Collins is a tough, defensive minded point guard who's still on someone's roster but I'm not sure why.  Meanwhile Freeland is an extremely talented prospect but he still doesn't look to be in any hurry to come join the NBA.

Round Two Notables:
32) Houston Rockets - Steve Novak, PF, Marquette
36) Minnesota Timberwolves - Craig Smith, PF, Boston College
42) Cleveland Cavaliers - Daniel Gibson, PG, Texas
47) Utah Jazz - Paul Millsap, PF, Louisiana Tech
49) Denver Nuggets - Leon Powe, PF, Cal (traded to the Celtics)
50) Charlotte Bobcats - Ryan Hollins, C, UCLA

Novak and Hollins just make this list because they're still in the league.  Novak emerged as a really nice three point shooter last year with the Clippers but struggled to crack their rotation this season.  Hollins got a really nice deal with Minnesota this season but still has yet to put his athletic talents to use as an NBA player.  Smith was a really nice hustle player for the Timberwolves and made the All-Rookie second team and is now playing for the Clippers.  Daniel Gibson was terrific his rookie season, becoming the second best player for a Cleveland team that wound up making the NBA Finals.  Gibson was rewarded for that breakout postseason with a big contract but has done nothing of note since signing that deal.  Millsap has become a bonafide stud for Utah and is their PF of the future once Carlos Boozer leaves.  Leon Powe struggled to crack the rotation with Boston his rookie season but eventually found his way in the lineup for the Celtics 2008 championship team.  Injuries have halted his career but the jury's still out on him.

Notable Undrafted Players:
Jose Juan Barea, PG, Northeastern - Signed with the Dallas Mavericks
Walter Hermann, SF, Argentina - Signed with the Charlotte Bobcats
Chris Quinn, PG, Notre Dame - Signed with the Miami Heat

Quinn, like Novak and Hollins in Round Two, makes this list because he's still in the league.  He was a third string point guard for the 12-70 New Jersey Nets this season and doesn't look to have much of a future in the NBA, but for now he's still there.  J.J. Barea has become a nice rotation player for the Mavericks the last couple of seasons and shows glimpses of being a solid player in the league although Dallas fans hate him.  Hermann broke out his rookie season and looked to become a solid player for, eventually, the Detroit Pistons before signing overseas this past offseason. 

2006-2007 NBA Rookie of the Year: Brandon Roy
All Stars from the 2006 NBA Draft: Brandon Roy, Rajon Rondo

2006-2007 NBA All-Rookie First Team
Brandon Roy
Andrea Bargnani
Randy Foye
Rudy Gay
Jorge Garbajosa (who signed with Toronto in the 2006 offseason after a successful Euroleague career) and LaMarcus Aldridge tied for the fifth spot

2006-2007 NBA All-Rookie Second Team
Paul Millsap
Adam Morrison
Tyrus Thomas
Craig Smith
Rajon Rondo, Marcus Williams and Walter Hermann all tied for the fifth spot

Seriously, NBA, what's with the ties?  Grow a set.

Posted on: May 17, 2010 3:21 pm
 

Top Ten Drafts Last Ten Years: # 10

I figured since I didn't do a playoff preview this season for each team as I did last year, I'll do a fun little countdown to this year's draft, since that's where my team is going to be instead of the postseason.  With the draft lottery coming tomorrow, now seems to be the perfect time to evaluate each of the last ten drafts and rank them in terms of talent involved each season.  The first draft to make the list, is the 2000 NBA Draft which features a whole lot of wasted potential and overall dissapointment.  Let's dive in shall we?

Top Ten Drafts of the Last Ten Years
#10: 2000 NBA Draft

Round One:
1) New Jersey Nets - Kenyon Martin, PF, Cincinnati
2) Vancouver Grizzlies - Stromile Swift, PF, LSU
3) Los Angeles Clippers - Darius Miles, SF, East St. Louis High School
4) Chicago Bulls - Marcus Fizer, PF, Iowa State
5) Orlando Magic - Mike Miller, SG, Florida
6) Atlanta Hawks - DeMarr Johnson, SG, Cincinnati
7) Chicago Bulls - Chris Mihm, C, Texas (traded to the Cavaliers)
8) Cleveland Cavaliers - Jamal Crawford, SG, Michigan (traded to the Bulls)
9) Houston Rockets - Joel Przybilla, C, Minnesota (traded to the Bucks)
10) Orlando Magic - Keyon Dooling, SG, Missouri (traded to the Nuggets who traded him to the Clippers)

Not an impressive top ten obviously.  Martin is easily the best out of the bunch but knee injuries derailed what could have been a really solid career from him.  Players like Stromile Swift and Darius Miles were athletic hybrid players without true positions and it showed throughout their careers.  Neither are in the league anymore.  Fizer had the shortest tenture out of all of the players involved.  He never really made a solid impact in Chicago, and a lot of people feel had Tim Floyd (his former coach at Iowa State) not been coaching the Bulls, Fizer wouldn't have been picked that high.  Johnson was involved in a serious car accident two years into his career that nearly left him paralyzed although he had a brief return with the Denver Nuggets before eventually disappearing from the league.  Mihm and Przybilla were both solid centers in this league although neither were top ten pick worthy.  Mike Miller and Jamal Crawford are still solid players in this league, although unspectacular and Dooling is still playing as a back up for the Nets.  Overall, not a very star studded or overly impressive top ten here.

11) Boston Celtics - Jerome Moiso, PF, UCLA
12) Dallas Mavericks - Etan Thomas, C, Syracuse
13) Orlando Magic - Courtney Alexander, SG, Fresno State (traded to the Mavericks)
14) Detroit Pistons - Mateen Cleaves, PG, Michigan State
15) Milwaukee Bucks - Jason Collier, C, Georgia Tech (traded to the Rockets)
16) Sacramento Kings - Hedo Turkoglu, SF, Turkey
17) Seattle Supersonics - Desmond Mason, SG, Oklahoma State
18) Los Angeles Clippers - Quentin Richardson, SF, DePaul
19) Charlotte Hornets - Jamaal Magloire, C, Kentucky
20) Philadelphia 76ers - Speedy Claxton, PG, Hofstra

This group isn't overly impressive either, although it has a few really good names.  Turkoglu and Claxton contributed to some really successful Magic and Spurs teams, with Claxton winning a championship as the back up point guard for the 2003 San Antonio team.  Moiso, Alexander and Cleaves had very short stints in the NBA.  Cleaves, the more highly publicized of the three, was drafted as a hometown guy for the Pistons but he never caught on in the rotation.  Mason, Richardson and Magloire carved nice niches throughout their careers, although Richardson is the only one who is still producing in the league.  Etan Thomas was a solid player for the Wizards before heart problems derailed his career while Collier died during a practice before the 2005-2006 season while with Atlanta because of an enlarged heart.  Overall, not a really bad list of 11-20 but still nothing to look up at.

21) Toronto Raptors - Morris Peterson, SG, Michigan State
22) New York Knicks - Donnell Harvey, SF, Florida (traded to the Mavericks)
23) Utah Jazz - DeShawn Stevenson, SG, Washington Union High School
24) Chicago Bulls - Dalibor Bagaric, C, Croatia
25) Phoenix Suns - Jake Tsakalidis, C, Greece
26) Denver Nuggets - Mamadou N'Diaye, C, Auburn
27) Indiana Pacers - Primoz Brezec, C, Slovenia
28) Portland Trail Blazers - Erick Barkley, SG, St. John's
29) Los Angeles Lakers - Mark Madsen, PF, Stanford

Now the list takes a bit of a nosedive.  Out of all of these players, only Peterson had a somewhat decent NBA career while players like Stevenson and Madsen have found ways to bounce around rosters and stay in the league.  Picks 24 through 27 showed just how desperate some teams are for size as all of the difficult to pronounce centers had very short and very uneventful careers in the NBA.  Players like Harvey and Barkley were able to play for a couple years in the NBA before being weeded out as well.  Overall, 21-29 is pretty bad; especially if Peterson, who had some really solid years for Toronto, is your MVP of the bunch.

Round Two Notables:
30) Los Angeles Clippers - Marko Jaric, PG, Italy
37) Miami Heat - Eddie House, PG, Arizona State
38) Houston Rockets - Eduardo Najera, PF, Oklahoma (traded to the Mavericks)
43) Milwaukee Bucks - Michael Redd, SG, Ohio State

Not a lot of productive second round names to choose from, but a pretty solid bunch of guys here.  Jaric started for a few years with the Clippers and got a huge contract and may be expiring soon for some lucky team.  Plus, his marriage to the insanely attractive Adriana Lima has to land him somewhere on here.  Eddie House bounced around from team to team, finding a way to contribute for all of them while being only a shoot first point guard.  He eventually found a home in Boston where he was a key contributor on their 2008 championship team.  Najera is the poster child for what a second rounder usually is, a grappler, physical, hustle-type player who's managed to carve out a pretty nice career thus far.  Michael Redd is probably the best player out of the entire draft (which is saying something about the draft).  By his third year in the league, Redd had become a solid contributor for some mildly successful Milwaukee teams before signing a huge contract and then suffering unfortunate knee injuries.  He still won a Gold Medal for the 2008 USA Olympic Team and still can shoot, but his body may not allow him to do much more.

2001 Rookie of the Year: Mike Miller
All Stars From The 2000 NBA Draft: Kenyon Martin, Jamaal Magloire, Michael Redd

2000-2001 NBA All-Rookie First Team
Mike Miller
Kenyon Martin
Marc Jackson (who was originally drafted by the Warriors in 1997 before finally signing in 2000)
Morris Peterson
Darius Miles

2000-2001 NBA All-Rookie Second Team
Hedo Turkoglu
Desmond Mason
Courtney Alexander
Marcus Fizer
Chris Mihm

Posted on: April 16, 2010 2:05 pm
 

GoHornets21's 2010 First Round Playoff Preview

It's playoff time!  At this point, the stakes are high and offseason paychecks and inseason acquisitions are expected to be rewarded with postseason success and jobs will be secured and won with big playoff appearances.  There are a ton of great matchups and the NBA really got it right with the sixteen teams that made it.  There's not one matchup, maybe outside of Cleveland, that looks like it won't be a fantastic matchup.  But here we go, this is GoHornets21's 2010 First Round Playoff Preview.

Eastern Conference

(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Chicago Bulls - A really intriquing matchup here.  The Cavs ended this season with the most wins in the league for the second consecutive season.  The Bulls looked dead a few weeks ago, only to experience a resurgence and have straked their way into the postseason.  The Cavs have coasted for awhile now and LeBron James hasn't even played in a couple of weeks.  Likewise, the team will be integrating Shaquille O'Neal back into the lineup after missing two months with a right thumb injury.  The Bulls, though, are experiencing their own bit of inner turmoil after a reported confrontation between head coach Vinny Del Negro and VP of Basketball John Paxson dominated the headlines in Chicago.  The Bulls are playing great basketball, but they don't have the horses to keep up with Cleveland.  The fact that they have a head coach that, in all likelihood, won't be there next season doesn't do much to help the team's psychi.  Derrick Rose will make things interesting, this won't be a sweep, but Cleveland has time to get their players back, figure out their rotation and still win this series.
Predicton: Cavaliers in six.
Cavaliers Player to Watch: Shaquille O'Neal - As mentioned earlier, the Cavaliers will be bringing Shaquille O'Neal back to the lineup in this series and his play is vital to the team moving forward.  How effective he is and how he plays will speak volumes about how things will unfold for the team in this series and in future series.  The team has played well without him, but his presence is still necessary down the road.  He must be effective.
Bulls Player to Watch: Kirk Hinrich - With Derrick Rose assuming a lot of responsibility for the team's chances of winning the series, the Bulls will look to Kirk Hinrich to step up and play huge this series.  His defense on Mo Williams will be important but he has to show a more consistent jump shot this series for the Bulls to have a chance to win.  It's not enough for him to just be out there on Williams.  He has to keep the Cavs honest on the offensive end and that will begin and end with him rediscovering his jumpshot.

(4) Boston Celtics. vs. (5) Miami Heat - A tough matchup to predict here.  Both teams have glaring weaknesses and considerable strenghs.  The Celtics have the championship experience from 2008 and say they're healthy for the first time this season.  However, they've really struggled the last two months of the regular season and if they didn't have their name, they'd receive no championship consideration.  Conversely, the Heat struggled earlier this season but, led by Dwyane Wade, the team looks to have its feet back under them.  They took advantage of a significantly easy stretch of games at the end of the season and can carry that momentum forward.  The home court would come into play in a 4/5 matchup, but the Celtics have lost 17 games at home this season.  They've never been more vulnerable.
Prediction: Heat in six
Celtics Player to Watch: Nate Robinson - A lot of the Celtics problems this season have had to do with the team's considerable age and thinning depth.  Robinson can play a huge role off the bench if given the chance and if he were to have a big series, there's no doubt the Cetlics would win.  He's been really inconsistent since going to Boston in February, but if he can find his stroke and some regular playing time, the Celtics will be a formidable team.
Heat Player to Watch: Michael Beasley - Beasley has been so aggravatingly inconsistent this season that a lot of people have just given up on him in Miami.  The Heat need that consistent second option that can help Wade and lead this team to victory.  Not only is Beasley the most talented option for the Heat, he's the only player the Celtics have no immediate answer for.  Paul Pierce will likely be busy with Dwyane Wade, which leads him matched up with the smaller Ray Allen or the slower Kevin Garnett.  If he takes advantage of that, the Heat will win this series.

(3) Atlanta Hawks vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks - Picked by many to be among the worst teams in the league this year, the Milwaukee Bucks surged this season under the guidance of Scott Skiles and are in the playoffs for the first time since 2006.  The franchise now has an identity in rookie guard Brandon Jennings and have responded well to added expectations as the season's progressed.  The Hawks, meanwhile, continue to steps towards becoming an elite franchise.  After making the playoffs for the first time in nine years in 2008, they won a playoff series last year and look to expand on that this season.  Their play all year gives no indication that's going to end.  The Bucks are at a huge disadvantage without center Andrew Bogut in the lineup and the team's lack of experience in the postseason together will give them troubles enough.  Skiles will keep his team competitive but it will catch up to them.
Prediction: Hawks in five
Hawks Player to Watch: Al Horford - With Bogut out, Horford will be matched up with the aging Kurt Thomas and the underachieving Dan Gadzuric.  With that kind of advantage inside, Horford can make it easier for the Hawks perimter shooting which will take the Bucks out of any game.
Bucks Player to Watch: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute - Most likely will be assigned the dutie of guarding Joe Johnson.  His ability to do this well will allow John Salmons to conserve himself for the offensive end which is where he can really shine for the Bucks.  Considering the Bucks will need any offensive production they can get, it's important for Mbah a Moute to spell Salmons defensively.

(2) Orlando Magic vs. (7) Charlotte Bobcats - For the first time in the franchise's history, the Charlotte Bobcats are in the NBA postseason.  Their reward for making it, a date with the red hot defending Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic.  The Magic boast the league's deepest team top to bottom, but that may not always be a good thing in the postseason.  Coach Stan Van Gundy barely set on a rotation entering the postseason whereas the Bobcats have had to go with the best players available night in and night out.  Both teams have played well down the stretch and both have a ton of momentum heading into the series.  I expect Charlotte to play to its full potential this entire series and push the Magic to the limit.  But I still expect the Magic to advance.
Prediction: Magic in seven
Magic Player to Watch: Rashard Lewis - Always a matchup problem with his size and outside shooting, Gerald Wallace will probably be given the assignment of guarding Lewis which could really negate a lot of double teams down in the post on Dwight Howard.  Lewis has really struggled with his shot all season, but we saw last postseason that if Lewis is hitting his shots, the Magic are almost impossible to defend.
Bobcats Player to Watch: Tyson Chandler - Banged up the entire season, Chandler is the only big man capable of staying in front of Howard one on one defensively and will likely be given that assignment throughout the series.  He will be spelled by other big men on the Charlotte team but he's the best option for them offensively out of that group.  If Chandler has a big series, then the Magic could really be in for a fight.


Western Conference

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (8) Oklahoma City Thunder - A classic matchup of youth vs. experience here.  The Thunder are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2005 (when the team was still in Seattle) and are in the playoffs as the youngest team in the NBA.  Facing them are the defending NBA Champions; who struggled in the last month of the regular season.  The Lakers are banged up across the board and look vulnerable here in the postseason and the Thunder are young, fearless and dynamic across the board.  But what is the Lakers biggest strength, size, is the Thunder's biggest weakness.  Unfortunately, the Thunder are a bit overmatched in their first playoff series going up against the champs.
Prediction: Lakers in six
Lakers Player to Watch: Andrew Bynum - As mentioned earlier, the Lakers biggest strength is their size, but that's only true when Bynum's in the lineup.  Expected to play in the playoffs, Bynum's production will be all gravy for the Lakers as the Thunder have nobody to matchup with him inside.  Coming off an injury, though, he may struggle (as he did last postseason) so his production is still important to the Lakers success.
Thunder Player to Watch: James Harden - If Harden continues to be effective off of the bench for the Thunder, he gives the team what the Lakers don't have, and that's someone over the bench who can take over games offensively.  With Bynum expected to be brought along slowly form his injury, Lamar Odom will get a lot of minutes and that leaves the rest of the bench largely ineffective.  Because of this, Harden alone can make all the difference in the second units which prevent the Lakers from every running away with a game. 

(4) Denver Nuggets vs. (5) Utah Jazz - Two really tough teams to figure out go to battle in this series.  The Nuggets have really struggled ever since George Karl's unfortunate cancer diagnosis back in February and have gone through moments where they looked like the same, immature, selfish Nuggets of years past.  The Jazz have gone through stretches this season where they look great, stretches where they look bad, and stretches where they just look lost.  Add Carlos Boozer to the team's indecisiveness, as he's a game time decision for the playoff opener.  However, I think the Nuggets longer spell of mediocrity is a sign of things to come with Dantley at the helm, and unfortunately they really miss their general.
Prediction: Jazz in six
Nuggets Player to Watch: Kenyon Martin - If he's matched up against Carlos Boozer or Paul Millsap, Martin, still recovering from an injury of his own, will be important to stopping the Jazz pick and roll and containing their best big man.  Martin did fantastic in the playoffs last year and was a huge reason why the team went to the Western Conference Finals.  For them to advance, they need Martin to have a similar impact this season.
Jazz Player to Watch: Mehmet Okur - With Boozer's injury in question, Mehmet Okur's production will be important for the Utah Jazz.  Because Martin will get the assignment down low, Okur will be left alone offensively mainly with Nene guarding him, which gives him a quickness advantage to go along with his lethal shooting ability.  Okur showed last season that he can produce with Boozer out of the lineup, and if he struggles the Jazz will look to him for big buckets.  He's played well during the home stretch of the season, and the Jazz need that to continue into the playoffs.

(3) Phoenix Suns vs. (6) Portland Trail Blazers - Probably the NBA's hottest team, the Phoenix Suns finally look like a formidable team again for the first time in a few seasons.  Now with an added attitude on defense, the Suns look as complete as they ever have since the seven seconds or less days.  Still lethal on offense, the Suns will follow Steve Nash's lead in hopes of taking advantage of a Bradon Roy-less Trail Blazers squad.  Without Roy, the Blazers will look to other players to step up; as they have all season long battling the injuries the team has.  However, they look to be too overmatched against Phoenix at this point in time.
Prediction: Suns in five
Suns Player to Watch: Louis Amundson - With Roy out for the series, LaMarcus Aldridge becomes the only consistent offensive threat for Portland and Phoenix will have a tough time matchup up with him.  Amar'e Stoudemire, even though he's playing fantastic ball of late, is still poor defensively and Robin Lopez's injury limits what the team can do to slow down Aldridge.  Because of this, Lou Amundson's production off of the bench defensively will be counted on in this series.  Anything he can do to rough up Aldridge or limit second chance points will go a long way towards helping the Suns advance.
Trail Blazers Player to Watch: Jerryd Bayless - Earlier this season with Roy out, Bayless had the best game of his young career while spelling Roy.  Bayless was a huge prospect when he was drafted by Portland, but has struggled to find his niche yet with the team.  With Roy out again, the onus will be on Bayless to take the responsibility and live up to his lottery selection.  If the Blazers continue to get poor production out of him, this will be a quick series.

(2) Dallas Mavericks vs. (7) San Antonio Spurs - Another intriguing matchup, the Mavericks and Spurs face off in a rematch of last year's playoff series, where the Mavericks upset the Spurs in five games.  The Spurs have battled injuries all season long but finally look to have everyone, minus a hobbled George Hill, back for the playoffs.  The Mavericks, meanwhile, made a huge deal at the all star break to acquire Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood in hopes of finally winning that elusive championship.  Division rivals matching up in the postseason always leaves a bit of a mystery as to how the games will play out.  Both teams are stacked top to bottom, but the Spurs are the one team with the size to match up with the Mavericks.  Who on Dallas has an answer for Manu Ginobili?  This should be a fun series but I see the Spurs shocking Dallas in game seven on their home court.
Prediction: Spurs in seven
Mavericks Player to Watch: Jose Juan Barea - Last postseason, J.J. Barea was my player to watch for this series and was a huge difference maker for the Mavericks as the Spurs had no answer for him without Ginobili in the lineup.  Now that the Mavericks have added Butler to the lineup, not a lot is expected out of Barea and I think the lack of pressure will help him.  Along with Jason Terry (who you know will produce), Barea can make the difference in the second unit for Dallas and can really help separate the Mavericks from the Spurs if he plays well. 
Spurs Player to Watch: Matt Bonner - Last season, Bonner was a starter for the Spurs team that fell in five games to the Mavericks as he and Roger Mason Jr. struggled with their shot the whole series and the Spurs just couldn't get production offensively.  Now on the bench, Bonner has found his groove shooting the ball as of late and can make a huge difference for the Spurs if he's knocking down his shots.  They'll count on him again and I think last year's struggles will help him this season.  Look for Bonner to make a difference off the bench for the Spurs.

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: September 24, 2009 2:19 pm
Edited on: September 24, 2009 2:20 pm
 

Outlook For The 2009-2010 New Orleans Hornets

When I did this preview last season, I mentioned that the Hornets entered the season with serious championship aspirations.  Never before had I been so excited for a season to come as I was for last year's Hornets squad.  In the first game of the season, Peja Stojakovic injured his back and a trend was started.  Tyson Chandler, Chris Paul, David West, Morris Peterson and Peja Stojakovic missed a combined 22 games when the Hornets shocked the league by winning the Southwest Division and making it to the Conference Semifinals.  Last year, those five starters missed a combined 107 games.  The Hornets lost Jannero Pargo from that 2008 season but added James Posey.  The loss of Pargo proved to be substantial as the Hornets simply had no backcourt depth at all.  Posey also struggled with injuries last season and suffered an unfortunate elbow injury late in the season.  Quite frankly, injuries ruined any chances the Hornets had of improving on 2008's success.  The Hornets also lost a ton of money last season and their financial woes became a story in the league.  Reports about the Hornets being too expensive for the city of New Orleans were released.  At the deadline, the Hornets traded Chandler to the Oklahoma City Thunder for perennial bench players Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox.  The trade was rescinded due to Chandler's toe injury, and the Hornets responded with a nice stretch of success when Chandler was moved back to the team.  But Chandler's injuries resurfaced and the rescinded trade only brought to light how bad the Hornets were in terms of financial standing. 

In 2008, George Shinn invested a lot into that squad.  He got an emberassing return as the Hornets were humiliated in the first round by the Denver Nuggets and entered an offseason of uncertainty.  But then one of the most unheralded general managers in the game, Jeff Bower, put the wheels into motion and eventually turned out a solid offseason.  Gone from last season are key contributors Tyson Chandler, Rasual Butler and Antonio Daniels.  Arriving are Emeka Okafor, Darius Songaila, Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton.  Given his strict limitations, Bower made talent upgrades and cost effective decisions at the same time and was able to field a competitive team for this season without killing Shinn's checkbook.  He and Byron Scott still don't have the most talented team in the league, but they're solid at every position and have a nice mix of young, core players and contributing veterans on the squad.

 PG: #3 Chris Paul (78 Games, 22.8 PPG, 11.0 APG, 5.5 RPG, 2.8 SPG, 86.8 FT Pctg., 36.4 3PT FG Pctg., 50.3 FG Pctg.) - Returning this season, hopefully fully healthy, is the unquestioned leader of this squad in point guard Chris Paul.  Paul's 2009 season was quietly one of the best in the league.  He again led the league in assists and also led the league in steals and triple doubles.  Paul, however, simply became a victim of having to do everything for this squad all of last season.  By the end of the season, he was ailed by knee and groin injuries and his performance in the postseason against Chauncey Billups really had him looking inferior.  But Paul is still the best point guard in this league and is still the guy who the Hornets have attached the hitch to.  He enters this season with a rapidly improving jump shot and three point shot and is almost unguardable when on his game.  Paul still may become a victim of having to do too much this season as well, but he shouldn't be called on to do everything for the squad. 

#2 Darren Collison (35 Games, 14.4 PPG, 4.7 APG, 2.4 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 89.7 FT Pctg., 39.4 3PT FG Pctg., 50.9 FG Pctg.)* - Collison enters this season as the Hornets first draft pick in two years.  Collison manned down the point guard position for the UCLA Bruins for four seasons and went to three Final Fours with the Bruins.  Collison is an ideal fit to backup Chris Paul and may become the Jannero Pargo hybrid guard that was missed last season.  Collison is tenacious on defense, can hit the three point shot and is incredibly fast.  His lack of size may have been a factor in why he dropped as late as he did in the draft, but Collison was a great find for the Hornets at 21.  At the time, the pick was criticized because of the team's lack of frontcourt depth.  But it has since grown on Hornets fans and Collison is a big reason for optimism around the fanbase and organization.  He may be bullied a bit because of his size and also will have the mandatory rookie learning curve, but he's learning from one of the best in the league and should fit in nicely backing up CP3.

 SG: #9 Morris Peterson (43 Games, 4.4 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 63.2 FT Pctg., 38.8 3PT FG Pctg., 39.9 FG Pctg.) - With the departure of Rasual Butler, it looks as if Byron Scott will have no other option than to turn to Peterson to start once again this season.  That's not really a bad thing; Peterson did start on the Southwest Division Champion team in 2008.  But Peterson, even that season, hasn't truly delivered on that four year contract that the Hornets gave him to come and start at the shooting guard position.  Injuries and inconsistency forced Scott to push Peterson down to the end of the bench and he hardly played any factor in the stretch run for New Orleans.  Given his contract and his previous production as a starter, it looks as if Peterson will regain the job he lost last year.  But with rookie Marcus Thornton breathing down his neck, there won't be that much room for error for Peterson. 

#23 Devin Brown (63 Games, 5.2 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 78.0 FT Pctg., 28.9 3PT FG Pctg., 35.5 FG Pctg.) - Brown exercised his player option and is now set to return for  his third year in the last four with the Hornets.  Brown never really got into a rhythym last year and Byron Scott never seemed to trust him as he did during the Hornets last season in Oklahoma City.  Brown is versatile and can really play either the 1, 2 or 3 spot on the floor for the Hornets.  He improved his three point shot last season but seemed to shoot it too much.  But with the thin frontcourt depth for the Hornets, Brown will really be looked upon to contribute at both the point guard and shooting guard positions.  Given that it's a contract year as well, Brown will really have to impress to guarantee a job for the following season.

#5 Marcus Thornton (35 Games, 21.1 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.6 SPG, 74.5 FT Pctg., 38.8 3PT FG Pctg., 47.2 FG Pctg.) - Thornton is the Hornets second round draft pick and is a local product coming out of LSU.  The Hornets spent a 2nd round pick on another LSU product a few years back, Brandon Bass, and simply let him go to become a more productive player for a rival squad.  The Hornets seem to really love Thornton's ability and he's an extremely talented player.  He can score from all areas of the floor and is adept at attacking the basket.  However, there's not much to his game that separates him from your typical shooting guard and that's why he fell as late as he did in the draft.  With the short depth at the shooting guard position, Thornton will see minutes that Byron Scott normally wouldn't give to such a raw rookie.  That can either make or break him and it's crucial that he stay dedicated to his trade.  Thornton can be a really good player for the Hornets or just another forgotten player in a couple of seasons.

# Bobby Brown (68 Games, 5.3 PPG, 79.1 FT Pctg., 34.6 3PT FG Pctg., 39.2 FG Pctg.) - Brown was acquired in the Darius Songaila trade and also spent some time with the Hornets summer camp team back in 2008.  Brown had an OK season last year splitting time with Sacramento and Memphis.  He can score the basketball but may not be able to do much else for the Hornets.  Even though frontcourt depth is thin, it doesn't make much sense to carry four shooting guards and therefore I'm uncertain whether or not Brown will make the final squad.

 SF: #16 Peja Stojakovic (61 Games, 13.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.2 APG, 89.4 FT Pctg., 37.8 3PT FG Pctg., 39.9 FG Pctg.) - Coming off an impressive 2008 season, Stojakovic came into the season last year with more than a few expectations.  He bombed miserably last year with injuries and an inconsistent shot really hurting the team.  Also, given the fact that Scott is insistent on man to man defense, Stojakovic routinely got pushed around by the bigger, better wing men of the league.  As a result, a lot of people jumped to bash the same guy they cheered for a year earlier, but that's sports for you.  Stojakovic had an offseason to rest following his back injury last season, but this is a repeated problem for Stojakovic.  You start to wonder at his age and height, whether or not a back injury will ever fully heal.  He'll be the starter by default again, but I'm not certain he can regain his 2008 form and whether or not he can stay healthy again this season.

#41 James Posey (75 Games, 8.9 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.1 APG, 82.2 FT Pctg., 36.9 3PT FG Pctg., 41.2 FG Pctg.) - Posey's acquisition last season was met with much fanfare.  Given that he was a player with championship pedigree, a tough, clutch and gritty player of his caliber was supposed to help turn the inexperienced Hornets into a team with a swagger.  That never did happen last season and it really wasn't because of any kind of complacency from Posey.  He really tried last year but I think too much was expected from a player of his caliber because of the 24 million dollar pricetag that he came in with.  Posey will again be the primary backup this season off of the bench for the Hornets and should come in motivated to silence critics of his performance last season.

#32 Julian Wright (54 Games, 4.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 56.7 FT Pctg., 46.6 FG Pctg.) - Julian Wright had an extremely promising 2008 season and a lot was expected of last season.  But with the acquisition of Posey, Wright seemed to be the odd man out at the small forward position and, as a result, really dissapointed last season (which seems to be a recurring theme for the team and its players).  Wright showed some promise late in the season when Stojakovic got hurt and he started at the small forward position.  But his jump shot faltered last season and he found himself in and out of the rotation.  Unless Stojakovic gets hurt, Wright may have trouble cracking the lineup again but he has to show more when given game time anyways.  If his jumpshot improves enough, there's a possibility he could play at shooting guard given the lack of depth.  But Wright's increased minutes will have to come with dedication and improvement.  No matter what Hornets fans say, Byron Scott should not give this guy anything.  Wright should earn all of his time.

 PF: #30 David West (76 Games, 21.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.3 APG, 88.4 FT Pctg., 47.2 FG Pctg.) - David West showed that his 2008 season was not a fluke last year, as he and Chris Paul really made the Hornets a two man squad late last season.  He again wore down at the end of the year and really dissapointed against Kenyon Martin in the postseason.  But West is still the second option here in New Orleans and is a welcome face for fans.  In the offseason, some people felt that the only way the Hornets could get rid of either Peja or Tyson Chandler's contract would be if they packaged the relatively cheap West with them.  But Bower found a way to move Chandler without moving West and West remains the power forward for the Hornets.  West's jump shot went from being an asset to a crutch last season and his FG Pctg. suffered as a result.  However, it was revealed that West never fully recovered from the back injury that hindered him in 2008.  So that will obviously deter you from mixing it up down in the paint.  With the acquisition of Okafor, West may be not be asked to go down to the paint so much, but his game could become too soft if he does nothing but shoot jumpers.  So the Hornets need more muscle and grit from West this year.

# Darius Songaila (77 Games, 7.4 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.2 APG, 88.9 FT Pctg., 53.2 FG Pctg.) - Picked up in a trade with the Timberwolves for Antonio Daniels, Songaila is kind of expensive for a player of his talents but is still a solid bench player for the Hornets.  His size, grit, and effort has made him a fan favorite everywhere he's been and I expect much of the same here in New Orleans.  He immediately becomes the team's primary backup in the frontcourt and can really help speed the game up when he's on the floor.  Songaila isn't going to blow you away much on a game to game basis, but he rarely dissapoints either.  You know what you're going to get from him, and consistency is something that would be valued coming off the bench in New Orleans.

#1 Ike Diogu (29 Games, 4.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 80.4 FT Pctg., 50.1 FG Pctg.) - Coming on the heels of the Okafor trade, Diogu was quietly signed to shore up the frontcourt by New Orleans.  Diogu has always been an interesting prospect.  He can really score the basketball and showed that in college.  As a lottery pick by the Warriors, Diogu was considered a good acquisition by the Pacers but dissapointed in Indiana.  He sat on the bench last year for the Trail Blazers and Kings last year, but right at the end of the year finished with back to back games scoring 32 and 28 points respectively.  The Hornets picked him up and this is another chance to prove himself for Diogu.  If he can score, he'll see a huge increase in minutes because nobody on the Hornets bench can really light up the scoreboard.  So if Diogu shows that kind of capability, we'll see what happens.  If not, we'll hardly see him at all.

 C: #50 Emeka Okafor (82 Games, 13.2 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 59.3 FT Pctg., 56.1 FG Pctg.) - Here is the Hornets biggest acquisition this offseason.  Okafor steps in immediately and starts for the departed Tyson Chandler.  Given that he started in all 82 games last season and is every bit of, if not better, the defender that Tyson Chandler is, this is a great move for the Hornets.  A healthy player at the center position will be a welcome change of pace for New Orleans.  Okafor is a good athlete for his position but his love for the game was questioned in Charlotte.  Player with Chris Paul should help all of that for Okafor and should also do wonders for his points production.  The defense, blocked shots and rebounding will be welcomed in New Orleans.  He still may be undersized at the center position, but he's penciled in there for New Orleans for this year most definitely.

# 12 Hilton Armstrong (70 Games, 4.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 63.3 FT Pctg., 56.1 FG Pctg.) - Armstrong, a former lottery pick for the Hornets, has largely dissapointed in his three seasons with the organization.  But now is the time for Armstrong to step up and prove that he's a capable center for the Hornets.  He's shown flashes of brilliance and flashes of stupidity and last season was the biggest mixed bag of all.  As a result of his mediocritiy, Armstrong routinely lost minutes and his spot in the rotation.  But he's the more talented of the two backups at center and will be given another chance to prove his worth.  Armstrong can be one of the best backup big men in this league if he showed any kind of effort or dedication but too often dissapears on the court.  An aggressive side and dedication can be taught, but there's no guarantee it will stick with Armstrong.

#4 Sean Marks (60 Games, 3.2 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 68.2 FT Pctg., 48.5 FG Pctg.) - The polar opposite of Armstrong, Marks was brought onto the squad last season as a good locker room guy to shore up the roster and show off his championship ring.  But with injuries and Scott's reluctance to play Arstrong and Melvin Ely, Marks found himself as a regular in Scott's rotation.  His hustle, effort and hard nosed play were welcome on the court but Marks simply isn't talented enough to be taken seriously as a backup big man in this league.  But, because of his cheap price tag and because of the good impression he made with the team last year, he finds himself back in the locker room this season.  Hopefully, we don't see too much of Marks, because that will mean that Armstrong has finally lived up to his potential. 

Coach: Byron Scott - Scott's job came into question last year after the 58 point home loss in game four of the first round against the Nuggets.  But Scott, the 2008 NBA Coach of the Year, returns to New Orleans and I'm happy about that.  He's been to two NBA Finals and lead a really impressive turnaround in New Orleans in his first four seasons, but really made questionable moves last year.  Hornets fans were impatient with his reluctance to give minutes to Julian Wright and his insistence of putting Sean Marks on the floor for substantial minutes.  But people need to understand that Scott played with the hand he was dealt last year.  If you look at last year's squad, production, and the amount of injuries that the Hornets suffered, a 47 win season and a postseason apperance were not dissapointments in New Orleans.  A lot was expected, but you can hardly blame Scott for last season's dissapointment.  But he's on shaky ground now so if the Hornets struggle again, critics may start chirping again.  Scott's confidence can come across as being stubborn and arrogant, but he's a proven player and coach and shouldn't be blamed for last season's dissapointment.  But we all know this is a business and that coaches get fired all the time.  I just hope it doesn't happen here in New Orleans.

All things considered, the Hornets have a solid bunch heading into this season.  With one of the best players in the league in Chris Paul leading the way, the Hornets are almost guaranteed to make the postseason.  A southwest division championship wouldn't be farfetched, but the Larry O'Brien Trophy may be.  The Hornets have a talented squad but really don't have the depth to make a true run at a title.  Too many people will be looked at to "step it up" and not enough will be asked to "keep it up".  There's a lot of unproven talent on the bench and the Hornets need to find a way to make those guys into stars if they want to win a championship.  But this team will not fall victim to the mediocre and complacent ways of last season.  This is a bunch designed to play hard and dedicate themselves to victory every game.  That's a great attitude to have going forward, but they still need more talent.

Prediction: 49-33

* Denotes college statistics
Posted on: May 27, 2009 9:03 pm
Edited on: May 27, 2009 9:13 pm
 

Ranking No. 1 Draft Picks of Draft Lottery Era

With the 2009 NBA draft looming and with it widely assumed that Blake Griffin will be the newest addition to the list of number one draft picks in NBA history, I figured I would rank the top number one draft picks of the lottery era.  The lottery was put into place in 1985 to prevent teams from intentionally tanking a season just so that they could get the number one draft pick.  Once put into place, the team with the worst record in the league has gotten the number one draft pick only four times.  It's hard to rank these players as some are very young in their careers and others still have years to tack on the achievements.  A lot of the last few draft picks will be ranked by potential and performance in their young careers so don't get upset if they're too far down or high on the list.  So here it goes: ranking the top No. 1 Draft picks of the lotter era.

24) Kwame Brown, C, Washington Wizards out of Glynn Academy High School in 2001 NBA Draft (462 Games, 7.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.0 APG) - Kwame Brown receives the dubious honor of being ranked the worst No. 1 Draft pick of the Draft Lottery Era.  Kwame Brown also holds the distinction of being the first high schooler to ever selected first overall in an NBA draft as well.  Highlighted as the first of many bad executive moves made by basketball legend Michael Jordan, Brown struggled to display any production or maturity in his first few years as a Wizard.  In his third season he showed real signs of a breakthrough, but injuries and problems with his teammates cost him his job in Washington.  He had one good year with the Lakers before now looking at a future primarily as a backup center in the league.

23) Michael Olowokandi, C, Los Angeles Clippers out of University of the Pacific in 1998 NBA Draft (500 Games, 8.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.4 BPG) - Viewed as one of many abysmal Clippers draft picks, Olowokandi was drafted first overall after a fantastic senior season at the University of the Pacific.  Viewed as a fantastic 7-foot athlete, the Clippers drafted Olowokandi to be the anchor in the paint for the miserable franchise.  Instead, Olowokandi mixed flashes of brilliance with long droughts and fought injuries in Los Angeles before eating up the Timberwolves salary cap.  He wasted away his final years with the Celtics and is now no longer in the league.

22) Greg Oden, C, Portland Trail Blazers out of Ohio State University in 2007 NBA Draft (61 Games, 8.9 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.1 BPG) - A huge seven footer with a personality remniscent of Shaq, Oden had high expectations going as far back as high school.  Because of the NBA's age limit, Oden played one season with Ohio State before declaring for the NBA Draft.  He was met with high fanfare in Portland but has struggled to stay on court his first two seasons in the league (also in his only season in college).  Oden still has the potential to be a fantastic pick, but his body may not cooperate.  The jury is still out on him.

21) Andrea Bargnani, PF, Toronto Raptors out of Italy in 2006 NBA Draft (221 Games, 12.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.1 APG) - As a seven footer with fantastic range on his jumpshot, Bargnani drew many comparisons to Dallas Mavericks great Dirk Nowitzki and was drafted first overall by Toronto in 2006 to couple with fellow big man Chris Bosh.  Bargnani, though, had seemed to be so infatuated with the three point shot that he didn't focus on any other aspect of his game.  After suffering a severe sophomore slump, Bargnani bounced back to have a solid third season with Toronto.  He looks like he will be a fine player for the next few years in the NBA.

20) Andrew Bogut, C, Milwaukee Bucks out of University of Utah in 2005 NBA Draft (262 Games, 11.9 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.0 BPG) - Bogut, being a seven footer with a fantastic skill set and equipped with a nice post game and a very adept passing big man was a lock as the number one draft pick in teh 2005 NBA Draft.  After playing for Australia in the 2004 Olympics, he got lots of praise and the expectations were huge for him in his sophomore season with the Utah Utes.  Bogut did not dissapoint and then declared for the NBA Draft.  So far, Bogut has had difficulty staying on the court but his production has been solid when he is on the court.  He's been the starting center for the Bucks all four years of his career and has shown flashes of being a very good pure center.  Time will tell if he'll ever reach his full potential, though.

19) Pervis Ellison, PF, Sacramento Kings out of University of Louisville in 1989 NBA Draft (474 Games, 9.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 1.5 APG) - "Never Nervous" Pervis Ellison was a fantastic colleigate player at the University of Louisville before entering the NBA with humongous expectations.  However, after being named the number one draft pick, Ellison immediately underwent surgery to remove bone Spurs from his foot and ankle in a sign of things to follow.  Ellison didn't last long with the Kings before being traded to the Washington Bullets, where he showed signs of his lofty selection by winning the 1992 NBA Most Improved Player of the Year award.  However, knee problems resurfaced for Pervis and he spent the last years of his career as a reserve for the Boston Celtics.

18) Joe Smith, PF, Golden State Warriors out of University of Maryland in 1995 NBA Draft (950 Games, 11.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.0 APG) - Joe Smith turned two great seasons manning down the middle for the Maryland Terpains into the number one draft pick in the 1995 NBA Draft.  After being selected by Golden State, he was solid for the Warriors for his first two seasons in the league but once it was evident he would never be great, he was shipped off in the middle of his third seasons.  Even though he's been a solid contributor and role player to playoff teams for the duration of his career, Smith will most likely always be remembered for costing the Minnesota Timberwolves five first round draft picks after being promised a multi year deal in the future if he were to sign for market value at the time so that the team could add more players.

17) Derrick Rose, PG, Chicago Bulls out of University of Memphis in 2008 NBA Draft (81 Games, 16.8 PPG, 6.3 APG, 3.9 RPG) - Drafted first overall by the Chicago Bulls in the most recent NBA Draft, Rose, born in Chicago, turned in a fantastic season, winning the 2009 NBA Rookie of the year Award and displaying signs of ultimate greatness in the 2009 Postseason against the defending champion Boston Celtics.  The only pure point guard drafted first overall in the draft lottery era, Rose looks as if he will be a fantastic player for years to come for his hometown Bulls.

16) Kenyon Martin, PF, New Jersey Nets out of University of Cincinnati in 2000 NBA Draft (548 Games, 14.1 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.2 BPG) - Figured to be the best prospect in a very weak 1999 NBA Draft, Martin was taken by the New Jersey Nets after a successful senior season for the Cincinnati Bearcats.  Viewed as an injury risk when he was selected, Martin turned in four great seasons with the Nets, routinely picking up his performance in the postseason and being a part of two Nets teams that won Eastern Conference Championships.  However, when Martin signed with the Nuggets, his injuries caught up to him and he was forced to undergo knee surgery.  His explosiveness that was his trademark has been limited but he still remains a formidable starter in this league and a spectacular defensive power forward.

15) Glenn Robinson, SF, Milwaukee Bucks out of Purdue University in 1994 NBA Draft (688 Games, 20.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.2 SPG) - Billed as a fantastic scorer, Robinson won two Big Ten scoring titles in his two years of elegibility for the Purdue Boilermakers before entering the 1994 NBA Draft.  Although he put up fantastic numbers throughout his career, Robinson largely went unnoticed in Milwaukee.  He achieved success during the early turn of the century when he, Sam Cassell and Ray Allen helped the Bucks make it to the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals.  Robinson did win a championship as a reserve of the San Antonio Spurs in 2005.

14) Danny Manning, PF, Los Angeles Clippers out of University of Kansas in 1988 NBA Draft (883 Games, 14.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.1 SPG) - A legend for the Kansas Jayhawks, Manning seemed to be a slam dunk as the first overall draft pick in 1988 by the Los Angeles Clippers.  Manning, though, suffered a knee injury in his rookie season that would haunt him for the remainder of his career.  After a few dissapointing seasons. Manning emerged as an elite scorer for the Clippers, even making the 1993 All Star Game.  However, injuries caught back up to Manning as he fininished his career at the end of benches for his last few years in the league.  Manning also won the 1998 Sixth Man of the Year award with the Phoenix Suns.

13) Larry Johnson, PF, Charlotte Hornets out of University of Nevada in Las Vegas in 1991 NBA Draft (707 Games, 16.2 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 3.3 APG) - Johnson was a dynamic player at the colleigate level for the Runnin' Rebels before entering the 1991 NBA Draft.  Selected by the upstart Charlotte Hornets, Johnson would team with Muggsy Bogues and Alonzo Mourning to bring the Hornets out of mediocrity at the beginning of his career.  After signing an unprecedented ten year deal with the Hornets, frustrations grew between Johnson and Mourning and "Grandmama" and Big Zo were immediately shipped away from Charlotte.  Johnson went on to start for a New York Knicks team that made the 1999 NBA Finals, but was a shell of his former self in New York due to severe back injuries.  He's probably best known for an epic four point play during a crucial game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals with the Knicks.

12) Brad Daugherty, C, Cleveland Cavaliers out of University of North Carolina in 1986 NBA Draft (548 Games, 19.0 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 3.7APG) - A colleigate great for the North Carolina Tar Heels, Daugherty was selected by the Cavaliers in the 1986 NBA Draft and turned out a fantastic career with Cleveland.  As part of a draft class that also brought in Mark Price and Ron Harper, the Cavaliers experienced years of above average success, even making the 1992 Eastern Conference Finals.  However, as is the case with a lot of players on this last, Daugherty suffered drastic injuries to his back at the end of his career and was forced to retire at the age of 28 in 1994.

11) Derrick Coleman, PF, New Jersey Nets out of Syracuse University in 1990 NBA Draft (781 Games, 16.5 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.3 BPG) - Coleman was a fantastic player for the Syracus Orange in college and was viewed, by many, as one of the best prospects in recent NBA History when selected in the 1990 NBA Draft.  Coleman would win the 1991 NBA Rookie of the Year award and many expectations were given to the bulky power forward.  Coleman was solid during his time in the league but never broke into that "great player" status that many envisioned he would.  Coleman had many problems with his weight over the span of his career and left on bad terms with all of the teams he participated on.  He's gone on to be a humanitarian of sorts since his retirement, but his career will be looked at with an asterisk as he never was as great as he should have been.

10) Elton Brand, PF, Chicago Bulls out of Duke University in 1999 NBA Draft (643 Games, 20.0 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 2.6 APG, 2.0 BPG) - A quiet but very effective low post scorer for the Duke Blue Devils, Brand declared for the 1999 NBA Draft after his sophomore season and won the co-Rookie of the Year Award with Chicago, an award he shared with Houston Rockets guard Steve Francis.  Brand was ineplicably traded after two seasons with the Bulls, and continued his stellar play with the Los Angeles Clippers.  A very talented and loyal competitor, Brand's career has been void of much success.  He made the conference semifinals in 2006 with the Clippers but aside from that has never competed in the postseason.  The past two years have been difficult for Brand as he's played a total of only 37 games.  Time will tell if Brand ever gets back on the court to maintain the level of play he once was known best for.

9) Yao Ming, C, Houston Rockets out of China in 2002 NBA Draft (481 Games, 19.1 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 1.6 APG) - Towering over competition at 7'6", Ming was a lock at the top of the 2002 NBA Draft when the Rockets won the draft lottery.  Coming into the league with much fan fare and expectations, Ming has rarely dissapointed when he's been on the court.  Skilled with fantastic shooting touch for a player of his size, Ming has been one of the best centers in the league when he's been on the court but has had many leg problems that have prohibited from achieving "great" status. 

8) Dwight Howard, C, Orlando Magic out of SW Atlanta Christian Academy High School in 2004 NBA Draft (407 Games, 17.3 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 1.4 APG) - A fantastic athlete for a player of his size, Howard was a high school prodigy and was a surprise at the first overall selection in 2004.  After the Magic passed on the proven Emeka Okafor to select Howard, he immediately rewarded the Magic with flashes of brilliance in his rookie season with Orlando.  Howard has led the Magic to the playoffs his last three seasons in the league and was named the 2009 Defensive Player of the Year, and at the young age of 23 already figures to be the most dominant big man in the league.  The sky is the limit for this extremely talented big man.

7) Patrick Ewing, C, New York Knicks out of Georgetown University in 1985 NBA Draft (1,183 Games, 21.0 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 1.9 APG, 1.0 SPG) - Viewed as a can't miss player out of Georgetown, Ewing was the prize of the first ever draft lottery in 1985.  The New York Knicks would win that draft lottery and would immediately announce their intentions to select Ewing.  Ewing was a fantastic low post presence for the Knicks throughout his career.  For all of his success, Ewing's reputation changes based on who you talk to.  Being a tough interview his entire career in New York, he was often the subject of criticism at the hands of the New York Media for being unable to win a championship, although he made the 1994 NBA Finals.  Currently becoming recognized as a top assistant coach in the league (currently with the Magic), Ewing never did win a championship but continued to produce after winning the 1986 Rookie of the Year award, even being named one the NBA's 50 Greatest Players in history in 1997.

6) Chris Webber, PF, Orlando Magic out of University of Michigan in 1993 NBA Draft (831 Games, 20.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.4 BPG, 1.4 SPG) - A highly skilled member of the famed Fab Five Michigan Wolverines days, Webber seemed to be a lock for the number one overall selection after declaring for the 1993 NBA Draft following his sophomore season.  Originally drafted by the Magic, Webber was immediately traded to the Golden State Warriors for Penny Hardaway and won the 1994 Rookie of the Year Award with the Warriors. However, Webber battled with Warriors coach Don Nelson during his rookie season and was inexplicably shipped to the Washington Bullets after his rookie season.  Although he put up good numbers with the Bullets (then ultimately the Wizards), Webber's best years came when he was traded to the Sacramento Kings for Mitch Richmond.  Webber led the Kings to the most successful stretch in franchise history, even reaching the 2002 Western Conference Finals as a member of the Kings.  Webber never did win a championship, though, and spent his last years with the Kings and 76ers battling through knee injuries before finishing his career with a brief return to Golden State.

5) Allen Iverson, SG, Philadelphia 76ers out of Georgetown Univeristy in 1996 NBA Draft (886 Games, 27.1 PPG, 6.2 APG, 3.7 RPG, 2.2 SPG) - An explosive career during his entire tenture in basketball, Iverson was the first overall selection in the famed 1996 NBA draft.  Iverson went on to take the league by storm, winning the 1997 Rookie of the Year award and successfully pulling off a cross over on the league's best player: Michael Jordan.  Iverson would take Philadelphia to unprecendented success, even making the 2001 NBA Finals with the 76ers.  Iverson, though, had a reputation of being a selfish and immature player and clashed with many coaches and teammates in Philadelphia.  After finally demanding a trade in 2006, Iverson was shipped to the Denver Nuggets where his reputation proceeded to take huge blows.  While in Denver and Detroit, Iverson has shown a huge problem playing with teammates and his selfish reputation has resurfaced.  The future of the 2001 NBA Most Valuable Player is now in doubt but his past success cannot be denied.

4) David Robinson, C, San Antonio Spurs out of US Naval Academy in 1987 NBA Draft (987 Games, 21.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 2.9 BPG, 2.5 APG, 1.4 SPG) - A fantastic athlete that came to national prominence with the Midshipmen, former gymnast David Robinson was a risky selection by the Spurs in the 1987 NBA Draft by account of his having to serve two years with the United States Navy after his graduation.  Because of this, there were rumors that he may sign with another team when eligible to play in the NBA.  However, Robinson joined the Spurs in the 1989 NBA offseason.  A fantastic athlete, Robinson racked up many awards during his tenture with San Antonio.  The 1990 NBA Rookie of the Year winner, 1992 Defensive Player of the Year award, an NBA Sportmanship Award, Citizenship Award, 1995 Most Valuable Player of the Year and two time Olympic Gold Medalist with the United States of America, Robinson's career was overshadowed by a difficulty winning big games and a perceived lack of toughness.  After the arrival of Tim Duncan, though, in 1997, Robinson would win two championships with the San Antonio Spurs and play his entire fourtneen year career with San Antonio, be named one of the NBA's 50 greatest players in league history in 1997 and also being elected to the basketball hall of fame.

3) LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers out of St. Vincent - St. Mary's High School in 2003 NBA Draft (472 Games, 27.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 6.7 APG, 1.8 SPG) - A local Akron, Ohio, prodigy, LeBron James was met with ridiculous expectations during his high school days at St. Vincent - St. Mary's and eventually surpassed all of those expectations after entering the NBA.  As a raw eighteen year old prospect, LeBron won the 2004 NBA Rookie of the Yer award and in his third season in the league led the perennial doormat Cavaliers to the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.  Only 24 with a ridiculously bright future ahead of him, LeBron currently is the 2009 NBA Most Valuable Player of the Year and made it to the NBA Finals in 2007 with the Cavaliers.  The sky is the limit in regards to what LeBron James can accomplish.

2) Shaquille O'Neal, C, Orlando Magic out of Louisiana State University in 1992 NBA Draft (1,117 Games, 24.7 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 2.6 APG, 2.3 BPG) - O'Neal was an athletic seven footer entering the league with an abundance of personality, a skillset unmatched by anyone in recent memory and with high expecations.  O'Neal was a lock for the first overall selection in the 1992 NBA Draft and took the league by storm in his first season with Orlando, winning the 1993 NBA Rookie of the Year award.  O'Neal led the Magic to the 1995 NBA Finals in only his third season in the league before signing with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1996 NBA Offseason.  The rest, as they say, is history.  O'Neal would team with coach Phil Jackson and a young Kobe Bryant to win three NBA Championships, three NBA Finals MVPs and the 2000 NBA Most Valuable Player award all with the Lakers.  Following a very public dispute with Kobe Bryant, Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat where he teamed with a young Dwyane Wade to win the 2006 NBA Championship with Miami.  Although he's achieved fantastic success in his career - winning on the court, selling platinum records and starring in major motion picture films - O'Neal's career is overshadowed by his squabbles with teammates and coaches and has left on bad terms with all of the teams with which he's played.  But don't let it distort your view of O'Neal as a player.  On the court, there's few who were as great as O'Neal.

1) Tim Duncan, PF, San Antonio Spurs out of Wake Forest University in 1997 NBA Draft (899 Games, 21.4 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 3.2 APG, 2.3 BPG) - A quiet, yet talented big man at Wake Forest, the former aspiring Olympic Swimmer from the Virgin Islands took the world by storm in college and was a lock as the number one draft pick once he graduated from Wake Forest in 1997.  One of the four four year colleigans on this list, Duncan joined another number one draft pick in David Robinson and turned the Spurs into a championship team in only his second year.  Long viewed as a small market team seemingly always incapable of winning big games, Duncan went to San Antonio and has won four championships, three NBA Finals MVPs, two regular season Most Valuable Player of the Year awards, the 1998 Rookie of the Year award and has been the staple in the middle for the Spurs for all of their championship teams in franchise history.  Turning a historically underachieving team into a mini dynasty of sorts, The Big Fundamental, as he is called, is one of the most notorious players in the league due to his huge levels of success while being largely a quiet and private person.  Routinely noted as a difficult interview, not much is known off the court about Tim Duncan but on the court Duncan is arguably the top draft pick of the draft lottery era.
Posted on: May 18, 2009 12:36 pm
 

2009 NBA Playoffs: The Conference Finals

 After a passable second round, the playoffs look to get exceptionally exciting with two very tough matchups.  I will start off by saying that I really went back and forth on both series and can't get a good feel on either one, which speaks to how competitive these should be.  Let's get to it.

Eastern Conference Finals
(1)
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (3) Orlando Magic
Why The Cavaliers Will Win: The Cavaliers enter this series on a roll that is out of this world.  After winning their first eight games of the postseason, they've run an incredible wave of momentum right into this series.  Everyone across the board is contributing and they've gotten an absolutely magnificent showing from LeBron James so far this postseason.  I imagine they'll continue to get great production from LeBron but the defense will be key.  And if you're going to rely on defense, being the number one defensive squad in the league helps in that department. 
Why The Magic Will Win: The Magic look like a confident bunch.  No team has been scrutinized more, outside of Los Angeles, than this Orlando squad.  However, the coaching squad and players have responded to criticism and have shown the ability to win crucial games on the road (winning games 1 and 7 in Boston, and winning critical games 4 and 6 in Philadelphia).  Dwight Howard is a matchup problem for anybody in this league, but with the Cavaliers he should look to have his way around the basket.  Anderson Vareajo can't sporadically give him fits with his ability to draw chargers, but Ben Wallace hasn't received any playing time and I can't imagine him being fresh enough to check Howard.  Even if he is, the offensive holes with him in the game will be glaring.  When that happens, the Cavs become too one dimensional (go to LeBron and spot up). 
Key Player for the Cavaliers: Mo Williams hit some big shots in game 4 against the Hawks but he's struggled with his shot this postseason.  If he plays at the level he did during the first two series then Rafer Alston will be able to match him.  Williams needs to convincingly take Alston to the limit at that position in order for the Cavaliers to win this series.
Key Player for the Magic: Courtney Lee will go unsung, but his defense on Eddie House against the Celtics was huge.  He was big in the 76ers series and although he's lost his starting spot, he stopped a critical role player and I imagine he'll be asked to do the same against Delonte West.  West has had a very good postseason thus far and if he continues to excel it's a huge feather in the cap for the Cavaliers.  However, if Lee can have West struggle with his jump shot, it can further discourage this squad and have them defer to LeBron too often.
Prediction: Magic in seven
Key As To Why They Will Win: Dwight Howard will be the critical factor in this series and I imagine he's going to have a field day in the paint.  This was not a problem for the Cavs in earlier series, but a severely injured Al Horford and a three point friendly Rasheed Wallace aren't necessarily intimidating presences.
Conclusion: I had these two teams in the conference finals before the playoffs started, and I picked the Cavs to win it.  I have no reason to back away from that precition now.  However, I'm riding the Magic bandwagon and really feel as if this team plays great ball together.  I could really fall on my face with this pick as I've rode the Cavs bandwagon all year, but I'm jumping off for this series.  It's not a matter of what the Cavs can't do, they've proven they can play with anybody in the league.  This is all about what the Magic are doing.  They've blown teams out, won tough games, faced adversity and overcome obstacles.  The Cavs could be riding momentum, but no team should be as confident as the Magic are.  That convincing victory in Boston for game 7 should give the Magic the confidence to win a seventh and final game in Cleveland.

Western Conference Finals
(1)
Los Angeles Lakers vs. (2) Denver Nuggets
Why The Lakers Will Win: The Lakers are top to bottom the more talented team.  However, they have a tendency to let up and let Kobe Bryant do all of the work.  Pau Gasol is hit or miss in the paint but came up big in game 7.  Trevor Ariza will be able to guard Carmelo Anthony which should allow Kobe Bryant the freedom to opperate on offense.  The bench, the defense and Andrew Bynum were huge in a critical game against Houston, and that should give the team some confidence going forward.  Also, Dahntay Jones has done a good job against smaller guards, but he won't be able to check Kobe and J.R. Smith isn't a force on defense either.
Why The Nuggets Will Win: The Nuggets are playing the best basketball of anybody in the postseason.  Everyone top to bottom is contributing, playing tough defense, hitting open jump shots and taking it to the basket at will.  The Lakers soft inside should have the Nuggets licking their chops if they continue to play the game that they've been against the Hornets and MavericksChauncey Billups should continue to give the Lakers problems at the point guard position and should be able to continue to keep Derek Fisher a non factor.  Also, now that Kenyon Martin won't be busy guarding Kobe Bryant, he should be able to contain Pau Gasol and give him fits.
Key Player for the Lakers: Andrew Bynum was solid in the last two home games of the Houston series and if he can continue to be productive, even if at home, it will do wonders for the Lakers in the paint.  Nene struggled away from Denver against the Mavericks and that was without any kind of inside presence on Dallas.  If Bynum can play solid ball around the basket on both sides then the Lakers can take it.
Key Player for the Nuggets: The starting lineup is a toss up, but J.R. Smith can give the Nuggets something the Lakers haven't had this postseason, reliable, consistent production off of the bench.  Chris Andersen got into foul trouble a lot in the Dallas series, but Smith was still able to play and has looked great the entire postseason.  It feels as if everything he's letting go is going in.  It's important for him to continue to produce, because if he gets hot Kobe Bryant will have to guard him and that can take away from his relaxing on defense.
Prediction: Lakers in seven
Key As To Why They Will Win: The Houston Rockets did the Lakers all sorts of favors in their second round matchup and I'll tell you why.  The fact that they showed the Lakers they can't win simply by showing up should instill a sense of urgency for the Lake show against the red hot Nuggets.  If the Lakers are on their game they're the most talented team in the league.  Now that they're playing the best competition the West has to offer, I look for them to bring it every game.
Conclusion: This series was tough.  It was left undecided even as I typed this and I feel as if it could justifiably go either way.  The Nuggets should win the point guard and bench battles, but the Lakers should be able to match that at the wing spots and inside the paint.  The Nuggets have faced teams that were inferior to them and they exerted their authoritiy.  They won't be able to do that against the Lakers, and this is a series where a couple of losses could give the Nuggets some trouble.  They haven't faced adversity in the playoffs in years.  They've breezed through this postseason and were hardly in contention in previous years.  It's vital that they go back to Denver with at loss one win if they're going to win this series, and I think the Lakers will ride game seven into games 1 and 2 in Los Angeles.  That was the difference maker.

 
 
 
 
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