Tag:O.J. Mayo
Posted on: May 25, 2010 5:27 pm
 

Top Ten Drafts Last Ten Years: # 4

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.  Sorry for the delay today, instead of working my usual nights I was asked to cover a morning shift and am just now getting on.  Don't worry, the countdown still goes on as usual.  Much like 2009, this draft that is coming in at number four is kind of hard to fully evaluate since it's only two years old (as opposed to 2009's one).  Early prognosis, however, is that this draft was really, really solid and should produce quite a bit of players who will produce for a long period of team.  In case I haven't given it away, the 2008 NBA Draft will be coming in at number four in our countdown.

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

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

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

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

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

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

#4: 2008 NBA Draft:

Round One:
1) Chicago Bulls - Derrick Rose, PG, Memphis
2) Miami Heat - Michael Beasley, PF, Kansas State
3) Minnesota Timberwolves - O.J. Mayo, SG, USC (traded to the Grizzlies)
4) Seattle Supersonics - Russell Westbrook, PG, UCLA
5) Memphis Grizzlies - Kevin Love, PF, UCLA (traded to the Timberwolves)
6) New York Knicks - Danilo Gallinari, SF, Italy
7) Los Angeles Clippers - Eric Gordon, SG, Indiana
8) Milwaukee Bucks - Joe Alexander, SF, West Virginia
9) Charlotte Bobcats - D.J. Augustin, PG, Texas
10) New Jersey Nets - Brook Lopez, C, Stanford

Pretty impressive top ten overall.  After Rose's performance in the NCAA Tournament and with him being a Chicago born player, his selection was the Bulls was expected and he immediately stepped up his game upon entering the league.  Some people thought he was a couple years away from reaching his potential, but he's managed to become a stud already after only two years.  The same can't yet be said for Beasley, who was expected all along to be the consensus number one prior to the NCAA Tournament.  After supposed attitude issues arose during pre draft interviews, some wondered whether he would be taken at number 2 but the Heat stuck with him anyways.  He's showed flashes of being able to produce on the court, but he still lacks a defined position and has had off the court issues with depression and marijuana use.  On draft night, the Grizzlies and Timberwolves swapped Mayo and Love in a move that was largely panned on Minnesota's part.  However, Love has turned out to be a pretty serviceable, if largely unathletic, option at the power forward position.  Mayo is an explosive scorer, but isn't much of a volume scorer and doesn't do much else yet.  It's hard to say at this moment who won the trade, although if a gun were put to my head I'd say the Grizzlies did.  Westbrook may wind up being the best player in the entire draft when it's all said and done.  He became the starting point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder, who relocated from Seattle shortly after this draft, right away and has matured into the position.  Gallinari is still a promising prospect who has shown an incredibly impressive outside touch and a willingness to defend top stars.  Eric Gordon, like Mayo, is an explosive scorer and may be undersized for long term prospects at the shooting guard position.  But so far, he hasn't let it deter his offensive game.  D.J. Augustin had a very surprising rookie season with his play off the bench in Charlotte, although he suffered a bit of a sophomore slump this season.  On the other hand, Brook Lopez really stepped his game up this season (probably out of necessity) in New Jersey and looks to be a promising player at a league-wide very weak center position.  In fact, the only player out of this top ten who looks awful is Alexander, who has barely gotten on the court for either the Bucks or the Bulls (who he was traded to at the deadline).  Who knows what Milwaukee was thinking when they drafted him at 8.

11) Indiana Pacers - Jerryd Bayless, PG, Arizona (traded to the Trail Blazers)
12) Sacramento Kings - Jason Thompson, PF, Rider
13) Portland Trail Blazers - Brandon Rush, SG, Kansas (traded to the Pacers)
14) Golden State Warriors - Anthony Randolph, PF, LSU
15) Phoenix Suns - Robin Lopez, C, Stanford
16) Philadelphia 76ers - Marreese Speights, PF, Florida
17) Toronto Raptors - Roy Hibbert, C, Georgetown (traded to the Pacers)
18) Washington Wizards - JaVale McGee, C, Nevada
19) Cleveland Cavaliers - J.J. Hickson, PF, North Carolina State
20) Charlotte Bobcats - Alexis Ajinca, C, France

Although this group isn't as impressive as the top ten list, it's still a good bunch of serviceable players.  A lot was expected of Bayless but he's been largely inconsistent in his two years in Portland.  He may need a chance of scenery already to continue his progression.  Thompson had a big rookie season after Sacramento was criticized for "reaching" for him.  He continued his stellar play this season, but hasn't shown that extra gear that may be needed to make him a starter for a very successful team.  Brandon Rush was a shooting specialist in college and was expected to do the same for Indiana, although he hasn't shown that touch yet much in his two years with the Pacers.  Anthony Randolph is a freakish athlete with a ton of potential, but has shown to be a bit injury prone his first two years in the league.  Robin Lopez, the twin brother of number ten pick Brook, was another criticized pick and looked, at times, downright lost on the court last season.  But he's emerged as the Suns starting center this season and his defensive prowress looks to make him a staple at that position for the future.  Speights has had some big games off the bench for Philadelphia but has shown a vulnerability to injuries as well.  Hibbert has rotated in and out of Indiana's starting lineup for his two seasons with the Pacers, and the team is still waiting for him to take the next step in his development.  McGee showed some signs this season for Washington after they went with a sort of youth movement, and could enter next season as the team's starting center.  Hickson became the second coming of Christ Jesus this season in Cleveland among their fanbase and was rumored in many trades at the deadline in an attempt for Cleveland to get more talent.  He's still on Cleveland's roster, though, and will most likely be a starter going forward next season.  Ajinca, meanwhile, has shown absolutely nothing thus far for Charlotte, and chances aren't good of him lasting past his four year rookie contract.

21) New Jersey Nets - Ryan Anderson, PF, Cal
22) Orlando Magic - Courtney Lee, SG, Western Kentucky
23) Utah Jazz - Kosta Koufos, C, Ohio State
24) Seattle Supersonics - Serge Ibaka, PF, Republic of Congo
25) Houston Rockets - Nicolas Batum, SF, France (traded to the Trail Blazers)
26) San Antonio Spurs - George Hill, PG, IUPUI
27) New Orleans Hornets - Darrell Arthur, PF, Kansas (traded to the Trail Blazers who then traded him to the Grizzlies)
28) Memphis Grizzlies - Donte Greene, PF, Syracuse (traded to the Rockets who then traded him to the Kings)
29) Detroit Pistons - D.J. White, PF, Indiana (traded to the Supersonics)
30) Boston Celtics - J.R. Giddens, SG, New Mexico

Even as the draft gets deeper, some really solid names are still on the list.  Anderson proved to be a serviceable scorer at the power forward position and is now playing for Orlando.  Meanwhile, Courtney Lee emerged as the starting shooting guard on an Orlando team that went to the NBA Finals but is now playing in New Jersey.  I just now put two and two together, and remebered that they were traded for eachother after their rookie seasons (well they were both involved in a trade anyways).  Koufos followed Greg Oden as an Ohio State freshman center taken in the first round, but even Oden's rookie season where he didn't play at all due to injury showed more promise than Koufos has in Utah.  Ibaka really came on strong this season for the Thunder and the team hopes that he can emerge as the center of the future.  Meanwhile, Batum has settled into Portland's starting rotation and doesn't yet seem to have tapped his potential.  The same can be said for George Hill, who is another one of San Antonio's rare finds in the draft and may be the team's starting point guard next season.  Arthur wound up settling in Memphis but hasn't yet showed a ton of promise.  The talent is there though.  Same can be said for Donte Greene, who wound up in Sacramento just before the start of the season and made some strides this season.  D.J. White didn't make it long in Detroit and didn't stick with Oklahoma City and is now playing in the NBDL.  Giddens doesn't seem too far behind.  He made no significant impact in Boston and after being traded to New York, never showed any staying power there either.

Round Two Notables:
34) Miami Heat - Mario Chalmers, PG, Kansas
35) Los Angeles Clippers - DeAndre Jordan, C, Texas A&M
37) Milwaukee Bucks - Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, SF, UCLA
39) Chicago Bulls - Sonny Weems, SG, Arkansas (traded to the Nuggets)
40) New Jersey Nets - Chris Douglas-Roberts, SG, Memphis
45) San Antonio Spurs - Goran Dragic, PG, Slovenia (traded to the Suns)
47) Washington Wizards - Bill Walker, SG, Kansas State (traded to the Celtics)

Another impressive list of finds here in the second round as well.  Chalmers started the entire season for Miami his rookie year.  He suffered a bit of a sophomore slump, but the 2008 NCAA Tournament MVP looks to have a bounce back year next season either off the bunch or starting for a team in the league.  Jordan is still a raw product who had the talent to be a lottery pick.  The Clippers hope he can partner with Blake Griffin to form a very formidable front court.  Mbah a Moute became a great defensive find for Milwaukee and has been, mostly, the team's starting small forward the last two seasons.  Weems is a great athlete who didn't really stick in Denver, but who showed a lot of promise and potential this past season with Toronto.  Douglas-Roberts has been inconsistent off the bench in New Jersey, but has had games where he looks like a good rotation player.  Dragic struggled big time last season but really came on this year and made a national name for himself with his Game 3 performance in the Western Conference Semifinals.  Just as Hickson is to Cleveland fans, Dragic is the second coming of Christ if you ask Phoenix funs.  Walker barely got on the court in his year and a half stint with Boston, but was traded to New York and showed a lot of promise the second half of this season.  He now figures to be in the team's future plans moving forward.

2008-2009 NBA Rookie of the Year: Derrick Rose
All Stars from the 2008 NBA Draft: Derrick Rose

2008-2009 NBA All-Rookie First Team
Derrick Rose
O.J. Mayo
Russell Westbrook
Brook Lopez
Michael Beasley

2008-2009 NBA All-Rookie Second Team
Eric Gordon
Kevin Love
Mario Chalmers
Marc Gasol (who was originally drafted in 2007 by the Lakers before being traded to, and then signing with, the Grizzlies in 2008)
D.J. Augustin and Rudy Fernandez (who was originally drafted by the Suns in 2007 before being traded to, and then signing with, the Trail Blazers in 2008) tied for fifth on the second team.

Gosh I hate ties!

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

Derrick Rose's Problems Are NBA's Fault

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Originally posted on June 2nd, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on: May 29, 2009 11:29 am
 

Ranking No. 3 Draft Picks of Draft Lottery Era

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) Chauncey Billups, PG, Boston Celtics out of University of Colorado in 1997 NBA Draft (837 Games, 15.1 PPG, 5.6 APG, 2.9 RPG, 1.0 SPG) - After being drafted by the Boston Celtics after two stellar seasons for the Colorado Buffalos, Billups would experience something midway through his rookie season that would become a staple for the next few years of his career.  At the trade deadline, Billups would be traded to the Toronto Raptors.  After his rookie season ended, Billups was traded to the hometown Denver Nuggets where he spent one and a half seasons before being traded to the Orlando Magic.  After playing two successful seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Detroit Pistons would give Chauncey Billups a chance and he would reward them handsomely.  In his six years with Detroit, Billups, or "Mr. Big Shots" would be the catalyst of a team that went to six straight Eastern Conference Finals from 2003 until 2008.  Billups would make two NBA Finals apperances with Detroit in 2004 and in 2005, and after winning a championship in 2004 with Detroit, Billups would be named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player.  After playing under the radar the remaining years in Detroit, Billups would again be traded to the Denver Nuggets where he led the Nuggets out of mediocrity and turned them into one of the better teams in the league.  His performance earned him votes in the 2009 NBA Most Valuable Player voting.  Largely recognized as a player capable of playing big in crucial moments, Billups has continued that trend this season where he now has Denver in the Western Conference Finals, the seventh straight time in his career he has made the conference finals.
Posted on: April 16, 2009 11:45 pm
 

2008-2009 NBA Regular Season Awards

Rookie of the Year:
1) Derrick Rose, G, Chicago Bulls (81 Games, 16.8 PPG, 6.3 APG, 3.9 RPG while shooting 78.8 FT Pctg., 47.5 FG Pctg.) - In a runaway for this award, Rose has emerged past his competition and led his team to the postseason. He was taken number one, proved to be the correct selection and has the Bulls in the playoffs. Nobody's even close.
2) O.J. Mayo, G, Memphis Grizzlies (82 Games, 18.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.1 SPG while shooting 87.9 FT Pctg., 38.4 3PT FG Pctg., 43.8 FG Pctg.) - Put up great stats all season long but had stretches where he really suffered. Time will tell if he's a game changer or not.
3) Brook Lopez, C, New Jersey Nets (82 Games, 13.0 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 1.0 APG while shooting 79.3 FT Pctg., 53.1 FG Pctg.) - Far exceeded any expectation given to him at the center position. He proved that he can really score the basketball and he proved to be a really good find for New Jersey.
4) Russell Westbrook, G, Oklahoma City Thunder (82 Games, 15.3 PPG, 5.3 APG, 4.9 RPG, 1.3 SPG while shooting 81.5 FT Pctg., 39.8 FG Pctg.) - When Kevin Durant went out this year, Westbrook took over and really elevated his game. He finished strong this year and he looks like a really good player. Whether he'll be a point guard his entire career or not, though, is to be determined.
5) Kevin Love, F, Minnesota Timberwolves (81 Games, 11.1 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 1.0 APG while shooting 78.9 FT Pctg., 45.9 FG Pctg.) - Put up really good numbers this year and was overlooked all season long. I don't know why people hate on his game so much. He's a nice shooter and a fantastic rebounder. He's not great, but he's a really good player.

Most Valuable Player:
1) LeBron James, F, Cleveland Cavaliers (81 Games, 28.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 7.2 APG, 1.7 SPG, 1.1 BPG while shooting 78.0 FT Pctg., 34.4 3PT FG Pctg., 48.9 FG Pctg.) - What's left to be said that hasn't been said in regards to LeBron's run this season? He's taken the Cavs to the best record in the league and has been tremendous across the board in doing so.
2) Dwyane Wade, G, Miami Heat (79 Games, 30.2 PPG, 7.5 APG, 5.0 RPG, 2.2 SPG, 1.3 BPG while shooting 76.5 FT Pctg., 31.7 3PT FG Pctg., 49.1 FG Pctg.) - Wade had the best single season by anyone in the league. Unfortunately, his team isn't spectacular (though they're not as bad as people make them out to be) and Wade really carried the weight to get the team to the 5th seed. The most important statistic: 79 games played.
3) Chris Paul, G, New Orleans Hornets (78 Games, 22.8 PPG, 11.0 APG, 5.5 RPG, 2.8 SPG while shooting 86.8 FT Pctg., 36.4 3PT FG Pctg., 50.3 FG Pctg.) - Overlooked all season long, but Paul actually had a better year this year than he did last year. In the Hornet's tumultuous season, Paul was the main staple and did a fantastic job of holding this depleted Hornets squad together for 49 wins.
4) Brandon Roy, G, Portland Trail Blazers (78 Games, 22.6 PPG, 5.1 APG, 4.7 RPG, 1.1 SPG while shooting 82.4 FT Pctg., 37.7 3PT FG Pctg., 48.0 FG Pctg.) - Another overlooked player who does a little bit of everything for that Portland franchise, does it with class and really takes oveor in the clutch for Portland.
5) Paul Pierce, F, Boston Celtics (81 Games, 20.5 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.0 SPG while shooting 83.0 FT Pctg., 39.1 3PT FG Pctg., 45.7 FG Pctg.) - With the injuries on this Boston team, Pierce was the main staple in the rotation and had a fantastic statistical season. With all the time that Kevin Garnett has missed, the Celtics probably had no business winning 60 games and Pierce led the team in doing so.

Coach of the Year:
1) Nate McMillan, Portland Trail Blazers (54-28 Record) - McMillan did a fantastic job of managing this young team and rotating everyone in, giving everybody a share of the glory. Portland has a deep squad but it was really young and he handled injuries and minutes distribution well enough to have this team gelling at the right time.
2) Stan Van Gundy, Orlando Magic (59-23 Record) - Really helped the Magic take their game to a new level. He's preached to them a defensive philosophy this year as well and it's evident watching them play that they've grown a lot from last season.
3) Mike Brown, Cleveland Cavaliers (66-16 Record) - Mike Brown has done a fine job putting players in the right position to win. His commitment to defense has always made the Cavaliers better than their talent indicated, but when he finally got some players he led his team to 66 wins. Solid season.
4) Greg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs (54-28 Record) - With all the injuries the Spurs went through this year, it's amazing to see that everybody has forgotten about Greg Popovich. Pop has had to go with smaller, defensively deffecient squads to get the Spurs to the Southwest division crown and really deserves a lot of credit.

Executive of the Year:
1) Danny Ferry, Cleveland Cavaliers (66-16 Record) - Obviously the huge acquisition of Mo Williams was the biggest reason for the Cavaliers resurgence this season. Ferry had the guts to pull it off and worked it to perfection.
2) Kevin Pritchard, Portland Trail Blazers (54-28 Record) - Pritchard has just put together a fantastic squad over in Portland. They're deep, talented, young, they draft well; just a model organization.
3) Mark Warkentien, Denver Nuggets (54-28 Record) - When the team traded Marcus Camby for a trade exemption in the summer, Nuggets fans were up in arms. But cost cutting moves like signing Chris Andersen coupled with landing Chauncey Billups in a trade and now the Nuggets are the number 2 seed in all of the western conference.

Defensive Player of the Year:
1) Dwight Howard, C, Orlando Magic (79 Games, 13.8 RPG, 2.9 BPG, 1.0 SPG) - His presence around the rim and ability to change games with his shot blocking ability is the biggest reason why Howard is in here.
2) Chris Andersen, F-C, Denver Nuggets (71 Games, 6.2 RPG, 2.5 BPG) - The Birdman has returned from a very publicized, very ugly drug abuse problem and was 2nd in the league in blocks with only 20 minutes a game; a fantastic story.
3) Dwyane Wade, G, Miami Heat (79 Games, 2.2 SPG, 1.3 BPG) - Wade became one of the shortest players of all time to record 100 blocks, and that's the biggest reason why Wade sneaks into the DPOY category.
4) Chris Paul, G, New Orleans Hornets (2.8 SPG) - Paul's ability to steal the ball this year was highlighted by recording 103 consecutive games with a steal.

Sixth Man of the Year:
1) Jason Terry, G, Dallas Mavericks (74 Games, 11 Starts, 33.7 MPG, 19.6 PPG, 3.4 APG, 2.4 RPG, 1.3 SPG while shooting 88.0 FT Pctg., 36.6 3PT FG Pctg., 46.3 FG Pctg.) - He's not technically a sixth man, but by definition he is so Terry is going to run away with this award.
2) J.R. Smith, G, Denver Nuggets (81 Games, 18 Starts, 27.7 MPG, 15.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.0 SPG while shooting 75.4 FT Pctg., 39.7 3PT FG Pctg., 44.6 FG Pctg.) - He also falls moreso into the Jason Terry category, but J.R. Smith's scoring ability has been humongous off the bench for Denver this season.
3) Travis Outlaw, G-F, Portland Trail Blazers (81 Games, 6 Starts, 27.7 MPG, 12.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.0 APG while shooting 72.3 FT Pctg., 37.7 3PT FG Pctg., 45.3 FG Pctg.) - The truest sixth man to the sense of the word is Travis Outlaw. He comes into the game, is versatile enough to play three different positions, can knock down the three and play strong defense.
4) Eddie House, G, Boston Celtics (81 Games, 0 Starts, 18.3 MPG, 8.5 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 1.1 APG, 79.2 FT Pctg., 44.4 3PT FG Pctg., 44.5 FG Pctg.) - House was fantastic from beyond the arc this season and was the main staple for a Celtics bench that was depleted by injuries as well. He's probably the truest sixth man in this category.

Most Improved Player:
1) Tony Parker, G, San Antonio Spurs (72 Games, 22.0 PPG, 6.9 APG, 3.1 RPG while shooting 78.2 FT Pctg., 50.6 FG Pctg.) - Tony Parker was always a good player but this season he became a great player. He averaged career highs in points and assists and really carried the Spurs on his shoulders down the stretch.
2) Devin Harris, G, New Jersey Nets (69 Games, 21.3 PPG, 6.9 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.7 SPG while shooting 82.0 FT Pctg., 29.1 3PT FG Pctg., 43.8 FG Pctg.) - Statistically speaking Harris is the most improved, but a tough finish and a continued run in with injuries are the lasting impression on Harris this year.
3) David Lee, F, New York Knicks (81 Games, 16.0 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.0 SPG while shooting 75.5 FT Pctg., 54.9 FG Pctg.) - Lee took his game to a new level in Mike D'Antoni's system, averaging a double double and becoming an attractive contribution for any team heading into free agency.
4) Nene, F-C, Denver Nuggets (77 Games, 14.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.3 BPG, 1.2 SPG while shooting 72.3 FT Pctg., 60.4 FG Pctg.) - The onus was on Nene to rebound from Testicular Cancer and be the Nuggets best big man this league, they had no other options, and Nene has really responded. He's done a great job avoiding injuries and really has posted fantastic numbers as the Nuggets main inside presence.

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

Final 2008-2009 NBA Power Rankings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted on: February 4, 2009 12:24 am
 

Evaluating the NBA Age Limit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on: December 29, 2008 1:47 am
 

NBA 2008-2009 Awards Through December 2008

MVP:
1) LeBron James, F, Cleveland Cavaliers (29 games, 27.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 6.3 APG, 2.1 SPG, 1.1 BPG while shooting 78.6 FT Pctg., 27.4 3PT FG Pctg., 50.4 FG Pctg.) - LeBron James, for the past few seasons, has been the player most important to his squad and this season has taken his team to new peaks.  He's running away with the award so far.
2) Dwyane Wade, G, Miami Heat (28 games, 28.9 PPG, 6.8 APG, 5.1 RPG, 2.2 SPG, 1.6 BPG while shooting 75.3 FT Pctg., 25.3 3PT FG Pctg., 48.8 FG Pctg.)
3) Brandon Roy, G, Portland Trail Blazers (30 games, 22.7 PPG, 5.1 APG, 4.6 RPG, 1.1 SPG while shooting 84.2 FG Pctg., 35.8 3PT FG Pctg., 46.4 FG Pctg.)

Coach of the Year:
1) Mike Woodson, Atlanta Hawks (19-10 record) - A couple of seasons ago Mike Woodson would never escape the mouths of those who mention best current coaches in the league but he's done a wonderful job with this squad so far this season.  He's gotten his players to overcome injuries, small frontcourts and a lack of point guard depth and have been a consistently good team throughout the entire season.
2) Mike Brown, Cleveland Cavaliers (26-4 record)
3) Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat (16-13 record)

Rookie of the Year:
1) O.J. Mayo, G, Memphis Grizzlies (29 games, 19.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.1 SPG while shooting 88.6 FT Pctg., 41.0 3PT FG Pctg., 45.4 FG Pctg.) - All year he and Rose will battle it out but Mayo had a tremendous month and has played huge in big game situations.  Neither's team is going to blow people away but Mayo has done a better job this season, even if Rose has exceeded expectations.
2) Derrick Rose, G, Chicago Bulls (29 games, 17.2 PPG, 6.0 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.0 SPG while shooting 81.4 FT Pctg., 31.6 3PT FG Pctg., 46.5 FG Pctg.)
3) D.J. Augustin, G, Charlotte Bobcats (30 games, 12.7 PPG, 4.4 APG, 1.8 RPG while shooting 92.2 FT Pctg., 41.4 3PT FG Pctg., 40.6 FG Pctg.)

Most Improved Player:
1) Devin Harris, G, New Jersey Nets (26 games, 23.6 PPG, 6.6 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.5 SPG while shooting 84.5 FT Pctg., 32.9 3PT FG Pctg., 46.0 FG Pctg.) - Devin Harris, for the second straight month, tops the most improved player rankings and looks like the only viable option to win the award this season.  He's played amazing regardless of the competition and regardless of the performance of his inconsistent teammates and has done so in a season in which the Nets are 16-16 regardless of horrible preseason rexpectations.
2) Rajon Rondo, G, Boston Celtics (31 games, 11.4 PPG, 7.6 APG, 5.1 RPG, 2.3 SPG while shooting 65.5 FT Pctg., 26.7 3PT FG Pctg., 52.7 FG Pctg.)
3) Jameer Nelson, G, Orlando Magic (24 games, 16.9 PPG, 5.3 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.3 SPG while shooting 85.4 FT Pctg., 44.7 3PT FG Pctg., 52.9 FG Pctg.)

Sixth Man of the Year:
1) Jason Terry, G, Dallas Mavericks (29 games {5 starts}, 21.2 PPG, 3.8 APG, 2.1 RPG, 1.4 SPG while shooting 85.5 FT Pctg., 36.9 3PT FG Pctg., 47.1 FG Pctg.) - This is almost unfair since Terry gets starters minutes and finishes games for the Mavericks but he's been the key to a surprising Dallas squad so far this season and is the runaway candidate for the second straight month.
2) Andrei Kirilenko, F, Utah Jazz (27 games {1 start}, 12.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.4 BPG while shooting 80.4 FT Pctg., 25.0 3PT FG Pctg., 46.4 FG Pctg.)
3) D.J. Augustin, G, Charlotte Bobcats (30 games {6 starts}, 12.7 PPG, 4.4 APG, 1.8 RPG while shooting 92.2 FT Pctg., 41.4 3PT FG Pctg., 40.6 FG Pctg.)

Posted on: December 29, 2008 1:45 am
 

NBA Power Rankings Through December 28, 2008

1. Cleveland Cavaliers (2) - The Cavaliers rallied for an impressive win against Miami today and remain the only team this season to be undefeated at home.  They hold home court admirably and they also are getting fantastic play out of Mo Williams lately.  This team is playing a consistent brand of basketball, and although the assortment of players and the list of victories doesn't blow you away, they are the hottest team so far this season and they play fantastic defense and win basketball games at home.  Those are three qualities of great teams.

2. Boston Celtics (1) - I know with two losses this week you could make arguments about them falling behind either Orlando or the Lakers, but they still have the best record in the league and last week people were questioning when exactly this team was going to lose.  They had a tough western swing but the Celtics are still the best team in the league.  I think it would be entirely irrational to drop them too far down the list.

3. Orlando Magic (3) - The Magic are the second hottest team in the league right now and are frequently blowing teams out of the arena.  That performance against New Orleans on Christmas day was impressive.  Getting Mickael Pietrus back from injury is going to help this team immensely in the near future.  They continue to perform at a high level regardless of doubts concerning their ability to consistently perform at this level.  Currently, they're at this level so I can't drop them.

4. Los Angeles Lakers (4) - The Lakers gained an emotional and emphatic triumph over Boston on Christmas day in one of the most anticipated regular season games in recent memory.  Kobe Bryant, as of late, has been playing near his MVP level from last season and the Lakers have to love what they're getting out of players like Sasha Vujacic as of late.  They've seemed to turn the corner on the difficult stretch that they seemingly were having and inner turmoil over their defense had to be addressed with that performance against Boston.  They clearly are the best current team in the Western Confrence.

5. Atlanta Hawks (6) - Joe Johnson is playing at an amazing level currently and this Hawks team is clicking on both sides of the basketball.  Their quick start has proved to not be a fluke as they continue to play great basketball even going into January.  The team may lack true depth at the point guard position, but Johnson runs the offense so much that it masks that problem.  Overall, Mike Woodson has this team playing at an unbelievable level.

6. San Antonio Spurs (10) - Tony Parker has elevated his game to an unbelievable level this season.  His offensive game is as polished as any point guards in the league.  That shot from Roger Mason was huge on Christmas day and Tim Duncan is quietly having an unbelievable season.  Matt Bonner has really slowed as of late, and as a result I look for the Spurs to look for some inside scoring around the trade deadline.  Knowing them, they'll find a team to give them an outcast and I look at Eddy Curry (don't laugh) as being someone who could fit in good with the Spurs.  But they need another force in the paint to take some pressure off of Tim Duncan.

7. Denver Nuggets (9) - The team played great basketball without Carmelo Anthony in the lineup and then carried it over with a big win at Madison Square Garden today when Carmelo returned.  This team continues to stay around the top and are getting fantastic production out of J.R. Smith as of late.  Kenyon Martin has shown flashes of the player we all loved in New Jersey as of late but it's a shame that a lot of his explosiveness has limited him.  He had the potential to be a really, really good player in his career.

8. Portland Trail Blazers (7) - They're getting production out of Brandon Roy, but they have to love the contributions they're getting night in and night out from players like Steve Blake, Travis Outlaw and Joel Przybilla as those types of role players are what help a team become a consistent threat night in and night out. 

9. New Orleans Hornets (5) - Their performances against Los Angeles and Orlando revealed they still have not yet turned that corner and become a really good team.  They're still playing maddingly inconsistent basketball but Peja Stojakovic and Antonio Daniels returned this week and that is reason enough for optimism in New Orleans.

10. Houston Rockets (8) - Ron Artest has been great off of the bench since his return from injury and I look for the Rockets to continue to play him at that spot.  Tracy McGrady has been really inconsistent this season and continues to be in and out of lineups with nagging injuries.  It's a shame he could indirectly ruin the best chance the Rockets have had at a championship since Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen were wearing Rockets uniforms. 

11. Dallas Mavericks (12) - The Mavericks are playing tremendous basketball as of late and have gotten past that slow start to develop into a fun, cohesive unit.  That suspension for Dirk Nowitzki is laughable but it didn't stop them from being the lowly Clippers.  I know Jason Kidd's numbers are down, and he's not the player he once was, but I feel as if he's delivering so far this season for Dallas.  No he's not the player that Devin Harris is but he's done a fine job keeping this team together this season and they're slowly getting healthy as well.  The Mavericks have played above expectations so far this season and it'll be intersting to see them continue to try and do so. 

12. Utah Jazz (11) - Injuries to Carlos Boozer, Deron Williams, Ronnie Price, Mehmet Okur and Paul Millsap have held this team back and they've still yet to field a consistent and healthy squad for an extended period of time so that we can fairly evaluate the legitimacy of this Utah squad this season.  Overall, I believe Jerry Sloan has done a fantastic job keeping this unit at where they're at even though they can't get continuity in the lineup.

13. Phoenix Suns (13) - The Suns had one game this week and lost it but they played strongly against the Spurs on Christmas day.  They're winning games and at this rate will put up a soild record for the season but they don't seem to have any sort of spark to them this season that makes them feel like a legitimate threat to a team in a seven game series.  Amare Stoudemire, for all the talent that he posseses, is becoming a quiet 20 point 8 rebound guy and you never want to fall into that category.

14. Miami Heat (14) - A tough loss at Cleveland is the only problem the Heat have experienced the past couple of weeks.  Their defense keeps them in every single game and they find ways to hang around and win ball games.  Jamaal Magloire would be a nice boost to this team if he could ever get consistently healthy but I don't know if that's in his capabilities any longer.

15. Detroit Pistons (15) - The Pistons found ways to beat bad teams this week and it's still a step in the right drection.  They've been around .500 since acquiring Allen Iverson but they've still got time to right the ship and become a threat come the postseason.  But looking at the energy of this squad, you have to wonder if they will. 

16. New Jersey Nets (18) - The Nets still refuse to go away.  Devin Harris and Vince Carter, night in and night out, carry this squad and keep them playing at a competitive level.  Brook Lopez has done a fine job and has settled in nicely at the starting center position but I think this team still lacks the overall talent to stay in the playoff race all season long.  But they've exceeded expecations so far this season so it's not outside of the realm of possibility for this team to stay at this level.

17. Milwaukee Bucks (17) - The Bucks continue to stick around regardless of a lack of fanfare or consistency.  Michael Redd has struggled a tad this season and Richard Jefferson's game has dropped a bit as of late but Andrew Bogut has done a great job keeping this team afloat.  I'd also like to give some kudos to Charlie Villanueva for being voted the world's sexiest bald man, giving the Bucks their first player to win an award in the past couple of decades.  Congratulations!

18. Chicago Bulls (16) - This squad, much like the team in Utah, continues to deal with inconvenient injuries and have not yet fielded a consistently healthy squad.  Everyone can't seem to get cohesive on this team because of the injury problems.  Derrick Rose and Ben Gordon have done a great job of keeping this team together but overall they are a perimeter based squad and unfortunately, when shots don't fall they have no shot of victory and that won't hold up all season long.

19. Philadelphia 76ers (19) - I've been wanting to say it the past few weeks so I will give credit this week, Marreese Speights has done a great job this season, especially in the recent absence of Elton BrandAndre Iguodala has shown flashes of the player that he was last season but overall he and this squad have vastly underacheived this season. 

20. Memphis Grizzlies (23) - I wonder what happened to Marc Gasol to see his minutes being reduced as the season has progressed.  Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo are nightly constants for this young squad and they finally have a sense of direction in Memphis for the first time since the first season they made the playoffs in 2003-2004. 

21. Golden State Warriors (24) - The Warriors had a very impressive victory over Boston this week that was quickly forgotten after their performance against the Lakers tonight.  Stephen Jackson has been playing better as of late but this team still misses Monta EllisCorey Maggette was a questionable addition when he signed with Golden State and word is the Warriors are listening to offers for the swingman.  His contract may make it hard for him to be moved, but I don't believe it's going to work for him in Golden State.

22. Charlotte Bobcats (25) - Emeka Okafor has played great as of late, giving the Bobcats a consistent threat at the center position that they've lacked majorly this season.  Boris Diaw gives him a body to work with down in the paint and Raja Bell has finally picked up his play after being traded from Phoenix.  They're playing good, hard basketball at the moment and still have time to salvage the season by making a late season push for the playoffs.

23. Toronto Raptors (26) - The Raptors, mainly spearheaded by Jermaine O'Neal, responded in a big way this week after that dreadful previous couple of weeks that they played.  This team still is a question mark as to whether or not they're going to right things this year but there's no denying how tough it's been to get a grip on this team.

24. New York Knicks (20) - The Knicks were never known for their defense even before the arrival of Mike D'Antoni, but the laziness on the defensive side of the ball has quickly spread in that locker room and has since grown to become a laughable ailment for this team.  The team doesn't even try to guard you, which is what keeps them from pulling potential upsets over better squads.

25. Indiana Pacers (22) - The Pacers have yet to really get it together this season and after spending all season waiting for them to do so, I've finally come to the conclusion that it just may not happen.  Mike Dunleavy has started to become more active after missing all season due to injury but I believe it's outside of his capabilities to turn this season around in Indiana.  I said Brandon Rush would be a rookie to look out for this season and in turn he's played very underwhelming basketball this season. 

26. Los Angeles Clippers (21) - The Clippers are such a Dr. Jeckyll/Mr. Hide squad.  You have no idea if they're going to be competitive or susceptible to being blown out.  They've recently given minutes to raw project DeAndre Jordan as of late and you have to wonder what that spells for oft injured but extremely talented center Chris Kaman with the now recently crammed frontcourt in Clipper land.

27. Sacramento Kings (27) - Their offense is so anemic without Kevin Martin in the lineup and I'm tired of waiting for him to come back and make this team competitive again.  It has to be dissapointing that after such a strong season last year this team has played at the level it has this season, but injuries and inconsistency within the organization can derail a team on the rise and that's exactly what's happened to this identity-less team.

28. Minnesota Timberwolves (28) - The Timberwolves finally got a victory for coach Kevin McHale this week but still lack any true power on their squad.  Rashad McCants and Ryan Gomes are two pieces of this team that would truly flourish on better squads but they basically serve no purpose for this horrible team.  If you look at the current roster, you can't even say that they're rebuilding.  They don't have any young projects in place aside from Al Jefferson.  They're just an assortment of bad players.

29. Washington Wizards (29) - Now that Caron Butler is injured (and we all saw that coming), Antawn Jamison is all alone now as far as options for the Wizards.  He was good enough for a victory over Oklahoma City but there's not much more he can do for this squad.  He's played unbelievable basketball but it will and should go largely unnoticed around the league because this franchise is so poorly operated.

30. Oklahoma City Thunder (30) - I looked at the Thunder playing Joe Smith at the center position with concern but after looking at the level of center play around the league, I guess it's a gamble for the worst roster in the league.  Nick Collison's injury obviously doesn't help matters but for the most part it really doesn't matter.  I don't see Joe Smith (who would be a nice fit in San Antonio) or Desmond Mason finishing February in Oklahoma City jerseys.

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