NBA Draft 2010: Wall, Turner, Favors and Cousins are the new Fab Four

May 21, 2010

by Jack Maidment

The NBA Draft usually has the power to change the fortunes of three, maybe four teams.

That is not to say that other teams don’t get players that help them get better, but in terms of a dramatic change in fortunes, only a handful of teams truly benefit.

Last year it was Sacramento with Tyreke Evans, Golden State with Stephen Curry and Milwaukee with Brandon Jennings.

The year before that? Chicago with Derrick Rose, Oklahoma with Russell Westbrook and New Jersey with Brook Lopez.

This year’s Draft has two stand outs in John Wall and Evan Turner and then two players just below them in terms of talent and projected ability: DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors.

In this Draft it would appear the pieces have fallen almost perfectly, four players made to fit the four teams that have been blessed with one of the top four picks.

No doubt they all would take Wall given the chance and the same can be said for every team in the NBA if they were in with a shout. He will go #1, that much is certain.

As it is the Washington Wizards got the right to take Wall and change the face of a franchise in desperate need of some serious reconstruction.

Gilbert Arena remains and so does his horrific contract.

Can the two of them play together? Arenas has never been a pure point as Wall is and so he will undoubtedly play off the ball in a role that could allow him to thrive, especially in his first season back in which he will be doing his very best to focus on basketball and not guns or anything other distraction.

Arenas used to be The Man in the nation’s capital but any problems this time round will see some sort of deal to get rid of him. Someone will be stupid enough to take him on. Memphis anyone?

If Philadelphia do not take Evan Turner with the number two pick there will be a riot.

He will fit nicely with Andre Igoudala on the wings and he will in all likelihood have plenty of opportunity to bring the ball up for the 76ers who lack a solid point guard.

Picking third overall, the New Jersey Nets will be the first team with anything even mildly resembling a dilemma.

Cousins or Favors.

The safe money would be on Favors who would be the perfect foil to Brook Lopez in the Nets’ front court.

Favors is a power forward in the 99th percentile in terms of his athleticism and that makes him the perfect compliment to Lopez’s more crafty post up game.

Two years down the line the Nets will have one of the most intimidating front courts, regardless of what happens with free agency this summer.

Minnesota again find themselves at the sharp end of the lottery and the question this year will be whether or not David Kahn is capable of an even more perverse Draft performance than last year.

If sanity prevails the answer should be no. Cousins is almost a perfect fit. The man is enormous and character issues are beginning to seem more smoke than fire.

Taking Cousins fourth would allow the Wolves to move Al Jefferson who has proved to be an extremely efficient low post scorer, but a tendency to sit large amounts of time on the injured list and the inability to play with Kevin Love should see him gone.

Love is one of the games best big man passers and a body like Cousins to take care of the banging would allow him to use more of his skills which have been stymied by playing with Jefferson.

In fairness taking Cousins probably doesn’t get the team too far away from the Lottery next year, but any improvement must be a good thing, right?

The top four effectively picks itself and those four players are best positioned to have the impact their prospective new employers desire.

However, it is worth remembering that Brandon Jennings went 10th overall last year.

There will be bargains to be had.

I like Stanley Robinson, Xavier Henry and Eric Bledsoe as this year’s mid to late sleepers.


Orlando, Phoenix and Los Angeles: There and Waiting.

May 11, 2010

by Jack Maidment

4 Conference semi finals and 3 sweeps.

Does this mean that 3 teams in the NBA have collected groups of players so talented that they demolish all other teams they face, or is it more that the calibre of their opponents wasn’t up to scratch?

Either way, people might argue that it can’t be good for the League.

The first round match ups for all the teams bar Orlando were tougher than their semi final slogs. Or should that be sorties.

The Los Angles Lakers, Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns took the sword to their second round match ups and dispatched them with savage aplomb.

4-0.

So are these three teams much better than everyone else in the respective conferences?

Yes and no.

For Orlando the case must be yes.

Since the All Star break the number of losses that the Magic have suffered can be counted on 1 hand. Simply, they have dominated.

In four games against the Atlanta Hawks they outscored Georgia’s finest by a grand total of one hundred plus points. In a conference semi final.

There is only one team in the East at this moment who could give them a game and they are entirely reliant on the output of LeBron James.

And given the woeful performance of the Cleveland Cavaliers backcourt, any prospective East Finals match up between the two would seem to be a formality at this stage.

There is no way LeBron beats the Magic and the reigning defensive player of the year Dwight Howard on his own.

In contrast, the Lakers and the Suns have not run roughshod over the West. In fact they have had their struggles until very recently.

For Los Angeles, the Oklahoma City Thunder presented them with enough problems to really test the defending champs giving the Lakeshow the ultimate realisation that playoff basketball was real and that there was no performance switch that could be flipped on and off.

They battled and the came through and they warmed up, playing like the team trhat won it all last June.

Meanwhile their second round opponents, the Utah Jazz, were far from a poor adversary, but a combination of hard luck injuries to Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur (their 3rd and 4th best players) and undersized frontcourt that was dwarfed by three seven footers the Jazz were always fighting the heavyweight champ with one arm tied behind their back.

As for the Suns, nobody at the end of last year and for most of this past season would have picked them to appear in the Western conference finals.

But through sheer force of will and The Best Pick and Roll Pair in Basketball they have proved that scoring points does win games, as long as you get a little stauncher on the defensive end, which they have.

Their bench, a fine mix of misfits and veterans, has given them the boost they needed at all the most vital times.

Whether it be Goran Dragic’s explosion against the San Antonio Spurs, or the sharp shooting of Jason Richardson, Jared Dudley and Channing Frye, the Suns have had just enough this playoffs.

Amare Stoudemire has been superb and he has shown a return to ferocity that will guarantee him plenty of suitors in the summer. He is the best big man dunker in basketball.

Steve Nash. There can be nothing said to describe just how good this man is. Simply, he is a warrior.

So, 3 of 4 places have been filled with only the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers battling it out in anything resembling an actual playoff series between two closely matched times.

The other 3 will just have to wait patiently and hope that the fire and drive that has gotten them this far remains intact for next week.

The playoffs really do start next week.    

4 Conference semi finals and 3 sweeps.

 

Does this mean that 3 teams in the NBA have collected groups of players so talented that they demolish all other teams they face, or is it more that the calibre of their opponents wasn’t up to scratch?

 

Either way, people might argue that it can’t be good for the League.

 

The first round match ups for all the teams bar Orlando were tougher than their semi final slogs. Or should that be sorties.

 

The Los Angles Lakers, Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns took the sword to their second round match ups and dispatched them with savage aplomb.

 

4-0.

 

So are these three teams much better than everyone else in the respective conferences?

 

Yes and no.

 

For Orlando the case must be yes.

 

Since the All Star break the number of losses that the Magic have suffered can be counted on 1 hand. Simply, they have dominated.

 

In four games against the Atlanta Hawks they outscored Georgia’s finest by a grand total of one hundred plus points. In a conference semi final.

 

There is only one team in the East at this moment who could give them a game and they are entirely reliant on the output of LeBron James.

 

And given the woeful performance of the Cleveland Cavaliers backcourt, any prospective East Finals match up between the two would seem to be a formality at this stage.

 

There is no way LeBron beats the Magic and the reigning defensive player of the year Dwight Howard on his own.

 

In contrast, the Lakers and the Suns have not run roughshod over the West. In fact they have had their struggles until very recently.

 

For Los Angeles, the Oklahoma City Thunder presented them with enough problems to really test the defending champs giving the Lakeshow the ultimate realisation that playoff basketball was real and that there was no performance switch that could be flipped on and off.

 

They battled and the came through and they warmed up, playing like the team trhat won it all last June.

 

Meanwhile their second round opponents, the Utah Jazz, were far from a poor adversary, but a combination of hard luck injuries to Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur (their 3rd and 4th best players) and undersized frontcourt that was dwarfed by three seven footers the Jazz were always fighting the heavyweight champ with one arm tied behind their back.

 

As for the Suns, nobody at the end of last year and for most of this past season would have picked them to appear in the Western conference finals.

 

But through sheer force of will and The Best Pick and Roll Pair in Basketball they have proved that scoring points does win games, as long as you get a little stauncher on the defensive end, which they have.

 

Their bench, a fine mix of misfits and veterans, has given them the boost they needed at all the most vital times.

 

Whether it be Goran Dragic’s explosion against the San Antonio Spurs, or the sharp shooting of Jason Richardson, Jared Dudley and Channing Frye, the Suns have had just enough this playoffs.

 

Amare Stoudemire has been superb and he has shown a return to ferocity that will guarantee him plenty of suitors in the summer. He is the best big man dunker in basketball.

 

Steve Nash. There can be nothing said to describe just how good this man is. Simply, he is a warrior.

 

So, 3 of 4 places have been filled with only the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers battling it out in anything resembling an actual playoff series between two closely matched times.

 

The other 3 will just have to wait patiently and hope that the fire and drive that has gotten them this far remains intact for next week.

The playoffs really do start next week.   


The Boston Celtics best player? Rajon Rondo.

May 10, 2010

by Jack Maidment

Forget the 17 NBA Championships.

Forget the fact that the Boston Celtics play in a city which reveres their basketball team almost like no other.

Forget Bill Russell and his 11 rings.

Forget Larry Bird and the 1986 team that went 40-1 at home.

Forget Kevin McHale and his post game.

Forget about Dave Cowens, Robert Parish, Bob Cousy and every other Celtic legend to pull on the famous green and white of Boston.

Forget about the glimpse of Bill Walton’s greatness.

Forget about Antoine Walker and the days when the Celtic’s were in a lengthy funk.

Forget about the trades which brought Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to the city and the Championship that followed.

Forget Garnett’s knee. Forget Paul Pierce’s Finals MVP.

Forget the Big Three.

Remember Rajon Rondo.

In the space of two years the point guard out of Kentucky has transformed himself from weak link to the best player on a contender.

That is what he is. He is the team’s engine and he makes them tick.

29-18-13 in last night’s Game 4 Celtic victory testifies to that.

He played almost 10 minutes more than any other team mate and through sheer force of will and a quickness unmatched by 99% of the NBA he drove a creaking Boston team closer to a series win against LeBron James and his Championship favourites Cleveland Cavaliers.


Vince Carter drives the Magic past the Hawks. Will he do it again?

May 7, 2010

by Jack Maidment

Ask a Toronto Raptors fan about Vince Carter and their response will be uniform.

Talented but immensely frustrating.

More than any other player in the NBA Vinsanity has a reputation for mailing in games, disappearing during important games when his team needs him the most.

Throughout his career he has earned Max money, the kind of astronomical sums that only the very best players should receive.

And yet.

The amount of money that has been spent on his services should surely have got more in return than high octane dunks and the odd explosive night of scoring.

Unless Mr Carter starts anew as of now and plays the way that his pay packet demands, that will be the legacy of his career.

Why did Orlando sign him in the summer? Because of the promise of the player that he can be.

And last night he did what Vince Carter has been doing all his career: giving you one game that will suck you back in to the belief that he can carry a team. He can be the number one option a team.

Game 2 in the Eastern Conference Semi Finals against the Atlanta Hawks was vintage.

He scored points when his team needed him to and he put away a very good team in a very important game.

For one night he is the player he should be. He produced and once again hopes are raised.

Come the next game? The hope will probably be forgotten fairly quickly as the ex Tar Heel disappears down the stretch, letting his other team mates take the pressure.

At the moment he can get away with that, but come Conference or even NBA Finals will he show up when the game is on the line and someone has to want the ball?

I guess we will have to wait and see. 

Ask a Toronto Raptors fan about Vince Carter and their response will be uniform.

 

Talented but immensely frustrating.

 

More than any other player in the NBA Vinsanity has a reputation for mailing in games, disappearing during important games when his team needs him the most.

 

Throughout his career he has earned Max money, the kind of astronomical sums that only the very best players should receive.

 

And yet.

 

The amount of money that has been spent on his services should surely have got more in return than high octane dunks and the odd explosive night of scoring.

 

Unless Mr Carter starts anew as of now and plays the way that his pay packet demands, that will be the legacy of his career.

Why did Orlando sign him in the summer? Because of the promise of the player that he can be.

 

And last night he did what Vince Carter has been doing all his career: giving you one game that will suck you back in to the belief that he can carry a team. He can be the number one option a team.

 

Game 2 in the Eastern Conference Semi Finals against the Atlanta Hawks was vintage.

 

He scored points when his team needed him to and he put away a very good team in a very important game.

For one night he is the player he should be. He produced and once again hopes are raised.

 

Come the next game? The hope will probably be forgotten fairly quickly as the ex Tar Heel disappears down the stretch, letting his other team mates take the pressure.

 

At the moment he can get away with that, but come Conference or even NBA Finals will he show up when the game is on the line and someone has to want the ball?

I guess we will have to wait and see.


NBA Playoffs: Conference Semi Finals

May 6, 2010

By Jack Maidment

The Playoffs are firmly under way and have already thrown up more than enough surprises.

The Lakers are too big and too long to be troubled by the Jazz. Every shot that Carlos Boozer takes is a fade away jumpshot over the outstretched hand of either Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom or Andrew Bynum. The Jazz is too small and have too many injuries, but the money they spent on Paul Milsap is starting to look like a pretty good investment. He has carried them for whole quarters at a time.

Deron Williams may well be the best point guard in the game today but he can onoly do so much.

The Lakers bench has been positively woeful so far this postseason and getting called out by Kobe Bryant seems to have had little effect.

Their sloppy play is only manageable as long as the Los Angeles starting 5 keep playing so well and Kobe keeps closing games.

Lakers in 5 after the Jazz sneak one in Utah.

The othermatch up out West is the best Conference semi. It has history, grudges and a little hint of politics. 

Could this finally be the year when the Phoenix Suns break the curse of San Antonio and advance to the promised land of a Conference final?

The way that Steve Nash and Amare Stoudamire are playing the pick and roll suggests they will. Quite simply it is perfect. It is a work of art. The question for Gregg Popovich is how do you stop something as precise and as finely tuned as the Phoenix offense?

Keep the ball out of the hands of the best passer in basketball. Easier said than done.

The Spurs are savvy and far from down and of all the teams to go in a 2-0 hole they would be the one to back to come out fighting and get the wins they need.

Suns in 6.

In the East the Cleveland Cavaliers are proving once again that they are not built for the post season.

They have the League MVP but a sore elbow and a supporting cast who cannot make shots is not going to get it done. Anthony Parker, Mo Williams, Delonte West and Jamario Moon made 4 shots in Game 2. Between them.

The Celtics certainly smell blood and they are the only team that has been able to flip the switch from regular season mediocrity to post season intensity.

LeBron or no, the Cavaliers are on the ropes. If they support doesn’t show there is no way LeBron can beat a team as defensively imposing as the Celtics.

And they hate each other. Anderson Varejao versus Kendrick Perkins? Antone who saw that little pushing match knows that the Brazillian should walk away. Perkins is a scowl machine.

Celtics in 6.

The final Conference Semi threatens to be a lesson in playground etiquette with the bigger, stronger and generally more impressive Orlando Magic punishing the under whelming Atlanta Hawks.

They were disappointing against a Milwaukee Bucks team who simply shouldn’t have taken a team as good as the Hawks are supposed to be to 7 games. The Bucks essentially had two players, Brandon Jennings and John Salmons with snippets of contributions from their team mates and yet that was enough to push an Atlanta team vaunted as a contender.

By themselves anyway.

Orlando in 5.