NBA Rookie Ratings: Hasheem Thabeet has the shoulders to carry the weightiest of expectations.

September 7, 2009

hasheem 1by Jack Maidment

It is up there with all of the other clichés, but it is oh so very true: you can’t teach tall.

Of all the world’s popular games, basketball more than any other (except perhaps sumo wrestling) is best suited to those people with a very specific body type.

That is not to say that a tall player is guaranteed to be a good basketball player and similarly a vertically challenged player is not guaranteed to be ineffective. You only have to look at the success that many players have had despite measuring up at less than 6 feet: Allen Iversen. No elaboration needed.

However, one thing that is assured is that an extremely tall person with very little skill or experience is more likely to be picked up than a shorter player with above average skills: they may not be able to make a jump shot, but their mere physical presence on the court is enough to warrant a roster spot.

This may be the case at pick up games, high school and even college, but height is not enough to assure success at the professional level.

The importance of a physically imposing post presence to success in the NBA has made the drafting of 7 footers a troublesome and unpredictable business. The search for the next Shaq or Duncan or Wilt and the Championships that would surely follow has caused the demise of many an aspiring GM, consumed by the possibility of unearthing that monster of a man who also possesses the craft to do more than just get in the way and occupy space.

The fact that very, very few players come out of college and into the Draft as the finished product leads those in charge to place huge amounts of emphasis on a player’s potential. ‘He is 7-3, imagine what he COULD be!’.

Indeed.

Alas, most don’t work out that way and that is by no means their fault. The pressure placed on a player drafted high to grow as the GM promised he would is simply a case of misguided expectations.

It is with this in mind that Hasheem Thabeet’s rookie campaign will garner much attention and criticism. You cannot go second overall and not expect media attention, but when you were taken ahead of a number of other exceptional players who apparently could contribute more immediately seemingly because you were simply much taller than them is a sure fire way to attract detractors.

Regardless of the alleged politics surrounding the Memphis Grizzlies #2 pick i.e. Ricky Rubio not wanting to play their, Thabeet has much to do to repay the faith placed in him by the franchise. They believe that he will grow and mature into a player capable of dominating the floor, the anchor to their team.

The major positive for the Tanzanian is that he has got to where he is now despite only taking up the game at the age of 15. That would certainly suggest that he has much to learn and that what he has learnt he has done so in a very short space of time. Given a few years to develop and who knows how good he can be.

The expectations of most people, outside of the Grizzlies hierarchy, are that #2 was just too high for a player who brings relatively little to the table at the moment. So few genuine Big Men have gone on to fulfil the promise that their height has the potential to allow that the bar will be low set for Thabeet: nobody expects him to really excel, nobody will have him pegged as a Rookie of the Year candidate despite having gone second overall.

Perhaps that is unfair, but historically the vast majority of NBA giants have failed to ignite the game as those that drafted them may have wished.

No player taken this year will have a harder task than Thabeet in trying to finish where they started. Ranked the #2 rookie at the end of the season?

A tall order indeed.


NBA Trade Rumors: Boston, Houston and New York all interested in #2 Pick

June 9, 2009
ricky-rubio2 
 
by Jack Maidment
 
Despite the perceived weakness of the 2009 Draft Class, many teams are still keen to get their hands on the top picks for a shot at taking the player can usher in a new era of success for their franchise.

For some this means finding the building block on which to add other pieces, looking ahead at least 2 or 3 years before really contemplating playoff success.

For others, a top 5 pick represents the opportunity to add ‘the last piece’ to a team that is ‘almost there’.

It appears that the Los Angeles Clippers are dead set on Blake Griffin with relatively little chance of a trade taking him away from Clipperville.

However, the same certainty cannot be applied to the Memphis Grizzlies who hold the rights to pick #2.

News is beginning to circulate that at least three other teams are keen to trade for their chance to pick second overall when Ricky Rubio, Hasheem Thabeet, James Harden, Tyreke Evans and Stephen Curry will all be available.

The Boston Celtics and the Houston Rockets are two of the three teams apparently interested but with neither team possessing a first round pick this year they will have to rely on a personnel switch to persuade Memphis to part with their valuables.

The third team, which does have picks to play with and is rumoured to be interested, is the New York Knicks. Rumour or no rumour, it makes sense for the Knicks to trade up with the franchise desperate for a player to build around.

Ricky Rubio will undoubtedly be the Knicks’ target: a player capable of boosting the team’s performance and popularity as well as providing the player the perfect market in which his management want him placed.

If these rumours materialise into something more concrete it will be interesting to see what the #2 is worth:

The Celtics will be the team with the least options given the liklihood that they will want to preserve the Big 4. That leaves Kendrick Perkins, Eddie House and other bench players as Boston’s bargaining chips?

The Rockets could try and offload Tracy McGrady’s salary for the pick plus player(s) from Memphis?

As for the Knicks? Well they could offer just about anyone from their roster.

I like Rubio in New York


NBA Draft 2009: Top 10 Largely Picks Itself

May 26, 2009
Stephen Curry fits the Knicks

Stephen Curry fits the Knicks

by Jack Maidment

Why would you pick Blake Griffin with the #1 pick in this year’s NBA Draft?

The answers are two fold:

1. You get the only player ‘guaranteed’ to make an impact straight away a player destined for All-Star status sooner rather than later.

2. As a struggling franchise you draft the player that will sell the most season tickets through sheer weight of interest.

Now, both of these reasons are obvious and self explanatory. Yet it is with no surprise that we hear that the Clippers are listening to offers for their pick.

Such a rumour has started to grow pace as a result of one man’s actions: Ricky Rubio.

It could be argued that the DNA of this Draft class rests heavily on how the man from Spain decides to handle himself as the Big Night draws closer.

Rumours are rumours and their one constant is that they don’t have to hold an ounce of truth: they will still grow larger and gain more talk time. Whether Rubio will commit to the draft regardless of location could dictate the specifics for, at least, the other players in the top 10.

It is difficult to isolate Rubio because his decision will affect everyone making the first 10 picks largely difficult to predict. However, some should be sure things. Observe:

Barring trades and Clipper Madness, Blake Griffin will go first to Los Angeles. As Ron Burgundy would say, ‘that’s a given’.

If Rubio plays hard ball the Grizzlies will likely take Hasheem Thabeet for two reasons. Firstly, he should compliment Marc Gasol’s post game.

Secondly, Memphis couldn’t accommodate another perimeter player who needs the ball to be successful. They already have OJ Mayo and Rudy Gay to demand the rock and it can only be shared so much.

Ricky Rubio may well look attractive to the Thunder, but the bottom line is: could he play in the same backcourt as Russell Westbrook? No. Westbrook can play at the 2, but both want the ball in their hand. Conflict? Yep.

So who do Oklahoma take? James Harden, the best SG in this class would provide them with a perimeter threat who can go to the hoop and finish. A perfect compliment to Westbrook, Durant and Jeff Green.

The Sacramento Kings could be a viable alternative for Rubio who would get the reigns to the team and would sell tickets. But, whether he would mesh with Kevin Martin, the franchise’s main scorer and ball demander, is a tough question to resolve.

The Washington Wizards will likely take Jordan Hill who will bring toughness and heart to a front line which lacks fire. His offensive game may be far from polished, but the fact that the Wiz will have Arenas, Butler and Jamison, Hill wont be relied on for production anyway. Just clean the glass and hustle.

Hill seems like a lock for Wahington. He just makes sense. The same can not be said for the next two picks.

It would appear that the T-Wolves and the Warriors will take Tyreke Evans and Brandon Jennings, but which way round does not scream out.

Nellie Ball would suit Jennings more but Monta Ellis might not be too keen. But, to be fair, he might not like the other option any better.

Tyreke is probably a better fit for the Wolves who can persist with Randy Foye at the 1.

It’s a tough call.

If he is still there, the New York Knicks will take the best shooter in the draft, Stephen Curry who should fit perfectly into Mike D’Antoni’s offense. That will be nice.

Toronto picks 9th and they will need to address their lack of backcourt power, probably by taking Demar DeRozan. A real slasher, he should fit nicely with Calderon and compliment the Raptors frontline perfectly.

Ramon Sessions’ contract demands will likely lead the Bucks to draft a PG in the shape of Jonny Flynn.

If Rubio pulls out then everything will change, with Jennings the one to benefit.

If he stays in the draft and Memphis or Oklahoma call his bluff, the landscape will change all over again.

It’s all on Rubio.


Good Times in Los Angeles: Lakers Survive Nuggets, Clippers Get Lucky

May 20, 2009
Jennings is Flashy

Jennings is Flashy

by Jack Maidment

One night. Two major stories.

Firstly, the LA Lakers recovered from an early hole to take game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against a Denver Nuggets team which threatened to steal home court all night long on the back of a lights out shooting performance from Carmelo Anthony.

Secondly, LA’s ‘Other Team’, the Clippers, lucked out and obtained the right to pick first in the eagerly anticipated NBA Draft.

Both events promised shocks and surprises and neither disappointed.

For the most part the Lakers were out played by a fired up Denver team who raced out to an early lead before the Lake Show’s bench dragged themselves back into it.

To be honest I’m not sure how Denver lost this game and George Karl’s face told the story at the final buzzer as his side ended the game 2 points down thanks to a Trevor Ariza steal, Kobe Bryant’s 4th quarter scoring outburst and Derek Fisher’s series of crucial big shots.

But lose they did and despite the hit that their playoff momentum took last night, at least the Nuggets know they can take this Laker team to the edge. A sweep this will not be.

The other half of LA joined the victory celebrations as the Clippers snatched the number 1 pick from the other hopefuls.

Hope for the re-birth of a long moribund franchise has been rekindled as the Clips won the Blake Griffin Sweepstakes.

The speculation now focuses on how the ‘Craziest Franchise in the League™’ can go about ruining the opportunity that chance has bestowed upon them.

It would not be a surprise to wake up and discover that the Clips had traded their first pick for a pack of magic beans. Or Tracy McGrady.

But, sanity prevailing, the Los Angeles Clippers will take Blake Griffin, adding character and ferocity in the paint.

The only other consensus top picks are center Hasheem Thabeet out of Connecticut and Ricky Rubio the Spanish wunderkind point guard.

Barring a spectacular workout by any other prospect, these two will go 2 and 3 with the Memphis Grizzlies likely to take Rubio second given his talent set and the apparent incompatibility of Thabeet with Marc Gasol.

Memphis promises to be a much improved team next year with a nice core of young, exciting players: Ricky Rubio, Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, OJ Mayo. Now that is the definition of promise and potential.

The Oklahoma City Thunder will also rapidly improve after their 3rd pick likely takes the 7-3 Thabeet to bolster its front court with a shot blocking and athletic big man.

Based on starting point, the Thunder should become the new Portland, blessed with young players all of whom have tremendous upsides. Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, the hugely underated Jeff Green and Hasheem Thabeet? Yes please.

Outside of Griffin, Rubio and Thabeet, the lottery gets vastly more difficult to call with teams reliant on workouts to determine their guy. However, the player snapping at the top 3 is surely Brandon Jennings, arguably the most exciting player in the draft.

An outstanding playmaker with a penchant for the flashy pass, the Compton native is the exact player that struggling teams need to fill arenas making it highly probable that he will be playing in Sacramento next year.

The League’s worst team slipped as low as they could in the Lottery, but the silver lining could be Jennings. A 6-1 point does not get the nickname ‘Young Money’ by chance. Dude is cash and promises much.

A year playing pro ball in Europe can only have given Jennings the experience that his draft colleagues lack. He is used to a demanding schedule, more practices, more travel.

Griffin may be solid and fierce. Rubio might possess great court vision. Thabeet might have a great upside. But, none of them can match the excitement that Jennings can, and will generate. My tip for fan favourite of the year.

Beyond that, the draft of 2009 is far from as deep as the past two years with GMs having to pray that they can uncover a diamond in the rough. Stephen Curry, Tyreke Evans and James Harden will all look to impress and move up.

This class is open and the fact that nobody really knows who to take makes the build up to the big night itself almost as exciting as a Kobe/LeBron Finals. Ok, maybe not.

But it will be fun.

Do Be Do.