- The Season's Over -

Counting Down the Five Worst Teams in the Western Conference – OKC Thunder

November 19, 2008

Kevin Durant Can Fill It Up

Kevin Durant Photo Credit: Icon SMI

The Five Worst Teams in the Western Conference:
5) The Memphis Grizzlies
4) The Minnesota Timberwolves
3) The Sacramento Kings
2) The Oklahoma City Thunder
1) The Los Angeles Clippers

As this series draws near to a close I think it’s important to note one thing. The purpose of detailing the worst teams in the West is not to kick teams or fans while they’re down. It’s more to discuss franchises we don’t ordinarily talk about; to look at the positives and where improvement is needed in those cities. I generally enjoy watching young and athletic teams full of potential, like OKC, more than veteran-laden squads. There are very few teams I actually dislike, and they tend to be smug winners (your Tony Parkers and Bruce Bowens of the world). On to the Thunder.

On any given night this season the Oklahoma City Thunder may well be the worst squad in the Western Conference. But they are not the worst franchise out West because of two things: hope and potential. The Thunder have compiled a nice young core of perimeter talent that has legitimate star potential in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green. While the Clippers may win more games this season (then again, maybe not) the Thunder are a better franchise because they seem to actually have a plan for future success – that, and their owner isn’t named Donald Sterling.

The Oklahoma City Thunder

2007-08 Record: 20-62, 15th (aka last) in the West
2008-09 Salary: $54,794,213

The Good:

Thunder fans across the great plains take pride in one fact first and foremost: Kevin Wayne Durant will be a star in this league, perhaps as soon as this season. It remains to be seen if the 20-year-old will be just another star or a true superstar, which will of course depend on how he fleshes out his game. What is not up for debate is that if he remains healthy The Durantula will be one of the finest offensive players in the league and a true difference maker.

Kevin came out of the gates last season expecting the world to be handed to him and the results were mixed – some truly memorable performances marred by extremely poor efficiency overall. As the season wore on he improved his shot selection markedly and adapted to the speed and physicality of the NBA game. Of note are his pre and post All-Star splits. In 50 games before the break Durant shot 40.2% on 17.2 field-goal attempts (3.4 from behind the arc) for 19.4 points per game. In the 30 games after Durant shot an impressive 47.6% on 16.9 shots (including just 1.2 three-pointers) for 21.9 points a game. It’s that kind of dramatic maturation from a man his age that should have the league taking notice.

With the fourth-overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft the Thunder selected another young man with legitimate star potential: Russell Westbrook. He’s a scorer and floor general with exceptional quickness and leaping ability which allows him to put the ball in the basket and create for others. His presence handling the ball will take a lot of pressure off of Durant and the two have nicely complementary games. Even more promising is that Westbrook is the rare draft pick who comes equipped with NBA-ready defensive skills. He was named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in his first season of real action. Westbrook’s long wingspan and quicks will play well at this level.

And speaking of defense, Jeff Green, the other member of Oklahoma City’s talented young core, should also develop into a true two-way player. Acquired in the Ray Allen deal with Boston, the fifth pick in the 2007 draft is a versatile forward who can knock down shots, rebound and play lock-down defense. He’s a big man who doesn’t project as a typical star but who can do so many things well that he should make the rest of the roster look better. Green has the tools to be an exceptional “role player” alongside the more flashy Westbrook and Durant.

What’s even more encouraging this season is that the trio actually play well together. On the young season the Thunder’s five-man rotation with the highest +/- (+14), and consequently Win%, features Durant, Westbrook and Green alongside Earl Watson and Nick Collison. That’s a promising sign from three players who are all 22 or younger and obviously figure prominently in this team’s future. On top of that, OKC has the third-lowest salary in the NBA and only have one player locked up for the summer of 2010 (with modest team options that will be exercised on Durant, Green and Westbrook). That means the Thunder can afford to bring in a top-flight free agent to play alongside these kids that summer – and just look at the list of available players in the Kings breakdown.

Getting Ennio Morricone in Oklahoma City after the jump…

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No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Nov. 19, 2008 at 2:22am in ETB Articles, NBA

Reading is Great! Hump Day’s NBA News, Rumors, and Innuendo

November 19, 2008

Doc Rivers thinks reading is GREAT!

- Need4Sheed.com – Kwame Brown can’t dress and Arron Afflalo can’t dance. Amazing clip.
- TWolves Blog – A fun spin on a topic dear to our hearts: firing Randy Wittman.
- HoopsHype – Count Randy Foye, however, as a Randy Wittman believer.
- TrueHoop – An insider’s view on Mark Cuban’s insider trading scandal.
- Upside and Motor – Jason Terry and the Mavericks, flirting with the occult.
- NJ.com – He still depresses us, but VC does have some redeeming off-the-court qualities.
- Hoops Addict – Round 1 of the Blogger MVP/ROY Rankings: discuss.
- Ball Don’t Lie – Danny Ainge once received stitches in his hand stemming from a tree bite.
- The Hoop Doctors – Tyson Chandler turns to Eddy Curry for some advice. No, really.
- NBA FanHouse – Take out the f-bombs and ‘Sheed Wallace could be a good coach one day.
- HOOPSWORLD – Shane Battier to save the Houston Rockets from a freefall?
- Recliner GM – We’re all trying to still figure out this incarnation of the Philadelphia 76ers.
- SI.com – Yeah, we’re liking this Rudy Fernandez kid in Portland too.
- 20 Second Timeout – Go away, Shaq. And if you can’t do that, at least shut up.
- The Sports Corner – An early report card for the 2008 rookie class.

1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Nov. 19, 2008 at 1:00am in NBA

The NBA’s Most Depressing Players of 2008

November 17, 2008

Vince Carter, an All-Star and quite depressing

Vince Carter Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Vince Carter, G, New Jersey Nets

The rest of the players on our list are but footnotes to the King of Depressing Players, Mr. Vince Carter. It goes far beyond his on-court performance, the lack of substantially positive results his teams have met with over the years, and the individual accolades and reputation he’s accrued over the years for being what many consider a primetime scorer. No, it’s much deeper than that, and to find it all you have to do is look into the man’s eyes during a random Tuesday or Wednesday night regular-season game… especially when his moribund New Jersey Nets are playing a, say, Charlotte Bobcats or Milwaukee Bucks.

They say the eyes are a window into the soul, and if that’s true, we see a broken man when we see VC. And folks, we don’t tune into the revered NBA League Pass on a nightly basis to watch broken men put up 25 points in a losing effort on a bad team. It ruins our night, sucks the flavor out of our take-out sushi, and turns our red wine into sour, syrupy goo.

The last man standing in New Jersey from the old “Big Three,” VC and the Nets are tied at the hip for the foreseeable future after they gave him a ludicrous contract extension that’ll pay him $48.8 million the next three seasons, with a team option for $18 million in 2011. Unless they give Kevin McHale a call up in Minnesota, that basically equates to an untradeable contract. It was a desperate move by a desperate franchise that’s made exactly one good move–trading Jason Kidd for a package headlined by Devin Harris–in a long time. If LeBron doesn’t come in 2010… oh, we cringe at the thought. It’s just too depressing to think about a team led by VC in his mid-30s.

Ben Wallace, C, Cleveland Cavaliers

He should have finished out his career in Detroit for less money; the precipitous decline in his once-famous across-the-board stat-stuffing from the moment he donned that Chicago Bulls jersey for the first time would have been a lot easier to stomach. Instead, we’re left with this version of Ben Wallace, the 25th highest-paid player in the NBA (he makes more than teammate LeBron James, for one). He’s a man who’s seen his per-game averages in rebounds, steals, and blocks–the three categories he staked his reputation on during those All-Star years with the Pistons–fall off a cliff. Oh, he’s also scoring even less than he used to… and we’re talking about a career 6.4 point/per player here.

Of course, Big Ben is also playing less, too, but that’s because he’s simply not nearly as effective overall at doing all the small things exceptionally well as he used to be. At 34 years old, there’s just not much left in the tank, and every time that famous Big Ben gong sounds in Cleveland, it’s more a sad reminder of what used to be than anything else. An undrafted underdog out of Virginia Union, Wallace won a NBA title and a slew of Defensive Player of the Year awards to go along with those All-Star selections. For a six-year stretch, he was the face of one of the NBA’s most successful franchises. Seeing him now fighting for playing time with the likes of Anderson Varejao is something we’d rather not endure.

More of the NBA’s most depressing players after the jump…

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35 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Nov. 17, 2008 at 7:02am in ETB Articles, NBA

Reading is Great! Monday Morning’s NBA News, Rumors, and Shocking Allegations

November 17, 2008

Yao Ming Makes Reading Fun!

- True Blue Jazz – The Blogger Power Rankings roll on to Week 4; Lakers remain on top.
- The Hoop Doctors – It’s up for discussion, but our take is that Shaq deserved the ejection.
- Spurs Report – And hey, speaking of dirty players, how about that Bruce Bowen?
- Bust a Bucket – Maybe what Greg Oden needs most is some room to breathe.
- Red’s Army – Rajon Rondo’s scoring (and shooting) drought has some worried.
- The Sports Culture – NBA prospect Brandon Jennings is doing just fine over in Rome.
- SLC Dunk – A slightly biased, yet quite thoroughly detailed anatomy of the traveling call.
- Rumors and Rants – J.J. Redick, still whining and badly sucking for the Orlando Magic.
- Brew Hoop – A few reasons why the Milwaukee Bucks aren’t (yet) in last place.
- MLive.com – Some publicity for something ‘Sheed wants no publicity for.

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Nov. 17, 2008 at 5:22am in NBA

Reading is Great! NBA Weekend Edition

November 15, 2008

Reading is Grrrrrreat!

- Detroit Free Press – Chauncey Billups: “Lack of respect for Flip Saunders cost us a title.”
- Ball Don’t Lie – Rod Benson’s top six tips for thriving overseas in the Euro leagues.
- HoopsHype – Manu Ginobili thinks he still has at least 6 seasons left in him.
- Star Tribune – Forget putting Randy Wittman on the hot seat–just fire the guy already.
- Brownie Troop 666 – A successful day of surfcasting for Mr. Mickey Melchiando.
- HOOPSWORLD – Thoughts on the Pistons’ 106-95 drubbing of the LA Lakers Friday night.
- You Got Dunked On – Alright, we admit it: we’re absolute suckers for a Gerald Green dunk.
- Blazer’s Edge – Three decades and counting for the Portland Trail Blazers and their fans.
- Basketbawful – Part 1 of what will be a year-long series of the “Yao Watch.”
- Stop Mike Lupica – Not basketball-related, but something you need to watch.
- NBA Blog Squad – Catching up with Flea’s always deep thoughts on the Lakers.
- Basketball.org – About that dinner with Kevin Johnson and Reggie Miller back in 1987…
- Truth About It – JaVale McGee is ready to join the Wizards starting lineup? Not so fast.
- Larry Brown Sports – Baron Davis and the LA Clippers are off to a wonderful start.
- Canis Hoopus – Does an athlete’s political views matter to you? Why or why not?

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Nov. 15, 2008 at 5:41am in NBA

Nothing Catches the Eye of Michael Jordan More Than Sexy, Well-Shampooed Hair

November 15, 2008

Though Michael Jordan has since surrendered his throne to Peyton Manning, there was once a time when MJ ruled the advertising world as the athlete most likely to appear in a product endorsement. Oh, we still see him from time to time in Hanes commercials and such, but nothing even close to the saturation level it reached during the height of his playing days. By my count he still stands as the most marketable (and marketed) athlete in sports history, and I suspect it’s only a matter of time before he starts popping up in LifeAlert and other age-appropriate product ads, too.

Jordan’s unrepentant mission to sell his soul in exchange for a few more dollars to deposit in his multi-billion dollar banking account aside, this Gentle-Treatment shampoo ad from 1986 is, quite simply, amazing.

(A hearty ETB hat tip to I Love This Game 2.0 for the find.)

Related Reading:
- Production Budget Low: A Video Homage to Local Market NBA Commercials
- The World Would Be a Better Place If All Grocery Stores Employed a Chicken Man…

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Nov. 15, 2008 at 5:41am in NBA

NBA Photo Friday – Yao Ming to Star in the New Jean-Luc Godard Film Garçon Perdu

November 14, 2008

Yao Ming Movie Star

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Nov. 14, 2008 at 1:48am in NBA

Fantasy Football – Week 11 Position Ranks

November 13, 2008

DeAngelo Williams and the Panthers should feast on the Lions

DeAngelo Williams Photo Credit: Icon SMI

When it comes to fantasy football matchups, there are opposing defenses you’re 95% certain will be exploited for bountiful fantasy points by studs and borderline starters alike. Then there are defenses, like the one currently being trotted out there by the winless Detroit Lions, that are simply gargantuan sieves whose potential to surrender a massive haul for your team cannot be denied.

And so is this case this week for owners of just about any relevant skill player on the Carolina Panthers.

The Lions defense, which is giving up over 30 points a week (only the Rams are worse at 31.3), is simply atrocious. They’re allowing an average of 161.2 rushing yards (31st overall) and 244.9 passing yards (29th overall) per. Detroit’s “defense” has recorded two interceptions all season long (two!) and just 17 sacks. Last week they allowed Maurice Jones-Drew to score 3 TDs, and opposing quarterbacks are regularly setting career-best marks in efficiency and QB Rating.

They’re playing with little-to-no pride, and worst of all a few players don’t even seem to care. They’re patsies, especially on defense, and should be taken advantage of every week. That’s why you’ll see Jake Delhomme, DeAngelo Williams, Steve Smith, Muhsin Muhammad, and the Carolina DEF ranked higher than normal. Williams and Smith, especially, should go bonkers on Sunday. In general, the position ranks are pretty aggressive this week, but hey, that’s what you come to us for, right?

The NY Jets travel to the New England to take on the Patriots tonight; set your lineups accordingly.

Fantasy Week 11 – Top 20 Quarterbacks

Romo Knows Rock

1. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints @ KC
2. Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals @ SEA
3. Jay Cutler, Denver Broncos @ ATL
4. Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles @ CIN
5. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts vs. HOU
6. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers @ PIT
7. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys @ WSH
8. Brett Favre, New York Jets @ NE
9. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons vs. DEN
10. Jake Delhomme, Carolina Panthers vs. DET
11. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers vs. CHI
12. Eli Manning, New York Giants vs. BAL
13. Tyler Thigpen, Kansas City Chiefs vs. NO
14. Chad Pennington, Miami Dolphins vs. OAK
15. Matt Cassel, New England Patriots vs. NYJ
16. Brady Quinn, Cleveland Browns @ BUF
17. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. SD (Check Status)
18. Jason Campbell, Washington Redskins vs. DAL
19. Trent Edwards, Buffalo Bills vs. CLE
20. Jeff Garcia, Tampa Bay Bucs vs. MIN

Rest of the Week 11 fantasy football ranks after the break…

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1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Nov. 13, 2008 at 11:58am in Fantasy Rankings, NFL, NFL Fantasy News

Counting Down the Five Worst Teams in the Western Conference – Sacramento Kings

November 13, 2008

The Maloof Brothers Can’t Be Happy

The Maloof Brothers Photos Credit: Icon SMI

The Five Worst Teams in the Western Conference:
5) The Memphis Grizzlies
4) The Minnesota Timberwolves
3) The Sacramento Kings
2) The Oklahoma City Thunder
1) The Los Angeles Clippers

It’s sometimes more difficult to rank the bottom of the pack than it is the top. When teams like the Lakers or Hornets or Jazz come out and consistently perform at a high level, you know what you’re going to get. The rotations are consistent, you know the key players involved, most starters are in the prime of their careers, you’ve seen them in every situation and you know what they can do. But when you’re looking at a young roster like Memphis or Minnesota or Sacramento there’s a lot of guess work involved. Just how good can Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson be? Is Kevin Martin a great player on a bad team or is he just stuffing stats in losing affairs? That’s why this Worst Teams in the Western Conference series is far from scientific – there’s plenty of room for debate.

That said, ETB humbly submits the Sacramento Kings as the third-worst team in the Western Conference. Like a lot of teams here they could get better in a hurry and they’re still very fun to watch. If you want to keep up with Sacramento check in with our man Tom Ziller on his excellent blog Sactown Royalty.

The Sacramento Kings

2007-08 Record: 38-44, 11th in the West
2008-09 Salary: $69,388,269

The Good:

Every team has a leader, even the very bad ones. We detailed forwards Rudy Gay and Al Jefferson for Memphis and Minnesota, and in Sacramento it’s unquestionably shooting guard Kevin Martin. He’s an electric scorer with a lightning-quick first step who can take it to the hole but also possesses one of the sweetest mid-range strokes in the NBA. Entering his fifth season, Martin has improved dramatically in each of his first four campaigns, finishing last season at 23.7 points per game. As a 25-year-old K-Mart is just entering the prime of his career and Sacramento has him signed through 2013 at a very reasonable salary.

Brad Miller has been serviceable for years, but the future in Sactown up front is the young duo of Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes (a Republican in a decidedly pro-Obama NBA). In fact, it was the absence of Miller while he served a five-game suspension for a banned substance that allowed us to see just how much potential the pair have. The 20-year-old Hawes, Sacramento’s lottery pick in 2007, has come alive after a very quiet rookie campaign. He’s shown the potential to consistently log double-doubles with plenty of steals and blocks mixed in. And we knew the kid had range, but nobody expected the seven-footer to lead the NBA in three-point shooting percentage for the first few weeks of the season. Meanwhile, rookie Jason Thompson has looked impressive in his own right. At 6-11 he also has a strong offensive repertoire with good range and plays with energy underneath.

It really makes you wonder why Mikki Moore, a supreme turd, is still in the starting lineup.

(Hat tip on the video to AOL Fanhouse)

Here’s the real hope in Sacramento though: the summer of 2010 and beyond. At the conclusion of the 2009-10 season the following contracts come off the books: Brad Miller ($12.25 million), Kenny Thomas ($8.55 million), Mikki Moore ($6.21 million), and potentially the retired Shareef Abdur-Rahim ($6.6 million, if his contract doesn’t come off after this season).

Between expiring contracts and player options the following players could be available that summer: Joe Johnson, Manu Ginobili, Marcus Camby, Tracy McGrady, Mike Miller, Rip Hamilton, Amare Stoudemire, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, Michael Redd, Tyson Chandler, Travis Outlaw, T.J. Ford, Amir Johnson, Anderson Varejao and more. Oh, and let’s not forget the 2006 draft class. These guys will become restricted free agents if their teams can’t ink an extension before then: Brandon Roy, Rudy Gay, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andrea Bargnani, Rajon Rondo, Tyrus Thoms, Randy Foye, Josh Boone, Sergio Rodriguez and Ronnie Brewer. Portland, whatcha gonna do?

2010 will be the richest free-agent crop in years and the Kings should be major players. Throw in their two lottery picks from the next two summers and you have plenty of cause for patience. If you believe in the trio of Martin, Hawes and Thompson – well, then you have plenty of reason for optimism.

What’s not going right in Sacramento after the jump…

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4 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Nov. 13, 2008 at 1:57am in ETB Articles, NBA

Counting Down the Five Worst Teams in the Western Conference – ‘Sota Timberwolves

November 12, 2008

Randy Wittman is an Idiot

The Five Worst Teams in the Western Conference:
5) The Memphis Grizzlies
4) The Minnesota Timberwolves
3) The Sacramento Kings
2) The Oklahoma City Thunder
1) The Los Angeles Clippers

With the season getting under way ETB is taking time to check in with the bottom feeders of the Western Conference. As a combination of freezing rain and snow turns to ice on the fertile ground of our Midwest, we present to you the Minnesota Timberwolves: my hometown squad and the fourth-worst team in the Western Conference.

The Minnesota Timberwolves

2007-08 Record: 22-60, 13th in the West
2008-09 Salary: $64,728,383

The Good:

As regular readers know, I have a love/hate relationship with the Wolves. Since Tom Gugliotta left the love affair has been monoamorous. Until two years ago my love of the Wolves was because of one man: Kevin Garnett. And since his departure, the love has mainly been for the man who replaced him: Al Jefferson. Big Al is one of the most prolific and skilled offensive post players in the NBA. He’s a true banger who possesses perhaps the most unstoppable and polished low-post footwork in the league and he crashes the glass as well. Some question if Jefferson is a true franchise player, but when playing his natural power forward position he’s a true difference-maker.

Minnesota Timberwolves F/C Al JeffersonFrom a personality perspective you have to love Al as well. He’s got drive and a throwback blue-collar attitude that’s as sincere as it is refreshing. He punches in at the office every day and goes to work, and off the court his work ethic means the sky is the limit for the 6-10 23-year-old. Jefferson’s passing and defense are still sub-par, but there’s little doubt the young man is a star.

Minnesota’s roster also features an impressive assortment of very young (if flawed) role players with room to grow. Starting with the guards, 24-year-old Randy Foye, discussed below, has all the tools to be a quality starting point in this league. Also 24 years of age, shooting guard Rashad McCants is a pure scorer who, when his head is in the game, can light things up off the bench. 23-year-old point Sebastian Telfair has matured and developed into a quality pass-first backup point last season, despite the fact that he can’t shoot the ball. And Mike Miller, while the elder statesman at 28, is one of the premier three-point marksmen in basketball.

Randy Wittman and Al Jefferson photos: Icon SMI

Joining Jefferson up front 22-year-old forward Corey Brewer is offensively challenged but he was the best perimeter defender in the 2007 draft class and has shown an ability to run the floor in the early going. 25-year-old bruiser Craig Smith is a brick outhouse who hustles and can bang with anybody under the rim, though he’s undersized even listed at a generous 6-7. 26-year-old Ryan Gomes is versatile and professional and plays with a basketball IQ beyond his years, but doesn’t excel in any phase of the game. Finally rookie Kevin Love is an offensively skilled 20-year-old who stands 6-10 and possesses good range, proficiency on the glass and strong passing skills. Unfortunately Love is unathletic, out of shape, largely redundant with Al Jefferson and, well, not O.J. Mayo, the player he was in essence traded for on draft night.

The Bad and the Ugly in the Twin Cities after the jump…

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2 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Nov. 12, 2008 at 1:11am in ETB Articles, NBA

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