As we wind down the final month of the season it’s a time of great anticipation for the fans of one third of the NBA’s teams that can convince themselves they’re in the title hunt. For the rest of us, it’s waiting to be playoffs spectators and waiting for next year. What better time to let the young kids off the bench and see what they can do against real NBA competition?
Giving young talent a chance is the very slogan and namesake of this blog: The season’s over, empty the bench.
As we embark on this final month, I’m taking time to name one player from all 30 NBA teams that I want to see more of down the stretch run. All the young guns with the potential to be impact players. With the second installment today we kick off with the Indiana Pacers and continue through the New York Knicks.
As always, reader recommendations are more than welcome. Enjoy.
Indiana Pacers – Jarrett Jack, PG: We’ve always been of a fan of Jack here at ETB. He’s got good size for a point, plays physical, has always been a solid defender, shows good court vision, posesses a strong handle and demonstrates good offensive efficiency and decision making. Jack has never gotten a lot of attention in the national media, but he was considered an integral part of the exciting young core in Portland just two years ago.
After finding himself in the Blazers’ doghouse last year he’s quietly having the best season of his career for the Pacers. Jack has come on especially strong of late, averaging 19 points, 4.1 assists, 3.6 boards and 1.5 steals on stellar percentages of 47% from the field and 85% from the line since the All-Star break. It’s going to be fun to see if he can keep it going.
Los Angeles Clippers – DeAndre Jordan, C: After a strong run in mid-January with Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby sidelined we wondered if Jordan might just be the Clippers center of the future. As we concluded then, that assertion is overly optimistic. But there’s no denying that the 7-0, 20-year-old out of Texas A&M has shown flashes this season. He still tries to do too much and makes ridiculously poor decisions at times, but in 11 games as a starter he’s put up 9 points, 9.6 boards and 2.7 blocks while hitting 73% of his field-goals. Let’s give him a few more starts and see what he can do.
Los Angeles Lakers through New York Knicks, after the jump…
Los Angeles Lakers – Josh Powell, PF: The Lakers’ title hopes may once again be hitched to the legs of Andrew Bynum. That’s a risky proposition. His return has been pushed back again, and while indications are he’ll be fine for the playoffs, there’s no denying the importance of front-court depth for this squad. With Ronny Turiaf and Chris Mihm out of town that means Josh Powell is going to have to step up. The undrafted fourth-year big man has been surprisingly effective for stretches this month, but Lakers fans want to see more.
Memphis Grizzlies – Hamed Haddadi, C: Quick – who led the Olympic summer games in blocks and rebounds? That’s right, none other than Iranian center Hamed Haddadi, who averaged an impressive 2.6 blocks and 11.2 boards per contest. He looked especially strong against a quality Argentine team, dropping 21 points and 16 rebounds.
The 22-year-old is a legit 7-2, and while he’s still terribly awkward on the court, the raw potential is there. Haddadi has only appeared in 4 games this season, the last coming nearly two months ago, but at this point isn’t it time to give him a little more run?
Miami Heat – Dorell Wright, SF: As a member, I can say it has not been a good season for the Dorell Lawrence Wright Fan Club. He’s appeared in just three games on the year for a grand total of 18 minutes after missing a bulk of the season to injury. It’s a shame, because Wright is lean and rangy and a superb athlete just like most of these guys. Wright runs the floor like a deer and can contest shots as well as any SG in the league. He’s also shown great restraint and polish on offense, dropping 10 points a game on 48% FGs and 80% FTs with 6 boards, 1 block and less than a turnover a game in 55 career starts. He’s supposedly healthy again though, and I would love to see him in 12-15 minutes a game from here on out.
Milwaukee Bucks – Joe Alexander, SF: Alexander’s draft stock fluctuated as much as anybody’s leading up to draft day, finally ending up with the Milwaukee Bucks at 8th overall. Playing in just over 10 minutes a game I’ve barely seen him play this year, but coming out of West Virginia last summer the scouting report on him said, “When deciding to go all the way to the rim, Alexander has all-world finishing ability off of one or two feet. He showed signs of finishing aggressively with awesome power.” Sounds good, let’s see it.
Minnesota Timberwolves –
Shelden Williams Kevin Love, PF: It’s not that we haven’t seen Kevin Love this season, it’s that we haven’t seen him enough. It was understandable that he was only averaging about 22 minutes a game when Al Jefferson was still healthy. The two play, ostensibly, the same position. But since Big Al went down with a torn right ACL in early February there’s no reason the UCLA rookie shouldn’t be getting all the minutes he can handle. The current 28 a night this month won’t cut it for a guy who nearly leads the NBA in rebounds per minute. Over the last two games he’s put up 19.5 points and 13 boards a game in 32 minutes – it’s a start.
New Jersey Nets – Josh Boone, C/PF: He hasn’t been flashy, but ever since being taken with the 23rd pick in 2006 Oscar Joshua Boone has been quietly productive. In 60 starts he’s put up 9.5 points, 8.2 boards and 1.1 blocks with less than a turnover a game on 55% shooting. I understand that Brook Lopez deserves to get a bulk of the minutes in the pivot; he’s clearly one of the brightest young big men in the league. But for my money Boone is the second best on this team, ahead of Yi Jianlian and Ryan Anderson, which should be good for more than the paltry 16 minutes he’s seeing on the season.
New Orleans Hornets – Julian Wright, F: He’s 6-9, very long, a wiry athlete that can handle the ball, has soft hands, he can take it to the hole and is a tremendous passer for a guy his size and age. At least, that’s what he was coming out of Kansas as a sophomore in 2007. Since then we’ve only seen Wright in limited minutes, about 11 a game over two seasons to be precise. However, with Peja out of the lineup this month he’s started 7 games and shown flashes of that guy we saw at Kansas. I’d like to see more.
New York Knicks – Danilo Gallinari, SF: It’s looking more and more like Gallinari could be shut down for the season shortly, and it’s a shame. In (extremely) limited minutes this season he’s shown good touch and excellent range. On the season he’s hitting an impressive 44.4% from long range and 96.3% from the line. What’s most important to Knicks fans, though, is that he and Wilson Chandler are the only players currently under team control beyond that all-important summer of 2010 when Donnie Walsh and the Knickerbockers intend to land LeBron James. Or Dwyane Wade. Or Chris Bosh. As the 6th overall pick from last summer, that means Gallinari should be a key building block of the future. It’s time for Knicks fans to get to know the young Italian.