- The Season's Over -

One for Every Team, A-H – 30 Players I Want to See More of Over the Next 30 Days

March 18, 2009

Atlanta Hawks Guard Acie Law

Acie Law IV Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Part 1: Players I want to see more of, Atlanta to Houston
Part 2: Players I want to see more of, Indiana to New York
Part 3: Players I want to see more of, Oklahoma City to Washington, DC

We’ve entered 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. And while it may be a tad more difficult to name them, even those elite teams have some youngsters I’d like to see get some more run over the next few weeks.

And so, as we embark on this final month, I’m going to take some time to name one player from all 30 NBA teams that I want to see more of down the stretch run. They’re all youngsters with the potential for more than we’ve seen. I’m going to tackle it in alphabetical order by team name in three installments. Today we’ll start with the Atlanta Hawks and work our way down to the Houston Rockets.

As always, reader recommendations are more than welcome. Enjoy.

Atlanta Hawks – Acie Law IV, PG: It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the kid nicknamed “Captain Clutch” for his late-game heroics back at Texas A&M University. Atlanta was desperate for a point after letting Chris Paul and Deron Williams slip through their fingers, which may have caused them to reach a bit in selecting Law 11th overall in 2007. Since the Mike Bibby trade he’s been a forgotten man, scoring just 3 points and dishing 1.6 dimes in 10 minutes a game on the season.

You can hardly blame Mike Woodson for the limited minutes as Law hasn’t shown much in his opportunities. And while I’m no longer sold on Law’s potential as an impact point, the guy is still just 24. Bibby can’t last forever and Hawks fans have to be wondering what they have in Acie. It’s time to see this kid for more than 10 minutes a night.

Boston Celtics – Tony Allen, SG: Allen is set to have the cast removed on his thumb this Friday and the Celts should welcome him back with open arms. He’s absolutely a player who can make a difference in this year’s postseason and beyond. This season Allen has shown some quality defense and put his scoring on the back burner, but this is still the guy who was a revelation filling in for the injured Pierce two seasons ago, averaging 20.8 points, 5.2 boards and 3.4 assists on 50+% FGs in that fateful January when he shredded his knee.

Charlotte Bobcats – D.J. Augustin, PG: Augustin showed what he can do in Vegas last summer, and despite being woefully undersized he showed flashes of offensive brilliance against real NBA competition this year. The 5-8 former Texas Longhorn and 9th pick in the 2008 Draft has averaged 20 points, 6 assists, 3 boards, 3 threes and over a steal per game on 49% FGs and 88% FTs in 9 starts this season. There’s absolutely no way the little man can keep that up long-term, but let’s hope that abdominal strain finally heals so he can get back to trying – it’s fun to watch.

Chicago Bulls – Tyrus Thomas, F: It’s not that we blame Vinny del Negro for not giving Thomas a chance, he has. And it’s not that we think he’ll ever be a star on both ends. And it’s certainly not that we’re enamored with Thomas as a person. But the man with pogo sticks for legs just drops some jaw-dropping lines from time to time, and we can’t help but think he could have a Ben Wallace-like impact if he ever got his head on straight and earned 35 minutes a game.

Cleveland Cavaliers – Tarence Kinsey, F: It’s been a while since we’ve written about Kinsey, but way back in the spring of 2007 the undrafted rookie out of the University of South Carolina was the hottest pickup in fantasy basketball. He started 12 games for the Grizzlies down the stretch, averaging 18.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.4 steals and 2.1 assists per night on a respectable 49% FGs and 84% FTs. We’ve been thirsting for a taste of that production ever since.

Dallas through Houston, after the jump…

Read the rest of this article »

2 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Mar. 18, 2009 at 12:44am in ETB Articles, NBA

Can We Call Them The Spanish Inquisition?

March 17, 2009

The nice puff piece on the two is courtesy of our friends over at The Hoop Doctors, and it’s got some of their better oops in it.

I’m a fan of both of Portland’s Spanish back-court components, Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Rodriguez. I have an issue with the pair’s nickname though: The Spanish Armada. Eh, it’s OK I guess, but it doesn’t really say anything about their talents and it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

You know what would though? The Spanish Inquisition. That is a nickname to strike fear into the hearts of your opponents. It conjures up images or relentless ferocity. It says they don’t care how you try to defend yourself, they’re going to press on – with searing-hot pokers.

Just throwing it out there.

Nomenclature aside, they can both be pretty ill on a basketball court. The two make up an almost ideal backup guard rotation. For some reason we haven’t seen as much of Rodriguez as I expected to since his rookie season, but he’s got a strong handle, can penetrate and dish and has a flare for the dramatic dime. Rudy Fernandez has slowed after a hot start to the season, but he’s proven to be an NBA-caliber marksman from deep who moves relentlessly on offense and finds holes in defenses that’s made the oop his signature move. According to Brandon Roy, Fernandez is, “a high-flying bouncy dude.” He certainly is.

I still don’t think he belonged in the dunk contest though.

What makes them even better is the fact that they have so much experience together. The pair has built up a strong chemistry over the years playing for the Spanish National Team, and it shows on every skillfully executed alley-oop they pull off. Blazers fans know, it makes them a lot of fun to watch.

Now let’s get to work on the new nickname, people.

Related Reading:
- Which Rooks Made the Rookie Challenge – And Which Should Have
- This Dunk Contest is Going to Suck

4 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Mar. 17, 2009 at 2:03pm in NBA

Reading is Great! Today’s NBA Rumors, Rants, and Scandalous Gossip

March 17, 2009

Reading NBA Blogs is fun!

- Bust a Bucket – A compilation of NBA bloggers’ 10 most hated players.
- Detroit Bad Boys – Rasheed Wallace on the economy and “saving that cheese.”
- Behind the Blazers – Michael Ruffin sounds like he’s ready to open a zoo.
- TrueHoop – An in-depth look at the benches of possible playoff teams.
- Hoops Addict – Our friends at Hoops Addict chat with Pacers rookie Roy Hibbert.
- FiveMag – There’s just so many things to like about Kevin Durant.
- 2nd Round Reach – His teammate, Jeff Green, is a fine basketball player too.
- 3 Shades of Blue – The Grizzlies can’t beat bad teams at home.
- Celtics Hub – Turnovers are proving to be Boston’s Achilles heel.
- Truth About It – Caron Butler: too hurt to play, not too hurt to get down.
- Basketball.org – George Irvine looks back on late Pistons owner Bill Davidson.
- T’Wolves Blog – Everybody loves Brian Cardinal.
- Full-Court Press – The future is uncertain for this summer’s free-agents-to-be.
- Raptor Blog – A case for the Raptors to follow the Joe Dumars Model.
- Can’t Stop the Bleeding – Sean Williams can’t seem to get his act together.

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Mar. 17, 2009 at 6:26am in NBA

Already Crowned King, LeBron James Will Soon Be 2009 NBA MVP Too

March 16, 2009

LeBron James, Your 2009 NBA MVPMany superlatives have been used to describe the basketball talents of LeBron James; it is not my intent here to try and add any new ones to the list, or to recycle those which have been already been said.

I’m not particularly interested in pontifications about who the best player in the NBA is and why, be it LeBron, or Kobe, or Chris Paul, or Dwyane Wade, or somebody else. That’s not to say such discussions are moot (though oftentimes they are), just that at some point even a wound-up dog tires of chasing his tail and decides to give it a rest.

And while many reasonable, well-informed attempts have been made to define the criteria which does, or at least should, guide the annual anointment of the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award, in the end it’s a circular argument. Is it the league’s best player on the best team? The league’s best all-around stat-stuffer? The player most responsible for turning a dregg into a contender?

Who knows.

What I do know is this: LeBron James, the 24-year-old phenom who revolutionized the NBA before he had even formally joined it, will shortly be named the NBA’s 2009 MVP. It will be the first time he’s recognized with this honor, and it most certainly will not be the last time. He’s earned it and he deserves it.

Last week my esteemed colleague here at ETB welcomed Dwyane Wade to the MVP race; I concur with his sentiments and very much appreciate what Wade has accomplished in what has turned out to be a remarkable comeback season for the Miami Heat star.

Kobe Bryant has been, well, he’s been Kobe Bryant in leading the Lakers to yet another Pacific Division title and a likely top seed in the Western Conference Playoffs. And while the game’s best point guard, Chris Paul, has again posted gaudy stats and been the driving force behind the overachieving Hornets’ march into the postseason, he will have to settle for being this year’s fantasy hoops MVP, not the NBA’s.

With the whiff of playoffs now in the air, LeBron James has somehow further elevated his game and in the process vaulted himself far above these other worthy candidates. Friday night in Sacramento, his 51 points led his Cavaliers to an overtime win and a clinching of the franchise’s first Central Division title in 33 years. This effort capped a ridiculous stretch that saw him log three consecutive triple-doubles, the longest such streak since Michael Jordan did it 20 years ago. Through nine games in March, James has averaged 29.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 2.3 three-pointers, 1.8 steals, 1.7 blocks and 11 FT attempts per.

The numbers speak for themselves, and so does the Cavaliers’ 53-13 record.

If the rest of the NBA thought James was a tough bear to tame in past postseasons, just wait until this year’s battles roll around. I question whether any team–be it the Celtics, Lakers, Spurs, whoever–will prove capable of knocking off the Cavaliers in a seven-game series, especially if the Cavs have home-court advantage throughout. The glint in James’ eyes has been different this year; he knows this is the best supporting cast he’s ever had, and that this is the best he’s performed individually… so far.

But this isn’t as much about what LeBron James will accomplish in the 2009 NBA Playoffs, so I digress. Here at Empty the Bench it’s not a habit to regularly fawn over hyped-up superstars who have more press than pages in the Bible. We’re hardly above recognizing greatness, however, and what LeBron James has done this season for the Cleveland Cavaliers amounts to just that: greatness. Whether his efforts will be rewarded with the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June remains to be seen, but at a minimum, he will be the 2009 NBA Most Valuable Player.

Related Reading:
- Welcome to the MVP Race, Dwyane Wade
- Dirk Nowitzki, 2007 NBA MVP… Anybody Out There Remember Him?
- Wheeling and Dealing With Donnie Walsh

5 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Mar. 16, 2009 at 4:47am in NBA

NBA Photo Friday – Patrick James Riley

March 13, 2009

pat-riley-lakers


Image found at Forum Blue & Gold

1 CommentPosted by Andrew Thell on Mar. 13, 2009 at 1:30am in NBA

Dominic McGuire a Bright Spot in Washington Wizards’ Dismal Season

March 11, 2009

Washington Wizards forward Dominic McGuireThe Washington Wizards’ record stands at an anemic 15-49 with 18 games to go, which ties them with the lowly Los Angeles Clippers for the NBA’s second-worst record. (Only the directionless Sacramento Kings, at 14-50, are worse.)

They are the only team in the league who’ve yet to defeat a divisional opponent, having to date gone a combined 0-13 against the Magic, Hawks, Heat, and Bobcats.

Head coach Eddie Jordan was fired in November and replaced with Ed Tapscott. Their best highest-paid player, Gilbert Arenas, has not seen 1 second of regular-season action as he continues to cope with a balky left knee; don’t expect him to play until next year.

(Thank God the Wizards have Arenas locked him up for another five seasons at the bargain price of $110 million. On the bright side: that’ll be one valuable expiring contract for the team to dangle come 2013.)

Starting center Brendan Haywood suffered a season-ending wrist injury during the preseason. Shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson Jr. played in only two games since December 30 before succumbing to season-ending back surgery. Center Etan Thomas tore a knee ligament in January; he’s also done. There are rumblings that All-Stars Caron Butler and/or Antawn Jamison could be dealt this summer in a salary-dump move, a la Marcus Camby to the Clippers for a second-round pick.

It’s the perfect picture of a franchise in absolute disarray and one which will obviously see its streak of four consecutive playoff appearances come to an embarassing halt. Fitting, then, that their lowest-paid player, 2007 second-round pick Dominic McGuire, has proven to be one of the few positive takeaways during this nightmarish season.

At 6-9 and capable of moving around to a few perimeter positions, McGuire is sort of like a Mini-Me Butler, albeit graced with significantly less natural talent, shooting range, etc. He does the “little” things like defend, dive for loose balls, cause turnovers, and hit the boards hard, skills which characterize successful, high-impact bench players who can also hold their own in the starting lineup when called upon.

And due to injuries to Stevenson, Butler, and veteran Mike James, McGuire has had to do just that: in 39 starts, he’s averaged 5.5 points, 6.4 boards, 3.1 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block in just over 31 minutes per. Those numbers aren’t huge, but there’s something to be said for getting a little bit of everything from a player who wasn’t expected to play much of a role for the Wiz. At the very least, this kid has carved out his niche and deserves a spot in next season’s rotation regardless of what happens with Arenas and Stevenson.

His overall contributions haven’t gone without notice, either. “What he does night in and night out is he takes the toughest defensive assignment for us. He just keeps coming and brings it on every possession for us,” Ed Tapscott said recently. “Everybody on the team wants the ball, but someone has to play without the ball. He makes an impact and you need guys like that.” Antawn Jamison elaborated: “”He’s concerned about getting out there and scrapping, doing the things that are right and trying to help us win ball games. He’s going to be in the league for a good while.”

And while he’s out there scrapping and doing the right things for the Wizards, he’ll only be making about $16.3 million less in salary than Arenas will over this season and next, when McGuire’s current deal expires in the summer of 2010.

Dominic McGuire Photo Credit: Icon SMI

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Mar. 11, 2009 at 6:44am in NBA

Welcome to the MVP Race, Dwyane Wade

March 10, 2009

Dwyane Wade for MVP!Mondays are ‘Tacos and 24 Night’ here at Casa de Thell. That’s why, as last night’s Bulls and Heat matchup was heading into the thrilling double-overtime conclusion, I was forced to flip away from the game.

Thank god for TiVo.

After watching Jack Bauer show those terrorist scum who’s boss (Bang! Pow! Kablamo!), we were treated to heroics even more impressive than what Mr. Bauer had pulled off: Dwyane Wade single-handedly willing his team to victory over a white-hot Ben Gordon and the Chicago Bulls.

As the fourth quarter wore on it was looking like Gordon’s night. Despite the solid line from Wade to that point Gordon was the star of the evening, hitting five three-pointers in the period to bring him to 7-for-8 from downtown on the night, eventually finishing with 43 points on 14-23 shooting. But Wade wasn’t having it, not in his house. The triple isn’t D-Wade’s forte (31% on the season), but he hit one to close out the first half. Then another to close out regulation and send it to overtime.

And then, for good measure, one more to close out the second overtime period with another W for his playoff-bound Heat.

“You never know until it goes in,” Wade said. “But I was 99.9 percent sure that one was cash.”

It wasn’t just the big shots, either. Down the stretch of regulation, overtime and the second OT Wade came up with one big block and three massive steals, the last of which he converted into the buzzer-beating dagger.

His heroic performance on Monday night has the NBA world abuzz today, and the Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade has thrust himself to the forefront of the 2009 NBA MVP race. Miami fans are wondering what took so long. This has been the best individual year of his career, hands down. When you look at his line for the season, and how he’s turned this team around from last year’s 15-win campaign with the help of two rookies, you realize he should have been there all along. And after watching him tear up the Olympics this summer, we should have seen it coming.

Monday’s final line: 48 points, 12 assists, 6 boards, 4 steals, 3 blocks and 5 threes on 15-21 from the field (5-6 behind the arc), 13-18 from the line, and a game-high +20 in the +/- column with 0 personal fouls – and one spectacular game-winner for the ages.

Just another day at the office for Dwyane “Bauer” Wade.

Dwyane Wade Photo Credit: Icon SMI

2 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Mar. 10, 2009 at 2:20pm in NBA

The Birdman a Deadly Predator of Basketballs for the Denver Nuggets

March 10, 2009

Denver Nuggets Forward Chris AndersenThe long, flowing locks of sandy-blond hair from the early days of his NBA career have been replaced by a shorter, spiked up ‘doo, one which gives him somewhat of a resemblance to British Joe Soccer Fan (albeit significantly taller and not quite as doughy and pasty).

His tattoos, including the red-and-black bird wings that don his inner biceps, are of course still there though–along with a number of new additions to file under “he must have been drunk when he got that” department.

Kicked out of the NBA back in ’06 for violating the league’s drug policies, Chris “Birdman” Andersen, who was once called “the most disgraced NBA player since the drug-induced haze of the 1980s,” is back. He’s been back, actually, since the end of last season, when following his reinstatement he resigned with the New Orleans Hornets and made five “token” appearances.

It was a feel-good story of a player who’d cleaned up and worked his way back into the league, but few thought him capable of swooping back after a two-year absence and making any noise. The Hornets let him walk as a free agent, and in a low-risk move by the Denver Nuggets, he was signed to a one-year contract for just under $1 million.

I’d say that’s one low-risk move that’s panned out for the Nuggs, wouldn’t you?

With Marcus Camby no longer manning the middle, the onus fell on Andersen and Nene Hilario to fill the void, a huge gamble by a team harboring playoff ambitions. It’s remarkable, really, just how well that’s worked out so far: Nene is in midst of the best season of his career and at this point it’s safe to say that The Birdman is too. By far.

With a little over a month left to go until the playoffs, Andersen is currently tied with Camby for second in the NBA in blocked shots at 2.3 per, just 0.6 behind Dwight Howard. That average has been buoyed by a remarkable tear in which he recently averaged 3.6 over 10 outings, including 7 against the Lakers on February 27. In addition to the blocks, Andersen is averaging 6.1 points, 5.7 boards, and 0.5 steals in 19:30 minutes per (the second-most of his seven-year career).

He’s always been somewhat of a freak athletic talent (though he was the main culprit in one of the shittiest dunk contests in NBA history), but the impact Andersen’s had thus far in his second NBA stint has been astounding. He’ll turn 31 in July, but that two-year break means his legs should be fresher than a lot of guys his age. Expect his efforts to be rewarded this summer with a nice payday in the form of a 2+ year deal, likely with the Nuggets.

And think of The Birdman’s NBA redemption tour as much more than just a feel-good story–consider it a bona fide block party.

Chris “Birdman” Andersen Photo Credit: Icon SMI

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Mar. 10, 2009 at 3:05am in NBA

Who Should Be the 2009 NBA Rookie of the Year? Weighing in With Early Picks, Part II

March 9, 2009

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love at UCLA

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love Photo Credit: Icon SMI

- See Also: Brian’s 2009 NBA Rookie of the Year Pick

Like all of the annual NBA awards, the criteria for determining Rookie of the Year are nebulous at best. Is it merely the player who put up the best stats? The guy who improved his team the most? The kid who flashed the most individual potential? The rookie who projects to be the most valuable to his team over his career? The young man who simply acquitted himself most convincingly at the professional level? The player who you would draft first if you had it to do over again? Personally, I think you have to weigh all of those considerations. How much emphasis you put on each is largely going to be dependent on personal preference, which is why most won’t agree – and why the debate is always so lively and fun. Here are my picks, starting with fifth place.

Andrew’s Top Five 2009 NBA Rookies:

O.J. Mayo, G, Memphis Grizzlies
Kevin Love, F/C, Minnesota Timberwolves
Brook Lopez, C, New Jersey Nets
Derrick Rose, G, Chicago Bulls
Rookie of the Year: Russell Westbrook, G, Oklahoma City Thunder

Grizzlies rookie O.J. Mayo has been impressive from day one in terms of offensive production. Starting all 61 games for Memphis this season, and playing a sizable 38 minutes per contest, he’s averaged 19 points, 4 boards and 3 assists with nearly 2 threes a game. His 87.8% from the free-throw line is good for 13th in the NBA, impressive for a 21-year-old. His field-goal shooting has been less than stellar though. He’s hitting just 43.7% of those and taking a whopping 16 attempts per game, and that coupled with his 2.7 turnovers shows a little of the problem I have with Mayo. He’s a player who has demanded and dominated the ball all season to the detriment of his team and teammates – most importantly, to the detriment of potential stud Rudy Gay.

The raw stats are good on Mayo, but they’ve amounted to a -344 in the +/- column. Of course, that number is going to be skewed because the Grizz are a very bad team that loses nearly every game, so of course everybody on the roster is going to have an inflated minus stat. On such a team an individual contribution is better measured by their relative negative, or how much they mitigate their teammates’ losing ways. That doesn’t let Mayo off the hook though: his -344 is the worst on the team.

Next up, we have Kevin Love, a guy I wanted to hate from draft day. His hustle and work ethic on the glass are simply infectious though, and I can’t help but think Love could be one of the NBA’s premier rebounders on both ends of the floor in a few years if the situation is right. That situation may not be backing up or playing alongside should-be All Star Al Jefferson, but we can’t fault Love for that.

The fact remains that Love leads all rookies in total rebounding, offensive rebounding, defensive rebounding, rebounding rate… every rebounding metric we have. And it’s not just among his peers, Kevin Love is seventh in the entire NBA in offensive rebounding despite playing just 24 minutes a game. Extrapolations of those numbers quickly grow mind boggling. He’s also shown a nice shooting touch of a guy his age and size, hitting 46% from the field and 78% from the line. Right now he’s still clumsy with the ball around the basket, but that should improve with experience. Love is a keeper, even if I project him as a super sub.

Breaking down the NBA’s top three rookies, after the jump…

Read the rest of this article »

9 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Mar. 9, 2009 at 10:37am in ETB Articles, NBA

Who Should Be The 2009 NBA Rookie of the Year? Weighing in With Early Picks, Part I

March 9, 2009

Memphis Grizzlies rookie OJ Mayo

O.J. Mayo Photo Credit: Icon SMI

See Also: Andrew’s Picks for 2009 NBA Rookie of the Year

For most of the season it looked like a two-horse race for the honor of being named the 2009 NBA Rookie of the Year, but a few darkhorse candidates have since emerged and muscled their way into contention as we head into the final month of the regular season.

And that’s the key thing to remember as you check out both of our picks for the top five rookies and Rookie of the Year–there are still a lot of games to be played, and things could change. But while we’re stamping our thoughts that follow with an asteriked caveat, we’re also comfortable calling the race now and declaring the winner and runner-ups.

The runner-ups are listed in no particular order, and all per-game averages were accurate as of March 9. Let’s get to it.

Brian’s Top Five 2009 NBA Rookies:

Derrick Rose, PG, Chicago Bulls
O.J. Mayo, G, Memphis Grizzlies
Brook Lopez, C, New Jersey Nets
Eric Gordon, G, Los Angeles Clippers
Rookie of the Year: Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder

Minutes Points Boards Assists FG% Steals Blocks TOs FT% Triples
Russell Westbrook 32:23 15.9 4.8 5.1 40.4% 1.4 0.2 3.3 82% 0.5
Derrick Rose 36:30 16.6 3.6 6.3 46.9% 0.8 0.2 2.5 79% 0.2
O.J. Mayo 37:53 19.1 4.1 2.9 43.7% 1.1 0.2 2.7 87.8% 1.8
Brook Lopez 30:06 12.5 8.1 0.9 52.2% 0.5 1.9 1.8 81.9% 0.0
Eric Gordon 33:12 15.5 2.5 2.7 45% 1.0 0.5 2.0 86% 1.7

I had Derrick Rose penciled in as my pick up until the past month or so, but Russell Westbrook (he who giveth and taketh away) has turned a lot of heads as the season has worn on and been a major factor in helping transform the young Thunder from a pushover into a team capable of beating anybody who dares take them lightly.

The two-time Western Conference Rookie of the Month has been nothing short of spectacular since the calendar flipped to ’09, averaging 18.2 points, 6 assists, 5.7 boards, and 1.3 steals over his last 29 games. He continues to struggle from the field, but that 40% FG doesn’t worry me too much; I expect him to get that up to at least 44% or so in his sophomore season. (Don’t forget last year’s ROY, teammate Kevin Durant, shot 43% on the year–and that he’s upped it to 48% this season.)

The low field-goal percentage has been one of the few chinks in Westbrook’s armor. The impact he’s had on the Thunder’s perilously thin backcourt simply cannot be underestimated. Along with the defensively minded and multi-talented Thabo Sefolosha, who’s looking like a good fit next to him as the team’s starting SG, Westbrook has brought stability, hope, and excitement to a team who was looking to guys like Earl Watson and Damien Wilkins in the season’s early going. Together with Durant and Jeff Green, Westbrook has established himself as a key member of the core that will lead this team back into relevancy–and he won’t turn 21 years old until November.

As for my other picks, Mayo and Rose were obviously easy ones: both have the look of franchise cornerstones written all over them. Lopez has flown somewhat under the radar this season on the blah Nets, but the 20-year-old seven-footer has proven to be a consistent, steady force in the middle who could finish the season with a double-double average. He’s currently tied for fifth overall in the NBA in blocked shots with 1.9 per.

Eric Gordon, yet another 20-year-old on this list, just might be the best scorer of the bunch. This kid has had some monster nights in his rookie season, including five games in which he’s put up at least 30 points. That he’s doing it at such reasonable percentages this early in his career is just scary. On a team with well-known vets like Baron Davis, Marcus Camby, and Zach Randolph, Gordon is the one Clipper who’s giving max effort every night.

Related Reading:
- Who Should Be the 2009 NBA Rookie of the Year? Weighing in With Early Picks, Part II
- Russell Westbrook Giveth, and Russell Westbrook Taketh Away
- Where’s the Love – Which Rooks Made the Rookie Challenge and Which Should Have
- Anthony Randolph is Going to be Special

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Mar. 9, 2009 at 10:31am in ETB Articles, NBA

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