- The Season's Over -

If Amir Johnson Can Do It, You Can Do It Too, Anthony Randolph

February 28, 2011

Anthony Randolph Minnesota Timberwolves

By Brian Spencer

Somebody purports to actually want you, Anthony Randolph, and even if that somebody is the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves and their bumbling GM David Kahn, it’s on you to seize the day. To prove the Golden State Warriors and New York Knicks were wrong for giving up on you so quickly. Prove they were wrong, just like Amir Johnson is proving the Detroit Pistons were wrong.

Randolph was mostly an afterthought included in a little under-the-radar trade you may or may not have heard about that sent Carmelo Anthony to New York, and Madison Square Garden’s stock to within about $2 of its NASDAQ 52-week high. He’d spent most of the season wasting away on the end of Mike d’Antoni’s bench, along with career loiterer Eddy Curry, logging mop-up minutes in just 17 games before being shipped to Minnesota.

He played the role of a clunky benchwarmer marvelously during those spotty opportunities in New York, often seeming dazed and confused and looking nothing like the type of intriguing talent with massive upside he’s been billed as since entering the league as the 14th-overall pick in the ’08 draft. Many thought d’Antoni’s uptempo system would be a perfect fit, the magnet that drew out Randolph’s jump-out-of-the-gym skills and honed them into a disciplined, deadly suite of weapons that would pair perfectly with Amare Stoudemire. Whatever the reason, though, it obviously didn’t happen and he clearly didn’t gel with his coach.

Considering his dismal showing, it’s easy to point to a lack of basketball smarts–and maybe that’s indeed the case since, after all, Don Nelson, his coach in Golden State, also made those insinuations–but it could just be that it wasn’t a good fit for either party. He moves on to Minnesota at the still-green age of 21, to play for a GM that claims he’s been trying to land Randolph for nearly 2 years.

I don’t trust his new coach, Kurt Rambis (does anybody?), to give him much burn over the rest of the season, but something tells me Rambis might not be the one calling the shots in 2011-12. One way or the other, Randolph is going to have a shot to earn a spot in the rotation next season and to make a real impact.

The Case of Amir Johnson

Sometimes young, raw players like this with little experience in college (Randolph played just one season at LSU, earning First Team SEC All-Freshman Team honors) and few opportunities to work through their growing pains in the NBA just need time. Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson, whose skillset isn’t all that far from Randolph’s, is one such player who bounced around, but kept at it and is finally getting his chance.

Amir Johnson Toronto Raptors

The 6-9 Johnson spent five full seasons as a spot-duty backup, never appearing in more than 62 games or averaging more than 14:41 minutes per. He was drafted late in the second round of the ’05 draft by the then-stacked Detroit Pistons and, like Randolph in Golden State, had to make the most of limited chances. He rarely saw the court in his first two seasons–when he was still a teenager–then failed to make the leaps and bounds expected of him by team brass in his third and fourth seasons, when he averaged 3.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in about 13 foul-plagued minutes per. He was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks following the 2008-09 season, and they flipped him to the Raptors about 2 months later.

Now, after signing a five-year, $34 million extension with the team last summer, Johnson has finally gotten the opportunity for consistent minutes and has made the most of it, averaging 10.3 points on 59% shooting, 6.8 boards, 1.2 assists, 0.8 steals, and 1.2 blocks in about 26 minutes a night through 59 games (41 as a starter). Those certainly aren’t huge numbers, but his performance has been trending upward as the season has gone on and as the Raptors have sunk further and further in the standings and fully looked to the future: in 27 games in January and February, Johnson–who by the way still won’t turn 24 years old until May–has averaged 12 points (62% FG), 8 boards, 1.6 assists, 0.8 steals, and 1.5 blocks.

He’s playing with more confidence and sustained energy than I saw in his first five years, and I think next season we might see him push 15-10-2 averages, especially if he can get on the floor for 30+ minutes a night. I had a mild obsession with Johnson during his years in Detroit, and though I wish he had reached this breakthrough with the Pistons, it’s good to see him finally showing what he’s capable of somewhere.

Will Randolph’s career follow the same trajectory? It could, but though there are a number of similarities between him and Johnson–raw, long and lanky, serious hops, tendency for foul trouble, etc.–Randolph is ahead of where Johnson was at this point in his career, and most would agree he has the potential to be a much more complete and impactful player.

The hype surrounding Randolph stems not just from his dominant stretches at LSU as a freshman, but also from his tantalizing turns in limited minutes during two seasons in Golden State in which he averaged 9.7 points, 6.1 boards, 1 assist, 0.8 steals, and 1.4 blocks in about 20 minutes per. Johnson never got that many minutes in Detroit, and never put up those kinds of stats; he’s just now putting them up, in fact. Randolph can be a special player, but he has to want it.

He’ll have a chance to prove it he does in fact want it. Forget about what happened in New York: let’s see what you can do in Minnesota, Anthony.

Anthony Randolph / Amir Johnson Photos Credit: Icon SMI

3 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Feb. 28, 2011 at 3:13am in ETB Articles, NBA

Congrats, Ray Allen, on #2,561

February 10, 2011

ray allen

Nice moment tonight in Boston when Ray Allen sunk a wide open three-pointer, the 2,561st of his career, to break Reggie Miller’s all-time record. The definition of classy player, Allen was as gracious and humble as you’d expect him to be when he did it: until the whistle blew on the next possession, he didn’t react much differently than he has for the other 2,500 makes. Glad I caught it happen: this guy is one of the somewhat few players in this league you can always feel comfortable rooting for on an individual level, regardless of how you feel about the team he’s currently playing for. Nice job, Mr. Allen, and well deserved.

Ray Allen Photo Credit: Icon SMI

2 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Feb. 10, 2011 at 9:02pm in NBA

Toronto’s Trio of Most Impressive Afterthoughts

December 8, 2010

By Andrew Thell

DeMar DeRozan Flashing His PotentialThe Toronto Raptors have quietly acquired a dynamic young trio of retreads and afterthoughts in Jerryd Bayless, Amir Johnson and DeMar DeRozan. Amir and Jerryd are two players we’ve discussed often here on ETB, while DeMar is a kid who is just starting to show flashes of the talent that made him a lottery pick a summer ago. In fact, all three players began their careers with slow starts and don’t get any publicity, but they’re heating up north of the border.

He’s bounced around the last few months, but let’s not forget that Bayless, still just 22 years of age, was the 11th overall pick in 2008 (and the Summer League MVP that season) and has continued to show plenty of upside in fits and spurts over his short career. He’s got the kind of natural talent and scoring ability that an NBA team can always use. The Blazers gave Bayless up for a conditional first round pick back in October and just a month later the Hornets essentially gave him away to the Raptors along with Peja Stojaković and some cash considerations in exchange for Jarrett Jack, Marcus Banks, and David Andersen – not exactly the haul you would expect for a guy I’ve always thought could be an extremely productive combo guard in this league (he was among my Players I want to See More Of a year ago).

He’s not a pure point, and he may never be, but Bayless’ quickness is elite and with his athleticism the guy can slash into the lane and finish around the basket. Bayless can shoot the ball, but he’s inconsistent and it’s an area he needs to work on. His quicks also mean Bayless can be a very good defender on the other end when he focuses himself, but that focus hasn’t always been there either. Jose Calderon is the starter in Toronto, but he seems better suited to man the point for a more established team that can play off of his passing skills and compensate for his lack of defense and inability to create his own offense.

This Sunday Bayless flashed his full arsenal, dropping 23 points, 7 boards, 6 assists and 5 threes on 8-16 shooting in just 27 minutes of action. To be fair, it was the Knicks, but it was still an impressive showing and with the Raptors sitting at 8-13 with little hope of competing it’s time to see how much more there is where that came from. I think he could settle in around 18 points a night in the right situation, and his per-36 numbers back that up: last season in Portland Bayless averaged 17.4 points per 36 minutes and in his first seven games as a Canuck he’s put up 20.6 points along with 7.6 boards and 6.3 assists per 36.

As the 56th pick of the 2005 NBA Draft Amir Johnson doesn’t quite have the pedigree of lottery picks like Bayless or DeRozan, but the 6-11 23-year-old’s ceiling may be the highest of the trio. We’ve thought quite highly of the kid for quite some time. It’s true that Johnson didn’t do much in his first five seasons in the league, but a long gestation period should be expected with a preps-to-pros prospect as completely unpolished as Johnson was when he came into the league. It’s also worth noting that Johnson has never been given much of an opportunity to flash his skills, topping out at 17 minutes a game last season. Johnson is another guy who has been efficient with his minutes though, racking up highlight-reel blocks and dunks and per-36 career averages of 12 points, 10 boards, 2.4 blocks and 1 steal on 60% shooting from the field. Not bad for his age 18-22 seasons.

The minutes have always been limited by foul trouble, defensive lapses, matchup issues, poor decision-making and various other inconsistencies, but this season in the Raptors games I’ve watched Amir has shown dramatic improvement in all areas. With the injury to Reggie Evans (and after a brief, foolish experiment with Joey Dorsey) Johnson has been handed a starting gig for the foreseeable future. In five games in the starting lineup Amir has posted 14 points, 8 boards, 1.4 blocks and 1.2 steals on 65% FGs (!) with just 1 turnover a game. That’s efficiency. He’s even hitting 84% of his free-throws on the season, and I think he’s poised to turn a corner over the next month or two as he settles into finally being a valued, consistent contributor. The ingredients have always been there, and while he could still stand to add quite a bit of bulk to that lanky frame, the pieces are starting to fall into place for Amir to be a productive, explosive complementary player for years to come.

The final young piece of the Raptors’ pie I’ve been tuning in to get a taste of the last couple of weeks is DeMar DeRozan, the youngest and most highly-regarded of the three, but a player who has been overshadowed by more prominent fellow 2009 draftees like Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin and Brandon Jennings at every turn. DeMar is a quiet dude, and it’s been a quiet start to his career, but at 6-7 and 220 pounds with huge hops and a healthy dose of athleticism DeRozan has the body to make some noise as a prototypical NBA wing. On top of the physical tools he’s a good kid who works hard on and off the court. But, like the other two Raptors above, he needs to continue improving if he’s ever going to cash in on his vast potential. Last year was a slow start to the 9th-overall pick’s career as he put up just 8.6 points and 3 rebounds a night with not much in the way of peripherals, but watching games you could see his shot selection improving and general basketball IQ growing each month.

DeRozan is still a project, but one undeniably showing more maturity and polish than he was a year ago despite the continued mediocre numbers. It’s true he’s been inconsistent again this season, but he’s also thrown together three strings of nice games between hamstring tweeks and looked good doing it. He’s playing more confident basketball on both ends, and confidence is something that can be an issue with DeMar. I’ve been especially impressed with his willingness to be assertive and get to the line more; that should be his bread and butter with his tools. It doesn’t show up in his block and steal totals, but DeMar works his ass off on defense and his performance on that end is something that could eventually be a calling card for him. He still needs to work on rounding out his game in terms of his jumper and ball skills, but DeMar DeRozan is finally looking like the long-term three on Toronto.

So the next time NBA League Pass sticks you with a Raptors game on the only HD channel, don’t despair. Have a seat and pay attention to these three kids. I think you’ll be entertained.

3 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Dec. 8, 2010 at 12:01am in NBA

Derek Anderson Will Never Live This Down

December 2, 2010

I’ve admittedly soured some over the past few years on Dwight Howard, a once-generally likeable guy whose on-court demeanor has steadily become irksome and a little hard to watch. He blames the refs for calling him differently becauase of his size, still hasn’t bothered to learn how to shoot free throws (this season’s 54% is actually the worst of his seven-year career), still hasn’t developed a repertoire of moves outside the dunk… it’s almost like he’s content to be Shaquille O’Neal 2.0, without the rings and with slightly less narcissism.

Still, this one got me. In case you somehow missed it, following his team’s shellacking–and his laughably bad individual performance–on Monday Night Football this week against the San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals QB Derek Anderson had the kind of memorable meltdown we haven’t seen in years. Howard couldn’t resist the opportunity to pay homage to it. Make sure to watch the whole clip to catch the original performance, too.

(Hat tip to our friends at Ball Don’t Lie)

1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Dec. 2, 2010 at 4:48pm in NBA, NFL

Wesley Matthews Blazing a Trail

December 1, 2010

By Andrew Thell

Wesley Matthews is Blowing UpThe Blazers turned a lot of heads when they handed Wesley Matthews a front-loaded, 5-year deal worth $34 million this summer. When a guy plays essentially the same position as your franchise player, you generally don’t give him that kind of money, particularly when the player in question is a second-year, undrafted swingman who scored in single digits as a rookie and was best known as the son for former NBAer Wes Matthews. It was a curious move that indicated the Portland brass must have been more concerned about Brandon Roy’s knees than they let on.

Sure enough, just a few weeks into the season it came out that Roy had undergone several procedures to drain fluid from his troublesome knees already and that Roy was playing with literally no cartilage in his knees. That means he’s playing bone-on-bone, and it’s a situation that doesn’t figure to get better any time soon. Roy is toughing it out for now, but I don’t see how he can keep playing on those gimpy knees all season.

Matthews came out of the gates slowly, but starting with a career-high, 30-point outburst (just barely topping his father’s NBA career high of 29) in a game Roy sat out on November 16th he’s taken advantage of his opportunities and this week earned a spot in the starting lineup even when Roy plays. On Tuesday it was announced that Matthews will push talented and defensive-minded youngster Nicolas Batum to the bench. I’m a Batum fan, and with his versatile game and considerable long-term potential at the three spot I think it’s a questionable move by Blazers coach Nate McMillan, but it shows just how much confidence Portland has in Matthews. Since that breakout game on the 16th he’s averaged 20 points, 4 boards and 1.3 steals a game on 49% FGs with just 1.5 turnovers a game. It’s been quite a showing for a guy who played four years of college ball and didn’t show much in his first three seasons at Marquette before being ignored in the draft last season due to quickness and size concerns.

Matthews’ volume of production is one of the more surprising developments of the season thus far, but we shouldn’t be too surprised by the efficiency. Last year as an undrafted rookie Matthews earned 24 minutes a night and played in all 82 games for Jerry Sloan’s Jazz, which is no small feat. His efficiency played a large role in earning Sloan’s trust, as Matthews shot 48% FGs, 38% on threes and 83% from the line – that adds up to an effective FG% of .539, which would have been good for 18th in the NBA had he qualified. On top of that, while Matthews may be a step slow and at 6-5 not of ideal size at the three, he’s acquitting himself respectably at the other end of the floor with blue-collar, physical defense. It’s safe to say he’s quickly playing his way out of his father’s shadow. We haven’t seen a large enough sample size with Matthews featured in the offense to know if he can keep this kind of production up, but I do firmly believe with Roy’s health issues he’ll get every opportunity to do so from here on out. If Matthews keeps playing like this, the guy everybody was shocked to see signed to that contract back in July could turn out to be one of the biggest breakout players in the NBA this season and the biggest bargain of the offseason.

Wesley Matthews photo credit: AP

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Dec. 1, 2010 at 9:43pm in NBA

Detroit Pistons Desperately Seeking Direction

November 18, 2010

Ben Wallace Detroit Pistons

Ben Wallace Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By Brian Spencer

Anybody who’s tuned into these early weeks of the NBA season knows that the Detroit Pistons are a ticking time bomb, and that things could get a lot worse before they get a lot better. Players are feuding with coaches, coaches are feuding with players, and judging by all the empty seats at the Palace of Auburn Hills, the fans want nothing to do with the mess.

In the standings reality, however, at 4-8 they fall squarely into the also-ran column and are not yet a true cellar dweller a la the Clippers, Raptors, 76ers, etc… but they’re getting close to joining that rarified sewer air. With a little more luck–and talent–they could easily be 6-6, even 7-5, after dropping their first two games by a total of four points, then blowing a 21-point second-half lead in their third loss. Oh, sure, they’ve looked dreadfully listless and are clearly lacking in chemistry, but don’t believe everything you’re reading: despite all the turmoil, this team has actually been competitive most nights, and in the weak Eastern Conference they probably have enough talent to squeeze into the playoffs.

That said, it’s time to light this bomb’s fuse and blow this feeble version of the Pistons to bits. It should start with Tayshaun Prince, who seems to be doing everything in his power to force his way out. His body language has been embarassing for a guy raking in $11 million on the season and who’s asked to do very little besides hustle and set a good example; so far he’s done neither. There’s no place for Richard Hamilton anymore, either, not with Ben Gordon starting to heat up and be the lights-out scorer we know he can be. He has enough depth behind him.

Hamilton and Prince played starring roles in Detroit’s six straight trips to the Eastern Conference Finals, winning is all they know, and now that they’re losing on a team that’s rebuilding and trying to find its way, their hearts simply don’t seem to be in it. Understandable, to a degree, until you remember, again, that both are being paid handsomely to play a game they love. (Hamilton is guaranteed $12.6 million this season and the next two.) And don’t give me this “money isn’t everything” garbage: of course it’s not. But are we so used to athletes annually being paid more than the GDP of hundreds of small countries that salary, and return on that salary, should no longer be a consideration?

I’ve rooted for both these guys for such a long time, and I want to see them both succeed again–but elsewhere. No, this franchise cannot fully move into the future until it fully lets go of the past. (It’s worth noting, however, that Ben Wallace, the other holdover from the franchise’s most recent golden era, is still doing his best to be the hustling, banging, rebounding, defending warrior he’s always been in Detroit; his impact on the game, however, just isn’t the same at 36 years old. Don’t worry, though, it looks like he’s interested in playing defense even after his playing days are over.)

Of course, jettisoning their longtime stars is just the beginning.

More on the state of the Detroit Pistons after the break….

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1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Nov. 18, 2010 at 7:28am in ETB Articles, NBA, NBA Fantasy News

Jason Thompson Deserves Another Chance, and Other Assorted NBA Notes

November 10, 2010

By Andrew Thell

Jason Thompson- Somebody should make a play for Sacramento Kings big man Jason Thompson. He’s wasting away in Sac Town, and it’s painful to see that kind of talent go to waste. Thompson has been pushed out of the rotation with the arrival of DeMarcus Cousins and Samuel Dalembert, but it wasn’t long ago the third-year player was considered a significant building block for this franchise. Thompson has good size, a strong offensive repertoire with decent range and plays with a lot of energy underneath. He can rebound and score around the basket, and he should only get better at those things as he fills out. He reminds me a little bit of Chris Bosh, but with more natural rebounding tendencies and less pure shooting skills.

The Kings have asked Thompson to play some small forward, but that’s a foolish idea. He’s 6-11 and 255 lbs. and needs to be playing near the glass to be effective. Paul Westphal is giving JT just 15 minutes of a run a night to this point after the he averaged 28 and 31 minutes a night in his first two seasons in the league. To me that says a lot about the third-year power forward’s availability. Any team in need of a big who can contribute now and has some pretty good upside long-term should be interested. Toronto, Cleveland, Detroit, Oklahoma City and Phoenix strike me as especially good landing spots.

Jason Thompson photo credit: Yahoo!/AP

- I know he’s been consistently filling the point and rebound columns of the box score for eight years now, but it’s a shame to see Zach Randolph coming back after the youngsters in Memphis got off to such hot starts. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that while Randolph was sidelined with a tailbone injury Rudy Gay and Mike Conley got off to blazing starts, easily the best of their careers. It’s true that Marc Gasol was also out a few games to start the season, but he plays within the offense and is nowhere near the black hole on offense Randolph is.

- The Jeff Teague era is coming in Atlanta, and it may be sooner than later. Mike Bibby brings some veteran savvy and outside shooting to the table, but that’s about it at this point. He’s turning into a liability on defense and he can no longer use his quicks to draw defenders and find the open man. Teague isn’t what you would call a pure point right now, but he’s fast and very good at penetrating and getting to the rim. Though he might not have the blinding acceleration, he reminds me of Lou Williams, but Teague’s not quite there with the offensive polish yet. Still, he’s dynamic and in the Hawks’ new motion offense I don’t think it will be long before he represents an upgrade over Bibby once the team gets acclimated to Teague’s style of play.

- Paul Millsap‘s massive game in the Jazz’s big comeback win against the Heat was an anomaly, but it wasn’t a fluke. Millsap has always worked his ass off around the basket on offense and defense, which is what has earned the former second-round pick a pretty big role with Jerry Sloan in recent years. But he’s also worked very hard on his offensive repetoire of late and it’s shown so far this season. Somewhat lost in the 46-point line from Tuesday was the fact that Millsap hit 3 threes after coming into the season having hit just 2 threes in his career. It was a desperate situation and he’s not about to start playing that far away from the basket, but it just shows how improved his jumper is and the kind of confidence Millsap is playing with right now.

Critiquing Walt “Clyde” Frazier, a look at the Dallas big men, and checking in with Charlie Murphy and Prince, after the jump…

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1 CommentPosted by Andrew Thell on Nov. 10, 2010 at 10:25pm in NBA, NBA Fantasy News

It’s Going to be a Good Season, Folks

November 5, 2010

GD Productions presents your NBA highlights of the month for October. There’s no other sport in the world that can provide a highlight package so laden with grace, power, elegance, personality and raw athleticism from just the first five days of a season.

It’s going to be a good season, hoops fans.

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Nov. 5, 2010 at 11:32am in NBA

NBA Notes One Week into the 2010-11 Season

November 3, 2010

Dorell WrightBy Andrew Thell

- I was excited when Dorell Wright got a fresh start through free agency, signing with the Golden State Warriors back in July. He’s always been a pet player of mine who just couldn’t seem to put it all together in terms of health and consistency in his limited chances. The former preps-to-pros 19th-overall pick has all the talent in the world, but throughout his six years in Miami he had a hard time cracking the starting rotation and staying on the floor. When he’s been out there he’s always flashed athleticism and range though, topping out in the 2007-08 season with modest, but efficient, totals of 8 points and 5 boards with nearly a steal and block per on 49% FGs and 83% FTs in just 25 minutes a night.

Even with Don Nelson out of town, I can’t think of a better landing place for Wright’s versatile and up-tempo talents than Golden State. He won’t keep this up, but so far the results have been good: 20 points, 5.5 boards, 4.5 threes, 1.3 steal and 1.3 block on 51% FGs in 37 minutes a night (the most of his career by a long shot). Again, this shooting won’t keep up (especially from deep), but Wright is a rangy 6-8 athlete who can score and put up hustle stats on this fast-paced offense. I’m taking a flier on my fantasy teams, and as one of my 30 Players I Want to See More Of from last season I’m happy he’s finally getting tick and producing.

(Dorell Wright photo credit Yahoo!/AP)

- Listen, I was a big Chris Bosh fan. He seems like a nice, affable guy and he’s a great basketball player – or at least he was. But when Bosh signed with LeBron and Dwyane this summer he basically threw in the towel on being his own man and a franchise leader (same goes for LeBron) and signed up to ride coattails and be a role player. I know winning is what this game is all about, but I have a hard time respecting his decision. It’s like when Karl Malone made his last-ditch bid for a ring with the Lakers in 2003, except even more pathetic with Bosh having his whole promising career ahead of him. I would have really liked to see Bosh get it done somewhere as “The Man,” and maybe we will someday, but I don’t have a whole lot of interest in watching this 13 points and 6 boards on 10 shots a game business.

- You’ve read it everywhere else already, but here’s the obligatory “Rajon Rondo is ridiculous” report: after dropping 17 dimes with 0 (zero) TOs against the Pistons on Tuesday and 15 more on Wednesday the wily son of a bitch is averaging 16.4 assists per game and set an NBA record with 82 assists in his first five games. He’s officially in the discussion for NBA’s best point guard, and if you’re booting free throw percentage on your fantasy team he’s easily one of the most valuable players in our imaginary game.

- I think Mike Conley‘s new five-year contract worth $40 million surprised everybody, but the kid has been playing lights-out so far this season. The astronomical 3.4 steals per game will come down, but if he can maintain that 16 points and 9 assists per game while playing heady defense he might just be worth it. When draft night rolled around in 2007, who woulda thought Conley have the best career of the Ohio State products on the board?

- I really like Larry Drew’s new motion offense in Atlanta, and at 5-0 the early returns have been good. With so many young athletes who can dart around the court in the half-court and without any plodders on the roster is makes a lot of sense for the Hawks. Al Horford‘s numbers have been pretty similar to last season thus far, but he looks good. In the games I’ve caught Horford is showing improved moves and footwork on the blocks and better touch on his intermediate jumpers.

- The early returns on Blake Griffin are promising, but perhaps not as great as the hype machine would lead you to believe. Don’t get me wrong, the guy is extremely explosive and attacks the rim and glass with reckless abandon. He oozes potential, but he’s also putting up big numbers on a very bad team and is still as lacking in polish as many of the pessimists thought. The 17 points and 10 boards per are great, but 46% FGs and 52% FTs aren’t so great and in five games Griffin has blocked just one shot. If he can stay healthy big things are coming, but it’s going to take some time. Or maybe I’m just bitter I traded him before the season on my keeper team …

Checking in with John Wall, Brook Lopez, Mike Fratello and more, after the jump …

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No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Nov. 3, 2010 at 10:24pm in ETB Articles, NBA, NBA Fantasy News

2010 NBA Northwest Division Previews

October 26, 2010

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant Photo Credit: Icon SMI

The 2010 NBA Preview Extravaganza wraps with a look at the West’s Northwest Division.

While LeBron James was busy fellating himself in front of the world while making his “decision”, the NBA’s best and most exciting young player quietly made a decision of his own. With none of ESPN’s cameras watching and puzzlingly little fanfare, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant quietly tweeted on July 7 that he had resigned with the team on a five-year deal. His Thunder are the franchise to watch this year and for the foreseeable future, and Durant has cemented his status as the NBA’s most likeable and most humble megastar.

Still only 22 years old (!), Durant enters his fourth NBA season coming off a MVP-caliber effort that led his team to a 50-32 record and their first playoff berth since the Sonics became the Thunder and moved to Oklahoma City. In case you’re keeping track, those 50 wins were 27 more than they had the previous year. Let’s all take a minute to drool over his eye-popping pers last season: 30.2 points on 47% FG, 90% FT, 7.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.4 steals, 1 block, and 1.6 three-pointers. Lord have mercy!

The Thunder’s embarassment of riches doesn’t stop with Durant. Starting PG Russell Westbrook (also just 22 years old) figures to take another step towards All-Star status, Jeff Green still hasn’t hit his ceiling a year after averaging 15 and 6, second-year SG James Harden–the third-overall pick of the ’09 draft–looks like a deadly offensive weapon, and the sky’s the limit for raw 21-year-old center Serge Ibaka, who just might be the team’s long-term answer in the middle. Throw in a cadre of other promising youngsters and solid rotational players, and this team just might be ready to make some noise before their time.

Jazz:  SLC Dunk | Salt City Hoops | SBN Recap

Nuggets:  Denver Stiffs | Roundball Mining Company | The Nugg Doctor | SBN Recap

Thunder:  Welcome to Loud City | Planet BBall | SBN Recap

Timberwolves:  Canis Hoopus | TwolvesBlog

Blazers:  Blazersedge.com | SBN Recap

Recaps:  All Previews

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Oct. 26, 2010 at 11:20am in NBA

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