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…
Dallas Mavericks – Gerald Green, SF: I can’t quit you, Gerald Green. I’ve been a sadomasochistic advocate of Birthday Cake since his rookie year in Boston, and it appears I’ll just never learn. To this day I maintain that the 23-year-old Green has as much raw athleticism and explosiveness as any player in the National Basketball Association. The 6-8 swingman has the skills (feathery outside jumper, explosive leaping ability, good size, raw agility, quickness) to be a big scorer and at least a serviceable defender – if he ever decides he wants to be.
Denver Nuggets – Renaldo Balkman, F: Say what you will about Isiah Thomas’ tenure in New York, and he deserves all of it, but he managed to find some diamonds in the rough in the draft. Nate Robinson, David Lee, Trevor Ariza and Renaldo Balkman.
The 6-8 forward out of South Carolina has always shown strong athleticism, defensive skills and an ability to hit the glass. With K-Mart’s back balky, Balkman has put up 11 points, 11 boards and nearly a steal and a block a game in 6 games this month. In 8 starts he’s shooting 65% from the floor with over a steal and block a game on the season. His offensive skills are raw, but if Martin can’t stay healthy (which should shock no one), Renaldo could be a key player in the postseason.
Detroit Pistons – Jason Maxiell, PF: It’s been a disappointing season for the Detroit Pistons every which way you look at it. The bright spots have been few and far between, and they’ve quickly become an afterthought in the new East. J-Max embodies the lost season as much as anybody, as the fourth-year power forward’s minutes and numbers are down across the board. Undersized at the four at 6-7 he was never going to be a solid starter, but Maxiell has long had the look of one of the most exciting backup bigs in the league. His ferocious dunks and blocks have become something of legend. But playing just over 17 minutes a game most NBA fans haven’t seem much from the player who in 2008 potentially gave us both the the block of the regular season and the block of the postseason.
GS Warriors – Anthony Randolph, F: Oh, Anthony Randolph, how you make my heart swell. I have a feeling that if the NBA’s youngest player were averaging 35 minutes a game it still wouldn’t be enough for me. He’s that fun to watch when firing on all cylinders. I’m not alone in my man love, either. Lamar Odom recently said the kid has HOF potential. It’s difficult not to be in awe of how fluid, versatile and explosive he looks on both ends of the floor for a player of his height and his age.
Houston Rockets – Kyle Lowry, PG: Lowry is one of those guys who happens to have a good game every time I tune in. He won’t ever be a star, but he’s always extremely quick and aggressive on offense, making good decisions more often than not. He’s also blessed with good hands and a solid physique, making him a potentially great defensive presence. Lowry can be downright suffocating when he wants to be.
He has the potential to be one of the more solid backup points in the league, and one who is capable of filling in for an injured starter for long stretches. On a Houston team that defines itself with defense but yearns for a creator on offense, I’d like to see this kid get 25+ minutes a night.
Gerald Green and Anthony Randolph Photos Credit: Icon SMI