Monthly Archives: January 2010

Is Hasheem Thabeet the biggest bust ever?

The NBA draft is a tricky business. Should GM’s go for need, or the best player available? Some top-10 picks never live up to their potential, while you can find an absolute gem in the second round (look at Manu Ginobli, Gilbert Arenas, Michael Redd and Carlos Boozer). When Memphis drafted Hasheem Thabeet from Conneticut with the 2nd pick in the 2009 draft, many experts had mixed views about his potential. At 7 foot 3′, Thabeet is an excellent shot blocker and rebounder but had a very limited offensive game. The Grizzlies first option was Ricky Rubio, but the Spanish prodigy refused to even entertain the idea of playing for Memphis. Thabeet has barely featured for the Grizzlies this season, averaging 2.7 points and 3.1 rebounds in 10 minutes a game. He may have played more than #1 pick Blake Griffin, but Thabeet is stuck behind Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol in the froncourt and competing with fellow 7-footers Hamed Haddadi and Steven Hunter for spare minutes. Thabeet is also being shown up by rookies drafted after him: the likes of Tyreke Evans, Jonny Flynn and Brandon Jennings are getting plenty of playing time and putting up points in the league – Jennings lit up Golden State for 55 points in November; Thabeet will be lucky to score 55 points this season.

I’m going to compare Thabeet with previous draft “busts” and the players that were picked after them, as in this current draft class, Tyreke Evans in particular looks like he will be an All-Star in a few years. Some of these are obvious, but they have been the biggest busts in the history of the NBA.

Kwame Brown:

(1st pick, 2001, Washington Wizards. Picked after: Pau Gasol, Joe Johnson, Gilbert Arenas)

The first high schooler to be selected first, Brown came with high hopes as he was picked by Michael Jordan when he was at the Wizards. Kwame only averaged 4.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in his rookie year (notice the similarities with Thabeet), and a lack of maturity hindered his progress. Failed stints at the Lakers and Grizzlies followed, and now Kwame is at the Detroit Pistons. Drawing criticsm for lackluster performances and a lack of focus during games, Brown has to be one of the biggest draft busts ever. He has only averaged 7 points and 5 rebounds in his nine year career.

Darko Milicic

(2nd pick, 2003. Detroit Pistons. Picked after: Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh)

Considered such a bust because of the players picked after him. While Melo, Wade and Bosh are superstars and all on the gold-winning “Redeem Team” in 2008, Milicic is now glued to the end of the Knicks’ bench. A mega-skilled big man with massive potential, Darko was picked by the Pistons with the second pick in 2003 but never received significant playing time in Detroit. Stops in Memphis and Orlando failed to impress critics, and even though he is still only 24, I don’t think Darko will ever get it and live up to the hype. He only has career averages of 5.5 points and 4 rebounds per game.

Michael Olowokandi

(1st pick, 1998. LA Clippers. Picked after: Vince Carter, Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki)

The London native never developed into the dominant center people expected him to be. While draft colleagues like Dirk, Pierce, Carter, Rashard Lewis and Antawn Jamison are still performing well in the league, Olowokandi only lasted 5 years with the Clippers before injuries curtailed his career. He has career averages of 8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds.

Sam Bowie

(2nd pick, 1984. Portland TrailBlazers. Picked after: Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, John Stockton)

Sports Illustrated and ESPN named him the biggest bust in history. Bowie was a bust simply because he was chosen over three Hall of Famers, and arguably the greatest basketball player ever (Michael Jordan). When the player picked a spot below you won 6 championships, 5 MVP awards, 14 All-Star appearances and scores 32,000 points in the NBA, it’s going to make any player look bad. And when the pick before you was Hakeem Olajuwon, it doesn’t improve the circumstances. Bowie was a 7 foot 1’ center and did well in his rookie season, but injuries dogged his career and he retired from basketball in 1995. Bowie has career averages of 10.9 points and 7.5 rebounds. Does anyone notice the similarities with the 2007 draft – the Blazers select a center with the #1 pick that can’t stay on the court because of injury, and the player taken below is well on his way to becoming a superstar and making his first All-Star appearance. Is Kevin Durant going to be the Jordan to Greg Oden’s Bowie? You never know we might be seeing Oden’s name on this list in 10 years time.

Do you think that Thabeet will be joining Bowie, Brown, Milicic and Olowokandi as the biggest busts in draft history?

 

Breaking News: NBA All-Star reserves leaked

The All-Star reserves are not set to be announced until tonight, but Yahoo! sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski and Mark J. Spears have revealed who will be making the trip to Dallas for the ASG in February. According to them, the West and East reserves are:

East
Rajon Rondo (Celtics)
Derrick Rose (Bulls)
Paul Pierce (Celtics)
Chris Bosh (Raptors)
Gerald Wallace (Bobcats)
Joe Johnson (Hawks)
Al Horford (Hawks)

West
Deron Williams (Jazz)
Chris Paul (Hornets)
Pau Gasol (Lakers)
Kevin Durant (Thunder)
Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks)
Zach Randolph (Grizzlies)
Brandon Roy (Blazers)

If you remember when the ASG ballots where announced a few months ago, I made my predictions on who would make this year’s All-Star team. I didn’t bank on Allen Iverson securing a starting spot on the East, mainly because of the trouble Iverson had in Memphis and the fact that A.I isn’t exactly putting up All-Star numbers (14.2 ppg, 4.4 apg). A.I’s place as a starter has recieved intense criticsm from the media, but the All Star game is for the fans and if the fans want to see Iverson play then you can’t complain. Obviously no one could have forseen the circumstances in Washingon with Gilbert Arenas (who today was banned for the season along with Javaris Crittendon after both were indicted on felony charges). Shaq’s production in Cleveland (11.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg) is what let him down, and Danny Granger’s affection towards the treatment table are what excluded them from places on the East’s roster.

So who are notable snubs from this year’s teams? Mo Williams, Danny Granger, Devin Harris, Jameer Nelson, Ray Allen and David West do not return after making last year’s team, although none of them actually deserved a place on this year’s roster. Gerald Wallace’s impressive form for the Bobcats guarantees him a place, as does Zach Randolph, who is working wonders in Memphis this year, averaging 21 points and over 11 boards a game. Z-Bo has always been a 20-10 guy, but has managed to actually help the Grizzlies instead of hindering them this season.

I thought Chauncey Billups should have had a place on the West. Averaging 19 points and 6 assists this season, he is deserving of a spot and is as, if not more, important than ‘Melo for the Nuggets. But Billups omission does give a well-deserved place to Deron Williams, who makes his first All- Star appearance in what has been a couple of years overdue.

David Lee is another player who should be in Dallas. Averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds, Lee is excelling for a woeful Knicks team and should have been picked over Al Horford as the reserve center. The Hawks are doing well, and Horford is one for the future, along with Nets’ center Brook Lopez, but Lee is deserving of a spot on the East team.

Brown has Bobcats going in the right direction

Last Saturday’s game against the Orlando Magic proved one thing: that the Magic are no longer guaranteed to destroy the Charlotte Bobcats every time they meet. It used to be that Dwight Howard would teach Emeka Okafor a lesson, and remind the ‘Cats that they are small time and can’t compete with them. Now the Bobcats are right in the playoff mix and previously to the Orlando game, had won nine straight games at home. Howard only posted 10 points on 4-11 shooting, as well as 20 boards and 7 blocks against Bobcats centers Nazr Mohamed and DeSagna Diop. Behind an impressive performance by DJ Augustin (22 pts) and a game-tying layup by Stephen Jackson, the Bobcats managed to force overtime before eventually succumbing to the Magic.

Suprisingly, the Bobcats are the best team of 2010. Starting with a 9-1 record to start the year, including a six game win streak, the Bobcats are currently sitting at 21-22 and eighth in the East, and even occupied fifth place in the conference last week. They are on course for their first ever trip to the postseason, having been to the lottery every summer since entering the NBA as an expansion team in 2004.

What has been the reason for the Bobcats transformation from doormats to playoff contenders? Having a Hall of Fame coach in Larry Brown helps. Having had success at previous stints in Detroit and Philly, Brown has done what he does best since taking over at the beginning of last season: trade half the roster away and start over. The likes of Emeka Okafor, Jason Richardson, Adam Morrison and Sean May have left Charlotte and replaced by veterans who play Brown’s style of ball: Boris Diaw, DeSagna Diop, Vlad Radmanovic and Raja Bell (before they were traded to the Warriors for Stephen Jackson).

November’s trade for Jackson has transformed the fortunes of the Bobcats completely. Unhappy at the Warriors, many thought that Captain Jack would clash with Larry Brown, who is infamous for arguing with difficult players such as Allen Iverson in Philadelphia and Stephon Marbury in New York. But that hasn’t happened: before he came to the team, the Bobcats averaged just 82.4 ppg and shot 39.4 from the field. Since his arrival, the team’s offense has skyrocketed and they’re now putting up 97.7 ppg and shooting 46.6 percent. In the month of January, Jackson is averaging 24.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg and 3.7 apg. The 31-year-old guard/forward scored a career high 43 points in a big win against the Rockets on Jan. 12. Jackson was also recently named Eastern Conference Player of the Week.

Another player who is benefitting under Brown is Gerald Wallace. “Crash” and Jackson are being mentioned in All-Star chatter and Wallace in particular, could be named to the East team, backing up Lebron at small forward. Wallace has been described as the “glue” of this Bobcats team, performing a similar role to what Tayshaun Prince did when Detroit won a championship with Brown in 2004. Wallace supports the scoring threats (Jackson, Raymond Felton) as the do-it-all player for the ‘Cats. Wallace’s transformation into an all-round player has helped his career: no longer just a big dunker, Crash is “crashing” (pardon the pun) the boards, averaging 11 rebounds (5th in the league), along with averaging 18.5 ppg.

How far can the Bobcats go this season? There has been talk of them being the fifth best team in the East, this I think is untrue. I can see them reaching the playoffs for the first time in their history, but as the 7th or 8th seed. They are not going to get out of the first round, as they are not going to beat Cleveland, Boston or Orlando in a series. But when the All-Star reserves are announced on Thursday, I think Gerald Wallace will be named in the roster. Danny Granger is injured a lot, Igoudala and the Sixers are worse than the Bobcats so Wallace could become the first player in franchise history to make the All-Star team.

Will Chris Bosh be traded before next month’s deadline?

Speculation is rife in the NBA at the moment that Toronto’s All-Star forward Chris Bosh is set to be traded before next month’s trade deadline. The general consensus is that Bosh will bolt from Toronto in the summer as a free agent, and join a bigger market franchise in a bid to win a championship. I mentioned on this blog last summer that the Raptors should have traded Bosh then, but now the team is faced with a dilemma: take their chances with CB4 and hope he decides to stay or do a sign and trade in the summer, or trade Bosh now and try and get some young talent back in return that the franchise can build on in the future. And as long as Toronto can get some decent pieces back, I believe they could be tempted to trade their prized asset.

The Raptors have tried to keep Bosh happy and encourage him to stay north of the border. Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo signed Hedo Turkoglu to a big money deal last summer, as well as Jarrett Jack from the Pacers, as well as inking Andrea Bargnani (who they see as their future franchise player) to a 5 year extension. So you can’t accuse Colangelo of doing a Pat Riley in Miami and refusing to surround Dwayne Wade with talent this season. So far Bosh is having a monster season, averaging 23.8 points and 11 boards and leading the Raptors to a .500 record (21-21), which is 7th in the East. Therefore, there are plenty of teams that would snap up the 6-10 forward in a heartbeat.

I’m going to break down some of the trade rumours surrounding Bosh and decide where the Raptors should trade CB4 if they want to blow things up. First things first, there is no point in Bosh being traded to the likes of the T’Wolves, Memphis or New Jersey, because there is no chance he will re-sign when he becomes a free agent in the summer. There are plenty of valuable expiring deals out there (that’s you T-Mac) and some deals people won’t touch with a bargepole (yes, you Eddy Curry and Jared Jeffries). But here are some trade deals for Bosh that could work:

Bosh to the Lakers for Andrew Bynum:

This is the ideal trade for both teams. Bynum has a ton of potential and plays better for the Lakers when Gasol is not in the team. The Raptors would get a valuable piece back and a true center they can build around, with Bargnani and Turkoglu. The Lakers would have the most formadible frontcourt in the league with Gasol at center and Bosh at PF, and Bosh would relish the chance to play under Phil Jackson and have a chance to win a ring now. I like this trade, whether the Lakers would want to trade Bynum is debatable, considering his potential and how long they have been developing him.

Bosh to the Bulls for Tyrus Thomas, Kirk Kinrich:

The Bulls would love this: they would get a legitimate low-post scorer in Bosh and CB4 would definetly be an offensive upgrade over Thomas. And Bosh would fit in well with the rebounding machine that is Joachim Noah, and Chicago would be glad to get rid of Tyrus Thomas and his bloated contract. Also, the Bulls would have a chance to contend right now, pairing Bosh with point guard Derrick Rose and the Bulls would be a force in the East.

Tyrus Thomas has a good upside but has never fully fulfilled his potential in Chicago. That could happen with a change of scenery though. Whether Thomas and Kinrich are a good enough return for a franchise player remains to be seen. It’s an excellent deal for Chicago and they would pull the trigger in a heartbeat, but the Raptors might be apprehensive and may prefer Noah instead of Thomas.

Bosh to the Thunder for Jeff Green, expiring contracts (Etan Thomas)

This could be a legitimate deal for both teams. The Raptors get a good young player in Green and save some money, which is always good in the current climate. The Thunder get the big man they desperately need, and can team him with their young core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. This would make the Thunder an automatic contender out West, as Bosh is going to be a 20-10 player for the next five years and Durant is going to be a beast, a top 5 player in the league for years to come (he’s only 21 and is averaging 29.1 points a game).

If Bosh was traded to Oklahoma, I could see him signing on in the summer as part of a team that could challenge for championships for the next decade.

These trades are ultimately just rumours. Personally, I can see Toronto keeping Bosh and taking their chances in the summer. I think CB4 will leave the Raptors in the summer though, leaving the Raptors with nothing, and join D-Wade in Miami or Lebron in Cleveland. And then the Raptors will be wishing they had pulled the trigger now…

My opinion on the Gilbert Arenas controversy

The storm of negative publicity that has shrouded the Washington Wizards for the last few weeks came to a head this week when point guard Gilbert Arenas was suspended indefinetely without pay amid allegations that he threatened team-mate Javaris Crittendon by storing guns in his locker over a $25,000 bet.

According to the Washington Post, Arenas laid out four guns in Crittendon’s cubicle with a note saying “Pick One”. This led to NBA commissioner David Stern imposing an unlimited suspension on Agent Zero. In a statement released this week Stern said:

“The possession of firearms by an NBA player in an NBA arena is a matter of the utmost concern to us. I initially thought it prudent to refrain from taking immediate action because of the pendency of a criminal investigation involving the office of the United States attorney …. Although it is clear that the actions of Mr. Arenas will result in a substantial suspension, or perhaps worse, his ongoing conduct has led me to conclude that he is currently fit to take to the court of an NBA game. Accordingly, I am suspending Mr Arenas indefinetly, without pay, effective immediately pending the completion of an investigation by the NBA.”

If only Arenas had kept his mouth shut. The league probably would have let the legal process go on till a ruling had been made, but Agent Zero practically begged for a lengthy suspension and to forfeit millions of dollars. From the John Wayne references made on Twitter to the completely unnecessary and stupid pantomime firing on his teammates in the pre-game circle before the game against Philadelphia. It’s like common sense went out of the window, and frankly, Arenas deserves everything he gets.

But in a story that seems to be constantly twisting and turning, rumours that Crittendon responded to Arenas threats by brandishing his own gun, loading it and then chambering a round. If this is true, then Crittendon’s hostile reaction is much worse than Arenas’ initial actions. If a gun was actually loaded, then no one can downplay the “it was just a joke, no guns were loaded” angle. Also, Crittendon could be kicked out of the league, as well as face serious legal prosecution.

Arenas allegedly tried to cover for Crittendon, he originally withheld details of the seldom-used guard’s actions in order to protect him from prosecution, saying he would accept full responsibility for what happened that day. Whatever allegedly happened, you do not bring guns, unloaded or not, into a locker room. Arenas’ actions were unacceptable and he should have known better than to act in such an inappropriate way.

Since signing a 6 year, $111 million deal in 2008, Arenas has spent most of his time on the sidelines, only playing 47 games in the last three seasons because of a knee injury (13 games in 2007-08, 2 games in 2008-09 and 32 games this season). Not exactly value for money. And with Arenas returning from injury this season, combined with All-stars Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, and new arrivals Randy Foye and Mike Miller, the Wizards had high hopes for this season and were hoping to challenge the top three teams in the East. Currently at 11-22 and well out of the playoff picture, the Wizards are struggling big time, trailing the likes of the Knicks, Bobcats and Bucks in the standings.

I think Arenas is going to be made an example of, if prosecutors find him guilty of possessing illegal firearms, then I can see the NBA voiding his huge contract, something I can imagine the Wizards would be glad to get rid of if they keep constantly underachieving. And with the firearms charges hanging over Cleveland guard Delonte West due to be reach court soon, this has brought more negative attention to the NBA, and threatens to ruin it’s clean-cut image, embodied by well-behaved superstars like Chris Paul, Lebron James, Brandon Roy etc.

McGrady does not deserve to be an All-Star

The recent round of All-Star votes was released this week, and the usual suspects look like they will be starting in Dallas in February – Kobe leads the way, Lebron, Wade, Melo, Dwight Howard are in… and Tracy McGrady. With 746,000 votes, T-Mac is second amongst guards in the Western Conference, trailing Kobe but ahead of Steve Nash (744,000), Chris Paul (701,000), Jason Kidd (429,000), Chauncey Billups (310,000) and Deron Williams (285,000).

Despite playing in only 6 games this season (3.2 ppg in 7 mpg) since returning from microfracture surgery last season, McGrady is set to start in the ASG. He keeps gaining votes even though the Rockets have refused to play him and want to trade the 7 time All-Star and his $23 million expiring contract.

T-Mac’s popularity in fan voting has caused major controversy: does he deserve to be an All-Star when he isn’t even playing for his team? No doubt it’s fans from China, who are so devastated by the loss of Rockets center Yao Ming through injury, who are voting for T-Mac and Rockets teammates Trevor Ariza and Aaron Brooks in their hordes. How else can you explain Aaron Brooks getting more All-Star votes than Brandon Roy, Billups and Tony Parker?

Even though McGrady is a few years past his prime and ultimately doesn’t deserve an All-Star spot, if the fans want him to start, it’s their prerogative. The All-Star game is a spectacle for the fans, and they pick who they want to see. The T-Mac situation is nothing new: no one moaned when Magic Johnson was voted in as a starter for the 1992 ASG despite having retired and not played a single game that season. And no one kicked up a fuss when Vince Carter gave up his starting spot so Michael Jordan could play in his final ASG in 2003.

So many people complain about pro sports being out of touch with its fan base, but the All-Star game is a game for the fans, and they choose their favourite players. And even though T-Mac doesn’t deserve it, you cannot deny the concept of fan voting. Just don’t expect Deron Williams to be overjoyed when he gets another snub for the All Star game because of the overcrowding of guards in the West….