Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The League's New Best Duo

Which Tandem Will Emerge Now that Kobe and Shaq have Split?

By Anthony Peretore

Through the years, we as basketball fans have eagerly adapted to the varying fascinations the NBA has had to offer. Over the past two decades, these inclinations have revolved primarily around the players performing at (or escalating to) Hall of Fame levels. During the late 1980s and early 90s, fans became enthralled with the individual star: Jordan, Magic, Bird, Barkley, Dominique, Ewing, Isiah, and the list goes on. As children (and some bizarre adults), we couldn't help but try our best to emulate the different aspects of our idols’ games: Jordan’s tongue wag, Bird’s jumper, Magic’s no-look, ‘Nique’s dunks, etc. As we’ve matured however, our interests have carried us to a stronger appreciation for team play. Thus, our fascination with the individual has gradually evolved into one with the duo: Magic and Worthy, Bird and McHale, Jordan and Pippen, Shaq and Penny, Drexler and Hakeem, Stockton and Malone, Tripucka and Rambis (just making sure you’re awake), and the most intriguing of all, Shaq and Kobe. Since 1996, we have had the privilege of following the emergence of this mysterious L.A. duo. The recurrent fluctuations within their relationship were never kept secret, and as their tensions grew stronger, our curiosity followed suit. Thanks to these former Laker teammates, fans' ever-increasing fascination with the duo has arguably reached its peak. Now that Kobe and Shaq have divorced however, it is essential that we uncover the league’s next best duo.

After the off-season trade between Orlando and Houston, it seemed accurate in predicting Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady would emerge as the NBA’s next best twosome. Much to our surprise however, this Rockets' duo has struggled thus far and several other two-man tandems have stepped up to challenge Ming-Mac for the title. So far, the duos of Shaq and Dwayne Wade in Miami, Cleveland's LeBron James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan in San Antone, and the Suns’ Stevie Nash and Amare Stoudemire, all look eager to test McGrady and Ming. Let’s take a look at how these inside/outside combinations have fared thus far in the 2004-05 season and determine who truly is the NBA's new best duo.

Note: Rank within that category among the five duos in ( )’s

  • Dwayne Wade #3 and Shaquille O’Neal #34, Miami Heat
  • Combined Stats: 45.8 PPG(1), 17.5 RPG(2), 9.8 APG(2), 2.1 SPG(t-3), 4.4 BPG(1)
  • Total Ranking: 9

No one doubted Shaq would have a great year down in Miami, but Dwayne Wade's emergence as an MVP candidate has propelled the Heat to a 10-6 record, first place in the Southwest Division. Thus far in 2004, DWade (24.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.9 SPG, 1.4 BPG) has to be considered the best all-around point guard, especially with Baron Davis and Jason Kidd on the shelf with injuries. Besides Lebron and Kobe, the second-year stud from Marquette is the only player in the league filling all five categories on a consitent basis. Add to it that Shaq (finally rid of his hamstring injury) is dominating once again, and it's no wonder this team had won 5 of their last 7 before their collapse last night against the Raptors. For the season, the "Diesel" is averaging 20.9 PPG, 12.1 RPG and is second in the league with a gaudy 3.0 BPG. With Indiana ravaged with suspensions and Detroit struggling early, Miami has quietly emerged as the "Beast of the East."

  • LeBron James #23 and Zydrunas Ilgauskas #11, Cleveland Cavs
  • Combined Stats: 44.2 PPG(2), 15.8 RPG(3), 7.7 APG(3), 3.3 SPG(1), 2.6 BPG(3)
  • Total Ranking: 12

How can anyone put into words what LeBron James is doing for the NBA? Am I the only one who realizes he's only 19 frickin years old!? King James (26.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 6.1 APG, 2.4 SPG, 1.1 BPG) has to be considered the MVP of the league right now, leading the Cavaliers to a surprising 9-5 record, just 1 game back of the Central-leading Pacers. With his stellar all-around play reaching a new level this season, LeBron's Cavalier teammates have reaped the benefits, especially the Big Z. The 7-3 Lithuanian, Ilgauskas (17.9 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.5 BPG), is averaging a career-high in points thanks in most part to the pentration ability and unselfishness of James. Ilgauskas' inside-outside game has complimented LeBron extremely well, perhaps well enough to snatch the Central Division away from the favored Pistons and Pacers. It will be very exciting to see how far these two can carry the Cavs in the 2005 Playoffs (Yes, they're making it).

  • Manu Ginobili #20 and Tim Duncan #21, San Antonio Spurs
  • Combined Stats: 38.8 PPG(4), 18.1 RPG(1), 7.0 APG(4), 2.9 SPG(2), 3.3 BPG(2)
  • Total Ranking: 13

We all expected Duncan (23.3 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.8 SPG, 2.9 BPG) to play well early, especially after a slightly down year last season and an extremely disappointing Olympic performance in Athens. These same expectations were not as high for Ginobili (15.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.7 APG, 2.1 SPG, 0.4BPG) however, who currently leads the team in steals and ranks 2nd in points and assists. Along with Duncan, the Argentinean star has helped lead the Spurs to the third best record in the league at 12-3, comfortably atop the Southwest Division. Many consider San Antone to be the team to beat this season, and with TD and Manu leading the way, those predictions seem right on course.

  • Steve Nash #13 and Amare Stoudemire #32, Phoenix Suns
  • Combined Stats: 42.2 PPG(3), 12.0 RPG(5), 12.4 APG(1), 2.1 SPG(T-3), 2.0 BPG(5)
  • Total Ranking: 17

This Suns' duo is perhaps the surprise tandem of the group. The Mavericks, worried about Nash's chronic back problems, elected not to re-sign their point guard, shying many teams away from the Canadian. However, Phoenix GM Jerry Colangelo felt confident in Nash's ability to lead his Phoenix team into the playoffs and so far, so good. With an All-Star starting lineup in desert, Nash (15.7 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 11.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.0 BPG) leads the league in dimes and has shown no signs of an ailing back. Phoenix, currently 12-2, holds the league's best overall record thanks largely in part to Nash and his favorite inside target, Stoudemire. The third-year product out of 12th grade is having his best season as a pro: 26.0 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.9 SPG, 2.0 BPG. With their solid supporting cast of Shawn Marion, Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson, expect Amare and Nash to maintain their post among the top 5 duos all season.

  • Tracy McGrady #1 and Yao Ming #11, Houston Rockets
  • Combined Stats: 38.1 PPG(5), 12.7 RPG(4), 6.5 APG(5), 1.4 SPG(5), 2.2 BPG(4)
  • Total Ranking: 23

So here they are, the weakest of the 5 duos statistically, with the worst team record (6-10) to go with it. McGrady (20.2 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 5.4 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.9 BPG) is having his poorest season since 1999, his last year as a Dinosaur in Toronto. He and his counterpart, Ming (17.9 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.4 SPG, 1.3 BPG) have not found the rhythm the fans in Houston had hoped for, in what is supposed to be a promising 2004-05 season. There is room for optimism however, with Bobby Sura coming off the injured list this past Saturday. Neither Charlie Ward or Tyronn Lue have been the playmaking point guard Coach Jeff Van Gundy expected them to be. So, in comes Sura (14.7 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 5.3 APG in his final 27 games w/ Atlanta last season) who will be counted on immediately to jumpstart not only McGrady and Ming, but this entire Rockets team. Maybe then TMac and Ming will begin to develop as the duo we all expected them to be at the beginning of the year.

So who's the NBA's best duo? The numbers don't lie. Shaq still holds the crown, doing it by replacing a selfish superstar in L.A. with a pass-first All-Star-to-be in Miami. But just a fifth of the way into the 2004-05 season, we cannot count out MVP LeBron who's flying high with the Big Z in Cleveland. Or Duncan, who's back to his old self with his buddy Manu. Or Stevie Nash and Amare, who are redefining the term "alley-oop" in the desert. And, despite their sluggish start, we cannot forget about Yao and TMac either. Expect these two to get their acts together and start improving their stats across the board. While this battle for league's best duo should go back and forth all season, don't be surprised if we find ourselves falling in love with some new fascinations all the way. Hey, we've been doing it our whole lives, why stop now?

The Heat Hope This Will Be the Only Green Dwayne Wade Will be Smoking This Season

Amare says, "Dunk you very much!"

The Kirilenko-less Utah Jazz better get used to this sight as they go up against the Suns tonight Posted by Hello

Tuesday's NBA Picks

November 30, 2004

Home Team in Caps
Records within parentheses represent Anthony/Paul's record with respective team
Note: All picks posted at least one hour prior to first tip-off.

Anthony's Picks:

Last Night: (1-2), Week: (1-2), Year (76-67-4), Locks: (9-2)

  • New York [8-1] -5.5 over ATLANTA [5-5] (L)
  • Toronto [8-4] +7.5 over MIAMI [7-2-1] (W)
  • Charlotte [5-5] +3.5 over NEW JERSEY [5-4] (L)
  • MEMPHIS [5-5]-1 over Sacramento [3-5-1] (L)
  • MILWAUKEE [6-2] -3 over Lakers [5-3]--LOCK (L)
  • Detroit [5-5] +5 over HOUSTON [6-3-1] (W)
  • San Antonio [5-4-1] -1.5 over DALLAS [6-5] (W)
  • Phoenix [5-5] -4.5 over UTAH [4-7] (W)
  • PORTLAND [3-6] -2 over Seattle [5-6] (W)
Paul's Picks:

Last Night: (0-3), Week: (0-3), Year: (81-66-5), Locks: (9-2)

  • New York [6-3] -5.5 over ATLANTA [5-5] (L)
  • Toronto [8-4] +7.5 over MIAMI [8-2-1] (W)
  • NEW JERSEY [5-4] -3.5 over Charlotte [5-4-1] (W)
  • Sacramento [4-5-1] +1 over MEMPHIS [5-6] (W)
  • MILWAUKEE [7-2] -3 over Lakers [4-4] (L)
  • Detroit [6-4] +5 over HOUSTON [4-5-1] (W)
  • San Antonio [3-6-1] -1.5 over DALLAS [9-3] (W)
  • Phoenix [5-5] -4.5 over UTAH [6-5]--LOCK (W)
  • PORTLAND [5-4] -2 over Seattle [5-7] (W)

5 on Five 11/29-12/5

5 on Five

Week of 11/29-12/5
By Paul Benedict

5 Faces to Watch
Theme: Players Itching for More PT

1. Mikki Moore, C, Los Angeles Clippers
-Since the beginning of the 2001-02 season, Mikki (pronounced Mikey, not Mickey, ok?) has played a grand total of 84 games for 6 different teams--he was even let go by the Hawks! It's taken some time, but the former CBA stud appears to have finally found a role for the Clippers that's not the rent-a-center gig he's become so accustomed to (the Hawks!). With Chris Kaman sidelined for the first few weeks of the season, Mike Dunleavy gave the 7'0 Moore a chance to play quality minutes off the bench, and he's responded by playing some pretty good basketball. In a shade over 20 minutes a game, Moore is putting up 7.1 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 0.8 BPG and has some impressive shooting percentages of 57.8 from the floor and 78.8 from the line. While Kaman's return might cause a jam in the Clippers' frontcourt rotation, Dunleavy will be hard-pressed in cutting down on Moore's playing time.

2. Mickael Pietrus, G/F, Golden State Warriors
-The Warriors' lottery pick a year ago has played just 4 games this season since recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, but his impact in the lineup has already been felt. Pietrus is scoring 9.5 PPG in just 16.5 MPG, but his real significance is felt on the defensive end. With outstanding athleticism and relentless energy, Pietrus saw valuable minutes towards the end of last season and drew raves across the league for his defensive prowess. Mike Montgomery has reportedly been fed up with Mike Dunleavy's lack of production, so it could be just a matter of time before Pietrus is implemented into the lineup, and if his offense continues to blossom, his presence could be a major difference-maker for the Warriors.

3. Earl Watson, PG, Memphis Grizzlies
-One of the more underappreciated players in the league today, Watson has some Memphis faithful clamoring for him to replace Jason Williams in the Grizzlies starting lineup after a solid start to the season. In 21 MPG with the second unit, Watson is scoring at a clip of 8.0 PPG, dishing out 4.9 APG, and averaging just under a steal per game (0.8). If Mike Fratello ends up as the Grizzlies next coach, a guy known for his no-nonsense, defensive-emphasis approach, then there's a fair chance that Watson receives more minutes and potentially supplants J-Dub as the Grizz starter at point.

4. Mehmet Okur, C, Utah Jazz
-The Jazz signed Okur to a long-term deal during the summer and it was assumed that the 7-footer would fit right into the starting lineup, but through 14 games Jerry Sloan has stuck with Jarron Collins. That might be about to change with the way Okur has played recently (one of the few bright spots for the Jazz), having scored in double-figured in five straight (14.6 PPG and 57.8FG% in that span) and erasing any concerns about his slump to begin the season. With Andrei Kirilenko now out a month, Sloan will likely look to Okur to shoulder more of the scoring load and a move into the starting lineup seems imminent.

5. Eddie Griffin, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves
-Griffin has returned to the NBA with a vengeance this season, shedding the psychotic label and performing at the level he showed flashes of during his glory days (all 3 of them) with the Rockets. Though his minutes have been inconsistent off the bench, Griffin has very effective when given 20+ minutes (13.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 10-21 3PTS). Michael Olowokandi (or as we like to say, O-no-its-kandi) returned to the lineup Sunday night after a 2-game suspension, but Griffin kept 7-foot bust on the bench by having his best game of the season (20 PTS, 9 REBS, 5 BLKS, 4-5 3PTS. If Onoitskandi continues to play like (and look like) a bum, then Coach Saunders might have to 'flip' the lineup around and get Griffin some more burn.

5 Fascinating Factoids

1. The Spurs have beaten the Jazz 18 times in a row after routing Utah at the SBC Center on Saturday night. Remember last week when I mentioned how the Spurs had a 14-game win streak against the Celts, and that this sort of supremacy was reminiscent of the West's control over the East? Well maybe this San Antonio dominance over Utah is just a clear sign of the Spurs' reign over the entire NBA.

2. Danny Fortson is the only player in the NBA to average a triple double per 48 minutes, and he's doing it in convincing fashion by averaging 26.6 PPG, 18.6 RPG, and an unprecedented 14.3 FPG. The Seattle enforcer has committed at least 5 fouls in all but one game this season (he had 4 that game) and has an eye-popping total of 66 fouls and 6 technical fouls (both leading the NBA) in 13 games played. Now I'm not sure if Nate McMillan is slapping Fortson around before games to get this guy to play the way he is, but I am positive that Fortson has had a tremendous effect on the success of the Sonics this season. For the past couple seasons, teams have just pounded the ball down low against Seattle's thin frontline, but this year, with the 2-headed paint-consuming monster in Fortson/Evans leading the way, opponents are struggling to overpower the Sonics.

3. Back in his hometown of NYC and playing in front of family and friends, Rafer Alston saw his Roger Maris-like streak of 61 consecutive games of making a 3-pointer come to an end after missing all five of his long-range attempts. It was a truly remarkable run for Alston, but it's no shock that it came to an end this weekend as the breakout point guard has encountered his first shooting slump of the season. Alston is shooting just 13-46 (28.3%) in his past four games, but if those 61 games are any indication, then Alston should get back on track quick.

4. Up until Saturday's loss to the Magic, Sixers F/C Brian Skinner had not played since November 16 after 4 consecutive DNP-CDs. If you'll remember back to the summer, GM Billy King went hard after Boston's Mark Blount in the free agent market, but after Blount re-upped with the Celts, King brought back former-Sixer Brian Skinner (5 years, $25 million) to provide depth upfront. At the time it sounded like a respectable deal given that Skinner was coming off of his best season ever as Milwaukee's starting center (10.5PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.1 BPG), but now with Skinner behind Marc Jackson, Kenny Thomas, Samuel Dalembert, and (gasp) Josh Davis on the depth chart, the move looks just a tad peculiar.

5. LeBron James became the youngest player ever to score 2,000 points in Saturday's blowout win over the Bulls; just one of the many records LeBron is sure to set throughout the course of his career. LBJ is truly the key for the NBA in winning back the respect of the people in light of the recent troublesome publicity, and so far he's doing his best to steer the attention in his direction. He's already had two jaw-dropping performances on national television (the Phoenix comeback and the 43-point outburst against Detroit), a number of jump-out-of-your-seat highlights (including the fastbreak dunk where his armpits are above the rim), and led a Cleveland surge in the East that most people didn't anticipate for at least a year or two. And the Cavaliers have only played 14 games! I'm going to keep watching, are you?

5 Fretful Thoughts

1. Everyone had been talking about how much Indiana was going to struggle without their top three players, but it appears that Detroit is the team finding life more difficult in the wake of the recent suspensions. The Pistons, a team we tend to forget won a Championship last year entirely because of their physically stiffling defense, is clearly a different team with Wallace out of action. In 6 games this season without the services of the two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Detroit is 2-4 and allowing an astounding 101 PPG; in 6 games with Big Ben, the Pistons are 4-2 and giving up just 91.5 PPG. Perhaps people should take a step back and realize that maybe it wasn't Detroit's "team game" that lead them to victory in June--maybe the Pistons are just Ben Wallace's team.

2. The Jazz are clearly out-of-tune after charging out of the gate to begin the season, having lost 5 of 7 including embarassing losses to the last two winless teams, the Hornets and the Bulls. After scoring 100+ in each victory during their 6-1 start, Utah has eclipsed the century mark just once in their past 7 games--a 107-105 overtime loss to the Heat. Now with Andrei Kirilenko expected to miss up to a month of action, Jerry Sloan not only has to figure out how to get his offense going, but also how to replace such a dynamic presence like AK47 on the defensive end. That's a lot to worry about when your next 9 games are against teams with winning records.

3. Many people thought that Eddie Jones had a chance to be the biggest benefactor from Shaq's arrival in South Beach, but thus far that has shown to be anything but the case. After dropping more than 17 a game for the 4th-straight season in Miami a year ago, Jones is struggling (career-low 10.7 PPG) to find shots in the Heat offense (10.0 FGA) and more problematic, he's not making them (34.7 FG%, 30.0 3PT%). Now 33 years-old, it might not be a shock that Jones' production is beginning to tumble; his minutes, shots per game, and field goal %, have all gone down in the last three seasons, and now are taking a serious dive this season. Stan Van Gundy still needs EJ's experience and defense in the lineup, but might have to look elsewhere for some extra offense.

"Did we just blow another 4th quarter lead? Are you serious?"

4. The Boston Celtics are off to a frustrating start (5-8) in what many thought would be a playoff-bound season. And it's no secret why they're having trouble winning--they just can't close out a game in the 4th quarter. Of Boston's five wins, four have been in blowout fashion by an average of 21.5 PPG, with just one of their 8 losses by double-digits. In the seven single-digit losses for the Celts, they are being outscored by an eye-opening average of 29.1 to 20.7 in the 4th. With a crunch-time lineup featuring five players (Payton, Pierce, Davis, LaFraentz, and Blount) who are at least 25 years-old with 5 years experience, it's a wonder why these guys can't finish off some of the younger teams that have toppled them late (Cleveland, Washington, Philadelphia), and until they figure this problem out, they're going to continue to encounter problems.

5. Amongst playoff teams from a year ago, only the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets had as poor away records as the Milwaukee Bucks (14-27), so it's not surprising to see the Bucks continue to have road woes this season. At 0-6, Milwaukee is the only non-expansion team yet to win a road game and is going to find it quite difficult to compete in the East unless they can overcome this obstacle. With their next four road contests against Boston, Indiana, Philadelphia, and Chicago, now might be a good time for Milwauke to buck through this trend.

5 Fantastic Matchups

1. Seattle at Portland, Tuesday @ 10:00
-The Sonics haven't won in Portland in two years, and despite their hot start, will encounter trouble once again this year. Portland has one of the more imposing frontlines in the NBA and so Seattle will need its Fortson/Evans rebounding concoction to contain the boards and keep Randolph and co. off the offensive glass (2nd in the West in ORPG).

2. Cleveland at Phoenix, Wednesday @ 9:00
-A rematch of unquestionably the game of the year in the NBA thus far in which LeBron James dropped 17 points and Zydrunas Ilguaskas buried a game-tying 3-pointer at the end of regulation in a miraculous 19-point 4th quarter comeback. It certainly doen't hurt the magnitude of this game when both teams are near the top of their respective conferences and playing some pretty damn good basketball to boot.

3. Cleveland at Denver, Thursday @ 10:30
-The first matchup this season featuring the glorified rivalry of LeBron and Carmelo; it's a shame its only the second year and it already appears their careers might be headed in separate directions. At least there's still LeBron vs. Dwayne--and we get four of those games.

4. Detroit at New Orleans, Saturday @ 8:00
-Ben Wallace returns to the Pistons lineup after completing his 6-game suspension for initiating the malice in the palice. The bruised and battered Hornets should provide tasty fodder for a team hungry to get on track.

5. Minnesota at Clippers, Saturday @ 10:30
-The Timberwolves appear to have gotten their act together after a humiliating loss to the Pacers on Thanksgiving Day and will take their show to the Staples Center to battle the surprising Clippers, who will be in the midst of a 7-game homestand on Saturday night. The Clips have lost four straight to the Western Conference powers after crushing the Sonics on opening night, so this game might shed some light on just how real Dunleavy's boys might be.

5 Fearless Forecasts

1. Indiana's surprising run is about to come to a screeching halt. Let's face it--the Pacers are running on fumes. Yeah they've played well since the suspensions were dealt out, but how can anyone possibly expect this team to keep it up? Did anyone remind them that they just lost their three best players? Truth of the matter is, Pacers are playing great team basketball and finding ways to score; everyone knew they would still be playing Carlisle defense even without O'Neal, Artest, and Jackson, but to throw a bunch of guys on the court with little experience playing in the NBA let alone together--that wouldn't be so easy. There's a few factors working against the Pacers right now: A) They are still lacking depth, and it will begin to show. B) 5 of their next 7 are on the road; 4 against Western Conference opponents. C) Opposing teams can now scout the Pacers after not having a clue what to expect before. I still think Indiana has what it takes to remain competitive and Carlisle will undoubtedly continute to get the most out of his guys, but look for their Central Division lead to quickly slip away.

2. The Hornets won't surpass the 90-point mark until Baron gets back. This team is really going to struggle to score; first they lose Jamal Mashburn for the season, next Baron finds his usual place on the injured list, then Rodney Rogers joins Baron on the IL, and now Jamaal Magliore is out up to three months. Byron Scott is now left relying on three senior citizens (Wesley, Armstrong, and Brown) and a journeyman (Nailon) to carry the scoring load. Yikes.

3. The Washington Wizards, who haven't won more than 44 games since the 1977-78 season, will eclipse that win total and make the playoffs this season. I'll admit that I had my doubts about this club before the season began, but talent-wise, I knew they easily ranked with the top tier of teams in the Eastern Conference. Antawn Jamison (23.6 PPG, 9.4 RPG) and Larry Hughes (19.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 4.9 APG, 2.8 SPG) have simply been magnificent for the Wiz, Gilbert Arenas is still lighting up (20.8 PPG) and also beginning to show more poise at the point (8 turnovers in last 4 games after averaging 4.7 per game before), and each key member of the supporting cast (Hayes, Haywood, Jeffries, Dixon) has made significant contributions at some point during the team's 7-5 start. Eddie Jordan is doing a noteworthy job in just his second season and optimism will continue to grow for the Wiz once Kwame Brown and Etan Thomas (two major frontcourt factors) return from injury.

4. Assuming that Jerry West hires Mike Fratello to coach the Grizzlies, the Czar will have the Grizz playing good basketball again, but they'll still miss the playoffs. Fratello took both the Hawks and the Cavs into the playoffs in his first season, so expect him to have a positive effect on the team despite not having coached in five years. He also employs similar coaching strategies as Hubie with a heavy emphasis on defense and ball-control, so the team won't have to suddenly adapt to new playing styles and schemes. However, the West is loaded and with the Sonics and Clippers playing like they might remain steady throughout the season, the Czar will have quite a few teams to overcome if he is to get the Grizz back into the playoffs.

5. Despite a loss Sunday night to the Timberwolves (a team that has owned them as of late) at Arco Arena that ended their 7-game win streak, Sacramento is still the team to beat in the Pacific and will win the division. Already with road wins against their chief competitors in the division (Suns and Lakers), the Kings have started to once again resemble the club that has been a force in the West for the past half-decade. Sacramento has the talent and the experience, something that the Lakers, Clippers, and Suns all lack as strong a combination of, to maintain the level of play it will take to offset the oncoming pressure from their division rivals. It will be close, but in the end the Kings should claim their rightful crown.

Monday, November 29, 2004

LeBron Loves the Lock

LeBron James smiles upon hearing that Anthony has put the LOCK down on a Cavaliers win tonight against the Clippers.

Monday's NBA Picks

November 29, 2004

-Home Team in Caps
-Records within parentheses represent Anthony/Paul's record with respective team
Note: All picks posted at least one hour prior to first tip-off.

Anthony's Picks

Last Night:(4-3), Last Week:(29-22-2), Year:(75-65-4), Locks:(9-1)

  • Boston [3-6] +5 over ORLANDO [5-2] (W)
  • DENVER [5-4] -10 over New Orleans [4-3-1] (L)
  • Cleveland [5-5] Even over CLIPPERS [7-4]--LOCK (L)

Paul's Picks

Last Night:(4-3), Last Week:(29-21-3), Year: (81-63-5), Locks:(9-2)

  • ORLANDO [8-0] -5 over Boston [4-5] (L)
  • DENVER [6-4] -10 over New Orleans [4-3-1] (L)
  • Cleveland [4-6] Even over CLIPPERS [5-6] (L)

Fantasy Front: Small Forwards

Provided are the fantasy rankings of the Top 10 Small Forwards based upon their play thus far in the 2004-05 season. Also included are a handful of guys that could have significant impact in the near future and those you should depend on only as viable backups.

We will base our rankings on a five category head-to-head league, thus, only points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks will factor into this list. Players averages for each category will be listed, as well as their ranking in that particular category compared to the rest of the top ten, denoted in ( ).

Note: Ranking will not always be determined by 'Total Ranking'

1. LeBron James #23, Cleveland Cavaliers
Stats: 40.9 mins, 26.6 PPG(1), 7.9 RPG(4), 6.2 APG(1), 2.2 SPG(1), 1.2 BPG(t-2)
Total Ranking: 9
Status: Not Budging…King James has upped all his stats from a year ago…MVP?

2. Richard Jefferson #24, New Jersey Nets
Stats: 42.0 mins, 22.2 PPG(3), 8.9 RPG(3), 3.6 APG(3), 1.0 SPG(7), 0.5 BPG(5)
Total Ranking: 21
Status: Staying put…Being the only weapon in NJ may wear him down eventually

3. Grant Hill #33, Orlando Magic
Stats: 36.1 mins, 20.8 PPG(4), 5.5 RPG(8), 3.9 APG(2), 1.4 SPG(t-3), 0.3 BPG(t-8)
Total Ranking: 25
Status: Who knows?…It all depends on that ankle of his…

4. Andrei Kirilenko #47, Utah Jazz
Stats: 34.4 mins, 14.8 PPG(9), 7.2 RPG(5), 2.6 APG(6), 1.4 SPG(t-3), 4.4 BPG (1)
Total Ranking: 24
Status: Falling…Knee injury will keep him out 1-2 weeks

5. Antawn Jamison #4, Washington Wizards
Stats: 41.4 mins, 24.4 PPG(2), 9.4 RPG(2), 2.4 APG(8), 1.2 SPG(t-5), 0.4 BPG(t-6)
Total Ranking: 23
Status: Steady…Stats may fall off when Kwame returns (Late-Dec.?)

6. Carmelo Anthony #15, Denver Nuggets
Stats: 35.6 mins, 19.6 PPG(7), 6.2 RPG(6), 3.1 APG(5), 1.2 SPG(t-5), 0.4 BPG(t-6)
Total Ranking: 29
Status: Falling?…Needs help from his teammates; ankle injury doesn't help

7. Lamar Odom #7 Los Angeles Lakers
Stats: 34.7 mins, 14.2 PPG(10), 10.6 RPG(1), 2.5 APG(7), 0.9 SPG(t-8), 1.1 BPG(4)
Total Ranking: 30
Status: Rising…Points and Assists should increase as Lakers improve

8. Rashard Lewis #7, Seattle Supersonics
Stats: 38.6 mins, 20.7 PPG(5), 5.6 RPG(7), 1.2 APG(10), 0.9 SPG(t-8), 1.2 BPG(t-2)
Total Ranking: 32
Status: Steady…If Sonics can keep this up, RL will continue break out year

9. Peja Stojakovic #16, Sacramento Kings
Stats: 40.0 mins, 20.0 PPG(6), 3.9 RPG(10), 1.9 APG(9), 1.5 SPG(2), 0.3 BPG(t-8)
Total Ranking: 35
Status: Rising…Numbers are all down from a year ago…

10. Corey Maggette #50, Los Angeles Clippers
Stats: 35.2 min, 18.5 PPG(8), 5.0 RPG(9), 3.5 APG(4), 0.9 SPG(t-8), 0.0 BPG(10)
Total Ranking: 39
Status: Slipping?…Ankle injury may cause set back

Sleeper (Rookie leading his team)...
  • Luol Deng #9, Chicago Bulls
    Stats: 29.2 mins, 14.9 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.3 BPG
    Status: Numbers will jump when he’s awarded a starting spot

Waking Up? (May eventually emerge as legit threat)...

  • Al Harrington #3, Atlanta Hawks
    Stats: 39.0 mins, 16.9 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.2 BPG
    Status: One of only two legit scorers in the ATL

In a Coma (Use only as viable backups)...

  • Andre Iguodala (PHI), Keith Van Horn (MIL), Caron Butler (LAL), Mike Dunleavy (GS), Tim Thomas (NYK), Shareef Abdur-Rahim (POR), Wally Szczerbiak (MIN), Josh Howard (DAL), James Posey (MEM)

Practically Dead (Little chance of returning this season)

  • Ron Artest #91, Indiana Pacers
    Stat Line: 24.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.9 BPG
    Status: Would rank 3rd on Top 10 list…Keep promoting your CD moron…

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Don't Leave Me Hubie!!!!

Interim Grizziles Coach Lionel Hollins growls at his team while witnessing a 2nd consecutive ass-reaming at the hands of the Mavericks Saturday night.

Sunday's NBA Picks

November 28, 2004

Home Team in Caps

Anthony's Picks:

Last Night: (7-1), Week: (25-19-2), Year: (71-62-4), Locks: (8-1)

  • Washington (3-3-1) +5 over TORONTO (7-4) (W)
  • Golden State (5-3-1) +7 over CLIPPERS (7-3) (L)
  • Boston (2-6) +8 over MIAMI (6-2-1)--LOCK (W)
  • New Jersey (5-3) +10.5 over PORTLAND (3-5) (L)
  • SACRAMENTO (3-4-1) -4.5 over Minnesota (5-4) (L)
  • Indiana (5-4) +9 over SEATTLE (4-6) (W)
  • LAKERS (4-3) -10.5 over New Orleans (3-3-1) (W)

Paul's Picks:

Last Night: (7-1), Week: (25-18-3), Year: (77-60-5), Locks: (8-1)

  • Washington (3-4-1) +5 over TORONTO (7-4) (W)
  • CLIPPPERS (4-6) -7 over Golden State (4-4-1) (W)
  • Boston (3-5) +8 over MIAMI (7-2-1) (W)
  • New Jersey (5-3) +10.5 over PORTLAND (5-3) (L)
  • SACRAMENTO (4-4-1) -4.5 over Minnesota (3-6)--LOCK(L)
  • Indiana (6-2-1) +9 over SEATTLE (4-7)--LOCK(W)
  • New Orleans (4-2-1) +10.5 over LAKERS (4-3) (L)

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Saturday's NBA Picks

November 27, 2004

Home Team in Caps

Note: Due to internal confusion, last night's Indiana/Charlotte game was picked under separate lines. Paul took Indiana at -5, and Anthony nabbed Charlotte at +7. We're going to mark are picks based on these separate lines, meaning Anthony won and Paul pushed.

Anthony's Picks:

Last Night: (8-5), Week: (18-18-2), Year: (64-61-4), Locks: (7-1)

  • NEW YORK (7-1) -5 over Toronto (6-4) (W)
  • ORLANDO (4-2) -5 Philadelphia (2-4-1) (W)
  • CHARLOTTE (4-5) -3.5 Atlanta (4-5) (W)
  • Chicago (2-6) +9.5 CLEVELAND (5-4) (L)
  • Dallas (5-5) +2 MEMPHIS (4-5)--LOCK (W)
  • SAN ANTONIO (4-4-1) -8 Utah (3-7) (W)
  • Denver (4-4) +6 HOUSTON (5-3-1) (W)
  • MILWAUKEE (5-2) -4 Detroit (4-5) (W)

Paul's Picks:

Last Night: (6-6-1), Week: (18-17-3), Year: (70-59-5), Locks: (7-1)

  • NEW YORK (5-3) -5 over Toronto (6-4) (W)
  • ORLANDO (7-0) -5 over Philadelphia (6-1-1)--LOCK
  • CHARLOTTE (4-4-1) -3.5 over Atlanta (4-5) (W)
  • CLEVELAND (3-6) -9.5 over Chicago (4-4) (W)
  • Dallas (8-3) +2 over MEMPHIS (4-6) (W)
  • SAN ANTONIO (2-6-1) -8 over Utah (5-5) (W)
  • HOUSTON (4-4-1) -6 over Denver (6-3) (L)
  • MILWAUKEE (6-2) -4 over Detroit (5-4) (W)

Friday, November 26, 2004

Scouring the Rumor Mill

November 26, 2004
By Paul Benedict

Every person enjoys exploring the unknown, the unlikely, and the unthinkable--it's just in our nature as mankind to revel in the vast array of possibilities to change and to improve. That's why the NBA rumor mill is appealing to so many of us; who doesn't like to contemplate the thought of acquiring Joe Superstar and seeing how far he can carry your team? Who doesn't love to hear about the gossip surrounding Joe Artest and his storied violent history? Who doesn't get a kick out of hearing the outlandish rumors that Joe Jefferson's sexuality is rather uncommon? I certainly do and so starting now, throughout the season I'm going to make like that ridiculously inane E! Gossip show and pick apart each and every rumor thats raising eyebrows in the NBA's underworld...

Rumor: Vince Carter will be traded by the Toronto Raptors in due time
Gossip: Toronto GM Rob Babcock was about to pull the trigger on a deal that would have sent Vinsanity to Portland, but supposedly received a few last-second phone calls that led him to believe that Carter could garner more on the trade market than Portland was offering (Carter, Rose, Moiso, Palacio for Abdur-Rahim, Anderson, Stepania). Those rumored to have made such calls were the Knicks, Pistons, Bulls, Grizzlies, Sonics, Heat, and Mavericks. Chad Ford of ESPN reports that the Portland deal was never actually discussed, just used as a ploy to draw the stakes higher for his frustrated star. Of the teams interested, the Knicks, Bulls and Grizzlies appear to make the most sense. The Knicks would be willing to give up Tim Thomas and Mike Sweetney, the Bulls could offer Curry/Chandler and draft picks, and the Grizzlies would likely include Bonzi Wells and Mike Miller.
What Will Happen: Carter will be traded soon and it will almost certainly be to one of the above-mentioned teams. I still believe the Portland deal, whether it was a myth or not, makes the most sense for both teams. My hunch is that Babcock will continue to field offers for a little while longer and then actually have serious discussions with Portland GM John Nash and ultimatly come to a deal. I would not be surprised if Isiah Thomas comes up with something, maybe a 3-way deal, that could net him Carter--keep an eye on that.

Rumor: Chicago GM Jon Paxson is looking to deal Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry.
Gossip: The Eddy Curry rumors have been floating around since the beginning of the season and the underachieving center seems destined to be on another team by the February trade deadline. There's been speculation that a 3-way deal is in place which would see Curry end up with the Warriors, Dunleavy being shipped to the Clippers to play under his father, and Chris Wilcox landing on the Bulls. Despite Chris Kaman returning last night for the Clips, Chris Wilcox just seems to be too valuable to the team to give up in exchange for Dunleavy, a 3 who would fight for minutes with Maggette, Simmons, and Kittles. I've also heard that Jerry West is very fond of Curry's abilities and might be willing to throw some offers the Bulls way. And of course, Isiah Thomas is in the mix, trying to get the Bulls to take on Nazr Mohammed and Tim Thomas, but unwilling to part with Mike Sweetney, the guy Paxson would probably take. Chandler seems less likely to be traded, but a swap for Denver's Nene has been reported. However, the Nuggets desperately need a sharpshooting 2 guard, and would likely pull the trigger on a Nene deal if they could find equal value at SG in return.
What Will Happen: Curry will be traded, but I doubt it happens until the February trade deadline, and I highly anticipate it being a deal that hasn't surfaced just yet. With Scott Skiles demoting both Curry and Chandler to the bench, it takes away from their trade value right now. Chandler I firmly believe will not be traded; he's got a good attitude, excellent work ethic, and wants to stay in Chicago. I think he'll prove before the end of the season that he's worth the Bulls' money, and Paxson will sign him long-term during the summer.

Rumor: Karl Malone will return to the NBA this year.
Gossip: It's hard to imagine the Mailman going out the way he did this summer, quietly having knee surgery after the embarassing Finals loss and then calling it a career. He's reportedly back to full strength, but would likely wait till around January to make his return (probably to ensure his body would last through the end of the season). While some people have discussed him ending up with the depleted Pacers, there's just no way Malone switches over to the Eastern Conference and plays with guys he's unfamiliar with. Other teams admittedly having interest are the Timberwolves, Spurs, Jazz, and Heat and while moves to all 4 teams appear to make sense from the teams' standpoint, they don't as much for Malone. It seems likely that Malone returns to the Lakers, a team that could definitely use him and the team that he seems most closely in contact with.
What Will Happen: Malone will come back and join the Lakers sometime in January and instantly make them one of the more exciting teams in the league. Imagine if the Lakers were able to land Jason Kidd, wouldn't the Lakers be the greatest passing team ever? Kidd, Kobe, Odom, Malone, and Divac---WOW.

Rumor: Keon Clark has disappeared.
Gossip: Keon was reportedly contacted by numerous teams this summer in an effort to give him either the veteran's minimum salary or part of their mid-level. However, no phone calls were returned by Clark and no calls were placed by the agent-less power forward. Clark participated in just 2 games a season ago with the Jazz and ended up a part of the Phoenix Suns roster, but with his contract up at the end of last season, is now free to play with any team he pleases. A move to Indiana to play for the Pacers make some sense, but can anybody find this guy?
What Will Happen: I seriously doubt Larry Bird will even attempt to reach the seemingly-odd Keon Clark, given that his roster has enough issues to deal with. Seriously though, what in the hell could Keon Clark be doing? Why would a guy who was just beginning to come into his own walk away from millions? My guess is that Keon is either still battling injury problems or just not interested in playing basketball anytime soon. The prospect of a few million dollars will eventually lure him back to the game, perhaps to play for his hometown Bulls, but even if he does come back, don't expect too much from a guy who hasn't played in a game in over a year.

Rumor: Glenn Robinson will end up with another team at some point.
Gossip: After the Big Dog was told by Jim O'Brien and Billy King that he wasn't going to start for the Sixers this season, and wasn't going to be a major part of the club this season or ever, Robinson told management that he would like to be traded. He then volunteered to go on the injured list and has stayed there the entire season. Robinson has $12 million left on the final year of his contract, so teams looking to free up cap space should at least have some interest. He's also a guy that has averaged over 20 a game throughout his 11-year career, so there has to be someone willing to bring him aboard. Right now the Sixers are being patient, and despite Glenn's urgence to be moved, are probably making the right move. By waiting until the trade deadline, more teams will have given up on their seasons and be looking for cap room, and more might be looking for an experienced scorer to help out during the stretch run. GM Billy King knows that a buyout gains the team nothing, so look for the Sixers to wait for a respectable offer.
What Will Happen: Robinson will be traded, and it will be to a team looking for cap room, not another scorer. His attitude has always been a subject of scrutiny, so don't expect a playoff team to mess with their chemistry just to land an over-the-hill scorer. New Orleans, Chicago, Charlotte, and Golden State all have tradeable assets to offer the Sixers and all are already out of the playoff picture--expect Big Dog to end up with one of these teams.

Friday's NBA Picks

November 26, 2004

Home Team in Caps

*Note* Beginning today, our records with each team will be placed in brackets next to the respective team. i.e. Houston[6-3] (-4) over CLIPPERS [4-7]

Anthony's Picks:

Last Night: (2-0), Week: (10-13-2), Year: (56-56-4), Locks: (7-1)

  • Portland [3-4] (+6.5) over DALLAS [5-4] (L)
  • Orlando [3-2] (-4.5) over ATLANTA [3-5] (W)
  • Washington [2-3-1] (+4) over PHILLY [1-4-1] (W)
  • BOSTON [2-5] (-2) over Cleveland [5-3] (L)
  • Memphis [4-4] (+6) over MINNESOTA [5-3] (L)
  • Charlotte [3-5] (+7) over INDIANA [4-4] (W)
  • Miami [5-2-1] (+1.5) DETROIT [3-5] (W)
  • Houston [5-2-1] (+4.5) UTAH [3-6] (L)
  • San Antonio [3-4-1] (-4.5) DENVER [3-4] (W)
  • New Orleans [2-3-1] (+12) PHOENIX [4-5] (W)
  • SEATTLE [3-6] (-12) over New Jersey [4-3] (W)
  • GOLDEN STATE [5-2-1] (-1) over Clippers [7-2] (L)
  • Sacramento [2-4-1] (+1) LAKERS [3-3] (W)
  • Off Chicago [2-6], Milwaukee [5-2], New York [7-1], Toronto [6-4]

Paul's Picks:

Last Night: (1-1), Week: (12-11-2), Year: (64-53-4), Locks: (7-1)

  • Portland [5-2] (+6.5) over DALLAS [8-2] (L)
  • Orlando [6-0] (-4.5) over ATLANTA [3-5] (W)
  • Washington [2-4-1] (+4) over PHILLY [5-1-1] (W)
  • BOSTON [3-4] (-2) over Cleveland [3-5] (L)
  • Memphis [4-5] (+6) over MINNESOTA [3-5] (L)
  • INDIANA [6-2] (-5) over Charlotte [4-4] (Push)
  • Miami [6-2-1] (+1.5) over DETROIT [4-4] (W)
  • Houston [4-3-1] (+4.5) over UTAH [5-4] (L)
  • DENVER [6-2] (+4.5) over San Antonio [2-5-1] (L)
  • New Orleans [3-2-1] (+12) over PHOENIX [4-5] (W)
  • SEATTLE [3-7] (-12) over New Jersey [4-3] (W)
  • GOLDEN STATE [4-3-1] (-1) over Clippers [4-5] (L)
  • Sacramento [3-4-1] (+1) over LAKERS [3-3] (W)
  • Off: Chicago [4-4], Milwaukee [6-2], New York [5-3], Toronto [6-4]

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Thursday's NBA Picks

November 25, 2004

Home Team in Caps

Anthony's Picks:

Last Night: (3-6), Week: (8-13-2), Year: (54-56-4), Locks: (7-1)
  • INDIANA (+9.5) over Minnesota (W)
  • CLIPPERS (-8.5) over New Jersey (W)
  • Note: No lock tonight

Paul's Picks:

Last Night: (5-4), Week: (11-10-2), Year: (63-52-4), Locks: (6-1)

  • INDIANA (+9.5) over Minnesota--LOCK (W)
  • New Jersey (+8.5) over CLIPPERS (L)

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Fantasy Front: Shooting Guards

By Anthony Peretore

Provided are the fantasy rankings of the Top 10 shooting guards based upon their play thus far in the 2004-05 season. Also included are a handful of guys that could have significant impact in the near future and those you should depend on only as viable backups.

We will base our rankings on a five category head-to-head league, thus, only points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks will factor into this list. Players averages for each category will be listed, as well as their ranking in that particular category compared to the rest of the top ten, denoted in ( ).
Note: Ranking will not always be determined by 'Total Ranking'

1. Kobe Bryant #8, Los Angeles Lakers
Stats: 42.4 mins, 28.1 PPG(1), 6.9 RPG(2), 5.8 APG(1), 1.25 SPG(6), 1.3 BPG(1)
Total Ranking: 11
Status: Not budging…MVP candidate, scoring should go up a bit

2. Paul Pierce #34, Boston Celtics
Stats: 38.8 mins, 23.0 PPG(4), 7.4 RPG(1), 5.4 APG(3), 1.6 SPG(4), 0.6 BPG(t-2)
Total Ranking: 14
Status: Staying in top 3...TMac is only threat to pass the heart and soul of the C's

3. Tracy McGrady #1, Houston Rockets
Stats: 40.5 mins, 21.5 PPG(5), 5.4 RPG(t-4), 5.7 APG(2), 1.2 SPG(t-7), 0.6 BPG(t-2)
Total Ranking: 20
Status: Rising? Numbers way down, should pass Pierce eventually

4. Manu Ginobili #20, San Antonio Spurs
Stats: 30.5 mins, 16.9 PPG(10), 5.1 RPG(6), 4.7 APG(4), 2.1 SPG(2), 0.5 BPG(t-4)
Total Ranking: 26
Status: Falling? Can't keep this up, can he? Will be an All-Star if he does

5. Ray Allen #34, Seattle Supersonics
Stats: 40.0 mins, 25.2 PPG(2), 3.9 RPG(t-8), 3.8 APG(8), 1.4 SPG(5), 0.0 BPG(10)
Total Ranking: 33
Status: Steady...May pass Ginobili, especially in a contract year

6. Larry Hughes #20, Washington Wizards
Stats: 33.8 mins, 18.4 PPG(t-7), 5.4 RPG(t-4), 3.9 APG(7), 3.3 SPG(1), 0.2 BPG(7)
Total Ranking: 26
Status: Slipping...Assist and Steal totals will drop off...expect Arenas to step up

7. Jason Richardson #23, Golden State Warriors
Stats: 36.6 mins, 18.4 PPG(t-7), 6.1 RPG(3), 3.5 APG(9), 1.2 SPG(t-7), 0.5 BPG(t-4)
Total Ranking: 30
Status: Rising...No surgery for JRich means a break out year

8. Michael Redd #22, Milwaukee Bucks
Stats: 40.1 mins, 23.1 PPG(3), 4.8 RPG(7), 2.9 APG(10), 0.8 SPG(10), 0.1 BPG(t-8)
Total Ranking: 38
Status: Staying put...Numbers will remain solid in a contract year

9. Richard Hamilton #32, Detroit Pistons
Stats: 39.9 mins, 21.0 PPG(6), 3.9 RPG(t-8), 4.3 APG(5), 0.9 SPG(9), 0.1 BPG(t-8)
Total Ranking: 36
Status: Slipping?...Career-highs in points and assists...Should remain in bottom 3

10. Jamal Crawford #1, New York Knicks
Stats: 35.5 mins, 17.6 PPG(9), 2.3 RPG(10), 4.1 APG(6), 1.8 SPG(3), 0.5 BPG(t-4)
Total Ranking: 32
Status: Dropping out?... If not soon, when Allan Houston returns (Dec.?) for sure

Just napping...

  • Vince Carter #15, Toronto Raptors
    Stat Line:
    30.9 mins, 15.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.8 BPG
    Status: Number will rise upon his departure from Canada

Injured (Possible Top 10-caliber when healthy)...

  • Michael Finley #4, Dallas Mavericks
    Stat Line: 5 Games, 17.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.4 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.8 BPG
    Status: Numbers should climb across the board...Back in one week

Sleeper (Could step up for a wounded team)...

  • Fred Jones #20, Indiana Pacers
    Stat Line:
    12.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.4 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.3 BPG
    Status: With Artest suspended, Jones has stepped up with 47 points in his last 2

Tossing and Turning (Started off hot, may cool soon)...

  • Bobby Simmons #21, Los Angeles Clippers
    Stat Line: 35.6 mins, 16.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.1 BPG
    Status: With Kittles back from injury, Simmons may be the odd man out

In a coma (Only use as backups)...

  • Ricky Davis (BOS), Kyle Korver (PHI), Jalen Rose (TOR), Cuttino Mobley (ORL), Bonzi Wells (MEM), Latrell Sprewell (MIN), Derek Anderson (POR), Joe Johnson (PHX)

Small Forwards coming soon...

Wednesday's NBA Picks

November 24, 2004

Home Team in Caps

Anthony's Picks

Last Night:(5-3-2), Week:(5-7-2), Year:(51-50-4), Locks:(6-1)

  • CLEVELAND (-5) over Detroit--LOCK OF THE NIGHT (W)
  • TORONTO (-3) over New York (W)
  • ORLANDO (-4.5) over Portland (L)
  • Boston (+3) over PHILADELPHIA (L)
  • Miami (-9.5) over ATLANTA (L)
  • MEMPHIS (-4.5) over Seattle (L)
  • SAN ANTONIO (-10) over Dallas (W)
  • UTAH (-13.5) over Chicago (L)
  • PHOENIX (-10) over Milwaukee (L)

Paul's Picks

Last Night:(4-4-2), Week:(6-6-2), Year:(58-48-4), Locks:(6-1)

  • CLEVELAND (-5) over Detroit (W)
  • TORONTO (-3) over New York (W)
  • Portland (+4.5) over ORLANDO (W)
  • PHILADELPHIA (-3) over Boston (W)
  • Miami (-9.5) over ATLANTA (L)
  • MEMPHIS (-4.5) over Seattle (L)
  • SAN ANTONIO (-10) over Dallas (W)
  • UTAH (-13.5) over Chicago (L)
  • PHOENIX (-10) over Milwaukee (L)
  • NOTE: No lock tonight for Paul

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

5 on Five

5 on Five

Week of 11/22-11/27
By Paul Benedict

5 Faces to Watch
Theme: Early-Season Disappointments

1. Adonal Foyle, C, Golden State Warriors
-Warriors GM Chris Mullin inexplicably gave the injury-prone backup a monster contract this summer (5 years, $41 million), forcing me to scratch my head so long it started bleeding. What the hell was Mullin thinking? Foyle has turned out to be a huge bust (surprise, surprise!), even to the point of being demoted by Mike Montgomery in favor of 59 year-old Dale Davis. In 6 starts, Foyle was averaging a mere 4.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.7 BPG (below his career average), and a whooping 3.7 FPG (8.5 FP48M). Since then he's seen just 30 minutes of action in 4 games, including a DNP-CD in the team's 1st victory of the season. Way to go Golden State--no wonder why you always suck!

2. Ben Gordon, G, Chicago Bulls
-After winning the NCAA Championship at UConn and being taken 3rd by the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Draft in June, Ben Gordon was on top of the world. Too bad that world came crashing down as soon as the regular season began. After just three games, Gordon was yanked from the starting lineup by Scott Skiles due to a lack of intensity and overall ineffectivness, prompting Coach to say, "He's just not playing well enough all the way around to allow himself to stay on the court." Yikes. Of course Gordon is just a rookie and it takes some players more time to adjust than others; and if his vomit-inducing numbers are any indication (32.5 FG%, 2.0 TPG in 19.4 MPG), it could take Gordon awhile.

3. Tim Thomas, SF, New York Knicks
-I've never been a huge fan of Thomas, but he was very steady for the Knicks last season after coming over from Milwaukee in a trade for Keith Van Horn (15.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 45.2 FG%, 40.6 3PT% in 24 games). This season, however, has been a complete disaster thus far for the Villanova product. Through 9 games, Thomas is scoring just 7.9 PPG on 32.6% shooting and turning the ball over at a career-best rate (4.0 P48M) while playing just 23.8 MPG. Rookie Trevor Ariza has been magnificent playing behind him and is starting to push Thomas for minutes, but Lenny Wilkens has assured the veteran that his starting spot is safe for now. Still, Thomas is running out of chances and with Allan Houston slated to come back soon, could see his minutes slashed even more significantly.

4. Jamaal Magliore, C, New Orleans Hornets
-Magliore was a beast after the All-Star break last season (16.4 PPG, 11.9 RPG), convincing many that his surprise All-Star appearance could be the first of many to come. This season has been a different story for the big fella as Magliore (12.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 0.9 BPG, 44.0 FG%) has failed to maintain the level of play he exhibited in the second half of last season and is a major eason why the team is off to a miserable start (0-8). Byron Scott has to be hoping Magliore can get going a little earlier this season--before his team is out of it by the All-Star break.

5. Lorenzen Wright, C, Memphis Grizzlies
-Wright has steadily held down the center spot for the first team since Hubie Brown took over and incorporated his hockey line rotation system. And despite the developing play of up-and-comer Stromile Swift over the past couple years, Wright has seen no change in his playing time and continues to see his share of crunch-time minutes. That could soon change with Stro swiftly emerging as a go-to guy for the Grizz and Lo off to a rough start to the season (5.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 0.7 BPG, 33.3 FG%). While Wright will likely stick with the first team throughout the season, his 4th quarter minutes could quickly disappear unless he steps up his play.

5 Fascinating Factoids

Tuesday: Yao Ming and TMac, who had combined for 19 of the teams 24 points in the 3rd quarter, had taken just 2 shots combined with 1:30 left in the 4th, as the Rockets squandered an 11 point lead to the lowly Hawks.

Thursday: Yao and McGrady, after shooting a combined 6-10 in the 3rd to give Houston a cushy 11 point lead, shoot just 2-6 in the 4th as the Rockets blow another double-digit 4th quarter lead to the Knicks.

Saturday: The duo score 15 of the Rockets' 26 4th quarter and overtime points as the Rockets fend off the Clippers 91-86.

Sunday: Yao and TMac score 8 crucial points in the closing minutes as the Rockets win their second straight on the road, 97-93 in Portland.

Notice a trend here? Do you think the Rockets are taking notes on what they have to do in order to pull out these close 4th quarter battles?

2. The Suns have outscored all 10 of their opponents in the second quarter this year and have led at the half of every game. So what's the secret? Coach Mike D'Antoni rarely substitutes more than 2 of his starters out of the game at a time, meaning the Suns always have their studs matching up against opposing teams' subs in the 2nd quarter. So far this strategy has proved very effective with Phoenix sitting pretty at 8-2. In the long run, however, the heavy minutes for the starters and the lack of depth could end up backfiring. Take a look at the starters' MPG: 37.2, 38.8, 36.6, 35.3, 36.5--the only team in the league in which all 5 starters are playing more than 35 MPG. Remember that 4 of the 5 Suns starters battled injuries last year and that this team runs more than anyone else in the league, and we have ourselves a situation to keep an eye on.

3. After blowing a 4th quarter lead on Friday, the Celtics fell to the Spurs for the 14th consecutive time. This is prime evidence of the West's dominance over the East since the Bulls dynasty ended as both teams have been playoff mainstays in their respective conferences since. The Celts just haven't been able to match up to the Spurs' overpowering frontcourt over the years--a trend that is frequent in the East vs. West battles with the the latter's surplus of power forwards and low-post players causing overwhelming matchup problems for the size-deficient East.

4. With all the hoopla surrounding Artest and his rap (music, not criminal) career, it should be mentioned that a fellow NBA player is also rising in the ranks of the hip-hop world. Minnesota's Troy Hudson, whose stage name is T-Hud, will perform tracks from his debut album, "The Stress of Both Worlds" as he puts on a rap concert for fans at the the Timberwolves' Target Center on December 18. Do you think anyone is questioning why 'T-Hud' missed most of last season because of "injury"?

5. So far all of the rookie talk is surrounding Dwight Howard and his impressive start to the season, and nobody seems to be noticing that another power forward coming straight from high school is putting up gaudy numbers---even if Al Jefferson is only playing limited minutes. In 12.8 MPG, the 6-10 Jefferson is averaging 6.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.0 BPG, and 0.4 TPG while shooting 56.4% from the floor; those numbers come out to 23.5 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 3.8 BPG, and 1.4 TPG per 48 minutes. Outstanding for a kid that many thought wouldn't be ready to make a contribution for at least a year or two. If it wasn't for Raef Lafraentz playing so well to start the season, Jefferson would likely be playing a bigger role for the Celts. If he keeps this up, I'd fully expect him to.

5 Fretful Thoughts

1. My most fretful thought concerning the brawl between the Pistons and the Pacers on Friday night is how the general public responds to this incident. The NBA has already been a subject of scrutiny over players' attitudes, personalities, and roles as professionals, and the publicity surrounding the event emphatically highlighted all of these issues in a very negative light. It's not fair that many observers' will make wrongful judgments about the NBA and its players based on an isolated incident, but it's something we see a lot of in sports and must be overcome in order to ensure the next step for the league is in the right direction. David Stern has always been a dedicated advocator to promoting the NBA as a clean and healthy product, and though he will surely increase his efforts to promoting what's left of the league's positive image, people have to realize that the NBA is a product of itself. Basketball is a city sport, a game that has been played religiously on the streets for years largely because it's an inexpensive sport to play and because its the most easily accessible. It's also become a gateway for poor families to leap out of the projects and a haven for troubled kids to stay away from crime and drugs. These factors all contribute to there being a much larger percentage of professionals coming from tough backgrounds in basketball than with almost every other sport. Take Ron Artest for example: a kid from an abusive, poor home in a rugged urban neighborhood of NYC. This upbringing largely has to do with Artest being a troubled individual today. Should we chastize him for it? No. Should we be more understanding of his personal issues and hope that he can mature into the respectable professional athlete that we all want him to be? Of course. But too many people enjoy lambasting professionals for their mistakes, a result of people's own insecurities. Maybe Artest has screwed up a number of times, but if you're willing to make a judgment on the man without knowing all the facts, then you're screwing up as well.

2. An obvious fretful thought at this point is with the Indiana Pacers and their chances of success now that their team has been decimated due to the recent suspensions. Jermaine O'Neal and Stephen Jackson will both come back to the court in mid-January and probably will return to proper form immediately since they will continue to practice with the team and work-out appropriately to stay in game shape. With the season only about halfway done at this point, it also gives the Pacers ample time to regroup and ensure a spot in the playoffs as long as they haven't completely self-destucted in the wake of the players' absences. Artest's loss will easily prove to be the most detrimental, though there stands a good chance that his suspension will be reduced and he will be available to return come playoff time. If the season-long suspension does remain intact, the Pacers can be written off as a title contender. Boasting a winning percentage of .686 with him, and just .467 without him, the Pacers are not equipped to challenge the likes of the Heat and the Pistons without their #2 scorer and top defender. Of course there is a possibility that Larry Bird can ship him to a willing team, but it's unlikely he will be offered anything substantial at this point. The Pacers best bet will be to cross their fingers that an emotionally healed and driven Artest comes back in March and helps the club rebound from this unfortunate event and play some inspiring basketball in the playoffs. It would be a terrific conclusion to an otherwise sad story.

3. One more concern dealing with Friday's brawl: with David Stern coming down extremely hard on the players involved and Billy Hunter about to appeal the hell out of the Commish's suspensions, I'm a little worried that the gap between the two sides concerning the upcoming collective bargaining agreement might become just a little wider. It's enough that the two sides haven't made any progress in about a year, but now with a serious issue at hand that clearly puts the Players Union at odds with the Commisioner, it seems that a deal for the new CBA might have just encountered another hurdle. I can't see the Players Union willing to submit to many of the Owners' demands when they themselves are feeling slighted about their treatment from the Owners. This could get ugly.

4. It's been evident throughout his tenure with the Philadelphia 76ers that Allen Iverson is not capable of carrying the scoring load entirely by himself. In previous seasons when the Sixers had been successful, AI has had reliable compliments to relieve some pressure from the 3-time scoring champ in guys like Larry Hughes, Matt Harpring, Aaron McKie, and Keith Van Horn. Last year the team struggled with Glenn Robinson filling the role, and this season they're struggling immensely with nobody yet stepping up. Kyle Korver has been the most efficient scoring threat outside of Iverson (12.7 PPG, 50.0 FG%, 44.8 3PT%) but can't create his own shot and is a liability on the defensvie end. It might actually make sense for Billy King and Jim O'Brien to consider giving Big Dog another chance to contribute to the club, but their insistence in bringing along their youth makes such a move unlikely. Look for the Sixers to continue to struggle unless someone steps up (Iguodala, Green, Dalembert) or until they acquire another scorer.

5. Vince Carter was benched during the 4th quarter for the 3rd time this season as Coach Sam Mitchell went with Lamond Murray in the Raptors' stunning comeback win over the Spurs. Through 11 games, 'Air Canada' is averaging a career-low 14.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and shooting a career-worst 38.0% from the floor and 68.6% from the stripe. His on-court demeanor and comments since the summer suggest that the 6-time All-Star doesn't care, isn't trying, and desperately wants off of this team. It looked as though Carter was going to get his wish last week when the pieces were in place for a deal that would have shipped him to Portland, but Toronto reportedly balked at the Blazers' offer, likely because other teams made some intruiging last-second pitches. At 5-6 and having played 10 Western Conference opponents already, the Raptors can afford to take their time in trading the disgruntled star as long as the team remains competitive. But there's no question both parties are better off with a divorce and it's only a matter of time before the proceedings take place. Until then, expect more mediocrity from Vince Carter.

5 Fantastic Matchups

1.Seattle at Minnesota, Tuesday @ 8:00
-The Sonics finally saw their remarkable 9-game winning streak come to an end on Sunday when they were spanked by the Celts 101-82 in Boston. After a day to rest, Ray Allen and co. will try to regroup in Minnesota where they have lost 10 of their last 11.

2. New Jersey at Denver, Tuesday @ 9:00
-Kenyon Martin welcomes in his former teammates (what's left of them) to the Pepsi Center and appears ready to unleash a ferocious game upon them (18.7 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 5.0 APG, 2.3 SPG, 1.7 BPG in his last 3 games). The Nets begin a 4-game West Coast swing after having been swept convincingly in their 4 game homestand against Dallas, Houston, Seattle, and Washington.

3. Detroit at Cleveland, Wednesday @ 7:00
-Off to a solid start to the season, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers get a chance to make a statement in the East against the defending champs. Without Ben Wallace, the Pistons will surely be vulnerable down low, but it's up to the Cavs' inconsistent frontline of Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgauskas to step up and take advantage of the opportunity.

4. Minnesota at Indiana, Thurdsay @ 8:00
-Last week I began psyching myself up for this Thanksgiving day collision between last year's consolation teams. And then Ron Artest went postal, Stephen Jackson flipped out, and Jermaine O'Neal dropped a teenager---and now I'm having nightmares of David Harrison's post game, Fred Jones' perimeter game, and Austin Croshere's go-to game. Yikes.

5. Sacramento at Lakers, Friday @ 10:30
-This was my favorite rivalry in the NBA up until, well...you know. Even without Shaq and Vlade, this should be an as entertaining game as there has been all season. Keep in mind that with the new division alignment, the Kings/Lakers games are going to have even more at stake from now on.

5 Fearless Forecasts

1. The Clippers will remain competitive throughout the season, but will still miss out on their first postseason bid since 1997. The key factors to consider here are that the team has kept its two best players (Brand and Maggette) together for 3 seasons now, there are a few younger guys (Simmons, Jaric, Wilcox) that appear to be maturing and ready to contribute on a regular basis, and they have an experienced playoff-tested player (Kittles) and an experienced playoff-tested coach (Dunleavy). The talent is certainly there to compete; Brand and Maggette alone will win some games for the Clips and the supporting cast is strong enough to do their part in playing competitive basketball against anyone in the NBA. The team has to stay healthy and confident to maintain their respectable start; an injury to Brand or Maggette will devastate the balance of the team and a losing streak could certainly eliminate any winning atmosphere a team so accustomed to losing may have developed. But the Clippers have a good chance to win 35 games and appear to finally be headed in the right direction.

2. Though the Knicks just took care of them handily in MSG, the Cleveland Cavaliers are suddenly emerging in the East and capable of making a serious run towards the title in just a year, maybe two. The reason behind this is quite simple: LeBron James. At just 19 years old and in only his second year in the league, the King is posting jaw-dropping numbers (25.7 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 6.1 APG, 2.1 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 47.8 FG%), but more importantly, leading the rising Cavs to victory consistently. Despite seeing their 6-game win streak come to a halt against the Knicks, LeBron has instilled a winning swagger on his team and has brought out the best in his 3 most important teammates: Jeff McInnis, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Drew Gooden--all playing the best basketball of their careers. If LeBron can continue to rewrite the books on young players' progression and maturity, then Cleveland will undoubtedly continue this upward trend and find themselves in title contention much sooner than anyone anticipated.

3. With Ricky Davis struggling to stay consistent and Jiri Welsch failing to make a splash in his role off the bench, Doc Rivers decided to switch their roles for Sunday's contest against the streaking Sonics. The result? Welsch contributed a respectable 12 points and 8 boards while Davis went off for 25 points on 10-14 shooting as the Celts hammered Seattle 101-82. Rivers felt that Davis was holding himself back as a starter, and encouraged him to do his best Vinnie "The Microwave" Johnson impression as the 6th man on Sunday, resulting in Davis having his best game of the season. This move will likely remain permanent, and rightfully so as Ricky Davis will go on to win the 6th Man of the Year Award.

4. The Pistons fans will get what's coming to them. They got exactly what they wanted when Commisioner Stern single-handedly eliminated the Pacers from the Eastern Conference title picture, despite their shrewd and abusive role in the melee. But things have a way of evening out and whether this means a key player going down with an injury, the Heat taking down the Pistons in the Eastern Finals, or even a remarkable run by the Pacers to the Finals, Detroit fans will get their due.

5. Shaun Livingston will continue to battle the injury bug until he develops his slight frame to withstand the rigors of an 82-game schedule and the physical play of the NBA. The 19 year-old point guard went down with a dislocated kneecap during Monday's practice and is expected to miss up to 8 weeks. I can't remember the last time I ever heard of such a serious injury occuring during a team practice--I mean all pratices are non-contact during the season. But Livingston, listed at 6-7 and a generous 175 lbs., is certainly the most likely candidate to suffer such a fate and now his development faces a frustrating setback. I understand the kid is just 19 years old and he hasn't filled out his frame just yet, but for the love of Tayshaun Prince, get Livingston into a weight room ASAP. This will not be the last time this happens so long as a boy is sent into a man's world.

Fantasy Front: Point Guards

By Anthony Peretore

For everyone involved in a fantasy basketball league, it is important to stay on top of your team on a daily basis. Injuries, demotions and even suspensions can happen at any time and it’s critical to catch these occurrences at their inception. Another integral part of fantasy is effectively structuring trades with your fellow managers. Knowing which players to expect to step up or fall off in coming weeks (or even months) is imperative in completing beneficial trades. To assist you in your managing, we at the NBA Source decided to handle the brunt of the work. Every few weeks we will provide you with rankings of the top ten players at each position as well as a select few you should expect to climb onto the list and those you should avoid all together.

We will base our rankings on a five category head-to-head league, thus, only points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks will factor into these lists. Players averages for each category will be listed, as well as their ranking in that particular category compared to the rest of the top ten, denoted in ( ).

Note: Ranking will not always be determined by 'Total Ranking'

1. Dwayne Wade #3, Miami Heat
Stat Line: 26.1 PPG (t-1), 5.0 RPG (3), 7.2 APG (t-3), 1.9 SPG (t-2), 1.3 BPG (1)
Total Ranking: 10

Status: Not Budging...MVP candidate

2. Steve Francis #3, Orlando Magic
Stat Line: 20.6 PPG (3), 7.7 RPG (1), 6.4 APG (8), 1.7 SPG (4), 0.2 BPG (t-4)
Total Ranking: 20

Status: Not Budging...Tracy who?

3. Allen Iverson #3, Philadelphia 76ers
Stat Line:
26.1 PPG (t-1), 3.2 RPG (8), 7.2 APG (t-4), 1.9 SPG (t-2), 0.0 BPG (t-7)
Total Ranking: 22

Status: Not Budging...Only injuries can knock him off

4. Steve Nash #13, Phoenix Suns
Stat Line: 16.2 PPG (8), 3.6 RPG (7), 11.6 APG (1), 1.2 SPG (9), 0.0 BPG (t-7)
Total Ranking: 32
Status: Staying put...Assists may drop, but probably not on that Suns team

5. Stephon Marbury #3, New York Knicks
Stat Line: 19.7 PPG (4), 2.4 RPG (10), 8.7 APG (2), 1.4 SPG (t-7), 0.1 BPG (6)
Total Ranking: 29
Status: Staying put...Points may increase, everything else will remain

6. Jamaal Tinsley #11, Indiana Pacers
Stat Line:
9.8 PPG (10), 4.1 RPG (6), 8.3 APG (3), 2.7 SPG (1), 0.6 BPG (2)
Total Ranking: 22

Status: Falling... Steals will fall off, as will Assists with recent suspensions

7. Chauncey Billups #1, Detroit Pistons
Stat Line:
18.7 PPG (6), 5.4 RPG (2), 6.9 APG (6), 1.4 SPG (t-7), 0.0 BPG (t-7)
Total Ranking: 28

Status: Falling...first four categories are career-highs, should all drop off

8. Rafer Alston #11, Toronto Raptors
Stat Line: 15.8 PPG (9), 4.3 RPG (t-4), 6.6 APG (7), 1.6 SPG (5), 0.0 BPG (t-7)
Total Ranking: 32

Status: Rising..."Skip to my Lou" making the most out of starters minutes

9. Gilbert Arenas #0, Washington Wizards
Stat Line: 19.1 PPG (5), 2.8 RPG (9), 6.0 APG (9), 1.5 SPG (6), 0.3 BPG (3)
Total Ranking: 32

Status: Rising?...Numbers should increase across the board, but who knows

10. Mike Bibby #10, Sacramento Kings
Stat Line: 17.6 PPG (7), 4.3 RPG (t-4), 5.8 APG (10), 1.0 SPG (10), 0.2 BPG (t-4)
Total Ranking: 35

Status: Dropping out...As soon as Baron is healthy, see ya Mike

Injured (But definately a top 10 player)...

  • Baron Davis #1, New Orleans Hornets
    Stats: 24.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 8.0 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.4 BPG
    Status: Should return to Top 3 once his back is healthy

On the cusp (Potential to crack Top 10 soon)...

  • Kirk Hinrich #12, Chicago Bulls
    14.4 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 7.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG
    Status: Atrocious Bulls' Team killing his stats

  • Andre Miller #24, Denver Nuggets
    Stats: 11.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.1 BPG
    Status: Think Jason Kidd rumors are getting in his head?

  • Sam Cassell #19, Minnesota Timberwolves
    Stat Line:
    13.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 4.7 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.0 BPG
    Status: Extremely slow start...Troy Hudson cashing in

Sleeper (Up and coming)...

  • Luke Ridnour #8, Seattle Supersonics
    Stat Line: 8.1 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.5 BPG
    Status: Has proved himself on 10-2 Sonics team...Daniels in rearview

Passed out Cold (Above average, but avoid if possible)...

  • Gary Payton (BOS), Carlos Arroyo (UTH), Damon Stoudamire (POR), Tony Parker (SA), Jason Williams (MEM)

In a coma (Desperation move)...

  • Earl Boykins (DEN), Zoran Planinic (NJ), Jeff McInnis (CLE), Devin Harris (DAL)

Shooting Guards coming tomorrow...

Tuesday's NBA Picks

November 23, 2004

Home Team in Caps

Anthony's Picks

Last Night:(0-4), Week:(0-4), Year:(46-47-2), Locks:(5-1)
  • WASHINGTON(-1.5) over Toronto--LOCK OF THE NIGHT(W)
  • INDIANA (+8.5) over Boston (W)
  • Detroit (-7) over CHARLOTTE (L)
  • NEW YORK (-9.5) over Atlanta (W)
  • MIAMI (-7.5) over Portland (L)
  • Seattle (+6.5) over Minnesota (W)
  • New Jersey (+11) over DENVER (W)
  • SACRAMENTO (-6) over Houston (push)
  • GOLDEN STATE (-6) over New Orleans (push)
  • LAKERS (-5) over Milwaukee (L)

Paul's Picks

Last Night:(2-2), Week:(2-2), Year:(54-44-2), Locks:(5-1)

  • Toronto (+1.5) over WASHINGTON (L)
  • INDIANA (+8.5) over Boston (W)
  • Detroit (-7) over CHARLOTTE (L)
  • NEW YORK (-9.5) over Atlanta (W)
  • Portland (+7.5) over MIAMI--LOCK OF THE NIGHT(W)
  • MINNESOTA (-6.5) over Seattle (L)
  • New Jersey (+11) over DENVER (W)
  • Houston (+6) over SACRAMENTO (push)
  • New Orleans (+6) over GOLDEN STATE (push)
  • LAKERS (-5) over Milwaukee (L)

Monday, November 22, 2004

Rookie Report: Volume 1

By Anthony Peretore

With the rising impact rookies have had on the league in recent years, it is important to track the progress of these youngsters every few weeks or so. Though we are only eight to eleven games(depending on teams’ schedules) into the 2004-05 season, it seems appropriate to analyze this year's lottery picks as well as a handful of other first and second-round picks and the impact (if any at all) they are having on their respective teams. I will follow the order in which the players were selected and rank the top ten rookies overall, based upon their impact to date.

Lottery Picks:

1. Dwight Howard #12, PF, Orlando Magic
Frame/Stats: 6-11, 240 lbs. 9 GS, 28.7 mins, 7.2 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 2.1 BPG, 46.3 FG%
Positives: Ranks 5th in the league in rebounds per game, tallying double figures in all 9 games thus far. His shot-blocking ability has also helped solidify Orlando’s front court. The youngster from Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy has been a key component to the team's 6-3 start. Should blossom into a star (KG-replica?) by the end of the year.
Negatives: Only averaging 6 FG attempts per game, thus the low scoring average. With Francis, Hill, and Mobley taking the majority of the shots, we may not get to see what Howard can truly bring on the offensive side of the ball. His poor free-throw shooting (44.1%) ought to gradually improve.
Outlook: Should continue to thrive defensively, but scoring numbers may remain on the low side. Still the favorite for Rookie of the Year.
Rookie Rank: 1

2. Emeka Okafor #50, PF, Charlotte Bobcats
Frame/Stats: 6-10, 252 lbs. 9 GS, 32.7 mins, 10.3 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 1.4 BPG
Positives: Ranks 1st among all rookies in minutes, 2nd in RPG, and 3rd in PPG. Along with Primoz Brezec, they are establishing a solid front court in Charlotte. Has shown solid leadership ability, a carry-over from his championship run with UConn. Superior intelligence will allow him to learn from his rookie mistakes at a rapid pace.
Negatives: Stamina. Became worn down when the team played three games in four nights. Should get more accustomed to this as the season progresses.
Outlook: Has shown he can shine on both ends of the floor and will get every opportunity to do so, playing on an expansion team. By playing for the Bobcats, it may push Okafor ahead of Howard for Rookie of the Year.
Rookie Rank: 2

3. Ben Gordon #7, SG, Chicago Bulls
6-3, 200 lbs. 9 games, 3 GS, 19.4 mins, 8.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG. 1.4 APG
Positives: UConn star had his best game of the year last night(11/21) in LA, scoring a career-high 15 points. Has shown flashes of being a solid 2-guard in the league and has been making strides towards adjusting to the pro level of play. Less pressure off the bench.
Negatives: Lost his starting spot after three games. Shooting only 32.5% from the floor and 29.2% from 3. Very little team discipline and veteran leadership to help him adjust.
Outlook: With two other rookies (Deng and Nocioni) fighting for PT and looking sharper than Gordon so far, Ben may have a long, frustrating year in Chi-town.
Rookie Rank: NR

4. Shaun Livington #14, PG, Los Angeles Clippers
Frame/Stats: 6-7, 175 lbs. 21.2 mins, 5.0 PPG, 2.6 APG, 1.0 SPG
Positives: When given the minutes, he has shown the potential as the promising young leader the Clippers are counting on him to be. Career-high 15 points on Saturday (11/20), while only turning the ball over twice.
Negatives: Still needs to learn how to be a floor leader. He’s had only two games with four or more assists. Also, must stay out of foul trouble, tallying four or more fouls in five separate games thus far.
Outlook: As expected, the Clips are bringing Livingston along slowly out of high school. Once the team starts sliding (inevitable) looks for the spidery youngster to turn it up when granted 30+ minutes per night.
Rookie Rank: NR

5. Devin Harris #34, PG, Dallas Mavericks
Frame/Stats: 6-3, 185 lbs. 11 GS, 22.8 mins, 9.1 PPG, 2.9 APG, 1.9 SPG, 80.0% FT
Positives: Named the starter over Jason Terry to lead this high-octane Dallas offense. Has been solid all year, especially in his last three games earning 30+ minutes per contest while averaging 14 PPG, 4.7 APG, and 3.0 SPG. Has helped lead the team to an 8-3 record thus far.
Negatives: Not too many assists for an offense averaging 102.3 PPG. Also, must learn to take better shots (only 38.0 FG%).
Outlook: If Harris remains the starter, look for him to be the dark horse in the Rookie of the Year voting. However, it doesn’t seem likely for Mark Cuban to leave a rookie running the show all year long.
Rookie Rank: 4

6. Josh Childress #1, GF, Atlanta Hawks
Frame/Stats: 6-8, 210 lbs. 19.8 mins, 7.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 50.0% FG
Positives: While starting off the year slow, he has turned it up in his last three games, averaging 12.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG and 2.0 SPG in 28.3 minutes. Also shot 61% FG during this stretch, giving the Hawks a ray of hope in what should be a dismal 2004-05 season.
Negatives: Lanky frame has prevented him from controlling the paint. Needs to bulk up. Needs to show he’s durable and dependable enough to start.
Outlook: On this weak Atlanta team, Childress will have plenty of opportunities to shine as he did at Stanford last season. As he bulks up, so will his statistics.
Rookie Rank: 7

7. Luol Deng #9, GF, Chicago Bulls
Frame/Stats: 6-8, 220 lbs. 29.3 mins, 16.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.0 SPG
Positives: Duke star has been the leading scoring on the Bulls through nine games, despite coming off the bench. Among rookies, he ranks 1st in PPG, 3rd in minutes played, and 5th in RPG. Has exceeded all expectations the Bulls have had for him thus far.
Negatives: The fact that he’s not starting yet. Coach Skiles starting Eric Piatkowski over Deng is one of the more bizarre coaching moves of the year.
Outlook: If and when Deng cracks the starting lineup, there’s no telling what kind of numbers he can put up. Will have Howard and Okafor looking over their shoulders all year long.
Rookie Rank: 3

8. Rafael Araujo #55, C, Toronto Raptors
Frame/Stats: 6-11, 290 lbs. 7.0 mins, 0.8 PPG, 1.4 RPG.
Positives: Utah graduate has not gotten enough playing time to show the coaching staff or league any sort of promise.
Negatives: Has played 35 minutes all year, scoring only 4 total points. The picture Yahoo! chose to display on his player page is Theo Ratliff throwing down a monster dunk on him. Hopefully, he can get a chance to hang on a rim or two before the year is over.
Outlook: Really makes little sense that Aruajo can’t get minutes playing behind Loren Woods of all people. Should begin to get more PT as the season wears on.
Rookie Rank: NR

9. Andre Iguodala #4, GF, Philadelphia 76ers
6-6, 207 lbs. 10 GS, 8.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.9 SPG
Positives: Beat out Willie Green for starting spot and has proved his worth on Coach Jim O'Briens club. Has been a solid defensive presence thus far, ranking 2nd among rookies in SPG and 3rd in RPG. Further evidence of this came Sunday night (11/21) when the rookie put up a career-high 6 steals and 11 rebounds in Miami.
Negatives: He must step up his offense to help Allen Iverson with the scoring load. Has seemed a bit timid to shoot, breaking double-digit FG attempts only once in ten games. Must learn to use his athleticism more on the offensive end of the floor.
Outlook: Iguodala has gotten better in each game he’s played in and look for this trend to continue. With veterans like Aaron McKie and Iverson as his mentors, look for the Arizona star to make All-Rookie first-team.
Rookie Rank: 6

10. Luke Jackson #33, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers
Frame/Stats: 6-7, 215 lbs. Injured List for all but 1 game.
Positives: Led Oregon in points, rebounds, and assists last season, showing he has what it takes to be a solid NBA player. Stock rose dramatically in pre-draft workouts, prompting the Cavs to take him at 10. Will get more minutes when healthy.
Negatives: Despite playing only 3 minutes all year, there really doesn’t appear to be much PT for Jackson even once he’s healthy. Could be a solid backup to LeBron, when King James sits out his 6 minutes per game.
Outlook: Can’t see Jackson contributing much this season unless someone goes down with an injury. If so, he could be a valuable weapon off the bench.
Rookie Rank: NR

11. Andris Biedrins #15, FC, Golden State Warriors
Frame/Stats: 6-11, 240. 4.0 mins, 1.3 PPG, 0.3 RPG, 0.3 BPG
Positives: Has excellent inside presence with an impressive vertical leap. Dominated top U.S. high school players this past summer, showing his potential as an NBA prospect. Playing for this weak Warriors team, he should warrant more minutes as the year progresses.
Negatives: Far too raw to have any true impact in his rookie year. Needs to bulk up a bit more to be more effective in the paint (where he feels most comfortable).
Outlook: Could be yet another European star in the league, but right now he must earn his PT in practice, meaning we won’t see this guy shine for a few years.
Rookie Rank: NR

12. Robert Swift #31, C, Seattle Supersonics
7-0, 245 lbs. 4.0 mins, 0.5 PPG, 0.2 BPG.
Positives: Size makes him an ideal center prospect for the Sonics.
Negatives: Should have went to college for at least two years. Needs to bulk up, improve his game around the rim, and dye his hair.
Outlook: Could be a huge bust for the Sonics, taking him as high as 12. However, with lack of a decent centers on the roster, Seattle could give Swift more PT if they begin to fall off from their 9-2 start.
Rookie Rank: NR

13. Sebastian Telfair #31, PG, Portland Trailblazers
6-0, 165 lbs. 5.3 mins, 1.3 PPG, 1.8 APG, 0.3 SPG
Positives: Was probably the best high school point guard behind Livingston last year. Averaged over 30.0 PPG at Lincoln, and showed he has what it takes to become an above-average point guard at the pro-level.
Negatives: Stuck behind Damon Stoudamire and Nick Van Exel for minutes. Still has a lot to learn about the transition from a scoring to a playmaking point guard.
Outlook: He’s either years away in Portland, or weeks away from big minutes in New Jersey if a trade for Jason Kidd goes down (makes the most sense for the Nets).
Rookie Rank: NR

Best of the Rest:

15. Al Jefferson #8, PF, Boston Celtics
6-10, 265. 12.8 mins, 6.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 56.4% FG
Positives: Steal for the Celtics at fifteen. Team has the luxery of bringing him along slowly now that Raef LaFrentz is healthy. Coach Rivers has shown a growing confidence in the youngster as of late. Had career-highs in minutes (23), points (13) and rebounds (6) on Friday (11/19) versus the Spurs.
Negatives: Still must adjust to the jump from high school to the pros. Very weak defensively, but getting better. Poor free-throw shooter (56.4%) as well.
Outlook: Should average around 20 minutes per game, but won’t see starters minutes until next year. Danny Ainge will be very happy he gambled on this high school phenom rather that Robert Swift.
Rookie Rank: 8

20. Jameer Nelson #14, PG, Orlando Magic
Frame/Stats: 6-0, 190 lbs. 10.4 min, 3.2 PPG, 1.8 APG, 0.6 SPG
Positives Last year’s consensus college Player of the Year is getting a chance to learn from one of the league’s best point guards in Steve Francis. Despite a lack of PT, he has had some solid spurts, highlighted by his 6-point, 7-assist performance against Charlotte on 11/6. Nelson’s four years of college experience will allow him to quickly gain the confidence of his teammates and coaching staff as the year progresses (if he hasn't already).
Negatives: Seems reluctant to take over a game like he did at Saint Joseph’s. Needs to realize he isn’t going to always be the quickest guy on the court anymore. Stuck behind Stevie Franchise on the depth chart, it will be very difficult for Jameer to gain enough valuable minutes to prove his worth in his rookie campaign.
Outlook: Unfortunately, several teams passed on Nelson that could have made him their starting point guard. Now he’s stuck behind arguably the best point in the league right now; so don’t look for his minutes to climb too dramtically.
Rookie Rank: NR

29. David Harrison #13, C, Indiana Pacers
7-0, 250 lbs. 17.8 mins, 4.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 51.6% FG
Positives: Young center out of Colorado will be looked upon to mature quickly after the unexpected suspension of Jermaine O’Neal. Had 19 points, 8 boards and 3 blocks in the Pacers’ first game since the incident in Detroit. Has the chance to shine with O’Neal missing 25 games.
Negatives: Tends to lose focus and go into defensive lapses. Also, his free throw percentage (59.1) must improve.
Outlook: Will get starters minutes for at least 25 games and could permanently take over the starting center position if he excels during this stretch.
Rookie Rank: NR, yet

38. Chris Duhon #21, PG, Chicago Bulls

Frame/Stats: 6-1, 185 lbs. 22.0 mins, 3.6 PPG, 4.3 APG, 1.13 SPG
Positives: Leads all rookies in APG, despite playing behind Kirk Hinrich. Four years at Duke have given him invaluable leadership skills, which will be counted on heavily to help develop the abundance of youth on the team.
Negatives: Stuck behind Hinrich. Also, has a horrid shooting percentage (25.6%) thus far.
Outlook: Will be counted on to spell Hinrich and hopefully instill some of his leadership ability into his teammates. Assist totals should stay steady all year.
Rookie Rank: 10

43. Trevor Ariza #21, SF, New York Knicks
Frame/Stats: 6-7, 194 lbs. 16.4 mins, 6.1 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.22 SPG
Positives: Was not counted on to even make the roster this summer, but surprised everyone by becoming a valuable piece in Lenny Wilkens' rotation. A stable defender, Ariza ranks 3rd among rookies in SPG. He had a career-high 14 points and 8 rebounds against Philadelphia on 11/9 showing he can be a steady contributor in New York.
Negatives: Logjam of players ahead of him on the depth chart. With Crawford playing well and Houston due back at some point, his minutes might actually decline.
Outlook: The Knicks want all they can get out of this kid without harming the PT of their more dependable players. The more time Houston misses, the more minutes Ariza will be granted.
Rookie Rank: 9

Not Drafted:

Andres Nocioni #5, F, Chicago Bulls
Frame/Stats: 6-7, 225 lbs. 28.1 mins, 11.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.0 SPG
Positives: Has stepped up as a leader on this young Bulls team. Ranks third on the team in PPG as well as RPG. He is second among all rookies in PPG, and ranks fourth in RPG and APG. The Argentinean star's play has kept first-round picks Gordon and Deng from starting.
Negatives: Shooting only 40.0% FG for the year including a 2-8 performance Sunday night in LA. Also, he's too inconsistant. Chicago needs him to step up like the guy who had 17 points and 14 boards on opening night.
Outlook: Looks to have solidfied the starting small forward position and if that's the case, his numbers should climb. However, with Gordon and Deng behind him, he will be challenged all year long.
Rookie Rank: 5

Tune in every other week for the updated Rookie Report...