Tuesday, January 11, 2005

5 on Five 1/10-1/16

5 on Five

Week of 1/10-1/16
By Paul Benedict

5 Faces to Watch
Theme: Fast-starters Fading

1. Devin Brown, SG San Antonio Spurs
With Devin Brown, it's been more a lack of playing time than a lack of production. Unfortunately for the former Texas-San Antonio Roadrunner, Greg Popovich is using free-agent signee Brent Barry ahead of him in the rotation as of late. And Brown, who in the month of December was playing 23.7 MPG and averaging 9.7 PPG on 46.3% shooting and 41.2% from beyond the arc, is now seeing sparse minutes (10.4 MPG) since the beginning of the new year and his play isn't meriting him much more (3.0 PPG, 38.9 FG%, 25.0 3PT%). I do think Devin will play himself into some more minutes in due time, but not enough to overcome Brent Barry in the Spurs' rotation.

2. Ricky Davis, SG, Boston Celtics
Ricky was never exactly lighting it up for the Cs, but his production has hit a wall as of late. Over the last 8 games, he's scoring just 11.0 PPG on 39% shooting from the floor (32-82), 20% from beyond the arc (3-15), and has turned the ball over at least 3 times in all but 2 of the past 8 games; not coincidentally, the Celtics are 3-5 in this span. Sure he's only the Celtics' sixth man, but when the team is 5-9 when he shoots under 40% and 7-12 when he turns the ball over at least three times, then it might be something to keep an eye on.

3. Stromile Swift, Memphis Grizzlies
Stro has turned out to be the only real victim of the Czar's takeover in Memphis. In 13 games prior to Mike Fratello assuming the head coaching position for the Grizzlies, Swift was enjoying his best season to date (23.3 MPG, 11.8 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.7 BPG), but in the 19 games since the coaching change, Swift has seen a brunt of his minutes go to Shane Battier and Lorenzen Wright, and with the Grizz currently enjoying a 6-game win streak(in which Stro hasn't eclipsed the 23-minute mark once and is averaging a paltry 6.8 PPG and 2.8 RPG), it's difficult to see Swift playing himself into more run in the near future. It appears that the athletic power forward, who is an unrestricted free agent at season's end, might not be a fixture in the Grizzlies' future.

4. Eddie Griffin, PF Minnesota Timberwolves
If you'll all remember back to the 2001-02 season, Eddie Griffin enjoyed a thrilling first-half of the season for the Rockets (including a January in which he averaged 13.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 2.9 BPG) before running into the quintessential rookie wall like a locomotive colliding with a tractor trailer after the all-star break (increase in minutes, yet decrease in Pts, Rebs, Blks and a grotesque 32.1 FG%). This season, after sitting out a year due to off-the-court problems, has very much resembled his rookie season: he received few minutes early on, played himself into a larger role with the team soon after, showed flashes of consistent brilliance when given ample playing time, and then SMACK! Right into a wall! In his past 10 games, Griffin has hit double-figures in points just once; in the 8 games prior, he reached double figured 7 times at the tune of 14. 9 PPG. He also hasn't pulled down double-digit rebounds once in his past 12 games; something he had done 4 times in the previous 8 games. And worst of all (and most eerily reminiscent of his rookie season), is that in his past 12 games, he's shooting hust 32.5% (26-80) from the floor. It appears that everyone outside of KG is contributing to the 'Wolves woes.

5. Earl Boykins, PG Denver Nuggets
Little Earl got off to a blazing start for the Nuggets this season (10-game span in November in which Denver went 6-4 and he averaged 15.6 PPG, 46 FG%, 42 3PT%, 5.6 APG) causing some to believe that maybe Denver was better off with him running the show than Andre Miller. Unfortunately, Boykins' play has slipped (December--9.1 PPG, 34 FG%, 23 3PT%, 2.7 APG) and he's only playing himself into more minutes now because Andre Miller is out with a calf injury. With Denver now 5 games below .500 (14-19), a lot is being placed on Earl's little shoulders to try and get this team back into the playoff picture.

5 Fascinating Factoids

1. There are two players in the NBA who have committed more fouls per game than scored points per game. Can you name them? (Answer at bottom)

2. There's a number of interesting point guard situations taking place right now in Utah, Golden State, Memphis, Seattle, Milwaukee, and Portland. Let's take a gander at the sweetest statistical NBA site there is, 82games.com, for some +/- numbers on the these battles:

  • Utah-- Raul Lopez +10.0; Keith McLeod +6.3; Carlos Arroyo -9.3.
  • Golden State-- Derek Fisher +0.8; Speedy Claxton -1.1
  • Memphis-- Earl Watson +12.9; Jason Williams -7.4
  • Seattle-- Antonio Daniels +9.4; Luke Ridnour -10.0
  • Milwaukee-- Maurice Williams +3.6; Mike James +0.1
  • Portland-- Sebastian Telfair +3.5; Nick Van Exel +0.4; Damon Stoudamire -0.7

The Golden State and Milwaukee numbers indicate very little, yet the other four are worth mentioning. It appears that Carlos Arroyo might be in Jerry Sloan's doghouse for more than just his mouth and that maybe his slot on the bench is not merely temporary. As for the Grizz, check this out: 2003-04 +/-: Watson 5.8; Williams -5.5. 2002-03 +/-: Watson +3.4; Williams +0.8. Should I send Mike Fratello an e-mail? I wish this team wasn't in the midst of a 6-game win streak because we'd probably get to see a lot more of Earl and Stro. The Seattle numbers are interesting, but we also have to remember that Daniels and Ridnour are on the court together a lot. My conclusion is that the Sonics are simply better defensively when Daniels runs the show, but Ridnour is young and improving so I expect this differential to shrink as the season goes forth. The numbers in Portland suggest that maybe they should just hand the keys over to the kid--I mean Van Exel has already said he's retiring and Stoudamire has gone downhill ever since his rookie season.

3. Triple-Doubles: Bryant (4), Wade (1), Pierce (1), Hughes (1), Webber (1), BDavis (1), Kidd (1) Within 1 (Point, Assist, or Rebound): LJames (2), Garnett (6), Francis (3), Hughes (1), Bibby (1), Jefferson (1), Kidd (1) Within 2 (Pt, Ast, Reb): Iverson (2), Stoudemire (1), LJames (1), McGrady (1), Wade (5), Garnett (6), Pierce (2), Francis (1), Hughes (1)--Total (10-15-20).
35 times a player has come within at least 2 rebounds or assists of a triple-double? This statistic was even crazier ten days ago before Baron, Kidd, Pierce, Wade, and Kobe had trip-doubs too, but regardless, this just tells you how special it is to attain such a feat.

4. The Wizards are 8-0 when Jared Jeffries scores 11+ points. For a team that essentially just tries to outscore their opponents while playing very little defense, it's interesting that the Wiz are seemingly unbeatable when their defensive stopper contributes on the offensive end. Also consider that Jeffries, who averages just 4.4 RPG and 0.7 SPG, has pulled down 6.5 RPG and averaged 1.1 SPG in these 8 wins. Perhaps Eddie Jordan reads the stat sheet pretty closely and we're all fools for wondering why Jeffries starts at the expense of Jarvis Hayes.

5. Don Nelson has finally settled on Jason Terry as the starting point guard for the Mavericks and both the team and Terry himself have reaped in the benefits since the move was made 8 games ago. Dallas is 7-1 in this span and is currently embarking on their longest 100+ points scored streak since last season (6) and Terry has turned his disastrous season upside-down by contributing 13.1 PPG on an astounding 58% shooting while dishing off 7.0 APG and ripping off 1.6 SPG. It's possible we were quick to judge Dallas as a middle-of-the-pack Western team, but we'll have to see how this move plays out (especially when considering that only 1 of these 8 games were against +.500 teams).

5 Fretful Thoughts

1. Minnesota is the team that everyone has been talking about in terms of their recent struggles, so allow me to provide my two cents. Yes, Latrell and Sammie have been playing some lackluster basketball, but keep in mind that these are both seasoned veterans who know the real season begins in the Spring. At the same time, it's starting to get to the point where, as Bill Walton says, "you can lose the season". As it stands right now, Minnesota is 10.5 games behind the Suns for the top spot, 4 games down from hosting a playoff series, and just 1 game up on the 9th place team. Even if the vets get their games in gear, will it be enough to take down the Spurs, Suns, Mavs, Kings, or Sonics in a series on the road? I say 'yes' to the Sonics, Kings, and Mavs, but 'no' to the Spurs and Suns--and since Minnesota clearly has had their eyes on winning a championship since losing in last year's Western Conference Finals, that's just not good enough. Kevin McHale is not known for being agressive in pulling the trigger on a dramatic trade in-season, but it's become quite clear that a personnel change is necessary for them to attain their goals.

2. The Portland Trail Blazers are self-destructing pretty quickly and the losses of Darius Miles (2+ weeks) and Shareef Abdur-Rahim (4-6 weeks) are about to end this club's season. Sure they clobbered the Sixers last night, but that was by shooting a miraculous 14-26 from 3-point range (they average just 4.8 3PTM per game). Without 'Reef, who has been the team's most consistent performer, and Miles, who has stepped into the starting lineup and played brilliantly, the Blazers are really going to struggle to put up enough points (when they're not making 54% of their 3s) to keep track with opponents who have been scoring at will against them (they have given up 100+ in 7 of last 8). And in case you're clueless, the Blazers play in the West, where teams continually run the ball up the floor and players can actually make their shots. With 9 of their next 10 against teams with records that are .500 or better, I'd say Portland will be the be the most significant fantasy-impact team in the league over the course of the season. Once they fall out of contention by the end of next week, they'll have a fire-sale which will include Nick Van Exel, Damon Stoudamire, Derek Anderson, Theo Ratliff, and quite possibly Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Zach Randolph and that means we could be looking at a waiver-wire starting lineup featuring Sebastian Telfair, Travis Outlaw, and gulp, Joel Pryzbilla.

3. I do like the Kings' move of trading for Cuttino Mobley--it gives them a starting lineup that can outscore anyone in the league and a perimeter game that might even be better than that of Seattle's. But, the trade did not address Sacramento's biggest need: depth. It's interesting that people keep doubting the Suns' bench when they actually have quality talent available with Leandro Barbosa, Casey Jacobsen, Bo Outlaw, and Steven Hunter--Mike D'Antoni just prefers not to use them much. The Kings really have nothing outside of Darius Songalia and Maurice Evans: Greg Ostertag, Matt Barnes, Kevin Martin (who's been awful contrary to what Anthony thinks), and Erik Daniels are not going to win this team games if asked to play more than garbage minutes. Grabbing Eddie House was a start for GM Geoff Petrie, but when the Kings are barely beating the Hawks one night, and then losing to the Hornets the next because their starters were exhausted, it's time to lighten the load on their key players just a bit, especially when the playoffs are still 3 months away. And since we all know the injured list stint of Chris Webber is inevitable, why don't they acquire another frontcourt player now?

4. Seriously what is Chris Kaman thinking? I understand he's an extremely religious dude and supposedly NEVER goes out in L.A. (which is weird enough in its own right), but I mean if the guy wants any girl to ever like him, or any kid to consider buying his jersey for that matter, at least make yourself look presentable. Dude, you make millions of dollars, you play in front of Racquel Darrian, and you're telling me you can't at least get a decent haircut? How about cleaning up those amateur sideburns? Geez, who the hell is Kaman's stylist, Mehmet Okur? I mean really, he makes Marko Jaric look sharp and that's just not right.

5. Jerry Sloan really needs to settle on a rotation. Since Andrei Kirilenko went down with a knee injury November 27, Sloan has changed the starting lineup 10 times and has fluctuated the minutes of everyone on the roster not named Carlos Boozer so much that nobody has any clue as to what role they're going to play on a given night. By doing this, how does he expect his players to develop any confidence or continuity? Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Jerry Sloan fan, but it's time he quits messing around and I think the rotation he went with last night in their monumental win against San Antonio is the one he should stick with, especially with AK47 reportedly coming back next week. McLeod gives them creativity and quickness at the point, both on offense and defense, something the Jazz really need on both ends of the floor. Eisley played crunch-time minutes with McLeod in the backcourt, but I'd expect him to see less minutes once Raja Bell returns. With Harpring sidelined, Kirk Snyder started, played big minutes, and was integral to the victory. Snyder has a chance to be a jack-of-all-trades kind of guy and while he can't score like Harpring, he plays far better defense and that's what the team needs until Kirilenko returns. I'd say leave him in the lineup until Kirilenko is ready to assume big minutes again, and then somehow find him 20-25 minutes a night. Boozer obviously stays at the four and it's time Sloan started Okur with regularity. He has mental lapses, but his offense is light-years ahead of Jarron Collins and Curtis Borchardt, and you're not really picking much up in the way of defense with these two schmoes either. So you got McLeod, Bell, Kirilenko, Boozer, and Okur starting with a deep bench that includes Lopez, Arroyo, Eisley, Kris Humphries, Snyder, Collins, Harpring, and Giricek. Trade Arroyo and his $4 million/year contract if you're not going to use him, drop Giricek and Humphries from the rotation (though I do like Humphries, he's just not quite ready to make an impact), and go with the 10. Most importantly, Sloan needs to build off of this win and hopefully have this team running on high spirits when they bring their star back next week. The music hasn't stopped for the Jazz just yet.

5 Fantastic Matchups

1. Miami at Phoenix, Tuesday @ 9:00
The top dog of the East collides with the West's best in the game of the week. Miami has shown that it can keep up with the run-and-gun teams around the league, but the Suns will surely provide a real test for them.

2. Clippers at Seattle, Tuesday at 10:00
These two teams have not met since the Clips HAMMERED the Sonics on opening night at the Staples Center. And though Seattle has done everything possible to show that the thrashing was a mirage, I'd imagine they will be looking for some unadulterated revenge on Tuesday.

3. Seattle at Clippers, Wednesday at 10:30
Did I forget to mention Tuesday's battle was the front-end of a home and home? I'd imagine this game will be a war, especially after the Clippers are dealt with appropriately the night before. Okay, maybe this isn't a Spurs/Wolves-esque home and home, but these are two teams who are fun to watch, play hard every night out, and will likely bring a little extra sumpin', sumpin' to the court.

4. Cleveland at Lakers, Thursday @ 10:30
Kobe vs. LeBron with a packed house at the Staples Center on TNT. Now THIS is the game where LeBron can officially surpass Kobe as the NBA's 3rd best player. I'll be honest though--I think Kobe gets the better of LeBron in this one...but I would not at all be surprised if I'm wrong.

5. Dallas at San Antonio, Friday @ 8:00
Not many people are talking about them, but the Mavericks have been outstanding lately. Ever since that ugly loss to Atlanta, this team has ripped off 5 games in a row all by 14+ points. Of course the last 4 have been at home, and this one is on the road--in San Antonio (that sound you hear is the Mavericks coming back to Earth).

5 Fearless Forecasts

1. The New Orleans Hornets will win at least 15 games. For starters, it's beginning to look more and more unlikely that the Hornets will deal any more of their players until at least the trading deadline--that gives them about 25 more games with their current roster. With the Hornets bringing back Rodney Rogers on Monday, their starting lineup now looks like this: Baron Davis and J.R. Smith in the backcourt, Lee Nailon and Rodney Rogers at the forward slots, and P.J. Brown manning the middle. That's not that bad at all and when you consider they'll be bringing Dan Dickau, Chris Andersen, George Lynch, and Bostjan Nachbar off the bench, and that Jamaal Magliore will return later this month or sometime in February, it's conceivable to believe that this team can start playing .500 basketball once everyone is healthy and playing in tip-top shape. Now take a look at some of their favorable remaining matchups: Chicago (1), Toronto (2), Philadelphia (2), Clippers (2H,1V), Golden State (2), Charlotte (H), Milwaukee (H), Boston (H), Atlanta (V), Memphis (3), Utah (2H, 1V)--that's 22 games right there they can easily win (11 of these are before the trade deadline)--if they take half of those, and pull out 2 more of their 31 other games, then they'll have reached 15. (Note-this was written before the Hornets beat the Kings Saturday night)

2. Jonathan Bender will be the X-Factor in the Central Division race. I still think Indiana is the team to beat in this division, but let's face it, they are not about to pass Detroit and Cleveland in the standings with Michael Curry in the starting lineup. The Pacers are being very cautious with Bender this time around and waiting until he is absolutely ready to play quality minutes before bringing him back to the court (which is supposed to be this week). If he can stay healthy, he will finally be given the opportunity to be a key contributor for this team. And if the flashes of brilliance he's shown in the past are any indication, Bender can elevate this team to the #2 seed in the East.

3. The East will send 8 teams to the playoffs with winning records. Think about it--Heat, Cavs, Pistons, Pacers are all locks to finish .500 and I would guess each gets to 50 wins, maybe the Pistons fall a bit short. I think the Wiz and Magic are the 5 and 6 teams in the conference and should continue to play about as well as they have been all season and that would leave them with somwhere around 45 wins. Now, someone has to win the Atlantic Division and if you look at the teams: Knicks, 76ers, Celtics, Nets, and Raptors--all if these teams with the possible exception of the Raps can only get better as the season goes on. Think about it--Isiah is going to make a move and the Knicks have some attractive parts and while I am positive Isiah will keep screwing the Knicks over in the long run, I do believe he'll do everything he can to ensure that his club wins the Atlantic this year. The Sixers have had as tough a schedule as anyone in the East this year and have been playing outstanding basketball as of late. And this is a very young team with a superstar that's playing the best basketball of his life. The Celtics are another young team that has some nice young parts who are only going to improve (see Tony Allen and Al Jefferson). And the Nets, despite being in fourth place right now, have to be considered the team to beat as Jason Kidd gets back to 100% and Vince Carter becomes more comfortable. Here's how I think the Atlantic breaks down when the season is over and done with: Nets 45-37, Knicks 42-40, Sixers 40-42, Celtics 38-44. (Note--this was written before the revelation that Richard Jefferson was out for the season)

4. The Bulls will make the playoffs--next year. And this goes along with what I was writing about the Atlantic above--Chicago is a quality team having won 10 of 12 and being 13-9 since that pathetic 0-9 start. That said, I'm just not sure they can keep this level of play up, not with such a young roster, and not when the season isn't even half over yet. I still believe Paxson should look to swap Eddy Curry while his stock is soaring--why wait until he proves, as he has several times before, that he can keep his head straight for only chunks of the season? It does look as though the Bulls have some solid building blocks in Hinrich, Deng, and Gordon--players that give 100% every night out win or lose. I still think there's a relatively deep pack of middle-of-the-road East teams and Chicago will fall on the bottom end of that bunch. This year: 35-47. Next year: 43-39.

5. Players that will be heard a lot louder for the remainder of the year: Shane Battier, Jonathan Bender, Chris Bosh, Kwame Brown, Marcus Fizer, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Donyell Marshall, Lamar Odom, Travis Outlaw, Kirk Snyder, Sebastian Telfair, Jerome Williams.

Answer: Joel Pryzbilla and Michael Ruffin.


At 6:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sebastian Telfair's plus/minus look halfway decent because the vast majority of his pt is against other teams' scrubs. Portland is going nowhere, so yes, they should hand him the proverbial keys, but the fact remains that he's at LEAST a year away from being more than just a scrub himself.

Slack Jawed

At 9:43 AM, Blogger Anthony Peretore said...

Sorry to do this Paul, but I have to. Kevin Martin has been awful? From game 1 of the season (November 2)up until December 31, Martin made it onto the court 10 whole times, in which he received a TOTAL of 35 minutes. That's not even 3 quarters of one NBA game. From Dec. 31 on, he has averages of 5.0 PPG and 2.1 RPG in just 14.0 minutes. Those are per 48 averages of 17.1 PPG and 7.2 RPG. Man, that's awful. Throw in his 17 and 6 performance last night in 18 minutes!!! and he's just down right atrocious. Now, maybe you attend Kings' practices and get to see him first hand next to Rick Adelman and his Hitler mustache, but you don't. Sorry that I have countless hours to waste.

At 11:26 AM, Blogger Paul Benedict said...

Anthony--I didn't say Kevin Martin is awful, I didn't say he will suck forever--I said simply, he's been awful. And he had been up until last night, which was after I wrote my post. Those per/48 numbers you gave me are nothing to brag about...I think Moochie Norris and Tierre Brown have numbers that are even better. All I was stating was that he hadn't been playing well, which was unfortunate because he had a chance to play himself into a spot in the rotation after Bobby Jackson went down. Look at his four previous games before last night: 39 Mins, 2-8 FGs, 6 Pts, 2 Rebs---now if those numbers are gonna raise any eyebrows, please let me know. Aside from this, I end up watching the Kings just about every time they're on because there's usually only one or two late games, and from what I've seen of Martin---he's like a Doug Christie-light. Problem is he looks like a little stick figure out there and need to hit puberty before he becomes anything special. But there is talent there...

At 2:49 PM, Blogger Anthony Peretore said...

Point is, you can't judge someone on 40 minutes of play for an entire season. The kid's a rookie. Okafor had a bad game last night and we would never classify him as terrible because he's had the chance to shine and when he has an off night its ok because he's a rookie. I just hate when guys like Chad Ford judge talent before we can make a fair assessment. You went along the same lines which just wasn't fair to say. That's all. You wanna fight my ass?

At 5:27 PM, Blogger Paul Benedict said...

Anthony, did you not read anything I wrote? I wasn't judging Martin to be a crappy player. I simply said that he hasn't been playing well, not well enough to earn him a spot in the rotation. Whether he played 40 minutes in one game, or across 4 games, he did not play well. Sure he's got some talent, but he wasn't playing well. Don't take my comments out of context and associate me with Chad Ford buddy


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