Friday, July 29, 2005

Ranking the NBA Head Coaches

New Knicks coach Larry Brown is one of the top coaches in the NBA, but is he the best?

By Paul Benedict

With the Knicks officially hiring Larry Brown and now all 30 teams having a permanent head coach, I decided that it would be an opportune time to just go ahead and rank the NBA coaches from the bottom to the top. Now before I receive a great deal of scrutiny, understand that I weighed in numerous aspects-- career accomplishments, current reputation, and regular season track record among others. You'll also notice, much like everyone did when ESPN ranked the top NBA head coaches in 2002, that African-American coaches tended to populate the low end of the rankings with Nate McMillan being the only one in the top 16. I shouldn't have to explain why the rankings turned out this way, but if you thoroughly read through my explanations you'll understand why I ranked each person where I did. In fact, I didn't even realize my rankings came out like this until after I carefully figured out my list. Consider that 9 of the top 15 coaches on the list have 10+ years of experience, which means many of them received opportunities to coach back when African-Americans weren't being hired at the same rate as they are now. And of those other 6, Scott Skiles and Nate McMillan are the only ones who aren't direct descendents of those coaches with 10+ years of experience. If you really want to argue with me, I refer you to David Aldridge's article from 2002 responding to the criticism ESPN was taking for its head coach rankings.

NR. Mike Brown, Cleveland
-Brown has earned a reputation over the past few years as one of the top assistants in the game since winning a championship with the Spurs in 2003 and then joining Rick Carlisle's staff with Indiana the last two seasons. Known for his heavy emphasis on defense and his outstanding rapport with players, Brown should be a terrific fit in Cleveland where both assets will be crucial in pushing the Cavs to the Playoffs next season.

NR. Dwane Casey, Minnesota
-Casey has long been viewed as one of the NBA's top assistant coaches while contributing heavily to the success of the Sonics since joining the staff 11 years ago. His name has been the subject of many coaching rumors over the years and largely because, like Brown, he's known for his defensive coaching prowess and for building strong, lasting relationships with his players. And much like Cleveland, Minnesota desperately needed a coach who could carry these necessary assets to the head coaching position.

Dwane Casey should be a great fit in Minnesota.

28. Mike Woodson, Atlanta (13-69, .159)
-Perhaps it's unfair to rank Woodson as the worst coach in the NBA-- he actually did a solid job of developing the Hawks' young talent last season. However, 13-69 is just an awful record no matter how you spin it. Like many of the coaches at the bottom of this list, Woodson has the capability of jumping up on the poll swiftly.

27. Terry Stotts, Milwaukee (52-85, .380)
-Stotts was canned by the Hawks at the end of the 2004 season, perhaps unfairly, for not producing quality results despite inheriting a crappy team after Lon Kruger was fired. Though he hasn't exactly done anything to detract from his reputation as a coach, Stotts has done nothing to merit applause. Senator Herb Kohl opened up his checkbook for free agents this summer, which is why he settled on a cheap option like Stotts as coach. The Bucks are hoping Stotts brings them to at least the bring of the Playoffs, then they'll find a veteran coach who can take them above and beyond.

26. Mike Montgomery, Golden State (34-48, .415)
-The former Stanford Cardinal coach was considered a puzzling choice to be the Warriors head coach coming into last season, but he showed a lot of poise and growth in his inaugural year after leading Golden State to a 18-9 record in the last two months of the season. Expectations are exceedingly high in Oakland for next season, so it's important Montgomery sustain the same momentum right from the get-go, otherwise he might have to go-get another job.

25. Sam Mitchell, Toronto (33-49, .402)
-It was a rough first season for Sam Mitchell, a guy considered by many before last year to be the brightest among all the young head coaching prospects in the NBA. He butted heads with Vince Carter early on, even benching Air Canada for the 4th quarter in a handful of games. He was involved in a much publicized dispute with maligned point guard Rafer Alston, who at one point threatened to quit basketball after he stormed into the locker room during a game when Mitchell sat him for his lackluster play. He also dealt with Jalen Rose opening his mouth about how dysfunctional the team was, Aaron and Eric Williams openly admitting that they wanted out of Toronto, and Rafael Araujo's just humiliating rookie season. But to Mitchell's credit, he demanded respect from his players and never backed down to them. This is how you earn respect as a young, inexperienced head coach in the NBA and I highly suspect that Mitchell will prove his worth once he's surrounded by players that are willing to adhere to his no-nonsense style. It might not be in Toronto, but Mitchell will become a great NBA coach someday.

24. Brian Hill, Orlando (222-227, .494)
-I've never been a fan of Brian Hill, who in 1995 rode the backs of Shaquille O'Neal and the once brilliant Penny Hardaway of the Magic to the NBA Finals. Perhaps it's unfair to rank Hill, a 3-time 50 game winner, behind two guys that haven't even notched a single game of head coaching experience, yet it's difficult to forget the many games Hill botched when he was manning the sidelines for a supremely talented team. He's also known for not being even remotely liked by his players which is what led to his 1997 firing by the Magic after Hardaway gathered together his teammates and demanded that management get rid of Hill. And oh yeah, he compiled 31-123 record in 2+ seasons as head coach of the Grizzlies.

That's right-- Brian Hill is deservedly behind Lawrence Frank in the head coach rankings.

23. Bob Weiss, Seattle (210-282, .427)
-I'm really not too familiar with Weiss who has been an assistant with Seattle since his last head coaching gig with the Clippers in 1994. I do know that Weiss has been replaced by three of the NBA's greatest coaches of all time (Larry Brown, Lenny Wilkens, Bill Fitch) at each city he's left behind, so maybe that explains why he's been fired 3 times and never lasted more than 3 years with any team. Or perhaps it's because Weiss has never posted a record better than 43-39 in 6 seasons.

22. Doc Rivers, Boston (216-205, .513)
-I've been highly critical of Rivers in his 5+ seasons as a head coach in the NBA since I've had the opportunity to watch a lot of Magic and Celtics games. While he's never posted a sub .500 record in any of his 5 full seasons and he was named the 2000 NBA Coach of the Year, none of Rivers' teams has played any defense and he's twice completely botched Playoff series that he should have won. In 2003, his Magic stormed out to a 3-1 series lead over the Pistons before completely blowing the series without much of a fight. And this past season, Rivers almost single-handedly coached the Celtics to an embarrassing series loss to the Pacers which culminated in a pathetic Game 7 blowout defeat at home to an inferior team. To his credit, Doc is doing a good job of bringing along the young talent on the Celtics, but the leash has to be tightened going into next season after that Game 7 debacle.

21. Maurice Cheeks, Philadelphia (162-139, .538)
-Mo Cheeks was unfairly fired last season in the midst of a tough season for the Blazers. Though the team was just 22-33 when they made the move, nobody claimed that Portland was underachieving and the only player that wanted Cheeks out was super idiot Darius Miles. Good guys Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Theo Ratliff even went so far as to publicly claim their disapproval of the move, yet management felt it was time to go a different direction. Cheeks is known as a true players coach and has been sought after by Allen Iverson to coach the Sixers ever since he left in 2002, so Philadelphia will be an ideal situation for the former Sixers star to resume his coaching career. But as is with all Philadelphia-based coaches, Cheeks will be thrown under the bus if the Sixers don't perform to expectations.

20. Bernie Bickerstaff, Charlotte (355-407, .466)
-Bickerstaff was hired by Bob Johnson to run the Bobcats due to his surplus of experience coaching in the NBA (11 seasons), and also because of his notable track record in developing young talent (Tom Chambers, Xavier McDaniel, Dale Ellis, Nate McMillan, Dikembe Mutumbo, Jalen Rose, Chris Webber, Juwan Howard). Bernie did exactly that last season with Charlotte in taking part in the commendable improvement of Emeka Okafor, Primoz Brezec, and Gerald Wallace during the Bobcats' inaugural season. While Bernie is not expected to man the sidelines for Charlotte beyond 2007, his contributions to the franchise over the next two seasons as coach as well as GM will be central to where the Bobcats are headed.

19. Avery Johnson, Dallas (16-2, .889)
-Avery took over for Don Nelson late this past season after having stepped in for him several times throughout the year. With a fresh (and hilarious) voice and an emphasis on toughness, the Mavericks took off under the little guy to close the regular season and came back after losing the first two games at home to beat the Rockets in the first round of the Playoffs. While it was blatant that Avery was being outcoached in this series by Jeff Van Gundy early on, he showed a lot of poise in guiding his team back from that tough deficit and into the second round. After an ugly loss to the Suns in the next round, it appeared as though Avery had let his team get out of control and that he certainly couldn't find a way to get the most out of a struggling Dirk Nowitzki. If he wants to take that next step up into the top echelon of NBA coaches, Avery is going to have to assume more control of his team and ensure that he gets the most out of them when it really counts.

18. Byron Scott, New Orleans (167-203, .451)
-Scott was the head coach of the Nets during their back-to-back Eastern Conference title runs in 2002 and 2003, but it doesn't mean he was well-liked by his players. Jason Kidd was outspoken about his hatred for Scott and Kenyon Martin supposedly had problems with him as well. In fact, a lot of people will tell you Eddie Jordan had as much to do, if not more, with the success of the Nets while he was an assistant there. If you want to know why Scott is ranked below his former assistants Jordan and Lawrence Frank, consider this-- after Jordan left to take the head coaching job in Washington, the Nets stumbled out of the gate, going 22-20 before Scott was fired. Frank then took over as interim coach, leading New Jersey to a 25-15 record and another Atlantic Division crown. Though Scott struggled in his first season with New Orleans, nobody is laying blame on him due to the impossible circumstances he encountered-- although it should be noted that Baron Davis didn't like him. Scott needs to learn how to get along with his superstars if he ever wants to get back to the Conference Finals again.

17. Eddie Jordan, Washington (103-158, .395)
-A lot of people forget that Jordan was the head coach in Sacramento before the Maloofs went out and acquired Chris Webber and then hired a more experienced coach in Rick Adelman to oversee the up-and-coming club. Jordan then landed in New Jersey as Byron Scott's top assistant and it was there, after being dubbed the behind-the-scenes brainchild of the Nets' consecutive Eastern Conference titles, that he created a name for himself as the NBA's 'it' assistant coach. He was then hired by Washington in 2003 and in just his second season with Washington this past year, Jordan led the Wiz to their first Playoff appearance in over a decade and would have easily garnered Coach of the Year consideration had it not been an exceptional year for candidates. We should find out how good a coach Jordan really is this coming season when he deals with higher expectations and a more volatile Eastern Conference.

Eddie Jordan deserves a round of applause for the coaching job he did last season in Washington.

16. Lawrence Frank, New Jersey (67-55, .549)
-Bobby Knight's former manager at Indiana has helped the Nets turn around their seasons in each of the last two years. Though Frank lacks NBA playing experience, he has been able to achieve success thanks to tireless dedication and great relationships with his players. Having Jason Kidd on his team, who's essentially a coach on the floor, has eased the transition for the NBA's youngest head coach.

15. Mike Fratello, Memphis (612-491, .555)
-The Czar enjoyed two long stints with the Hawks ('84-90) and the Cavaliers ('94-99) before taking over for Hubie Brown last December in Memphis. He's not considered to be the most pleasant coach to play for, but he's a great strategist who's known for getting the most out of all his players on the defensive end. Fratello's greatest accomplishment may have come in 1998-- a year after the Cavs underachieved and parted ways with their top four players, the Czar led a surprise Cavs team featuring 4 rookies playing 28+ minutes to a 47-win season. Unfortunately, that team was mauled in the first round of the Playoffs as have each of Fratello's last 6 Playoff teams. That's a knock he's going to have to hear a lot about until he overcomes it.

14. Mike Dunleavy, LA Clippers (463-489, .486)
-Dunleavy has been the head coach of couple of elite teams-- he took over for Pat Riley and led the Lakers to the Finals in 1991, and he strolled the sidelines for those nasty Trail Blazer teams of the late 90's. Yet most people don't remember this because Dunleavy was the coach of the NBA's second best teams while Phil Jackson kicked off his dynasty runs with the Bulls and Lakers. Dunleavy might get some revenge next season as the Clippers promise to battle hard for a Playoff spot with Jackson's Lakers.

13. Rick Adelman, Sacramento (708-443, .615)
-Rick Adelman has to be the only coach in any sport that is considered by many to be the most underrated coach of all time, and by others to be the most overrated coach of all time. Despite twice leading Portland to the NBA Finals ('90 and '92) and coaching typically pathetic Sacramento to 5 consecutive 50 win seasons including a berth in the 2002 Western Conference Finals, Adelman has managed to fly under the radar all these years. But while many commend him for staying out of the limelight while still winning consistently in two of the NBA's smaller markets, others take their shots at him for failing to come up with the big wins and coaching his team to victory when they need him the most. And the truth is, Adelman has been outcoached in crucial games-- just check out his 0-5 record in series-deciding games with the Kings.

12. Stan Van Gundy, Miami (101-63, .616)
-It would be a damn shame if Pat Riley were to steal the coaching duties in Miami from Stan Van, who has been nothing short of outstanding in his two seasons on the bench. After spending six seasons as Riley's top assistant, Stan Van assumed head coaching responsibilities when Riley stepped down only days before the 2003-04 season was set to begin. The Heat got off to a dreaful 0-7 start, but Stan Van quickly reversed the team's fortune and led them to a Playoff berth where they made a dramatic run to the 2nd round. And this past season, Stan Van once again exceeded expectations by taking Miami all the way to the top of the East and only minutes (and two key injuries) away from representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. Bonus points for his delightful resemblance to Ron Jeremy.

11. Scott Skiles, Chicago (182-163, .528)
-What Skiles' Bulls accomplished last season after a half-decade of utter humiliation is simply astonishing. On paper, the Bulls had the look of an expansion team with their potpourri of inexperienced youngsters and aging veterans. But on the court, this Chicago team played exactly the way Skiles wanted them to-- ferocious on the defensive end and cool under pressure, and the result was a 47-26 record after an 0-9 start. It's extremely difficult for NBA coaches to get all of their players to buy into their respective roles as part of a system-- Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, and Gregg Popovich are the best at it-- Skiles could soon be joining this company.

10. Flip Saunders, Detroit (411-326, .558)
Say what you want about Flip Saunders and how it took him 8 tries before he ever took Minnesota past the 1st Round of the Playoffs, but Timberwolves fans know the real truth-- Saunders deserves a lot of credit for even getting the 'Wolves that far. Flip never had anything better than a so-so supporting cast for KG up until last season when Kevin McHale added two proven winners in Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell. Then look what happened-- Minnesota finished with the league's best record and went as far as the Conference Finals. Now people are coming down on Flip after last season's disaster in Minny, but even chief contributors to the catastrophe Spree and Cassell will tell you-- it wasn't his fault. His players love him and respect him and that's why he's going to succeed in Detroit, because the talent is already there.

Not many coaches can get away with high-fiving their players without looking bad, but Flip can pull it off.

9. Mike D'Antoni, Phoenix (97-96, .503)
-The reigning NBA Coach of the Year may seem like he came out of nowhere to lead the upstart Suns to the league's best record this season, but Mike D'Antoni has been consensusly praised as the best coach in Europe over the last 15 years. Fluent in English, Italian, and international basketball, D'Antoni won five titles in Italy and was twice voted Coach of the Year. After leading perennial Italian League stalwart Bennetton Treviso to a title in 2001-02 (with a squad that featured Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Bostjan Nachbar, Tyus Edney, and Charlie Bell), the Suns scooped up D'Antoni and named him their head coach only a year later. He electrified fans in his second season by providing a brand of basketball that had not been seen since the hey-days of the 80's as the Suns consistently put up 120+ points and simply ran opponents out of the building. During a year in which there were a slew of Coach of the Year candidates, D'Antoni swayed the majority of voters to elect him because he proved that an exciting style of basketball that had once launched the sport into the mainstream was now back in full force.

8. Jeff Van Gundy, Houston (344-240, .589)
-Defense and toughness have always been the benchmark of Knicks basketball and so when Jeff Van Gundy took over the Knicks in 1996 under much scrutiny after Don Nelson stepped down mid-season, defense and toughness are what Van Gundy promised to have his Knicks bring to the table every night out. 5 consecutive appearances beyond the first round of the Playoffs and one appearance in the NBA Finals later, and JVG had earned his reputation as one of the top coaches in the league. Now in Houston, Van Gundy realized last season that sometimes coaches have to adjust to the players before them and that's exactly what he did in ditching his typical rugged brand of basketball for a more high-octane approach to capitalize on the offensive gifts of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. Houston was denied entry into the Conference Semifinals for the second straight season, but hardly a soul believes anything will keep Jeff Van Gundy and the Rockets from advancing next year.

7. George Karl (736-505, .593)
-You might hate him, you may love him-- either way, you can't deny that George Karl gets the job done. Much like his North Carolina pal Larry Brown, Karl has a knack for turning a team around once he arrives. Check it-- Cleveland: 8 win improvement; Golden State: 12 win improvement; Seattle: 27-15 after he took over mid-season for a 20-20 team; Milwaukee: 28-22 after he took over for a 36-46 team; And this year with Denver: 28-6 after he was named the coach of a 21-27 team. Want more proof? He took Cleveland to their first Playoff-berth in 7 years during his first season. He guided Golden State to their first Playoff-berth in 10 years during his first season. In 1996, he carried the Sonics to their first NBA Finals appearance since 1979. He also led Milwaukee to their first Playoff appearance in 8 seasons his first year there, and in 2001 coached them to their first Eastern Conference Finals since 1986. And this season he helped the Nuggets win more games (49) than any other Denver team had since 1988. How many coaches not named Larry Brown can claim to have had this kind of impact on five different franchises?!

6. Nate McMillan, Portland (212-183, .537)
-Nobody wanted to see Nate Dogg depart from Seattle after spending the last 19 years as a part of the Sonics organization, especially considering his last season there was his most memorable. Despite receiving no consideration as a potential Playoff team before the season began and deemed by many to be possibly the worst team in the West, McMillan gathered together a troop of free agents before the season began and got them to buy into a winning concept. He convinced them that they could sign big contracts after the season not by achieving individual accolades, but by being a part of a winning team. The Sonics went on to claim the Northwest Division title and gave the eventual champ Spurs a run for their money on the Conference Semifinals. This to me is the greatest achievment by any coach in years.

5. Rick Carlisle, Indiana (205-123, .625)
-If Larry Bird is deemed the "Basketball Jesus", then Rick Carlisle must certainly be considered one of his apostles. Bird and Carlisle have been close friends since 1985 when they played together in Boston and later renewed their friendship in Indiana when Carlisle joined Bird's coaching staff in 1997. Carlisle was considered by many to be the wizardry behind those overachieving Pacer teams under Bird, so it wasn't a shock when the Pistons swooped in and named him their head coach in 2001. In a sense, this was really the start of the Pacers/Pistons rivalry that is the best in the NBA as of today. Carlisle flipped Detroit's record from 32-50 to 50-32 in his first season despite having essentially the same roster from the year before-- he was not surprisingly, named NBA Coach of the Year. The next year he led the Pistons to another 50 win season and an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals, but that wasn't enough for Joe Dumars who decided to bring in Larry Brown to give the Pistons a more experienced voice on the bench. Larry Bird didn't mind one bit as he almost immediately named Carlisle as the Pacers head coach after his firing, and the results since speak for themselves. 61 wins and another Eastern Conference Finals berth in 2004, and an improbable run to the Conference Semifinals this past season despite a tumultuous year that probably would have driven any other coach into the ground, if they weren't a blessed apostle like Rick Carlisle.

The Basketball Jesus and his apostle have been boys for years now.

4. Jerry Sloan, Utah (943-617, .604)
-The longest tenured coach in major US professional sports today is coming off not only his worst season as coach of the Utah Jazz, but also his only losing since since taking over for Frank Layden in 1988. But does anyone honestly believe that a little bit of losing is going to take away the fire and intensity that have typified the career of Jerry Sloan? 15 consecutive years Sloan led the Jazz to the Playoffs-- 5 times to the Western Conference Finals and twice all the way to the NBA Finals. He's even proven that the Coach of the Year Award is flawed since he's never received it simply because he molded the Jazz into such a perennially consistent team that it was nearly impossible for them to exceed expectations. And what's more, Sloan has had to guide this team despite playing in the most obscure market in the NBA. It's nearly impossibly for the Jazz to contend with other teams in signing big name free agents. Yet no matter what obstacles Sloan and the Jazz face, they still go out and compete hard every single night out. That's why fans fill up the Delta Center and that's why Jerry Sloan is Utah Jazz basketball.

3. Larry Brown, New York (987-741, .571)
-You know the numbers by now. Every single team Larry Brown has gone to he has magnificently turned around, with the exception of one-- the Detroit Pistons, who he didn't have to turn around. No, they were already a damn good team, LB just went out and won a championship with them in year one. The guy has done more cities than Debbie and he may rub you the wrong way for that reason, but how can you blame someone for seeking a challenge? If you had felt fulfilled at your job and were ready to tackle a new task, wouldn't you look to contribute your expertise elsewhere? Well LB's travels have led him back to his roots in New York where he's set to take on perhaps his most difficult project yet-- a roster that doesn't suit him, very little flexibility to make personnel changes, a GM who doesn't know what the hell he's doing, and all the pressure in the world. But if you have even an inkling of doubt that Larry Brown is going to turn around the Knicks, allow me to say this-- you're wrong.

2. Phil Jackson, LA Lakers (832-316, .725)
-9 rings. That's really the only thing that matters when you talk about Phil Jackson. He pushed arguably the two most dominate players in NBA history over the hump as contenders and made them into champions. The Zen Master didn't stop there--he turned championships into dynasties which as anyone will tell you, is the most difficult and greatest accomplishment in all of sports. We can stop here, but that wouldn't be fair to Jackson who in some ways is underappreciated for what he's achieved as a coach. People can talk all they want about how Jax rode the coattails of Michael Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal to 9 titles, but they weren't the ones drawing up complex offensive schemes with Tex Winter for the triangle offense. Nobody has ever been able to maximize a star player's capabilties quite like Jackson and that's all because he realized that to make a superstar truly unstoppable, you have to get the most out of the people surrounding him. And Jackson did just that in Chicago and LA, filling the roles necessary to make the triangle a tour de force by convincing every single one of his players to buy into a team concept. Now Phil is back in LA after a one year hiatus and for the first time ever, the odds are against him. While many believe he's risking his legacy by taking over a team far from title contention, Jackson's actually out to prove that he is indeed the greatest coach of all-time.

3 titles and counting for the NBA's best coach and best player...

1. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio (455-233, .661)
-You can easily point to the 3 championships since 1999 in a secondary Texas city as reason enough to put him at the top. You can credit him for turning nobodies like Jaren Jackson, Malik Rose, Stephen Jackson, Bruce Bowen, and Devin Brown into key contributors on title teams. You can attribute the success of his current stars Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and most notably Tim Duncan to Popovich's teaching and mentoring since they've entered the league. No matter how you want to break it down-- no coach out there has as much to do with his team's success as Gregg Popovich. In essence, Pop has done exactly what Jerry Sloan was able to accomplish in Utah-- build a small market team from scratch around two superstars with a supporting cast that buys into the team concept. There's a difference between the two however-- Pop has 3 rings, Sloan has none. Now while you could argue that the Spurs aren't quite a dynasty just yet, you can't deny that they're an empire. By tapping their resources overseas better than any team out there, the Spurs have developed a system in San Antonio that is going to result in them being contenders for years to come-- under one imperial leader, Gregg Popovich.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Chad Ford Thursday Chat Wrap

For those of you without access to ESPN Insider, I thought I'd present to you all of the topics discussed by Chad Ford today in his weekly chat. He answered some interesting questions regarding Larry Brown, free agency, and what to expect in the coming weeks. Chad also mentioned that teams should be able to sign free agents beginning on Monday. Feel free to start debates as you feel necessary.

Could Marbury be packing his bags?


--Ford thinks the Knicks will make some roster changes now that Brown is on board. He doesn't think Larry will like either Marbury or Crawford at the 1 and suggested one of them being traded and the other being pushed over to the 2.

--He thinks Brown will like Nate Robinson, Malik Rose, David Lee, and possibly Jerome Williams. Chad suggests that Tim Thomas may be traded again since Brown already got rid of him once.

--"Knicks will probably win 8-10 more games"


--Ford mentioned they are on the list of teams including the Suns, Spurs, and Bulls that are looking forward to Michael Finley being let go.

--Both the Pistons and the Hawks have denied a Darko for Al Harrington deal that was rumored this week.

Celts new PG?


--In Ford's eyes Antoine Walker will not re-sign with the team. He mentions a possibly Toine for Radmanovic swap with Seattle. Also, the Heat are very interested but don't have many assets to deal back to Boston.

--When asked who will be the Celtics' starting point guard next season, Chad responded: "Here's a name to keep in mind: the Grizzlies' Jason Williams." He discussed a JWill for Blount swap that would not work under the new CBA, but a Williams/L. Wright for Blount/LaFrentz/Banks deal certainly would (that's my proposal which does work under the CBA).


--Clippers not interested in sending Marko Jaric over for Drew Gooden. Ford thinks they'd consider the deal if Luke Jackson was thrown in.


--Thinks the Bulls will definately match any offer to Chandler, but if that deal turns out to be at a high price then they may let Curry walk. Basically it all depends on how much they'll have to pay in order to keep both.

--Jay Williams thinks he'll be ready by training camp, but word is that the Bulls aren't interested.


--Ford thinks the Warriors will make the playoffs this season taking the place of either Memphis or Seattle. That is, if Baron Davis stays healthy.

BD: Golden State Playoff hopes on his back


--Chad discussed how the Lakers are saving their money for the summer of 2007. Said how Phil Jackson and Larry Brown have huge tasks ahead of them to make the playoffs with these financial constraints.


--He thinks there's a possibility of Gary Payton returning to Seattle, calling it "great for Payton, the Sonics, and the city of Seattle."


--Ford put them in the same class as Detroit, Indiana, and Miami as the elite teams in the East. Thinks Rod Thorn had the best summer thus far.


--Chad thinks GM Billy King did what he had to do this summer in re-signing Dalembert, Korver, and Green. He thinks they will be a playoff team and likes the mixtures of veterans and youth that will be playing under new coach Mo Cheeks.

Iguodala and the Sixers in the Playoffs?

Finally, Ford's top 5 teams heading into 2005-06

1. Spurs

2. Pacers

3. Pistons

4. Suns

5. Nets

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Ant's Early Offseason Review

TJ Ford will be leading a much improved Bucks team

By Anthony Peretore

Despite the fact that free agents still can’t officially sign and we’re not even sure when that date will be, it still seems necessary to delve into the potential signings and see who has fared the best, the worst, and what to expect in the coming weeks.

Offseason Winners...

Milwaukee Bucks

As the rosters appear to us today, there’s no arguing that GM Terry Harris has done the most to improve his basketball team this summer. Picture this: your best player and the face of your team is deciding between A) Milwaukee—superstar status and more money or, B) Cleveland—playing at home alongside LeBron James, only the most exciting young player in the league. That’s like choosing between your girlfriend of four years and your old high school sweetheart who just got a new boob job—tough choice, to say the least. But after the number 1 pick fell into his lap, Harris knew if he added one more piece to the team that Redd would have to lean towards staying in Milwaukee. He was right--the promise of a superior small forward to play alongside (eventually Bobby Simmons), turned out to be a commitment that will keep Redd in Milwaukee for at least six more years. With Michael returning (along with TJ Ford), Simmons arriving, the re-signing of Dan Gadzuric, and Terry Stotts taking over the reigns, the Bucks appear to be playoff bound in 05-06.

New Jersey Nets

After Kenyon Martin left for Denver last summer, the Nets have been reluctant in finding his replacement. Brian Scalabrine came up a bit short, as did Clifford Robinson, Awvee Storey, Jabari Smith, and Kaniel Dickens. So the Thorn/Stefanski duo decided to dig in this offseason and sure up the 4 spot once and for all. After they passed on Hakim Warrick at 15 and let Stromile Swift walk to Houston, I wondered how much they were going to spend on a remaining free agent. Amazingly, the team announced late last week that they had reached an agreement to sign Shareef Abdur-Rahim for the Mid-Level Exception. How is this possible? How can the Celtics lose two of their best players of the past 20 years to death yet the Nets can get Vince Carter and Shareef Abdur-Rahim for Eric Williams, a guy with one kidney, $4-5 million, and a jockstrap? Nevertheless, the Nets are going to cruise to the Atlantic title, nab the 3 seed, and have as good a chance as any to head to the Finals.

Stro should make Yao tougher

Houston Rockets

I almost put Houston ahead of New Jersey, but SAR is a hair better for New Jersey than Swift is for the Rockets. Don’t get me wrong, Stro is exactly what this team needs—an athletic 4 who can block shots, throw down dunks, and play in the half court or on the break. But the problem is, he just isn’t polished enough. I remember stretches of games last season where Swift would appear unstoppable on both ends of the floor, but at the same time, how come he could never throw together a monster game? I’m not even sure it’s possible, but given his age (25) and tremendous athleticism, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he’ll help the Rockets make it to at least the second round this year. If they can manage to sign a veteran point guard and Yao Ming discovers he does in fact have testicles, Houston could compete with San Antonio for the West.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Sure they lost out on Michael Redd, but pulling Larry Hughes out of nowhere has to merit some praise. It seems like everyone is ripping this deal, and up until a few days ago, so was I. But the thing is, I feel that no matter who is playing alongside LeBron, that player will undoubtedly recognize the power that is James, and have no qualms about playing second fiddle. If Hughes had no problems in Washington as Gilbert Arenas’ #2 (even during his 8-49 games), we certainly can’t expect any difficulties in Cleveland. Playing with James, a much more efficient and exciting scorer who will also dish the ball (7.2 APG), Hughes should be much happier and who knows, maybe even put up better numbers. This combination of athleticism alone should help the Cavs win at least 5 more games and put them in contention to win the Central. In addition, Cleveland also re-signed a guy who averaged a measly 16.9 PPG and 8.6 RPG last season, yet no one’s really talking about it. The return of Big Z along with the seemingly imminent deal for Marko Jaric could make the Cavs a very scary ball club.

Indiana Pacers

I put Indiana here based upon one thing: Larry Bird’s patience. He could have easily dealt Ron Artest last February and acquired a player who was able to contribute to their playoff run. But Bird was smart enough to realize that Artest’s stock was at an ultimate low and that dealing his second best player away for a slightly better chance at beating Detroit and Miami just wasn’t worth it. So heading into 05-06, not only does the team bring back Ronnie, but they also added much needed depth in SF Danny Granger and recently acquired Euro star PG Sarunas Jasikevicius. With Reggie Miller retiring and Jamaal Tinsley injured more often than Kerry Wood and Mark Prior combined, the Pacers got just what they needed in these two. I fully expect the Pacers to win the Central and challenge Detroit, Miami, and New Jersey for the East crown.

Offseason Losers...

No Larry isn't a loser, but the Pistons will be

Detroit Pistons

We may never get all the details, but letting Larry Brown walk to New York after leading the Pistons to the Finals two years in a row is absurd. Who knows, maybe Brown wanted out and Dumars simply granted his request. Or maybe the front office wanted Brown out after his slue of hip problems and rumors that he wanted out at the end of the year. The fact of the matter is, a team that came out of nowhere to capture the Title two years ago and relentlessly made it back to the Finals this past season, is now without their brain. On paper the Pistons appear to be an average team, but under the tutelage of Brown they managed to come together to form a nearly unstoppable group. Now they turn to Flip Saunders, who has had one successful coaching season and nowhere near the savvy and experience of Brown. Should be an interesting year in Mo-Town, especially after Flip has his first beef with ‘Sheed.

Boston Celtics

I realize the offseason isn’t even half over yet, but I just have a bad feeling the Celtics are headed for disaster. Everyone always mentions the abundance of youth Danny Ainge is stockpiling, but without veteran leadership to guide them, honestly where is this team going? Paul Pierce is nowhere near the leader Boston needs to make a serious run at the East. Antoine Walker could be but he’s apparently got one foot out the door in a sign and trade. The rest of the “vets” include Raef LaFrentz (who has absolutely no say in the locker room) and Mark Blount (who Ainge is trying to deal for a pack of tube socks). Everyone else on the roster has either 2 years or less of professional experience and without any elders to help guide them to the next level, things could turn ugly in Beantown. For their sake, Ainge must decide in the coming weeks whether or not this team is gearing for the future or seeks to simply remain in the playoff hunt each year. Thus the ultimate question remains, should they move Pierce?

Washington Wizards

What did Abe Polin and Ernie Grunfeld offer Larry Hughes, like 5 years $14? Analysts called Hughes re-signing a shoo-in at the end of the year and then all of a sudden he’s trying on a Cavs uniform? It comes down to one thing and one thing only, Polin being a cheapskate. The Wizards had the money to re-sign Hughes, but once they lost him it seemed like a mad scramble to put other pieces together. Caron Butler in for Kwame Brown, okay. But then Antonio Daniels for the MLE when you already have one of the most exciting young PGs in the league in Arenas? It makes no sense to me especially when their frontcourt is about as deep as Paris Hilton, and that they’ll probably force Antawn Jamison to play the 4, when he’s much better at the 3. For a team that made the playoffs for the first time since the name change, they did a pretty lousy job assuring a return trip in 2006.

Caron or Larry? Umm, I'll take Larry

Seattle Supersonics

This doesn’t just refer to this summer, but more so the course of the last year. By low-balling Nate McMillan all season long, the Sonics just lost a coach that turned a projected 5-77 team into a serious contender in the West this past year. To make matters even worse, the team was able to retain Ray Allen, assumed that would bring back Nate, and then watched painfully as he packed his bags for Portland. (Unfortunately for Nate, half of his new players care more about their bags than their game, but that’s a whole other story). In addition to losing McMillan, Seattle also lost Daniels to Washington and Jerome James to New York, and there is also talk that Vladimir Radmanovic plans on skipping town as well. You would think that for a team that rose from the ashes last season, the front office would do a better job of showing their appreciation. Oh well, back to the Ray Allen trade demands.

Remaining Offseason Predictions...

--Larry Brown will get the Knicks to the second round of the playoffs. I’m not doubting this guy anymore. If he could take that Detroit team to the Finals and beat the Lakers and damn near take out the Spurs, he can get the Knicks to Round 2.

Curry won't be yelling so much in the ATL

--Eddy Curry will leave Chicago for Atlanta. That’s right, the Hawks will establish one of the most exciting young frontcourts in the entire league with Curry, Marvin Williams and Josh Smith. They still won’t win more than 30 games though.

--The Boston Celtics will trade Paul Pierce. I’m not sure where “The Truth” will be heading, but something tells me Radmanovic will be wearing a new green and white next season. If this happens, expect Walker to stay and the Celtics new lineup to look like: Delonte West, Ricky Davis, Radmanovic, Walker, LaFrentz.

--Michael Finley will wind up back with his original team in Phoenix. There’s a reason the Suns made that Q Richardson deal…Finley will most certainly be a casualty of the Allan Houston exception and take his walking papers back to the team that originally drafted him. With Finley replacing Q and Kurt Thomas now on board to bolster their bench, expect the Suns to be even stronger in ‘06.

--Bill Simmons will take over for Chad Ford as ESPN’s lead NBA analyst. This is a shot in the dark and more of my hope than expectancy, but who would be better suited to take on that role than The Sports Guy? Realistically, Mark Stein will probably take the job with Chris Broussard taking on a bigger role to fill Ford’s void. Very disappointing…

Remaining Offseason Questions...

Will Watson be leading Phil's charge?

--What are the Lakers doing? When Phil Jackson agreed to return to the bench, I assumed he wanted to start contending right away. Then on Draft day they went with Andrew Bynum at 10, when guys like Warrick, Granger, and Gerald Green were still around. Despite that odd decision, the team did do a nice job in acquiring Kwame Brown from the Wizards for Caron Butler. This not only bolsters the LA frontcourt but also allows Lamar Odom to slide back to the 3, a position he’s much more comfortable playing. But what’s the deal on waiting for a point guard to pop up? Do they honestly feel good about letting a Brevin Knight or Earl Watson run the team next season? Why didn’t they just sign Jasikevicius? I have a feeling Phil has something up his sleeve…

--Can the Pacers overcome the inevitable Artest distractions and take the East? Without a doubt they can. Rick Carlisle and Larry Bird are two of the best and will have no problem helping their players get through the adversity and back to glory. Indiana showed a lot of heart in the 04-05 Playoffs and in bringing back Artest along with the additions of Granger and Saras it makes them the team to beat in ‘06.

--Who are the best free agents left that no one is talking about? In no particular order: Juan Dixon, Earl Watson, and Reggie Evans. Each could be valuable assets to either a young team (Charlotte, New Orleans, Atlanta) or a team on the brink of contending (Washington, Boston, Golden State). Seattle was talking to Dixon earlier this week, Watson should end up in LA and Evans will probably stay put in Seattle.

--What has been the best free agent signing that no one has talked about? I love the deal the Suns made in getting Raja Bell to backup Nash. With Stevie running the offensive show but playing relatively no defense, they need a guy like Bell to come in and shut down opposing 1s and 2s. Also with Bell off the bench, the team no longer has to rely on Barbosa to run the team once Nash goes down with his annual back injury.

--And finally, just for fun…

Who else would go #1?

Ant’s Top 10 Fantasy Picks for 2005-06

1. LeBron James
2. Kevin Garnett
3. Kobe Bryant
4. Tim Duncan
5. Allen Iverson
6. Tracy McGrady
7. Amare Stoudemire
8. Dirk Nowitzki
9. Dwyane Wade
10. Shaquille O’Neal

Apologies to Gilbert Arenas, Jermaine O’Neal, and Andrei Kirilenko

Monday, July 25, 2005

Pacers Land Jasikevicius

The Pacers announced the signing of Euro superstar Sarunas Jasikevicius this weekend, a player that has been deemed a marquee steal for whichever team landed him. Larry Bird and Donnie Walsh were able to offer up 3 years and $12 million to the 3-time Euroleague champ, but it was reportedly the opportunity to play for a contender that swayed Jasikevicius to elect for the blue and yellow over the likes of Utah and Cleveland. Look for the Pacers to tie up their summer by waiving either Anthony Johnson or Austin Croshere under the "Allen Houston Amnesty Rule", re-sign James Jones, and then possibly trying to swing a trade that relieves them of Jonathan Bender. But as it stands now, the 2005-06 Pacers lineup already appears set and certainly has the look of a serious contender.

Indiana Pacers 2005-06 Projected Depth Chart

PG- Jamaal Tinsley/Sarunas Jasikevicius/Anthony Johnson
SG- Stephen Jackson/Fred Jones
SF- Ron Artest/Danny Granger/James Jones
PF- Jermaine O'Neal/Jonathan Bender/Austin Croshere
C- Jeff Foster/David Harrison/Scot Pollard

Friday, July 22, 2005

Eastern Conference Summer League Report

Artest looked scary once his opponents, not the fans.

By Anthony Peretore

The Summer League season is just about coming to a close and with Paul bringing you his Western Conference Report on Wednesday, it's only fair to present you with the Eastern half as well. Here's a quick listing of my East All-Summer League Teams followed by detailed team reports. Enjoy...

1st Team
G- Maurice Carter, Indiana MSL
G- Nate Robinson, New York VSL/MSL
F- Ron Artest, Indiana MSL
F- Dwight Howard, Orlando VSL
C- Earl Barron, Miami SPL

2nd Team
G- Tony Allen, Boston VSL
G- Eddie Basden, Chicago VSL
F- Sean May, Charlotte RMR
F- Wayne Simien, Miami SCSL
C- Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee MSL

Atlanta Hawks
Rocky Mountain Revue (2-3)

The Vets: F Josh Childress led the team in scoring in the MSL with 13.5 PPG while shooting 60.0% from the floor. Slam Dunk Champ Josh Smith left the team early with ankle issues, but still managed to drop 9.3 PPG, all dunks (I'm guessing). G/F Boris Diaw (8.4 PPG), F Donta Smith (4.4 PPG, 31.3 FG%), and G Royal Ivey (4.0 PPG) all turned in rather disappointing weeks. Seems sickening to think this is the core of their 05-06 ballclub, doesn't it?

Marv didn't quite look this smooth

The Draftees: #2 overall pick F Marvin Williams had a rude awakening to the pro game, shooting at a 26.0 FG% clip, good for just 7.8 PPG. He did manage to lead the team in rebounding with 5.0, but overall not a great start to a promising career. On the other hand, shooter extraordinaire G Salim Stoudamire averaged a team-leading 12.0 PPG in five games, including 7-14 from long-distance. The one thing he must continue to work on is taking care of the basketball (3.0 TO per game)... and shaving more than twice a month.

The Wannabes: F Gyasi Cline-Heard wore #64 all week for some reason. There were no basketball numbers available from 1-55? Things like this bother me.

Boston Celtics (4-2)
Vegas Summer League

The Vets: Second year G Tony Allen (16.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.8 SPG) led a summer league tested Celtics squad to a solid 4-2 record, including a 29 point, 4 rebound, 3 steal performance in the team's final game against Detroit. Boston's "frontcourt of the future" PF Al Jefferson (7.5 PPG, 44.4 FG%, 6.0 RPG) and C Kendrick Perkins (4.7 PPG, 37.0 FG%, 4.5 RPG, 31 PF) did not fare as well, but to their credit only averaged slightly over 20 minutes per game--aka plenty of time to average much higher totals than they did. Perhaps the surprise effort of the team came from second year product F Justin Reed (11.7 PPG) who may have assured himself a spot in Doc Rivers' 05-06 rotation. And finally, PG Delonte West (7.3 PPG, 1.5 APG) turned in a subpar week that ended with him missing the team's finally two contests with mildly sprained ankle. The good news: word out of Boston has the Celtics shopping Marcus Banks again, a sure sign they're happy with West--until next week anyway.

The Draftees: Besides throwing down one of "the best dunks Danny Ainge has ever seen", SG Gerald Green (8.0 PPG, 40.4 FG%) showed plenty of immaturity throughout the team's six game schedule. F Ryan Gomes on the other hand, landed himself a two-year contract due to his stellar all-around play, "maturity, and knowledge of the game," according to Rivers. It will be interesting to watch Reed and Gomes battle for minutes all year. And not to be forgotten, PG Orien Greene missed the session due to a broken foot, but remains extremely anxious to show Danny Ainge and co. they made the right decision in drafting him with their final pick. Hope he's watching plenty of NBDL game tape.

The Wannabees: The only players on this list with a remote chance to wear Celtic green this season are PF Taylor Coppenrath (7.2 PPG, 59.1 FG% in 15.5 min) and PG Will Bynum (4.2 PPG, 2.7 APG). Both had their share of struggles in the VSL, but seemed to show steady improvement as the league wore on. The upcoming weeks of free agency should decide their fate--which is a nice way of saying that unless half of the F.A.'s die in a freak accident, Cop and Bynum will be playing overseas or in the DL next season.

Charlotte Bobcats
Rocky Mountain Revue (4-1)

The Vets: G/F Matt Carroll proved to be the catalyst for a very exciting and successful Bobcat team in Denver. The sharp shooter from ND averaged a league-high 15.4 PPG, along with 3.8 RPG and 2.0 APG. Carroll hopes to get the chance to be the shooter the 'Cats so desperately need off the bench. In addition, G Bernard Robinson Jr. (10.4 PPG, 57.1 FG%)turned in a nice week as well, but has me wondering why he didn't pursue a boxing career with a name like that. Right?

Felton and May look ready to roll

The Draftees: With one of the more highly touted 2005 draft classes, many eyes were on the play of the young Charlotte squad, particularly PF Sean May and PG Raymond Felton. Both players looked as if they hadn't lost a step from their championship run with May averaging 14.8 PPG (52.6 FG%) and a league-leading 8.4 RPG and Felton (12.5 PPG, 5.5 APG) proving to be the floor general GM/Coach Bernie Bickerstaff hoped he was drafting.

The Wannabes: Former collegiate stars PF Jason Capel (UNC) and F Edmund Saunders (UConn) were scheduled to participate but instead took part in a bowl packing tournament. Unfortunately for them, Darius Miles ran away it.

Chicago Bulls (3-2)
Vegas Summer League

The Vets: F/C Jared Reiner destroyed the VSL tallying a monster 5.0 PPG while ripping down 2.3 RPG. I'd be shocked if he retained his roster spot.

The Draftees: None

The Wannabees: The Bulls had to come away thrilled with the play of SG Eddie Basden (14.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG) who managed to crack the league's All-Second Team. Although in years past, they felt the same way about guys like Eddie Robinson, Roger Mason Jr., Dalibor Gabaric, and Theo Huxtable. Another surprise was the young Croatian F Drago Pasalic (9.6 PPG, 47.7 FG%, 4.2 RPG) who managed to steal the thunder against competing forwards Kasib Powell (8.8 PPG, 50.0 FG%) and Mario Austin (7.6 RPG, 37.6 FG%). The only other recognizable names, PG Kenny Satterfield (5.0 PPG, 34.8 FG%) and C Arthur Johnson (5.2 PPG, 31.3 FG%) reportedly looked "cute" together on the bench.

Cleveland Cavaliers (6-0)
Vegas Summer League

The Vets: G/F Luke Jackson somehow managed to garner First-Team All-RVSL honors despite shooting 31.0% from the floor and totaling just 11.5 PPG. His 5.3 RPG and 4.0 APG however, had to give the Cavs confidence that Jackson can provide a solid all-around game off the pine this season. But wait, 31%? I think Jim Abbott could have shot 31% in the VSL.

The Draftees: Cleveland's draft day trade for C Martynas Andriuskevicius (3.0 PPG, 2.7 RPG) did not pay immediate dividends, as the 7+ footer struggled to warrant minutes throughout the week. For now we will consider the Lithuanian a "work-in-progress," meaning he is now ranked 1,458th on the list of foreign 7-3 guys who absolutely suck.

The Wannabees: The biggest surprise of Cavs perfect run had to be the play of the young Nigerian forward Olumide Oyedeji (9.2 PPG, 61.8 FG%, 7.0 RPG), who managed to nab 2nd Team All-VSL honors. In addition, former college stars G Blake Stepp (10.2 PPG), G John Lucas (9.3 PPG, 56.0 FG%) and G Kelenna Azubuike (7.5 PPG, 55.3 FG%) also turned in solid weeks. On the other hand, former Maryland PG John Gilchrest had a rough session, shooting only 35.1% from the field and tallying just 6.8 PPG. It appears that all five of these players will fall short of making the Cavs' roster, but should make nice players in the NBDL--which is like driving a Kia rather than a Porsche.

Detroit Pistons (3-2)
Vegas Summer League
The Vets: As Paul wrote in his summer league preview, "Anything less than a superb showing by Darko will be deemed as'll be interesting to see how he copes with the added pressure." Well Pauly, hows 9.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, and 1.4 BPG in 29.8 minutes? Not too bad, but throw in the 36.7 FG% and it's safe to say that the bust label is being scolded into Milicic's forehead as we speak. His best game: 14 and 7 with 2 blocks in 32 minutes, hardly anything to write home to Serbia or Montenegro about. As for G/F Carlos Delfino, he fared about the same in totaling just 7.0 PPG (40.0 FG%) and 5.3 TO in 28.3 min. Delfino must have been dribbling with a wooden arm to average a turnover every 5.34 minutes.

When did this happen?

The Draftees: I don't think the Detroit coaching staff could have asked for any better play from their three draft picks. PF Jason Maxiell (15.0 PPG, 51.9 FG%), SG Alex Acker (14.4 PPG, 46.2% 3-PT), and PF Amir Johnson (8.8 PPG, 69.2 FG%) are going to make it difficult on the aforementioned "veterans" come training camp.

The Wannabees: It's safe to say that G Rodney Billups (2.6 PPG, 35.7 FG%) has a long way to go in catching up to his brother's play. SG Bryant Matthews (4.0 PPG, 25.0 FG%) struggled mightily with the Pistons, but managed to turn around his fortunes with Toronto in the MSL (12.8 PPG). Should be a NBDL veteran by 2009.

New Jersey Nets (0-5)
Vegas Summer League

The Vets:

The Draftees: First round draft pick SG Antoine Wright (16.4 PPG, 36.0 FG%) was far from spectacular yet still warranted All-Second Team honors for the hapless Nets. In the team's five games, Wright took an average of 15 shots per, and in sinking only 5.4, contributed first hand to their 0-6 record. Think Rod Thorn regrets passing on Hakim Warrick and Danny Granger? Yeah, me too.

The Wannabes: Two reasons to smile for New Jersey came in the form of former USC Trojan F Sam Clancy (14.8, 6.4 RPG, 1.0 BPG) and F Brian Boddicker (11.0 PPG in 13.0 min). For a team looking to fill the void of the departed Brian Scalabrine, Clancy seems well suited but only if he can manage to avoid the injury bug that has thus far hampered his career. In addition, last year’s draft pick F Christian Drejer was an absolute disaster, averaging just 2.6 PPG on 18.2% shooting in 17.6 minutes per game. The former Florida Gator would be smart to spend another season conditioning overseas or just fucking retiring.

New York Knicks
Vegas Summer League (4-1), Minnesota Summer League (3-2)

The Vets: In turning in a rather surprising rookie season for the Knicks, the coaching staff had high expectations for F Trevor Ariza coming into the Vegas league. The sophomore out of UCLA didn’t disappoint showing an above-average all-around game with 10.0 PPG (50.0% FG), 4.4 RPG, 2.6 APG, and 1.0 SPG in 28.2 minutes. The other two veterans, F Jackie Butler (5.4 PPG, 59.1 FG% combined VSL and MSL) and C Bruno Sundov (7.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG in MSL), played well at times, but in reality suck pretty badly.

The Draftees: Seemingly all the success of the Knicks summer league teams rested on the shoulders of 9th overall pick, C Channing Frye. Frye struggled mightily in his first three games at the VSL (shot like 1%) but seemingly turned around his play for good in the team’s fourth contest with 16 points and 11 boards in 33 minutes. With 14 points (6-7 FG) and 7 rebounds in their fifth and final game, Frye assured himself a spot of the 2nd Team All-VSL and didn't stop there. In the MSL, Channing totaled 13.8 PPG to go along with 5.0 RPG and 1.6 BPG in five games. While there are still some kinks to work out with their big man, the Knicks have been blown away with the play of their other first rounder, G Nate Robinson. The former Washington Huskie had VSL averages of 17.8 PPG and 1.4 SPG and then compiled 15.2 PPG, 5.8 APG in a second place finish at the MSL. Robinson seems fitted to be the teams primary backup once the regular season begins, even if he wears a size 6 sneaker. Finally, F David Lee (12.0 PPG, 6.2 RPG in VSL) received 2nd Team All-VSL honors, managing to quietly duck the pressure of both Frye and Robinson. A roster spot isn’t entirely out of the question, but he's white and goofy, so probably not.

Nate Dogg is about to make some bodies turn cold...

The Wannabes: In the VSL, no wannabe warranted enough PT to make a name for himself. However, in the MSL G Rueben Douglas opened some eyes in sharing the teams’ points lead of 15.2 PPG, while hitting on 52.0% of his field goals. However, Douglas mind as well have been Michael Douglas because he has about as good a chance of making this team as Anthony Fuqua, or Anthony Peretore for that matter.

Orlando Magic
Vegas Summer League (3-2)

The Vets: Throughout Orlando's five game stretch, all VSL eyes were seemingly on last season's 2004 first overall pick, F Dwight Howard. The results: 19.0 PPG (4th in VSL), 7.5 RPG (4th VSL), 1.5 BPG (4.0 VSL) and 1st Team All-VSL honors. Keep in mind that Howard looked like he'd be more interested in having a three way with Jason Klotz and Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje than playing aggressively, thus you can imagine what to expect when the real games start in October. Despite being an absolute man-child, DW also got his braces removed--making him a sure fire top-10 fantasy pick. Last year's other first round pick, PG Jameer Nelson (10.3 PPG, 2.3 APG), failed to impress and with word that Orlando has offered Keyon Dooling a contract, don't be surprised to see Nelson riding the pine in year two. The final vet of the group, SF Mark Jones, quit his gig at ESPN to join some Entertainment Weekly show, and now is trying his hand at the NBA. On a serious note, it's not even the same Mark Jones, but who really cares?

The Draftees:While PF Fran Vazquez pulled off the team at the last minute, PG Travis Diener (8.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 4.0 APG) opened some eyes, especially in the team's last game, dropping 16 points, 12 boards and 6 assists. F Marcin Gortat got his fair share of run and actually managed to rank 3rd on the team in fouls per game with 4.3.

The Wannabes: Perhaps the best news for the Magic came in the form of G Roger Mason Jr. who dropped a team high 29 points in the team's final game, to go along with 0 rebounds and 1 assists. I predict that Mason recievs the annual "Blue Balls Award" for giving his team high hopes and then absolutely falling flat on his face once the real games begin. F Jerome Beasley turned in a nice first game (21 and 5) but decided to get wrecked for the rest of the trip and put up just 34 total points in the Magic's final 4 games.

Washington Wizards
Vegas Summer League (2-4)

The Vets: The most highly recognizable Wizard scheduled to dress for the team was G/F Jarvis Hayes, and he pulled out faster than Peter North in a gang bang. That left PF Damone Brown (2.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG) and second year C Peter John Ramos (5.2 PPG, 32.4 FG%, 3.2 RPG) as the only vets of the group. Looks like another year of riding the pine for these bums...

The Draftees: Washington's lone draft pick, prep star PF Andray Blatche opened some eyes during the session, averaging a respectable 9.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, and 0.7 BPG in 30.0 minutes. While the team is kicking Kwame out the door, they're hoping Blatche can develop into a solid replacement.

The Wannabes: G Gerald Fitch turned in the most promising six games of any Wizard player, tallying 13.4 PPG and 3.8 RPG in 24.0 minutes. G Donnell Taylor out of UAB also played some solid ball and will compete for a final roster spot come October. F Hiram Fuller led the team in boards with 7.3 per game, while former Tar Heel PG Eddie Cota recorded the most dimes with 2.7 per game.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Flip Flop

Thanks for the job Larry

Just 24 hours after the buyout of former coach Larry Brown, the Detroit Pistons showed no remorse on Wednesday, locking up former Minnesota lead man Flip Saunders. The deal is worth $20 million over four years and the pressure to lead a team that has reached the Finals in each of the last two seasons begins immediately. Brown, in the mean time, said he will take his time in deciding his next coaching destination. He briefly spoke to Isiah Thomas and the Knicks on Wednesday and it is believed that New York would offer a deal in the 5-year $60 million range. Keep your ear to the ground in the coming weeks...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Western Conference Summer League Report

Andrew Bynum has rebounded well from stabbing UConn in the back and later starting a war with the NBA's most intimadating man to have a solid summer league showing in So Cal. Bynum is just one of a number of rookies that are causing critics to rave this summer over the 2005 NBA Draft class.

By Paul Benedict

The Summer League season is just about coming to a close, so before it becomes old news, Ant and I decided to give you guys a team-by-team rundown of what's taken place this summer. I'm covering the West today, Ant will be back with a report on the East either Thursday or Friday. Before I delve into the team breakdowns, here's my Western Conference All-Summer League Teams--

1st Team
G- Sebastian Telfair, Portland VSL
G- Dion Glover, Houston MSL
F- Lawrence Roberts, Memphis SPL
F- Lonny Baxter, Houston MSL
C- Chris Kaman, LA Clippers VSL

2nd Team
G- Kevin Martin, Sacramento VSL
G- J.R. Smith, New Orleans VSL
F- Travis Outlaw, Portland VSL
F- Ike Diogu, Golden State VSL
C- Andrew Bynum, LA Lakers SPL

Dallas Mavericks ("A" Team 3-4, "B" Team 1-5)
"A"- Vegas Summer League/Rocky Mountain Revue/"B"- Summer Pro League

The Vets: Marquis Daniels was the most glaring omission from the All-VSL Teams despite leading the Mavs to a 3-1 record in the 4 games he played in by averaging 17.0 PPG (10th in VSL), 5.3 RPG, 3.0 APG (10th), and 2.3 SPG (1st). Although he didn't shoot the ball well (36.9 FG% and 0 3PTs), Daniels was far and away the best player on a team that faired pretty well. Devin Harris sprained his shoulder in the 2nd game of the VSL and was held out of the lineup the rest of the way which was unfortunate because he never had the opportunity to turn around a terrible start (5.5 PPG, 2-13 FGs, 3.5 APG, 5.0 TPG). The Mavs have gotten some solid play out of their young big men this summer-- D.J. Mbenga averaged 6.6 PPG (75.0 FG%), 5.8 RPG, and easily led the VSL with 2.8 BPG despite not even playing 20 MPG. He's since recorded 6 blocks in 2 RMR games. Pavel Podkolzin posted respectable numbers (6.8 PPG, 50.o FG%, 4.5 RPG, 0.8 BPG in 18.3 MPG) and is coming off of a 12 point, 7 rebound performance in the RMR.

The Draftees: None.

The Wannabees: The Mavs have to be pleased with the efforts of some of their "wannabees", namely former NC State product Josh Powell who was the lone Maverick named to the All-VSL Team (2nd Team). Powell nearly posted a double-double (11.2 PPG and a league-leading 9.8 RPG) and has given himself a serious shot of landing a roster spot on a team that can use all the rebounding and athleticism it can find. Felipe Lopez continues his quest to make it back to the NBA after a series of injuries left him without a contract. Lopez has scored double figures in 5 consecutive games after getting off to a rough start, but may receive serious competition from rookie Michael Harris for a shot at making the team this fall. Harris' numbers in the VSL were modest (10.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG), but the Mavs love his athleticism and ability to finish on the break. The Mavs' "B" team understandably didn't fare well in So Cal against all "A"teams, but that didn't seem to affect rookie David Logan who dropped 20+ points in 4 of 6 contests.

Denver Nuggets (3-3)
Vegas Summer League

The Vets: The Nuggets brought just one vet with them to Vegas, Luis Flores, and the 6'2" guard ended up being their leading scorer (15.3 PPG) and was named 2nd Team All-VSL. He still might not have secured a roster spot however, now that Kiki Vandeweghe picked up the option on Voshon Lenard.

The Draftees: Denver brought all three of their draftees to Vegas and walked away very pleased with the efforts they received out of their two first round picks. Linas Kleiza was named 2nd Team All-VSL after averaging 15.2 PPG on 54.1 FG%, shot 86.2% from the line and pulled down 6.2 RPG. Julius Hodge got off to a rough start, but was one of the best all-around players by the end of last week and finished off with averages of 13.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, and 3.8 APG. Ricky Sanchez on the other hand proved he's still a good couple years away from being ready for the NBA-- the 6'11" forward shot just 10-35 in 5 games and averaged more fouls per game (4.7) than points (4.0).

The Wannabees: Euro Star Tyus Edney did plenty on his summer league tour with Denver to merit consideration from an NBA team this fall (10.3 PPG, 63.2 FG%, 6-9 3PT, 1.2 SPG). Former Milwaukee lottery pick Marcus Haislip continued his complete colllapse out of the NBA (3.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 33.3 FG%, 0 Blocks) before succumbing to injury and essentially ending his summer league season. And NBA Source fav Boniface N'Dong, whose been a force overseas for the last few years, performed respectably (8.7 PPG, 54.1 FG%, 3.8 RPG), but likely was not impressive enough to secure a roster spot with frontcourt-heavy Denver.

Golden State Warriors (1-4)
Vegas Summer League

The Vets: Andris Biedrins was solid for the Warriors in his 2nd summer league season (7.8 PPG, 51.7 FG%, 6.2 RPG, 1.2 BPG in 20.6 MPG), but was outplayed by Ike Diogu and may find himself behind the rookie on the depth chart when the season starts. Zarko Cabarkapa continued to impress with his versatile skill set on the offensive end (14.0 PPG), but will never be more than a bench player until he learns what it taken to play some quality defense.

The Draftees: Diogu stamped his mark on an impressive VSL showing with a league-high 37 points in the Warriors final game against the Suns. Nobody had an answer for the lottery pick as Diogu put up gaudy averages of 18.4 PPG on 59.3% shooting and 8.4 RPG in being one of three rookies named 1st Team All-VSL (along with Nate Robinson and Jason Maxiell. The Warriors also have to be impressed with the play of high school prodigy Monta Ellis (15.8 PPG), who landed a spot on the 2nd Team All-VSL with his hi-octane play on the offensive end. Chris Taft also showed flashes of his potential (7.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG in 15.3 MPG) despite having his minutes limited due to the surplus of big men Golden State brought with them to Vegas.

The Wannabees: None of the invitees made a significant impact for the Warriors, though it's worth mentioning that Jawad Williams struggled to find consistency (6.2 PPG, 2.2 RPG in 17.2 MPG) and may have played himself into the NBDL.

Ike Diogu was a force in the paint for the Warriors at the VSL-- another sign of good things to come this season in Oakland.

Houston Rockets (5-0)
Minnesota Summer League

The Vets: None.

The Draftees: Luther Head, the Rockets' lone draftee, has been inconsistent on the offensive end (8.2 PPG, 33.3% FG, 3.4 RPG, 2.8 APG in 21.4 MPG), but has been the catalyst for Houston on defense (league-leading 2.0 SPG) in helping them to a 5-0 record. Head might not be ready to take over as Houston's starting point, but he looks like he could be a valuable commodity off the bench.

The Wannabees: Houston's domination of the MSL has largely been because of the tremendous contributions of two journeymen-- Lonny Baxter and Dion Glover. The duo have made a living of attacking the hoop and going to the line (top two FTA per game) which Jeff Van Gundy has to love considering his team was often condemned for its lack of aggressiveness. Baxter led all MSL players in scoring (21.0 PPG), ranked 2nd in rebounding (6.2 RPG), and 5th in FG% (58.6). Glover was 3rd in scoring (18.8 PPG), 5th in rebounding (5.8 RPG), 4th in assists (4.2 APG), and 2nd in steals (1.8 SPG). Both players have excellent chances of landing spots on the Rockets' regular season roster depending on which free agents they elect to bring back. Jeff Van Gundy also brought in NCAA fan favorite Chuck Hayes this summer and has watched as the Kentucky grad has earned himself more and more playing time each game he plays. In the Rockets' final two games, Hayes scored 27 points on 10-12 shooting from the field and 7-7 from the stripe, pulled down 16 rebounds, handed out 3 assists, and blocked 2 shots in just 44 minutes of action.

LA Clippers (2-3)
Vegas Summer League

The Vets: 1st Team All-VSL member Chris Kaman practically carried the Clippers on his shoulders in Vegas, averaging 20.2 PPG (2nd in VSL), 8.6 RPG (2nd), and 1.6 BPG (3rd). It's a good sign for the Clippers who are hoping that Kaman can secure his spot as the team's starting center. Fans only got one chance to check out future star Shaun Livingston, who was mediocre (7 Pts, 5 Rebs, 2 Asts) in the team's opening game. The Clips also held back Quinton Ross as the reserve guard played only 2 games, averaging 10.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.0 SPG. Lionel Chalmers did play each game for LAC, but was as dreadful as any player at the VSL (26.4 MPG, 7.2 PPG, 19.0 FG%, 3-19 3PT, 2.2 APG).

The Draftees: Daniel Ewing didn't fare much better than Chalmers when he ran the point (28.4 MPG, 8.0 PPG, 37.1 FG%, 1.6 APG) which may cause the Clippers to consider signing a point guard in free agency this summer or perhaps bringing back Rick Brunson.

The Wannabees: None of the invitees stood out in Vegas with the minor exception of former Alabama star Erwin Dudley who scored 8.0 PPG on 52.2% shooting and brought down 6.8 RPG.

I wonder how many draft picks busted this line out on her-- "Sup baby. You know what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?"

LA Lakers (5-2)
Summer Pro League

The Vets: The Lakers were hoping to see some progression from Sasha Vujacic in the SPL in the hopes that he can snare a spot in Phil Jackson's rotation next season, but the Slovenian has done little to raise eyebrows (9.7 PPG, 41.7 FG%, 1.4 APG). Tony Bobbitt was also brought abroad, but has received little playing time and done nothing with his minutes (3.2 PPG, 25.0 FG%, 0.6 RPG).

The Draftees: All three of the Lakers' draft picks have shown flashes of their potential this summer-- Andrew Bynum has earned raves for his play (11.6 PPG, 50.0 FG%, 7.6 RPG, 1.7 BPG) as he appears to be further along than most critics initially suspected, although his declaration that he can shoot free throws better than Shaq appears false (53.8 FT%). Ronny Turiaf was solid (14.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG), including a 26 point, 11 rebound game last week, before sitting out the last 3 games due to injury. And Von Wafer has been a pleasant surprise thus far (13.1 PPG, 2.0 SPG, 1.0 SPG), most notably because of his outstanding perimeter shooting (54.1 FG%, 10-16 3PT over the last 5 games). All three have seemingly locked up roster spots for next season.

The Wannabees: Smush Parker was an intruiging pick-up for the Lakers this summer because many felt that he could challenge for the team's back-up point guard slot. His play has been consistent (10.7 PPG, 50.9 FG%, 3.3 APG, 1.0 SPG), but might not be enough for Phil Jackson who will likely look to grab a veteran point via free agency to fill the role.

Memphis Grizzlies (4-1)
Summer Pro League

The Vets: Dahntay Jones headlined the trio of vets Memphis brought with them to So Cal and the Duke alum has responded by playing some pretty decent basketball (16.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.4 APG). Jones still needs some work on his perimeter game (36.9 FG%), but he still showed off his tenacity for attacking the rim and getting to the line. Andre Emmett (13.4 PPG, 52.0 FG%, 2.0 SPG) got off to a rugged start at the SPL, but has improved his production each game out until he scored 20 in the Grizzlies' past 2 games. And Antonio Burks has been battling the injury bug for the last couple weeks, but still suited up for 3 games even if he wasn't quite the point guard the Grizz are counting on him to be this season (5.0 PPG, 27.8 FG%, 4.3 APG).

The Draftees: The Grizzlies gave their two rookies, Hakim Warrick and Lawrence Roberts, plenty of action in So Cal and the duo did just about everything to impress. Warrick has been just about everything the Grizz could ask for on the offensive end (17.4 PPG, 51.6 FG%) and has also rebounded the ball surprisingly well (10.4 RPG), but his free throw shooting needs some work (56.8 FT%) and his defense is definitely in need of some polishing (just 1 steal and 1 block in 5 games). Roberts has been a revelation and is easily posting the best numbers of any rookie this summer. He may have come in with little momentum after Mississippi State's disappointing season, but let it be no secret-- Roberts right now has the look of an absolute steal. He's been the catalyst for the 4-1 Grizzlies on both ends of the floor which may come as a surprise to many because while everyone knew he could put the ball in the basket (team-high 17.8 PPG, 53.8 FG%, 86.8 FT%), it's his defense that is really raising eyebrows (12.8 RPG, 2.0 SPG, 3.0 BPG).

The Wannabees: Jerry West and Mike Fratello brought in two undrafted SEC early entries to the SPL squad-- Kennedy Winston and Anthony Roberson and has given them a chance to prove their worth over the last 2 weeks. Winston has only played reserve minutes, but he still hasn't done much to blow anyone over (6.8 PPG, 45.5 FG%, 2.2 RPG, 1.0 APG). Roberson split minutes with Burks at the point and played nearly the entire game when he sat out, but he also has struggled to make a major impression this summer (9.2 PPG, 2.8 APG, 1.4 SPG). Apparently scouts weren't kidding when they said these guys left school a little too early.

Minnesota Timberwolves (1-4)
Minnesota Summer League

The Vets: The Wolves are hoping that Ndudi Ebi will be able to work his way into a bench role for next season, but the jury is still out after a so-so MSL performance (25.4 MPG, 10.4 PPG, 42.9 FG%, 50.0 FT%, 4.6 RPG, 2.4 APG, 3.2 TPG).

The Draftees: Rashad McCants was with the team in Minnesota, but sat out the games due to a groin injury. 2nd Round Pick Bracey Wright suited up for 3 games, but did not have much of an impact for the Wolves (17.0 MPG, 7.7 PPG, 29.4 FG%, 2.0 RPG, 2.0 APG).

The Wannabees: Minnesota already signed undrafted Dwayne Jones to a 2-year contract and liked what they saw from the young, but raw center in the MSL (7.8 PPG, 80.0 FG%, 3.8 RPG, 1.0 BPG in 24.2 MPG)-- although it's clear he still needs to put some meat on his thin frame. Another guy the Wolves brought in and many felt had earned himself a contract for next season after only one game was Nikoloz Tskitishvili who rocked the MSL on opening night when he went off for 25 points including 3 treys and 10 rebounds in just 17 minutes. Unfortunately Skita broke his hand the very next night and will be out of action for up to 6 weeks, putting his contract status for next season into jeopardy. John Lucas, Jr. conversely, essentially secured a spot on an NBA roster this fall by following up his impressive showing in Vegas with the Cavs by coming through with an equally fine performance in Minnesota (9.2 PPG, 50.0 FG%, 2.4 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.0 TPG in 15.8 MPG).

New Orleans Hornets (1-4)
Vegas Summer League

The Vets: J.R. Smith led all VSL players in scoring (20.6 PPG) and also finished in the top ten in assists (2.8) and steals (1.6)in being named 1st Team All-VSL. Anything short of these numbers probably would have been considered a disappointment for the budding star. Maciej Lampe also had a nice couple of weeks in Vegas (11.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG), but the Hornets can't be too pleased with the lame showings from two of their young power forwards, David West (6.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG in 19.5 MPG) and Jackson Vroman (4.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG in 17.8 MPG).

The Draftees: The expectations were high for Chris Paul coming into the VSL and despite being hampered by a wrist injury, the #4 pick was still able to whet the appetites of Hornets fans with his impressive play (11.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 5.5 APG- 2nd in VSL, and 1.8 SPG- 4th in VSL). Unfortunately for New Orleans, local hero Brandon Bass had a disappointing VSL (4.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG in 14.8 MPG), although he's still expected to sign a contract with the club in the near future.

The Wannabees: None of the invitees took advantage of their opportunities to make a play for a team with a few roster slots still to fill. Sean Banks went scoreless in his first two games before putting together a couple double-digit performances when he saw extended minutes. Troy Bell couldn't hit the broad side of a barn (22.6 FG%, 1-7 3PT) from the field, but showed that he could still knock down free throws with the best of 'em (88.9%). And Eddie Robinson failed to capture the magic that some hoped he had left behind during his last stint with the Hornets (4.5 PPG, 1.8 RPG in 15.8 MPG).

No wonder the talented Hornets went just 1-4.

Phoenix Suns (3-3)
Vegas Summer League

The Vets: The Suns dropped their last 3 VSL contests after coming away victorious in their first 3, but that likely had a lot to do with 2nd Team All-VSL guard Leandro Barbosa sitting out the final two games with a pinkie injury. Phoenix is eager to see whether Barbosa is ready to play more minutes next season-- a solid, though not spectacular display in Vegas (18.0 PPG, 40.0 FG%, 20.0 3PT%, 1.5 APG, 0.5 SPG) may help his cause.

The Draftees: The Suns' 2nd Round Pick Dijon Thompson was somewhat of a disappointment at the VSL (7.3 PPG, 37.2 FG%, 2.3 RPG in 27.8 MPG), but Phoenix was satisfied enough to offer him a contract for next season.

The Wannabees: In one of the more shocking developments in Vegas, former Tennessee forward Ron Slay was named 2nd Team All-VSL (over the likes of Marquis Daniels and Julius Hodge) despite rather modest numbers (10.0 PPG, 50.0 FG%, 3.0 RPG). Slay and Stephen Graham (10.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.0 SPG) were the best of the Suns' invitees and may have a shot of earning a roster spot this fall.

Phoenix's Ron Slay was somewhat of a shocker to land on the All-VSL Team, but it likely gives him a legitimate shot of nailing an NBA roster spot next season.

Portland Trail Blazers (3-3)
Vegas Summer League

The Vets: Sure the Blazers finished with just a .500 record, but most people will tell you they walked away probably the happiest teams after watching as two of next year's projected starters dominated the competition in being named 1st Team All-VSL. Travis Outlaw made his presence known from day one after he dropped 32 on the Knicks and followed that doozy up with some solid play to finish off with averages of 18.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.0 SPG, and 1.0 BPG. Sebastian Telfair was as equally impressive in leading the VSL in assists (6.0) to go along with 18.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 1.2 SPG. The Blazers also brought Ha Seung-Jin (5.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.0 BPG) who they're hoping can back up Joel Pryzbilla as center next season assuming Theo Ratliff is sent packing. 1st VSL- Outlaw, Telfair

The Draftees: The Blazers held Jarrett Jack out of the VSL due to a lingering ankle injury that they didn't want to risk further damage to. They did get a look at their lottery pick Martell Webster and came away pleased with his play (12.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG) and feeling that he might be ready to give them some quality minutes right away next season.

The Wannabees: Portland was hoping they could get a look at Sergei Monia, but the Russian wasn't able to make it over and strut his stuff. Instead the team was left with a slew of journeymen, including two former Big 12 studs Ebi Ere (7.8 PPG) and Ira Clark (6.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG) who did the most to impress at the VSL.

Sacramento Kings (2-3)
Vegas Summer League

The Vets: It's quite possible that the stellar play of Kevin Martin at the VSL was enough to convince Geoff Petrie that Cuttino Mobley was expendable at shooting guard. Martin led the Kings in scoring with 19.4 PPG on 47.1 FG% and 41.7 3PT% and also added 4.8 RPG and 1.0 SPG. F Erik Daniels joined Martin in Vegas, but did not play especially well despite seeing an abundance of playing time (11.2 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 0 Blks in 30.0 MPG).

The Draftees: 1st Round Pick Franciso Garcia got off to a brutal start in Vegas, but pulled through in the last week and closed out the camp well. His final numbers (12.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.6 SPG, 1.4 BPG) demonstrate the type of all-around play we can expect from Rick Pitino's boy.

The Wannabees: Unfortunately, TO wasn't the only celeb we didn't get a chance to see in Vegas-- Percy "Master P" Miller practiced with the Kings, but never got into any games. That's about all to report on from a pathetic crew of wannabees trying to make the Kings.

San Antonio Spurs (1-2)
Rocky Mountain Revue (Stats thru 2 games)

The Vets: None.

The Draftees: Ian Mahinmi is not participating in the RMR.

The Wannabees: Britton Johnsen has been one of the top players at the RMR (19.0 PPG, 56.0 FG%, 7-12 3PT, 7.0 RPG, 1.0 BPG), but it may not matter how extraordinary he performs-- San Antonio's roster is essentially full for next season. Jamal Sampson is one guy with NBA experience who you would think the Spurs would give a good hard look at considering their lack of depth upfront, but the 7-footer sat out the team's second game following a subpar opener (14 minutes, 2 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block). B.J. Elder from Georgia Tech has also landed on the Spurs' RMR team and he's one guy that you would think sort of fits right in with that team, but his numbers thus far suggest otherwise (39 minutes, 2 points, 1-9 FG, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 0 steals).

Seattle SuperSonics (2-2)
Rocky Mountain Revue

The Vets: The Sonics came to the RMR with one major goal in mind-- to expedite the progress of their young big men Robert Swift and Johan Petro-- so far, so not good. Swift (27.3 MPG, 5.5 PPG, 38.1 FG%, 7.8 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 5.8 FPG) has easily been the better of the two, but that's not exactly something to brag about. Mateen Cleaves (8.8 PPG, 45.4 FG%, 3-5 3PT, 2.5 RPG, 3.8 APG in 20.0 MPG) has played pretty well and may indeed find himself backing up Luke Ridnour next season.

The Draftees: Johan Petro (2.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 2.3 TPG) has bombed about as badly as the NHL TV ratings this season. He's reportedly having great difficulty communicating due to his inability to speak english and having even more problems understanding that you can't beat up people when they touch the ball (5.8 FPG in only 10.5 MPG). Mickael Gelabale is not with the Sonics this summer, so the rookie report card right now stands at a solid F-.

The Wannabees: None of the invitees has played particularly well with the exception of former Oregon player Alex Scales (11.0 PPG, 47.4 FG%, 2.3 APG, 1.3 SPG in 20.0 MPG) who's challenging Mateen Cleaves for the team's back-up point guard role. Matt Walsh was scheduled to join the team in Utah, but he has since signed a deal to play for Miami next season.

He's no Johan Petro, but Robert Swift is certainly struggling mightily this summer as well. With these two clowns as their centers, the Sonics are going to get killed in the paint this season.

Utah Jazz (2-2)
Rocky Mountain Review

The Vets: Last year's 1st Round Picks Kris Humphries and Kirk Snyder are both competing at th RMR, but the Jazz are getting mixed results from the two. Humphries has been one of the top players during the last week (13.5 PPG, 51.4 FG%, 5.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.3 SPG in 25.5 MPG), while Snyder has struggled immensely while playing with some minor injury concerns (6.0 PPG, 33.3 FG%, 1 rebound, 3 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks in 19.3 MPG).

The Draftees: The Jazz own the rights to the highest 2005 Draft Pick of any Western Conference Team-- Deron Williams, and while the former Illinois stud hasn't blown people away this summer (9.8 PPG, 41.7 FG%, 3.8 APG, 1.8 SPG), he's proven to be steady and reliable. Utah signed high school draftee C.J. Miles to a two-year contract last week, but it appears as though the kid is still a couple years away from making any significant contributions to the team (6.8 PPG, 31.0 FG%, 2.5 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.3 SPG in 21.0 MPG). Robert Whaley looks as though he may have been a nice find for the Jazz in the 2nd Round (8.8 PPG, 50.0 FG%, 5.8 RPG in 22.0 MPG) and may be able to provide some beef on the team's frontline.

The Wannabees: Olu Famutimi decided not to head back to Arkansas next season after going undrafted, but he's done little to prove that was a wise decision (4.5 PPG, 2.3 RPG in 11.0 MPG). Melvin Scott, another member off Carolina's championship squad from this spring trying to make it into the NBA, has played sparingly and looks like he's NBA Developmental League bound.