Monday, October 17, 2005

5 on Five

Look for the 'Rocky IV Theory' to ring true and Gasol's beard to be essential in his having an All-Star season.

5 on Five
Week of 10/17 - 10/23

By Paul Benedict

5 Faces to Watch
Theme: Nobodies Enjoying Good Preseasons

1. Sharrod Ford, F San Antonio
-I talked about Ford the other day, but it's worth discussing him briefly while we can because he's not likely to stick with the Spurs. The Clemson product is doing enough to at least warrant a look from another team (17 MPG, 7 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 1.3 BPG), so he might want to request a release now much like Kevin Braswell did with Miami after he scored the game winning bucket last Monday. Either way, Ford is almost certainly NBDL-bound where he's going to have to continue to impress if he wants a shot with the big boys.

2. Awvee Storey, F Washington
- Storey had a cup of coffee with the Nets early last season, but that's the extent of his NBA regular season experience. He's doing his best to change that this October, as the former Pac-10 standout at Arizona State is averaging double-figures (10.0 PPG) on 56.5% (13-23) shooting thus far. Storey's size (6'6") will likely hurt him as he attempts to stick with the Wiz, but he might want to keep his cell phone handy should anything happen to Washington's already thin frontline.

3. Smush Parker, PG LA Lakers
-Smush supposedly had a terrific training camp with the Lakers and played very well in Hawaii (35 Minutes, 20 Points, 8-14 FGs, 3 Rebounds, 4 Assists). There's speculation that he might even be the front-runner for the Lakers' starting point guard job. Maybe Phil Jackson thinks Parker's combination of size (6'4") and quickness are ideally suited to run the triangle offense, or maybe Aaron McKie and Sasha Vujacic are just that bad.

4. Charlie Bell, G Milwaukee
-You might remember Bell from the 2000 Michigan State National Championship team where he quietly played an integral role in between Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson in the backcourt. Bell has thrived overseas since and was signed to a contract this summer by the Bucks to help shore up their perimeter defense and to provide a shooting threat off the bench. His numbers this preseason (11.0 PPG, 3-6 3PTs, 3.7 RPG, 2.7 APG) indicate that he should work nicely into the Bucks' backcourt rotation.

5. Justin Reed, F Boston
-Most people didn't even expect Reed to make the Celtics' roster a season ago, but Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge saw flashes of potential in him and kept him along for the ride. Now there's talk that Reed could play a significant bench role for the Cs thanks to his versatility and tenacity. A power player at Ole Miss only two years ago, the 6'8" Reed (18.7 MPG, 11.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG in the preseason) is reinventing himself in the pros a la James Posey. Only time will tell if he has the same impact.

5 Fascinating Factoids

1. When Anthony and I debuted The NBA Source almost a year ago to this date, we reeled our first group of readers in thanks to nailing our nightly picks at an almost unfathomable rate. I'd like to remind everyone of these numbers from the first month and a half of last season right now, so they're ready to jump on board 'The NBA Source Nightly Picks Bandwagon' when the season begins two weeks from now (and ready to bail quickly at the first sign of us sucking). Our record in the first six weeks of the season-- 223-172-13 for a .565 winning percentage (recall that we were picking every single game then). Even better? Our locks-- 25-6-1 for a .806 win%.

2. The San Antonio Spurs are winless in 4 preseason games. If there were ever a fascinating factoid to pay absolutely no attention to, it's this. Nevertheless, it warrants mentioning if only because it might be January before we see the Spurs pick up their fourth loss.

* has some fascinating statistics on players' shooting percentages from specific zones on the floor. You should check it out yourself, but allow me to comment on some of the numbers I took notice of.

3. Bruce Bowen attempted 197 3-pointers from the corner last year, which was way more than any other player. That means 33% of his field goal attempts were 3s from the corner. Honestly, I would have presumed this percentage to have been even higher.

4. Those underestimating the Suns' chances without Amare may want to take a gander at these numbers. Kurt Thomas not only took by far the most baseline jumpers of any player last year (302), but he also sunk them at a fairly high rate (47.4%). Raja Bell was one of the five most accurate shooters in the league from both the left baseline (57.7%) and from straightaway within the 3-point line (52.4%). There's no question these guys are going to get plenty of open looks with Nash running the show (who I should add ranks as by far the most accurate 2-point shooter from the wing and straightaway), they're just going to have to keep knocking them down at a high rate if Phoenix is to survive.

5. As often as people recognize that Tony Parker's biggest strength is his ability to penetrate, I've never considered him to be perhaps the best point guard at getting to the rim. Parker ranked behind only Allen Iverson and Dwyane Wade in lay-ups attempted last season (457), and he shot a much higher percentage than both (65%).

Maceo Baston and Maccabi Tel-Aviv shoved in right down the pathetic Toronto Raptors' throat. Ouch.

5 Fretful Thoughts

1. I really hate to bring this up because it's still an afterthought in the wake of the Jason Collier tragedy, but it deserves mentioning nonetheless. How do you think Eddy Curry is feeling right now?

2. Just when you thought the Toronto Raptors might be bad, they went out and lost to Maccabi Tel-Aviv of the Israelian League on Sunday, the first time an NBA team has lost to Maccabi Tel-Aviv in 28 years. Worst part is, Sam Mitchell was actually trying to win this gam-- Chris Bosh played 45 minutes and Jalen Rose played 41. I understand this is October and nobody is in midseason form quite yet, but my goodness, this Raptors team is going to be just awful. With that loss, I've decided to subtract at least 5 wins from the total I was originally projecting for them.

3. Suddenly put on the back-burner of must-know NBA news, Jay Williams has announced that he's putting his comeback on hold, yet again. This can't be a good sign. Neither Miami nor Houston were willing to gamble on him-- heck, not even Toronto would sign him to a guaranteed contract. Williams decided that the best move would be to continue the rehibilitation process for a few more months and hope that some team during the season someone will sign him. There's obviously some major concerns about Williams' ability to recover if point guards like Smush Parker and Robert Pack can land gigs, but he can't.

4. With Ryan Gomes and Justin Reed both looking extremely sharp in the preseason, there's simply no way Doc Rivers will be able to leave either out of the rotation. The real question is-- who is going to be left out of Boston's regular rotation? A look at their projected depth chart:

  • PG: West/Dickau/Banks
  • SG: Davis/Allen/Green
  • SF: Pierce/Gomes/Reed
  • PF: Jefferson/LaFrentz/Scalabrine
  • C: Blount/Perkins

This is assuming Curtis Borchardt and Will Bynum are cut, and Orien Greene is sent down to the D-League. Out of the 14 guys listed above, it would appear that Gerald Green is the only player who has little chance of working himself into a regular role to start the season. So who is going to get left out? How adversely could this potentially enormous rotation hurt the team's ability to win? Could this be damaging to the egos of the league's youngest team? I'm worried for the Celtics because they're venturing into unchartered waters. Not since the league came to terms on its last collective bargaining agreement has a franchise ever attempted to assemble so much young talent all at once. Even if Doc Rivers is able to coach this team to success this season (a Playoff berth would certainly merit Coach of the Year consideration), what happens when everyone except LaFrentz and Blount become free agents over the next 3 summers?

  • 5. Anyone else starting to become just a little concerned that Shaun Livingston is ever going to be able to stay healthy? He played in just 30 games last season due to shoulder and knee injuries, and he hasn't played in a single preseason game due to a lower back strain. Hasn't anyone ever taught this kid how to do dips and crunches? Seriously, I've been tall and lean my entire life and used to strain my lower back all the time, but since I started doing dips and crunches regularly, I haven't once hurt my back. I mean really, who's the strength and conditioning coach of the Clippers, Jack Black?

    5 Fascinating Match-Ups
    *Note: Since nobody gives a crap about preseason games, let's look at some significant positional battles going on.

    1. Juwan Howard vs Stromile Swift - Houston's Starting Power Forward
    -Everyone surmised that Swift would simply inherit the role after Houston signed him this summer, but people have forgotten that Howard was playing very well (12.0 PPG, 7.9 RPG in February and March) up until he had to call it quits due to a knee injury. This should be Swift's job since he complements Yao's game far better than Howard does, but Jeff Van Gundy isn't going to just pull the carpet from under Juwan-- Swift is going to have to show a level of consistency and toughness that we saw only brief glimpses of in Memphis.

    2. Kenny Thomas vs Shareef Abdur-Rahim - Sacramento's Starting Power Forward -Much like the Houston power forward situation, nobody expected Thomas to hold onto his starting spot once Geoff Petrie inked Shareef Abdur-Rahim to a deal. Why not? Thomas was straight-up solid for Sacramento after the trade that sent him over from Philly (14.5 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.9 APG). Abdur-Rahim has actually said publicly that he's not going to openly lobby for the starting job which raises even more questions for someone that has been scrutinzed his entire career for lacking a killer instinct. 'Reef is definitely the better player than Thomas, but neither the Kings nor 'Reef himself is going to benefit unless he takes some initiative.

    3. Rasual Butler vs Bostjan Nachbar - New Orleans' Starting Small Forward
    -This isn't exactly your front page headline battle, although both players have looked good thus far in the preseason and the competition is reportedly as close as they come. Butler comes over from Miami where he was used almost exclusively as a spot-up shooter, but he's trying to show Byron Scott he's more versatile than that (39 Minutes, 7-14 FG, 19 Points, 11 Rebounds, 2 Steals, 2 Blocks). Nachbar has been equally impressive (41 Minutes, 10-16 FG, 4-9 3PT, 27 Points), but he's solely a scorer and just can't play the hustle or defense that Butler can. Butler gets the edge.

    4. Desmond Mason vs Bobby Simmons - Milwaukee's Starting Small Forward
    -Mason stepped into the starting lineup permanently last season after the Bucks shipped Keith Van Horn off to Dallas and he played the best basketball of his career (18.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.8 APG after the All-Star Break). Mace should face some stiff competition from the Bucks' big free agent acquistition, Bobby Simmons, who also happens to be the reigning 'Most Improved Player'. Simmons is the superior shooter and a better defensive player, but Mason's slashing style probably complements Michael Redd a little better. Look for Mason to begin the season in the starting lineup, for Simmons to compete for 6th Man of the Year, and for both to almost always be on the floor when the game is on the line.

    5. Derek Anderson vs David Wesley - Houston's Starting Shooting Guard
    -Wesley started the first and third games with DA starting the second, so it'll be interesting to see if Jeff Van Gundy keeps alternating when the Rockets play Seattle tonight. Van Gundy loves Wesley's shooting touch and leadership, so I'm guessing that to start the season, he'll remain in the starting lineup. But come 4th quarter, it might be difficult for JVG to play Wesley ahead of the bigger, more versatile Anderson.

    Always a class act and engaging personality, Steve Smith should enjoy tremendous success calling Hawks games.

    5 Fearless Forecasts

    1. Anthony took Brevin Knight in the 7th round of our fantasy draft last night and though I don't necessarily think it was a bad pick, I think he should have considered this when he chose him ahead of Mike James (who I stole 2 rounds later)-- Raymond Felton will supplant Brevin Knight as Charlotte's starting point guard by New Year's Day. This team is clearly building for the future and Head Coach/GM Bernie Bickerstaff will ensure the development of the younger guys he's placed so much stock into. Come late December, the Bobcats will be at least 10 games below .500 and Bickerstaff will seek starter minutes for Felton. Knight will still likely see in the area of 25-30 minutes a game, but Felton is still likely to cut into his numbers.

    2. You can never buy too much into preseason statistics, but it's worth paying attention to some. Here's one player's stats through 3 games: 14.3 PPG, 11-28 FGs, 21-25 FTs, 8.3 RPG. What's the first conclusion you can make from these numbers? He's being aggressive, right? Not shooting the ball well, but he's getting to the line and doing some work on the glass. Why are these numbers significant? Because they are the stats of Michael Sweetney in the Bulls' first 3 preseason games. Sweetney has been a per minute dynamo in his first two seasons with the Knicks, and now it's obvious that he's determined to land the starting power forward role with his new team. Fantasy players are you paying attention? Michael Sweetney will average a double-double this season.

    3. Another player that's being drafted too low on fantasy boards (and that Ant subsequently drafted in the 3rd round last night) is Pau Gasol. Many seem to think he's plateaued, but remember the guy just turned 25 this summer. Jerry West deleted the viruses off the Grizzlies this summer and instead brought in Eddie Jones, Damon Stoudamire, and Bobby Jackson, three experienced players who are known for being good teammates. Stoudamire and B-Jax even went so far as to question the leadership and toughness of Gasol as a way to fire up their new running mate. Gasol's response? He grew a beard. Going right along with a Bill Simmons theory, when has anyone ever grown a beard and failed to exceed expectations? It's especially noteworthy in Gasol's case because there were ever a guy who needed a little more edge and 'tude, it's him. I'm predicting big things from Gasol this season, including his first All-Star appearance and numbers approaching the 20-10-2 stratosphere.

    4. I had a chance to watch the Clippers play the Kings last Friday and kept a close eye on Yaroslav Korolev, the Clippers' lottery pick from the June Draft. The kid has ability. He's got great size for a small forward and will likely grow even more as he's just 18. He also moves very well for someone his size and showed off his impressive athleticism. That said, he's still at least two years away from making any sort of impact in the NBA. Korolev needs to learn how to play the game before anything else as his decision-making was just laughable. He also obviously needs to hit the weights hard, although the Clippers may be patient in that respect given that he's barely hit puberty. I'm calling it right now though-- Yaroslav Korolev will be an impact player in this league. 7 minutes of game action is enough for me to call this, especially considering I love his coach (Dunleavy) and think he's surrounded by some stand-up teammates (Brand, Mobley).

    5. He went out with nary a splash, but Steve Smith, one of the classiest and most well-spoken players in the NBA, not to mention a pretty decent player as well, turned in his jersey and kicks last week to sport a headset courtside at Phillips Arena as the Hawks' new color commentator. Smith enjoyed the prime of his career in Atlanta from 1994-1999 and is thrilled to be back in Atlanta with a role he's had his eye on for quite some time. "Covering the team will be great. I get to come back to a city I always knew I would make my home. I get a chance to be around the organization and stay involved in the NBA. It will be fun, getting to travel with the team and getting to come to practices, but this time I don't have to run sprints or anything." I've always been a huge fan of Smith, who's just one of those guys that you never hear anything but good about. I'd wish him good luck, but he won't need it, for Steve Smith will become one of the best TV analysts the NBA has to offer.


At 7:56 PM, Blogger Michael said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 7:59 PM, Anonymous michael said...

nice article, paul.
i learned a lot.

At 10:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I mean really, who's the strength and conditioning coach of the Clippers, Jack Black?"


At 8:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Raymond Felton will be good. I think he can learn a lot more however splitting time with Brevin Knight. Knight should get 25-30 mins and Felton should play 15 - 20 mins a game. I think this will expedite his learning curve. You can learn a lot from the bench (of course too much of anything is bad, i.e. see Darko, who still seems to be riding the pine). A great example is Baron Davis. His first season he only averaged around 20 mins. I know its a rough comparison seeing how Davis has 3 inches on Felton. But we all know in the NBA, you can NEVER underestimate speed (please see Iverson, Boykins, etc.), which is why I do believe Dee Brown (Illinois) will definitely be making some noise in the NBA one day. Thanks. Awesome article by the way.

At 11:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On Mike Sweentey averaging a double-double, one needs to consider that he's averaged a foul every 7 minutes in 4 games so far. And that's with pre-season effort. His general malaise on D, and his short stature often acquire him those quick fouls. He's a hoss on the offensive glass, but he cannot stay out of foul trouble. And with the Bulls likely to re-acquire Antoinio Davis, the expectations on Sweets should be hemmed.

At 5:13 PM, Blogger Anthony Peretore said...

And to add to the Sweetney comment, Darius Songaila should give him a run for his money for PF minutes. I love Sweet and think he should def be getting 30-35 mins, but with a player like Songaila on the roster, who knows if he'll be awarded enough time for that double-dip.

Also, I don't think it's a certainty right now that Ricky Davis is a starter in Boston. While his play and numbers definite say he should be, the C's desperately need a scorer off the bench to anchor that second unit. Don't be surprised to see Pierce at the 2 and Gomes at the 3. This way here Reed and Gomes and Davis and Pierce will be split up. Well, at least on paper. New article coming tomorrow morning. Stay tuned...

At 2:22 PM, Blogger "rem" said...

One to add to your 5 faces to watch (but then that would make 6) list of nobodies enjoying good preseasons

While not exactly tearing it up but showing flashes of huge potential, steady improvement and impressing many nonetheless is Maciej Lampe the 20 year old PF/C who is with the NOK Hornets and is posting decent numbers at 9.5 ppg 5.3 rpg in the preseason. The 6'11 Lampe was originally drafted by the NY Knicks who then traded him to Phoenix is able to provide some toughness off the bench and gives the Hornets some flexibility up front with Magloire/Brown/Anderson who most certainly are candidates to be traded by the end of the season on this rebuilding young team


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