Thread: Insider Request
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Old 02-10-2010, 04:09 PM   #6
Original ISH CLTHornet
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Default Re: Insider Request

11. DeJuan Blair, Spurs
Blair's free fall to the No. 37 pick may go down as one of the biggest NBA draft blunders ever. Teams just couldn't wrap their arms around his ACL-less knees. For the record, doctors were more concerned with the long-term erosion of his cartilage due to having no ACLs than they were about him to potentially suffer a major injury.

But now that teams see him doing what he has always done on the basketball court -- wreak havoc in the paint -- they realize their mistake. There are 29 other NBA teams that could use Blair as either a starter or an energy guy/rebounder off the bench.

12. Ty Lawson, Nuggets
Lawson, like Blair, is so valuable because he can greatly help his team as a starter or a reserve thanks to his game and maturity level. The same can not be said for every talented player.

Lawson's ability to shoot, distribute and handle the ball makes him extremely difficult to counter because he's just so fast on the court. It also seems likely that he'll be able to handle a slower game, so projecting him to manage the pace in a playoff game is easy.

13. Brandon Jennings, Bucks
Who is the real Brandon Jennings -- the young man who tore up the league in November or the one who has struggled the past two months? I see it like this: If a player can play great for a month, then that is the goal to shoot for down the road, since he showed the ability to reach that level to begin with (as opposed to hoping a player can reach that level without ever seeing him do it).

Jennings has grabbed a lot of attention in basketball circles, so consequently he will be very busy at All-Star Weekend in Dallas. Ironically, though, it's probably the worst thing for him. If any player needs time to catch his breath and re-energize for the second half of the season, it's Jennings.

14. Hasheem Thabeet, Grizzlies
Even though he has done little thus far, Thabeet has a spot on this list because he can be a game-changing presence on defense. You do the math: Four of the top five defensive teams in the league right now are title contenders, and the other is the league's most improved team (Thunder). Meanwhile, Memphis plays its best defense when Thabeet is on the floor.

His minutes will improve as his offensive game develops, but he does not have to score much to be effective. It's very hard to find a player who can impact the game the way Thabeet has the potential to do.

15. Stephen Curry, Warriors
Curry is the toughest guy for me to gauge. I absolutely love his game and have always believed he could be an excellent point guard. However, I still see him as a bit unproven, simply because of where he is playing -- Golden State is so unlike any other NBA system. Otherwise, he'd be higher on this list.

He appears to be a good playmaker and perhaps can become an excellent one. And, of course, he's a terrific shooter, so he can play in any system and with any players. Imagine him in a Cavs uniform. Or a Heat one. Wow.

16. Marreese Speights, 76ers
Before the 2008 draft, I wrote that the two biggest "upside/downside" guys were Speights and Randolph. In both cases, we're seeing why (although they both appear to have more upside than downside).

Speights is an offensive phenom, kind of like Al Jefferson and Amare Stoudemire in that he can get buckets in a variety of ways in the paint. He's improved as a shooter from 16 feet to 19 feet too. If he rebounded better, he'd be higher on this list. But after a season and a half, it does not appear that this will be an area of strength for him. Still, players who demand a double-team in the post are rare, and Speights could end up being in that category.

17. Danilo Gallinari, Knicks
We all know what a sweet shot he has, but it seems Gallinari is more of a niche player than I'd like such a young guy to be. He's not asked to do much beyond shoot 3s and run, though he mostly just shoots 3s.

It's possible he can do more, and it's also possible he is going to get much better, just as fellow Italian Andrea Bargnani has. But even if he just maintains his current level, he's a valuable player because he's such a good shooter and he's eager to show it.

18. Jonny Flynn, Timberwolves
I watched Flynn get benched the other night in favor of Ramon Sessions even though Flynn was not playing poorly. He responded by being the most animated cheerleader possible, celebrating loudly as his team came back and beat Memphis.

After the game, it was reported that Flynn was asked to go back in but declined out of respect for how well Sessions was playing. That only solidifies my feelings that he would be an incredible option for a team as a sixth man. But in any event, an attitude like that, combined with his dynamic abilities to attack off the dribble and shoot, makes him an important piece to any puzzle.

19. James Harden, Thunder
Had the Thunder not acquired defensive ace Thabo Sefolosha last season, we'd be seeing more of Harden, who can help a team both as a scorer and as an all-around player, which is a rare combination.

Harden is one of the top three passers on this list and, in a few years, should be one of the best defenders on this list, too. Because the team is built around Kevin Durant's talent, we don't always get to see Harden's gifts. But as the Thunder's young core grows together, I expect we'll see Harden's offensive production jump. If you told me that in two seasons he'll be second in scoring, assists and steals in OKC, it would not surprise me at all.

20. Ryan Anderson, Magic
There is ample evidence that a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy exists in the NBA in the form of draft picks. Lottery picks, for example, are given far more chances to succeed than lower picks, even when it appears that should not be the case. Extra chances equal extra opportunities. So players like Anderson, drafted outside the lottery and stuck behind talented veterans, have to fight more to get the same treatment given to a lottery pick like Gallinari, a similar player in most respects. And it may never happen.

But when Anderson started in place of Rashard Lewis early in the season, he was excellent. There are a number of big guys who can shoot, but not nearly as many who can play. Anderson can do both.

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