By Justin Cherot
THE NBA IS BAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!!!!!!!!!!
And, you know, we here at Pick and Pop try to keep it as fresh and quirky as possible. So, my plan for the next 32 (or some odd) days is to not break down how a team will do. That’s for sportswriters with degrees and such, although I guess a night before the season tips off Colin and I will do something like that.
Instead, I’m giving every single player in the league, even some guys that won’t even make the roster, a little ink. Because not all players are created (and adored) equally by yours truly, some will have much longer anecdotes/analysis or what have you than others. Case and point: would it be fair to give Dirk Nowitzki and Adam Morrison the same amount of space? I haven’t gotten that far yet, but I’m willing to bet I won’t do that.
I guess to make sure the pecking order of the NBA isn’t completely ruined, I’m going to go in ascending order in terms of how I predict the teams will finish. While we’re still in the bottom tier, I think we’re starting to get to the point where real basketball teams start showing up. Next stop: the New York Knicks.
What does it say about your franchise’s commitment to winning when they sign their best player to a one-year deal? I know you’re expecting me to say something smart like, “It says they don’t give a %$#!”, but I think the answer at this point is a nice, ambiguous, safe “I don’t know”. While this team won’t be awful by any stretch of the imagination (under .500, yes, but not awful), the Lee and Robinson signings indicate to me that how the team performs this season is secondary to the ultimate goal: clearing enough cap space for ‘Bron to come to the Big Apple. So, Mr. Lee, while you’re a very good player, a double-double machine and a blue collar athlete, you’re auditioning for a role next season alongside James or Dwyane Wade. And, if the Knicks get neither one? Well, maybe then you’ll get the long-term deal you ultimately deserve. And, if not? Then someone will pay you.
The Other Starters
Very quietly, Harrington topped 20 points per game for the first time in his NBA career. My question is, with such a diverse skill set offensively, what the hell took him so long? I look for him to repeat that feat this season, because of two special words that every athlete lives for: CONTRACT YEAR! Unfortunately, no contract year is going to help him defensively.
I love that they have the NBA Draft at MSG every year, because you don’t have to wait until somebody writes a column to know how New Yorkers feel about their team’s draft pick. But, if you sit down and think about their past couple of drafts, their picks have panned out fairly well. We all know about Lee and Nate Robinson, but Chandler was a player most NBA GMs pegged as an early second round guy. And now? Albeit on the Knicks, he’s generated quite a buzz with his nice all-around game. I know after this season the roster’s going to be sliced and diced, but if I were New York I’d want to grow with this kid on my roster.
Talent-wise, Hughes is a very good two-guard. While he was with the Wizards, at his peak, I remember him and Gilbert Arenas basically being option 1 and 1A. That’s how good he was, and from time to time he’ll even let you know how good he still is. Unfortunately, and this may be the understatement of the decade, he makes T-Mac look like Cal Ripken, Jr. Some guys just can’t stay healthy. Here’s hoping that he can play at a high level for at least 70 games. After all, it is a CONTRACT YEAR!
I mentioned the term “cosmetic starter” in reference to Damien Wilkins last time out. Duhon is a little better than that, especially judging by the numbers and also by his minutes per game last year. Not too many cosmetic starters play 37 minutes a game. However, Duhon will be a cosmetic starter for two reasons: 1) Robinson is light years better, and 2) the Knicks actually have quality depth at the two spot, so you’ll see less of the Duhon/Robinson combo this year. You can do worse than Duhon as your starting point guard (see, Udrih, Beno), but not much worse.
Although Robinson keeps that “underdog” chip firmly glued to his shoulder, and although fans absolutely love his reckless abandon, he is a coach’s nightmare. He unofficially led the league last year in bad shots, after-basket celebrations, and “no, no…YES!” plays. More or less, he’s everything that’s wrong with young basketball players. And the funny thing is he’s probably one of my favorite players to watch.
Why people are calling him a bust after only one year in the NBA I can’t understand. He was hurt most of last year with the Cherot Syndrome (his back for those not up one my chronic injury history), and when he did play, he shot the ball extremely well while also hustling up and down the floor. If that’s what a bust is, fine. We’ll learn more about how good he really is this season, because my gut tells me that Gallinari will get more than 20 minutes a game this year.
I don’t do this very often, but heregoes: I was completely wrong about Darko. Completely. Do you realize that if the Pistons had taken Carmelo Anthony like they were supposed to Chauncey Billups and Co. might have had a fistful of rings? Hindsight is great. On the bright side, seven footers don’t grow on trees, and at 24, he does still have time to carve out a decent NBA career. But, as of now, I’m giving up hope of him ever living up to the second pick in the draft that saved the NBA.
I was going to write my own scathing words for Jeffries, but instead I found better ones from ESPN.com’s 2010 Fantasy Outlook:
Maybe it doesn’t need to be said anymore, but sometimes people need to be reminded: Jared Jeffries is one of the worst players in the league. He happens to have a contract that will pay him more than $13 million dollars over the next two seasons, so you’ll still see him around, providing useless minutes and stealing playing time away from Danilo Gallinari and Jordan Hill. Once in a while, he might block a shot or something, but you should ignore that. Pretty soon, he’ll probably be traded away or bought out as a sunk cost, and then you won’t have to remember not to draft him anymore.
What’s cooler than cold? Ice cold.
You know me. I can go in a lot of different directions with him, but allow me to play devil’s advocate: he’s been through a lot in the past year. His ex-girlfriend and daughter were murdered; his former limo driver sued him; he fell out of the rotation, and he gained a bunch of weight. But, apparently he’s lost weight and he’s trying to get his mind focused back on basketball. I actually think there’s a chance he may end up not only starting again, but having a redemption year.
I actually think this was a very solid pick by the Knicks, who lack size and toughness down low. It wasn’t the sexy pick that New York fans wanted, but mark my words (or ignore them because I was wrong about Darko): by the end of his career Hill will turn out to be one of the better players in this draft. He’ll get spot minutes this year, but next year expect him to put in work.
He’ll start the season fairly low on the depth chart, but about midway through the season D’Antoni will realize that they scored again with a late first round pick. I see him being a very good combo guard in the NBA.
I think the Celtics gave up on Pruitt too early. Yes, he’s Justin Cherot skinny, and yes, sometimes he makes Justin Cherot-like decisions with the ball, but he’s a fairly athletic point guard with good size and a pretty good stroke (okay Jay-Z, sometimes numbers do lie). It’s a shame that he won’t see the light of day even on the Knicks, but there’s hope he’ll break into some team’s rotation somewhere down the road.
All I really know about Sun Yue is that 1) he was a pretty good player on China’s national team, and 2) some diehard Lakers’ fan absolutely abused me with him in the 4th quarter of an NBA Live game last season (don’t forget to cop that on the Tuesday, and no, EA is not paying me to say that).
Serious question: if GMs can take a chance on Crawford, why won’t they take a chance on Mike Jones? Essentially they’re the same player, except Jones is ten times more athletic.
Even at Michigan I don’t remember ever seeing him play. However, while searching for video highlights of him on YouTube I stumbled upon this pretty funny Chris Kaman highlight film. Turns out he can really shoot.
Allan Houston, Cuttino Mobley. Cuttino Mobley, Allan Houston.
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