HOOPSWORLD Week In Review
Five Fresh NBA Preseason Observations
By Bill Ingram
There is a danger inherent in trying to read too much into NBA preseason games. Players who will never make the team will get big minutes and might even play well in spots. Guys who will play big minutes tend to see little more than cameo action, especially early on. It’s also not clear that the minutes logged are against players who will actually make their respective teams, so there are plenty of reasons to take preseason stats with a grain of salt.
That being said, there are also interesting trends and tendencies to keep an eye on, especially for teams that have made significant changes over the offseason. With that in mind, we take a look at some interesting notes from last night’s preseason action.
The Value of Minimum Contracts In The NBA
By Mark Deeks
The most fun part of preseason is being able to get wildly carried away with the results and performances in the mostly meaningless games. This is particularly true of the performances of individual players who simply were not expected to shine, but did.
Two such players have already shown their faces, in Houston’s Omri Casspi and the L.A. Lakers’s Xavier Henry. Casspi shot 9-10 for 20 points on his debut, whilst Henry topped that with 29 in his, an impressive amount for a player whose career high to this point is only 19.
Whilst this level of production is obviously not sustainable, Casspi and Henry are set to earn only the minimum salary next season. Casspi’s is fully guaranteed, but Henry’s isn’t even guaranteed for one single dollar. These two players, then, have shown they could potentially be valuable contributors for as good of as value as is possible.
Tobias Harris Hopes to Be All-Star
By Alex Kennedy
In the second half of last season, Tobias Harris transformed from a seldom-used reserve with the Milwaukee Bucks to the primary option with the Orlando Magic. After being dealt to the Magic at last year’s trade deadline, Harris averaged 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. In April, once Harris was more comfortable in Orlando, he averaged 19.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.
Harris has shown that he can be a special player, perhaps even a franchise cornerstone for the rebuilding Magic. At 21 years old, his best basketball is certainly ahead of him and he still has a lot of growing to do as a player. He believes that he can become an All-Star as early as the 2013-14 season after spending countless hours in the gym and expanding his game this summer.
Lakers Notebook: Xavier Henry Turning Heads
By Jabari Davis
For Xavier Henry, making the Los Angeles Lakers’ roster is the main challenge. However, if the Henry’s first two preseason performances are any indicator, then the 22-year-old could be well on his way toward achieving that goal. Since we’re only two games into the preseason, we won’t anoint Henry the next Jeremy Lin just yet. That said, his 22 points per night over his first two exhibition games in purple and gold have definitely turned some heads.
The fourth-year player, who was born in Belgium, heads into 2013-14 with not only his best opportunity to make an impact with a signature franchise, but also with a different look in his eyes than in the past. For some players, adjusting to the NBA game is a matter of settling in, while for others it is more of a matter of locating the right “fit” for their particular skill set. In Henry’s case, not only does the timing seem right, but it appears he might have finally found his niche within the league. After being chosen by Memphis in the 2010 NBA Draft, Henry struggled to find playing time and eventually ran into the same uphill battle in New Orleans for the past two seasons.
Players Who ‘Need’ To Breakout
By Steve Kyler
Yesterday in this space we talked about some guys that were in a position to breakout this season, and while some took the concept of breaking out to mean becoming All-Stars, breaking out in this context is simply proving that you belong in the NBA and that the possible hype surrounding a particular player is justified.
Yesterday’s group was more about guys that look like they will get a real chance to prove they belong. On the flipside there are a few guys that desperately need to prove they belong in a significant way this season or they could find their teams moving on. Here are a couple of those guys:
Doug Collins Reflects As He Moves On
By Yannis Koutroupis
Early Tuesday morning news broke that former Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins, who resigned this summer after a disappointing 34-48 campaign, is joining ESPN’s NBA coverage. At the age of 62 with a coaching tenure that dates back to the 1986-87 season and a playing career with the aforementioned 76ers from 1973-1981, Collins has finally decided to move on from coaching and embrace the “retired” life as a TV analyst. While Collins’ return to coaching ended on a down note, he voiced absolutely no regrets over coming back in a sit down with ESPN’s Marc Stein.
“I loved it,” Collins said to ESPN. “I absolutely loved it. To go back there, it was a circle-of-life thing for me. I went there as a player when the team was 9-73. And then to be in the NBA Finals in 1977, I got to play with some great players and some great coaches. So to go back the second time as a coach, going back to so many established friendships in the city and the fans and getting back into the playoffs, I just love the place. I’ve always loved the passion of the fans and just how much they love their teams in Philadelphia.
Change Of Scenery Benefits Josh Smith
By Lang Greene
Josh Smith is arguably the best player in the league without an All-Star appearance on the mantle. The lack of recognition in the past could have been politically motivated as suggested by some. Others would say it was simply a product of Smith’s inconsistency in making the jump to the next level.
Whatever the case or side of the fence you land on, Smith has a legitimate chance at silencing some of his biggest critics this season after switching zip codes this past summer.
The Detroit Pistons signed Smith to a lucrative four-year $54 million deal to pair alongside its emerging young man big man corps of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. The Pistons also revamped their backcourt by acquiring Brandon Jennings in a sign-and-trade deal with Milwaukee.
But it’s clear, the play of Smith will go a long way in determining the fortunes of the upstart Pistons this season and whether they can satisfy team owner Tom Gores’ playoff aspirations. If the club’s first preseason game was any indication, the Pistons may be on the right track.
Searching For NBA Meaning
By Travis Heath
Perhaps it becomes inevitable as we age. Experiences that once brought us great meaning lose some luster over time. And then a bit of cynicism creeps in. I often tell my students skepticism is welcomed, but cynicism leads to heart disease.
I don’t want to be cynical about the NBA and professional sports in general, but it is becoming increasingly more difficult. Said differently, once you have been to the factory and you have seen how the sausage is made, it no longer appears all that appetizing.
NBA front office people and scouts are generally a pretty cynical bunch. One of my good friends who has worked in the league for nearly three decades often says if an NBA person is not cynical, they probably haven’t been doing it long enough.
NBA Power Rankings — Preseason Week 1
By Moke Hamilton
With action tipping off this past Saturday, the NBA’s preseason is officially underway. Derrick Rose and Danny Granger each made their long awaited returns to the court, while we got a stark reminder of the fact that Russell Westbrook will be missing in action for a little while longer. The latter’s Oklahoma City Thunder—live from Istanbul, Turkey—rolled over Istanbul Fenerbahce Ulker, 95-82. Serge Ibaka made the first basket of the season, but without Westbrook, how the Thunder begin the season remains a storyline to watch.
As is, obviously, Rose’s progression as he begins his highly anticipated comeback.
Preseason or not, there are some things to take note of as we inch ever-closer to the commencement of the 2013-14 season and it sure feels good to be back. Though these games do not count for much, they do count for something.
In the first HOOPSWORLD Power Rankings of the NBA Preseason, the NBA’s squads on ranked based on not necessarily on how they have performed in the preseason, but where they are ultimately expected to stand when the smoke clears. The road to the playoffs are quite long, however, and there are bound to be a few surprises along the long.
Can Jeremy Lamb Handle The Pressure?
By Susan Bible
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
-Robert Burns, “To A Mouse” (1785)
The above passage, by Scottish poet Robert Burns, translates to the oft-used English phrase “best-laid plans often go awry”. Certainly we’ve all uttered those words at some point when carefully-planned events turn in undesirable directions. Supporters of the Oklahoma City Thunder surely related to Burns’ message when surprising news broke that starting point guard Russell Westbrook would miss the first four to six weeks of the regular season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. In the blink of an eye, long-held plans of witnessing a healthy Westbrook soon taking the court were summarily crushed.
For the glass-half-full set, the Westbrook delay doesn’t spell disaster. True, he may miss about the first 18 games, but with an 82-game NBA season, he should return to play for big chunk of the year. In his absence, certain teammates will get an opportunity to contribute at a greater degree than previously expected. Guard Reggie Jackson figures to take the starting reins, and second-year player Jeremy Lamb should be the first one off the bench.
The Most Volatile NBA Teams in 2013-14
By Nate Duncan
In predicting a team’s season-long performance, four key variables create, well, variance. Young players can prove difficult to project due to the vagaries of improvement. While it is proper to expect young players to better the previous year’s performance to some degree, to what extent should this be predicted? The sheer fact that these players have not done it before makes it hard to forecast that they will ascend to a new level, yet at the same time it is difficult to ignore the general trend that young players improve.
The opposite applies to older players. While they often have an established level of performance, the general trend is for older players to decline, if not just lose their abilities entirely. And what of quality veterans who stumbled the year before? It could be a sign that they could regess somewhat back to their career norms, or simply the beginning of the end of a long career.
Often dovetailing with the question of aging is health. Will players with injury histories stay healthy? And will those players return to their previous level of performance if they play? Teams with health questions are inherently unpredictable.
Fantasy Basketball 2013-14 Cheat Sheet: Guards
By Tommy Beer
Now that we have released the Top-150 Overall rankings for the 2013-2014 NBA season, it’s time to begin breaking down the performers at each individual position. We’ll start with the guards.
As always, it is important to mention that these rankings are based on a nine-category roto league format – the nine categories being: points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks, three-pointers made, turnovers, FG%, and FT%.
Also please note that any player with guard eligibility in Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues will be listed; which means that many players will be ranked at multiple positions i.e. guard as well as forward…
In addition, I have broken down the ranking into tiers. Having each position ranked and tiered is undoubtedly the best way to approach fantasy drafts nowadays, as they allow you maximize value on each selection as well increasing the chances you walk away from the draft with a stacked and balanced roster.
NBA Decisions to be Made Before Season
By Eric Pincus
Before the start of the 2013-14 NBA regular season, teams have a number of decisions to make on personnel including team options and extensions.
The league currently has about 538 players under contract. If each of the 30 teams carries the maximum of 15 players into the season (450 total), 88 players will be cut before opening night.
That means at least 16.4 percent of the league will be out of a job by October 29 – likely more since some teams will carry 14 or even 13 players.
Teams will also have to decide on former first-round picks, in the final year of their contracts, who are eligible for extensions.
Indiana’s Unconventional Rebuild
By Joel Brigham
There’s no questioning at this point that the Indiana Pacers are a very good basketball team. They came within a single win of playing in last season’s NBA Finals, and there’s little reason to believe that they won’t be right back in the thick of things when the dust settles again this coming spring.
But, as All-Star guard Paul George points out, Indiana’s road to rejuvenation was by no means a typical one for today’s NBA.
“We did it in an unorthodox style,” George told HOOPSWORLD. “Most teams go out and grab guys (in free agency) to make their team elite. We did it in-house. Because we’re a small market, we haven’t had high-profile guys to begin with. We made our own paths, and that’s just not common in the NBA.”