NBA@2: Carmelo Effect For Orlando Magic?
When the Denver Nuggets traded away franchise forward Carmelo Anthony last season, many thought it signaled a rebuilding period for Denver. After all, it’s hard to completely change the face of a franchise and expect to be competitive right away, but that’s exactly what the Nuggets managed to do. With Carmelo – and all of the melodrama – gone, the rest of the team suddenly came together and turned out to be one of the best teams in basketball after the trade. They rebuilt around a younger, deeper core and didn’t even miss the playoffs in the process.
The Orlando Magic didn’t trade Dwight Howard late in the season, but his season-ending back injury set up a similar situation. The Magic were written off when news of Howard’s season-ending injury came out, yet the team is actually playing quite well without him, thank you very much.
Glen Davis was all but forgotten prior to Howard’s injury, to the point that the team was looking to move him at the trade deadline. Since he moved into the starting lineup, however, it has been a different story. Davis started 12 games in April, averaging 16.4 points and 8.8 rebounds while shooting over 50 percent from the field and 70 percent from the free throw line. As a reserve, playing mostly behind Howard, Davis managed just 7.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game while shooting 39 percent from the field. Davis is not the defensive juggernaut that Howard is, but he has certainly stepped up to fill the void in Dwight’s absence. Davis had 16 points, 13 rebounds and even three blocks in Game 1 against the Indiana Pacers.
Jameer Nelson also had his best month of the season in April, averaging a season-high 15.2 points per game, but also dishing a season-high 7.0 assists. Again, with Howard out of the mix, the ball moved around quite a bit more and Nelson made sure the hot hand got touches. The result was more participation from a number of players, facilitated largely by Nelson. He scored 17 points and dished nine dimes in Game 1.
Another player who’s name came up at the deadline was Jason Richardson, whom the Magic spent a lot of time and money over the offseason keeping in town long-term. He then had his worst season as a pro, managing just 11.6 points and shooting a career-low 40 percent from the field. Richardson hit 5-of-8 from three in Game 1, scoring 17 points and also grabbing five rebounds. Clearly he’s someone else who has and can step in to make up for the missing offensive presence of Howard.
While there are always players who can step up to fill the stat sheet when someone goes down, the real help for the Magic going forward might just be the subtraction of the distraction that Dwight’s status with the team going forward had become. All season long, the big story when the Magic took the court was not the way they played, but where Howard might be traded and when that might happen. Even after Howard opted into the final season on his current contract, the drama continued with the new storyline being whether or not head coach Stan Van Gundy could co-exist with his star player.
When Howard got hurt, all of that talk went away, and the Magic were once again able to focus on what really matters – playing basketball.
One win does not make a series, and the Magic have a lot of work to do if they’re going to actually hold their own with the Pacers in the first round. Still, the first win was impressive, and could be a sign of positive things to come for Orlando, with or without Howard.
Nick Young’s Big Shot
One of the most overlooked trades made at this season’s NBA trade deadline was the Los Angeles Clippers’ move to acquire shooting guard Nick Young from the Washington Wizards. The Clippers seemed to be exactly one player away from being a serious postseason threat, and the shooting guard position was where they needed the most help. That move came into sharp focus on Sunday, as the Clippers lost Caron Butler to a hand injury that is expected to sideline him for four-to-six weeks.
Here’s the press release from the team:
Los Angeles Clippers forward Caron Butler suffered a fractured fifth metacarpal in his left hand with 2:38 remaining in the third quarter of last night’s 99-98 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in game one of their first round playoff series. Butler underwent an x-ray at the arena during the game which confirmed the injury. Butler, who scored 12 points in 23 minutes played in game one, is expected to be sidelined for 4-6 weeks.
With Butler out of the mix, the Clippers turned to Young, who scored 19 points, including three three-pointers during the team’s historic fourth quarter run that brought them back from a 27-point deficit to win their first game of the playoffs, 99-98.
The playoffs are where heroes are made, and heroes are often the ones who step in when someone goes down. This year’s postseason has already set up situations in Orlando (Dwight Howard), Chicago (Derrick Rose), Atlanta (Al Horford) and now Los Angeles where someone can shine in an unexpected role.
Perhaps that person can be Nick Young for the Clippers.
The Second Overall Pick Is…?
If the NBA Draft Lottery goes as the odds say they should (which it rarely does), the Washington Wizards will have the second overall pick in this summer’s NBA draft. Assuming they actually do land the second pick, which player best fits their needs this offseason?
HOOPSWORLD’s Yannis Koutroupis says the best pick for the Wizards would be Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the freshman small forward from Kentucky, and it’s hard to argue that pick. This is a big-man-heavy draft class, but the Wizards don’t really need to draft size with Nene, Andray Blatche, Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin and Jan Vesely all in the mix. No, what the Wizards really need is a small forward, particularly with Rashard Lewis likely going elsewhere.
First of all, there’s the obvious appeal of bringing in another Kentucky Wildcat to play with former Wildcat point guard John Wall, but that’s the least of the factors that should land Kidd-Gilchrist in Washington. MKG is very good in transition, ranking in the 67th percentile this season, and in the half court set he excels at posting up, where he ranked in the 97th percentile. He’s not very good at spotting up (23rd percentile), but he is otherwise good across the board on the offensive end. He loves to cut to the basket, is very good coming off a screen and is decent in isolation. Two of the Wizards’ biggest weak spots this season were in posting up and in the pick-and-roll, so those are two areas that improve right away with MKG in the mix.
On the defensive end, MKG is excellent at defending the pick-and-roll, very good in isolation and also fights through screens. He needs to work on getting to the spot-up shooter and sometimes gets out-muscled in post-up situations, but overall MKG is the kind of player who can energize a defense that allowed 98.44 points per game (20th in the NBA) and let opponents shoot 45 percent from the field (also 20th).
Obviously, if the Wizards wind up winning the lottery they will take Anthony Davis and work the rest of the details out later. If, however, they land in their projected spot of #2 overall, don’t be surprised if David Stern calls Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s name and hands him a Wizards cap on draft night.
Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to insure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @jfleminghoops, @TheRocketGuy, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @alexraskinNYC, @SusanBible, @DPageHoopsWorld , @stephenlitel , @stevesraptors, @TommyBeer and @YannisHW.
NBA Chats: There are three NBA Chats scheduled for today starting with HOOPSWORLD’s Bill Ingram at 11am ET. Bill’s chats do fill up fast so getting in early is always wise. HOOPSWORLD’s Stephen Brotherston returns to hold down his weekly chat at 3pm EST. While HOOPSWORLD editor Jason Fleming rounds out the day with his weekly NBA chat at 8pm EST. You can always find the next NBA Chat here: http://www.hoopsworld.com/upcoming-chats and if you are looking for Previous Chats try here: http://www.hoopsworld.com/previous-chats