NBA@2: Denver’s First All-Star Rising?
After the Denver Nuggets traded Carmelo Anthony at the NBA trade deadline last season, George Karl famously said that he didn’t need a superstar to win a championship. It seemed a somewhat ridiculous statement at the time, and indeed it was partially born from a season of dealing with a prima donna whose contract situation had superseded anything his team was accomplishing on the court. Once the trade was done, the team seemed to take a collective sigh of relief and went on to be one of the best teams in basketball over the rest of the regular season.
Before the start of the 2011-12 season, Karl clarified his position on not needing All-Stars to win. What he really meant was that he felt the Nuggets had a few prospective All-Stars already in place, they just needed to develop and grow into their All-Star potential.
A couple of candidates immediately came to mind, of course. Danilo Gallinari was the centerpiece of the trade with New York, and he looks very much like a player who could be an All-Star not too far down the road. At the time, Nene might also have been on that list, but he has since been traded and is now a moot point for Denver. The third name, then, was point guard and floor leader Ty Lawson, whose promising play was the primary reason why the Nuggets felt they could include Chauncey Billups in the trade with New York.
Injuries set Gallinari back significantly this season and he’s still not 100 percent, but the remaining player on our list is proving his coach exactly right. Lawson is turning up the heat on the Los Angeles Lakers.
There have been a number of heroes in Denver’s unlikely comeback from a 1-3 hole against the Lakers. JaVale McGee was very good in two of Denver’s wins, Andre Miller was crazy-good in Game 5 and rookie Kenneth Faried has been fearless in attacking the bigger, stronger front court of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
The driving force, however, has been Lawson.
“I woke up after the loss in Game 4. I woke up very early in the morning and sat on my porch and I just kept saying to myself, ‘They’re not that much better than we are.’ (Down) 3-1 sounds like you’re not (as good),” Nuggets coach George Karl told Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post. “My job was to try to sell that.”
Game 7 will be the biggest test of the Nuggets, as a whole, as well. Kobe Bryant will be even more zoned in than usual, and you can bet he will have his team fired up, especially the suddenly-sleeping Bynum and Gasol.
The momentum, however, is solidly on Denver’s side. The Nuggets have won three of four coming in and seem to have solved the Lakers’ huge size advantage on the front line. The Nuggets have been discounted time and time again over the last year, yet time and time again they have risen to meet and exceed expectations. If they can take out the Lakers on Saturday night, they will no longer be the Little Team That Could.
They will represent a serious threat in the Western Conference, All-Stars or no All-Stars.
Kevin Garnett Fires Back At Hawks’ Owner
When Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon, Jr. took it upon himself to label Boston Celtics All-Star forward Kevin Garnett a dirty player, he stirred up quite a hornets’ nest.
“First off, I want to say thank you to the (Hawks) owner for giving me some extra gas tonight,” Garnett told WEEI after his Celtics eliminated Atlanta on Thursday night. “My only advice to him is next time he opens his mouth, actually know what he’s talking about — X’s and O’s versus checkbooks and bottom lines.”
The inconsistency of postseason officiating has been an issue, and it has lent itself to an even more physical form of basketball that we usually see in the playoffs. To their credit, the Celtics have answered the challenge, using physical basketball to muscle their way past the favored Hawks. Garnett insists that doesn’t make them a dirty team.
“We’re not dirty; we’re firm. We play aggressive, but we’re not dirty. You have to understand the word ‘dirty’ in this game is very defined: Trying to hurt guys; ill intent. That’s not how we play basketball. We play very, very respectable to the opponent, to the city. I play with a lot of passion and with force. It’s the playoffs. I haven’t been here trying to hurt anybody, and neither have my teammates. I found that comment to be a little rude and out of hand, and I wanted to address it. … Just because you’ve got a bunch of money doesn’t mean you can open your mouth.”
Garnett has always been one of the hardest-working players in the league, both during the season with his team and during the offseason at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas, where the pick-up games are as competitive as any Game 7 in the NBA playoffs.
So far, counting the Celtics out hasn’t served anyone well this season, least of all Gearon and the Hawks. If KG has anything to say about it, they might just have one more title shot left in them. If they don’t, they will certainly go down fighting in a good, competitive way.
The Ninth Pick In the 2012 NBA Draft
If the NBA Draft Lottery goes as the odds say they should (which it rarely does), the Detroit Pistons should have the ninth overall pick in this summer’s NBA draft. Assuming they actually do land the ninth pick, which player best fits their needs?
HOOPSWORLD’s latest Mock Draft has HOOPSWORLD’s four mock drafters all selecting completely different players, so let’s take a look at which would be the best fit in Detroit.
In this space, we have already taken Terrence Jones and Perry Jones off the draft board, so that brings it down to UNC’s Tyler Zeller and Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger. Either way, you’re looking at a player who plays the same position as Greg Monroe, so the ability for the player chosen to play alongside another big man will be essential to the choice. It wasn’t that long ago that Sullinger was believed to be a top overall pick in this draft class, but over the course of the last year his stock has dropped a bit. He may not actually be on the board at nine, but if he is, the Pistons should take a long look at him.
Like Monroe, Sullinger is a force on the offensive end. Monroe is best in transition, where he ranked in the 90th percentile this season, but was also very good in isolation (75th percentile), scoring on offensive put-backs (69th percentile) and in post-ups (50th). Sullinger, on the other hand, puts up aces across the board. He generated 48 percent of his offense in the post, where he ranked in the 81st percentile this season. He got roughly 13 percent of his points on offensive put-backs, also ranking him in the 81st percentile. He got 12 percent of his offense on cuts to the basket, ranking him in the 89th percentile and he was also above the 70th percentile in transition and pick-and-roll.
Defensively, Monroe is nothing spectacular. He’s best in the post (62nd percentile), but doesn’t crack the 60th percentile in any other category. Sullinger, on the other hand, is nearly as good on the defensive end as he is on the offensive side. He ranked in the 89th percentile against spot-up shooters, a particular weakness of Monroe’s, 69th percentile in isolation and 67th in the post.
There’s something to be said for a twin towers approach, and Monroe and Sullinger could potentially form a lethal one-two punch in the paint. If Sullinger is on the draft board when Detroit gets their crack, they could do a lot worse than adding him to their rebuilding project.
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 is one NBA chat today starting with Yannis Koutroupis who will drop his weekly chat at 11 a.m. EST. Yannis serves as a Senior NBA Writer and the College Basketball Editor for HOOPSWORLD so get your questions in early as Yannis’ chats fill up fast. You can always find the next upcoming chat here: Upcoming NBA Chats or if you are looking for a chat that already completed try here: Previous NBA Chats