Thursday, August 2, 2007

Breakout Players for the 2007-08 Season

Here's just a rundown of some of the players I think will break out next year. Monta and K-Mart (The one that actually plays) did it last year, look for some of these players this year.

Rajon Rondo (Bos) - With Delonte West gone, Rondo will get a chance to show what he can do. Pierce and Allen will make up for the fact that he can't shoot, while his defensive presence, playmaking ability, and exceptional rebounding will make him a valuable member of the Celtics next year. He's strong with long arms, he's going to a really good defender in this league.

Amir Johnson (Det) - If your in Detroit or you follow the D-League, you don't really need an explanation here. Amir Johnson probably won't see that much playing time, but he likely will appear in more than the 8 games he played last year. The last high school player picked in the NBA draft, Amir Johnson is a high-flying athletic beast. Just to give you a taste, during garbage time last year (aka the last few games of the season) he put up 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 rebounds on Philly. The last game of the year he had a tantalizing 20 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 3 steals, albeit against a Boston team that had no interest in winning games. If that is any kind of indicator of the potential of this guy, the league better watch out. He is slowly getting groomed to take over the starting PF spot as Sheed ages, and he may even surpass Jason Maxiell in playing time. Johnson definitely needs to add some bulk and experience, but a lot of Pistons fans are hoping he is our diamond in the rough.

Dorrell Wright (Mia) - Dorrell Wright is just what the doctor ordered for an aging Miami team. Wright is a solid on defense and the boards while possessing the athleticism to get to the rim and finish. With Wade missing some time early in the year, Posey likely out of town, and Antoine Walker falling out of favor, look for Wright to put up some inflated November numbers.

Francisco Garcia (Sac) - Ron Artest has hindered the emergence of Garcia, but with Artest being Artest, Garcia's minutes are bound to increase. He's been a silky smooth shooter since his days at Louisville, and proved he could score in the league with a strong finish to the season. He's lanky, and is pretty solid rebounder because of it. Do not be surprised if Artest is traded and they give the starting role over to Garcia, he could be a solid starter in this league for a while.

Louis Amundson (Phi) - You know those intangible guys that just seem to hang around the league even though they really do one thing right? That's Amundson, and he's a phenomenal rebounder. Philly will play this guy this season, and he'll go get the job done.

Robert Swift (Sea) - This was supposed to happen last year, then he tore his ACL. I honestly haven't seen much of this guy, but I'd expect him to put up around 10/10 on a very young Seattle squad.

Tarence Kinsey (Mem) - Along with Argentinian Walter Herrmann, Kinsey made a lot of people do a double take when they kept seeing them with 20 point performances. If you've never seen him play, one scouting report called him a poor man's Rip with hops. While I don't accurate this really is (He did wear a mask part of last season), there is no doubt the man can shoot the ball. As a starter, he averaged 19 ppg on 49% shooting. While most of that came during the last month of the season, this guy will be a contributor on a young Memphis team.

I don't know if it's pity or what, but I also think that Darko is going to have his best year and Adam Morrison isn't going to suck. I'd feel a lot more comfortable banking on Darko though.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

KG's Goodbye, Minnesota's Good buy

Kevin Garnett has been my favorite NBA player for some time, but it's been hard lately. The Timberwolves have been a joke ever since Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell left, and KG became the superstar too loyal to an organization going nowhere. Then he started popping in and out of trade rumors around draft time. I've heard every rumor you can think of, so I didn't really give the story any credence. The draft passes, nothing happens. Then one day, I wake up and KG is a Celtic. Kevin Garnett in the East, surrounded by 2 All Stars, with a chance to contend for a title? It's a beautiful thing, but don't think for a minute Boston is going to walk through the East. Not yet.

A trio of Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce-Ray Allen is just flat out scary, especially in the oft-criticized Eastern Conference. Kevin Garnett is one of the most talented power forwards to ever play this game (Look at the nine 20+/10+/4+ seasons), but the biggest criticism around him has been his lack of ability to carry a team to post-season success. KG apologists would argue that he never really had a team around him, and both sides are right. Now Garnett has no excuse being surrounded with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. His unselfishness will be rewarded when he's kicking the ball out to Ray Allen, and not Wally Szczerbiak (I didn't even have to Google him to spell it right), while looking for Paul Pierce slashing to the rim, and not worrying what Ricky Davis is doing. Ray Allen, no longer the face of a franchise, gets to go back into a 3 star system that he thrived in with Milwaukee years ago. Paul Pierce finally gets a chance to play with some players over 30 who will log more than 10 minutes per game. It doesn't take a genius to realize how much better it is seeing KG and Ray Allen out there, than Antoine Walker. Usually putting 3 players of this magnitude on a team would create ego problems, but none of these players have really experienced success in their careers and they are not young. This is the last chance for them to actually contribute to a championship team, not a ring-chasing has been.

Now Boston has to prepare for their 2nd off-season, that is, actually putting a team of players around their trio that compliment them. Rajon Rondo is a very nice young player, someone fans will get to know a lot more next year. He's one of those slashing PGs with absolutely no jump shot that seem to be taking the NBA by storm (Tony Parker winning Finals MVP, Mike Conley going 4th in the draft). KG is going to take pressure off of Rondo because of his playmaking, so Rondo's real job will be to control turnovers and play good defense. Defense shouldn't be an issue for him. But you can't just throw him into the fire right now, they need someone who can come in and give him a rest. I've heard it mentioned everywhere, but Brevin Knight is someone who can give you 20 minutes per game with that veteran leadership. That's what the Celtics need, veterans who know their roles and do it well. A player like Ruben Patterson off the bench to take some pressure off of Pierce would work. Solid role players are all they need. Their success this season depends on their ability to add a functional bench to this team.

This trade didn't only benefit the Celtics, but the Timberwolves made out pretty well given the circumstances. As a friend said, "The worst deals involve the best players." Getting equal talent back for a marquee player isn't possible. Getting talented young players definitely is, and that's why Minnesota made out well in this trade. Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, and Ryan Gomes combine with Corey Brewer, Craig Smith, Rashad McCants and Randy Foye to give Minnesota something they haven't had in a long time. A future. Ever since the Joe Smith debacle cost the Timberwolves numerous 1st round, they only had mediocre talent to shop in the trade market and some money to try to attract players to a very unattractive destination. Who was the last young player you remember making a significant impact on the Timberwolves? Now they have bunch of young players, cap room, and a high draft pick. The ideal situation for a team rebuilding from scratch. They now have the assets to make a trade or they could stand pat and watch their youth develop. Al Jefferson won't ever replace Garnett, but he definitely has the ability to put up 20/10. He's going to have to adjust to the forward loaded West. Gerald Green will never be another T-Mac, but he can score. Corey Brewer is an effective defender, and Randy Foye continued to improve as the season progressed. They may not be much now, but the Timberwolves will be a team to watch.

The East is starting to get interesting now. None of the top teams in the East improved much this season, including the defending Eastern Conference Champion Cavaliers. While a week ago they may have been satisfied, I guarantee that Detroit, Cleveland, and Chicago are looking over their backs, preparing for the rebirth of the Boston Celtics.