Monday, 20 February 2012

New York Knicks: Why signing J.R Smith will create more problems than it will solve.

The New York Knicks look to have one of the more complete rosters in the NBA, what with their acquisition of shooting guard J.R Smith this week. He is renowned for his athleticism, shooting and ability to manifest the terms 'instant offense'. Although in recent years his maturity and his capacity to be coached have been questioned, leading to benching and suspensions. For these reasons, many teams passed on signing Smith upon his return from China. The Knicks organisation, players and fans seem to think they have struck gold in relation to his acquisition, and while they are right to be excited adding a player of his calibre, they will soon learn that it was not the right move to solving their puzzle to reach Eastern Conference dominance.

1. Chemistry.
With Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire missing time due to injuries and personal reasons respectively, the Knicks had to make do with what players were available to win games. To their good fortune, Jeremy Lin emerged from almost nowhere to lead the team on their longest winning streak of the season, carving up the Lakers' defense for 38 points followed by a game-winning three pointer against Toronto. He has the right skills to run head coach Mike D'Antoni's '7 seconds or less' system, with a combination of quickness, ball-handling and a good basketball IQ to create opportunities with the pick-and-roll. New York reached out to the amnestied Baron Davis purely because they needed a point-guard to run the offense. With Lin in the picture and Smith newly signed, the Knicks are seemingly overstocked with guards that demand minutes. This is how the backcourt rotation could look in the near future:
PG: Lin, Davis, Douglas, Bibby.
SG: Fields, Smith, Shumpert, Walker.

Eight guards is too many for a team that endeavours to reach the Eastern Conference Finals. Looking at the rest of the roster, Carmelo Anthony is the only true small forward (no, Steve Novak does not count) and Tyson Chandler is the only true centre in the rotation. Sure enough, Fields, Walker and/or Smith can rotate to play the 3 when Anthony is on the bench. It is more so the fact that D'Antoni must somehow give starting or close to starting minutes to five guards. Smith is used to the sixth man role, averaging 24.9mpg last season with Denver, and will most definitely be used as such. The fact remains that Lin, Douglas, Fields, Shumpert and Walker are all averaging more than 20 minutes each game. Once Davis and Smith are incorporated to the rotation, multiple players will suffer to make room for the newcomers. New York already had too many point-guards as it was and was struggling to fit everyone in. With Smith joining the team, it changes the whole dynamic and identity of the backcourt; something New York had only just become accustomed to.

2. Maturity.
As celebrated as his scoring and offensive skills are, Smith's attitude is equally notorious. His maturity has been called into question a number of times, which is evident in his play. More often that not, Smith will attempt low percentage shots or take unnecessarily difficult ones. In 2010 he was celebrated for his 360 alley-oop dunk against the Minnesota Timberwolves ( While it was a spectacular feat, it was completely unwarranted and could have resulted in a turnover. When your team has a double-digit lead, on the road, it is shameless sportsmanship to show-boat.

A similar situation arose in late December of 2006, when a fight erupted at Madison Square Garden ( The Denver Nuggets led the New York Knicks by 19 points with less than 2 minutes left. Smith brought the ball up on a fast-break, and while attempting a shot, received a hard foul by Mardy Collins; a foul later deemed to be a flagrant-2. The two began shoving each other as players, such as Nate Robinson, Carmelo Anthony and Jared Jefferies, attempted to restrain their team-mates. As seen in the video, Robinson attempts to swing at Smith as he is being confined by David Lee. He then breaks free, attacks Robinson and both tumble into the group of courtside photographers. The incident arises further as Smith won't back down and continues to attack Robinson, while Carmelo Anthony punches Collins and is then chased down the court by Jefferies. All five players were ejected and suspended for the incident, with Smith receiving a 10 game suspension.

This episode cannot be attributed solely to J.R, but it certainly escalated much further than it should have by him tackling Robinson into the crowd. The last thing the NBA needed was a 'Malice at the Palace' 2.0 version. Smith's handling of the situation showed his inability to keep calm; an attribute most commonly seen in the top NBA players today, who by no small chance, are the most mature. He could easily be an All-Star level player with his offensive skills, but his failure to control himself, whether it be his temper or his shot selection, has limited his potential.

The brawl was back in 2006 yet he has shown no signs of improving his attitude since then. In 2010, Smith was publicized by calling out Kobe Bryant through his Twitter account by posting: "Dont get me wrong kobe is great but not when he play me". Through his Twitter account. Challenging your opponent is a medium of creating competitive basketball, but it is less than impressive when it is done on a social networking website. Teenagers insult each other back-and-forth through the same engine, and to challenge one of the top athletes in the NBA the same way makes one question Smith's wisdom.

According to this Yahoo Sports' article, Smith proved to be increasingly difficult while playing in China during the lockout as well. From faking an injury, to refusing to receive treatment, to disobeying team protocol, it's clear J.R Smith is still a long way from maturing.

3. His role with New York.
Offense is far-and-away where J.R Smith is most effective. He is a deadly 3-point shooter, has the ball-handling skills to create shots for himself and others and is supremely athletic at his position. The only issue preventing him from developing into an All-Star is his basketball IQ. On the court, he doesn't take the best, high-percentage shots and has been labelled a 'ball-hog' for this. What he must come to understand is that now he is a member of the New York Knicks, the team does not need all of that. In Denver the offense was seemingly kept afloat by Carmelo Anthony, Smith, Nene and Chauncey Billups. His new team has a diverse range of offensively skilled players, ranging from Jeremy Lin, Toney Douglas, Landry Fields, Steve Novak, Bill Walker, Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and even Tyson Chandler in certain situations. Any of these players is capable of putting up 15 points any given night, despite their inabilities to create opportunities; specifically Novak, Walker and Chandler. With the sudden rise of Jeremy Lin as the team's point-guard, Smith must adjust his game to suit how the team is run.

In his very first game with the team last night, Smith shot 6 for 16, 3 for 9 from the three-point line. If both the Knicks stars were still on the bench for various reasons, this sort of offensive showing would be acceptable. Yet it wasn't; Amar'e Stoudemire shot just 4 for 10 and 3 for 4 from the free-throw line. STAT is renowned for his capacity to run as the pick-and-roll man, most evident from his time with Steve Nash in Phoenix. Lin, who shot 11 for 20, is capable of running Mike D'Antoni's offensive system and could easily get Stoudemire the ball as Nash did. One might point out that even though Stoudemire didn't shoot as much, the team still won because of Lin's 28 points, 14 assists and 5 steals, and they would be right. The fact remains that Lin is trying to do too much for the team, evidenced by his 7 turnovers. Over the last 5 games, his assist-to-turnover ratio is a dismal 1.41 which would rank him alongside Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett. None of these players average more than 5 assists a game and if Lin is expected to produce the way he has from here-on-out, he needs to be much more effective.

Before we get too side-tracked, both Lin and Smith need to understand that they are not the first or second options of this team. Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire are both stars in this league and therefore are expected to lead the New York Knicks. Smith cannot take the long, off-balance jump-shots he is accustomed to and needs to defer to his team-mates. If he can adjust to somewhat of a jump-shooter off the bench, the Knicks can be successful. Yet as of right now the Knicks cannot handle Anthony, Stoudemire, Lin and Smith all trying to shoot plus-15 shots a night.

4. What Smith can do to improve the Knicks.
On a different note, J.R Smith can definitely improve this New York team. They rank 26th in 3-point field goal percentage in the NBA at this point in time, which is surprising considering the mass of shooters they have. This statistic can be attributed to their lack of a distributor for the majority of the season, proving difficult for the Knicks to create opportunities. With the addition of Smith, the emergence of Jeremy Lin and the soon-to-be return of Carmelo Anthony New York will surely rise through the ranks and be one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the league. Smith shot a decent 0.390% last season with the Denver Nuggets as their sixth man off the bench. If he can provide the same skills in a confined role rather than taking the majority of the perimeter shots, he will be exactly what New York needs. It is then up to the management of the Knicks to find suitors to their overstock of guards on the roster.

5. The Verdict.
Signing an offensive talent like J.R Smith would improve the dynamic and power of any team's backcourt. For the Knicks, they now have one of the better rosters in the league, with Lin, Smith and Anthony on the perimeter and Stoudemire and Chandler down low. They also have Landry Fields and Jared Jefferies, who are both hard-working, hustling players who will do the dirty work for this team. Yet outside of this group, the rest of the roster will be hard-pressed to receive quality minutes of a consistent basis. Iman Shumpert, Toney Douglas, Baron Davis and Bill Walker can not all have regular playing time in the rotation. All four have received such as close as last season and even this season as well.

If New York expects to make a deep push in the Eastern Conference, they cannot expect to with this roster. If you can name another centre on the Knicks roster off the top of your head, congratulations. The only other bigman they have coming in behind Chandler is Jerome Jordan: he averages 4.9 minutes in the few 12 games he has played. Management needs to orchestrate some roster moves as soon as possible, or obtaining J.R Smith will not work out as they had hoped.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

NBA Trade Rumours: Why the LA Lakers would be worse off with Dwight Howard

Much speculation has surrounded the NBA this season as to where Dwight Howard will be traded. He has listed Dallas, New Jersey and Los Angeles as his preferred destinations. Many are in love with the idea of Howard suiting up in the purple and gold of the Lakers, bringing to mind the Kobe-Shaq era before it was broken up.

LA would arguably have the best one-two punch in the league that would dominate most teams. The Lakers have struggled as of late with a mediocre win-loss record of 17 and 12. This supposed deal is assumed to fix any and all strains for the team this season, although the question remains: is this really the best move for LA?

1. Offense.
The team is still adapting to playing away from the triangle offense; a system that the Lakers' core has followed for most of their careers. Last season, the Lakers averaged 101.5ppg on 0.463% shooting, making them the 9th best offensive team in the league. In addition, they were making 0.352% of their 3-point attempts which was mostly due to their use of the triangle. With former head coach Phil Jackson retired and Mike Brown now taking the reins, the team is not performing as well. Presently, LA ranks 20th in team points per game at 93.0. They are shooting 0.451% as a team, which is a good percentage and a top 15 offense. Yet it is the long range shooting that is the Lakers downfall.

While they are one of the better teams defending the 3-point line, LA ranks, ironically, as the worst 3-point shooting team in the entire league with a dismal 0.284 percentage. Headlined by Metta World Peace's shocking 0.164% from beyond the arc, the Lakers are desperate for accuracy from their players. Their best shooters, percentage-wise, are rookie Andrew Goudelock and power forward Troy Murphy, who receive just 29 minutes per game combined. Trading for Dwight Howard would certainly create space for shooters in LA, currently evident in Orlando where the Magic shoot a 6th best 0.386% from deep. The Lakers have decent shooters on the team in Blake, Bryant, Fisher, Goudelock, Kapono, Murphy and World Peace. Any of these players would be specialists this season had the space created by the triangle offense existed now; space Dwight Howard could instil for LA.

2. Defense.
A quick survey of Los Angeles' defensive statistics so far this season will tell you they are one of the best teams in the league at stopping their opponents. They rank 1st in opponent field goal percentage, 9th in opponent 3-point percentage and 11th in blocks: all three statistics tell us they have a dominant front-line and are very good on the perimeter. The more disappointing fact these stats tell us is that LA is dead-last in steals and forcing turnovers. Any NBA player can tell you the easiest shot attempts come on the fast-break, that are created by causing turnovers. To no surprise LA ranks last with just 7.7 fast-break points per game, which then leads to the field goal attempt differential.

As strong as their defense might be, LA still allows their opponents to take 4.9 more shots than themselves. Such a statistic isn't of too much importance as Miami, Boston, Orlando, Denver and Oklahoma City all rank in the bottom 10, with the Thunder allowing a league-worst 7.4 more attempts. Now the Thunder lead the Western Conference in winning percentage, which goes to show that permitting more shots is not a drama. Yet when your offense is struggling like LA's, it is an issue that needs to be addressed. Obtaining Dwight Howard would not repair this aspect of the team and, in actuality, makes them worse defensively. Pau Gasol and Andew Bynum might not look as flash as Howard in the middle, but both players can shut down the post effectively and score inside.

3. Trading for Howard.
Having a player of Dwight Howard's calibre is a huge boost for any team. He is one of the most dominant players in the post, both offensively and defensively. His averages of 20.9ppg, 15.5rpg, 1.5spg and 2.1bpg are enough for any team to pull the trigger to bring him to their organisation. Howard has pulled down plus-20 rebounds seven times this season, displaying his supremacy on the block. Los Angeles is clearly interested in bringing in another All-Star level player, having already attempted to bring Chris Paul to their team before NBA Commissioner David Stern vetoed the trade. Paul eventually ended up in LA anyway, just in the wrong uniform.

General Manager Mitch Kupchak has made it clear he is open to trading either Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum: not both. Most NBA fans would dive on the chance to bring Howard to play alongside Kobe Bryant, but realistically would be damaging to the team. Gasol and Bynum equal one of, if not, the best frontcourt in the entire NBA. Not many other teams are capable of defending both players, which is easily a benefit for the Lakers. To trade the two to Orlando would leave LA with a very weak frontcourt. Unless they are able to pry Ryan Anderson away from the Magic as well, the Lakers would have to start either Troy Murphy or Josh McRoberts at power-forward. The following is the different combinations the Lakers could have, followed by their statistical contributions combined:
Gasol, PF. Bynum, C = 33.2ppg, 22.8rpg, 3.4bpg, 1.0spg, 0.525% shooting, 0.681% free throw shooting.
McRoberts. PF. Howard, C = 28.3ppg, 20.8rpg, 2.9bpg, 2.2spg, 0.558% shooting, 0.514% free throw shooting.
Murphy, PF. Howard, C = 35.5ppg, 25.7rpg, 2.6bpg, 2.5spg, 0.522% shooting, 0.541% free throw shooting.

The statistics for McRoberts and Murphy were used from the most recent seasons where they averaged more than 20 minutes per game (McRoberts '10-'11 season, Murphy '09-'10 season). However it is unlikely for Murphy to perform as he did two seasons ago, therefore his statistics would be inaccurate.

From what is available above, it would seem keeping Gasol and Bynum is better for the Lakers. They would perform better in every single category, save for field goal percentage which can be attributed to Gasol's struggles at the beginning of the season. Yet mentioned earlier, LA is unlikely to give up both players. Obviously Howard is a huge improvement over the up-and-coming Andrew Bynum, but Orlando would be unwilling to give him up for so little. Unless LA included the struggling Metta World Peace and the trade exception acquired from trading Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks, a package of Bynum and draft picks isn't very enticing. It is difficult to trade a superstar and attempt to receive similar value, but Magic GM Otis Smith is biding his time. It all depends on how desperate the Magic get as the trade deadline approaches on March 15th.

4. Trade for contributing players.
Trading for Howard would leave LA depleted in their frontcourt, so as exciting as the team would look on paper, it would essentially make them worse. The Lakers troubles are not down low, so an attempt to trade for such a player to improve their frontline makes no sense. Of course acquiring a player like Dwight Howard would change the dynamic of the organisation, yet it would ruin the chemistry of the roster.

Bryant, Gasol, Bynum and Fisher have been the starting players for LA, since the '07-'08 season when Memphis and Los Angeles orchestrated the blockbuster trade for the Spanish 7-footer. Keeping a core together is essential to success, as seen by many teams last season, aside from the Miami Heat. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are all close friends and synchronized relatively quickly. Trading away the bigmen you have had for almost four years would be a mistake. Team chemistry is often overlooked, but it is an extremely important aspect of basketball success.

What the Lakers really need is help on the perimeter. They have a lack of contributing guards and forwards; an issue that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. LA should look to trade one of the five small forwards they currently have on the roster in Kapono, World Peace, Ebanks, Barnes and Walton. As bad as World Peace is shooting the ball, he must be kept for LA to be successful. However frustrating are his contested shots, he provides in so many ways that are often unseen that makes him invaluable to this team. His hustle, defense, physicality and ability to challenge the other team's best offensive weapon without question are qualities uncommon in most NBA players today. Matt Barnes is almost identical to World Peace in what he brings to the team, but not so much that they are interchangeable.

He could be sent to Cleveland, along with Steve Blake, in exchange for Ramon Sessions and Ryan Hollins. Sessions is rumoured to be on the trading block, now that rookie pointguard Kyrie Irving has played extremely well, and there is really no need for him on the roster. He could help spread the floor for LA as he currently averages 5.6 assists per game. Sessions is not an elite 3-point shooter, but with Barnes and Blake out of the rotation, Andrew Goudelock, Jason Kapono and another shooter they can bring in will have more running time. Hollins, an athletic bigman, would be Bynum's backup and provide when called upon. For Cleveland, Barnes will provide toughness, defense and veteran leadership that the team is sorely lacking, with 9 players 25 years old or less. Blake would provide outside shooting and experience to Irving without jeopardizing the rookie's minutes.

Alternatively, LA could send Luke Walton and Blake to the Bucks for Stephen Jackson, who has been suspended and benched by the team. He is clearly on his way out of Milwaukee and would be a huge addition to the Lakers rotation. If Milwaukee is indeed trying to rid themselves of Captain Jack, they won't get picky when it comes to who they must receive. Walton is a solid forward who can defend and score from midrange and Blake would provide his shooting to a Bucks team that struggles offensively. Additionally, Walton's contract expires next season and will create cap space for Milwaukee to sign some big name free agents in 2013. The Lakers would most likely need to include draft picks, ultimately the first round pick received by Dallas and one of three second round picks. Jackson averages just over a steal per game, which would help LA in their attempt to improve their fastbreak offense. To run it correctly, they need a distributor.

 LA could then trade Barnes to Toronto for Jose Calderon. The Raptors are hoping to change up the workings of the team, with guard Jerryd Bayless developing well so far. LA could use the trade exception they received from dealing Odom to Dallas and have a complete team. Calderon would be the distributing guard the Lakers are looking for: he has a reliable 3 point shot, has the best assist-to-turnover ratio in the entire NBA, is currently 4th in assists at 8.6 per game and has ties with Pau Gasol from their time playing on the Spanish National Team. Toronto would then have financial flexibility with the addition of Barnes. He and six other players for the Raptors would be free agents at the end of the year and leave the team to sign a better supporting cast for current centre Andrea Bargnani and rookie Jonas Valanciunas, who will join the club next season. Additional pieces would need to be added to entice Toronto, but this presents a blueprint for a potential acquisition.

5. Dwight Howard is not the answer.
Ultimately, walking away from the this trade for the All-Star centre is LA's best move. As shocking and unintelligent as this move might look, it would change the dynamic of the team too much for it to be successful. People seem to be under the impression that once a trade is completed, the new players will magically know how to exist with each other. Howard would have to make a huge adjustment to understand he is no longer the first option on offense. Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest scorers of all-time, and its his job to put the ball in the basket. Gasol and Bynum understand their roles as the 2nd and 3rd options on the team and play accordingly.

The two of them combined are better defensively than Howard and any other power-forward the Lakers could possibly acquire. They are also more versatile, as Bynum can be physical inside and Gasol is more polished in the post while able to knock down mid range jumpshots. Having two 7 foot bigmen in your starting lineup is a bonus for any team defensively, and for both to be gone would be damaging to the Lakers' identity. Howard is an accomplished defender as well, but there is a reason LA leads the league in opponent field goal percentage. Improving their post players is not LA's most important objective at this time, and trading for contributing wing players should be.

Acquiring Calderon and/or Jackson would both be beneficial moves to the Lakers and essentially make them a championship contender almost overnight. They would have one of the more complete rosters in the NBA, while also possessing a deep bench to back up their starting rotation. The roster moves are seemingly possible, but might require further pieces to convince Milwaukee or Toronto to part with one of their better players. The ultimatum for the Los Angeles Lakers is this: Dwight Howard is not the answer to their problems this season, no matter how enticing it might be to trade for him.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Knight suffers broken nose against Hornets

Rookie point guard Brandon Knight, of the Detroit Pistons, has suffered a broken nose while going for a rebound in the first quarter. Pistons centre Greg Monroe inadvertently hit Knight with his elbow while going for the same rebound. The Pistons have released a statement saying he will be out indefinitely, which is a bad sign for the struggling Detroit franchise. Knight was coming off a career high 26 points in a win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

Rookie Analysis

This season's rookies have shown promise in a draft that was considered weak by many. Yet much like any draft, there have been surprises, disappointments, and some players have played exactly as expected. The top 10 picks are pressured to contribute right away, so lets see how they've played thus far.

Kyrie Irving PG: 1st overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
There was much controversy surrounding Irving being selected 1st overall by the Cavs, mainly because the point guard had only participated in 11 college games before making himself eligible for the draft. He has shown no signs of inexperience, averaging 18.1ppg, 3.4rpg, 4.8apg, 0.8spg while shooting 0.511% from the floor. He's also shooting 0.411% from 3 and 0.821% from the line, which are very good shooting percentages from a rookie point guard. He has started every game for Cleveland, playing an average of 28.8mpg, which tells a lot about his production. Irving has already shown his mettle and confidence, having hit a game winning lay up against the Boston Celtics on January 29th ( and torched Deron Williams for 32 points the night before. The only flaw in his game currently seems to be his ability to turn the ball over, averaging 3.3 per game. Irving can blame that on being a rookie, and rookie mistakes, and will likely improve this aspect of his game in time. He has quietly helped the Cavaliers back to mediocrity, just a half game back from the 8th seed in the East. If he can continue his level of play, the team can most likely rise back into playoff contention.

Derrick Williams SF/PF: 2nd overall pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Williams was selected 2nd overall by the Wolves out of Arizona after spending 2 years there. The move was somewhat puzzling, as their roster already contains a number of 'tweener' wingmen, such as Wesley Johnson, Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph. Yet with rising star Kevin Love on the frontline, future point guard Ricky Rubio joining the team this year and Johnson at the guard, the lack of prospects available to the team made this move sensible. There was no sense drafting another big man to distract Love's further development, so keeping their centre, Darko Milicic, will allow Love to continue his success. In addition, there were rumours Beasley could be traded last season, so he might not be in Minnesota's future plans, which would allow Williams to start at the 3. This season, he has started only 2 games out of the 21 he has participated, receiving 19.1mpg. He is averaging 7.5ppg, 1.3 orpg and 3.9rpg, while shooting 0.433%, 0.256% and 0.618% from the floor, 3 point line and free throw line respectively. Williams seems to still be finding his role with the team, which would explain his low shooting percentages. He is an athletic swingman who can find his niche with the Wolves, its just a matter of time before he does so.

Enes Kanter C: 3rd overall pick by the Utah Jazz.
Much like the Timberwolves selection of Derrick Williams, the Jazz's selection of Kanter didn't make much sense. With Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap down low, there isn't much room for the Turkish big man to develop into a promising prospect. The Jazz were in a similar situation when they drafted Millsap while they had Boozer on the roster at power forward. This will lead to one of two things: Kanter becomes their sixth man and eventually a starter or trade piece, or the Jazz trade Jefferson for a quality guard to complete the line up of the team. Considering the lack of shooting guard prospects, the team made the right move to take the best talent available. Kanter is averaging 5.0ppg, 1.9orpg, 5.0rpg and 0.5bpg, in just 14.4mpg. He pulled down 5 offensive rebounds against the Trailblazers on January 30th in 21 minutes, which is very productive. To think what he could do rebounding-wise given sufficient playing time is an interesting thought. As of right now, his offensive rebounding average would put him alongside Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol, Carlos Boozer, Josh Smith and even teammate Al Jefferson (who receives 33.0mpg). He is shooting 0.463% from the floor which isn't terrible for a rookie bigman, but he needs to be more aggressive offensively. This can be attributed to his lack of playing time, which will hopefully increase when the Jazz realise they are overstocked with talented bigmen (Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, Al Jefferson, Enes Kanter and Jeremy Evans). Hopefully a trade package can be made to help configure the team and give Kanter the minutes he deserves.

Tristan Thompson PF: 4th overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Many consider the Cavs reached for Thompson at 4th, and could have picked up a better prospect from what was available. He has proved many doubters wrong, becoming a solid big man off the bench. He is currently averaging 7.1ppg, 1.9orpg, 4.7rpg and 1.1bpg in 17.4mpg behind starter Antawn Jamison. Much like Enes Kanter, his offensive rebounding is developed and effective, which will make him an asset to any team. He is also a decent shot blocker, ranking 34th in the league, just behind Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and Tim Duncan in the statistical leaders. At some point during the season, it's likely Jamison will be moved to a sixth man role to allow Thompson to develop alongside Kyrie Irving; a role he is used to, having done so when J.J Hickson was the starting power forward. In the meantime, Thompson is playing well with the minutes he is given and looks to be worthy of his selection at 4th by the Cavaliers.

Jonas Valančiūnas C: 5th overall pick by the Toronto Raptors.
Valančiūnas is not currently in the NBA due to release issues with his club, Lietuvos Rytas, in Lithuania. The Raptors can pay a maximum $500,000 toward his buyout from the team, and Valančiūnas has agreed to pay the remainder, thereby releasing him and allowing him to sign in Toronto. Unfortunately, the team will not release him until next season, so Raptors fans will have to be patient before he and Bargnani can make an interesting frontline together. As of now, Valančiūnas is a fantastic player at the international level showcasing scoring, rebounding, and shot-blocking. He has won three MVP awards and three gold medals in the FIBA age division tournaments, most recently in the 2011 FIBA Under-19 World Championship. For the series, he averaged 23.0ppg, 13.9rpg and 3.2bpg in 31mpg, dominating the competition en route to becoming the only player to win a gold medal and  the MVP in all the tournaments he has participated in ( He is a three time All Star in the LKL (Lithuanian Basketball League or Lietuvos Krepsinis Lyga in Lithuanian), most recently the All Star Game MVP in 2011. Valančiūnas was named Lithuania Basketball Player of the Year last year as well, so he has an impressive list of accolades to convince any naysayers that might criticize his play. A Bargnani-Valančiūnas frontcourt brings to mind the Ryan Anderson-Dwight Howard combination of the Orlando Magic, so it will be intriguing to see what happens in Toronto the next few years.

Jan Veselý SF/PF: 6th overall pick by the Washington Wizards. 
Veselý, originally from the Czech Republic, was drafted 6th to the rebuilding Washington Wizards to solidify their roster of the future. With Veselý in the lineup, their rotation is much more stable as it would read: Future All-Star John Wall and scorer Nick Young in the backcourt, Veselý at the 3, post scorer Andray Blatche and the fierce, athletic shot blocker JaVale McGee in the frontcourt. Veselý has already been compared to Andrei Kirilenko, mostly because of his speed and defensive presence. His statistics from last year, playing for Partizan in the Euroleague, don't jump off the page: 10.1ppg, 3.6rpg, 1.1apg, 1.3spg, 0.9bpg, 0.598% from the field, 0.357% from 3, 0.444% from the line in 27.0mpg (14 out of 15 games started). His shooting and scoring are not well developed just yet, which might be due to either inconsistent playing time or adjusting to the NBA level of play. Additionally, he has yet to attempt a 3 point shot this season and only 7 free throw attempts in 15 games. With former head coach Flip Saunders having been fired from his position, Veselý's minutes have jumped from 11.7 under Saunders to 22.5 under interim head coach Randy Wittman. His steal numbers have risen to 1.5 per game with more game time, which is a positive for the Wizards. They are trying to play a faster paced game on offense, which given Veselý's athleticism, will be right up his alley. Hopefully the coaching change will allow Veselý to grow as a player on the wing and develop into a presence for Washington. Its also worth noting that he stands 6"11 and weighs in at 240lbs. Considering Valančiūnas has the exact same measurements, its almost unnatural to think a guy who could be your centre is running like a small forward on the wing: Enjoy.

Bismack Biyombo PF: 7th overall pick by the Sacramento Kings (traded to the Charlotte Bobcats).
Its know league wide that Biyombo is very raw offensively, but defensively, he is ready to roll. Drafted at no. 7 by Sacramento, the Bobcats orchestrated a trade to bring the bigman to Charlotte. In the process, they traded away their leading scorer Stephen Jackson, backup point guard Shaun Livingston, the 19th overall pick in the draft, and received forward Corey Maggette and his inflated contract (roughly $20 million over the next two years). The front office doesn't deal away their best offensive player and take on a bloated contract if they're not convinced the player they're after isn't worth it. So far, Biyombo has performed just as expected: 2.9ppg, 1.0orpg, 3.2rpg, 1.4bpg in 12.7mpg. If he had to be compared to anyone at this time, he reminds me of Serge Ibaka of the Oklahoma City Thunder: an quick, athletic shot-blocker ( Presently, he isn't receiving near enough playing time given his potential. I've always enjoyed playing around with statistics, so I calculated Biyombo's statistics when he plays more than 15 minutes a game, which has occured only five times this season. He would average 7.4ppg, 7.0rpg and a huge 3.2bpg. As of now, that would lead the league in blocked shots per game. It is only a matter of time before he steps into the starting role at either power forward or centre, even though he stands 6"9 and would be undersized at the 5. Either way, Biyombo has proven already he is the defensive cornerstone of the Charlotte Bobcats for the years to come.

Brandon Knight PG: 8th overall by the Detroit Pistons.
Knight has been thrust into the spotlight by the Pistons, hoping to fast-track the failed rebuilding process that Detroit fans have had to suffer through since the trade of Chauncey Billups in 2008. He has started 19 of their 25 games at point guard, averaging 12.9ppg, 3.5rpg, 3.5apg, and 0.7spg. He is also playing the second most minutes amongst rookies per game, trailing only Ricky Rubio, at 33.0 per game. His shooting percentages (0.408%, 0.355%, 0.766%) are typical to that of a rookie, but will hopefully be more accurate as the season progresses. He stepped up big last night with a win over the Milwaukee Bucks, 88-80. Knight had a career-high 26 points and 7 assists to lead the Pistons, while also forcing Bucks guard Brandon Jennings into a horrible shooting night, going just 7 for 19 from the floor. Knight commented on his lack of energy and intensity the previous games, and stated he needs to have that each and every game for the team to be successful. This shows signs of maturity for the first year guard, which is surely a good sign for the Pistons.

Kemba Walker PG: 9th overall by the Charlotte Bobcats.
Kemba Walker has struggled to find his role with Charlotte so far, jumping between the bench and stepping into the starting lineup. With D.J Augustin injured and off the roster indefinitely, Walker has been trusted to lead the team. He has played 34.8 mpg over the past 7 games with Augustin out, and has played well despite his shooting percentages. Walker is averaging 13.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 0.7 blocks, 0.85 steals, while only 1.0 fouls. That statistic is overshadowed by his performance against the Blazers, on the 1st of February, where he picked up 3 fouls. Before that, he went a stretch of 4 games, a total 147 minutes, without committing one. He is only averaging 1.2 per game, which is a very good statistic considering his rookie status. The only downside to his play so far is his shooting, posting 0.362% and 0.333% from the floor and from 3. If he can fine-tune his shot selection and be patient in the offense, he will be a steal considering he dropped to the ninth pick. Walker affects so many facets of the game, which was evident in his triple double against Washington on the 27th of January, with 20 points (8 for 18 shooting), 10 rebounds and 11 assists. He followed that up with 12, 6 and 6 against the Lakers, before struggling against Portland in his last game. As stated before, once he can ameliorate his shooting, he will be in the running for Rookie of the Year.

Jimmer Fredette PG: 10th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks (traded to the Sacramento Kings).
With probably the most exciting name in this year's draft, Jimmer Fredette is the backup point guard for the Kings. He is recognized more for this shooting than his play making ability, with many providing criticism as to whether he can actually play at the 1. Fredette has showcased his shooting so far, with a 0.383% from deep. He is currently tied for 35th in the league in 3's made, alongside Carlos Delfino, Jamal Crawford and Kobe Bryant. He has mostly played a 6th man role with Sacramento so far, as the team already has two dynamic guards that can score in Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton. Although, Thornton did miss time with a bruised thigh and Fredette was able to showcase his ability:
Current Averages: 8.6ppg, 1.3rpg, 2.0apg, 0.364% from the field, 0.383% from three, 0.880% from the line, 23.0mpg.
With Thornton out: 14.2ppg, 0.8rpg, 2.4apg, 0.442% from the field, 0.600% from three, 0.833% from the line, 27.4mpg.
Fredette's shooting from deep has definitely been the highlight of his game so far, making about 1.5 per game. He sunk an incredible 15 in the time Thornton was injured, which equates to 3 per game, and that would tie for first with league leader Ryan Anderson of the Orlando Magic, for threes made per game. Unfortunately, Fredette followed up his hot shooting streak with a DNP on Thornton's return against Portland. If Evans can possibly slide over to small forward (he has the size at 6'6"), Fredette could start at point guard and the Kings could have a similar line-up to that of the Magic. Shooters Jameer Nelson and Jason Richardson are at guard, with small forward Hedo Turkoglu running the offense, allowing them to play off the ball and roam free for open shots. Sacramento could run a similar system with Evans as the point forward, with up and coming centre DeMarcus Cousins downlow rather than Dwight Howard. If not, Fredette will continue his role as their sixth man, and provide efficent scoring and shooting off the bench.

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