espn insider run down, courtesy llperez
Just became an insider and here some interesting new stuff being reported on there:
TMac is not ready to go at the start of training camp. In fact, he won't be cleared to even begin practicing pending an MRI exam on November 23rd.
This could be a ding to the people suddenly predicting Houston to make the playoffs. Yao is officially out for the year and TMac will miss the first month before he can even be considered for practice.
Jazz starting spots are up in the air. Sloan has stated that he has not decided if Boozer or Millsap is the pf. On a more interesting note, Sloan has also stated the Jazz have not decided who the starting center is either, with both Kyrylo Fesenko and Kosta Koufos being candidates.
I can understand the Booz/Millsap situation. But is there something I'm missing about Okur? Is he still bothered by the injury that kept him out of the playoffs last year?
Big expectations for Gallinari in NY. He is impressing the coaching staff and Mike D/Antoni stated, "He is the best shooter that I have ever seen."
Best shooter ever? wow, that's some pretty big praise.
Rose has spent some time with Kobe Bryant this off-season trying to soak up as much knowledge as possible, stating "If Kobe's not the most competitive person in the league, I'd love to see the person who works harder. That's Kobe. He want's to win everything."
Anthony Carter is still ahead of Ty Lawson on the depth chart.
Of course this could just be coach speak for I'm not giving you anything kid, you have to earn it.
Also, Mike Dunleavy, who was expected to be ready for the season opener, has suffered another setback on his injury and there is no timetable for his return.
Could you post Hollinger's outlook for the Toronto Raptors that was posted today? Thanks.
the out looks are all like 2 pages long, very in depth. Plus I honestly don't know how to post things from other sites or youtube clips even. Maybe if someone could help me figure it out.
copy and past
highlight everything, right click, click copy,right click here and click paste
To say Bryan Colangelo has had better years would be an understatement. Hailed as the franchise savior when he succeeded the disastrous Rob Babcock regime, Colangelo's moves to pump the Raptors up from playoff speed bump to true contender failed spectacularly. An offseason trade for Jermaine O'Neal designed to shore up the defense instead accomplished little at that end; it did, however, gum up the offense, which previously had been the one thing keeping the Raptors above the league's riffraff.
Things quickly snowballed from there. A hamstring injury to point guard Jose Calderon showcased a glaring lack of depth in the backcourt -- mainly because Colangelo imports Roko Ukic and Will Solomon both proved overmatched -- and left the Raps scrambling almost immediately. They whacked coach Sam Mitchell just 17 games into the season after a 132-93 loss to Denver and inserted assistant Jay Triano in his place. The troops responded immediately -- they lost the next game by only 27.
Fewest opponent FTA per FGA, 2008-09
Team FTA/FGA Def. Eff. Rank
SA .249 6
Hou .257 4
Tor .258 22
Atl .272 11
Phil .276 14
Orl .277 1
NBA avg. .306 N/A
O'Neal couldn't cure what ailed the Raptors' defense partly because of how often opponents blew past the players in front of him. Calderon played through his injury but couldn't move laterally, while weak defenders like Jason Kapono and Andrea Bargnani also became routine victims for opponents.
But even with O'Neal -- who, it should be noted, once again finished near the top of the league in both blocks per minute and offensive fouls drawn per minute -- this was an amazingly soft team. The number that sums it up is the fact Toronto accumulated the third-lowest foul rate in the league, with opponents getting only .258 free throw attempts per field goal attempt.
Normally that's a good thing, because it's a goal of good defenses to keep opponents off the line. But in the Raptors' case, it showed their unwillingness to give fouls to prevent easy baskets, or to make an effort in general. The two teams ahead of them in this category were solid fundamental defensive teams that had low foul rates because they were rarely caught out of position; the Raptors didn't foul because they had no inclination to play physically.
Lowest offensive rebound rate, 2008-09
Team ORB Rate
San Antonio 22.1
New York 24.4
NBA avg. 26.7
Toronto had always struggled at that end, so its 22nd-place finish in defensive efficiency wasn't too huge a shock. On the other hand, the implosion of the offense came as a huge surprise. Bosh and Calderon still put up their numbers, but the support around them crumbled. Kapono, Anthony Parker and Joey Graham all saw their offensive games go into remission, the backup point guard spot was an ongoing disaster and Bargnani spent the first two-thirds of the season in an inexplicable offensive funk.
Thanks to the above problems, the Raps missed lots of shots, and with all their big guys (and small guys, for that matter) hanging out on the perimeter, the Raptors rarely were in position to get the caroms. Toronto rebounded only 24 percent of its missed shots, which was the second-lowest rate in basketball; only San Antonio ranked worse.
It was particularly damaging in Toronto's case because there were so many misses to be had. The Raptors drew few free throws and rarely turned the ball over, so most of their trips ended with a shot. Toronto shot reasonably well from the field and led the league in free throw percentage, thanks in part to Calderon's record-setting 95.2 percent mark, but the rebounding pulled the Raps below the league average in offensive efficiency.
In the end, the season underscored the difficulty the Colangelo administration has had in piecing together a competent supporting cast around Bosh and Calderon. The O'Neal trade in itself wasn't a terrible idea, and it didn't cost them anything too substantial, so one can write that off as a recoverable experiment.
HOLLINGER'S '08-09 STATS
W-L: 33-49 (Pythagorean W-L: 32-50)
Offensive Efficiency: 104.3 (22nd)
Defensive Efficiency: 107.1 (22nd)
Pace Factor: 94.4 (14th)
Highest PER: Chris Bosh (22.19)
The other moves aren't as easy to dismiss. Toronto signed Kapono to a four-year deal for the midlevel exception, but he was one of the worst players in the league last year. The decision to rely on Euro imports Ukic and Solomon as the backup point guards could not have failed more miserably. It's also safe to say that taking Bargnani as the top overall pick instead of Brandon Roy or LaMarcus Aldridge is a point of regret.
As a result, Bosh, Calderon and O'Neal were the only Raptors with a PER above the league average, with O'Neal trading spots with Shawn Marion in a late-season trade. That's an unacceptably poor supporting cast, and it largely explains why a team with one perennial All-Star and another minor star could be so awful for so much of the year.
The Raptors played better once Marion arrived, helped along by a resurgence from Bargnani and some improvement in Calderon's hammy. Toronto went 10-6 in its final 16 games, with Bargani putting up big numbers as a small ball center to change the verdict on his third pro season from "train wreck" to "encouraging."
Nonetheless, the Raps were very much a team in distress at season's end, especially since Bosh -- with just one year left on his contract -- gave little indication that he'd be willing to stick around much longer if things didn't improve.
The Raptors liked the finish well enough to re-up Triano and remove the interim tag from his name, giving the league's only Canadian team its only Canadian coach. That barely draws a mention in any discussion of Toronto's offseason, however, because GM Bryan Colangelo was so busy tearing down the roster and rebuilding it. It might be his final shot, as it's been three years and the Raps remain mired in mediocrity.
Suffice it to say it was a busy summer north of the border, as Colangelo sought to rebuild the team in the mold of the highly skilled, defense-averse squads he assembled in Phoenix. To his credit, he went for it with gusto. See if you can catch up:
Drafted DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan's one season at USC was unimpressive, but he has major-league leaping ability that the Raps hope will translate into on-court production. However, his rates of rebounds and blocks were quite ordinary, making one wonder how well he can use his hops in the context of a game. DeRozan also had poor ballhandling and shooting numbers, so he seems more of a long-term project than an immediate contributor.
Agreed to terms with Hedo Turkoglu on a five-year, $53 million deal. Colangelo swooped in at last minute and plunked all his potential cap space on Turkoglu after the forward had already signaled he'd take a deal with Portland. This was an extremely risky move on Colangelo's part, as signing Turkoglu outright without a sign-and-trade would have used all his cap space, required him to renounce all his free agents, and basically left him with a shell of a roster.
It was risky also because he was paying $53 million to a 30-year-old player who was more of a mid-tier performer than a star. Turkoglu's numbers declined sharply last season and they weren't all that spectacular to begin with. Plus, players like him often decline rapidly as they enter their 30s, so the term of the contract is a major negative.
In fact, let me throw this question out to the audience: Whom would you rather have next year, O'Neal, Marion or Turkoglu? The Raps could have had any of the three and opted for the last player, at much greater expense. He's certainly more durable than O'Neal and may age better than Marion, but on a per-minute basis he was the worst player of the three last season.
Nonetheless, Colangelo salvaged a bunch of value from the deal with his next move …
Swung a sign-and-trade to acquire Turkoglu, Antoine Wright and Devean George for Shawn Marion, Kris Humphries, Nathan Jawai, cash and a second-round pick. This was huge -- without this deal the Raptors would have been left high and dry by the Turkoglu signing. In fact, it's amazing Orlando didn't squeeze a greater ransom from them given that the Raps had little choice but to meet their demands.
By orchestrating a complicated, four-team sign-and-trade rather than signing Turkoglu outright, the Raptors were able to maintain the rights to restricted free agent Carlos Delfino and preserve their cap exceptions for pursuing other free agents. All it cost them was a player they were going to lose anyway (Marion), a player who is unlikely to ever become a contributor (Jawai) and Humphries. Humphries was strangely underutilized despite strong production in Toronto, but if they weren't playing him anyway, it's tough to view his departure as a huge loss.
Traded George to Golden State for Marco Belinelli. Toronto essentially purchased Belinelli, filling in a hole on the wings by paying the Warriors to take George off their hands so the trade would meet salary-cap rules. This is the type of low-level acquisition the Raptors have largely failed to execute in recent seasons, and while Belinelli probably isn't good enough to start, he can shoot and takes charges.
Traded Jason Kapono to Philadelphia for Reggie Evans. The Raptors tried to recruit somebody with toughness to bust some heads in the frontcourt, importing the fairly unproductive but notably physical Evans for the equally unproductive Kapono. This was the third deal in six months (along with O'Neal and Ukic) where the Raps essentially admitted failure, and while that sounds negative, that's actually far better than stubbornly insisting things are working.
Signed and traded Carlos Delfino to Milwaukee, along with Roko Ukic, for Amir Johnson and Sonny Weems. Although Delfino played in Russia last season, the Raptors retained his rights as a restricted free agent, and when they couldn't agree on a deal directly, the Raptors sent him to the Bucks along with Ukic for Johnson. Johnson is a promising young forward who could be a huge steal, as he played very well in this first two pro seasons prior to a major setback last season.
Let Anthony Parker leave, signed Jarrett Jack for four years, $20 million. Jack played very well down the stretch of last season and immediately solves the backup point guard dilemma that plagued the team a year ago; additionally, Jack likely will start at the 2. Nonetheless, this was quite a bit to pay for a second-tier combo guard; Shannon Brown, for instance, delivered similar per-minute productivity and signed for a fifth as much. Jack will help the Raptors in the short-term, certainly, but he comes with needless risk.
Signed Rasho Nesterovic for one year, $1.9 million. This might have been the best value signing of the offseason. Nesterovic isn't sexy, but he can play -- he's big and can defend the post, he makes 15-footers and he has a decent touch around the basket. Sure, he's not exactly a walking elixir for the Raptors' softness problem with his magical ability to avoid drawing fouls, but few backup centers will be more productive and he'll cost less than almost all of them.
Signed Andrea Bargnani to a five-year, $50 million extension. The only thing more bizarre than this decision was the scuttlebutt around the league that the Raptors' brass celebrated it like they just made the deal of the century. In contrast to the admissions of mistakes noted above, this seemed like hubris on Colangelo's part that Bargnani would eventually prove his questionable decision to draft him first overall the correct one.
While Bargnani's finish to last season provided encouragement, in the big picture he's played three years and has yet to post a PER above the league average, plus he's one of the worst defenders at his position. Additionally, the only reason to extend him for $50 million would be if Colangelo believed that some other team would come after Bargnani with even more money next summer. That's awfully hard to believe given Bargnani's performance over his first three seasons and the blitz of superstar free agents that will be on the market next summer.
Without the extensions, Toronto would have retained the right to match any offer after this season. Thus, even if Bargnani takes the league by storm, they would have been covered. Plus, restricted free agents have had an impossible time getting paid the past few seasons -- witness the travails of David Lee this past summer. Sum it all up and the Raptors needlessly jumped the gun to defend themselves against a microscopic risk, and they are now wedded to Il Mago for six years (this year plus the five years of the extension) at what is likely to be a highly inflated rate for his production.
Biggest Strength: Shooting
Say this about the Raptors -- they'll space the floor and fill it up from outside. Go all through the lineup and you'll see shooters at every spot. Calderon is one of the best marksmen in the game at the point, while Bargnani might be the best-shooting center in the league. Bosh is very adept from outside at the power forward spot, and Turkoglu is a strong spot-up shooter at the 3.
Coming in behind them are the likes of Belinelli, another outstanding spot-up shooter, and Quincy Douby, who has shown flashes of potential as a scoring guard. Jack and Nesterovic are decent outside shooters, too, leaving the backup big men, Evans and Johnson, as the only likely rotation players who really struggle to shoot from outside.
Biggest Weakness: Interior Defense
The Raptors weren't a good defensive team a year ago, and it's tough to see how they'll be any better this time around with a Bosh-Turkoglu-Bargnani frontcourt. The glaring lack of size, toughness and rebounding with that trio could subject Toronto to a series of nightly beatings on post-ups and putbacks, and replacing Parker -- arguably their toughest player a year ago -- will only add to their frailty. Newcomer Johnson is slated to back up at power forward, and while he's an accomplished shot-blocker, he has the same problems with lack of strength and toughness.
The cavalry off the bench may have to ride in to save the day. Nesterovic and Evans are a much more physical duo than Bosh and Bargnani, with Evans in particular being counted on to settle scores when the frontcourt battle gets out of hand. Of course, playing either of these two requires sitting one of the Raptors' key frontcourt scorers, with an obvious cost at the offensive end. The Raptors can defend the interior, in other words -- they just can't do it with their starters.
With most of the league's teams, I have a pretty good idea of what to expect this season. For the Raptors, it's the opposite case -- almost nothing they do this year would surprise me. In the past six months Toronto changed out nearly its entire roster around the Calderon-Bosh-Bargnani foundation and are now set up to play a style as distinct as any in basketball.
The Raptors are going to space the floor with shooters, run high pick-and-rolls with Calderon and one of the big guys, find an open man spotting up and rain in jump shots. That's the entire plan, borrowing from the Suns' playbook circa 2006, and it's beautiful when it works. With Calderon, Jack and Turkoglu, they have three guards who can orchestrate, and the offensive skill of their frontcourt may provide enough matchup problems to offset their defensive shortcomings.
On the other hand, nobody besides Bosh draws fouls, they won't get any offensive rebounds and the lack of depth on the wings leaves them relying on some seriously unskilled offensive players (Wright, DeRozan, Evans, Johnson) to make their strategy work.
And then there's the defense. Jack and Bosh are the only starters who play any D, and Jack will be giving up inches as a starting shooting guard. The backups are better at that end, but the Raps may finish last in the league in free throw differential and will struggle to contain good post players.
This is either going to work out spectacularly well or it's going to be spectacularly awful. That is, if they win 50 games, it won't be shocking, and if they win only 25, that won't raise eyebrows, either.
Right now, it's safe to aim for the middle of the two; not necessarily the most likely outcome, but the median outcome. Toronto has one All-Star, limited depth, a couple of obvious strengths and a couple of equally clear weaknesses. That spells mediocre to me, so I'm projecting them to land in the lower middle of the Eastern Conference's huddled mass of contenders. That's just a guess, though -- nobody really knows whether this mishmash will work or not until the balls go up.
Prediction: 35-47, 3rd place in Atlantic Division, 10th in Eastern Conf.
John Hollinger writes for ESPN Insider. To e-mail him, click here.
there you go churchboy. And thanks mikenike.
one more thing please? OKC's plan to keep Durant in OKC
no problem man
"Kevin Durant can sign an extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder beginning next July. Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman believes the most important factor in keeping Durant is the young group of players assembled around Durant.
Mayberry writes, "Durant has repeatedly professed his preference to remain in Oklahoma City long term, but there is one factor that could ultimately close the sale. Continuity. When decision day arrives for Durant, he will look up and find himself surrounded by complementary young talent that he's grown up with in Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. It's a not-so small factor that could provide comfort to a player who this season will play in the same city in consecutive seasons for just the first time since his early high school days. Familiarity alone certainly won't get Durant's signature on a long-term contract. But money won't be an issue, as the Thunder already has cleared more than enough salary cap space to re-sign Durant to a max deal."
Thanks alot llperez for sharing, its much appreciated
cool thanks, you think ESPN insider is worth joining? Im considering it.
actually yes. One year is 39.95 and that includes a years subcription to ESPN the mag. So you get 26 issues and all access to the site for 40 bucks. Not too bad. Plus they email you new insite on fantasy league tips and advice if you play. Just put it on a credit card and pretend it doesn't exist like most people do.
cool. 16 and no credit card : (
Anything on the Wolves over at ESPN?
could you please post the one on the blazers??
can you please post the one on the hornets?
The Hornets made one of the worst mistakes possible prior to the 2008-09 season -- they believed their press clippings. After a seven-game, second-round defeat to San Antonio, much was written about how San Antonio's experience proved the telling difference and how the Hornets needed to add some to get over the hump.
Closer analysis could have offered more tangible reasons -- like the lack of a quality backup center. This forced the Hornets to double-team Tim Duncan every first half since they were terrified of Tyson Chandler picking up fouls, and it directly led to the barrage of 3-pointers that tripped them in Game 7. Unfortunately, the Hornets placed their faith in the intangible rather than the tangible, and it set the stage for a disappointing 2008-09 campaign.
New Orleans invested its money in a full midlevel offer to James Posey, hoping his magic playoff beans would lead them to the promised land. They did this in lieu of moves that would have made them a better basketball team, such as using their cap exceptions to fill the gaping holes at backup center and backup point guard.
It was no fault of Posey's, who put up his usual numbers, but he provided little difference from the legions of other small forwards already on the Hornets' roster. The lack of a backup big man, on the other hand, killed them when Chandler hurt his ankle and missed 37 games. New Orleans' backup fives were Hilton Armstrong (PER 10.49), Sean Marks (8.64) and Melvin Ely (5.67); between them they gave the Hornets 2,303 minutes of sub-replacement-level production and essentially neutralized the team's two All-Stars.
HOLLINGER'S '08-09 STATS
W-L: 49-33 (Pythagorean W-L: 46-36)
Offensive Efficiency: 106.2 (T-18th)
Defensive Efficiency: 104.1 (9th)
Pace Factor: 90.0 (28th)
Highest PER: Chris Paul (30.04)
The backup point guard spot was an even greater calamity until the team engineered a deal for Washington's Antonio Daniels, relieving the wholly incapable Mike James of the gig. Daniels wasn't anything great, either, but he at least patched an open sore for the 10 minutes or so Chris Paul wasn't out there.
On the wings, Morris Peterson's play fell off and Peja Stojakovic's back woes returned, leading to the worst season of Stojakovic's pro career. New Orleans also made the puzzling decision to keep second-year wing Julian Wright sequestered at the end of the bench despite his productive play in limited cameos, instead relying on Rasual Butler, Posey and Stojakovic for the bulk of its wing minutes.
The one thing that kept them afloat was Paul. He was even better than his MVP runner-up season from the prior year, joining the tiny fraternity of players to post a 30-plus PER and leading the league in assists and steals. But it was basically a two-man team: Paul and David West were the only Hornets to finish with a PER above the league average, and most of their teammates weren't even close.
Hornets coach Byron Scott rode the starters hard down the stretch in order to get them into the playoffs, but they had nothing left by then. Chandler and Stojakovic played but were clearly hurt, and the others looked out of gas and somewhat dejected by the entire state of affairs. Denver humiliated New Orleans in five games, including an embarrassing 121-63 home defeat in Game 4.
Statistically, the one defining characteristic of the Hornets' season was the snail's pace at which they played. With an all-world point guard, you would think they would be a terrifying transition team, but Paul rarely had anybody in position to run with him. The Hornets finished 28th in pace factor, often requiring the entire shot clock to get a clean look. Despite the excellence of Paul and West, the Hornets finished just 13th in offensive efficiency, as the supporting cast couldn't cut the mustard.
New Orleans did excel in one area -- not getting shots blocked. Only 4.5 percent of Hornet attempts were sent back, the lowest percentage in the league. However, a big part of this can be attributed to how often the Hornets settled for jumpers and how rarely they attacked in the post. The Hornets finished 22nd in free throw rate and 25th in offensive rebound rate, an indication of how rarely they had the ball in scoring position in the paint. That, in turn, is yet another reflection of how the 2008 offseason failed to address the roster's shortcomings.
A history of previous missteps tied the Hornets' hands as they entered the offseason several million dollars above the 2009-10 luxury-tax level and even farther above the shrunken 2010-11 threshold. As a small-market team with a limited revenue base, New Orleans had little choice but to spend the offseason furiously working its way back under the tax line.
Traded Tyson Chandler to Charlotte for Emeka Okafor. This was a spectacular deal for the Hornets, cutting more than $1 million from their luxury-tax payment while upgrading at the center position with Okafor. Though Okafor isn't the alley-oop finisher that Chandler is, he's a useful post scorer who can hit short bank shots and the occasional jumper -- making him vastly more versatile than Chandler. On a team that had only two primary scoring options a year ago, this is huge. The drawback is the longer obligation to Okafor, who has five years left at an overvalued $12 million a pop, but it makes their short term considerably brighter.
As a side note, Okafor's arrival virtually guarantees that the Hornets will not claim the league's lowest blocked-shot rate this time around. Okafor gets his shot rejected so often -- 12 percent of his shots were sent back last season, according to 82games.com -- that you half expect to see the word "Spalding" imprinted backward on his forehead.
Traded Rasual Butler and cash to the Clippers for a future second-round pick. This was a straight salary dump by New Orleans to lower their luxury-tax assessment, ditching the $3.9 million owed to Butler in return for essentially nothing -- the draft pick is in 2016 and is top 55 protected. The Hornets also get a trade exception worth $3.9 million, but it seems inconceivable that they'd use it. The main benefit was offloading one of their legions of fungible wings to reduce the tax payment, which was so valuable to the Hornets that they threw in cash to pay a big chunk of Butler's salary.
After this move and the Antonio Daniels trade below, the Hornets are $3.2 million over the tax. They can eliminate the remaining amount at the trade deadline by trading Hilton Armstrong (who makes $2.8 million) to a team under the cap, paying them the maximum allowable $3 million for their trouble, and then shuttling a minimum-sized contract (such as the redundant Devin Brown) to another squad in a similar move. The mechanics are less important than the big picture -- it appears they'll be able to dodge the luxury-tax bullet for this year with limited pain thanks to these moves.
Drafted Darren Collison. The Hornets filled a roster hole on draft day by tabbing Collison, and in that sense it was a success -- he should be an adequate backup point guard who hits open shots, and he solved a clear problem. The issue is that the Hornets set such a low ceiling for potential success, given that Collison is going to play 10 minutes a game at the absolute most because he plays the same position as Chris Paul. That will be as true five years from now as it is today, regardless of how well Collison plays. Perhaps they might have been better off targeting a frontcourt player with the draft pick and then using their minimum salary exception on a generic backup point guard.
Traded two future second-rounders to Miami for a second-rounder; drafted Marcus Thornton. I'm sure they liked Thornton, but trading two future picks for one pick of the same ilk makes little sense -- it's the basketball equivalent of a payday loan with 50 percent interest. He'll get some chances to play because of the paucity of true shooting guards on the roster, but he wasn't a highly ranked prospect.
Signed Ike Diogu for the minimum salary. I'm not a big fan of some of the Hornets' other moves, but I loved this one. Diogu can flat-out score, and that's vitally important on a second unit that had massive trouble generating offense. He'll give the bench group a post-up threat and create doubling situations that open up the 3-point line, plus he's a decent rebounder. Diogu has his weaknesses -- he's turnover-prone and he doesn't defend well -- but at this price he was a spectacular bargain.
Traded Antonio Daniels to Minnesota for Darius Songaila and Bobby Brown. This trade essentially made the Hornets' jobs a little easier this year but much harder next year. Songaila is a useful frontcourt reserve who can bang and shoot from outside, and Scott has familiarity with him from his Sacramento days. As such, he's a welcome addition to a frontcourt that was looking paper-thin.
However, Daniels had an expiring contract while Songaila makes $4.8 million in 2010-11, which puts the Hornets about $10 million into the tax a year from now depending on where the new cap number comes in. It will be difficult to shed that much salary next summer and seemingly untenable to pay the tax in this market, so it's not clear how the Hornets plan to wriggle out of it. The we'll-deal-with-it-later mindset toward the cap has been a running theme in New Orleans in the past few years, and they keep digging the hole deeper.
Biggest Strength: Frontcourt Scoring
One huge difference between this year's Hornets and last year's is the multitude of scoring options New Orleans has in the frontcourt. West was the only reliable frontcourt weapon a year ago, and when he and Paul were out of the game, it produced some rather undesirable play calls -- Posey posting up, for instance, or Armstrong trying to attack from the high post.
Now there's legitimate offense waiting in the wings. Okafor might not be the most fluid post scorer in the world, but he's strong, can get free for shots in the paint and earns plenty of putbacks. All told he averages over five points more per 40 minutes than Chandler, which is a huge improvement.
Diogu should also be a major factor. He's averaged about a point every two minutes during his pro career, and despite sporadic playing time, he's performed well everywhere he's landed. As a go-to scorer for the second unit, he should engender a major improvement from last year's toothless bunch.
Additionally, Songaila is another frontcourt player who can put the ball in the hoop, and his ability to space the floor from the perimeter makes him a nice complement to the Hornets' pick-and-roll game with Paul.
Biggest Weakness: Shooting Guard
The Hornets have six wing players on the roster, but out of the group only Thornton, a rookie second-round pick, is naturally a 2. Posey, Wright, Stojakovic, Brown and Peterson are pure 3s, forcing at least one of them to play as a fish out of water at the shooting guard spot. It's less of an issue on this team compared to some others because Paul does nearly all the ballhandling, but it still leaves them a step slow on D and minus some creativity on offense.
The bigger problem is not the lack of a natural 2, however -- it's that none of their wings are good enough to start. Somehow, two of them have to step up. The best bet at small forward is Stojakovic, who was miserable a year ago but should produce if he can shrug off the back problems that limited him so much. Posey is more comfortable coming off the bench but could end up playing the bulk of the minutes at this spot if Stojakovic continues to struggle.
That takes care of one position, but the 2 is an even bigger issue. Wright is the most logical candidate, even though he's 6-foot-8 and can't shoot, because he's the best ball handler of the bunch and has been the most productive. If not, Peterson may retake the starting gig he lost last season after a year-plus of rather unimpressive play.
Big picture, the Hornets need to get more from these players than they did a year ago, or they'll surrender the advantage they have in the frontcourt.
The Hornets have nothing but question marks at the wing positions, and despite adding Diogu, Songaila and Collison, the bench isn't exactly rock-solid, either. Additionally, their difficult salary situation makes it unlikely they can make moves to upgrade the roster during the course of the season. If anything, they'll be shedding talent, with Armstrong the most likely player to depart since offloading his contract would help put the Hornets under the luxury-tax line.
Fortunately, the Hornets have two huge positives in their favor. First, the frontcourt will be much more potent than a year ago thanks to the additions of Okafor, Songaila and Diogu. On a per-minute scoring basis, the newcomers should nearly double what the Hornets got from Chandler and the assorted flotsam backing him up a year ago.
But the biggest reason the Hornets will stay afloat is Paul. He's the best point guard in the league, and if anything, he's still underrated because of New Orleans' small market and the team's slow-paced, half-court style. They may step up the pace a bit this year if Wright starts, but this still won't be a track team.
Instead, Paul will carve up opponents on pick-and-rolls enough for the Hornets' defense to do the rest. That D should remain robust, as Okafor is Chandler's equal on that end. As a result, the Hornets will be back in the playoffs and may even win a round once they get there.
Prediction: 51-31, 2nd in Southwest Division, 5th in Western Conference
John Hollinger writes for ESPN Insider. To e-mail him, click here.
Hey, llperez can you post this please?
CARROLLTON, Texas -- Mike Kunstadt and his staff once again put on an outstanding event in the 2009 Dallas Great American Shootout Fall Classic. The majority of the top teams and players from the greater Dallas area participated in the one-day showcase, which featured some excellent basketball.
The marquee matchup of the event featured Lancaster (Texas) against Duncanville (Texas) in the final time slot of the day. Led by skilled UTEP-bound forward John Bohannon's 11 points, Lancaster defeated Duncanville 52-49 in a game that came down to the final seconds. Perry Jones scored 15 points for Duncanville.
Perry Jones (6-10, 220, PF)
2010, Dallas/Duncanville, committed to Baylor
The combination of Jones' overall skill level, athleticism and character make him one of the most talented players in the 2010 class. He can do it all. He rebounds, runs the floor and blocks shots with the best of them. His ability to get to balls out of his area and then bust out and lead the break (he accelerates up the floor like a guard) is a weapon that is unique for players of his size. He scores inside and out with a nice jump hook from the block or face-up jumper out to 15-17 feet. Like a lot of younger big men, his ability to consistently impose his will on the opposition is lacking; the book on him from opposing coaches is to be physical early, and he will be less of a factor. He must develop a more consistent disposition to dominate; as he matures and gains experience and strength this should improve. When all the dust settles, he has legitimate player of the year potential.
For a look at the rest of the top players at the Great American Shootout, become an ESPN Insider.
Tony Mitchell (6-foot-8, 220 pounds, P/SF)
Mitchell is already a highly respected and sought-after prospect in the 2010 class, but he really wowed us at this event. This kid has a chance to be really, really good. Whoever ends up signing Mitchell, the top uncommitted prospect in Texas, is getting a player. He is a thoroughbred who possesses an outstanding skill set. One area he has improved greatly is his release on his jump shot. He used to have a low release that made his accuracy very inconsistent from the perimeter. Through a lot of hard work in the gym, he has retooled his form and now has a good-looking stroke with better results out to the 3-point line. He is built for an up-tempo style of play with his ability to run the floor and finish in transition. Defensively, he plays with energy, blocks shots, has good feet and can guard multiple positions. He is a great kid who needs to improve on not losing his focus; he showed a tendency to take a possession or two off at times.
Liam Foley/Icon SMI
LeBryan Nash is the No. 10 prospect in the 2011 class.
LeBryan Nash (6-7, 225, P/SF)
2011, Dallas/ Lincoln
It is still hard to believe that Nash is only just beginning his junior year; the physical specimen has continued to be impressive with his overall play. He was dominant scoring and rebounding the ball, but playing with his high school team at the Great American Shootout, he showed his ability to take on a different role for the good of his team. As the tallest and most physical player on his team, Nash was willing to stay inside more and do a lot of the dirty work necessary to help Lincoln win. He still displayed his ability to play on the perimeter and was as effective as always finishing on the break with explosiveness. As a combo forward, he still needs to improve his outside shooting ability and shot selection, but there is no denying his credentials as one of the top players in the 2011 class; he consistently produces points and rebounds.
T.J. Taylor (6-3, 205, 1/2G)
2010, Denison, Texas, committed to Oklahoma
Taylor is a strongly built combo guard who knows how to play. He showed he can run the team from the point guard position or play off the ball and assume the scoring responsibilities from the shooting guard spot. He loves to attack the rim in transition and is able to absorb a bump and still finish or get to the free throw line. He has a nice midrange game, showing a nice pull-up jump shot off the dribble and a floater over the post who comes to block the shot. He is a good passer who has a feel for drawing the defense and delivering the ball to an open teammate. He uses his size and strength to rebound his position, and defensively, he has the potential to be a lockdown defender but needs to make it a priority. The lefty showed a nice stroke out to the 3-point line, but can be streaky at times.
K.C. Ross-Miller (6-1, 175, PG)
2010, Dallas/God's Academy
Ross-Miller is a good-looking prospect who has continued to elevate his status as an outstanding point guard and knows how to run a team. The powerfully built leader is a great push guy who puts a lot of pressure on the defense to get back in transition. He is a creative passer who understands penetration-and-pitch and is a good post feeder. He is a threat to knock it down from behind the arc and is also tough enough to go attack the big fellas at the rim. He is good at using his strength and quickness to control the ball handler defensively and showed a good knack for playing the passing lanes. At times, he got a little loose with his decision-making, trying to make the high-risk play instead of the simple one. He consistently made his free throws at the end of games, which is vital for a successful point guard.
Keith Davis (6-9, 215, PF)
Davis is an example of how quickly a young, athletic big man can progress in a short period of time. He has always possessed high-level athleticism and a well-coached low-post skill set, but was missing the confidence to take over a game. The swagger has arrived and his game has elevated along with it. He has transformed from a skinny, unsure junior with upside into an imposing rebounder and shot-blocker who can dominate the paint. I love his attitude and the energy level he brings to the floor; he seems very coachable and should continue to develop his improving offensive skills. He runs the floor effortlessly and is a human pogo stick on the offensive glass. He is not afraid of contact and finishes with authority or can make you pay from the free throw line. Because of his upside and improvement he has attracted a lot of attention for good reason.
Player to watch
Keaton Miles (6-6, 170, SF)
Miles is a long, bouncy wing who is skilled and active inside and out. He is a transition specialist; he electrifies with his acrobatic ability to finish on the break. He is rapidly developing his offensive skill set and is becoming more astute at how to play the game. He is effective off the dribble and showed he can get to the rim and finish through contact despite his thin frame. His long arms and quick feet make him a lethal defender -- especially off the ball in passing lanes. He shot selection is poor at times and he has a tendency to settle for the deep 3 instead of working the ball for a better shot, but I am sure that this will improve with experience. This kid has major upside and should continue to develop into a solid high-major player at the collegiate level.
• K.C. Ross-Miles and 6-7 athlete Titus Rubles combine to form a solid inside-outside attack for God's Academy. Rubles, whose stock has continued to rise, was dominant on the glass and in transition.
• Juniors LeBryan Nash, Keaton Miles and 6-6 small forward Jordan Williams give Lincoln High School a three-headed monster that is difficult for other teams to match.
• Six-9 forward John Bohannon and 6-7 forward Michale Kyser lead a very balanced Lancaster team that should prove difficult to beat.
• Denison High School has one of the toughest backcourts in the Dallas area with T.J. Taylor and 6-0 point guard Coleman Furst.
Mike LaPlante has spent nearly 20 years coaching college basketball. Most recently, he was the head coach at Jacksonville State University.
cool, thanks man.
thanks man good stuff im thinking of becoming an insider too the mag would be awesome too.
llperez22 this is a great thing you are doing. thanks.
Or we could ask you what article we want you to post for one easy payment of $0.00. Of course, we won't get ESPN the magazine... unless you mail the magazine to me when you are finished! Or you could scan every page and e-mail it all to me. Whatever you think is easiest. Thanks!
oh yeah, don't worry about scanning the advertisement pages in the magazine.
my nephew gave toney mitchell the business in vegas...hes pretty good though..can jump out the gym but got made into a poster