The Commish 20…Revisited
Hindsight is definitely 20/20.
About a week into this season, I gave you The Commish 20, as in, 20 players to watch this season. I predicted some things, gave a few ultimatums, announced some edicts—you know my steez. Although many of my instincts were right, a good amount of what I foresaw was wrong, egregiously wrong in a couple cases. Now that we’ve officially begun the Real Season, I thought we’d revisit things and give you a nice chance to call me a stupid-genius or prescient-doofus. Four months later, this is how things are shaking out…
What I wrote: “He’s going to lead the League in scoring…He’ll turn in the first 30 and 10 season in close to two decades, but it’ll be a more jarring visual experience than watching the ‘89-’90 Karl Malone.”
I should’ve written that he’ll underachieve right along with Suns all season. Here’s what I know—you can build around Amar’e, but you can’t build on him. I know that sounds like senseless drivel, but that’s the best way I can articulate what I think about him as a player. In the coming weeks, when I reintroduce the Real Franchise Player list and break down the other designations (Max Contract Players, Franchise Role Players, role players, rotation players), I’ll get into Amar’e on a deeper level.
Josh Smith, Andre Iguodala and Luol Deng
What I wrote: “The thing is, of the three, I only dig Josh. Call it early-season rust, big contract-jitters, whatever; but Dre and Luol look booty so far and I think both are headed for careers worth well below their salaries. Neither are Real Franchise Players and they don’t even seem to pass the Face of the Franchise sniff-test…Meanwhile, I’m already on record asserting that Josh is gonna be the dude that makes The Leap.”
I’m cool with this, other than whiffing on Josh’s Leap. But it’s only timing with Josh. The Leap is coming sooner than later. It could (maybe even might) happen in the Playoffs. As for Iggy and Deng, I think they’ve sufficiently lowered the expectations for their careers. Now we know—and hopefully they and their teams know—that they’re complimentary players, capable of being Franchise Role Players, but not the best player on a contending squad. That’s basically what I was saying about them at the beginning of the season.
Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and Derrick Rose
What I wrote: “By the end of this season, I think we’ll be able to surmise the following, in terms of each rookie’s likely career: Love will be a P.J. Brown-type; Beasley will be a Chris Webber-type; Derrick Rose will invent his own career. Translation: Love will have a long, solid career, capable of playing a vital role for good squads; Beasley will be prolific, sometimes dominant, but never be The Guy for a championship squad; Derrick Rose could challenge Chris Paul for best point guard of his generation or degenerate into a Stephon Marbury.”
I’m good with this, too. Love is right on the track that I imagined the gist of what I said about Rose is that we don’t know exactly how high he will transcend, but he will be transcendent. I’m still confident in both predictions. Beasley’s a different case. I’m starting to think he’s more Derrick Coleman than C-Webb. Kats get Webb twisted all the time. Say what you want, but when you assess his career, the argument is whether or not he’s a Hall of Famer. If that’s the debate, then said dude had a great career, regardless of potential. The Derrick Coleman conversation only dwells on unfulfilled talent. I sense that’s where we’re going with Beasley. He’s plagued with an ambivalence and indifference that is hard to overcome. I need a few more years to check his growth.
Danny Granger and Kevin Durant
What I wrote: “I feel like Danny Granger might end up being the player we all expected Durant to be: long, nasty J, all types of stuff around the bucket. But Granger can also lock a dude down. I feel like we’ll seem him balling in Phoenix Feb. 15. Durant, on the other hand, might get swallowed up by a cornball franchise and an even cornier city. My No. 1 wish is for Durant to be traded to a respectable and nurturing franchise…”
Granger indeed balled in Phoenix on Feb. 15. Durant, on the other hand, is making the Thunder relevant. I watch them play at least once a week. What he’s doing as a 20-year-old is unprecedented, which is hard to believe seeing that LeBron is the precedent. This martian averaged over 33 ppg in February. That’s impossible. No matter how dope I thought these dudes would be this season, Danny and KD exceeded those expectations. I’m hoping Colangelo has penciled them in for the 2010 World Championships squad.
What I wrote: “I can’t tell if Odom’s Good Soldier routine is an act, a charade, a façade or what. He laughs, jokes and cheerleads on the sidelines, then comes in the game and plays his 6th Man role with efficiency and subtlety. How long is it going to last, though? How long will Odom submit to yielding his spot in the starting line-up (and, actually more important, his spot in the pre-game introductions) to Vladimir Radmonovic, someone Phil Jackson once called a space cadet? Phil is an important variable, given that he’s one of maybe three or four coaches that an Odom-like player would respect enough to comply with this decision. There’s only two ways for this experiment to proceed. Either Odom continues to dim his ego and the Lakers stomp through the League with more depth and accord than any team in recent memory. Or, Lamar starts acting up and he’s traded for a Marion, Kirilenko or Stephen Jackson.”
I gotta believe that Odom has made some believers this season. He held his ego in check during his 6th Man role. Actually, he did more than hold it in check, he took ownership of that role. Then, Bynum went down and he responded by playing the best ball of his career, including two season-defining games against Boston and Cleveland. If Odom keeps this up in the Playoffs, then—and I don’t care who Boston and Cleveland add to their roster—it’s curtains for the rest of the League.
What I wrote: “He’s been balling with, um, a lot of, shall we say, balls. He takes offensive liberties like he’s the main option. It’s pretty alarming to watch. He’s so wild that whenever I see a marginal-but-confident player really going hard, I call it “doing a Tony Allen” or “going Tony Allen.” The silver-lining for the Cs is that, if he harnesses some of his aggression and cuts down on his penchant to take delusional forays to the cup, Allen could make the Cs somewhat forget about Posey’s defection and act as an inurance policy for Boston’s other Allen, the aging Allen. I could see Tony imploding or exploding.”
Tony didn’t make us forget about Posey, but it’s not like I spend a lot of time watching the Cs and saying, “Boy, they really miss Posey.” He definitely hasn’t become a crucial, reliable, 28 to 30-minute cog in their lineup, but he also isn’t as much of a liability as he could be.
What I wrote: “Folks are calling Posey the new Robert Horry. I’m skeptical. Horry didn’t just hit ‘big shots,’ he hit game-winners. And he was a ‘bell-weather’ player for the bulk of his career. Posey had a good run with the 2006 Heat and the 2008 Cs; but the new Horry? If he hits a bunch of clutch shots that propel the Hornets to a championship, then yeah. If he’s just James Posey for the New Orleans Hornets–which is what I suspect–then we need to chill on the Horry comparisons.”
I’ll say this. If I’m the Hornets, gimme a healthy Mo Pete and the departed Janero Pargo and keep your Posey. He’s an excellent role-player, but he’s not that much of a difference maker. People were acting like he was gonna be a 2009 version of the 2004 Rasheed Wallace.
Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Steve Nash
What I wrote: “This week, Duncan was on a fast break, caught a bounce about four feet from the hoop…and laid it up. I was flabbergasted. He’s 7-feet, with incredibly long arms, yet he didn’t have enough lift to dunk the ball. Let me be the first (or 6,000th) to tell you that Duncan is headed for an up-n-down season, where he plays at an All-Star level less often than he plays at a Lumbering Big Man level. He has the game to remain effective without his mobility, but his days of dominating are over. I’ve already written that Nash is due to have his 2008 Jason Kidd season, so look for him to hit the wall after All-Star break. KG? He’s always had trouble taking over games, perhaps because he was too unselfish, but maybe because he was reticent. Reticence will have nothing to do with it anymore, though. There’s 1,000 games on those scrawny legs. He has no choice but to be a complimentary player.”
OK. Aesthetically, Duncan is at the Lumbering Big Man level. What’s amazing is that he’s remained so effective. I obviously don’t get it though, because I will obstinately make this same prediction next season. I actually think I was right about KG. He’s still an All-Star and still an impact player, but only because he plays with Paul, Ray and Rondo. In essence and actuality, he is very much a complimentary player. I also feel like Nash had a 2008 Jason Kidd season. I like Steve Kerr (mainly because he returns my calls), but the thought process behind the ridiculous “untouchable” tag attached to Nash prior to the trade-deadline is mind boggling. Trade a 26-year-old dynamo (albeit an underachieving dynamo) and keep a soon-to-be geezer? Didn’t get it.
What I wrote: “The youngster was the real centerpiece in Detroit’s A.I.-Billups trade. There was no way Dumars was going to let Stuckey waste away for the four remaining years on Billups’ contract. So Joe cleared space and time. Was it the right move? We’ll see.”
I still think Dumars’ move was prescient—since the two major motivations were Stuckey and 2010—provided he nabs a Stoudemire or Bosh in 2010. As for Stuckey, well, he’s toggled between impressive and underwhelming. In his defense, the Detroit situation hasn’t been the most nurturing. I wish he would have had one more season under Billups. I still like how he’s developing, but he wasn’t as consistently dynamic as I thought he’d be.
Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady and Paul Pierce
What I wrote: “The MVP race will come down to these four players.”
Um, yeah, wasn’t correct on this one. But the explanation is easy. 1) I thought Cleveland would struggle, even predicting in my Season Forecast that Mike Brown would be fired. 2) I thought T-Mac would be healthy and Houston would be one of the three or four best teams in the League. 3) I though Paul Pierce would pick up where he left off in the Finals. Instead, unless Chris Paul and the Hornets pull off a 20-game win streak, it’s a Kobe-LeBron race.
Vincent Thomas is a columnist and feature writer for SLAM. He can be reached at email@example.com.