J. Gamble + Phifey’s Offseason Report Card
What do these hoopheads think of what’s gone down?
by J. Gamble
I told you guys about Phife in SLAM 129 and in this post from May.
Well, on a recent visit to Connecticut, I sat down with the man again, and the legendary rapper, HS basketball coach and sports aficionado had more than a lot to say about the state of NBA teams following the Draft lottery and the recent free-agent acquisitions and trades. We decided to compose our own NBA Draft report card and list our top three free-agent acquisitions. Here goes…
1. L.A. Clippers, Blake Griffin. Phifey’s Grade: B- Phifey’s Reason: The Clipper’s front-office is the worst. They will find a way to take Griffin’s A+ college game and kill it. Besides, no one has succeeded at coaching and being the GM…Hint! Hint!
2. Memphis Grizzlies, Hasheem Thabeet. Phifey’s Grade: C+ Phifey’s Reason: When you stand 7-3 and play high D-1 ball, you are an inevitable top-three pick. Add coming from an elite program in an elite conference and being coached by a Hall of Famer and your chances of total flop failure are slim. Thabeet is completely overrated, but he does have value. If The Grizzlies utilize him as a defensive dynamo (a la Mutombo), they’ll be fine. If they are expecting him to blossom into an Olajuwon, then it’s curtains and disappointment for Thabeet.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder, James Harden. Phifey’s Grade: A+ Phifey’s Reason: This kid is the truth and nothing but the truth. Harden is nasty on both sides of the ball and has a mid-range shooting game that has been missing in the NBA for years. Harden is in my top three choices for Rookie of the Year. The only thing stopping that from happening is his teammate, Kevin Durant [R.O.Y. in '07], a true gunner. Harden may not get enough touches, but who cares if the Thunder start winning?
4. Sacramento Kings, Tyreke Evans. Phifey’s Grade: B+ Phifey’s Reason: He only spent one year in college, but can play both guard positions and should cause mismatches for opposing teams alongside Kevin Martin in the Kings backcourt. If he plays anything like the Memphis guard that preceded him (Derrick Rose), Evans also has a shot for Rookie of the Year.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves, Ricky Rubio. Phifey’s Grade: C+ Phifey’s Reason: I hear all of this hoopla about players from overseas, and it happens every year. But until they prove they can get it poppin’ on American soil, it means “NATHAN.” Only a few have turned the NBA upside down. And even those players have not dominated on both sides of the ball. The best overseas player is Tony Parker. He runs the show and has rings to prove his caliber. Gasol has his ring, but he’s all offense, same as Dirk Nowitzki. Minnesota must have something up their sleeves, especially once pck No. 6 came up.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves, Jonny Flynn. Phifey’s Grade: B- Phifey’s Reason: This has nothing to do with Flynn’s game. He is tough, explosive to the basket and shows up in big games. But he can’t excel in Minnesota playing the same position as Rubio. The new GM has got to be the dumbest in the world unless he has a grand scheme up his sleeve. I’m more than sure Sebastian Telfair is offended so don’t expect much from him, and Rubio could very well end up back in Spain or in New York, where the Knicks would give an arm and a leg for him to run the show in the Garden.
7. Golden State Warriors, Stephen Curry. Phifey’s Grade: A- Phifey’s Reason: I’ve had enough of Don Nelson, who hasn’t coached defense since the mid-80’s with the Bucks. Remember Sidney Moncrief and Paul Pressey? True, he’s up there in wins, but he has zero titles and has become the Mike Martz of the NBA. With all that being said, he sure knows how to draft to his strengths. Curry will be perfect for this ABA-styled offense, complementing Monta Ellis and Steven Jackson perfectly. If they ever choose to slow it down, it’ll be even better for Curry to unleash that beautiful jumper just like his pops Dell had. The difference with Steph is his ability to run the point, which can allow Ellis to return to the two-spot. Steph is my top choice for Rookie of the Year.
8. New York Knicks, Jordan Hill. Phifey’s Grade: C- Phifey’s Reason: What in the name of Lute Olson is going on here? I know the Knicks have their mind set on 2010, but they need a point guard!! Duhon is cool, but we know about his insatiable desire for the nightlife and we know that he can’t be counted on consistently. The last great point guard pick the Knicks had was in ’88 (Rod Strickland). The upside for Hill? He runs the floor like a gazelle, rebounds well and finishes at the rim. But who is going to dish the pill to Hill? LeBron ain’t coming to New York. Get that out of your system!!
9. Toronto Raptors, DeMar DeRozan. Phifey’s Grade: C+ Phifey’s Reason: Demar should have stayed in school one more year. I’m sure his stock would have risen in 2010, but who wants to play for Coach Floyd for another year? Since Derozan jetted to the league, Floyd has resigned under an increasingly scandalous cloud. Derozan has the potential to be a great player depending on how smart, organized and consistent Colangelo and the front office becomes. As of now, who’s their coach again?
10. Milwaukee Bucks, Brandon Jennings. Phifey’s Grade: C+ Phifey’s Reason: The grade has nothing to do with Brandon’s game. He’ll be a great player if he can coexist with the fiery and no-nonsense Scott Skiles. Jennings is brash and boastful and his performance overseas was not exactly spectacular. Skiles will not be a big advocate of a cocky and erratic rookie guard. But if Jennings works hard, listens and plays within his team’s system, he will solidify the Bucks backcourt. The one way he can get on coach Skiles’ good side off the bat is to play defense.
11. New Jersey Nets, Terrence Williams. Phifey’s Grade: B- Phifey’s Reason: This dude is a supreme athlete. He can play at least three positions, and with Vince Carter going home to Florida, Williams should be the starting two-guard for years to come. I give this pick a B- minus because the Nets are in re-building mode. Be patient Jersey. I mean, Brooklyn. It’s The Roc!!!
12. Charlotte Bobcats, Gerald Henderson. Phifey’s Grade: C- Phifey’s Reason: Yes, I am a Duke hater. None of their players really make a significant difference at the next level. Hurley—car accident. Christian Laettner—bust with a bad attitude. Grant Hill—injuries. Elton Brand—major force when healthy. Jayson Williams—motorcycle accident. Henderson—can’t throw water in the ocean. What Henderson can do is give hard fouls and dunk pretty well. He also has an NBA pedigree, is a great athlete and should make a living playing stellar defense. What are MJ and Larry Brown—two Tar Heels—doing picking a pupil of coach K? In the words of rapper Cam’ron, “Oh Boy”!!
13. Indiana Pacers, Tyler Hansbrough. Phifey’s Grade: C+ Phifey’s Reason: : I am biased, being that UNC is my favorite squad. Hansbrough will not be the greatest player, but he’ll be a player that every coach would love to have because of his tenacity, work ethic and team mentality. He is a gym rat who’ll out work you for rebounds and loose balls. A Kurt Rambis type, but with much more skills. His worth won’t be measured in the box scores. Mr. Rookie of the Year is not something I’d call him, but, Mr. Intangible has a nice ring to it.
14. Phoenix Suns, Earl Clark. Phifey’s Grade: C- Phifey’s Reason: Phoenix is rebuilding after the failed Shaq experiment. Don’t be surprised if Amare leaves in the next couple of months and Steve Nash is traded. Coach Gentry has a tough task at hand in trying to get Phoenix back to the NBA’s elite, as it was just two season’s ago. Clark is a very good athlete, but it will take time for this rebuilt franchise to get its feet off the ground. Steve Kerr has put them in a bind, rushing towards an NBA title, only to have to start from scratch. Somebody may want to tell him that Barkley, Chambers, Walter Davis and KJ will not be walking through the US Airways Arena doors anytime soon.
Top NBA Off-Season Acquisitions (thus far):
1. Ron Artest to the Lakers: This is a major pickup for a team coming off of an NBA title. The Lakers won despite being suspect defensively. Artest, the NBA’s premier defensive stopper and a very capable offensive player, will ease the loss of an overrated Trevor Ariza. The Artest signing insures that the Lakers will be shooting and elbowing their way to another trip to the Finals.
2. Shaquille O’Neal to the Cavaliers: If one thing was proven in last year’s NBA Eastern Conference Finals, it’s that Lebron James still needs help. And the Cavs know that if they want The King to re-up for more years in Ohio, then they have to get some formidable names to relieve some of his burden. In Shaq, they couldn’t have gotten a bigger name and a bigger presence. The question most often posed is, can the two superstars play together? Well, Shaq won with Kobe and he won with Dwyane Wade. Why not the No. 1 player in the game today, LeBron? Shaq still averaged a strong 18 and 8 last season, despite fighting age, injury and a scaled-back role. If the Deisel has a full season of gas left in that big-old tank of his, this move could end up being the best move of the off-season.
3. Rasheed Wallace to the Celtics: Once the Cavs got Shaq to handle their Dwight Howard problems, Sheed to the Cavs, which I reported was going to happen before the free-agent signing period began, became impractical. I maintain that the Cavs did have their eyes on Sheed and had an offer prepared for the former Detroit forward. But Shaq or Sheed is a no-brainer. The Celtics became the big beneficiary of this change in plans. Add a rejuvenated Rasheed’s rugged defense, outside clutch shooting and overall court savvy to an already loaded team with KG returning, and the Celtics are Eastern Conference favorites once again. Wallace is also great insurance in case KG has another season-ending injury. With Wallace, the Celtics don’t lose as much defensively and emotionally as they did in KG’s absence last season.