Who’s shining brightest after 120 (plus) days of NBA play?
by Brad Graham
Note: Newbie’s to this blog should take the time to read my rationale regarding choices for the All NBA / Rookie Team selections. You can read the guidelines by clicking here.
The NBA managed to cram all the melodramatic storylines of The Bold and The Beautiful into the calendar’s shortest month. With it’s Gilbert Arenas cocktail; All Star Weekend banquet; trade deadline dessert; morning after salary dumping; Tracy McGrady hangover; and fresh glass of MVP candidates; it’s little wonder that the past 28 days didn’t fall over from an excess of consumption. In fact, because of this vacuum, February had us all watching the NBA like a Hollywood starlet does her weight.
Side note: Based on what we all witnessed at the annual All Star Weekend in Dallas, the future of the NBA (thanks to the ’03 draft class; namely LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Chris Kaman!?!) is in very safe hands. More so, those drafted in the ‘90s (Allen Iverson, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, Jason Kidd and McGrady, with an exception made only for Kobe Bryant), no longer need too, or are able dominate, like they did a decade ago, which means the All NBA Teams may soon experience a tectonic shift with the most significant rumblings coming in the form of a new Sith apprentice, everyone’s new second favorite player, Darth (Kevin) Durant. Which brings us to…
|ALL-NBA FIRST TEAM|
|Power Forward||DIRK NOWITZKI||Mavs|
|Small Forward||LeBRON JAMES||Cavs|
|Shooting Guard||KOBE BRYANT||Lakers|
|Point Guard||STEVE NASH||Suns|
What? You thought there’d be changes at the top? Think again.
DWIGHT HOWARD | Orlando Magic | Center
My good friend (and pro golfer) Anthony Gomez recently asked me, “How should we feel about Dwight Howard?” He posed this query because in this, Howard’s sixth NBA season, he is yet to set the game ablaze with his offensive repertoire (which should be kicking in by now, right? Especially with Patrick Ewing working with him day in and day out… which begs the questions, what are those two doing all day?).
So how should we feel about Howard? Is he more Moses, than Karl Malone? Is he more Dennis Rodman than Shawn Kemp? Should we compare him to Alonzo Mourning before we bracket him alongside David Robinson? Know this, if Dwight Howard’s basketball career followed in the exact same footsteps as Tim Duncan’s (namely, he played all four seasons of D1 collegiate ball), this would be Howard’s sophomore season. Which is ri-f**king-diculous given his production and value.
That means Howard would not only be a clear cut MVP candidate (in both season’s as a pro) but he would have collected the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year Award; led the NBA in blocks and rebounding averages; and taken his team to the NBA Finals, in what would have been his rookie season. Nuts, right?
So that’s how good this kid is. He’s a superfreak. The kind of talent you pay insane amounts of money to see in the flesh. Common sense tells us Orlando would not have built said Finals team had it not had Howard controlling its paint for four previous seasons (and in all likely hood, had he not elected to leave University, until after his senior season, he most definitely would not have been drafted first overall by Orlando… but that’s inconsequential to my point).
Howard, in what could hypothetically be his second pro season, is dominating like few others before him. He remains one of only seven NBA players who you simply can’t trade (the others being Chris Paul, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and now Kevin Durant. Sorry Tim Duncan, you’ve fallen to that near top shelf crop that also houses Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, others and Chris Kaman – just kidding) and now Howard looks like he’ll join an exclusive club of NBA greats, namely Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Hakeem Olajuwon and Ben Wallace as the only players in NBA history to led the L in both blocks and rebounds in consecutive seasons.
A seven win, four-loss mark for the month has seen the Magic take sole control of the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. This matters because A. Atlanta has shown it’s not of Orlando’s caliber (to rule the South East) and B. It sets up a potential Howard vs. James Eastern Conference Finals re-match, complete with both team’s overhauling their respective line-ups to combat the others new weaponry.
Howard’s numbers for Feb (your standard 22.3ppg, 13.3rpg, 3.3bpg, 1.8apg and .609 from the field – including a perfect 11 from 11 showing against Rockets in Houston) is a major reason why Howard is keeping his team within the top three for defensive efficiency. Yes, Howard is also spelt B-E-A-S-T!
Standout Stat: As hard as it may be to believe, given that Howard is clearly the best pivot player in the NBA right now, he isn’t even the highest paid star on his own team. In fact he isn’t even second. Dwight’s $15,202,590 for the 2009/10 season is third (behind Vince Carter’s 16 million and Rashard Lewis’ 18 million). Make sense. Yeah right.
DIRK NOWITZKI | Dallas Mavericks | Power Forward
The Good German remained steady throughout February while closing the four-week month strong (with seven straight W’s). He hosted a record breaking All Star Weekend; dropped 37 points on the Hawks in Atlanta and managed to hit 90 from 94 free throws for the month (.957). In fact, scrap the opening, he’s been the Great German. Many will argue Dirk has been overtaken by Chris Bosh this season (as the L’s premier PF) but the counter argument, aside from Dirk’s team being much better (which means he can pile up more wins) is that Dirk has his team in the second seed (39 wins, 21 losses), in an over crowded conference; while Bosh can only manage to drag to his Raptors up to the fifth seed (31-28) in the Lesser Conference. That said, Dirk holds his rank on the first team because it’s his to loose and he hasn’t slipped below his usual his play all season. Now fans and media outlets (aka people) are talking (outside of Dallas and Cuban’s twitter page) like the Mavs are a serious dark horse to steal the 2010 title away from either Los Angeles or Cleveland (the obvious front runners). If the Mavs win it all, best believe Dirk with have his damaged elbow front and center.
Standout Stat: 11. That’s where Dirk ranks according to ESPN’s Bill Simmons (on his “Trade Value List”). Silly really. This number stands out because there are four players listed ahead of Dirk (Deron Williams, Brandon Roy, Derrick Rose and Chris Paul who are considered to be more “valuable” at least to some, namely Simmons) who certainly aren’t as close to Dirk to A. winning it all right now (and for the foreseeable future)… and B. appear on my All NBA First Team. So there.
LeBRON JAMES | Cleveland Cavaliers | Small Forward
What can be said that hasn’t already? The 2010 title appears like it’s King James’ to loose (although we did say that last season and, well, we should probably be careful with what we say). His numbers in February were, how do I put it? Cue Mr. Burns: Exxccceeellent. What is it about playing the Knicks that gets James going? Does he realize that every time he kills them he’s directly accountable for setting up the Big Apple’s worst ever riots (coming in 2010). Does he realize that when he ultimately doesn’t sign with the orange and blue (given all their eggs are in his basket) in the upcoming offseason he’ll be treated like new Reggie Miller? Bring it on. In February James dropped 47 on the Knicks (at home) before mopping the floor with the Nets and Magic. Then there was his showdown with the Denver Nuggets, one of this season’s best games. James collected 43 points, 15 assists and 13 boards in the loss. In fact, James averaged 32.6 points , 6.8 boards and 10.5 assists for February, leading the Cavs to an eight win, three-loss mark. He’s easily the NBA’s new standard. Now that James has Antawn Jamison, one would assume he’ll score less but with his team sitting on 46 wins and 14 losses, it looks highly unlikely James will take the foot off his (second!?!) MVP accelerator – not when home court throughout the post season is on the line. In short, James owned February.
Standout Stat: 3. That’s how many point guards the Cavaliers have who aren’t leading the team in assists. So why doesn’t Coach Mike Brown just play LBJ at the PG, start Jamison at the three and see what happens as opposing PGs try to stick LBJ or are force to prevent Anthony Parker from shooting. Magic Johnson wasn’t your prototypical PG, why not let LBJ spend a full season running the show? Lets face fact, he does anyway. When your starting PG only assists five buckets (in 35 mins) per outing, you may need to look at a new game plan. I’m just saying.
KOBE BRYANT | Los Angeles Lakers | Shooting Guard
Time away is never a bad thing. It not only helps you grow fonder; it reminds you why you’re so attached (and attracted) to your love in the first place. Kobe Bryant found this out by missing, gulp, five straight NBA games during mid February. Blasphemy in Kobe’s eyes. Upon his return however, he blew the game he loves a little kiss to remind it that he was back (and that no one can substitute his love). During the month’s seven games (in which Bryant saw action), he produced a mixed bag of results but made sure we all knew he was out there. He finished January with another clutch showing against the Celtics while his icy three (from the right wing) against Memphis served as another reminder that no one is as venomous (with the game on the line) as the Black Mamba. This victory was made extra sweet because Memphis collected the W at L.A.’s expense earlier in the month (a game in which Kobe hung 44 points on Mayo and co.). His nine from 23 (.391) shooting display against the Mavericks and his three from 17 (.176) outing against the Nuggets are clear indicators that the snake hasn’t fully recovered but given a broken finger and back ailments don’t correct themselves overnight, Kobe can be forgiven. If he stays at 80 percent, could that mean the Lakers’ title hopes have been dash (much like the Celtics) because of injury to Bryant prevents them from going back to back? One thing is clear, his place on the first team is secure because Dwyane Wade’s team is limping, Brandon Roy is hardly the best player in the L and Joe Johnson has fallen off the national radar. Worth noting, during that time away, Kobe appeared like he was everywhere on the newsstand, appearing on the covers of three different US publications, including your favorite basketball bible, SLAM.
Standout Stat: Kobe Bryant becomes the youngest player in league history to record 1,000 games on his NBA speedometer at 31 years and 184 days. This coupled with the fact that Bryant now holds the record for most points scored by a Laker (surpassing legend Jerry West) is either reason to celebrate his greatness or remind your buddy why you still (and always will) hate on Kobe Bryant.
STEVE NASH | Phoenix Suns | Point Guard
Back and better than ever, like a Batman Begins sequel the Phoenix Suns, led by Nash ran up an impressive nine win, three loss record in February. Nash hasn’t been scoring at the same rate he did in January but Nasty has been carving up defenses with his pinpoint passing. Nash handed out 10 or more assists in all but one game he played. His turnovers dropped 1.4 per from January to February down to 3.0 (from 4.4). That coupled with the team’s success and his awesome 17 point, 10 assist, 2 block showing against the Nuggets has seen Nash retain his First Team spot over a hungry field that includes Deron Williams and Chauncey Billups.
Standout Stat: Thanks to his two (major) rejections against the Nuggets, Nash now only trails Dwight Howard by 160 blocks for top honors in the L. My money’s on Nash to make a late run at Howard’s crown.
|ALL-NBA SECOND TEAM|
|Power Forward||CHRIS BOSH||Raptors|
|Small Forward||KEVIN DURANT||Thunder|
|Shooting Guard||DWYANE WADE||Heat|
|Point Guard||DERON WILLIAMS||Jazz|
Why they’re here...
TIM DUNCAN | San Antonio Spurs | Center
Six wins, five losses doesn’t exactly make for a white hot month but lets face fact, the Spurs played their first eight games of the month the road, which means, that’s right, they played nine road games to their two home games. Who makes up the schedule? No wonder Coach Popovich was complaining (more so). Duncan’s showing in Indiana was possible his funniest. TD21 scored just eight points on four from 23 shooting (.174) but he managed to nab 26 boards (11 offensive) to help steer the Spurs to the W.
CHRIS BOSH | Toronto Raptors | Power Forward
Whether or not he’s motivated solely by his upcoming free agent status, Chris Bosh has closed the gap on fellow PF Dirk Nowitzki so much so that he could easily pass The Good German before the regular season is over. That is, if he stays healthy / on the court. Before going down, Bosh averaged 29.2 points, 11.4 boards, 1.4 blocks, 3.8 assists and .557 shooting from the field. His 35 point, 15 board outing in Indiana and his 36 point, 11 missed collections against the Kings has been the story of his season, Bosh has been stellar but his Raptors, well, less so.
KEVIN DURANT | Oklahoma City Thunder | Small Forward
The biggest debate right now has to be “where does Kevin Durant appear on the list of NBA Small Forwards?” Has he officially leap frogged Carmelo Anthony? Is it too early to call Kevin Durant the Daniel Day-Lewis of basketball? Durant has been killer like Bill “The Butcher” Cutting all season and stamped his name all over February. In fact, he’s been so good he even managed to collect another H.O.R.S.E trophy in Dallas. In the MVP Race, Durant’s stock is so over high (and possibly over valued) right now he looks like the only challenger for King James. Is he second best Small Forward in the game, no (that title still belongs to Carmelo Anthony) but there is no doubting that Durant’s season (to date) has been as revealing as it has been deadly. What makes this even funnier (for those who don’t follow the Sonics) is that every bucket; rebound; clutch play, headline and highlight is another punch into the stomach of what would still be a very relevant franchise right now. Sorry Sonics fans, I know this hurts. As for Durant’s monster month, he guided the Thunder to a nine win, two-loss mark including seven straight to kick start February. 33 points, 11 boards on Atlanta – win. 29 and eight against Golden State – win. 33 and 11 (again) this time on Portland – win. 25 points, 14 boards at home against Dallas – win. This trend continued throughout February for Durant. Surprisingly, his scoring average actually dropped, down from 32.1 to 29.9 per from January. This was complimented by a reduction in turnovers, increased averages in the blocks and steals departments, respectively, as well as those all important Ws that have seen the Thunder climb up to the sixth seed in the West.
DWYANE WADE | Miami Heat | Shooting Guard
Injuries aren’t enough to derail a player (then again if they sit out for an entire month they do make themselves susceptible to being leap frogged). The Miami Heat are slipping but clearly it isn’t Wade’s fault. Is it ever? The recent All Star MVP has been holding up his end of the bargain (producing when on court) but no longer appears like it’s enough to get the Heat into the post season. With Chicago, Milwaukee and Charlotte all battling Miami for those final three playoff berths, someone has to draw the short straw and it’s looking like it could very well Miami. Which is bad news bears for people in South Florida. Wade’s 30 point, 13 assist showing in Boston was just another example that one gunner can’t shoot his way out of a corner, not when there are all kinds of bandits and gunslingers riding around the NBA’s town. For the month of February, Wade posted 20.6 points; nabbed 4.1 boards; handed out 7.3 assists and swiped 2.2 possessions but it has all been for nothing as the Heat collected just four wins to go with their five losses (in games he played). If Wade doesn’t play out of his 2010 Jordan’s (and keep the warmth above your standard room temperature), we could see the Heat wishing it was still ’05, again.
DERON WILLIAMS | Utah Jazz | Point Guard
When your starting point guard averages 16.8 points, 12 dimes, 1.1 steals and leads the franchise a 10 win, three loss month, you know he’s doing his fair share and then some. Finishing the month Samson strong, Williams collected 25 points and handed out 13 assists to crush the Houston Rockets at home; which came just 11 days after he hung 17 points and dropped 15 dimes on the Rockets in Houston. Guess Aaron Brooks can’t contain Williams or maybe Good Will(iams) Hunting is just on fire. His mighty showings against Houston have been complimented by his earlier productivity against Dallas (18 points and 15 assists); in Portland (18 points, 12 assists); against Charlotte (20 points, 12 assists) and when faced up against one of the best in the business, Chauncey Billups (22 points, 9 assists). Williams earned his All Star berth and hasn’t let up since. Welcome to stardom, finally.
|ALL-NBA THIRD TEAM|
|Power Forward||PAU GASOL||Lakers|
|Small Forward||CARMELO ANTHONY||Nuggets|
|Shooting Guard||STEPHEN JACKSON||Bobcats|
|Point Guard||RAJON RONDO||Celtics|
Why they’re here…
ANDREW BOGUT | Milwaukee Bucks | Center
Remember my tirade (see NBA Team Tracker for November) that stated once a player is elevated to All-NBA Team status the position is theirs to loose. Well, that rings as true for Andrew Bogut as it does any other player on this Tracker (most of whom have largely been know as elite for more than just a month). An underrated defensive presence, Bogut joins Baron Davis in ’07 as the biggest All Star snubs of the past five years. Al Horford, seriously? David Lee, seriously? Did the NBA’s 30 coaches and David Stern decide Milwaukee wasn’t deserving because bigger markets needed to serviced or did they just not register that the Bucks still have an NBA team? Either way, Bogut has let his game do a lot of talking. Leading the hottest team in the East (right now) Bogut has kicked some serious ass (and taken major names) following his All Star snubbing. His 24 point, 20 rebound, five swat performance against David Lee and the Knicks was just one of a handful of games that saw the Australian turn Crocodile Hunter on the NBA (cheap joke, I know but I’m allowed to make, I’m Australian… or should I know better? Oh well). Bogut’s 17 point, 18 board effort against Detroit combined with his 26 and 13 outing at home to the Hornets are just two reason’s why he was selected first overall back in ’05. Yes, it’s taken him five season’s to find his feet but are you glad he finally did? Now you can turn all your hate toward Marvin Williams (just kidding).
PAU GASOL | Los Angeles Lakers | Power Forward
Kobe sits, Pau takes over. It’s that simple, or so it would seem. For the month, Gasol averaged 17 points, 11.3 boards, 4.1 assists, 2.2 blocks and guided the Lakers to a seven win, four-loss mark. Unlike the Cavaliers, the Lakers are more of a two trick pony. In wins at home against San Antonio and in Utah two days later, respectively Gasol posted 21 points, grabbed 19 boards, handed out eight assists and blocked five shots. This was immediately followed up with 22 points, 19 boards, four assists and another five Mutombo’s. Yes, Zach Randolph was great but his production slipped slightly and his team couldn’t push into the playoff seeding, so he remains on the cusp of the All NBA Team Tracker. Same goes for Carlos Boozer, Amar’e Stoudemire and any other PF who wants to cracks to them, know you have to outshine Pau. The challenge has been put out there.
CARMELO ANTHONY | Denver Nuggets | Small Forward
The biggest victim of my “players must be ranked according to a specific position and not grouped together”, Carmelo Anthony shouldn’t fret though because he’ll most likely finish the regular season on the “real” All NBA Second Team (only because my Tracker isn’t officially endorsed by the NBA, not sure why though). His 40-point (including the game winner), seven assist, six boards, 2-block night against LBJ and the Cavs was reason enough to place him on the third team. More importantly though, the Nuggets finished with five wins and three wins in games Melo played.
STEPHEN JACKSON | Charlotte Bobcats | Shooting Guard
See, I’ve been paying attention to every (other) player in the NBA. Stephen Jackson makes it ahead of fellow scoring threats Joe Johnson and Brandon Roy because the Bobcats are pushing for their first Playoff berth (and the reason they’re even in the hunt this deep into the season is Jackson, sorry Gerald Wallace, I’ve still got mad love for you – wow, that came off somewhat heartfelt / corny, who knew?). Jackson was spotted dropping 30 points on the Lakers; 33 points in Minnesota; 35 against Milwaukee and 32 on the road to Memphis. Jackson’s averages of 24.4 points, 4.4 assists, 5.5 boards and 2.1 steals on .387 shooting from three is as good as any two guard in the NBA. Respect is due (which is what he’s getting here).
RAJON RONDO | Boston Celtics | Point Guard
It breaks my heart to leave Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups and Derrick Rose off the All NBA Third Team but someone has to miss out and it doesn’t make sense to exempt Rondo from the list when he’s continually playing at an All NBA level. Many NBA fans may have Rondo ranked ahead of both Deron Williams and, gulp, even Steve Nash, which is somewhat valid but in my world, my rules. Sorry Billups, Rose and CP3… Note: in the NBA’s version of the All NBA teams, where Peg’s aren’t separate from Sag’s (and SF’s aren’t separate from Puff’s) Billups will likely make the All NBA Third Team. The Rondo Show helped the Celtics to a seven win, five-loss month (while Paul Pierce sat out and Kevin Garnett scrambled to get himself back to where he once was). Rondo collected 14.2 ppg, 11.1 apg, 4.8 rpg and swiped a league leading 2.9 spg. Yes, the Celts closed out February with a loss to the hapless New Jersey Naps but Rondo’s month was strong enough to ensure this one loss didn’t detract from his overall (and season long) strong showing.
All NBA Team Honorable Mentions: David Lee (PF, New York Knicks). Carlos Boozer (PF, Utah Jazz). Joe Johnson (SG, Atlanta Hawks). Amar’e Stoudemire (PF, Phoenix Suns). Chris Kaman (C, Los Angeles Clippers). Derrick Rose (PG, Chicago Bulls). Chauncey Billups (PG, Denver Nuggets).
|ALL-ROOKIE FIRST TEAM|
|Power Forward||DeJUAN BLAIR||Spurs|
|Small Forward||OMRI CASSPI||Kings|
|Shooting Guard||TYREKE EVANS||Kings|
|Shooting Guard||STEPHEN CURRY||Warriors|
Why they’re here…
DAVID ANDERSEN | Houston Rockets | Center
Dude is still the best pivot in the 2010 class, not sure if that’s saying a lot or nothing much at all? When Andersen gets burn, he produces. His averages of 6.1 points and 4.5 boards in 16.3 minutes are up from January, meaning he’s found his grove. His stellar rookie numbers are largely being overlooked because of the guard heavy class.
DeJUAN BLAIR | San Antonio Spurs | Power Forward
All Star MVP snub, DeJuan Blair has been great for the road fatigued Spurs. His 10.4 points (coupled with his 4.6 boards) per in 18 minutes of action has ensured the other, other Texas team has remained in the playoff hunt in the crowded West. Blair showed up big against the Kings (20 points); the Nuggets (17 points, nine boards) and Phoenix (14 points, seven rebounds).
OMRI CASSPI | Sacramento Kings | Small Forward
The Kings have slumped but that’s not a direct result of Casspi’s play. He’s continuing his fine (rookie season) form with averages of 10.5ppg, 5.6rpg, 1.3apg, 1.2spg (in 29 minutes).
TYREKE EVANS | Sacramento Kings | Shooting Guard
Rookie of the year anyone? Sacramento is clearly the winner of the ‘09 Draft. After collecting his Rookie Challenge MVP and treating the outing with all the serious of a regular season road game, Evans is as good a rookie as we’ve seen in the NBA. In Feb, Evans collected averages of 20.1 points, seven assists, 5.8 boards, 1.4 steals and shot .504 from the field.
STEPHEN CURRY | Golden State Warriors | Shooting Guard
Anytime a player drops 36 points, collects 10 boards, hands out double digit assists (13 to be exact), helping his team defeat a division rival, best believe he’s going to get some serious love. Curry has treated February like Durant and James (or like Sprewell did the baseline in his famous ad from ’95), simply put, he “Ownz it”. In case you’re wondering why Curry knocked Jennings from the first team, know he averaged 21.5 points, 7.3 assists, 5.3 boards, 1.6 steals for the month. Damn! They’re All Star numbers.
|ALL-ROOKIE SECOND TEAM|
|Power Forward||TAJ GIBSON||Bulls|
|Small Forward||JONAS JEREBKO||Pistons|
|Point Guard||DARREN COLLISON||Hornets|
|Point Guard||JONNY FLYNN||Wolves|
Why they’re here...
HASHEEM THABEET | Memphis Grizzlies | Center
Thabeet has officially been dropped to the D-League. I also felt the need to comment on this and hence why he’s been left on the All Rookie team (instead of being dropped of more worthy young gunners). So, remind me again why the Grizzlies didn’t just trade their second overall pick in the ’09 Draft? Better yet, explain to me why they didn’t just select Tyreke Evans; or Brandon Jennings; or Stephen Curry; or Jonny Flynn; or Ty Lawson; or DeJuan Blair or any rookie who took part in the T-Mobile challenge (not named Blake Griffin)? Scouts actually watch players during their workouts, right? Thabeet is clunky (at best) and anytime you have someone that raw, in need of that much grooming, who’s taken second overall, you better have a damn good reason why.
TAJ GIBSON | Chicago Bulls | Power Forward
With Tyrus Thomas sent packing, Gisbon’s supporting role has been beefed up. His February stats: 9.1 points, 8.2 points and 1.8 blocks are all up from January. His 20 point, 13 board showing against the Sixers was supported (either side) by a 14 point, 16 rebound, three block night (against New York) and his 14 point, 11 board, three block outing at home to Indiana.
JONAS JEREBKO | Detroit Pistons | Small Forward
Like Gibson, Jerebko improved his game across the board throughout February. He averaged 10.2 points, six rebounds and a steal per game. He impressed with his 21 point, 4 board, 2 steal evening at home to Minnesota and followed that up with back-to-back double-digit outings. I guess the Swedish do more than IKEA and Volvo; they now produce world class hoopers as well.
* DARREN COLLISON | New Orleans Hornets | Point Guard
Here’s why Collison appears (and receives an extra special mention): Dude has been killing, even forcing certain media outlets to make absurd comments like “maybe the Hornets can now shop CP3 [and his contract]”. Uh, not so fast. If this turns out to be a Mark Price / Kevin Johnson or Steve Nash / Jason Kidd situation, which is highly unlikely, sue me, otherwise, let’s not waste energy on that kind of chatter and celebrate Collison for his remarkable play, not how he may or may not replace Chris Paul. Anyways, lets take a look at the jump Collison made from January to February:
Jan. Games: 15 // Points: 5.5 // Assists: 2.8 // Rebounds: 1.7 // Steals: 0.5
February Games: 13 // Points: 21.6 // Assists: 8.3 // Rebounds: 3.9 // Steals: 1.8
Guess who needs more playing time… or his own team… or should have been drafted be either the Knicks (who needed a PG) or the Grizzlies (who took Thabeet)? Just know Collison is for real, or at least he looks like he’s going to a very serviceable NBA guard. Note: I know the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge roster only has room for nine athletes but when you’ve got such a competitive crop of upstarts why not extend the playable roster to 10? That way the nation (and basketball world) can enjoy what Hornets’ fans have been seeing throughout February, stellar play from PG Collison.
*Special honorary mention.
BRANDON JENNINGS | Milwaukee Bucks | Point Guard
Another month, another dip for Jennings’ averages. The upside? With John Salmons now in town and Jerry Stackhouse doing his best to remain relevant, the Bucks are a much better team. They’re winning and that counts (except here, where I originally outlined that rookie placements are determined by individual output). Jennings, now in a reduced role, thanks to their new guard contingent, is learning that life in the NBA isn’t all 55-point showings. His 18-point, 7-assist night in Indiana and 22-point, 8-assist outing against the Knicks helps to keep Young Money ahead of Jonny Flynn and Ty Lawson but only just.
Honorable Mentions: Marcus Thornton (SG, New Orleans Hornets). Jonny Flynn (PG, Minnesota Timberwolves). Ty Lawson (PG, Denver Nuggets). James Harden (SG, Oklahoma City Thunder).
Brad Graham’s a hoop culture aficionado turned basketball asylum seeker. He’s currently attempting to flee the desolate wastelands of the once proud Australian basketball scene for greener pastures. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.