It seems like only yesterday that I was watching the Lakers win the NBA championship in Orlando. Actually, it may have been yesterday, ESPN Classics probably showed it again.
There have been a ton of off-season moves, but we will get to that in part 2. For now, take a look at some of the young players to watch.
Rookies – 10 Spot
- Blake Griffin - As the No. 1 pick, expectations with him and the Clippers are going to be on different levels. But there should be plenty of chance for improvement for both. PS – He may be out for six weeks. Clippers curse!
- Brandon Jennings – After an up and down year in Italy, many are hoping that a return to the States will mean the return of his game. I thought Jennings might be a good chance of pace off the bench, but word is that he will be starting.
- Earl Clark - Is anyone more Jekyll and Hyde than the former Louisville star? He is on the end of the bench, but Clark is a building block for the post-Steve-Nash era.
- Eric Maynor - Jerry Sloan found the perfect point guard in Maynor and he should grow with some tough-Sloan-love. He will be the perfect back-up for Deron Williams.
- James Johnson – Like Clark, Johnson had lottery-like talent. And like Clark, he had the ability to disappear on occasion. Johnson will also be low on the depth chart, could add the element of running the offense through him when he is on the court.
- Derrick Brown - The Bobcats are piecing together a nice team and Brown could pan out to be the steal of the draft at the 4oth pick.
- Chase Budinger - One of my favorite college players has landed on a team with Trevor Ariza and Shane Battier. But Budinger is skilled and athletic enough to add offense off the bench.
- Danny Green - There were a few picks that made sense for the Cavs. But the perfect pick was Green. A 6’7″ defensive hound, who will not need to be handled with kids gloves and will bust his butt regardless of the amount of playing time he gets.
- Toney Douglas - Poor man’s Ben Gordon plus defense, Douglas derserves to get meaningful playing time. But on a roster with Chris Duhon, Nate Robinson, Wilson Chandler, Larry Hughes and Cuttino Mobley, there are not going to be enough balls to around.
- Jonny Flynn - Flynn was the only reason I watched the Orangemen last season and he will be the man running the show in Minnesota this season. But he will also play with one of the best big men in Al Jefferson.
Joe Alexander – This guy was the epitome of explosive at West Virginia. Athletically and emotionally, Alexander was able take games over in a flash. But his rookie was not much more than spark (4.7 ppg and 1.9 rpg in a total of 12.1 minutes a game). Alexander struggled to find playing time, but the Bucks higher-ups must have seen something in Alexander they liked by letting Charlie Villanueva sign in Detroit. Looking for more than just a spark this season with some more playing time.
O.J. Mayo - I was not a fan of Mayo until I watched a bunch of games of USC and I was excited when Minnesota drafted him with the No. 4 pick two drafts ago. But then I woke up the next morning and Mayo was in Memphis. A quick look at his stats you will see 18.5 ppg, 3.8 ppg, and more assists than turnover (barely). But what is really impressive is 44% shooting from the field, 38% from distance and 88% from the foul line. After finishing runner-up in the ROY voting, Mayo is posed to do more in Memphis. The only question, is the Answer – Allen Iverson. And how Iverson’s need to have the play in his hand will effective Mayo. Because Mayo has the same need.
D.J. Augustin – When the Bobcats drafted Augustin, I think everyone was surprised. You had a strong starting point guard in Raymond Felton, but maybe Charlotte was looking for another option off the bench. In 26.1 minutes a game, Augustin added 11.8 ppg and 3.5 apg. All while shooting 43% from the field, 44% from three-point range and 89% from the charity stripe. Side-note: In twelve starts last season, Augustin averaged 17.8 points and 5.6 assists. Expect to see more minutes for this tiny, yet talented guard.
Eric Gordon – In his one season at Indiana, he was involved Kelvin Sampson scandal. So going to the Clippers was probably not as shocking as it would have been for other players. Many people under-rated him as a player coming out of college. But the LA choose home and he did not disappoint, and the Clippers needed him to take on a large load of he offensive. 16.1 ppg, 46% from the field, 39% from the floor and 85% from the foul line. I would expect him to turn into more of a spot-up shooter who will live off the double teams of Blake Griffin.
Danilo Gallinari - To say that the Knicks faithful were shocked by the pick Gallinari, would be an understatement. While limited to on 28 games by a back injury, there were hints of ability in his limited time on the court. He can score from the perimeter, shooting 45% from the field and 44% from distance. Gallinari is not a great athlete and can be a below-par defender, but has the ideal head coach in Mike D’Antoni’s run and gun offense.
Mario Chalmers - When the Heat trade for Chalmers, it probably was not in the plan to have him start all 82 games. But this quick, defensive guard could prove to be exactly what the Heat need. A pass first point guard (4.9 apg), who can put constant pressure on the ball (2.0 steal per game), shoot a good percentage from the field (42%), and score when need (10 ppg). Going into his second season, Chalmers should continue to put impressive numbers in regards to his assists and steals. But needs to improve from distance, as he only shot 37% from distance.
Kosta Koufos - After a less than impressive freshmen season at Ohio State, Koufas declared for the draft. Being drafted by the Jazz was an ideal situation as he was not needed to start from day one, and had time to learn under some talented players. But Koufas is talented and has a good offensive game for a player his size (7’0″) and his age (20 years old). Look for more playing time, and in that, a more appealing stat line.