Dwight Howard

Three Players to Watch (Brooklyn Nets)

The “Three Players to Watch” series is brought to you by the OuttaTownClowns, covering each of the league’s 30 teams providing you with insight on three guys that should demand your attention next season. As you can always expect at the OTC, not every player noted are a team’s top player, instead it may just be a player’s particular situation that’s worth following if you’re a die-hard NBA fan. Up Next: “Hello Brooklyn, how ya duin” (Lil Wayne Voice)

1. Tyshawn Taylor

The seasoned college prospect fell to the 41st pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and was surprisingly traded by Portland to Brooklyn for cash considerations. Cash considerations? Consider this…Tyshawn Taylor will receive some chances to help the Nets next season. Averaging 15.5 ppg in Orlando Summer League competition Taylor provided leadership, a clear ability to score the basketball at the next level, and most importantly wasn’t afraid to take control of the flow of the game while on the court. Although he only handed out an average of 2.5 assists per game in summer ball, his overall game play can easily make him a reliable option of the bench for Head Coach Avery Johnson if called upon. Don’t be surprised to see Taylor sent to the D-League early on into the year, but come the middle of the season he should rise if given the opportunity.

 

2. Brook Lopez

Go ahead big fella, pick out some new Brooklyn Nets gear that fits. Looks as if you’ll be sticking around after all…

Two words can describe the Nets feeling when it comes to Brook Lopez next season: fingers crossed. After playing in just the first 5 games of the last year’s season, the Nets ultimately decided to shut Lopez down after a severely sprained right ankle. Despite much court time the Nets still elected to re-sign Lopez to a 4 year, $61 million dollar contract extension. Re-signing Brook Lopez and missing the boat on acquiring Dwight Howard the Nets will heavily rely upon Lopez to have a major bounce back year. As the current Nets roster stands, Lopez is arguably their only true center and will obviously need to avoid foul trouble. With the relocation to Brooklyn that included a new logo, new image (Jay-Z convinced the league to allow them to have primary black jerseys), re-signing of Gerald Wallace, and trading to acquire Joe Johnson the Nets have huge expectations this coming season. It’s time that owner Mikhail Prokhorov sees a drastic improvement in team success considering the amount of money he’s been willing and able to fork out over the course of the past two years. Add Lopez to that list and the 24 year-old should definitely feel some pressure to perform.

3. Joe Johnson

NBA fans should be very curious to see how D-Will & “Iso Joe” share the ball next season

It’s safe to say most people like Joe Johnson. He’s not really the type of guy you can really hate on outside of the fact that he’s become famous for delivering clutch, cold-blooded daggers to your team in your own building for years now. But while he executes everything so calmly with ease, it’s hard to understand how on earth “Iso-Joe” is the NBA’s highest paid player. Johnson is an All-Star that got paid Superstar money. In Atlanta, Johnson was an annual All-Star and Brooklyn can expect no different. However, it will be interesting to see how well Johnson’s game can gel in the backcourt with Deron Williams. Both players love and are used to having the ball in their hands. It should be very interesting what transpires at the end of close games and how the Nets offense flows next season. If everything goes as planned, the Nets will somehow sneak their way into the 2013 NBA playoffs. In order for that to even a slight chance of happening, Joe must continue to be Joe while also adjusting to sharing a backcourt with Deron Williams. Easier said then done.

2010-11 NBA Preview: Southeast Division

Miami Heat (47-35 last season)

Miami is still Wade's town.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Carlos Arroyo

Shooting Guard: Dwayne Wade

Small Forward: LeBron James

Power Forward: Chris Bosh

Center: Joel Anthony

Key Reserves:

Guard: Mario Chalmers

Forward: Mike Miller

Forward: Udonis Haslem

I’m sick of having to play the injury card, but it really is that important to a team.  The big three of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh must stay healthy for the Heat to win, but three players cannot win a championship.  The role players (Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem) must step in and deliver if this team wants to win an NBA championship.  The most important thing for the big three to control is their egos though.  Does anyone care about the last shot?  Or how many touches?  Or who averages the most points?   Time will tell if they coexist.  Regardless, they are strong enough to win their division.

Orlando Magic (59-23 last season)

Arguably one of college basketball's greatest players, Reddick will make huge strides this season.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Jameer Nelson

Shooting Guard: Vince Carter

Small Forward: Mickael Pietrus

Power Forward: Rashard Lewis

Center: Dwight Howard

Key Reserves:

Guard: J.J. Reddick

Guard-Forward: Quentin Richardson

Forward-Center: Marcin Gortat

Get ready Magic fans, because Dwight Howard is coming off a summer spent with free throw shooting and Hakeem Olajuwon.  Will Dwight finally have a couple moves up his sleeves other than the occasional baby hook at times?  We’ll have to see if this possible MVP candidate can up his game.  The main focal point around this team is at shooting guard though.  Vince Carter is either going to cash in and have another solid season, or check out and become that veteran off the bench.  J.J. Reddick is slowly starting to get ushered in for the appropriate time to fill the starting shoes.  He is on the cusp of taking that next step and this could be the year.

Atlanta Hawks (53-29 last season)

With Mike Woodson gone, Josh Smith can breathe a sigh of relief. NO MORE YELLING!

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Mike Bibby

Shooting Guard: Joe Johnson

Small Forward: Marvin Williams

Power Forward: Josh Smith

Center: Al Horford

Key Reserves:

Guard: Jeff Teague

Guard: Jamal Crawford

Center: Zaza Pachulia

I really like this team and they are still very young especially if Jeff Teague takes the starting job away from Mike Bibby.  Bibby was very inconsistent last season and the most unproductive starter.  Teague definitely has the skills to start with a solid shot and a superb passing ability.  Joe Johnson got paid big time so hopefully he doesn’t go on cruise control until the playoffs because he is the glue to their offense.  If the Hawks want to go far in the playoffs, they need to pray they don’t meet Orlando.  Dwight Howard always has field days against Atlanta because they have no one to stop him.

Washington Wizards (26-56 last season)

Agent Zero no more, now number 9.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: John Wall

Shooting Guard: Gilbert Arenas

Small Forward: Al Thornton

Power Forward: Andray Blatche

Center: Javale McGee

Key Reserves:

Guard: Kirk Hinrich

Forward: Josh Howard

Center: Yi Jianlian

This will be one of the most exciting teams to watch this year.  With John Wall and Gilbert Arenas in the backcourt, who knows what jaw-dropping things can be done.  Arenas must stay healthy though (again with the health, it really is important).  Andray Blatche is also going to love having Wall pass him the ball.  Blatche is going to put up the numbers that he did after the All-Star break last season (20+ ppg).  Javale McGee has a ton of potential to be a very good center.  He is just starting to grow into his body, and his lankiness will cause a lot of blocks and altered shots in the key.  The Wizards have a definite shot at a playoff berth, but I think they are a year or two away.

Charlotte Bobcats (44-38 last season)

The league's best shot-blocker and rebounder, pound for pound.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: D.J. Augustin

Shooting Guard: Stephen Jackson

Small Forward: Gerald Wallace

Power Forward: Boris Diaw

Center: Nazr Mohammed

Key Reserves:

Guard: Gerald Henderson

Forward: Tyrus Thomas

Forward: Derrick Brown

The Bobcats are still a good team, I just feel that this division is stacked and they will be at the bottom of it.  I believe the loss of Raymond Felton will have a huge toll on the offense.  He doesn’t get the credit he should deserve and D.J. Augustin won’t be that problem solver.  Stephen Jackson is also at that point on a team where the honeymoon could be over.  He never seems to last long on teams because of his fiery and aggressive attitude.  With Jackson and Gerald Wallace this team still has a shot to be a very good defensive unit.  Look for Tyrus Thomas to also chip in both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.  As for the playoffs for the Bobcats…not happening.

2010-11 NBA Preview-Overview

The NBA season is less than a week away and many are getting excited for what should be a fantastic thrill ride.  I will be posting division previews sporadicly during the course of this week and into the weekend.  Stay tuned for analysis on your favorite team, but for now, here is a division breakdown with projected records and the four important awards handed out at the end of the year.

Eastern Conference

Can New York make the playoffs thanks to Amar'e?

Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics (51-31)

New York Knicks (36-46)

New Jersey Nets (32-50)

Philadelphia 76ers (29-53)

Toronto Raptors (25-57)

Central Division

How will the Cavs fare without LeBron?

Chicago Bulls (50-32)

Milwaukee Bucks (47-35)

Indiana Pacers (32-50)

Cleveland Cavaliers (30-52)

Detroit Pistons (29-53)

Southeast Division

Wall and Arenas will be a fun duo to watch!

Miami Heat (61-21)

Orlando Magic (54-28)

Atlanta Hawks (46-36)

Washington Wizards (37-45)

Charlotte Bobcats (36-46)

Western Conference

Northwest Division

Oklahoma City Thunder (52-30)

Portland Trail Blazers (51-31)

MVP! MVP! MVP!

Utah Jazz (47-35)

Denver Nuggets (41-41)

Minnesota Timberwolves (22-60)

Pacific Division

Los Angeles Lakers (59-23)

Phoenix Suns (46-36)

Los Angeles Clippers (36-46)

Sacramento Kings (30-52)

Golden State Warriors (28-54)

 

Southwest Division

How many games will Yao play in?

Dallas Mavericks (51-31)

Houston Rockets (47-35)

San Antonio Spurs (45-37)

Memphis Grizzlies (41-41)

New Orleans Hornets (37-45)

 

My pick for the NBA Finals is Lakers over Heat in a seven game series.  Here are the awards for the end of the season.

MVP: Kevin Durant

Most Improved Player: Hedo Turkoglu

6th Man: Jamal Crawford

Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard

Rookie of the Year: Blake Griffin

Ross Geiger’s 2010-2011 NBA Rookie Disappointments

PG: N/A

There’s honestly not one point guard that you can fairly say they’ll be a draft disappointment. Considering where each of this year’s point guard prospects were selected, you got to like the potential upside they all offer.

Turner's role with the 76ers will be as awkward as that hat looks atop his head

SG: Evan Turner, Philadelphia 76ers

A variety of reasons land Turner in this slot: 1) He far from impressed in Orlando Summer League ball 2) While the 76ers have a fresh, new coach in Doug Collins it doesn’t change the fact that Turner will struggle finding his niche role with his team 3) If John Wall can play up to his expectation level and Turner struggles, unfortunately, unfairly he’ll be looked down upon. There’s no doubt Turner becomes a solid player in the NBA, but he’s going to be a young player that will grow with time. So from jump, Turner may be perceived as a draft disappointment.

This may in fact be the only memory of Aminu that I'll still hold at the end of the season

SF: Al-Farouq Aminu, Los Angeles Clippers

If you’re looking for this past year’s draft’s biggest disappointment look no further, Aminu can be added to the list of terrible Clippers’ draft picks. Who knows what the Clippers see in Aminu’s future as an NBA player but I can assure you he’s not worth using your 8th pick on him. His immediate role with the Clippers is limited and very well in question after bringing in Ryan Gomes and resigning Rasual Butler. Both Gomes and Butler will make it extremely difficult for Aminu to find time. Most likely Aminu becomes a guy who never gets his opportunities early on and never recovers from the lack of experience as a rookie. His best bet is to find some time in the D-League and then to go from there because he’s far from NBA ready nor is he ready to be called 8th pick worthy, regardless of draft class.

When you're picked before tons of players you probably shouldn't be, it's common practice to hug the commissioner rather than shake his hand

PF: Ekpe Udoh, Golden State Warriors

With the 6th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the Golden State Warriors select…umm who? Though you all know I cover the NBA draft extensively and clearly know who Udoh is, predictions aside, I’m shocked Warriors went this route. Maybe it makes more than perfect sense to draft Greg Monroe so instead they decided to take the risky pick in Udoh in hopes that he surprises us all. Udoh will be newly signed David Lee’s backup and will continually remain his backup until the Warriors feel he’s ready to play some minutes at center. If and when that time ever becomes a possibility is much like Udoh’s true potential, up in the air. Until Udoh shows us why he’s worthy of consideration as high as pick #6 he’ll remain a big disappointment in my book.

Ewing: "Dude, are you seriously this bad?"

C: Daniel Orton, Orlando Magic

Now I understand why he was the second-to-last pick in the first round, I understand he was given some attention being a member of the Kentucky Wildcats youth, but what I can’t grasp any understanding in deciding to take a gamble with Orton over Hassan Whiteside. Worst-case scenario for Whiteside is best case scenario for Orton, that’s how bad Orton is. I mean come on, the highlight of Orton’s Summer League in Orlando was him getting tossed for fighting with the Pacers’ Josh McRoberts. For Orton’s sake, I hope he can maybe learn a thing or two from fellow teammates Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat, but I also hope he knows how to save his money. Outside of his rookie contract, I see him finding a tough time finding a job in the league.

This is Part 5 of Ross Geiger’s 7-part Blog Series covering the NBA’s most prominent young players. Be sure to be on the lookout for Part 6 that’s coming soon! In the mean time, follow Ross Geiger on Twitter: @RossGeiger.

Top 10 Poster-ers

By: Zach Silvernial (OTC Contributor)

The OuttaTownClowns would like to welcome Zach Silvernail to the blog, we’re happy to announce he’s the newest edition to our growing blog. Zach will primarily focus on contributing to our NCAA Basketball and NBA content on the page. Along with his well-written work, Zach has a great knowledge and high level understanding of the game at both the collegiate and pro levels of play. But don’t take us from us, follow his work on our blog and you’ll see for yourself. Without further ado, I bring you Zach’s debut post on the OTC…Enjoy!

There is nothing more exciting, and often times amusing, than watching a guy get dunked on. With so many incredible athletes now in the NBA, it’s something that seems to happen almost every game. Nothing gets a crowd going, a bench going, and most importantly a player going like taking off full speed, going body to body, and putting his you-know-what in an opponent’s face. If you’re not too familiar with the term “getting postered”, ask Shawn Bradley to describe it to you. I’m almost positive that’s what his role was throughout his stint in the NBA. Or ask guys like Stromile SwiftJames White, or Gerald Green…who only got to the NBA because of their high flying ability. But, before you escape to YouTube, allow me to present the list:

The Kobe Bryant Mini-Fro Days....

10. Kobe Bryant
I know, I know. He’s getting older now, and does a lot less high flying than he did during his mini-fro days, but he is still one of the more explosive and acrobatic players in the league. Don’t think so? Dare you to tell him otherwise.

9. Derrick Rose
Talk about a FREAK athlete. Rose is one of the most, if not the most explosive two-foot jumpers in the NBA. He might not belong in the top 10 based on his quantity of posters, but certainly for his quality and capability. Goran, what were you thinking?

One of the best dunks in All-Star Weekend's history

8. Andre Iguodala
Following in the footsteps of former Wildcat high-flyer Richard Jefferson, “Iggy” comes in at number 8. With deceptively long arms, incredible athleticism, and an underrated array of dunks (as illustrated in his dunk contest appearances)…Andre had to make the list.

7. Russell Westbrook
This guy might be my favorite one on the list. He became known for his ability as a youngster at UCLA, and has continued to humble opponents in the NBA. One of the top five quickest and fastest players in the league, he is beyond dangerous in the open floor.

6. Rudy Gay
Now the ranking becomes a little bit more difficult. It’s hard to put Rudy as low as number 6, but he has about 84 million reasons to make himself feel better. Almost impossible to stop above the rim because of his length, and probably best known for his always fully extended, and picture perfect windmill.

"Mr. Tolliver, will you sign my poster?"

5. Amar’e Stoudemire
Amare is certainly one of the most ferocious and powerful dunkers on the list. He may not always have the most “spectacular” posters, but he seems to have about a million every year. His number of dunks might go down without “Stevie” to thread the needle this year, but he’ll still manage to embarrass a few opponents and their families. Somewhere Anthony Tolliver is tweeting: “SMH”.

4. Dwayne Wade
Alright, now it’s almost impossible. Having to put maybe my favorite player at 4 was not easy, but the top 3 are too good. “DW3” is as relentless as anyone when it comes to taking the ball to the rack, and epitomizes the clique: “attacking the rim with reckless abandon”. Just ask Anderson Varejao.

3. Josh Smith
“J-Smoov” needs no introduction. Only fitting that he would play for the Hawks. Probably the only guy capable of filling out all Top 10 plays on SportsCenter in one night. He’ll pin you at one end and then catch a lob on the other. Always fun to watch.

2. Dwight Howard
Superman comes in at number 2 strictly because it happens so often. Had the list been called Most Likely To Dunk on You…Dwight would probably be number 1. Not only one of the most incredible athletes currently in the NBA, but of all time.

Back When D-Wade Was "A Witness", No Wonder He Wanted To Unite

1. LeBron James
Are you surprised? Possesses every possible attribute of a good poster-er. Size, speed, strength, quickness, jumping ability. You name it, he’s got it. Well, except for a ring.

Well, that concludes my list. But, before I go, just want to give a shout-out to the All Underrated Poster Squad: Will Bynum, Ronnie Price, Von Wafer, Shannon Brown, Dahntay Jones, Chase Budinger, Rodney Carney, Trevor Ariza.

Follow Zach on Twitter: @love4thegame3


Durant vs Wade: The Best Out of College

By: Ross Geiger

Kevin Durant or Dwyane Wade?

Who's Better?

When it comes to who’s the best basketball player in the world the conversation is filed down to NBA superstars in Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. While much of that debate may have been answered this past offseason, another controversial debate arises and remains unanswered: Who’s the best player in the NBA that went to college?

In past years, it was a no-brainer; Dwyane Wade out of Marquette University was clearly the league’s best player that played at the college ranks. But just in a matter of a couple year, another player has earned the right to be considered alongside D-Wade, his name: Kevin Durant.

The Oklahoma City Thunder star swingman out of Texas has continued to improve and impress year in and year out since joining the league in 2007. Drafted 2nd overall by the Seattle Supersonics, Durant, from the jump, was an underrated young talent as the Portland Trail Blazers decided upon selecting Greg Oden over Durant in a very hyped up debacle of which would make the better #1 overall selection in the 2007 NBA Draft.

This Question Has Been Resolved

Since then, Durant has turned that debate into a comical joke as he’s clearly proven he was the better of the two draft top picks. Whether you want to consider it fairly or unfairly, due to Oden’s injury, Durant took home the 2007 NBA Rookie of the Year Award. But I’m willing to bet that Oden wouldn’t of even came close to posting comparable rookie numbers to those of Durant’s 20.3 pgg, 4.4 rpg, and 2.4 apg nightly.

In his following sophomore season, Durant built upon those numbers and his status as one of the league’s top young guns was confirmed. During the 2009 NBA All-Star Game in Phoenix, Durant showed the NBA World what the league could expect in the near future. In the Rookie-Sophomore Game, Durant carried his sophomore team to victory by breaking the scoring record with 46 points. Coincidentally the old mark was held by Phoenix’s own (at the time) Amar’e Stoudemire, when he put up 36 points for the sophomore team in 2004. The very next day, Durant participated in the NBA’s first H-O-R-S-E contest and Durant took home the crown for that as well, taking down Hawks guard Joe Johnson and Grizzlies rookie O.J. Mayo. This all came during a year in which the Seattle Supersonics were relocated from Seattle to Oklahoma City where they became the Thunder. All-Star Weekend was a great time for the Thunder’s young leader to put his team as well as his name on the map. Durant finished his second season in the league improving upon nearly each and every statistical category and percentages (except BPG & FT%), averaging 25.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg, and 2.8 apg.

Showing rapid improvements upon entering the league, nobody had the slightest idea what to expect from Kevin Durant as he entered his third year in the NBA this past season. Once again, Durant, nicknamed “The Durantula”, didn’t disappoint. He earned tons of accolades including becoming an NBA All-Star for the first time, winning his second straight H-O-R-S-E competition, and even coaching the rookies in the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge. But none of those achievements are as historical as his last as he took home the NBA’s scoring title averaging 30.1 points per game, becoming the youngest in league history to win the scoring title at only 21 years of age. He broke LeBron James’s record becoming the youngest and on his way to doing that he also broke Allen Iverson’s record number of games scoring at least 25 points.

But maybe the most impressive achievement of all was Durant’s leadership. He led his team to a very unexpected playoff berth with the Thunder finishing their season with 50 wins, which earned him the last and final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. Winning 50 games was a 27 game improvement for the Thunder, making their season the sixth biggest turnaround in NBA history. In the playoffs, Durant’s team held their own agains the defending NBA World Champion Los Angeles Lakers stretching the series to a tough 6 games before losing 4-2 on a buzzer-beating tip in by Pau Gasol. At the end of the year, Durant finished second in the MVP voting behind LeBron James and was honored with a spot on the 2010 All-NBA First Team, that included LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, and yup, you guessed it, Dwyane Wade….

Wade and Durant are the only two superstars among the top names on the 2010 All-NBA First Team list that went to college. Wade’s popularity is slowly becoming rivaled with Durant’s as both should be mentioned in the same sentence together. Among Wade’s notable achievements, he was awarded Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated in 2006, has had the top selling jersey in the NBA for nearly two years to go with his NBA Championship and Finals MVP.

Much like Durant’s incredible third season in the league, D-Wade also shined bright during his third year. Wade helped carry the Miami Heat, along with Shaquille O’Neal, to the Heat’s first NBA Championship in franchise history. At the conclusion of the 2006 NBA Finals, Wade also took home the 2006 NBA Finals MVP. Just for good measure, Wade led the league in scoring in 2008-2009.

Of the five superstars named to last season’s 2010 All-NBA First Team, Durant was the only player that was not a member of Team USA’s Gold Medal team.  The only reason for that was age and inexperience. Durant is now the captain of the Team USA basketball and is well on his way of matching many of the accomplishments Wade’s already earned.

While Dwyane Wade’s NBA career may have 4 more years of experience and accomplishments under his belt, does Kevin Durant have a shot at being named the best NBA player that went to college as soon as this upcoming season?

Let Us Know What You Think!

Wade:

28 Years Old

College: Marquette University

Drafted 5th Overall in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Miami Heat

Has been a member of the Heat his entire career

2006 NBA Champion & 2006 NBA Finals MVP

6-Time NBA All-Star

NBA Scoring Champion (2009)

2-Time All-NBA First Team

2-Time All-NBA Second Team

1-Time All-NBA Third Team

3-Time All-Defensive Second Team

2004 NBA All-Rookie First Team

2010 NBA All-Star MVP

2-Time Skills Challenge Champion

2006 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year

Kevin Durant:

21 Years Old

Drafted 2nd overall in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Seattle Supersonics

Has been a member of the Supersonics/Thunder his entire career

1-Time NBA All-Star

NBA Scoring Champion (2010)

All-NBA First Team

2-Time H-O-R-S-E Competition Winner

2008 NBA Rookie of the Year

NBA All-Rookie First Team

VOTE!

Ross Geiger’s 2010-2011 Most Improved Team

Forget Evan Turner, Here's the 76ers' Top Young Talent

PG: Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers

The NBA’s youngest player in the league last season now has a year of experience in his back pocket heading into the upcoming year. Last year Jrue Holiday’s immediate, first year production turned a lot of heads and Holiday was the biggest bright spot on the Sixers 2009-2010 season. In Orlando Summer League, Holiday was a first team selection at the conclusion of the league, leading all scorers with 19.3 point per outing. There’s little to no doubt Holiday will be the 76ers’ starting point guard next season under the supervision of new head coach Doug Collins.

Last Year: 8 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.1 spg

’10-’11 Projection: 13 ppg, 4 rpg, 7 apg, 1.5 spg

The NBA's Ultimate 6th Man

SG: Terrence Williams, New Jersey Nets

The second year man out of Louisville is on the verge of making the Nets’ Travis Outlaw signing look silly. Sadly, Travis Outlaw became the Nets’ biggest free agent signee this historic offseason, signing a 5-year $35 million dollar deal with the club. Adding Outlaw to the roster for that kind of money of course means he’ll get the starting job at the small forward position. But that’s not a concern to Terrence Williams who’ll be the ultimate sixth man for the Nets next season. Williams is a very rare point forward who’s capable of legitimately playing three positions: point guard, shooting guard, and small forward. With that type of ability along with the talent and potential that Williams possesses, he’ll be one to watch out for next season. His 2010 Summer League performance in Orlando was clear indication that he has in fact made strides in his overall game. Along with Holiday, Williams was also named to the league’s first team averaging 18.8 ppg and 5 apg.

Last Year: 8.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.9 apg

’10-’11 Projections: 11 ppg, 6 rpg, 4 apg

As Alicia Keys Sings: "There's nothing you can't do, now you're in New York"

SF: Anthony Randolph, New York Knicks

If you’re a member of the Golden State Warriors and you’re not named Stephen Curry the best thing for your career would to be dealt elsewhere. Finally, that time came for Mr. Randolph, a player who has always been just a trade away from having the opportunity to fulfill his potential. There wasn’t any better of a fit than New York for Randolph where he’ll immediately become a big piece of next year’s Knicks squad. Not only will Mike D’Antoni’s system naturally inflate his numbers, but Randolph stands as a great complimentary piece to Amare Stoudemire. If Randolph is as effective as I project, he very well could become the NBA’s Most Improved Player next season.

Last Year: 11.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.3 apg, 0.8 spg, 1.6 bpg

’10-’11 Projections: 17 ppg, 8 rpg, 4 apg, 1 spg, 2 bpg

PF: JaVale McGee, Washington Wizards

Limitless Potential

It’s hard to argue anybody had a more productive summer than McGee. Not only did he continue to make giant strides in his Las Vegas Summer League games, but he also impressed many on lookers at Team USA camp. Heading into next season with the Wizards, McGee is expected to be the starting center within a very scary yet very questionable starting five. While his size and length will never be in question, his strength and body type will always be a concern. He’s far from a permanent power forward type player, but he definitely has the offensive ability that some power forwards in this league don’t have. For the next few years, McGee will be an improving young talent that will always have room to grow. No matter how good McGee gets, his unbelievable frame offers his potential limitless abilities though we all know the road must stop somewhere. As far as next year’s production is concerned, there’s no question his numbers will rise in all aspects of his game.

Last Year: 6.4 ppg, 4 rpg, 0.2 apg, 1.7 bpg

’10-’11 Projections: 10 ppg, 7 rpg, 1.5 apg, 2 bpg

Poor Man's Dwight Howard is the Ultimate Compliment

C: DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers

Jordan’s numbers will always suffer as he’s stuck behind one of the Western Conference’s top centers in Chris Kaman. But he’s nothing short of a poor man’s Dwight Howard who’s still very young and able to polish many rusty parts of his game. Whenever I watch Jordan play all I can think of is Dwight’s size, strength, and surprisingly “almost” as athletic. He’s poor in the fact that defensively he’s not nearly as effective nor as good of a rebounder, but he’s actually very close athletically. Jordan is a member of the same club Anthony Randolph just left, “A Trade-Away From Being Good”. One destination that makes perfect sense: Oklahoma City Thunder, if they were to get their hands on him, game over.

Last Year: 4.8 ppg, 5 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.9 bpg

’10-’11 Projections: 6 ppg, 5 ppg, 0.7 apg, 1.1 bpg

This is Part 1 of Ross Geiger’s 7-part Blog Series covering the NBA’s most prominent young players. Be sure to be on the lookout for Part 2 that’s coming soon! In the mean time, follow Ross Geiger on Twitter: @RossGeiger.

Orlando Magic @ Boston Celtics- Game 6 Eastern Conference Finals

Orland vs. Boston- 8:30 ET on ESPN

If the Magic win, Orlando and Disney will once again be the happiest place on earth.

Resident NBA nut Ross Geiger has the day off, so I, Patrick McWeeny, am here to drop some knowledge for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics had it all early in the series. Suffocating defense, a revived Kevin Garnett, a rampant Rajon Rondo, and everything else that came with a dominating and command 3-0 lead. The Magic stole one in overtime in Game 4, as Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson remembered that you are supposed to put the ball in the basket, Vince Carter notwithstanding, and most of us were just waiting for the C’s to come back to Orlando and do the deed. However, something funny happened along the way. Orlando got back to playing nearly as well as they were in their first two series, hitting threes, and getting gargantuan performances out of Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, and extremely solid production out of JJ Redick. The Magic rolled in Game 5 behind some shaky officiating and just general bounces in the Magic’s favor. Could the Magic pull one out of the hat? No team has ever come back from down 3-0 to win a series in the NBA, and the Magic cannot win the series tonight, only lose it, but momentum certainly seems to be on Orlando’s side. Do you go with momentum or experience? The hot hand, or the team that has been better most of these playoffs (The Celtics, despite the Magics two sweeps)?

Personally, I go with experience over the hot hand. All that has to happen for the hot hand to go dead cold are some bad bounces or an unfriendly rim. Experience is there forever, and as long as the players can still execute, it is invaluable. The only thing that can interrupt experience would be injuries, so I will obviously pick the Cel… wait… this just in, the Celtics sustained 50 injuries in Game 5. Glen Davis has been cleared to play but he will not be what he was in Game 5. Rasheed Wallace’s back is not going to help his post defense at all, and Marquis Daniels got a head injury as well. If Kendrick Perkins’ phony technical foul had not been rescinded, it would be Code Red for Boston. They are going to need every big body they can get to defend/foul Dwight Howard.

I cannot believe what I am about to write, and it will probably be the only time is has been written in human history. Brian Scalabrine is a key for the Celtics. (Gasp) Not like that. The Celtics need big man help, and that means that all their big men, everyone from Kevin Garnett to Shelden Williams, must step up, hustle, box out, and defend Dwight Howard with dogged determination. If Scal so happens to play, I will gladly take credit, but he has not been dressing so I cannot put him down for a key role, but the C’s need a big game out of the Scalabrine-esque big men. They don’t need scoring, they need toughness and hustle, which is what Brian Scalabrine can bring. I do not know if he will dress, but I have hunch about Scal, so take it for what it is worth. Regardless, the C’s need big performances down low to slow down the Magic and I urge them to channel their inner Brian Scalabrine.

Scalabrine 1, Malone+Stockton+Barkley 0

Boston needs a good game out of Rondo if they are going to avoid history.

On the less insane side, you have Rajon Rondo back at home where he hopes pick up his incredible form of Games 1-3, and some home cooking for big-game-beast Paul Pierce. The Magic might be looking to pull a rabbit out of their hat, but Boston knows the Truth will be able to cut through the Magic’s illusions. When you are a little banged up and in a corner, there are two things a team can do: They can band together for a night and man up, or they can roll over and give up. I think the Celtics will do the first of those, at least for tonight. Look for 25 out of Pierce with a solid performance out of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in this pivotal Game 6. I do not think Rondo will run over Magic like they did in the first few games, but he should do a good job of involving his teammates and running the team. Look for something along the lines of 11 points, 6 rebounds and 12 assists out of the Black Leprechaun. Dwight Howard will have his 20 points and Jameer will pitch in almost 20, but I sense a clunker for Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis  as the Orlando’s magical run (pun intended) comes to an end.

Of course, if the Celtics have converted to regular season Celtics, the Boston will have the Bruins and Celtics give away 3-0 leads and the teams will never hear the end of it. They will win.

Magic 89, Celtics 94

Ask everyone’s favorite Celtic if Kendrick Perkins is important.

5/26/10 Boston Celtics at Orlando Magic (Game 5) Predictions

Boston Celtics at Orlando Magic- 8:30 ET ESPN

Carter can't fall on his head yet again offensively in Game 5

The Boston Celtics really shot themselves in the foot on Sunday night as they were unable to close out the series sweep at home. Coming through big with an overtime win facing elimination, the Magic now have a heartbeat, but down 3 games to 1, they’re still on life support. If Orlando can take care of business tonight in Game 5, they’ve shockingly put themselves in a position where they’re able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

As good as he’s been all season and especially since the start of the playoffs, expect a big time game from Rajon Rondo tonight. Rondo struggled in Game 4 and his lack of contributions helped the Magic pull out the big win. But it’d be wrong if no kudos went out to Jameer Nelson, he came up huge in the win or go home road game. With all do respect to Dwight Howard and his impressive performance, player of the game must go out to Nelson. He not only shut down Rondo, but all of his 23 points were huge. Down the stretch he nailed a handful of tough shots that ultimately determined the fate of his team.

In Game 5, the Orlando Magic fans will increase the optimism in the eyes of their players. Can Orlando really pull off the “magic” and take four games in a row? It’s crazy to imagine it happening, but a win tonight gets them that much closer to reality. Win tonight and survive just one more game in Boston and we’ll be seeing a NBA Finals decisive Game 7. Get it done Orlando, the NBA world wants to see it!

Magic- 100 Celtics- 93

Though I did some media work inside the NBA Locker Rooms this year, I never ever came close to seeing something like this. Jason Williams demands his space! This was after losing Game 3 in Boston:

5/24/10 Orlando Magic at Boston Celtics (Game 4) Predictions

Orlando Magic at Boston Celtics- 8:30 ET ESPN

Pierce & the Celtics will have some time to rest up, stretch out, & prepare for the NBA Finals

The Magic are down for the count. With no hope of coming back from a 3-0 hole in the series, I fully expect them to lay down in Game 4. Hopefully the take the series loss like professionals and play hard all game, but in no way I expect them to come out on top. If I’m a Magic player, I rather get swept in Boston then have to come home and lose Game 5 in front of the home crowd.

It’s been a disappointing series to say the very least. In fact the NBA Playoffs as a whole have been very disappointing up until this point. Hopefully the NBA Finals matchup Celtics-Lakers/Suns offers a much more exciting series than we’ve been treated too so far this year. Celtics took care of business in the Eastern Conference Finals as an end result, they’ll be treating themselves to some days off to rest.

Celtics- 95 Magic- 87

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