Jrue Holiday

NBA Extensions

Midnight marked the deadline for rookies from the 2009 NBA Draft to work out an extension with their teams. The Thunder couldn’t reach an agreement with James Harden and now he’s in Houston. In less publicized news, however, several other notable players from that draft class worked out deals just before the deadline.

DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors: 4 years, $40 million

DeRozan’s reputation around the NBA has largely remained constant since his days as a draft prospect. He is blessed with tremendous physical tools, can be an explosive scorer, and if he ever makes the jump to being a 22 ppg guy and do it while being more efficient, he could be the starting shooting guard on a decent team. However, none of this has happened. He remains a talented young player, but without almost any indication he will become more efficient, he is more likely to end up like an early-career Jason Richardson than the centerpiece (or even second option) on a good team. If he doesn’t make the jump this year with an outstanding point guard (Kyle Lowry) and solid supporting cast, he may not go to any level beyond that.

Judging the contract is a little hard since post-Lockout GMs/Owners seem to be just as dumb with contracts as pre-Lockout GMs/Owners. In free agency, DeRozan likely would have received this offer from someone. The Raptors re-signing him likely means that the Raptors were also unwilling to find a trade partner. Just off the top of my head, there are a few teams that would at least field serious offers about DeRozan. The Bucks would likely be interested in re-uniting their current franchise centerpiece (Brandon Jennings) with his childhood running mate. There are certainly enough pieces to make this work, but I think the bottom line is that Toronto wants to win now. They aren’t interested in re-shuffling the deck in hopes of a better mix. Frankly, I agree with them. I have little to no interest in paying DeRozan 10m per year, but they are a pretty solid team right now and they will likely make the playoffs this year.

Jrue Holiday, Phildelphia 76ers: 4 years, $41 million

Jrue is in a somewhat similar situation to DeRozan. He is still young, still has plenty of upside, but he hasn’t made much progress year-to-year. He is a fairly important part of the 76ers plans moving forward, and I suppose continuity is worth some extra money, but he just doesn’t do the things you think he’d do. He is extremely athletic but doesn’t get to the rim in the halfcourt often or get to the line (1.8 FTA/game last year). The Sixers offense liked to run a lot last year, but he still didn’t rack up assists in those minutes. Stats are not everything, but on a team that struggled offensively last year, you’d think he would take a bigger role.

Maybe the best way to view Jrue is alongside two point guards who did not get their extensions: Darren Collison and Brandon Jennings. In Indiana, Collison was a speedy, smart point guard who (until the Orlando series) was slightly subpar on defense and was just kind of underwhelming. He would have magnificent stretches where he would hit his mid-range jumper and be aggressive and make the Pacers offense unstoppable. But for much longer stretches he’d struggle with his mid-range pull-up jumper, lose his aggression and find ways to not make full use of his skill set. When the Pacers swapped him (indirectly) for D.J. Augustin, they got a player who was not as good, but who could utilize his skill set more efficiently than Collison did. I do not watch enough 76ers games to state this outright, but Jrue strikes me as another guy with a skill set he doesn’t use efficiently.

Brandon Jennings didn’t get his extension either. He is a quick, sometimes explosive, guard with a very underrated game as a creator. The defensive-reputation of the Bucks sometimes overshadows that for long stretches last season, the Bucks were an outstanding offensive team, particularly with their passing. Jennings’ inconsistent jump shot and inability to finish in the lane (probably a height and loss-of-hops problem) have been well-documented but not nearly as well as his consistency in running the offense and being a productive player. BUT, once again the issue is efficiency. Can Brandon Jennings do his job on this team? Absolutely. Could a lesser player execute the same sets and bring similar skills at a much lower price? Yes.

That’s what it comes down to for Jrue. This contract is a hope that he becomes a player who can utilize his skill set better and jump up a level in the point guard hierarchy, but if that doesn’t happen, this contract will look fairly bad in 3 years.

Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls: 4 years, $32 million guaranteed w/ 6 million in incentives extra possible (thus the reporting of 4/38m)

Gee, I wonder who has been teaching Gibson how to yell……

Taj Gibson’s deal is a complete departure from the last two guys we talked about. The Bulls frankly couldn’t afford to let Gibson go, and yet they took a very hard line with him. It is no secret that Bulls fans hate Carlos Boozer and that the Bulls have very little interest in keeping him around. Gibson is probably the better player right now even though Chicago’s likely offensive struggles this year will be slightly ameliorated by Boozer’s presence. On the open market, I would think Gibson could get a Millsap-type deal. His offensive game isn’t as refined as Millsap, but his defense is much better and the value of each is likely similar in free agency. I think Bulls fans would have been happy to extend him for 4 years, $48 million, but they got a discount, so a small round of applause for the penny-pinching Reinsdorf.

Other Things I Wanted To Comment On

All-NBA 2012 Second Round Draft Picks

PG: Tyshawn Taylor (BKN)- There weren’t a ton of PGs in the second round that will see significant minutes and I didn’t see Isaiah Thomas (SAC) on this list.

SG: Doron Lamb (MIL)- Plenty of minutes and I am betting on a Monta Ellis trade.

SF: Jae Crowder (DAL)- Hustle, muscle, decent shooting. Marquette connections had to influence on this pick.

SF (because I didn’t want to pick a PF): Darius Miller (NO)- Should see minutes on an exciting team. If I had to pick a PF, it would be Kris Joseph, but he won’t see enough time.

F/C: Kyle O’Quinn (ORL)- Someone has to play well for them, right?

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2010-11 NBA Preview: Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics (50-32 last season)

Don't let their age fool you, they still have what it takes.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Rajon Rondo

Shooting Guard: Ray Allen

Small Forward: Paul Pierce

Power Forward: Kevin Garnett

Center: Jermaine O’Neal

Key Reserves:

Guard: Delonte West

Forward: Glen Davis

Center: Shaquille O’Neal

The Celtics are coming off a great year in which they made it to the finals and lost in Game 7.  They were a surprise to everyone in the playoffs as the No. 4 seed while most people thought the Cavaliers or Magic would make it. The key for the Celtics is to stay healthy.  Five players are 32 years of age or older (Allen, Pierce, Garnett, and both O’Neals) and limiting minutes will have to be in the works for Doc Rivers.  The second unit will also have to be fired up most nights because they are a very important part to the success of the team.  If the Celtics want to make another run at the championship, the entire squad must be healthy and whole in April.

New York Knicks (29-53 last season)

Amar'e is "The Man", but Felton could be the key to the offensive.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Raymond Felton

Shooting Guard: Wilson Chandler

Small Forward: Danilo Gallinari

Power Forward: Amar’e Stoudemire

Center: Timofey Mozgov

Key Reserves:

Guard: Roger Mason Jr.

Guard-Forward: Kelenna Azubuike

Forward: Anthony Randolph

Ok, so no Lebron James for the Knicks, but they did acquire Amar’e Stoudemire who will have to carry this team on his back.  Look for Stoudemire to put up better numbers than he did in Phoenix.  Some people think he won’t play better because Steve Nash is what made him good, but I don’t believe that at all.  Another key addition is spark plug, Raymond Felton.  Felton knows how to win basketball games and will be an improvement from Chris Duhon.  Things are looking up for the Knicks and if Amar’e can stay healthy and his knees don’t give out on him, I believe the Knicks will make the playoffs.

New Jersey Nets (12-70 last season)

Harris and Lopez could be that one, two punch that lead the Nets to victory.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Devin Harris

Shooting Guard: Anthony Morrow

Small Forward: Travis Outlaw

Power Forward: Troy Murphy

Center: Brook Lopez

Key Reserves:

Guard: Jordan Farmar

Guard-Forward: Terrence Williams

Forward: Derrick Favors

Avery Johnson is looking to turn things around for this young New Jersey team.  They aren’t going to blow you away with their offense, so defense must show up for them to win games.  Brook Lopez and Devin Harris are the most important players on the team and having them healthy all season will sway this group into a possible playoff berth.  The Nets will need an incredible season to reach the playoffs but anything can happen.  Give them another couple years, let Derrick Favors get some seasons under his belt and be ready for a powerful Nets team in the future.

Philadelphia 76ers (27-55 last season)

A star in college now has to learn to take a supporting role.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Jrue Holiday

Shooting Guard: Andre Igoudala

Small Forward: Thaddeus Young

Power Forward: Elton Brand

Center: Spencer Hawes

Key Reserves:

Guard: Evan Turner

Guard: Louis Williams

Forward: Andres Nocioni

The first thing that comes to mind when I look at this starting five is that there isn’t a solidified shooter.  Andre Igoudala is probably their best shooter and he isn’t very reliable from outside.  Either Jason Kapono or Jodie Meeks will need to earn a spot in the rotation and provide for them what Kyle Korver used to.  This is a fairly young team and the faster Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner develop their offensive games, the better the Sixers will be.  Elton Brand is a team chemistry destroyer, and this is why I do not see the 76ers having a great season.

Toronto Raptors (40-42 last season)

Can Bargnani show the fans of Toronto why they drafted him number one?

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Jarrett Jack

Shooting Guard: DeMar DeRozen

Small Forward: Linas Kleiza

Power Forward: Reggie Evans

Center: Andrea Bargnani

Key Reserves:

Guard: Jose Calderon

Guard: Leandro Barbosa

Forward: Amir Johnson

The Raptors had a terrible offseason losing Hedo Turkoglu and Chris Bosh.  Their whole team is mixed up and they will most likely be one of the worst teams in the league.  The only positive feeling I can say about this team is that things can only go up after the season starts.  One of their young players will certainly need to step forward with a larger role.  I see that player to be Andrea Bargnani.  He was a number one overall pick and has a really good skill set.  Also look for the Raptors to possibly pick up a star closer towards the trade deadline thanks to their Bosh trade exception.  

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.