Orlando Summer League

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.

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Three Players to Watch (Boston Celtics)

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. 

1. Avery Bradley 

Last season proved to be a growing year for Bradley as he became a much more impactful piece to the Celtics puzzle. Provided with more playing time and trust from Head Coach Doc Rivers the Celtics combo guard turned some major weaknesses into some potential strengths this coming season. Having always been a great on-ball defender, Bradley improved his shooting stroke. In specific he showed a more consistent ability to hit the corner three ball and forced defenses to respect his off the dribble midrange game. It’s also worth noting that these are two improvements that “regular season” Rondo has yet to display. While there’s no debate Rondo is far and beyond the better ball handler, Avery is giving his Celtics coaching staff flexibility when it comes to using newly signed veteran Jason Terry. It’s likely Bradley will be given the head nod as the starting shooting guard, allowing Terry to continue to do what he does best as the sixth man. NBA fans should keep a close eye on Avery’s progress next year. He’s the league’s best on-ball defender when pressuring full court and to see him also add an offensive game is a joy to watch if you’re a fan of following player development.

2. Jared Sullinger

Sullinger couldn’t be in a better situation…

Dropping as low as Sullinger did in the draft was huge blessing in disguise for one of the best players college basketball had to offer last season. Getting in with the tradition of Celtics basketball is a perfect fit for the young power forward and being mentored by one of best power forward’s in league history won’t hurt him either. If he can avoid the injuries, Sullinger has a chance to provide a big impact in year one and will be counted upon to contribute on the offensive side of the floor. The Celtics are hoping that he can exceed the level of play of both Brandon Bass and former Celtic Leon Powe combined. Considering what the young big man did at the college level and in Orlando Summer League it looks as it that won’t be too hard to live up too as he begins his journey in the NBA.

3. Kris Joseph

Joseph will get his chance to be a contributor off the Celtics bench

Don’t sleep on this experienced college player who’s proven to be a winner at the college level. Yes, he didn’t have the most impressive college numbers, no he didn’t have the most impressive summer league, but as the current roster stands he will be counted upon to help fill some minutes while the aging Paul Pierce rests. Having a great support system around him in Pierce, Rondo, and Garnett can pay huge dividends in Joseph’s first year success. He definitely will get his chance to prove he not only belongs in the league, but also prove he can provide a positive impact on the team from day one.

 

The Thunder Roll On With Ibaka Extension

The summer months are coming to end. As a direct result the NBA world’s free agency buzz is slowly dying, which leads to many teams having advanced discussions with agents regarding contract extensions. On bigger level our world as a whole is currently facing with the ongoing monsoon season. The Oklahoma City Thunder agreeing upon a reported 4-year, $40+ million dollar extension with Serge Ibaka is the perfect compliment to both.

There’s certainly plenty of room for Harden to fit alongside Westbrook & Durant, but the luxury tax issues may say otherwise…

The Thunder have struck again, successfully locking up Ibaka alongside Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant for the team’s bright road ahead. While it’s safe to say the Thunder organization is in good shape for the next 3 to 4 years, one big issue remains in question: Will they have enough cap flexibility to also re-sign emerging guard James Harden as well?

For now the debate remains to whether or not it can be done, but in the meantime the Thunder have taken another giant step in the right direction. Deciding to extend Ibaka before Harden was a brilliant move and here are 3 reasons why:

1. Reggie Jackson:

One of the bigger, if not the biggest, mystery prospect was Jackson when the athletic, 3-year guard from Boston College entered his name in the 2011 NBA Draft. After suffering a knee injury in pre-draft process Jackson pulled out of his remaining scheduled workouts that left many team evaluators questioning his draft stock value. Having a ton of draft success momentum behind them (having previously drafted Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, and Harden) the Thunder tested their luck again hoping that Jackson would be the steal of the draft when they selected him 24th overall.

Receiving little playing time as a rookie this past season, Jackson only saw the floor in 45 games averaging 11.1 minutes per outing. In this small window of opportunity Jackson failed to impress scoring 3.1 ppg on just 32.1% shooting from the field. However, Jackson raised a ton of eyebrows with his play in the Orlando Summer League this past month. While his shooting percentage hasn’t improved drastically (41.2% FG) Jackson did display many improvements and his athleticism helped find himself on the nightly summer league highlight reels.

If Jackson can continue to show steady improvements and maturity in his game, he can certainly help the Thunder determine the value/priority of giving Harden a big payday. Having already locked up Westbrook long-term it’s not out of the question to consider a backcourt tandem of Jackson/Westbrook that helps the team avoid a luxury tax nightmare.

2. Perry Jones III:

A similar theme arises when examining the Thunder’s latest first round draft selection in Jones III. The Baylor product’s future as an NBA player included many question marks, which undoubtedly made him this year’s biggest mystery in the NBA Draft. Considered to be a potential top five talent, the Thunder considered Jones III a no-brainer when it came time for their 28th overall pick.

Although Jones’s summer league performances weren’t quite the results the Thunder were surely hoping for; the team definitely feels optimistic about his potential. If OKC is able to groom 6’11, 20 year-old power forward they may be willing to trade Kendrick Perkins which would enable them to start either Jones III or veteran Nick Collision at the power forward position and move Ibaka to the center spot. This particular trade scenario would significantly increase the team’s ability to resign Harden. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, but the idea of a starting line-up that possibly could consist of: Westbrook/Harden/Durant/Jones III/Ibaka is pretty scary. Talk about a high octane, up-tempo, run and gun game!

3.  Hollis Thompson:

It’s more than fair to call this one a long shot, but it’ll be interesting to follow the development of Thompson. While the junior Georgetown product went undrafted this past June, Thompson does deserve some consideration as a possible piece to the Thunder’s future. After all, we’re talking about a 6’8, 21 year-old swingman who shot 46.4% from the field, including 43% from downtown as the go-to player on his team in the very tough Big East conference. If there’s one undrafted swingmen that might have a chance to find similar success to that of Portland’s Wesley Matthews, it’s Thompson.

In closing, it’s important to keep in mind that in no way are these points big enough reasons to shrug off trying to resign James Harden. Rather these points just strengthen the fact that losing a key piece like Harden may not be the end of the world for the Thunder’s title chances for years to come. Making the Ibaka extension the first priority was the right call as the Thunder organization continues to roll and the team can hope the lightening can strike big with their young prospects mentioned above.

Ross Geiger’s 2010-2011 Most Underrated Rookie Team

Eric Bledsoe will be the best of the two Clippers' rookies

PG: Eric Bledsoe, Los Angeles Clippers

Obviously, Bledsoe starts the year off as the primary backup point guard for the LA Clippers. But he’s only just one Baron Davis-injury-away from becoming LA’s starting point guard. While we wish Baron the best for a completely healthy upcoming season, Clippers fans have a lot to look forward to in Bledsoe. At Kentucky, he flew below the radar and was overshadowed by fellow Wildcat John Wall. After Wall was selected first overall in the 2010 draft, Bledsoe was the definite best available point guard in this year’s draft class. He’s got the size, strength, quickness, and a springy step to his compliment his on court play. Often compared to Marcus Banks, I believe NBA scouts set the bar pretty low for Bledsoe as I see him easily being able to surpass Banks’s career.

Pacers coaches will have to keep a close eye on Stephenson

SG: Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers

Despite his demeanor and off the court troubles, Stephenson’s game is very underrated. He proved that this summer in Orlando Summer League as he showed his potential at both the point guard and shooting guard positions. If not for his off-the-court behavior, Stephenson is a definite lock as a first round pick. While he didn’t overly impress anyone at the college level, Stephenson’s style suits the NBA level of play better. Already in legal trouble even before the start of his rookie season, Stephenson’s NBA career remains in question. But one thing’s for certain, behavior aside, Stephenson is absolutely a second round steal that could become a very successful player in this league.

Pondexter's game will definitely be elevated behind the play of CP3

SF: Quincy Pondexter, New Orleans Hornets

To begin the season, Pondexter likely will be buried deep on the Hornets’ depth chart, but by the end of the season watch him find some minutes. With the Hornets’ offseason acquisition of Trevor Ariza, Pondexter’s best bet is to battle for time at the shooting guard position. His competition for backup time is Marco Belinelli, a player who seems he just can’t transition his promising Summer League games to the NBA’s main stage. After getting a good look at Pondexter in Las Vegas, I like the potential I see in him becoming a solid pro.

Caracter is in a great spot with the back-to-back champs

PF: Derrick Caracter, Los Angeles Lakers

Coming off a very impressive and productive Las Vegas Summer League performance, Derrick Caracter’s stock has definitely soared. Moving forward Caracter is in a great position with the LA Lakers. They have no expectations for him next season, no pressure to produce, and he’ll be practicing against some of the best bigs in the business: Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom, Theo Ratliff, and Pau Gasol. Each of these guys can offer experiences, skills, and a give Caracter a lesson on how he can find his niche in the NBA. More likely than not, Caracter will be that young guy that comes in a blowout and goes to work hard, impressing on National TV coverage. He’ll let the world know who he is and what he has to offer in the near future.

Lean, Mean, Shot Blocking Machine

C: Hassan Whiteside, Sacramento Kings

When it comes to Hassan Whiteside it’s all about the “what could be”. He’s been my favorite prospect in the past draft class and continues to keep me wondering how good he actually may become. Going into his first year he’s got a lot of obstacles and challenges that await. I’ve talked with a variety of sources that have seen Whiteside and the majority of them give me negative feedback. But I remain on the other side of the fence with Whiteside. He’s young, he’s unpolished, and isn’t ready to step out on the court for consistent contributions, but he’s going to impress once he gets his chances. The majority of his first year will be spent in the Developmental League where he has a chance to grow as pro and develop his defensive minded game. If Whiteside can learn how to be an effective rebounder to go along with his incredible shot blocking ability, he’s going to be an impressive defensive gem down the road.

This is Part 4 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 5 that’s coming soon! In the mean time, follow Ross Geiger on Twitter: @RossGeiger.

Ross Geiger’s 2010-2011 All-Rookie First Team

Wall will be well rounded on the nightly stat sheet

PG: John Wall, Washington Wizards

Believe it or not, as good as John Wall is, his numbers will suffer much like the “Miami Heat syndrome”. With both Kirk Hinrich and Gilbert Arenas on board, his numbers across the board may suffer but that’s perfectly okay. Having two solid, veteran guards around the top pick will help develop his overall game and they should help relieve some of the pressure.

’10-’11 Projections: 17.5 ppg, 5 apg, 4 rpg

Could earn a opening night starting nod

SG: Paul George, Indiana Pacers

After watching the Pacers play in Orlando Summer League, I got to say I thought Lance Stephenson would start, but since then a variety of different things took place. The Pacers acquired Darren Collision, Brandon Rush was suspended 5 games, and the biggest issue was of course Stephenson getting in trouble with the law. After digesting all that took place in the course of just one month, it looks as though Paul George will have a nice opportunity to earn the starting shooting guard spot to start off the season. If George does in fact beat out Dahntay Jones for the starting role, expect to see George put up a fairly decent line. The biggest concern with George is retaining some consistency game-to-game he struggled to keep his shooting touch throughout Summer League, but that’s common among many rookies. If he does in fact earn a 1st Team honor at the end of the season, his numbers won’t overly impress you but his value to his team’s success could play a big factor if the Pacers make noise next season.

’10-’11 Projections: 9.5 ppg, 5 rpg, 1.5 apg

Wolves must make room for Johnson to join the starting lineup

SF: Wesley Johnson, Minnesota Timberwolves

Even with the offseason addition of Martell Webster and Michael Beasley, the Wolves will find time for their top pick in Wesley Johnson. Say so long and farewall to former Wolves lotto-pick Corey Brewer, he’ll remain on the trading block until someone bites. Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if David Kahn ends up packaging Kevin Love along with Brewer. Earlier this summer Love told the media he didn’t feel appreciated in Minnesota and he may continue to feel that way if Beasley turns his career around with the Timberwolves. Look for Kurt Rambis to move Beasley to the power forward position, allowing Johnson to operate in the starting small forward role.

’10-’11 Projections: 11.5 pgg, 5.5 rpg, 1.5 apg

Monroe will shine in Detroit, could be the overall team difference maker

PF: Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons

Quite possibly my pick for the 2011 NBA Rookie of the Year, Why? There’s no doubt Greg Monroe will be in the Pistons’ starting five next season. Preferably at the power forward spot, but with Charlie Villanueva on board, it may force Monroe to move to the center. But nonetheless, Monroe was very impressive in Las Vegas Summer League and looks to be a NBA-ready force that can make big contributions during his rookie season. If Monroe can live up to my words, the Pistons might not be so bad after all.

’10-’11 Projections: 14.5 ppg, 7 rpg, 4.5 apg

Cousins will answer all questions on the floor, no need to ask him any

C: DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings

Although the Kings frontcourt is filled with talent, DeMarcus Cousins is the cream of the crop. His size, strength, talent, and potential are unmatched in the post. Much like Tyreke Evans, Cousins should find success as the newest member of the Sacramento Kings. Definitely will be in the Rookie of the Year discussion at the end of the season.

’10-’11 Projections: 16 ppg, 6 rpg, 1 apg

This is Part 3 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.

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.