Submitted by Mat MacDonald for Hoops Talk Nation
Follow Mat on Twitter
Excuse my absence, it’s been a while. Through sunshine and heat waves, it’s been hard to stay inside and watch ball, but with the Olympics around the corner and the Lakers setting summer league records for the largest margin of defeat, I figured it was time to break out of my hibernation and jump back on The Breakdown!
A lot has happened in the past two months. The Heat are NBA champs – tell me you didn’t see that coming. I have to be honest, it’s great to see Chris Bosh with an NBA title. Yes, call me a homer, but there’s something about that guy that’s always made me want to see him as a winner. And LeBron James? Well, there’s no question that the man is by far the best player in the game today. What LeBron did in the playoffs is something that won’t be matched for a long time – until he does it again.
Hats off to Kevin Durant and the Thunder for their impressive run, as well. It’s funny, there were so many critiques that appeared after losses, but seemed to hide during victories when it came to the Thunder. Russell Westbrook is a top five NBA point guard, book it. I’ve said for the past two years that the guy has unlimited potential and is by far one of the best. Yes, he’s a little fast, takes some crazy shots, and at times, has questionable decision making, but where is OKC without him? Please, the kid can play. And how about James Harden? Was he exposed in the finals? Does he deserve that max-contract? Personally, it’s hard to determine someone’s value through one series. You need to look at the bigger picture and break down what Harden has done in his career and if he deserves a big pay day. In comparison, Harden and DeMar DeRozan put up similar numbers both averaging just above 16 points per-game (Harden 16.3, DeRozan 16.7) yet Harden is the reigning sixth man of the year while DeMar DeRozan is coming off another year of being the franchise player next to Andrea Bargnani. So, does that mean DeMar deserves a max deal? Absolutely not. Value can mean more than substance, but for the Thunder’s sake, hopefully they getting a good bang for their buck.
The NBA Draft was a night to remember. In what may have been one of the more spontaneous drafts in recent history, we saw guys drop in the rankings, rise in the rankings, surprise picks, and the ever-so-frequent confusing Raptors pick. Breaking it down, here are a few notes that popped in my head from the draft:
The Bobcats took their second pick and got a stud. MKG can flat out play. It’s tough to know who’s a good fit in Charlotte since they can’t seem to fit in themselves, but man, with Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba and Ben Gordon on the same team, there’s going to be some offensive explosions. If MKG can learn to shoot the ball, he has a serious shot at being an All-Star some day and turning himself into the player that the Bobcats front office imagine him being.
Bradley Beal is a killer. Watching him play in his first few games for Washington in the Vegas Summer League, it’s clear that he’s going to be a marquee player for the Wizards this season. His motor is great, he doesn’t get tired, and he continues to attack teams late in games when most players would start to sit back and relax. I like what he brings to that team, and trust me, Washington is going to need him. It’ll be interesting to see what the Wizards do this year. This will be John Wall’s third season, the expectations are rising again, and there really is no more excuse for them to continue ‘rebuilding’. All Washington needs now is for Ernie Grunfeld to come out of retirement and dawn the 23. Wait a second…
Toronto’s pick of Terrance Ross at eight was a little surprising to almost, well, everybody, but President and GM Bryan Colangelo said that he was their man, so we’ll stick with that for now. While he may have been taken a little high in the draft, Ross certainly has the ability to be an NBA player. Watching his first few summer league games, he’s shown spurts of greatness, and at the same time, youth. His ability to shoot should help him stick in the league for a while, but he has to be able to maintain his consistency when he’s tired. His mental game seems to fall off as the quarters get deeper and his minutes rise. If he can consistently hit jumpers in transition and starts to take his athleticism to the rim instead of patrolling the perimeter, Ross could be a solid weapon off the bench this season for Toronto. His long frame and quick feet make him a contender for minutes, especially for the defensive minded Dwayne Casey, but he still needs to develop his body and polish his game. Heck, it’s his first summer league before his rookie season, he has time.
The Boston Celtics picked up a few big name college players, but will they turn out to be big name NBA players? Fab Melo, Jared Sullinger and Kris Joseph all had great NCAA careers, but will their game carry over to the NBA? Out of all three, I think that Sullinger has the most potential to succeed, while Melo’s size will help him stick somewhere in the NBA. I can’t see Kris Joseph sticking with Boston because of his position, but there’s a spot for him on a team in the NBA.
Speaking of Canadians, Andrew Nicholson landed with the Orlando Magic in the lottery on draft night. What a great pick-up and a great personality addition to a completely dysfunctional and out of sync Orlando team. With coach and general manager Dwight Howard running the show, Andrew should see himself shine in the spotlight of trade rumors and childish games. IF he’s able to get away from that, I can see him having a solid career. He’s a good inside-outside player, can shoot the ball and is starting to handle it a little bit. Along with his game, the kid is SMART. Majoring in physics is no easy task, let alone graduating. Hats off to Andrew for finishing school and getting his degree before heading to the league. Interesting note on Andrew, he was almost a member of St. Francis Xavier in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. I think he made the right decision. As for the other Canadians that landed in the draft, the aforementioned Kris Joseph landed with the Boston Celtics in the second round while Rob Sacre, the beast from British Columbia, was chosen 60th overall by the Lakers – a spot that would make most people cringe. Not surprisingly, Sacre’s come in and worked his tail off for the Lakers. Disregard last night’s 50-point thumping by the Heat, and you’ll see that Sacre had nine points in 32 minutes. And hey, he wants to get Kobe another ring, why wouldn’t they want him?
With free-agent madness starting to pick up, the next month will be interesting. Most of the big names have already landed, but there’s still time for trades to go down. A lot of fans north of the border are looking forward to what the Raptors have planned. With Kyle Lowry in, it looks like Jose Calderon’s time may be up with Toronto. While many fans have mixed emotions on the Spaniard, it’s hard to shoot him down. He’s given Toronto 100% all the time and hasn’t quit on the team. Through trade rumors and countless discussions about if he belongs or not in the league, he’s been a true professional, and he’s a heck of a point-guard. He has a future in the league, and a lot of the elite teams are taking a serious look at Jose. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him land in Dallas or Atlanta. That being said, Toronto now takes on the task of working with Kyle Lowry and finding him a suitable backup. Who knows what this off-season really has in store for Toronto? Landry Fields was a great addition in my opinion, but it’s hard to justify that when you’re paying another team’s 11th man $10 million a season. While it was a move at the time to try and throw off the Knicks and hurt their chances in signing Steve Nash, I think it’s clear that the Knicks may have the Raptors’ number on this one. Hopefully for Landry, it all works out. Sorry, Spike, it’s time to retire that jersey.
And finally, what kind of a Canadian would I be without touching on the whole Steve Nash situation? The newly crowned general manager of Canada Basketball had no choice but to bring his talents back to Canada and lead the Raptors to the playoffs and eventually an NBA Finals appearance, right? Wrong. While the story sounded nice and the country was buzzing, Nash decided to do what was best for his career and title hopes – go to a contender. While a lot of fans are and were upset with the decision, you have to ask yourself, why? Nash owes nothing to Canada, or Toronto for that matter. He’s not from Ontario, he never said that he planned on playing for Toronto, and he decided to take less money in hopes of winning an NBA championship. He currently holds the longest streak of playoff games without a finals appearance, and he’s 38 years-old. Call me crazy, but this seems like a no brainer.
It’s July, August is around the corner, then before you know it, it’s training camp time. It’s an exciting time for basketball fans. Sit back and enjoy the Olympics, it should be a good one…