Friday, June 29, 2012
Who is grabbing the headlines?
The Finals are over and the draft is a wrap, but that doesn't mean things in the NBA are slowing down. With free agency and the Olympics around the corner, our 5-on-5 crew weighs in on the latest happenings.
1. Anthony Davis will be ...
A. a defensive star.
B. a superstar.
C. a disappointment.
Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: A. Although I reject the idea that offense matters more than defense. To me, Andre Iguodala is a superstar, you know? Just harder to notice. Therefore A and B can be true together. But no, I don't assume Anthony Davis will average 25 a game anytime soon.
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: A. Defensive star and that's plenty. Bill Russell averaged only 15 points per game and he's got trophies named after him. Scoring from Davis will be a bonus. Let's see what kind of low post moves he develops.
Beckley Mason, ESPN.com: B. His futuristic defense, especially when paired with Monty Williams, is a given. But I'm also optimistic about Davis' diverse offensive game. His skills and athletic ability make you wonder if, seven years from now, there will be anything he can't do.
David Thorpe, Scouts Inc.: A. But it's a trick question. A lot depends on how well that franchise is run over the next few years. If the new owner lets them be, I like his chances to become a terrific all-around player, but not a true "super". If they bring in poor execs or coaches down the road, all bets are off.
Justin Verrier, ESPN.com: B. Davis was the most dominant college center I've seen since maybe Tim Duncan, and he's only a 19-year-old freshman who has had two or three years to get used to a body that underwent a size shift rivaled only by Rick Moranis' shrunken kids. (And he already has better control of it than Andre Drummond, who has been mammoth his whole life.) Sky's the limit.
2. Which is more true of Austin Rivers, drafted by the Hornets to play PG?
A. Rivers' highly assertive style will be a huge asset for the Hornets.
B. Rivers will take too many shots away from Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis.
Abbott: B. He is clear his dream is to have a huge impact, which will be a challenge without dominating the rock. Meanwhile, undersized rookie gunners are just about never efficient. So there'll be a learning curve. Which is just how it was with, say, young Russell Westbrook. It's no crisis on a rebuilding team.
Adande: A ... although B will be an issue that flares up. That's something for Monty Williams to figure out. The bigger issue is for defenses to
worry about stopping Rivers AND Davis AND Gordon next year. Opponents didn't have to sweat anything like that last season.
Mason: A. The Hornets won't run the offense through Davis, who took the fifth-most shots for Kentucky last year, for at least a few seasons. After Gordon, who else on the Hornets needs a bunch of shots? There will be enough to go around; the issue will be whether Rivers can use his shots efficiently.
Thorpe: A. It's hard for me to believe that Rivers will choose to be a bad player. And selfish players are bad players, with very few exceptions. He will learn, ultimately, how to blend his talents with his teammates and play "we ball," not "me ball."
Verrier: A. Before Davis sprouted into a behemoth, Rivers was widely viewed as the gem of his high school class. A quick trigger and an oversized bravado are concerning, but his pedigree and ability to get to the line suggest he should help, even if it's in an instant-offense reserve role. Worst-case: He'll help Davis' offensive rebounding numbers.
3. If you're the Clippers, who would you rather have?
A. Mo Williams
B. Lamar Odom
Abbott: With no disrespect to either ... does it matter? Mo Williams did well to be an average player. Lamar had one of the worst seasons ever. Whoever's cheaper, I guess?
Adande: B. Lamar Odom. Mo Williams became expendable with the rise of Eric Bledsoe and the possible return of Chauncey Billups. Meanwhile, Lamar can fill in for Kenyon Martin and/or Blake Griffin. Now the Clippers have frontcourt offense besides Blake Griffin. As long as the Clippers can deal with the TMZ factor.
Mason: B. Lamar Odom. Williams just couldn't hang defensively in the playoffs last year, when Eric Bledsoe was often the Clippers' third-best player. Odom will be the Clips' sixth man, Williams their fourth- or fifth-best guard.
Thorpe: B under Phil Jackson, A under Vinny. It's that simple.
Verrier: B. The bottom fell out on Odom last season, both personally and professionally, but he's still a year removed from being the league's top sixth man and he fills a glaring need in the Clips' frontcourt. L.A. also has a glut of guards and Williams has been surly about being relegated to the second unit for some time. Worth the risk.
4. Who's the best candidate to replace Dwyane Wade on Team USA?A. Rudy Gay
B. Eric Gordon
C. James Harden
D. Andre Iguodala
Abbott: D. If nothing else to honor my answer to question No. 1. Of course, Harden would be amazing, too, and his shooting would be extra-handy in the land of the short 3-point line.
Adande: C. He's the most versatile offensively. Kobe and LeBron can handle the defensive duties that Iguodala would be assigned, and Gay and Gordon aren't as skilled at passing as Harden. Plus Harden will be in atonement mode after those Finals.
Mason: D. Team USA is going to be small as it is, so replace a guard with a great athlete. Iguodala is the best defender left in the pool and can guard most power forwards team USA will face. With Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook in the backcourt, it would be wise to bolster the frontcourt and defense.
Thorpe: C. Remember, Wade came off the bench for that team of Gold, and was spectacular in providing energy and scoring. Something Harden is already so accustomed to. His passing skills will help a great deal, too.
Verrier: C. Versatility is key in international play, particularly in Olympic years when you're merely trying to fit pieces around stalwarts like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, etc. Harden has spent the past year and a half changing roles based on the lineup he's in, and, NBA Finals notwithstanding, his forte is making the most of limited shot opportunities.
5. Who's the best candidate to replace Chris Bosh on Team USA?
A. Anthony Davis
B. DeMarcus Cousins
C. Lamar Odom
Abbott: B. Anthony Davis would be a great choice, and I'd be thrilled for him. But I really feel that DeMarcus Cousins is at an inflection point of his career. He has earned this kind of spot with his play, and this kind of big, meaningful endorsement from the basketball establishment might be a nudge in the right direction for a player toying with leaving his rocky reputation behind.
Adande: C. He was the second-most valuable player on the 2010 World Championship team (after Kevin Durant). Brings the international experience that Cousins and Davis lack. Plus, he wouldn't quit on the entire country the way he quit on the Mavs, would he? (*Checks inbox for angry Mark Cuban email*)
Mason: C. I think Bosh's replacement should be chosen for the expressed purpose of banging with the Gasol brothers in the medal rounds and that's a task for which Cousins is well-suited. But Odom can hold his own with guys like LeBron James rotating to help, and, like Bosh, can make enough jump shots to open up the paint a bit on offense. I'll take Odom, but it's really close.
Thorpe: C. Odom wants to reclaim his place in the league, and Coach K is a perfect coach for him. Neither of the other two guys are even remotely ready to help the team defend the crown.
Verrier: B. Odom needs to get his house in order and Davis would just end up getting Laettner'd. After quietly breaking out as a sophomore, Cousins' brutish style would give the team some toughness, even if it might muck up the game's up-and-down beauty a bit. At the very least, we'd get to listen to his postgame quotes and watch him interact with Blake Griffin for a summer.