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Rookie Watch: Best Of 19
When evaluating players, there are dozens of variables to consider. But the one that tends to be forgotten the most by fans -- yet treasured by NBA executives -- is the player's age.
Teams consider age for two main reasons: 1) It helps explain the player's success in college, and 2) it shows how long the player has to make big jumps in production.
The top targets are always young players who are big producers. After that, teams value young players who are solid but have the physical/skill trajectory of a much better player; their youth provides them more time to develop.
As has been discussed in these reports numerous times, a player's trajectory -- his upside -- is best realized when he is in his best environment for growth. The team may or may not be good, but the opportunity for development must be there. Many times, of course, it is not. So when we project how a player is going to perform over time, that has to be taken into account.
Simulating The West Playoff Race
As we approach the NBA All-Star break, the playoff picture should be clearing up. Instead, after the top two teams, the Western Conference race is as muddled as ever. With the help of simulating the remainder of the season a thousand times, let's take a look at what the numbers say about who will end up where when the music stops in April.
Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs
With the Los Angeles Clippers slumping, it has become a familiar two-team race for home-court advantage throughout the West playoffs, with San Antonio once again claiming the role of favorite. Oklahoma City has the slightly better point differential (plus-8.8 points per game versus plus-8.5), but when we account for schedule, the Spurs move just ahead of the Thunder. Add in the Spurs' 1.5-game lead in the standings and they land the No. 1 seed in 63 percent of simulations.
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Grading Key Celtics And Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, the league's two most storied franchises, have much in common, with a ceiling full of championship banners and retired jerseys of Hall of Famers creating sky-high expectations annually. This season they share another, less-welcome distinction: They're two of the year's most disappointing teams.
Both have been dealt injury blows, with the Celtics losing Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger for the season and the Lakers' Jordan Hill and Pau Gasol out indefinitely. But there's still time -- albeit very little -- to turn their respective ships around. Indeed, Boston already has seemingly adjusted, riding a five-game winning streak.
So let's key in on five players for each team (omitting Rondo, Gasol, Hill and Sullinger as they all -- save maybe Gasol -- will play no role going forward). We've graded their performances thus far and identified an adjustment they need to make to keep their postseason hopes alive.
The Return Of Kevin Garnett
In a sense, this is what the Boston Celtics were supposed to be in the first place.
Remember when Kevin Garnett first landed in Boston five years ago? The Celtics' new golden era was about to be ushered in, reigned over by Garnett -- then one of the league's five best players -- longtime Boston captain Paul Pierce and the best long-range shooter in league history in Ray Allen.
We didn't know how the lineup was going to work out. Young center Kendrick Perkins had come straight out of high school in Houston and hadn't really found a niche. Young point guard Rajon Rondo showed promise, but with the new big three dominating the ball, we weren't sure how such a poor shooter would fit in the lineup.