Allen Iverson: 7 Teams Who Should Target the Veteran
For any NBA team crazy enough to still inquire, Allen Iverson would seemingly only bring baggage-infested questions, not answers. No former first-tier NBA star in recent memory experienced a more abrupt, tumultuous and premature downfall than the once-beloved AI.
Detroit told him to go home for the final month of the 2008-09 season after Iverson refused to take a bench seat in favor of Rodney Stuckey.
Memphis terminated his contract after three games (yes, three games) in November 2009 after the "Answer" once again made a stink about coming off the bench.
His beloved Sixers even shelved their charitable effort to resuscitate Iverson's career with two months to go in the 2009-10 season, in the wake of the 2001 MVP's lingering injuries and a supposedly massive underground gambling debt.
Yet almost two years after his final NBA game to date, AI is still only 36 years old. In the wake of ongoing civil and domestic lawsuits, an 800K plus jewelry debt and a shattered reputation, Iverson is in dire need of one last NBA chance.
But would any team be crazy enough to give it to a man who, according to a March 2010 article by Stephen A. Smith in the Philadelphia Inquirer, "numerous NBA teams" believe will "either drink himself into oblivion or gamble his life away"?
Contrary to popular belief, there are crazier ideas than bringing on Iverson for some stretch-drive energy.
He hasn't played an NBA game in two years so his legs are undoubtedly fresh. Like Michael Vick when he first got out of jail, he also has no other options and would undoubtedly play his heart out to at least salvage the gracious opportunity.
Let's not forget, Iverson is also one of the greatest scorers and ball-handlers in the history of the game. While those skills may be diminished, they don't just go away. If AI is finally willing to accept a complementary role, and he'd have no other choice at this point, he could easily put his once-in-a-generation talents to constructive use.
Bill Walton did it with the Celtics towards the end of his career and won a long-awaited second championship in 1986. Alonzo Mourning did the same with Miami towards the end of his career and won a long-awaited first title in 2006.
With a clear head and his priorities (at least slightly) in order, Iverson is too talented not to contribute in similar, energy-spurt fashion. Here are seven teams who should take that chance.
Oklahoma City Thunder
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The loss of backup point guard Eric Maynor to a season-ending torn ACL has left a considerable ball-handling void in Oklahoma City's weakened second unit.
Daequan Cook has never averaged more than an assist per game in four-plus NBA seasons and James Harden is a pure shooting guard (16.8 PPG).
Iverson would not only fill Scott Brooks' bench void at the floor general spot, he could also provide some much needed complementary scoring for OKC's big three.
Combined, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden are averaging over 65 points per game this season, the highest of any trio in the NBA.
But outside of Serge Ibaka (8.1 ppg.), no other Thunder player averages above six points per contest.
Los Angeles Lakers
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Not since they acquired Pau Gasol in 2008 to be Kobe's low-post wingman have the Lakers been in such dire need of a specific player.
A point guard is supposed to ignite the engine on both ends of the floor. On defense, he creates turnovers. On offense, he sets up easy baskets and stretches the defense with his ability to penetrate or stroke it from the outside.
At this point, Derek Fisher would look slow in a nursing home rec-league. The Lakers are reaping the fallout.
No team generates fewer turnovers or shoots a lower percentage from beyond the arc. Which is as much of a result of Fisher's inability to draw the defense as his fading outside jumper (35.2 field goal percentage is his lowest since 1999-00).
Like Oklahoma City, L.A. has also struggled to generate offense outside its big three. Together, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum are averaging over 60 points per game. But no other Laker puts in more than seven per contest.
This would not only be a chance to contribute on multiple levels for Iverson, it would even be a chance to start given L.A.'s lack of depth.
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Houston's surprising 16-12 start is good enough for sixth in the early, jam-packed Western Conference seeding race.
But without a first, second or even third-tier star, Rick Adelman's team has gone largely unnoticed.
In the meantime, the NBA masses are missing out on one of the best emerging trios of young guards in the league.
Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin and Courtney Lee have combined for almost half of the team's scoring output, as all three average in double figures.
Martin is the go-to scorer (17.7 ppg.). Lee is the go-to gunner (46 percent from the field). Lowry is the puppet master who runs the show on both ends of the floor (7.6 apg., 2.1 spg.).
But Lee and Martin don't really have any combo guard in them and Jonny Flynn (just seven games played) is buried deeper in the doghouse than Cujo.
As a result, the Rockets need a ball-handler to spell Lowry (over 34 minutes per game) and keep him fresh. If he can keep his head on straight, Iverson could even act as a mentor (gasp) to a Philly kid (Lowry) who probably grew up idolizing him.
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Raja Bell is nothing more than a motor-mouthed Willie Green. He was lucky to start during his time in Phoenix. The fact that he's still a starting player on an NBA roster is downright embarrassing.
With Devin Harris struggling from the field, the Jazz have easily the worst guard play in a guard dominated league. When you're depending on the likes of Bell, Earl Watson and Alec Burks, the addition of Iverson, who can probably cross up all those guys at age 36, would provide a much-needed spark.
Utah also features a slew of athletic frontcourt players like Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derek Favors. Historically, these are the only types of teammates Iverson has been able to play with.
He thrived with Theo Ratliff early in his Sixers career and made Jumaine Jones (Who? Exactly.) look like an All-Star during Philly's 2001 Finals run.
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Speaking of athletic frontcourt stalwarts, Josh Smith is the gold standard bearer in that department. At the same time, no recent contender has experienced more instability at the point guard slot than Atlanta.
Jeff Teague (12.3 ppg., 4.7 apg.) has solidified the position for now, but he has no backup insurance amongst Atlanta's slew of has-been shooting guards in Tracy McGrady, Kirk Hinrich and Willie Green.
The Hawks brought in Mike Bibby a few years ago for their playoff run because of his past experience in big games.
Doing the same with Iverson could pay major second unit dividends this spring, especially on an athletic roster well-catered to AI's style of play.
While this one may make Sixers fans cringe, they can feel better knowing that AI would be in a more diminished role with Boston than any of the other teams on this list.
But Doc Rivers' team still needs to solidify its backcourt depth if the Celtics are going to turn on the jets for the stretch run.
Right now, the Celts have just two natural guards who play significant minutes off the bench.
Neither Avery Bradley (4 ppg., 1.2 apg.) nor Keyon Dooling (6 ppg., 1 apg.) is a significant enough contributor to sway GM Danny Ainge from making a move.
He's also had success with rejuvenated veteran guards in the past, as Sam Cassell was a prime contributor (12.6 mpg.) off the bench during Boston's 2008 title run.
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Given Washington's piss-poor team attitude, this would likely be a gamble for the ages.
But in acquiring Iverson, the Wizards would get a player who was very similar to franchise cornerstone John Wall as a young player and who walked into a very similar losing culture as Washington's with the late '90's Sixers.
Iverson didn't merely accept the situation he walked into as a young player, he embraced it and fueled a quick and underrated franchise resurgence that culminated in Philadelphia's 2001 run to the NBA Finals.
Wall could learn a thing or two from this historical example, if Iverson is willing to teach and mentor him. While that's a big "if," it wouldn't be out of the question if the "Answer" could start and take 15 shots a game in the meantime.
Which he undoubtedly could on the putrid Wizards.