2012 NBA Playoffs: Pau Gasol and Key Players to Sport New Jerseys Next Season
The 2012 NBA Playoffs have left some major question marks over a handful of franchises as well as a bad taste in their mouths for some of their players.
Teams, after an all-too-soon exit, have already started the process of restructuring their plan of attack and forming various identities.
The Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers are just two of the teams in the league searching for an answer to return to the NBA playoffs next year and here is a list of key players who will be shipped off and land square in the melee of another franchise in contention.
Nick Young, Los Angeles Clippers
Nick Young, or Swaggy P as he was addressed by Chris Paul during a postgame conference, is actually a decent basketball player despite what his fashion choices may imply.
The league, in general, is headed in a different direction than the heavily tattooed, underwear-revealing bunch the media were becoming annoyed with.
They are all taking that extra step to be stylish as well as court-relevant and no one stands out more off the court than Young.
However, in this summer’s free agency, he will be graded on his performance with the Los Angeles Clippers and it’s not a sure thing that it was the best season to present on his resume.
The Clippers have a large group of core players entering this summer as free agents and Young’s lasting impression of 1-of-4 shooting that concluded the Spurs’ sweep of the Clippers left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
Now that the Clippers have made it public, according to Sports Illustrated, that they are bringing coach Vinny Del Negro back to coach Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, there needs to be a decision made about who to surround them with.
The Clippers have shooters like Mo Williams, a healthy Chris Paul, a hopefully healthy Chauncey Billups and even Randy Foye for fractions of the season when called upon. If Young is not hitting crucial daggers night in and out, he just is not that valuable to the Clippers.
He does not have the consistency to be a starting threat for LA and they could use the money to re-sign players like Kenyon Martin and Reggie Evans to come off of the bench and even maybe go after a defensively present free agent such as Kevin Garnett.
Nick Young is an energetic young player off of the bench, but if the Clippers want to be more than a one-round wonder, they need to surround Griffin and Paul with more than youth and energy.
They need more skill and fluidity.
O.J. Mayo, Memphis Grizzlies
Bench players have become so much more vital to a team’s success than they may have been before, or at least propelled in a much broader and brighter spotlight.
Look at James Harden of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Jason Terry of the Dallas Mavericks and how dominant Manu Ginobili has been as a San Antonio Spurs’ reserve.
O.J. Mayo has had such an impact on the Memphis Grizzlies that fans often forget that he still reserves the position of a player coming off the bench.
Yet, no matter what strides Mayo makes in a game, especially in the NBA Playoffs, the Grizzlies are consistently shopping him to the highest bidder, and have yet to come up with an offer that they can stomach.
Mayo was a key component of last year’s Memphis squad trampling over the Spurs in the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs as the No. 8 seed, hitting key threes in the fourth quarter to boost the Grizzlies in a few instances.
Still, Mayo is as good as gone from Memphis.
Just last year, the Grizzlies’ owner Michael Heisley spoke about his sadness in parting with Mayo before it was widely publicized that a deal with the Indiana Pacers did not go through before the league deadline.
Even after being almost being dealt by the Grizzlies, Mayo continued to play through the season like a trooper and has continued to do so this season despite rumors that his numbers have plummeted and he has become more of a liability to the Grizzlies than an asset.
Mayo could be great coming off of the bench for several teams in the league, but Memphis has already made it clear that the sand has run out on his career in Tennessee.
Ryan Anderson, Orlando Magic
After winning the Most Improved Player of the Year award, Ryan Anderson’s free agency stock has risen a bit.
If Orlando were a simple piece or two away from giving a team like the Miami Heat or the Indiana Pacers a run for their money in next year’s playoffs, then the sentiment might be that the Magic have a healthy chance to bring him along for the ride.
Unfortunately, the Magic are blowing up their organization and rebuilding which may require a chunk of time out of Anderson’s career early on. It may be time that Anderson is not willing to waste.
The NBA has become a league of consistent progression. Whereas there have been rare sightings of parity due to the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers and even the San Antonio Spurs’ spurts of dominance, the league is becoming more and more competitive for multiple squads.
Teams like the Los Angeles Clippers, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Indiana Pacers and especially the Miami Heat are consistently improving their team efforts throughout both the regular and postseasons. Even if the Orlando Magic bring in some solid talent, they will still have to fight through some elite and steadily rising franchises in the Eastern Conference to be considered true contenders.
With Anderson’s heightened value, he will be coveted in the offseason by a few of these already established squads looking for dependable offensive production off of the bench. If Anderson were to leave Orlando, he would no longer be a starter.
He would become a part of the second-unit of a playoff contender and rightfully so.
Anderson is a more refined Mike Miller on the perimeter when it comes to knocking down those open threes. Still, without Dwight Howard to draw the attention away from him towards the paint, Anderson’s inability to create space and his own shot was exposed.
Orlando may want to keep him around, but it rests on Anderson’s shoulders as to whether he is ready to sit back for another three seasons with no chance at a crown.
Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
Dwight Howard did not suit up in the 2012 NBA Playoffs, but his absence during the Orlando-Indiana series was a bigger story than the game itself.
Glen “Big Baby” Davis showed up to play, but the already lacking Magic squad had no chance against the Pacers’ team effort without Howard in a jersey blocking all those easy layups and getting some throwdowns of his own.
He has been the main attraction for Orlando ever since he was drafted in 2004. Lately, whereas the Orlando star has been the smiling face shining over the city, he has become the plague descending upon it.
His antics during the season only fed the fire of trade rumors, which were already coming in hoards. Ever since his free agency stock was evaluated, his rumored behind-the-scenes have become unbearable and have even been the cited as reason for Stan Van Gundy’s firing by the media.
The eerie feeling remains, however, that the removal of both the head coach and general manager Otis Smith is not enough to satisfy Howard and he still wants out of Orlando.
The Magic made a huge mistake in attempting to entice Howard, a center who has yet to fully upgrade his skillset to attain superstar potential, by ridding the franchise of a very solid head coach.
Now, it’s just time to clean house. Otis Smith is gone. Stan Van Gundy is gone. It is time to release the epicenter of confusion. It’s just time to let Howard go.
Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers
“Well, Duncan’s smart.”
That is all that needs to be said about a lot of people’s viewpoint on Bynum. What should be taken away from Perkins’ comments is not that Bynum is stupid.
He can probably count to 10 and as Bryant pointed out, also reads books without pictures in them. It’s his actions despite better judgment that makes him seem idiotic.
He doesn’t listen when coach Mike Brown says, “Don’t take threes.” Bynum would rather explore his options and broaden his game to add an attribute that the Lakers really don’t need from him. Bynum doesn’t seem to key in as consistently as everyone in the Lakers’ organization needs him to, either.
After numerous games this season that the Lakers have lost, Bynum refers to his presence, both offensively and defensively, as being one of the primary factors in a Lakers’ victory.
His level of maturity has been brought into question far too much for a franchise trying to exasperate championship-chasing efforts as Kobe Bryant is closer to the end of his career than his prime.
Bryant has about two more dominant seasons left and for the Lakers to attempt to revise what went wrong this season and give him a chance at ring No. 6 ,there have to be some changes in the mentality of the Lakers’ locker room.
Bynum is an incredible player, but he is not going to shape-shift into everything Bryant needs him to be during his last run.
Therefore, the decision lies with whether the Lakers are trying to give Bryant another chance or hoping to refine Bynum as the future centerpiece of the franchise.
My guess is that they are going for the previous.
Ray Allen, Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics have loved Ray Allen ever since his first season in Boston with both Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. They still love him. The fans still love the level of skill and efficiency that Allen's legacy portrays.
The trouble with Allen recently is that the future Hall of Famer, whose greatest attribute is draining threes, is not draining the world famous threes anymore.
Shots that Allen could make in his sleep have been contorted by the bone spurs in his ankle and he is showing hesitation beyond that three-point arc that fans have rarely seen from him. In Game 7 of the second-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers, Allen appeared to have his mojo back.
He scored eight of his 11 points in the fourth quarter, which included a pair of threes that brought the Boston crowd to their feet.
Against the Miami Heat, in Game 1 of the series, with the excitement and momentum that the Celtics had hoped to keep from Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Celtics showed a sputter of chance and then subsequently sputtered out. As did Allen.
He only scored six points on 1-of-7 field goal shooting, only making one of his four attempted three-pointers. Allen’s run with the C’s is seemingly coming to an end against a young and vital Eastern Conference franchise that may be after him when the season is over.
Boston is heading in another direction, a direction built around Rajon Rondo and maybe even Paul Pierce. Ray Allen is no longer as lethal as he once was, therefore of dwindling value to Boston.
Time to move on.
Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
There is absolutely no option that the Los Angeles Lakers have that does not include shipping Pau Gasol off to another NBA franchise.
After the 2011 NBA playoffs, where Gasol rivaled the perception of LeBron James and his disappearances in the postseason, the Lakers had enough. Gasol was to be shipped off and only remains with the LA franchise by default.
If David Stern had not stepped in and vetoed a trade that brought Chris Paul to the Lakers and sent Gasol packing, this would not be a topic of conversation. However, the Lakers had to fall on their sword and keep their slighted third wheel.
There have been conversations that Gasol serves as the Lakers’ second line of offense, but he only averaged 12.0 points in the Oklahoma City series, even after being called out by Kobe Bryant. This proves that he will never return to the level of play the Lakers have practically begged him to.
Gasol was boggled down throughout the season by the constant trade rumors, which were only fueled by the franchise’s actions before the season even started.
Gasol did not help his stock in Los Angeles and the Lakers have washed their hands of him or at least are in the process of making him someone else’s obligation.