With a week of NBA basketball out of the way I figured it was time to write about a few observations I have made about the season so far. I will continue to update this column every week with storylines that I feel have been significant over the last week. I welcome all feedback and would love to hear how you feel about this week’s NBA action.
1. Greg Oden
I was excited to see how Oden’s game would translate to the NBA last year so when the Blazers played on opening night I was more than ready to see what he was made of. Much to my dismay, Oden was limping up and down the court a few minutes into the game after “tweaking” his ankle in the first quarter. I have never expected Oden to be a dominant scoring force, but if the league kept stats for taking up space and altering shots then I’m sure Oden could be top five in that category every year. There’s enough offense in Portland anyway and Oden is going to help the most with rebounds and defense.
I’m not ready to call him injury-prone just yet; to me it just seems like he has yet to get comfortable with his size. In high school he was so much bigger than his competition that it didn’t matter what he did because nobody could stop him. Now that he’s in the NBA we can see more flaws in his game because he is no longer a giant among the rest. He is still somewhat of a raw talent but the rest of his team is going through growing pains as well. I still see him as worthy of the No. 1 pick last year and I’m still excited to see what he can do in Portland once he gets healthy.
2. The Rookies
I guess I could have included Greg Oden in this section but I’m focusing on the 2008 draft class. Derrick Rose has looked strong in his first few games and is leading all rookies in scoring at 17.3 points per outing but there’s some buzz that his great play is coming at the expense of the team. The Bulls are more fun to watch this season but they are still badly in need of low post scoring and their glut of wing players hasn’t done enough to hide the lack of depth down low in Chicago.
Michael Beasley got off to a slow start in Miami but has begun to come on lately. He’s just behind Rose in scoring at 17.0 per game and he’s pulling down 5.7 rebounds per game as well. The Heat are getting what they were looking for with Beasley and while he has had his rookie moments during the first three games it seems like Beasley has a huge upside in Miami.
O.J. Mayo has shown some promising signs in Memphis although he is shooting 37% from the field. His athleticism complements teammate Rudy Gay well and this will be an exciting team in the next few years but I’d like to see Mayo take better shots. And while we’re talking about the Grizzlies, did anyone else notice the 27 and 16 that Marc Gasol hung up last night?
And finally my favorite rookie right now, Rudy Fernandez. I don’t need to go on and on about how good he can be but just pay attention to this kid in Portland. He’s scoring 14.0 points per game off the bench in just 27 minutes a game including 20 in his last outing against the Suns. He is fearless and efficient with the ball in his hands, and to think that the Suns actually gave him away for practically nothing.
3. The Cavaliers
Not too much was made about the trade of Mo Williams to the Cavs but I this was a huge move for them and it showed up last night. Williams caught fire in the fourth; showing off his shooting touch and making Dallas pay for assigning Jose Juan Barea to guard him. Williams may not be a pure point guard but that will work out fine for the Cavs as most of their offense runs through LeBron anyway. He has ice water in his veins and he complements the rest of the team with his veteran leadership. The Cavs have surrounded LeBron with quality veteran players and have looked great through the first few games of the year. James got a taste of success during Cleveland’s run to the finals a couple of years ago and now he looks poised to push hid team further this year.
4. The Iverson/Billups Trade
So it looks like Joe Dumars wasn’t joking when he said he was looking to shake up the Detroit Pistons roster. He did just that on Monday sending Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess, and little used reserve Cheikh Samb to the Denver Nuggets for Allen Iverson. Nuggets coach George Karl has been asking for a true point guard for years now and that is why they traded for AI in the first place. But Iverson has always been more of a score first ask questions later kind of point guard whereas Billups has been a consistent floor leader for the Pistons during his six seasons in Detroit. If the Nuggets don’t buy out McDyess then they will have added badly depth to a frontcourt that traded away Marcus Camby for cap space.
So Karl has gotten the player he’s been looking for and the Pistons are moving forward with an eye toward the future. Moving Billups will eventually clear the way for Rodney Stuckey who is entrenched as the Pistons point guard of the future and assuming the Nuggets don’t buyout McDyess so he can return to the Pistons, Amir Johnson and Jason Maxiell will get their chance to prove themselves. Iverson and Rasheed Wallace both become free agents next summer so it clears out a considerable amount of cap space and Detroit will still have an attractive and talented roster. This move will work out for both teams but it will be interesting to see what Dumars decides to do with this team in the offseason.
5. A Few Side Notes
I wouldn’t read too much into the Spurs 0-3 start, they have a history of starting slow and once Ginobili gets healthy they’re a lock to be a force in the west…It would be nice to get the Stephon Marbury situation resolved in New York. It has become a distraction to what has otherwise been some entertaining basketball from D’Antoni’s Knicks…The Suns are still fun to watch this season under Terry Porter with Amare Stoudemire dominating and Shaq getting an increased role…Baron Davis looked great during the first half against the Lakers but it seems like the injury bug has already gotten to the Clippers with Davis and Camby with both already missing time; not a good sign for two new players with a history of injuries…