Friday, July 1, 2011

'Who's Next?'

I don't think anyone outside of the state of Texas had the Dallas Mavericks winning it all this year and certainly no one could've predicted the absolute clinic Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki put on along the way to said championship.  You probably won't get very accurate predictions (atleast I called that the Heat wouldn't win a championship though) out of me but nevertheless, my list of players who I think have what it takes to be the 2012 Dirk, but still need work on certain aspects of their games.

Rondo can drive and dish, but his J is AWOL.
Derrick Rose - Chicago Bulls
MVP or not, Rose still needs work on his perimeter jumper.  He shot 33-percent from 3-point during the 2010-11 season and a wretched 25-percent during the playoffs.  The guy is unstoppable off the drive already, imagine what will open up for himself and his teammates once a few more J's start falling.
Rajon Rondo - Boston Celtics
It's pretty clear that if Rondo could shoot the basketball worth a ball of yarn, we would all be looking at the second coming of Isiah Thomas.  Rondo has played four years in the NBA and is a two-time All-Star, the starting point guard on NBA Championship team, and boasts some historical individual playoff performances (29 points, 18 rebounds, 13 assists against Cleveland in the 2010 Eastern Conference semis), despite being a career 24-percent 3-point shooter and 62-percent from the free throw line.

Time for Melo to show he's more than just a scorer.
Carmelo Anthony - New York Knicks
We know he can score, but what can he do to make his teammates better?  Melo needs to take a cue from what Kobe Bryant went through in the post-Shaq L.A. years and save the offense for down the stretch.  Get the teammates involved and their confidence up because they are the ones you are going to have to rely on to make shots when the double and tripple teams come.  Also, Anthony is a physical guy on offense but doesn't really translate that mentality on the defensive end.  He needs to be more assertive on that end of the floor, it will go a long way in showing your teammates that you are sold out to doing anything it takes to win.

Russell Westbrook - Oklahoma City Thunder
Very talented and athletic point guard that needs to better understand his role as Kevin Durant's teammate in this current Thunder offensive system.  A first time NBA All-Star in 2011, Westbrook has elevated his offensive game to the point where he commands double teams now.  But what killed Westbrook and the Thunder in the playoffs against the Dallas Mavericks was poor shot selection down the stretch and lack of ball movement.  Westbrook was benched for the whole fourth quarter in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semis for being the main contributor to the two aformentioned maladies.  Westbrook's main job is to help get Durant going by creating space for him by penetrating and kicking out and continue to find K.D. when he's hot.  His offensive game is most effective when he is under control in the half court and when pushing the ball in transition.

Griffin is the second best player in L.A. already. 
Blake Griffin - Los Angeles Clippers
There is no way the Clippers find a way to screw this one up.  Griffin is two post-up moves and one face-up move away from being a player who is perennially in the conversation for league MVP.  All the hype is not an exaggeration either; not when you win Rookie of the Year honors by averaging 22.5 points per game and 12.1 rebounds per game in 82 games after missing the entire 2009-10 season from a knee injury that required surgery.  Who knows if Griffin will end  up staying in Los Angeles though as the Clippers are a franchise known for everything in the world that is the opposite of 'good'.  The Clip roster is pretty young and talented (see DeAndre Jordan, Eric Gordon and Al-Farouq Aminu) but who is to say that they can't make strides like the OKC Thunder have over the past few seasons?

Dwight Howard - Orlando Magic
In a league that is known historically for dominant big men equalling playoff success and championships, Howard has experienced very little of the former and none of the latter in his career which began in 2004.  Rumors are swirling that Orlando might not be the right fit for the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and four-time All-NBA First Teamer.  No matter what team he plays for though, Howard needs to develop as a playmaker when he has the rock with his back to the basket, a-la Hakeem Olajuwon.  When the ball goes inside to him, defenses know that he is probably going to put up a shot since his post game is not smooth enough yet to find open teammates off the double team with any sort of consistency.

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