Mark Deeks

markdeeks

Mark Deeks owns and operates ShamSports, and doesn’t do much else with his time. He is even more not-Canadian than Trey Kerby, being born, raised and stuck in England. When not writing about basketball, he can be found either appearing on game shows, inventing character names for non-existent sitcoms, or Googling his own name.

Recent Posts

Despite the fact that we’re almost a quarter of the way through what’s left of a regular season, there are still some NBA caliber talents that are either unsigned, waiting for work, or in the NBA D-League, waiting for better work.

This list attempts to document some of those available NBA-caliber talents. As well as some who aren’t.

Guards

Gilbert Arenas — One of seven designated amnesty players this offseason, Hibachi is finally free from the monumental burden that was his monumental contract. Even then, however, no one seems to want him. As much as Gilbert has declined, he has never declined to the point that he is no longer an NBA talent. He is, however, seemingly not good enough any more to overcome his reputation.

Marcus Banks — After eight years and $40 million in the NBA, Banks never realized his potential beyond “sometimes useful defensive specialist.” That said, he still is that.

Earl Boykins — If you need someone to come in and take all of your fourth quarter shots, Earl might be your man. This is a particularly useful service if you are trying to lose.

Luther Head — Head has had a poor couple of years, struggling with both injuries and opportunity. A reported invite to training camp with the Bulls never materialized, and a much publicized trip to the D-League lasted all of two days. If healthy and available, Head provides solid small-guard defense and catch-and-shoot range, but they are increasingly big ifs.

Eddie House — Signed by the Heat to a guaranteed contract with a view to being a feared shooting specialist off the bench. Then cut by the Heat when it became apparent he hasn’t shot well enough to be a feared shooter for a couple of years now. There may still be a spark on the fire, but Eddie needs to chuck a log on it. (As well as not chuck.)

Allen Iverson — Should take the Antoine Walker route and join the D-League. And I base that on absolutely nothing.

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The Wizards have one win since April of last year. They won only 15 games in 2011, won only 23 games on the season, have gone 68-178 over the last three, and have not cracked the elusive 26 win barrier for three seasons. Indeed, if you really want to overthink things, the Wizards haven’t won more than 45 games since 1978-79, the year after winning their only NBA championship. That’s how bad the franchise has been having it.

There are less talented teams out there, though. So something must be wrong. Quite. Why have the Wizards been this bad?

Two years ago, the Wizards sold the No. 32 pick to Houston for $2.5 million, and then re-invested most of it in signing veteran big man Fabricio Oberto, whom they then saw fit to actually play in actual games. Despite recording 121 fouls to only 105 rebounds and 83 points, the Wizards would repeatedly turn to Oberto ahead of JaVale McGee, a core young piece, because Oberto would play the “right way.” He would screen, hand-off, pass, only sometimes throw the ball away, and try his level best to not be too slow in his defensive rotations. Signing Oberto, and playing him ahead of infinitely more talented players, was supposed to set a standard for Wizards basketball, a means to instil discipline and good habits into youngsters by making them sit and watch inferior veterans do it first.

It didn’t work. The Wizards continue to be submarined by a lack of discipline on the court, the folly of youth with little veteran savvy to correct it with. There’s plenty of talent on the roster but there’s no cohesion to it. And without IQ, heart or intensity, talent counts for nothing.

Flip Saunders will likely be the fall guy before the year is out, because someone has to be. But he’s trying, moreso than his players. You can’t teach a team that won’t listen. Washington’s offense is built around a point guard who can’t shoot, a shooting guard who won’t stop shooting, and a big man who shoots whatever he wants before blaming others for it on Twitter. All this is complimented by a defense that just doesn’t understand fundamental defensive positioning, nor that seems to want to try. In stockpiling assets and loading up on potential, all the Wizards have done is create a cast of misfits. Misfits who, for the most part, play as though they are in it only for themselves.

Dearth of on-court discipline notwithstanding, there is a genuine depth of talent to the roster. But even their genuine prospects are suffering. John Wall in particular is off to a terrible start, shooting 35 percent from the field, turning the ball over four times a game and looking thoroughly baffled in the halfcourt. Wall will however at least try to pass, but the same cannot be said for the whole team. As good of shot makers as they are, Andray Blatche, Nick Young and Jordan Crawford seem content with looking only for their own, running isolation after isolation, damaging their reputations, shooting percentages and team performance in the process.

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In a three-team deal consummated today, the Memphis Grizzlies have agreed to move unused lottery pick Xavier Henry to New Orleans, receiving unused near-lottery pick Marreese Speights from Philadelphia in return, with both teams giving a second round pick to the Sixers for their troubles.

The trade gives New Orleans a 20-year-old lottery talent whom, while he has yet to do anything in the NBA, has plenty of time on his side. Despite the implosion and sideshow that accompanied their dismantling, New Orleans has a good base of talent for a rebuilding team. With Eric Gordon and Carl Landry in place, and potential young pieces such as Al-Farouq Aminu, Jason Smith and Gustavo Ayon (whom you will soon come to love) also on the scene, this is not an early 21st-century Bulls team. A clear foundation is already in place, and Henry theoretically adds to this.

However, it is the Grizzlies for whom this trade ought be most important. Despite throwing a combined $123.5 million at Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in the past year, the season-ending injury of Darrell Arthur has left Memphis with so little frontcourt depth that they have signed names such as Mikki Moore, Jared Reiner, Brian Skinner and Josh Davis in the hope of finding emergency frontcourt cover. Skinner stuck around for a bit, and Davis — who hadn’t played in the NBA for six seasons — is still there. But with due respect to these parties, solid players all, they weren’t in the NBA for a reason.

Memphis recently re-signed Hamed Haddadi, but he has yet to play. In Arthur’s absence and Davis’ presence, Randolph himself has played a good many of the backup center minutes, while Dante Cunningham has spotted at power forward. Cunningham proved in his first two seasons that despite having only small forward’s size, he is very capable of defending those bigger than he. Nevertheless, his limited offensive game and underwhelming rebounding numbers are not particularly conducive to a full-time power forward. A lot of small ball has therefore been necessitated, with Rudy Gay playing some power forward, and Cunningham even playing some center.

However, with the simultaneous announcement that Randolph is set to miss two months with tendon damage, the need for frontcourt reinforcement is urgent if Memphis are to be able to tread water until he returns. And … it appears that Marreese Speights is that help.

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Mark Deeks was born and raised in England, where he can be found writing about basketball or solving Countdown Conundrums.

Miami entered this offseason with most of the plan in place. As you probably noticed, the Heat did quite a lot of work last offseason; the question of Mike Miller’s potential amnesty notwithstanding, most of what they needed to be a championship caliber team was already in place. Almost all of it, in fact.

However, as you also probably noticed, Miami didn’t win the championship last year. It must surely follow that, whilst improvement must (and will) come from improved chemistry and cohesion amongst the incumbent players, roster upgrades were needed. Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven, but eight months later, it’s not clear whether they got them.

Mario Chalmers was retained at a cost of $12 million over three years to start at point guard, while draft night saw the Heat pretty pleased with landing Norris Cole, who will happily push the tempo (and who thus should not be paired with Juwan Howard). The still-twitching corpse of Mike Bibby moved on to New York, and the impeccably credentialed Shane Battier was brought in to provide defense, shooting, veteran leadership and impeccable credentials. And James Jones re-signed for three years and $4.5 million, ready to once again be more one dimensional than a Guy Ritchie film, an elite jumpshooter who knows his role and thrives within it.

However, in spending their MLE on Battier, Miami have used their best asset for improvement on merely upgrading the backup to the world’s best player, whilst also re-signing James Jones, a player already doing a pretty solid job backing up LeBron James anyway. Regardless of the strengths of the individual players involved, it is a bizarre determination of priorities for a team so close to winning it all. Battier will help Miami’s wing defense and three point shooting, but these were never weaknesses. The point guard position, however, was. And even more so was the five spot.

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