Archive for the ‘The Slept-on Files’ Category

This is the slow time in the NBA off-season, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start looking ahead to the 2010-11 season and which players might surprise us. The Slept-on Files will feature some of the players you might have overlooked or written off — and give you reasons why you shouldn’t.

Antoine Walker’s file: 12 seasons, last played in 2007-08 NBA season, 893 games, 35.3 MPG, 17.5 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 3.5 APG, .414 FG%, .325 3P%, .633 FT%

Why he’s being slept on: It might have something to do with the fact that his last NBA game was in Feb. 2008. It’s also probably related to his .363 field goal percentage and .530 free throw percentage in the 2007-08 season. Combine that with the fact that he turned 34 years old this month and it’s not hard to see why few people are taking Antoine Walker’s NBA comeback attempt particularly seriously.

Why he shouldn’t be slept on: In spite of all the jokes made at his expense, this is still a three-time NBA All-Star we’re talking about and Antoine has reportedly dropped 20 pounds and has been working out at the University of Louisville with Rick Pitino this summer. He’s been humbled by his rapid decline both on and off the court (he filed for bankruptcy protection in May) and he is obviously motivated to work his way back to the NBA to salvage both his pride and his finances.

Nah… I’m just messin’ with y’all. Holly and I agreed that we’ve exhausted the “Slept-on Files” series for this off-season and I just wanted to suck you in before I posted these fun Antoine “shimmy pics” I found on Google Images and the Inside Hoops and RealGM boards (except for the motivational poster, which I made). Enjoy!

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This is the slow time in the NBA off-season, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start looking ahead to the 2010-11 season and which players might surprise us. The Slept-on Files will feature some of the players you might have overlooked or written off — and give you reasons why you shouldn’t.

Jrue Holiday’s file: One season: 73 games, 24.2 MPG, 44.2% FG, 39% 3PT FG, 66.7% FT, 2.6 RPG, 2.7 APG, 8.0 PPG

Why he’s being slept on: I know what you’re thinking. How do you sleep on a player that’s just going into their sophomore season after he was splitting minutes with both Allen Iverson and Lou Williams in his first season as a professional? There’s your answer. In a backcourt that was shuffling players and lineups all season, Jrue Holiday didn’t really get a fair shake in his rookie campaign with the Philadelphia 76ers. Getting time when Williams went down with a broken jaw, he was then bumped from the lineup after the Iverson signing went down. When he finally did get his shot after the AI experiment had come to an unsettling close, Holiday was one of a few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing season for the Sixers, finishing the year with 41 consecutive starts.

2009 was the year of the guard, with Brandon Jennings, Tyreke Evans and Stephen Curry all being drafted. This doesn’t even include Holiday’s UCLA teammate Darren Collison, or Ty Lawson and Jonny Flynn. It’s easy to see why Holiday was lost in the shuffle of his draft class, especially when he wasn’t getting the same time on the court or freedom as his fellow rookies. Even before he became an NBA rookie, Holiday was a player who had been under the radar in his one season at UCLA, playing out of position as a shooting guard when senior Darren Collison returned and already had the one spot locked up.

Why he shouldn’t be slept on: Holiday was able to go back to his natural position as a distributor when he was drafted by the Sixers with the 17th pick. While he was playing the point, people were unable to see his crisp passes, court vision and deceptively quick moves to the basket when he was glued to the bench. As the Sixers season went on, Holiday, the first player born in the 1990s to play in the NBA, began piecing together performances that proved he belonged.

Averaging 12.5 points and 6.2 assists per contest through March and April, Holiday looked like a different player than the timid guard who had started the season looking over at his head coach every time a mistake or miscue was made. Spending time with Philly assistant coach Aaron McKie helped Holiday gain confidence and, most importantly, continue to play his own brand of basketball while on the floor. With McKie in his ear offering encouragement and support, slowly the pro game has become easier for Holiday. With a career-high 25 points against the Raptors in April he showed that he can put points on the board. A dizzying 13-point, 12-assist, 7-steal night in a victory over the Hawks showed he can do a little bit of everything. With continued trust from his teammates and a new head coach who is big on development, Holiday is well on his way to being an every day household name.

This is the slow time in the NBA off-season, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start looking ahead to the 2010-11 season and which players might surprise us. The Slept-on Files will feature some of the players you might have overlooked or written off — and give you reasons why you shouldn’t.

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Chase Budinger’s File: 1 season, 74 games, 20.1 MPG, 8.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.5 SPG, .441 FG%, .369 3P%

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Why he’s being slept on: Chase Budinger was drafted 44th overall in the 2009 draft by the Pistons and then immediately traded to the Rockets for cash considerations and a future second round draft pick that is top 40 protected in 2012, top 35 protected in 2013 and 2014, and unprotected in the 2015. Clearly he wasn’t viewed as one of the top prospects in that draft class. Pre-draft scouting reports questioned his mid-range game, his ability to create his own shot and his ability to defend effectively at the NBA level.

Last season was a transition year for the Rockets as they were without Yao Ming for the entire season and they finished 42-40 — eight games back of the eighth seed in the West. While Aaron Brooks is a nice player, he was arguably the Rockets’ best player last season so they pretty much flew under the radar. Most fans outside of Houston didn’t pay a lot of attention to whether or not Budinger had turned out to be a non-factor as predicted by many people.

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Why he shouldn’t be slept on: If there’s one thing we should have learned about Rockets GM Daryl Morey by now, it’s that he has a knack for getting extraordinary value out of late draft picks — Aaron Brooks was the 26th pick and Carl Landry was the 31st pick in the 2007 draft, and they’ve both far exceeded the typical expectations of players drafted in their positions. Morey was probably intrigued by Budinger’s impressive 38-inch vertical, above-average three-point shooting and good attitude and figured he was easily worth giving up a future second round pick. He was right.

In a season where they really didn’t have a realistic shot of cracking the top eight in the West, Budinger was a bright spot and one of the more entertaining Rockets in 2009-10. His surprising athleticism (for a white guy, of course) translated to a number of highlight reel dunks (as you’ll see in the mix at the end of this post) and his above-average basketball IQ have allowed him to prove that he has the skills and the smarts to be a valuable contributor in this league for many years.

It’s likely he’ll backup Shane Battier at small forward in 2010-11, so he may not get much more than the 20 minutes per game he averaged last season. But the fact that Morey felt comfortable with trading Trevor Ariza for backup two-guard Courtney Lee (and his expiring contract) indicates that he has confidence in Budinger’s ability to fill in if Battier gets hurt. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that Budinger is just 22 years old and in the four games he started last season, he averaged 17 points and six rebounds on 53 percent shooting. Considering that he’ll earn $780,000 next season, can you name a team that wouldn’t want him on their bench?

Terrence Williams of the New Jersey Nets

This is the slow time in the NBA off-season, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start looking ahead to the 2010-11 season and which players might surprise us. The Slept-on Files will feature some of the players you might have overlooked or written off — and give you reasons why you shouldn’t.

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Career numbers: One season:  22 MPG, 40% FG, 31% 3PT FG, 72% FT, 4.5 RPG, 2.9 APG, 8.4 PPG

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Why he’s being slept on: Last season was a nightmare for anyone on the New Jersey Nets roster. For a rookie, though, it was even worse. Imagine coming into the league for the first time, everything is new to you, every single detail matters, and you end up on a team where nothing mattered by the end of the season. A dismal, dismal record, questionable decision-making and a franchise waiting for that number one pick — that they didn’t win, naturally — and while the franchise is looking for the next big thing, their supremely talented rookie swingman gets lost in the shuffle.

Of course, Williams may have contributed to his below-the-radar status by making headlines for the wrong reasons. T-Will posted some remarks on his Twitter account that Nets’ officials didn’t take to and was punished as a result, giving content-hungry reporters fodder for weeks. For a rookie trying to prove himself, any and every slip-up is huge because it’s magnified 10 times. Luckily for Williams, his off-court decision-making skills took a backseat to his on-court ones during the final six weeks of the season.

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Why he shouldn’t be slept on: Last year, for the first time in NBA history, four rookies recorded triple-doubles. Of those four players, three were guards in the rookie of the year race: Brandon Jennings, Stephen Curry and award winner, Tyreke Evans. The fourth was Terrence Williams. With a 27-point, 13-rebound, 10-assist performance against the Bulls, Williams reminded everyone that the season, the record and all of the crap that the Nets went through didn’t define him. What’s more, as New Jersey descended further and further into the depths of basketball hell, Williams played more and more minutes, making the most out of the extra time and scoring in double-figures 19 times over the final 25 games of the season.

Williams is an interesting player because he can score and rebound, but also has a natural feel for the game and is a fantastic passer for an athletic 6-foot-6 guard-forward. With a bigger role this season, guidance and support from new coach Avery Johnson and room to grow, Williams is going to be a player to watch. Don’t expect a sophomore slump from this one. He’s focused after a season of complete and total disaster and he’s ready to show the basketball world all that he can do when he’s on the floor.

This is the slow time in the NBA off-season, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start looking ahead to the 2010-11 season and which players might surprise us. The Slept-on Files will feature some of the players you might have overlooked or written off — and give you reasons why you shouldn’t.

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Leandro Barbosa’s File — Career numbers: 7 seasons, 466 games, 25,1 MPG, 12.6 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.0 SPG, .468 FG%, .398 3P%; 2009-10 numbers: 33 games, 17.9 MPG, 9.5 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.5 SPG, .425 FG%, .324 3P%

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Why he’s being slept on: The 2009-10 season was probably the most challenging one of Leandro Barbosa’s career. He struggled with wrist pain all season, which contributed to his career-lows in field goal percentage and three-point percentage. He had a cyst removed from his wrist in January that caused him to miss eight weeks, resulting in the lowest games and minutes played totals of his seven-season career. If that wasn’t enough, Goran Dragic emerged as Steve Nash’s main backup and the Suns’ point guard of the future with a surprising season that culminated in his star-making performance in Game Three of the Western Conference semifinals — when he scored 23 fourth-quarter points to singlehandedly give Phoenix a 3-0 lead in the series.

The writing was on the wall for Barbosa, and he asked Suns management to trade him after the season. With Hedo Turkoglu feeling similarly dissatisfied with his residence in Toronto, the Raptors and Suns arranged a swap of the two malcontents. Now, the Brazilian blur who was on a “who’s who” team featuring Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, Jason Richardson and Grant Hill is now surrounded by a “who cares” cast including Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson, Linas Kleiza and DeMar DeRozan. Barbosa will surely get more playing time in Toronto, but he shouldn’t expect to return to the post-season in 2011.

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Why he shouldn’t be slept on: Although he’s a seven-year NBA veteran, he’s still just 27 years old and if he’s injury-free next season, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to return to his status as one of the league’s most electrifying scorers off the bench. He won the (admittedly stupid) NBA Sixth Man Award in 2006-07 after he averaged 18.1 points, 4.0 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game while coming off the bench in 62 of his 80 games. While his minutes per game have decreased in every season since that award-winning season, he remained extremely productive in the playing time he got — in 2008-09, he averaged a career-high 21 points per 36 minutes.

While most objective observers acknowledge that the 2010-11 Raptors will probably be one of the worst teams in the league, the opportunity for increased playing time and the Raptors’ intent to play a fast-paced style both point to a comeback season for Barbosa. The departure of Chris Bosh significantly depleted the Raptors’ offensive firepower, but a healthy and happy Barbosa is more than capable of filling the nets. And you know he’ll be motivated to perform — he’s got a player option in his contract after next season.

Raptors fans may only be able to enjoy Leandro Barbosa for one season, but if he’s healthy I expect him to be one of the bright spots. Speaking as a Raptors fan myself, I still can’t believe Raptors President/GM Bryan Colangelo was able to turn that fat, overpaid hump Turkoglu into this overlooked gem.

This is the slow time in the NBA off-season, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start looking ahead to the 2010-11 season and which players might surprise us. The Slept-on Files will feature some of the players you might have overlooked or written off — and give you reasons why you shouldn’t.

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Roger Mason’s File — Career numbers: 6 seasons, 19.2 MPG, 40.9 FG%, 38.1 3PT%, 87.1 FT%, 1.8 RPG, 1.5 APG 7.2 PPG; 2009-10 season: 19.2 MPG, 38.9 FG%, 33.3 3PT%, 79.4 FT%, 2.1 RPG, 1.7 APG, 6.3 PPG

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Why he’s being slept on: Looking at his career numbers, there isn’t a lot there that will overwhelm you. The New York Knicks, with whom he signed this summer, will also be his fifth team in seven seasons and his first job will be finding a way to fit in. But Mason is a role player, fitting best with the Spurs two seasons ago. He can be a deadly spot up 3-point shooter and while his game isn’t flashy, it’s effective. Usually. Unfortunately for him, as George Hill leaped up from under the radar, his own game began slipping under it.

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Why he shouldn’t be slept-on: Sometimes, all a player needs is an opportunity. In the NBA, opportunity and change of location are often interchangeable. While Mason’s game became stagnant with the Spurs, a fresh start with the Knicks is a perfect way for him to revitalize his career. Not only is Mason a key role player, he is a fit for coach Mike D’Antoni’s system and will find himself the beneficiary of a lot of those corner 3-pointers he likes so much.

After downing the Phoenix Suns on a corner, buzzer-beating three on Christmas day in 2008, Amar’e Stoudemire is familiar with Mason’s game and will relish having great shooters around him again. Looking at Mason’s file shows that when he gets the time, his production increases. Before Hil’s accelerated development in San Antonio, Mason had the strongest year of his NBA career, playing 30 minutes per game and putting in 11.8 points per contest while shooting 42% from beyond the arc.

He is also a great guy to have in your locker room. When your front office is trying to make deals with the devil and bring Isiah Thomas back into the mix, it’s unclear how focused they are on piecing together a team that will be cohesive off of the court as well as on. With trades and free agent pick ups bringing in Amar’e Stoudemire, Kelenna Azubuike, Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf and Raymond Felton, Mason helps smooth out the high turnover. He’s a great veteran to have in your locker room and one of the true hard workers in the league, regularly coming in during evening hours to get extra shots up and work on his game.

While the Knicks wanted to make a splash this offseason, they wound up making a few ripples instead. Tasked with rebuilding a team, it can be better to bring in pieces that won’t rock the boat, but will help keep you afloat. And that’s Roger Mason in a nutshell: he may not be a team-changer, but he can be a game-changer.

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Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers.

This is the slow time in the NBA off-season, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start looking ahead to the 2010-11 season and which players might surprise us. The Slept-on Files will feature some of the players you might have overlooked or written off — and give you reasons why you shouldn’t.

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Blake Griffin’s File — Empty (2010-11 will be his rookie season)

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Why he’s being slept on: Blake Griffin was the consensus choice to be the number one pick in the 2009 draft, so when the Clippers won the draft lottery on May 20, 2009, NBA fans and commentators everywhere exclaimed, “Uh-oh, here comes the Clippers curse.” Oh, how prophetic those people were…

Griffin fractured his left patella on that dunk in the Clippers’ final 2009 pre-season game. He missed the entire 2009-10 season and Tyreke Evans went on to become the cream of that draft class and win the Rookie of the Year award that many people assumed was Griffin’s to lose.

With all the hype around this year’s crop of stud rookies from the 2010 draft class — including John Wall, Evan Turner and DeMarcus Cousins — it’s likely that Griffin’s name doesn’t pop into many minds when considering the candidates for the 2010-11 Rookie of the Year award winner. But should it?

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Why he shouldn’t be slept on: If he recovers 100 percent from his knee injury, you can look forward to some of the fiercest dunks from a big man since pre-injury Amare Stoudemire. Griffin can get up (he measured at a maximum vertical reach of 11 feet, 8.5 inches in the 2009 pre-draft combine) and he obviously relishes opportunities to throw down on his opponents with furious vengeance. Just ask D.J. Mbenga.

He’s not just a great dunker, of course, or else he wouldn’t have been the first overall pick. He’s also a highly productive rebounder, he’s a very good ballhandler for his size, and everybody who knows him claims he has a great attitude and work ethic. Plus, he’s had a full season to study the pro game from the sidelines so he should be prepared for the speed and flow of the NBA when he returns to the court.

When the Clippers traded Marcus Camby to Portland in February, they essentially cleared the way for a starting frontcourt of Griffin and Chris Kaman in 2010-11. That frontcourt could combine for 35 points and 18 rebounds per game next season. It’s easy to sleep on the Clippers when they’re so terrible virtually every season, but if Griffin’s thunderous dunks don’t wake people up next season, maybe Kaman should sneak bring some of his fireworks into the Staples Center.

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