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.

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Anthony Randolph’s File — Career numbers: 2 seasons, 96 games, 19.6 MPG, 9.2 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 0.7 SPG; 2009-10 numbers: 33 games, 22.7 MPG, 11.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 0.8 SPG

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Why he’s being slept on: Playing for the Golden State Warriors certainly doesn’t help, but Randolph has flown under the radar of many NBA fans since he was drafted 14th overall in 2008 after one season at LSU. In spite of his athletic gifts, he and mercurial Warriors coach Don Nelson often didn’t see eye-to-eye and his playing time varied wildly in the season-and-a-half before he suffered a season-ending ankle injury on Jan. 8 against the Cavaliers. With all the big names changing teams this past off-season, the sign-and-trade which sent David Lee to the Warriors and Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike and Rony Turiaf back to the Knicks didn’t make much of a splash.

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Why he shouldn’t be slept on: If he can stay healthy, this 21-year-old will most likely emerge as the best player to be a part of that Knicks-Warriors trade. His combination of length, athleticism, ball-handling and passing skills are extremely rare — he’s a longer, more athletic Lamar Odom. You might think that the Knicks will miss David Lee’s rebounding, but Randolph should fill that need nicely if Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni gives him enough playing time.

It remains to be seen how D’Antoni will distribute minutes among their three main frontcourt players — Amare Stoudemire, Turiaf and Randolph — but Randolph’s career averages per 36 minutes (16.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 2.4 blocks and 1.3 steals) are so impressive and he’s so well-suited to D’Antoni’s fast-paced system that I’ll be shocked if D’Antoni doesn’t make him one of the Knicks’ key players next season. So far, it seems like D’Antoni’s main Randolph-related conundrum is which position he should play:

“He’s a multi-position player that has a world of talent whose athleticism is off the charts. He’s only played two years in the league and just turned 21. There’s a lot of positives and we’ll figure out where we fit him in, and figure out what the best position is for him, but he can play a lot of places.”

Now that he’s ballin’ in The Basketball Mecca, don’t be surprised when fans start asking who this Anthony Randolph kid is and where he came from. When you play under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, nobody’s sleeping on you — for better or worse.

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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.

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Shaun Livingston’s File: Career numbers: 5 seasons, 193 games, 25.5 MPG, 7.2 PPG, 2,9 RPG, 4,4 APG; 2009-2010 numbers: 26 games, 9.2 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 4.4 APG, 53.5% FG, 87.5% FT

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Why he’s being slept on: With talented young point guards popping up over the league, all eyes will be on this youth movement next season. There is one guy that shouldn’t be forgotten, however, even though he’s had a few years he would love nothing more than to forget. That point guard you might be forgetting is under contract with the Bobcats. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, not the biggest market or flashiest team, but the thing is, this contract, it’s a huge deal. It’s a dream in and of itself, a dream that our slept-on player thought was snatched away from him when the injury grim reaper appeared on the scene in February 2007.

A 6-foot-7 point guard who has been hyped from the preps to pros he came onto the scene with the height, court vision and pass-first mentality that many thought would make him a success. He also had the humility and hard-working attitude necessary to ensure a skilled player makes the jump to a star player.

And then, an innocent drive to the basket looked like it had changed everything. With a YouTube video that will make your stomach weak, and a crumble to the floor that tore every ligament possible, three years later Livingston has made it back. After finishing the season strong with the Wizards, stepping in and providing stability in their injury-riddled season, Livingston proved he could be an NBA player.

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Why he shouldn’t be slept-on: Through 26 games with the Wizards he averaged 9.2 points and 4.4 assists per game while shooting 54 percent from the floor and 88 percent from the line. He was efficient and he was a consummate professional. He made valuable use of his time with the Wizards, eagerly learning from assistant coach Sam Cassell, adding a mid-range game and built up his confidence. There was the dunk that showed he could still get up and then a 25-point, six-rebound, seven-assist night that proved he could still stuff a stats sheet when given the minutes. Had the Wizards not won the draft lottery assuring them soon-to-be rookie phenom, John Wall, they likely would have brought Livingston back.

Throughout every setback he has encountered in his short career, Livingston has taken it with stride, handled it with grace and dealt with it rationally by saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” After signing a two-year, $7 million contract with the ‘Cats, perhaps, indeed it does. Livingston’s dream has been revived and here he is, still an underdog, but one who definitely knows how to fight.

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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Greg Oden’s File — Career numbers: 2 seasons, 82 games, 22.1 MPG, 9.4 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 3.9 FPG; 2009-10 numbers: 21 games, 23.9 MPG, 11.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.3 BPG, 4.0 FPG

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Why he’s being slept on: Many NBA fans are prepared to write off Greg Oden’s career because of his bad luck with injuries, and it’s hard to blame them. He had surgery on his wrist in 2006, he had microfracture surgery on his right knee in 2007, he injured his foot in 2008, and he fractured his left patella in 2009. He missed the entire 2007-08 season because of the microfracture surgery and he only played in 82 out of a possible 164 games since then.

When Oden did get to play, he showed a tendency to get in foul trouble and therefore had to split minutes with (equally injury-prone) Joel Przybilla. It’s likely that many non-Blazer fans  have barely had a chance to watch Oden play so they really have no reason to dispute the widely-held view that the first overall pick in the 2007 draft is a complete and utter bust — the fact that Kevin Durant was picked second in that draft does not help this perception.

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Why he shouldn’t be slept-on: It’s impossible to predict if he’ll ever be able to string together enough healthy games to have a major impact on an up-and-coming Portland team, but diehard Blazers fans know what the big fella is capable of when he’s on the floor. He’s deceivingly mobile and coordinated for his size, he has soft hands and a good scoring touch, he’s strong as hell, he’s a true intimidator in the lane and he can be a force of nature on the boards. In his final full game before the knee injury that ended his season, Oden had 13 points, 20 rebounds and 4 blocks in 30 minutes against the Heat. Four other players had at least 20 rebounds and four blocks in a game last season: Dwight Howard (nine times!), Andrew Bogut, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah.

Speaking of keeping good company, here’s another list that should make you think twice about calling Oden a bust. Last season, eight players had a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 23.0 or better in at least 500 minutes of playing time. (Oden played in 502 minutes before his season-ending injury, hence the cut-off point.) Here is that list:

1. LeBron James: 31.1
2. Dwyane Wade: 28.0
3. Kevin Durant: 26.2
4. Chris Bosh: 25.0
5. Tim Duncan: 24.7
6. Dwight Howard: 24.0
7. Chris Paul: 23.7
8. Greg Oden: 23.1

Of course, it’s crazy-talk to suggest that Oden actually deserves to be compared to those players because they all played significantly more minutes — and even if Oden is able to miraculously stay healthy for most of next season, he still has to figure out how to reduce his foul rate (6.0 personal fouls per 36 minutes last season) so he can stay on the court. But the talent is there, and he’s still just 22 years old. When the 2011 All-Star Game happens on Feb. 20, I will be equally unsurprised if Oden is watching from a wheelchair or sitting on the Western Conference team bench.