Saturday, February 9, 2008

Scouting Report: Thabo Sefolosha

Since taking over as the starting shooting guard in the Bulls lineup, Thabo Sefolosha has shown that he is ready to take on a bigger role with a team. Since entering the starting lineup on January 15, 2008, Sefolosha is averaging 11.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.5 steals. Sefolosha also has done a good job defending the other teams best wing player, especially Dwyane Wade and Richard Hamilton, both in Bulls wins.

Player Name: Thabo Sefolosha
Current Team: -
NBA Position: SG
Drafted: 13th (Philadelphia 76ers)
Height/Weight: 6'5"/215
Birthdate: 5/2/84
Hometown: Vevey, Switzerland
College: -
Agent: -

Has lived in five countries; Speaks Italian, French, and English; Swiss mother and South African father; Began playing professionally at 17 with a team in Switzerland's top domestic league;

Great hands, Wingspan; Strong on-the-ball defender; Rebounding for his position; Attacks the basket; Gets into passing lanes well and creates turnovers; Great athleticism; Great hands;

Flat perimeter shot; Inconsistent from outside fifteen feet; Ball handling; Slow release from three point line;

Confidence is the key for Sefolosha.


Riley Reloads the Heat

With the trade last week of Shaquille O'Neal to the Phoenix Suns for Marcus Banks and Shawn Marion, Pat Riley has began to reload the Miami Heat in a short period of time.

Here is a look at the contracts:

Marcus Banks
2007-08 $3,888,000
2008-09 $4,176,000
2009-10 $4,464,000
2010-11 $4,752,000

Shawn Marion
2007-08 $16,440,000
2008-09 $17,180,000

Shaquille O'Neal
2007-08 $20,000,000
2008-09 $20,000,000
2009-10 $20,000,000

In 2007-08, Miami takes on $328,000 of additional salary and in 2008-09, they take on $356,000 of additional salary. However, in 2009-10, when Marion's current contract expires, the Heat will only be tied to two more minimal years of Banks contract. At the same time, the Suns will still be paying O'Neal $20,000,000 at the age of 38.

After this season, the Heat will be locked into Dwyane Wade, Mark Blount, Udonis Haslem, Daequan Cook, and then Marion and Banks' contracts. Additionally, they have a team option on Alexander Johnson ($687,456) and qualifying orders to Smush Parker ($2,400,000) and Dorrell Wright ($2,425,086). Likely, Parker will be freed to go elsewhere and they will likely offer Wright the qualifying offer.

So with a core of Marion, Wade, Haslem, Banks, and Wright, the Heat are in position to contend in the East next season with a few other moves.

The Heat have a handful of expiring contracts now that they can leverage into more talent. If I were Pat Riley, I would look to add a scoring post presence for the new-look Heat. Below is a three-team trade proposal that I think would benefit each team:

Knicks get:
Jason Smith $1,233,840, 2 Years Remaining
Kevin Ollie $3,441,900, 1 Year Remaining
Herbert Hill, $427,163, 1 Year Remaining
Samuel Dalembert, $10,251,435, 4 Years Remaining
Smush Parker $2,250,000, 1 Year Remaining
2009 Heat First Round Pick

76ers get:
Ricky Davis, $6,819,000, 1 Year Remaining
Randolph Morris, $810,000, 1 Year Remaining
Jerome James, $5,800,000, 2 Years Remaining
Mardy Collins, $967,320, 2 Years Remaining

Heat get:
Louis Amundson, $687,456, 1 Year Remaining
Eddy Curry, $8,947,543, 3 Years Remaining

In this trade, the Knicks would exchange Eddy Curry, an offensive-minded center, for Samuel Dalembert, a defensive-minded center. They would also free themselves of James' contract, who has been a huge disappointment in New York. The Knicks would also acquire 2007 first round pick, Jason Smith along with a 2009 Miami Heat first round pick. Although the pick should not be a lottery pick once the Heat rebuild their team in this offseason, it is still an asset. Dalembert starting next to Zach Randolph with David Lee being the third post player would be a nice fit. Dalembert and Randolph are opposite type players and would be able to work well together.

For the 76ers, the key to this deal would be exchanging Dalembert's contract for James' contract. In this exchange, Philadelphia is saving more than thirty million dollars. Additionally, the team would be receiving nearly eight million dollars in expiring contracts this season. This would give Philadelphia even more cap flexibility in their attempt to rebuild. Perhaps, they would have the ability to sign both Gilbert Arenas and Elton Brand this summer.

The Heat would be acquiring the best player in this trade. Curry would be able to provide exactly what the Heat would be lacking: offensive post presence. He would fit nicely next to two defensive-minded forwards in Udonis Haslem and Shawn Marion. In this trade, the Heat would be giving up expiring contracts and a first round pick the year after next. Ideally, the Heat will be very competitive by that time and that pick would not have much value.

After this trade, the Heat would be starting with Banks, Wade, Marion, Haslem, and Curry as its starters. Daequan Cook, Dorrell Wright, and Mark Blount would be keys off the bench for the Heat.

The key part of this is that the Heat are currently the worse team in the NBA, with a record of 9-39. Although their standing would likely improve, the Heat will still have one of the top picks in the upcoming draft. They would be in position to add either a point guard to compete with Banks and play next to Wade, or a big man to fit in with Haslem and Curry. This draft is loaded and both of these spots. The Heat would certainly consider Michael Beasley, DeAndre Jordan, Brooke Lopez, Hasheem Thabeet, Kevin Love, or Darrell Arthur. If they choose to go with a point guard, Derrick Rose, O.J. Mayo, Jerryd Bayless, and Darren Collison would all likely be possibilities.

Although the Heat have the worse record in the league right now, they have the ability to reload in a hurry. By this time next season, the Heat could be on the top of the Eastern Conference.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Scouting Report: Gerald Henderson

Player Name: Gerald Henderson, Jr.
Current Team: Duke University
NBA Position: SG
Drafted: -
Height/Weight: 6'4"/210
Birthdate: 12/9/87
Hometown: Merion, PA
College: Duke
Agent: -

Attended high school at Episcopal Academy in Merion, Pennsylvania, where he teamed up with current North Carolina Tar Heel Wayne Ellington; Son of former NBA player Gerald Henderson; Top 20 high school senior; Born in Caldwell, New Jersey; Wears number fifteen; Started ten games as a freshman; Led high school team to state championship as a senior; Two-time Gatorade state Player of the Year; Second team Parade all-American pick in 2006; Winner of the 2006 McDonald's all-American game Slam Dunk contest; Ranked eleventh overall by for his class; Lettered and earned all-league honors in golf as a freshman; League champion in the high jump and triple jump in track & field as a sophomore and junior; Both his parents are real estate agents; Played on the U.S. National Select team in 2006.

Finishing at the basket; Attitude; Top-flight athleticism; Score off the dribble; Body strength; Finishes well in traffic; Long arms; Basketball IQ; Unselfish; Great rebounder for his size.

About two inches shorter than he ideally would be; Can be inconsistent; Has asthma; Free throw shooting; Perimeter shooting; Ball handling; Hesitant to use left hand; Prefers to pull up with left hand and go to basket with right hand - needs to be able to do both, with both hands.

Henderson clearly is a raw player as he just turned 20 years old. Although maybe an inch or two shorter than most shooting guards, Henderson's large wingspan and great athleticism will make up for the lack of size. Perimeter shooting is clearly Henderson's weakness, but has a lot of key skills for him to succeed at the next level. I hope Henderson plays three years at Duke University, so he is a more developed player entering the draft. He needs to continue to stay involved in games when he does not have the hot hand, he is still playing at a high level. In the 2009 NBA draft, Henderson is a lottery pick with a bright NBA future.


Suns & Lakers Fire First Shots - What's Next?

With word that Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks will be traded from Phoenix to the Miami Heat for Shaquille O'Neal and Pau Gasol being moved to the Lakers last week, the question is what do some of their competitors do next?

With Boston, Detroit, Utah, Denver, Dallas, New Orleans, Orlando, and San Antonio seen as their biggest competition for the tile, let's take a look at how they can improve. In New York, the Knicks sit today with a 14-34 record and it appearing like Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry are too similar to play together. So, let's assume that Isiah Thomas and company are ready to move Curry.

First, here are the teams from this group that are unlikely to be interested or unable to trade for Curry:

*Boston - limited cap flexbility; Kendrick Perkins has been adaquete at center; biggest expiring contract is James Posey, but he is integral to the teams' success.

*Cleveland - already have a glut of big men; greater need is at the point guard spot.

*Detroit - Curry struggles to defend and rebound, which are two staples of the Pistons' success; would have to trade key players to make the trade work.

*New Orleans - Chandler and West having career years; Curry does not play well enough in up-tempo pace; limited cap flexiblity; Hornets not in position to take on big salaries.

*Utah - starting big man is not needed; limited cap flexiblity; would not fit.

Now, let's take a look at the remaining three teams on the list of true NBA finals competitors:

*Denver Nuggets

Nuggets get:
Wilson Chandler, $1,091,640, 2 Years Remaining
Eddy Curry, $8,947,543, 3 Years Remaining

Knicks get:
Von Waker, $770,610, 1 Year Remaining
Eduardo Najera, $4,952,380, 1 Year Remaining
Yakhouba Diawara, $687,456, 1 Year Remaining
J.R. Smith, $2,134,067, 1 Year Remaining
2008 1st Round Pick

The Nuggets would get some added interior scoring to go with Nene Hilario, Marcus Camby, and Kenyon Martin. Although the Nuggets already have legitimate big men, none of them can score like Curry can. Playing Curry next to a defensive star like Camby would also take some of the pressure off of Curry to rebound and defend, so he can focus more on scoring.

*Dallas Mavericks

Dallas gets:
Eddy Curry, $8,947,543, 3 Years Remaining
Randolph Morris, $810,000, 1 Year Remaining

New York gets:
DeSagana Diop, $2,146,000, 1 Year Remaining
Maurice Ager, $974,400, 2 Years Remaining
Devean George, $2,369,111, 1 Year Remaining
Eddie Jones, $1,830,000, 1 Year Remaining
Nick Fazekas, $427,163, 2 Year Remaining
2008 1st Round Pick

This trade would be attractive for Dallas because they would only have to give up one of their top eight players, Eddie Jones. Jones starts, but plays limited minutes after the first quarter. Curry would instantly become the top scoring post player they have had. He would also fit well with Erick Dampier, who is a defensive-minded center. Curry and Dampier would be a ying-yang type duo at the center position, which would have success in the playoffs. For the Knics, this trade would be attractive because they would basically get all expiring contracts outside of Fazekas and Ager's small rookie contracts.

*Orlando Magic

Magic get:
Eddy Curry, $8,947,543, 3 Years Remaining
Fred Jones, $3,300,000, 1 Year Remaining

Knicks get:
J.J. Redick, $2,000,160, 2 Years Remaining
James Augustine, $687,456, 1 Year Remaining
Adonal Foyle, $1,219,590, 1 Year Remaining
Pat Garrity, $3,818,750, 1 Year Remaining
Draft rights to Fran Vazquez
Future 1st Round Pick

With Dwight Howard playing center today and Rashard Lewis at power forward, this trade would allow the Magic to move both of these players to a more natural position. Also, the Magic would be able to bolster their bench by allowing Hedo Turkoglu, who is having a career year, to be their sixth man. The Magic would not give up any player currently in their rotation and would be able to acquire a starting center. The Magic would still have some problems at point guard and potentially shooting guard, but this trade would certainly be an upgrade in talent. In addition, Fred Jones, on an expiring contract, would bring some depth to the backcourt. This trade would also rid the Magic of the J.J. Redick and Fran Vazquez draft mistakes. The Knicks would receive all expiring contracts, except for Redick's rookie contract, plus a first round pick and a former first round pick in Vazquez.

*San Antonio Spurs

Spurs get:
Eddy Curry, $8,947,543, 3 Years Remaining

Knicks get:
Brent Barry, $5,544,370, 1 Year Remaining
Ian Mahinmi, $625,840, 2 Years Remaining
Francisco Elson, $3,000,000, 1 Year Remaining

Like the Mavericks deal, the Spurs would get Curry without giving up anyone of their players who logs more than twenty minutes a game. Also like the Mavericks trade, Curry would fit in nicely at the center spot with Fabricio Oberto, who is exclusively a defensive center, only scoring on offense off put-backs and dunks. Although it would be difficult to lose Barry's versatility and perimeter shooting, the Spurs have other guys who can step into that role. Curry would fit well when Duncan needs to rest because they would still have a post presence with him out of the game. The Knicks would get two large expiring contracts in return, plus a mid-level prospect in Mahinmi, who has shown flashes of potential.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

2/2/08 Houston Rockets @ Milwaukee Bucks

I went to the Rockets-Bucks game this past Saturday. It was supposedly viewed in China between 100-200 million people. There certainly were a great deal of Asian people at the game.

Some thoughts from the game:

-I still think the Bucks need to move to an up-tempo game. They have little depth, lack a big-time inside threat, and appear a bit soft. In a fast-paced game, they could take advantage of their guard play and versatility.

-After the game, I went on and checked out the amount of time Charlie Villanueva and Yi Jianlian have played together. Since the combination of the two of them has not made up one of the top twenty, five-man units for the Bucks, I was not able to figure this out. However, I'm guessing it is very minimal.

-I assume Luis Scola has been a disappointment for the Rockets in terms of ability to score. All his points basically come in putbacks or transition. He has virtually no post moves and no mid-range shot.

-I really like some of the sets that Rick Adelman runs for Tracy McGrady to get shots. He uses different types of screens and even includes one where the point guard passes and then screens for McGrady to curl into the lane.

-Royal Ivey is a fringe-NBA player. He just doesn't do enough out there to make a difference, especially on offense - same can be said for Carl Landry.

-At this point, if Yi Jianlian is not hitting his jump shots off pick-and-pop he is useless. He struggles to defend, is not quick enough to take his man off the dribble, and cannot score in the post beyond a fadeaway.

-I really like Aaron Brooks and think he has a lot of potential. However, at this point, he forces too many turnovers and is not as far along as I thought he would be.

-The Rockets need a true, veteran point guard who will be a distributor, knock down open three pointers, and play tough defense. At his best, Rafer Alston does the first two well. At his worse, Alston doesn't do any of these things and then the Rockets struggle to win games.

-The Bucks either need to make Villanueva fit into their offense or trade him. He shoots everytime he touches the ball and appears disgruntled with the team. Again, I would play Yi and Villanueva together and see how that goes. They can't be much worse off then they are today, sitting there with a record of 18-30.

-Houston has to be disappointed with the play of Mike James. James makes $5,632,200 this season, $6,049,400 in 2008-09, and has a player option of $6,466,600 in 2009-10. He's playing behind Alston and Brooks at the point guard spot and Tracy McGrady, Luther Head, and Bonzi Wells at shooting guard. He's averaging seventeen minutes per game and only 6.9 points per game. In the last twenty games, James has played in only four of them - his best performance coming in a 31-point win against Minnesota.


Monday, February 4, 2008

The Triangle Offense

The triangle offense is well-described here step-by-step:

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Lakers & Magic Try to Add Final Piece, Kings Look to Dump Salary

With the Magic and Lakers getting ready for a push to the top of their respective conferences and the Sacramento Kings seeing their top young players develop, it is time for a three-way trade.

Lakers get:
Adonal Foyle, $1,219,590, 1 Year Remaining
Ron Artest, $7,400,000, 2 Years Remaining

Magic get:
Mike Bibby, $13,500,000, 2 Years Remaining
Justin Williams, $862,456, 1 Year Remaining

Kings get:
Pat Garrity, $3,818,750, 1 Year Remaining
Sasha Vujacic, $1,756,951, 1 Year Remaining
Chris Mihm, $2,500,000, 1 Year Remaining
J.J. Redick, $2,000,160, 2 Years Remaining
Trevor Ariza, $3,100,000, 1 Year Remaining
Carlos Arroyo, $4,000,000, 1 Year Remaining
James Augustine, $687,456, 1 Year Remaining
Orlando's 2008 First Round Pick

Let's go team-by-team to take a look at how this would benefit each team.

Lakers: The Lakers would get the final piece to the puzzle to make them the favorite to win the championship. With a starting lineup of Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and then Lamar Odom, Vladimir Radmanovic, Ronny Turiaf, Luke Walton, and Jordan Farmar off the bench, the Lakers would be loaded. Artest would be the perfect complement on the wing to Bryant and Odom's versatility off the bench would fit well. Adding Foyle in place of Mihm would be a slight downgrade, but Foyle does play strong defense in the post. The loss of Ariza would hurt, but he is simply a poor man's Artest. Vujacic has played well and is young, but to make this trade work, he would have to go.

Magic: Today, the Magic sit three games behind Detroit and seven games behind Boston in the East. More importantly, as currently constructed, Orlando most likely will not be able to beat either team in a seven game series. Orlando's biggest weakness thus far has been at the point guard spot. Both Jameer Nelson and Carlos Arroyo have been given a shot, but neither has excelled. With a handful of expiring contracts for players that are not significant on the roster, Orlando has a chance to add a major player. J.J. Redick is a guard who has not fit in with the team and it would be a good opportunity to move him. In this trade, Arroyo would be the only impact player they would need to move. However, adding Bibby would create a situation with an extra point guard, so he could be moved.

Kings: Although the Kings would be giving up two of their most talented players, it would give them an opportunity to get out of long-term contracts that they are locked into. Sacramento would be getting six players whose contracts would expire after this season. A few of the players the Kings would be getting in this trade would be waived immediately. The Kings would also get a terrific shooter in J.J. Redick at a small salary, plus a first round pick of Orlando's next season. With Bibby and Artest moved, it would give Beno Udrih, Quincy Douby, Kevin Martin, John Salmons, and Francisco Garcia more playing time to continue to develop.

I would think only Orlando would have to consider not making this trade. They may not consider Bibby a great enough upgrade from Arroyo or Jameer Nelson to make this trade and take on a big salary for the 2008-09 season. I would think in an opportunity to dump both Bibby and Artest in one trade would be something they couldn't pass on. For the Lakers, to have an opportunity to add another major talent to their team would be a move they would make. Although they would be digging themselves even deeper into a luxury tax position, I would think they would make it for the chance to seriously contend for the title.

Scouting Report: Al Horford

Player Name: Al Horford
Current Team: Atlanta Hawks
NBA Position: PF
Drafted: 3rd (Atlanta)
Height/Weight: 6'10"/245
Birthdate: 6/3/86
Hometown: Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
College: Florida

Son of former NBA player Tito Horford and journalist Arelis Reynoso; Wears size 17 basketball shoes; Won back-to-back national championships at Florida; Named to the All-Tournament team in both national championship seasons; Third team All-American SEC Tournament MVP; Missed two games in college because of a high ankle sprain; Missed time during the 2007 NBA Summer League because of a sprained right ankle.

Physically and emotionally ahead of most his age; Long wingspan; Tough; Post defense; Shot blocker thanks to great timing; Above average ball handler; Leaping; Twelve to fifteen foot midrange jump shot; Rotates well; Help-side defense; Can defend both at the four and five spots; basketball IQ; Rebounding on both ends of the court; Go-to move at this point is a jump hook in the paint; Fights hard for post position; Finishes well at the basket; Runs well; Work ethic.

No game outside fifteen feet; Post moves are underdeveloped; No go-to move; Free throw shooting; Footwork; Needs to become more of an offensive threat in pick-and-pop and pick-and-roll situations; Tends to foul too frequently.

On defense, Horford is a terrific rebounder who works hard for loose balls. Although he is not the most athletic power forward, he has great instincts, which allow him to be a better shot blocker than his body should allow him to be. On offense, he needs to continue to work on his range, especially in pick-and-pop situations. Another major need is to increase the range of post moves. Although his mid-lane jump hook is strong, he still needs to develop countermoves off of it and additional movements that he can rely on. If Horford can develop into a reliable offensive threat, improve his footwork, and continue to add weight to his upper body, he will be one of the best, young post players in the league.