Why Jabari Parker Is The Next Big Thing

He’s 6’8, 235 lbs and on March 15, he’ll be nineteen years-old. For those of you who don’t speak basketball in that kind of language, here’s a little perspective: LeBron James is currently enjoying his athletic prime at the age of 29. He measures in at 6’8, 250 lbs. There may be differences in brute strength, but Jabari is on pace to surpass King James in the physical specimen department. And with a vengeance too.

Jabari is the leader of a Duke Blue Devils team that is 11-3 and a surefire tournament threat. Jabari is averaging 20.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.7 apg, and a block and a steal apiece. Oh, and he’s shooting 51% from the field and 43% from 3. 

Never mind that he’s an elite scorer and both a commendable rebounder and defender. His percentages are comparable to those of NBA All-Stars. And in a day and age where one-and-done players filter through college into the NBA, Parker will be coming from Duke University, which for some GMs is as good as it gets. A year under Coach K is unparalleled tutelage for these young men, and when a stud like Parker is the beneficiary, the sky is the limit. Does Coach K have good things to say about Jabari as a person? You decide:

Dan [Patrick] asked if Jabari Parker left for the NBA after this season, would he be upset. Coach K had nothing but praise for Parker. “He’s really a Duke kid,” Coach K said. “A great student. … The kid’s for real in every aspect. He’ll be associated with Duke and our program forever, kind of like Kyrie [Irving] is.”

Lastly, and without sounding arrogant, I like that Parker is a Mormon. For one, he’d be the first black Mormon NBA player EVER. But his faith has also had a tremendous impact on a human level too. He’s a supremely confident young man who doesn’t drink, smoke or swear (don’t know about the last one), and when he was in high school he was a regular church-goer. He had a GPA as high as 3.8 and was recruited by Coach K, who ranks personality among the most important characteristics of ideal recruits. 

From the build, to the talent, to the smarts, Jabari Parker is the real deal. If I have the Number One pick in the draft in 2014, it’s a no-brainer.

Boston Celtics: Under The Microscope

After starting the season 0-4, the Boston Celtics find themselves back at .500 amid a four-game winning streak. It could easily become a five-game streak if the Celtics can beat a 3-4 Charlotte Bobcat squad tonight in Boston.

This team is certainly unique in many aspects. For one, they’ve been playing with an incredible energy for 48 minutes every night. These guys do not give up easily. And the recent buzzer-beater three by Jeff Green to beat the Heat is, at the very least, indicative of Brad Stevens’ command of attention in his first year as Head Coach. A prime example is that each player seems to be maximizing their talent in their respective roles.

When the streak began, Stevens moved Gerald Wallace to the bench, opting to pair Avery Bradley with Jordan Crawford in the backcourt. Historically, Bradley’s offensive game has been most dangerous as a catch-and-shoot guard. He can be a legitimate threat with the corner-three, or slashing to the hoop and catching a pass inside. Crawford too excels in these offensive categories, but he is also a far more distinguished ball-handler than Bradley. In the Celtics’ most recent win over the Orlando Magic, Crawford dished out 10 assists, displaying occasional Rondo-esque flare with his highlight-reel passes. If he can continue to be an effective distributor, the absence of Rondo will be alleviated, albeit marginally. Nevertheless, the guard play has been promising while Rondo rehabs.

The offense has also been picking up steam as of late. Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Courtney Lee and Jared Sullinger have been thriving in Stevens’ offense, shooting for high percentages. The Celtics have been averaging about five players in double figures every night. That’s incredible. It’s also another example of Stevens’ command, insofar as it seems like a college basketball tactic. 

If the Celtics can maintain .500 ball until Rondo returns, their potential for making the Playoffs jumps considerably. Granted if everything magically fell into place after Rondo returns, the Celtics are looking at a 7 or 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. It doesn’t make their draft prospects as sexy as fans would like, but it also makes them more appealing to Free Agents looking to be a useful puzzle piece, and also creates a world of opportunities trade-wise. 

It seems like everyday, Brad Stevens says everyone (players and fans alike) need to take this season one game at a time. From the looks of things, the players have bought in; the display of effort is undeniable. Nevertheless, the Celtics seem to be exceeding expectations thus far. If they can win tonight, they will be over .500 for the first time this year. 

Players I’m Watching In 2013-14

Now that it’s August, the month when absolutely nothing happens in the NBA world, I find myself watching various YouTube mixes of players whose games I want to see more of. Particularly the younger players in rebuilding situations, poised for immediate success.

Without further adieu, here they are:

Eric Bledsoe

Suns trade Jared Dudley to the Clippers for Caron Butler and Eric Bledsoe, immediately picking up two starting-caliber players for the price of one. While looking at it as Butler-for-Dudley, Phoenix loses an above-average defender, but Butler is still a capable– if not more capable– three-point shooter, as well as more polished offensively.

Bledsoe is on the verge of becoming one of the leagues elite point guards. Physically, he’s built like Russell Westbrook, possessing a wide frame and strong arms. He’s an emphatic jammer, who can also spread the floor with his shooting, and is a nightmare to defend when he puts the ball on the floor. He’s also a great distributor, but he’s no Rajon Rondo. He seems to be a score-first kind of point guard, which is fine, but he’ll also want to make sure his assist numbers stay strong. He’ll be battling with Goran Dragic to become to Starting PG in Phoenix, but the odds are in his favor. With the backing of everybody in the organization and consistent playing time ahead of him, Bledsoe is poised to pop in 2013-14.

Moe Harkless

He’s 6’9, but plays much smaller. Harkless has some of the softest touch for a kid his age, and his most enticing moments are when he slashes to the hole for a slick finish. During his Freshman year at St. John’s, Harkless average 15.5 points on 45.5%, 8.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. Last year, in 76 games (59 starts) he averaged 8.2 points on 46%, 4.4 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 0.8 blocks per game. He is a jaw-dropping athlete with room to grow, and can turn his scoring up a notch when needed.

With Glen Davis returning from injury, the Magic will have some lineup issues to address, as Davis’ minutes will likely cut into Tobias Harris’ at the PF spot. This could affect Harkless should Harris, who also is 6’9, end up sliding over to the SF spot for chunks of time. In any event, maintaining consistent minutes for Moe is a must as he seeks to become the identity of this new-look Orlando Magic.

Anthony Bennett

After the draft finished and Summer League came into focus, it seems like people just stopped talking about Anthony Bennett. Perhaps that was due to the busy off-season for the Cleveland Cavaliers, hiring Mike Brown and signing Earl Clark, Jarrett Jack and Andrew Bynum. But in all of these moments, Bennett was nowhere to be found.

Being the classic tweener, analysts are already unsure about whether he’ll be a PF or a SF for Cleveland. According to ESPN, Clark and Alonzo Gee are the teams options on the wing, and Tristan Thompson is the only true PF, so it’s likely Bennett will see minutes at the 4. He’s a big boy with a lot of energy, so pairing him with Thompson will likely be a useful tactic for wearing down the opponent.

Yet Bennett remains a mystery. He shocked the world when he was selected Number One overall, and in Cleveland, he’ll be, at best, the Fifth Option (Irving, Thompson, Waiters and Bynum before him). Will he get consistent minutes? What position will he play? Is he a ROY candidate? I can’t remember the last time we had a Number One with so many question marks, which is no knock on his game. Just merely a result of his situation.

Andre Drummond

Detroit had one of the best off-seasons of any team in the league. Working with what their budget could handle, Joe Dumars signed Mo Cheeks as the Head Coach, one of the best value moves available. Then he drafted Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at Number Nine overall, and signed free agents Josh Smith, Chauncey Billups and Italian stud Luigi Datome. Then just when we thought it was all done, the Brandon Jennings-for-Brandon Knight swap happened.

All of this has little to do with Andre Drummond, but it does take some pressure off of him to perform immediately. Last year he averaged 8 points on 60.8% (!!), with 7.5 rebounds, 1 steal and 1.5 blocks per game in just 20 minutes per. He’s only 20 years old, and now he’s playing between Greg Monroe and Josh Smith. This year will be about consistency as he seeks to establish himself as a legitimate double-double PF.

As the stats show, Drummond is a beast on D. But he can even dribble in transition too. Obviously it can get a little unsettling, but he knows when it’s time to dish, and if he practices his handles, he could be a nightmare for opposing teams in transition. The immediate future is bright for the Detroit Pistons, and Andre knows that if he can perform his best right now, it can pay off generously later.

NBA Free Agency: 7/6/2013

As Dwight Howard officially becomes a Houston Rocket, a grand NBA shakeup has begun, NBA2K style. Let’s go over some of the recent moves:

  1. Dwight Howard to Houston Rockets:

The big one first. This signing is bittersweet from my perspective. I’m happy Dwight chose Houston; surrounding him with better-than-average talent like Chandler Parsons, an All-Star in James Harden, and a solid pass-first point guard in Jeremy Lin is smart, and this grouping should inevitably thrive under the tutelage of Kevin McHale, the ultimate players’ coach.  The disappointing part though, is that current center Omer Asik, who just finished playing his butt off in 2012-13, is the odd man out. He has already stated he has zero interest in playing alongside Dwight under any circumstances. It may seem a bit stubborn, but Asik just averaged a double-double, and is one of the league’s most efficient rebounders. 

Nevertheless, the Rockets are now poised to become elite contenders in the Western Conference. They will face stiff competition from other powerhouses like OKC, LAC and SA, but Dwight brings real star-power, and the prospects of the Howard-Harden tandem are truly tantalizing. 

    2. Josh Smith to Detroit Pistons:

I don’t think there is any question Joe Dumars was in the hotseat here. The Pistons haven’t been relevant for five years, which is unsettling for the storied franchise, and several unfortunate contracts (Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva) didn’t help. They took gradual steps in rebuilding, drafting talents like Jonas Jerebko, Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, Andre Drummond and now most recently, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Josh Smith is the leader they have desperately been seeking that will immediately serve as the focal point at both ends of the floor. The aforementioned players are now setup up to showcase their best abilities accordingly. It helps to have vets like Jason Maxiell and Rodney Stucky around too. A few more with playoff– and ideally, Championship– experience should solidify Detroit as a fringe playoff team in 2013-14.

    3. Darren Collison to Los Angeles Clippers:

Talk about a steal. After Doc Rivers traded Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler for Jared Dudley and J.J. Reddick, he filled Bledsoe’s void with the more proven Collison. Darren, while probably not a true starting Point Guard, is reunited with Chris Paul, his original mentor from their days in New Orleans. It’s a cheap deal with a player option after 2013-14, so everyone wins. The Clippers have made some great moves, starting with getting Doc Rivers, and will be true forces in the West next year.

    4. Jarrett Jack to Cleveland Cavaliers:

I love this signing. Jack will serve as the 6th Man-Combo Guard who remains devastatingly efficient for opposing teams to handle. He’ll be a welcome veteran addition in the backcourt too, joining young guns Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Wayne Ellington. After signing Earl Clark and #1 Pick Anthony Bennett, and establishing a solid frontcourt with Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller and Anderson Varejao, the Cavs are one big name away from becoming a playoff team in the East.

    5. Carl Landry to Sacramento Kings

A reunion of sorts. Landry spent parts of two seasons in Sacramento from 2009 through 2011. This time, he gets a payday and a chance to be a big contributor on a young team. The most exciting part though, is that he is reunited with Chuck Hayes, a former teammate in the Houston Rockets. When on the court together, the two always maintained a commendable chemistry. They are supported by another former Rocket, Patrick Patterson, and the notorious Demarcus Cousins, still blooming into a stud Center.

Surrounding Cousins with a true professional like Landry, as well as Hayes and Patterson, should help with his maturity development. That’s the last barrier between him being a fringe All-Star, and him being the best Center in the NBA. Sacramento also boasts a new-look backcourt with rookie Ben McLemore and talented young Point Guard Greivis Vazquez. With a little more depth on the wings, the Kings could be setup for immediate success, should all things go accordingly.

 

The Rondo Conundrum

Since Rajon Rondo injured his MCL and was sidelined for the remainder of the 2012-13 season, the Boston Celtics have gone 6-0, with solid wins against teams like the Miami Heat, and both the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers. Even when Jared Sullinger- who too was ruled out for the season- joined Rondo in rehab, a trade seemed all but imminent. But Danny Ainge opted to do nothing.

Though the pure number of assists per game for the C’s is down since Rondo’s injury, the looser, pick-and-roll style of play has created better ball movement than demonstrated earlier in their season, which has been lackluster at best.

In his last five games, Paul Pierce is averaging 17.6, 8.8, 5.4 and a steal, shooting shooting 46% from the field and 35% from three.

Kevin Garnett is averaging 16.2 and 7.8 with a 1.5 steals on 59.3% shooting.

The consistency can be credited to the ball movement amongst right-minded, team oriented veterans like Jeff Green, Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass, Leandro Barbosa, Chris Wilcox and Jason Collins. With Rondo, the budding superstar, and Jared Sullinger, the impressive young rookie combing for close to 50 minutes per game, plenty of playing time has opened up for guys like Barbosa, Wilcox and Terry to show what they’ve been dying to do.

Terry is enjoying playing a style of basketball he was used to from his days in Dallas. JET, who even I was beginning to consider a bust, is shooting an insane 64.5% from the field and 50% from three in his last five averaging close to 11 points.

Bass, who has suffered from declining offensive consistency this season, is shooting 54.8% in his last five, averaging 9 points and 5.2 rebounds a game.

Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee are providing feisty and tenacious defense and are beasts in the backcourt.

Even Jeff Green is averaging 14 points on 52% shooting.

Bottom line is, Doc Rivers is making some damn good Kool-Aid, and everybody’s drinking it.

…But also, this is a valuable period of time for Celtics fans and players alike. Especially Mr. Rajon Rondo. While he was healthy, he was putting up great numbers; no doubt. The bottom line is, something wasn’t right, and it’s starting to look like he could be to blame for some of it, maybe.

Perhaps he was hogging the ball, or as some put it, “pounding the basketball.” Rumors spread earlier in the season that Courtney Lee was reportedly unhappy in Boston because Rondo was a basketball-pounder. And any fan will tell you, it looks like there is a lot more ball movement in the last five games.

Whatever the case, Rondo is a very smart guy, and smart enough to notice what’s going on right now. My guess is he can benefit the situation when he returns, so long as he seizes this opportunity. Right now.

It’s Tyreke, Stupid!

Tonight (11/16), the Atlanta Hawks defeated the Sacramento Kings 112-96. Tyreke Evans started at Shooting Guard and recorded 14 points (5-11 FG), an assist, a steal and two turnovers and a foul in 27 minutes of court time. Isaiah Thomas, the point guard- who quite honestly, despite his impressive 2011-12 numbers, only has his job because of his name- registered 3 points, 5 assists, a rebound, a steal, 0 turnovers and 2 fouls in just 17 minutes. They’re numbers and minutes took a hit from the fiery bench combo of Aaron Brooks (17 pts, 75% 3FG) and Marcus Thornton (17 pts).

One question remains, however: why in the world is Tyreke Evans not playing upwards of 35 minutes in this game?

For some reason, everyone in the world has forgotten that the 23 year old averaged 20 PPG, 5 RPG and 5 APG in his Rookie of the Year campaign. Ever since then, he has been horrifyingly managed by the Sacramento Kings organization, from top to bottom: the Maloof brothers never pursed the mass appeal that he warranted and the carousel of head coaches that came through the revolving door to the team never catered to his game. It’s as if the Kings have used the drafting of- and biased catering to- Demarcus Cousins as a blatant attempt to signify their climaxed frustration with Evans.

While as a coach, I can understand playing Thornton and Brooks given their production in this game, Tyreke delivered and clearly was deserving of more minutes. Keith Smart is a better coach than me, but if I had #13 on my team, the offense would run through him.

The last time a rookie averaged Evans’ numbers in his rookie campaign, it was none other than Lebron James. Before that: Michael Jordan. And yes, before that: Oscar Robertson. Needless to say, there’s something special about the men before Tyreke. Talent like this does not come around often, and when it does, to see it wasted so regrettably so, is enough to make a fan lose their mind.

Instead of treating him like just another role player, ship Thomas out of town and put Tyreke at PG. This is the position where he averaged his career numbers, and the idea of an Evans/Cousins pick-and-roll with Thornton on the wing and Thompson/Robinson in the post is a devastating scenario. Granted this team needs to learn how to play legitimate defense, this starting four, plus James Johnson or John Salmons at the SF and a productive bench including Brooks, Thornton, Robinson and Chuck Hayes is a better team than this current 2-7 record suggests.

I remember after Evans’ rookie year, I had convinced myself that the natural transition of divine basketball talent transition went MJ-Kobe-Lebron-Durant-Evans. But ever since then I’ve been sorely mistaken.

I refuse to believe I was shortsighted to hold such an opinion; Evans’ stats and athleticism don’t come around often. If- and hopefully when (soon!)- the Sacramento Kings trade Evans, it would be nice if they did so to a team that would either play him at PG, or give him more of a role than he has now. His numbers have slipped, but a renewed focus on his potential superstardom will help bring back the dominance we once witnessed.

TO ALL INTERESTED GM’s IN THE NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION:

…Looking for a guard capable of 20 5 and 5 on the cheaps?

Champs: I’m Calling It

The Celtics lost Ray Allen. Plus KG and Paul Pierce are too old. They’re not legitimate contenders.

Wrong.

Take your pick: Ray Allen, or Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa? If the latter option is not your choice, then I just don’t know what else you could want.

Here’s what the Celtics’ Depth chart might look like for Doc Rivers on opening night:

PG: Rondo

SG: Lee, Bradley, Terry, Barbosa

SF: PIerce, Green, Joseph

PF: Bass, Sullinger, Wilcox

C: Garnett, Milicic, Collins, Melo

The absence of a true backup PG should be no cause for alarm. After all, Rondo has proven that he performs adequately when he voluntarily plays extended minutes. Nonetheless, Jason Terry has proven through training camp that he is capable of dishing out multiple dimes. So long as the bench can produce within the ball handling department, all should be fine.

So what about the other elephant in the room?

I think it’s safe to say Garnett will finish the season with a MPG number around 28-29. Sullinger looks like he is a candidate for upwards of 20 minutes, and Bass, who saw career high minutes last season, should still see a sizable chunk of court time. Though Jeff Green performs far better as a SF than PF, he’s still capable of minutes at the 4.

The important part though, is this: once Wilcox is fully healthy, Green will primarily be the 6th Man SF. Sullinger, Bass, Garnett and Wilcox/Milicic will  man the paint, and the backcourt will be pure beauty.

Rondo, the general, flying up the floor in transition with the likes of Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley (when he’s healthy, hopefully around December 1), Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa on the wings. Because they all have speed, they will burst at the hoop, which leaves Rondo, who has the best court vision in the league, to either finish himself, toy with the D or best of all; hit The Truth wide open for three in the corner.

The depth at Shooting Guard is simply unprecedented. That coupled with Rondo, an MVP candidate, HOFers Pierce and Garnett, a rejuvenated and James Worthy-esque Jeff Green and an above average core of Big Men makes these guys dangerous. The final piece of the equation, of course, is the Doctor. He commands so much respect that he willed Terry, Lee and Barbosa to Boston with his personal pitches.

Lee’s story in the offseason is so great. He was a restricted FA, but the Rockets knew that he was going to command more money than they could afford to pay him, so the wait-and-see game began. Lee got a handful of offers and was enjoying all of the interest in his services.  Then it happened.

Lee, who has a home in Orlando where his NBA playing days began, was paid a visit by Doc Rivers. Doc was straight with Lee: the Celtics didn’t have money to spend after getting Terry. They did however, have the cash in disposable contracts (Sean Williams, JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore, Sasha Pavlovic). Doc told Lee that he and Danny Ainge were going to go to the board room to hash out all of the logistics in order to make this happen. All he needed was Lee’s patience.

And Lee fully accepted. He sat mum for weeks, ignoring offers and inquiries from upwards of ten teams, until finally a sign-and-trade deal was made official with the Houston Rockets. Lee went to Boston and got his payday. The C’s got their man. They replaced Jesus Shuttlesworth with JET Terry and Lee, a legitimate 3-point threat and notorious defensive hound every night.

I may be a biased fan, but find me a deeper team in the entire league.

You can’t.

On top of all this, in any story you look up about this Celtics team as a whole, their budding chemistry is oft mentioned. They’ve got the talent, they’re building a true sense of fraternity, and they’ve got the experience and pedigree.

My money’s on the boys in Green.

West L.A. Fadeaway Highway Robbery

Now that the dust has settled from the Dwight Howard trade, the outcomes for all participating teams are in focus:

L.A. gets away with murder by trading the 2nd best Center in the league, the rarely used Josh McRoberts and Christian Eyenga, and a 1st Round pick that certainly won’t be any higher than 25 for the most dominant big man since Shaq, the hefty contract of Chris Duhon and bench warmer/prospect Earl Clark. Important note is that where the Lakers were forced to take on additional salary in Duhon, it doesn’t really matter. After Steve Nash, they didn’t have another PG on the roster, so acquiring Duhon was actually in their interest since he is a more than formidable backup.

Denver quietly scoops Andre Iguodala for Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington and a 1st Round Pick. They definitely got the better of the deal, but Afflalo is no slouch, Harrington can still play and they lost a pick.

Philly lands their coveted big man that they’ve been dreaming of, as well as journeyman starting SG Jason Richardson, in exchange for rookie Mo Harkless, Sophomore Nikola Vucevic and Clark, as well as a 1st Round pick. While this exchange can basically be seen as Iggy for Bynum straight up, the Sixers actually came out pretty strong. They now  boast a rotation of big men that includes Bynum, Spencer Hawes, Thad Young and youngster Lavoy Allen. That’s pretty damn good. Bynum will dominate in the post and when Hawes is on the floor with him, Jrue Holiday is going to have a field day running pick-and-pops/rolls with his two 7-footers. I can see it now, double pick-and-roll at the top of the key, Bynum bangs his way into the post and Hawes casually steps behind the three-point line. Jrue immediately has two assist options with good chances of conversion, or he has a wide open trip to the bucket. Whoever it is that starts at the PF should suffice.Also needless to say, Holiday’s going to have sharpshooters Richardson and Nick Young running off the ball and Evan Turner wreaking havoc. Assuming Turner has a breakout year- which is certainly overdue at this point- Philly has themselves a dangerous starting five.

On the other side of the ball, however, I’m still angered as an onlooking Celtics fan at what L.A. just did. Speaking of pick-and-rolls, that is going to be the Lakers’ bread and butter this year. Howard is the best Center in the league, especially when he’s facing the basket in the paint, and Gasol basically hits every open jumper that he gets. Kobe is Kobe. Nash will hit the open three and other than Rondo and D-Will, he’s probably the next best passing PG in the league.

The other aspect of this highway robbery is L.A.’s recent signing of Antwan Jamison TO THE VETERAN’S MINIMUM! Are you kidding me?! He will now jump off the bench with Jodie Meeks, Duhon and Jordan Hill; a pretty formidable bench, though certainly not the best- see my Celtics.

I think an LA v. OKC battle in the Western Conference Finals is all but confirmed. I’ll stick with OKC for the sake of youth, and because I detest the Lakers, but this series should go seven games.

As for the East, here’s what I think the top 8 will look like:

1. Miami

2. Boston

3. Indiana

4. Chicago

5. Philly

6. Brooklyn

7. New York

8. Atlanta

Two Teams to Watch

It looks like Minnesota Timberwolves PF/SF Michael Beasley will be signing with the Phoenix Suns, while Minnesota has offered a fat contract to Portland Trailblazers SF/SG Nicolas Batum.

Pretty interesting scenario to ponder: Minnesota is more likely to let Beasley walk so they can clear up more cap space. Phoenix doesn’t have much in the way of trade bait that could benefit Minnesota, so a sign-and-trade might be superfluous. The plan was to offer Batum enough money (which turned out to be $11 Million a year) so that Portland wouldn’t match it.

Unfortunately for Minnesota fans, Paul Allen is the owner of Portland and he’s conveniently a billionaire/Microsoft co-founder, AKA money is of no concern. This means Minnesota is most likely going to have to acquire Batum by sign-and-trade. I’m surprised their most recent offer of a Derrick Williams package wasn’t enough to entice Portland.

In any event, if Minnesota acquires Batum, they look good with or without Williams.

Projected Starting 5 #1: Rubio, Johnson/Roy, Batum, Love, Peckovic

Projected Starting 5 #2: Rubio, Batum, Williams, Love, Peckovic

Clearly, #2 is a far superior lineup, but getting rid of Beasley is in the best interest of the team. He is a prototypical tweener, whereas Batum is solidly a SF who can dabble a little at SG. If they can mold Williams into a starting SF, Batum has the potential for all kinds of offensive freedom, essentially playing both SG and SF as he and Rick Adelman see fit both with or without Williams on the floor.

As for the Suns, Beasley is a great acquisition. He can run the floor with Kendall Marshall and spread the floor for Gortat to dominate in the post (I’m projecting 20 ppg, 10 rpg for Gortat in 2012-13). With Beasley, Marshall, Gortat, Markief Morris and Robin Lopez, as well as new starting PG and rising star Goran Dragic, Phoenix has a very solid core in place comprised of young talent with room to grow.

Phoenix finished the season at 33-33, not bad considering the look of their roster compared to the other Western squads that made the playoffs. Similarly, Minnesota was a legitimate .500+ team until Rubio got injured and they finished the season 5-20. Both of these moves make the teams potential 7-8 seeds in the playoffs, and change the landscape of the Western Conference. I’m not concerned about the loss of Nash either, as Dragic proved himself to be an offensive threat as the Rockets starting PG last year.

Let’s wait and see.

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