Tag Archives: Tobias Harris

Your Mega-NBA Preview: Border Rivals Style

Before I get into the nuts and bolts, one quick thing on this week’s latest media-fueled blow-up.

The Star Tribune was certainly “tilting at windmills” in publishing the smear piece about the Pups’ front office’s master plan.

It is the year 2012. No, seriously. 2012. Someone should remind the editorial staff at the Star Tribune that, while racism certainly exists in this world, the idea that a for-profit business, like the Timberwolves, would purposefully sign white players to boost sales is beyond absurd. As a life long fan of Minnesota sports, I can tell you that we, the fans, do not care one iota about the color of a player’s skin. Remember, Kirby, The Kid, and Moss ran this town and were revered. Sure, it’s fluky that this year’s Pups squad has a higher percentage of white guys than an Augusta National board meeting. But, really?! It’s a master plan to put fans in the seats? Such a statement is even too preposterous for the 2013 PST.

Moving on, we have some hoops to preview. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Minnesota Timberwolves –

You cannot preview the Pups and not talk about the devastating injuries to Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love. Not having Rubio and Love in the line-up is going to make the first month and a half a tough one to predict. The good news: the schedule sets up real nicely, with only @CHI and @BOS looming in November and the first part of December. No OKC. No Spurs. The bad news: this is the portion of the schedule where this young Pups team was supposed to get out to a strong start. With Rubio and Love, a 16-6 start was a real possibility. Now, 13-9 would probably be stealing.

From a personnel perspective, everyone is expecting Nikola Pekovic to make a jump. He has received probably the most buzz, both locally and nationally, to help carry the Pups. Before getting injured last year, Pekovic was putting up 20 and 10 on a regular basis. Because he will be relied on to produce more in Love’s absence, that 20 and 10 is critical to the Pups’ success. Unfortunately, I have to admit I am a little worried about whether or not he can do it without Love on the floor. Yes, he performed well when Love went down with an injury last spring. But last season was fluky because the lockout. I am not sure Pek has the skill set to be The Guy.

I think Pups fans should be more concerned with the play of newcomers Chase Budinger, Andrei Kirielinko, and Brandon Roy. Budinger averaged nearly 10 points a game last year and shot 45% from the floor while hitting at a better than 40% clip from downtown. His man-defense is brutal; but in Adelman’s system, he is smart enough to get to his spot. Kirilenko, on the other hand, is flat out wiley – no two ways about it. He plays great help defense. He can create his own shot (even if it is uglier than a Real Housewife of Any County/City sans make-up). He is an excellent passer (in the ’05-’06 season – he averaged more than 4 assists a game). And, he is bringing back Robin Gibb’s hairdo: here and here. Those two guys are both pretty safe in terms of what you are getting. The wild card is Roy.

As the floor general for the Blazers, Roy embarrassed the team that let him get away on an almost annual basis. Pups fans are hoping that he can rediscover that magic this season.

When the Pups drafted Roy in 2006 and then traded him immediately for Randy Foy (who graduated from the Troy Hudson school of shot taking), fans were confused. Yeah, Roy had knee problems (we will get back to this), but he was a dude. Over the next four years, he went out and proved it. Every time he eviscerated us with the Blazers, Pups fans got down about the one who got away. Well he is back.

Only a little more than a year removed from retirement, Roy is back to prove, yet again, that his knees are good enough for him to perform at a high level (thank you German steroi…errrrr…scientist guy) . And now, with Rubio and Love out to start the season, that unknown is the most critical question for the Pups. If the hoops Gods have any sense of poetic justice, Roy will average 15 and 6 in a veteran role, be available to take the shot in crunch time, and force defenses to loosen up a bit on Love. Without that kind of presence, the start of this season could be a rocky one for a young Pups squad.

Ultimately, the Pups success this season hinges on how well it can start without Rubio and Love. If the Pups have moderate success, they will push for the last playoff spot in a loaded Western Conference. Because we drink…okay…guzzle the Kool-Aid, we predict the Pups find a way to sneak in as an 8th seed and give the top-seeded OKC (yup, not buying the Lakers hype yet) everything it can handle in the first round, though, the series will be short (think OKC-Miami finals last year).

Milwaukee Bucks –

The Bucks enter the new season as the resident bridesmaid in the Eastern Conference, having finished 9th the last two seasons. To get back into the playoffs, the Bucks will have to rely upon newcomer, Monta Ellis, and Brandon Jennings to lead this team.

The Bucks will rely upon these dynamic scorers to reach the playoffs.

Calling Monta Ellis a volume shooter is like calling Sandy a thunderstorm. Ellis has never seen a shot he does not love. The Bucks 2012-2013 season is going to hinge on his co-existence with fellow volume shooter Brandon Jennings.

At the end of last season when Monta was moved from Golden State’s run and gun to Scotty Skiles’ more deliberate offensive scheme, there was definitely an adjustment period. Ellis showed flashes of his former self, but he was rarely the consistent scorer he was in Golden State. And there were times that he and Jennings almost seemed to clash in terms of who was running the show (for the record – Jennings should).

Coming into this season, more than anything else, Monta needs to find some balance with his scoring. When he scored 30 or more points last season, the Bucks were 3-6. When he had less than 20, the Bucks were 5-10. But, when he was taking a page from the 3 Little Bears, and he scored between 20 and 29, the Bucks were 9 -4. Talk about a dramatic difference.

From a bigs perspective, the Bucks are actually still fairly well-stocked, even after trading franchise center Andrew Bogut. Surprise standout Ersan Ilyasova showed real promise at the power forward position. Even if he regresses from the 45% he shot from deep last season, he is still in line to have another solid year.Veteran bigs Samuel Dalembert, Drew Gooden, and Joel Przybilla should provide the defensive presence that Skiles preaches. Even if it does mean that they use 16 of their allotted 18 fouls each game. Puppy bigs John Henson and Tobias Harris have both looked good in summer league and preseason games. Harris actually averaged nearly 21 points a game and earned the starting SF role. With that kind of promise — the kid definitely has skill— there is definite upside in this crew.

Landing a playoffs spot is a real possibility given the state of flux in the middling Eastern Conference. Ellis and Jennings will score, but the secondary talent will need to step up for this team to make the playoffs. Assuming the bigs bring the desired defensive presence and they spot the necessary points when needed, this team should find themselves in the playoffs. Though, like the Pups, a first round departure to a top seed is pretty likely.

Advertisements

Bucks’ Jennings – The Looming Free Agency Problem

Is he, too, taking his talents elsewhere?

Brandon Jennings, the undisputed star for the Milwaukee Bucks, may not be residing on the shore of Lake Michigan for too long. Reports recently surfaced that Jennings is doing his homework on big-market teams (shocking that he knows how to do his homework in the first part, considering he skipped college to play abroad and attended high “school” at Oak Hill Academy.)

Jennings is eligible to sign a lucrative contract extension with the Bucks this summer. Remember, part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement allows the Bucks to offer the most money to Jennings. But, it’s expected he will sign a one-year tender with the Bucks, and hit the unrestricted free agent market in the Summer of 2014. It’s an ominous sign for the Bucks, who can ill-afford to lose the one player on the team that keeps them exciting and fighting for the playoffs on a yearly basis (it also doesn’t hurt the Bucks play in the Eastern Conference where the half-trying Atlanta Hawks seem to find the playoffs yearly.)

Jennings is claiming it has nothing to do with the City of Milwaukee itself – of course it’s not; what doesn’t Milwaukee have to offer a kid Straight Outta Compton?! It’s purely business. Taking Jennings at his word, the decision to spurn the Bucks comes down to the direction of the squad. With Bogut spending more time on the training table than Ice Cube selling out to Coors Light (sense a theme here?) and Stephen Jackson never seeing a terrible shot he didn’t like, Jennings may have a point about the Bucks’ direction. Since drafting Jennings in 2009, the Bucks have drafted Larry Sanders, Tobias Harris, and Jon Leuer. It’s usually best not to emulate the KAAAAAAAAAAHN when drafting. Again stealing a book from the KAAAAAAAAAHN, the Bucks filled in the rest of the roster with a bunch of players that have bounced around the league – Shaun Livingston, S. Jackson, Drew Gooden, and Mike Dunleavy. Frankly, I can’t blame Jennings for wanting to do his homework.

It’s important to keep in mind that if Jennings does sign elsewhere, he will take less money to do so. The new CBA was designed to give small- to mid-market teams an advantage in signing their own players to maintain parity. But there is not much a franchise like Milwaukee can do when a player is willing to accept less money to play elsewhere. Just ask Cleveland – but I’m pretty sure anyone would take less money to live on South Beach instead of next to this.

Right now, Milwaukee is 12-14 after it’s thrilling win against Cleveland and are hanging on to the 8th seed for the playoffs. Brandon Jennings is their catalyst. But, for how long? A point-guard with his natural scoring ability will be a sought after commodity if he were to hit the open market. And it doesn’t take long to consider how good he’d look at the point for the Spike Lee Knicks (yes, this is assuming the Linsanity phenomena is as short-lived as the Tebowing phenomena.) Don’t be surprised, Milwaukee, if you hear this refrain in the Summer of 2014:

“As I Leave, Believe I’m Stompin
But When I Come Back, Boy, I’m Comin Straight Outta Compton”