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  1. The Rooks

 

This year has a very exciting rookie class that will be sure to entertain.  Who won’t try and watch Kevin Durant?  Can this guy play at the NBA level?  He couldn’t take Texas too far in the NCAA tournament, but now the Sonics are building around him.  I’m  expecting him to be an 18 and 7 guy this year.  Beyond Durant, there’s the Mike Conley Jrs, Yi Jianlian and who knows, maybe even a little Greg Oden at the end of the season.

 

  1. Kobe to Explode

      I’ve said it a few times, but I don’t expect Kobe to go anywhere until the trade deadline.  But when that deadline arrives, it will be more of a blockbuster than KG himself (if that’s even possible).  As we know, Kobe is a man of the spotlight, and once the season starts, there’s only one way to stay in the light…produce!  I know the likes of Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson would agrue that this isn’t true, but to a real NBA fan, it’s all about who puts on the best show ON THE COURT, and Kobe will be the man, again.

 

  1. The Denver Nuggets

 I’ve probably been overdoing this a bit, but I’m a firm believer that the Nuggets have serious potential this year.  The West is still strong, even without KG, but the Nuggets field a team that has the proper weapons.  Since Allan Iverson headed to Denver, he’s gone under the radar.  After the half season of learning to play together (AI and Melo), I feel these two will FINALLY figure it all out and form a chemistry that will be second to none.  Wasn’t it just a couple years ago that everyone thought AI was the best player in the league?  He’s not that old yet, and he’s still one of the quickest players with the ball.  How can you deny these two?

 

  1. The BIG 3 in Boston

      Kevin Garnet, Paul Pierce and Scott Pollard…..I mean Ray Allan.  Three of the leagues best players somehow ended up on one of last year’s worst teams.  There’s no doubt that the Celtics will be this year’s most improved team.  It’s just a matter of how far they go?  I think its obvious that it all comes down to injuries.  If they can all stay healthy, the sky’s the limit.  With an injury to one of them, there’s not much to watch in Boston.  I say Conference Finals at max.

 

  1. The New York Knicks/Mafia

This would have been even more interesting of a point if Ron Artest was picked up by the Knicks.  Either way, they still acquired Zach Randolph.  Along with Eddy Curry, the two form a pair of the scariest looking guys you could ever pass on the street or on the court. On the court, if these guys can get it together, they have potential to be one of the best turnarounds in the league.  With the East still wide open, how can you deny these guys a playoff spot.  I’d take them right now (before the season starts) to finish the season ahead of Orlando.

 

  1. The Season Starts Sooo Soon!!!!

I couldn’t be more excited, and I know you can’t either.  Unfortunately for me, I started writing Clutch 3 in the offseason.  At times, material was limited and creativity started minimalizing ( although the Hottest Hoops Wife series was a smashing hit, and I will be doing my research for Episode 4, so watch out!) but I kept writing with the excitement in my mind, knowing that once the season starts, I won’t be able to stop writing.  This season promises to be one of the best in the past couple years, and I’ll be watching the opening tip off Wednesday night.  Will you?

Underrated TRIO in Denver

September 5, 2007

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In basketball these days, there’s a lot the talk of the Big Three in Boston, and even the 3-pack in New Jersey. I just found myself wondering, “How the hell aren’t we talking about the TRIO in Denver?” Last time I checked, the Nuggets acquired Mr. Allen Iverson. They also have shot-swatting Marcus Camby. And how can we forget trico-USA MVP Carmelo Anothony. That’s Anthony-Iverson-Camby! If you ask me, I’d take these guys over the boys in New Jersey any day. But would you take them over the boys in Boston? Probably not. Since Iverson moved to Denver, he’s lost part of his harder image as he’s had to share the spotlight with Anthony. Many people haven’t seen Anthony as a leader just quite yet because of his lack of experience. I think many people will be seeing these guys make some noise in the west this year, as Anthony proved he is plenty reliable to be the leader on a team, as we just saw in World play. Personally, I think it’ll be a great match up between Boston and Denver when they play this season, and I’ll be on my couch waiting for tip off.

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Yesterday at ESPN, Chris Sheridan wrote about team USA’s success and went on to evaluate each player’s contribution in a grade format. Of course it’s easy to give Carmelo, Kobe and LeBron an A, A+ and A respectively. Those guys are on any school’s honour roll (although I would argue Kobe should just as likely have an A+ too). The grades that surprised me and I disagree with are specifically Tyson Chandler, Tayshaun Prince, and Michael Redd. Starting with Chandler, Sheridan gave him a B. This is unfair because the role he was set out to play, he played unbelievably! He wasn’t chosen to be the starting centre and put up those numbers. He was chosen to be a solid defensive specialist and be a rebounding machine. He accomplished all of this, and blocked 14 shots in total! In we’re evaluation his contribution based on what he was supposed to do, I give him an A! Next, Tayshaun Prince. Sheridan gave this guy a B. I was so happy when the team added this guy in the first place. The team chose him because every team needs role players like himself. They didn’t need him to come in and score points at all, but rather do everything else (ie: rebound, play defense,etc). Although his shooting percentage was down, he was one of the team’s leading rebouders! I remember catching that he had something around 12 rebounds one game! This guy should get more credit for job he did well that he was supposed to do. I’d give him an A-. Finally, we have Michael Redd. Sheridan gave him a B+. Unlike Chandler and Prince, Redd was brought in for instant scoring. The last time I checked, he average 15.4 point on a team where the scoring was so spread. This is impressive! Although that average would be mediocre in the NBA, this is significant for a bench guy in international play. His job was to score, and he was reliable in this position. He deserves and A!

Of course, anyone and everyone could argue a half grade here and there, but I was taken back by Sheridan’s harsh grading. I know he’s a teacher in school I would NOT want.

 

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Around draft time, all basketball fans get really excited. It carries on….and on and on. For me, I’m still in draft mode. This year’s draft has potential to be one of the best classes of all time. I started to reflect on past drafts, and what class was the best most recently? It didn’t take me long to reach the draft of 2003, featuring…everybody! This class was stacked! If there was an all-star game between draft classes, these guys would be laughing at everyone else. If you have ever looked at the full list of draft picks, you would be just as surprised as I was to see that some of the best players in the league today were drafted way too late in this draft, as well as some of the bigger busts ( and I’m not just talking Darko ) come from this class. So, I have attempted to compile my list of the top 10 players from this draft, in order from best to worst. Trust me, it wasn’t that easy, even for the first pick! Here we go…

1) Dwyane Wade- picked 5th overall.

It’s true! I didn’t pick the LeBron first. Why not? Well, this guy has already proven himself. He has the championship trophy. He’s made that extra step above the rest. He is in a different world when he takes over games, and he does when he needs to.

2) LeBron James-picked 1st overall

Inevitably, LeBron is due. He has become the face of the NBA with his talent, but still has to make over that hurdle to win the championship. He got so close this year, and just showed all of us ( especially in the Pistons series) as to why we will continue to be addicted to watching this guy play on a nightly basis.

3) Carmelo Anthony- picked 3rd overall

Remember when it was Melo or Lebron (ring a bell?)? At that point, I was saying that I would pick Melo in a heartbeat. Even though I would definitely withdraw that comment if I could, this guy still has a lot of growing to do, yet he is already developed so much. Melo has the pieces around him to become a contender, but his leadership still needs to develop.

4) Chris Bosh- picked 4th overall

I bet all Canadians wish he could play for team Canada. He has become the face of Toronto ( the face of Canada still goes to Steve Nash). This past year was a big growing year for Bosh, but he showed that he still needs to keep his game going into the playoffs. He lacked that fire that he had in the regular season. Now that he has the guys around him, it’ll be interesting to see how far these Raps can go.

5)Josh Howard- picked 29th overall

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw JHoward was picked almost in the second round! What was everyone before him thinking? Clearly, all the GMs didn’t see this much potential in him, but wow! He made the all-star team! He stands on a team full of high profile players. This was by far the biggest steal of the draft, or was it???

6)Maurice Williams- picked 47th overall

Sorry JHoward, the biggest sleeper pick goes to Maurice Williams. This guys was drafted at the point where there was probably no one even left at the draft. He was 11 picks away from not even getting drafted. I consider him one of the most underrated players in the league. He has an all-around type of game, silimar to Jason Kidd’s, except Williams seems like a more accomplished scorer. The Bucks will be holding onto this guy for a while, as he is still young and can even get better!

7)Kirk Hinrich- picked 7th overall

This was a hard one for me to do. I put Hinrich here, and not one spot ahead because Hinrich is blessed with the players around him. Mo Williams has a harder time getting his assist, where Hinrich has Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, etc. Not that this is a bad thing, but we are judging on an individual level. Hinrich showed this season that he is ready to become one of the elite point guards in the league, and I’ll be watching pretty closely.

8)Leandro Barbosa- picked 28th overall

He was picked one spot ahead of Josh Howard. How did these guys get avoided? Its these types of picks that make your team elite. Barbosa’s 18, 2 and 4 are incredible numbers coming off the bench. Obviously a well deserved 6th Man of the Year award this past season. He crumbled a bit in the second round of the playoffs, but it gets overlooked on a team of all-stars. This guy could start on any other team. If you’ve ever watched him, you might notice that he is one of the fastest players in the league, as you get amazed how quickly he can jet out ahead of everyone and just blow by them.

9) T.J. Ford- picked 8th overall

This guy had amazing written all over him coming out of Texas. With a slow start with the Bucks, he is starting to show what everyone saw in him with the Raptors. Along with Bosh, if these guys can stay healthy, they might be able to do some damage in the weak East. The problem again is his injuries. Let’s hope he doesn’t become one of those players who’s career is plagued by them.

10)Boris Diaw- picked 21st overall

Another late pick. This one is a bit more justified. Coming from France, Diaw was a gamble that paid off, if the Hawks held onto him. He made the Joe Johnson trade somewhat worth it ( though who saw Joe Johnson becoming this incredible?). Diaw has found his comfort with the Suns, and is a fantastic role player on a team of players needing this ball. With Grant Hill coming in, his minutes might dimish, but probably not that much seeing as GH is a 50/50 bet to lose his season to injury.

Note: I just wanted to point out that Kyle Korver was selected 51st overall! He’s a pretty impressive player for this position in the draft. Almost undrafted!

Honourable Mentions:

Luke Ridnour- picked 14th overall

Jason Kapono- picked 31st overall

Luke Walton- picked 32nd overall

Mickael Pietrus- picked 11th overall

Nick Collison- picked 12th overall

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How did Barbosa and JHoward get overlooked?