Monday, April 28, 2008

Horford is Real (as are the Hawks)

Yes, I said Horford does not deserve to be this year's Rookie of the Year. By now, everyone pretty much agrees with this.

But that said: this Horford kid...he's got it. You know..."it"! He has it! That thing that elevates a player over others with similar skill and size. That thing that makes players become fan favourites, and that thing that draws the best out of his team-mates. That thing that let's the opposition know you don't take no shit...that thing that helps win games.

Horford, like Durant, has got it...and all of a sudden the Hawks seem to have a starting five with great potential. No, they probably won't win this series against Boston, but they have shown that on some nights they can match it with the best of the best. Give this team another year or so, and they could go places. Let's have a look at the starting 5.

PG - Mike Bibby
If he has an injury free pre-season and can grab some time to fully mesh with his new team-mates, next year could be a great one for the Hawks. He's still young enough to contribute his best to this team for a few seasons.

SG - Joe Johnson
The guy simply can make buckets. Some nights he may go cold, but when he is hot you can ride him for an easy W. Hand in the face? Doesn't matter. Fade-away? Money. When he is on, he can shoot with the best of them. On his off nights, that's when you need your post presence.

SF - Marvin Williams
Sure, he was picked over CP3. But that was hardly his fault, was it? The kid is getting better all the time. Possesing a solid mid-range jumper, nice finishing around the rim and a good Free Throw percentage, Williams is finally showing us what he can do. Not a terrible player to have there at the SF glueing things together. He definetely has another gear to climb, though.

PF - Josh Smith
OK, this guy is my favourite player. But looking past that, what does he bring to the table? He is probably the most athletically gifted player in the league, bar Lebron. Coupled with a natural defensive instinct, you better watch out when you are attempting to finish a fast break, or even in the half-court. Smith will most likely always be hovering. His shooting is a weakness, and incredibly streaky. It does seem however, he posseses enough of a base to improve this into a strength. Much practice will be needed in this area. Add this to his game, and he will be an All-Star, of that there is no doubt. He already fills up the stats sheet...with more PPG added he would be an incredibly useful player to build around.

C - Al Horford
The rather small line-up is completed by Horford. There is a reason he was part of two NCAA championship winning teams. He plays with heart, and confidence. His energy is infectouos. It seems that he will be towards the top of the rebounds per game list for years to come. Obviously he needs to work on his offensive game and lift his FG%. He may struggle at times around the rim, being smaller than your average centre, but must work to make up for this and get easy buckets on the fast break. It also seems he has a few moves that work from time to time which should be developed, as well as a mid-range jumper.

This young starting line-up offers plenty of potential. Childress offers a good option off the bench, but otherwise depth is a weakness in this Atlanta team. A solid veteran or two wouldn't go astray. A genuine 7-footer is also needed, and I would recommend the Hawks do all they can to secure one in the upcoming draft. Complete all these items on the franchise-building check-list and the Hawks could go somewhere real soon...let's see how it pans out.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Silence this Horford talk...Durant is MVP

All year I have attempted to let my fellow basketball fans know that Durant is for real. I have championed his cause, and even gone so far as to say he will be more effective than Lebron offensively.

I take the same retorts over and over: nah, dude's shooting like 40% and look at Seattle's record. Plus his D is pretty average. They then go on to claim that not only is Durant not "all that", but Atlanta's Al Horford should be MVP. For example, this article.

First of all, lets tackle these claims against Durant. He is actually shooting 42.5% now. This is higher than Lebron shot in his rookie year. No one was ever talking down on Lebron back then, and for good reason: he has blossomed into the most dangerous offensive player in the game. People would be wise to not judge players while they are still in their first year, and still teenagers. And let's look at Durant's recent month of March and early April. He is shooting 50% and consistently scoring 20+ points per game. He is already improving his shot selection and the results are impressive. He is already learning: and that's the thing about Kevin, he really wants to learn. He wants to improve. He is going to get the most out of his potential.

"But Seattle's record is pathetic!" Obviously. They gave away Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, what do you expect. With either of them Durant would be getting easier looks, and the team would be getting more wins. There's no doubt he would be consensus ROY if either of those players had stayed. However, in the long run, this move is great. Why waste time...let Durant learn how to be the primary scorer now. To shoot 42.5% and 20 PPG in your rookie year when you are 19 and drawing the opposition's best defender every night is a very good effort, to me. Watch these numbers rise in coming years, like Lebron's did. Speaking of Lebron, Durant could match him or even eclipse him offensively: he has a better jumper, and seems to be an elite Free Throw Shooter. Rarely will you find a 19 year old shoot 90% from the line. This will allow him to use his height and attack the rim with the defender scared to give up the foul. Back off him? He'll shoot that smooth mid-range will be damned either way. Durant will be a hell of match up problem.

"He plays no D!" Well, he is learning. He actually does play D, you can tell he is trying. I've seen coach Carlesimo put him on the premier scorer on the opposition and often Durant does a good job. His length troubles shooters. He currently struggles a little with lateral movement on the quicker, smaller guards...and probably will for the remainder of his career. However, Durant is going to be useful defensively. His long arms will pick off many steals and blocks. It is no secret though, that Durant's biggest asset is his offense. And those who point out that he is 6'9 yet only averages 4.2 boards a game can be quiet...he plays SG. Sure, he is 6'9, but he is out on the perimeter. How is he supposed to grab 7+ boards per game? (Unless his name is Kidd)

Finally, no offense, but if you give Al Horford ROY you are making a big mistake. Dude seems solid. People say he is on a team making a run at the play-offs. His team is winning more than Durant's, so he must therefore get ROY. Um...ok then, how come Bogut didn't win ROY in 2005? He took the Bucks to the play-offs, while Paul couldn't get the Hornets there. Yet it was obvious Paul was a superstar in this game. It is also obvious Durant is a superstar. When it comes to the ROY award, wins shouldn't account for all that much. Of course Durant has less wins...look at the age of his teammates. Does he have a Joe Johnson, Josh Smith or Mike Bibby on his team? Nope, he has no help of that quality. Of course the Hawks are going to win more games. And let's quickly analyse the stats. Sure, he is averaging twice the rebounds of Durant. He looks like a great rebounder. But he is averaging half the points. He is averaging less steals and blocks than Durant. He is the team's 5th scoring option yet only shoots 50% under the rim. No doubt he is the second best rookie of the year. And there are a lot of good rookies this year. I seen him: he runs the floor well, shoots solid Free Throw numbers and will be a very good player. But Durant is in another class as far as I'm concerned.

I will finish my argument pointing to his game tonight against the Nuggets. 37 points? Nice. 9 assists? Word. 8 boards? Not bad. Two clutch threes (the second of which was DEEEEP) to force OT then OT2 before going on to win the game? Priceless!