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O.J. Mayo – Poised to Break Out in 2012-2013

May 2, 2012; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies shooting guard O.J. Mayo (32) reacts after sinking a shot during the second half of game two in the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers at FedEx Forum. Memphis won 105-98. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE

Few players in the NBA needed a change of scenery this off-season as much as O.J. Mayo. After an impressive first season (18.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists a game) where he was named Rookie of the Year runner-up to Derrick Rose in 2008-2009 and an equally solid sophomore campaign with the Memphis Grizzlies where it seemed as though the sky was the limit, Mayo was relegated to a sixth man role by coach Lionel Hollins in his next two seasons and his minutes and stats took quite a hit as a result.

After averaging 17.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.2 steals per game in 2009-2010 while playing 38 minutes a night, Mayo’s minutes were cut to 26.3 and 26.8 the past two seasons. His shooting percentages took a dip as he shot 40.7 (2010-11) and 40.8 (2011-12) percent from the field compared to 43.8 (2009) and 45.8 (2010) and he didn’t averaged more than 12.6 points a game during the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

It also did not help that Mayo experienced some off the court troubles as well, including an infamous fight on the plane with teammate Tony Allen over a gambling debt and a ten-game suspension for violating the NBA’s anti-drug program. By all accounts however, Mayo handled his new sixth man role with the Grizzlies in stride and was a professional despite the decreased playing time and frequent trade rumors. Mayo was even included in a trade to the Indiana Pacers at the 2011 trade deadline that was not completed due to the paperwork being sent to league offices too late.

Fast forward to the summer of 2012 and Mayo’s free agency, O.J. does not turn 25 until November and teams including the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, and Phoenix Suns showed strong interest before Mayo eventually signed with the Dallas Mavericks on a 2-year, 8.5 million dollar deal with a player option for the second year. He joins Elton Brand, Darren Collison and Chris Kaman as part of a new look Mavericks squad expected to form a solid supporting cast for superstar Dirk Nowitzki.

It’s not as though Mayo forgot how to play the game, he is one of the most decorated high school players in recent memory and has everything it takes to be a prolific guard in the NBA. He has always been able to score, has nice ball handling skills and has shown the ability to be a very good defender in addition to his above average athleticism and strength. In Dallas, he should be immediately starting at shooting guard where his main competition is the corpse formerly known as Vince Carter and can even play the point guard position in spurts. In other words the minutes are there for the taking.

I fully expect O.J. Mayo to replicate, if not surpass Jason Terry’s production with the Mavericks and become the 18-20 point a game scorer fans and people around the league expected him to be when drafted with the 3rd pick of the 2008 NBA Draft. This is the perfect opportunity for O.J. to realize his potential, he can make himself some substantial money and find more long term security in his next contract assuming he plays at a high level in his time in Dallas. While Mark Cuban may have struck out on Deron Williams, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard this summer, he may have found himself a great discount in the signing of O.J. Mayo while maintaining financial flexibility for future seasons.

 

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Amar’e Stoudemire, Man on a Mission

Mar 9, 2012; Milwaukee, WI, USA; New York Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire (1) dunks during the second quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Amar’e Stoudemire played some of the best basketball of his career before the All-Star break in 2010-2011, his first season as a New York Knick  averaging 26.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks a game in the 53 games prior to the All-Star game. Stoudemire helped rejuvenate a fan base starving for a superstar talent and embraced being the face of the franchise rewarding Knicks faithful by playing at close to an MVP level.

Even after the Carmelo Anthony blockbuster trade, Amar’e still posted strong numbers averaging 23.5 points and 7.3 rebounds a game in the 25 games after the Anthony acquisition.

It is safe to say however that year 2 in New York was one to forget for Amar’e Stoudemire. Between the death of his brother, dealing with injuries, struggling to form chemistry with Carmelo who is also an alpha personality on the court, twitter beefs gone wrong and losing fights with fire extinguishers, Amar’e disappointed Knicks fans everywhere this past season.

While Amar’e posted a respectable stat line of 17.5 points and 7.8 rebounds a game, it is still far below his standards and not what New York got excited about when they signed him to a near 100 million dollar contract in the summer of 2010. Nagging injuries seemed to rob STAT of his game-changing explosiveness and forced him to rely more on his jumper, which can help explain his lowest field goal percentage over a full season (48.3 percent) since his 2003-2004 year.

Normally you would think a player turning 30 in November whose greatest asset is his athleticism is trending downhill and has seen his best days as a NBA player. And in the scenario of Amar’e, you may be correct to assume that. He is at times allergic to playing defense, has never averaged 10 rebounds a game for a season despite his size and athletic prowess and is not the most durable individual in the league.

On the other hand, there are other reasons to feel that the 2011-2012 season was an abberation for STAT. Amar’e recently got engaged to long time girlfriend Alexis Welch, the mother of his three children and this may have a calming affect on his game. If you don’t believe me, ask Lebron James how stability in his relationship with his fiancee helped his life on and off the court.

Luckily for Amar’e, he has proven the ability to bounce back from injuries in the past. He was able to regain his explosiveness after having microfracture knee surgery during the 2005-2006 season while a member of the Phoenix Suns and his injuries that slowed him in 2011-2012 were nowhere near as serious. An off-season of rest and minimal distractions may work wonders for STAT.

Perhaps the most encouraging reason for Amar’e to bounce back in a big way in 2013 however is the work he has put in with Hakeem Olajuwon to expand his low post game. Ever since Kobe Bryant visited the Hall of Famer down in Houston in the summer of 2009, this has become a rite of passage for other NBA superstars to seek Olajuwon’s tutelage. Dwight Howard and Lebron James are among other prominent NBA players who have followed suit. Amar’e for all of his skills offensively is not particularly polished in the low post. When playing under Mike D’Antoni in Phoenix and New York, Amar’e thrived off pick and roll and didn’t necessarily need a post game. Coach Mike Woodson inspired Amar’e to visit Hakeem as he expects Amar’e to operate more on the block in the upcoming season and I’d be lying if I said he doesn’t look good in the post from this clip, my only word of advice to STAT  is to wear longer shorts in the future.

Amar’e has talked a big game of late, proclaiming anything less than a championship is a bust while at the Las Vegas Summer League and this season is his chance to back it up on the biggest stage, I don’t expect the Knicks to be in the championship conversation but I do believe in Amar’e that he can come back and have a big year. The days of STAT destroying Anthony Tolliver and Adonal Foyle may be behind him but with a refined post game, this may be the perfect recipe to help Amar’e extend his career and get him back to performing at an All-Star level. The greats often find a way to adapt their games once their athleticism leaves them behind, this could be Amar’e Stoudemire’s chance to do the same.

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The Development of Javale McGee: Crucial to Denver’s Championship Aspirations

May 6, 2012; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee (34) reacts during the second half of game four against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Pepsi Center. The Lakers won 92-88. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE

Javale McGee has instantly become one of my favorite players in the NBA. In addition to helping me out immensely in fantasy basketball for the past 2 seasons and having a milf for a mother (here’s a clip of her getting up close and personal with Dr. J during the 2011 slam dunk contest), he has the ability to amaze for better or worse. If Javale has seen this youtube clip chronicling 8 of his dumbest plays, I’m sure it will make him feel better at night that the individual who edited the video isn’t exactly a genius himself with some of the mistakes made but I digress.

McGee’s fortunes changed for the better as he got traded to a more competent organization, the Denver Nuggets during the 2012 trade deadline in a 3-way deal which brought Nene to Washington and Nick Young to the Los Angeles Clippers. Javale’s talent has never been in question and GM Masai Ujiri along with the rest of Denver’s organization must have experienced buyer’s remorse in signing Nene to a 5-year, 67 million dollar contract compelling him to pull the trigger on the trade. I’d also experience regrets if I signed a 29 year old big man who isn’t a particularly good defender or has never averaged 15 points or 8 rebounds in a season to a near max extension so props to Ujiri to cutting his losses quick and actually upgrading in the process.

For all the criticism about Javale McGee’s basketball acumen, the man can flat out play the game. He’s a brilliant athlete who probably should have won the 2011 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, his creative dunks nor his mother’s buttering up the judges could not change what seemed was a predetermined  decision to have Blake Griffin win as McGee ended up finishing in second place. Javale is very good at protecting the rim as he has finished 2nd in blocked shots the past two seasons and has an emerging offensive game. He is only 24 years old and is signed to a reasonable 4-year, 44 million dollar contract so Nuggets brass also thinks highly of McGee.

Statistically he has improved in each of his first three seasons and his per 36 minutes stats are very impressive since joining the Nuggets, averaging 18 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocks a game while shooting 61.2 percent from the field. McGee performed strongly in the playoffs as well. Despite losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games, he averaged close to a double double putting up 8.6 points and 9.6 rebounds with 3.1 blocked shots a game in 25.9 minutes. If he can improve his horrific free throw shooting (he shot 45 percent from the stripe in 2011-2012), even greater things may be on the horizon for the young man.

Javale McGee has also shown a commitment to taking his game to higher levels as evidenced by working with NBA all time great Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon. Hakeem sees great promise in Javale and even went so far as to say McGee should dominate the league in a recent interview with FOX 26 sports. From Mark Berman for MyFoxHouston.com  (via PBT ):

“He has tremendous talent. I give him all these moves and he can finish and he’s already skilled. So now just show him how to use that skill to (get) to the next level.” [...]

“The moves that we work on are not for a stiff big guy,” Olajuwon said. “With him he’s agile. The move flows. So I’m excited to see what he’s going to do this year.”

Hopefully McGee can incorporate some of his newfound moves into his game for the 2012-2013 season. Coach George Karl does a solid job getting the most out of his players and with a very deep supporting cast including Ty Lawson and newly acquired Andre Iguodala, this Nuggets team is capable of making serious noise and should not be slept on by any means. While most of the off-season talk surrounding the Western Conference is about the new look Los Angeles Lakers and the Oklahoma City Thunder, people would be making a serious mistake if they forget about the Nuggets. If Denver aspires to reach the upper crust of the Western Conference however, McGee must continue to realize his potential and perform at a high level.

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The Dwight Howard Trade: Great for Everyone BUT Orlando

April 10, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Injured Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard claps from the sidelines against the Washington Wizards in the second half at Verizon Center. The Wizards won 93-85. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

Dwight Howard finally got traded. So now we all can get on with our lives, his “Indecision” is now over after a blockbuster 4-team deal brings him to Lakerland where he will join forces with Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol (how is this even possible?). Before I break down what the deal means for each team, below are all the players and draft picks involved. David Stern is cringing somewhere trying to comprehend this trade.

Lakers receive: Dwight Howard, Chris Duhon, Earl Clark

Magic receive: Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Josh McRoberts, Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless, Christian Eyenga, 3 protected 1st round draft picks (1 from each team), 2 2nd round draft picks

Sixers receive: Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson

Nuggets receive: Andre Iguodala

Apr 5, 2012; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (12) reacts after a turnover during the fourth quarter at Amway Center. New York defeated Orlando, 96-80. Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE

Los Angeles Lakers – Is it possible for General Manager of the 2012-2013 season to be locked up already? Because Mitch Kupchak is making a phenomenal case for that award right now. With Kupchak’s moves, the Lakers have gone from a respected but not serious championship contender to possibly the favorites to win coming into next season. Steve Nash for 4 draft picks and now Dwight Howard suiting up for the purple and gold without having to give up Pau Gasol sounds like an excellent summer to me. The Lakers also received Chris Duhon (completely and uttlerly useless at this stage of his career) and Earl Clark, who actually could turn into a decent backup but is far from the main attraction. With the addition of Dwight Howard, the Lakers become an even more problematic team on both ends of the court to contend with. On the defensive end, Dwight Howard will mask much of the Lakers weaknesses on that end. Teams can no longer pick and roll them to death and with D12′s shot-blocking and rebounding prowess, the Lakers will be a defensive force. Not to mention coach Mike Brown hangs his hat on his defensive schemes, with the 3-time Defensive Player of the Year anchoring the paint the Lakers will be difficult to light up. Now on the offensive side of the ball; picture the many looks the Lakers can give opponents, I’m having visions of pick and roll being run to perfection with Steve Nash and Dwight, Pau Gasol at the high post and Kobe Bryant on the wings, just think about that for a second. The YouTube link in the last sentence is  p&r run with JJ Redick, this is infinitely scarier as a defense with one of the best point guards of all time running it. While Dwight Howard does not have the post repertoire of Andrew Bynum, he is still a high percentage scorer (57.7 percent from the field over his career) and commands a double team. With an all time legend running the point, Dwight Howard’s skills will be maximized offensively. With 4 guys capable of being a first option on any given night, there will naturally be some sacrifice in order for the Lakers to reach their vast potential but this trade was an absolute no brainer for L.A..

While Dwight Howard seems set on exploring free agency next summer, does anyone really believe he will leave the glits and glamour that comes with being a Laker? Nevermind the fact that he would be sacrificing money to leave, he gets to perform in one of the two biggest media markets in the country (New York being the other) and will be playing on a team very capable of winning a championship.

Grade: A+

Apr 26, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Denver Nuggets shooting guard Arron Afflalo (6) against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the second quarter at Target Center. Nuggets won 131-102. Mandatory Credit: Greg Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Orlando Magic – Any time you can turn the best big man in the NBA into the pu pu platter that is Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic, Josh McRoberts, Christian Eyenga, Moe Harkless and draft picks that very likely won’t be before the 20′s, you have to do it right? I’ll stop being facetious now, it is obvious that new GM Rob Hennigan is trying to build from the ground up. I don’t need to rehash the whole Dwight Howard fiasco leading to this trade so I will focus on the future ramifications for Orlando. At first glance, it appears that Orlando is maybe getting 10 cents on the dollar and one would be correct to assume as much. None of the players the Magic received currently are or project to be superstars, though Moe Harkless has potential to be a very solid swingman some day. Arron Afflalo is a solid role player, one who plays strong defense and can hit the three and Al Harrington who is a nice, instant offense 6th man type player. Nikola Vucevic showed flashes of potential in limited playing time for Philadelphia last season averaging 5.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in less than 16 minutes a contest. The Magic will also receive 3 1st round draft picks (all of which are protected) and 2 2nd round picks in this deal. While Orlando could have received much more talent in return for Dwight Howard, they were able to rid themselves of some questionable contracts (Jason Richardson, Chris Duhon) and will have maximum cap room for the 2013 off-season. Orlando has always been a friendly destination for free agents, with the warm climate and no state tax the Magic shouldn’t struggle to improve their team through free agency, especially considering that they can free up even more money if they choose to cut partially guaranteed deals to both Harrington and Hedo Turkoglu. I’m sure Magic fans while not satisfied with the return they got for Dwight Howard are happy that they can finally sleep at night knowing this situation is over. I’m sure they will be ready to shower Howard with boos when he returns to Orlando on March 12th.

Grade: D, I’m not giving an F only because if Hennigan hits on these future draft picks the outlook is much less pessimistic in Orlando.

April 22, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum (17) makes a dunk past Oklahoma City Thunder shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha (2) in the second half of the game at the Staples Center. Lakers won in double OT 114-106. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Philadelphia 76ers- I for one think the Sixers front office did an excellent job in this trade. For all of the concerns that come with Andrew Bynum, mainly his attitude and his injury history, he is an immensely talented post player and immediately becomes Philadelphia’s first legitimate go to player since the beloved Allen Iverson. He should be able to average 20 and 10 easily on his new team and will appreciate being the number one option which is something he would never be in Los Angeles so long as Kobe Bryant is still a Laker. The Sixers also acquired Jason Richardson in this deal, while JRich at 31 has seen better days as a basketball player he will be a great complement to Bynum as someone that can space the floor as a three point specialist and is an undervalued component of this trade. For everything Andre Iguodala did well as a defender and a playmaker, he was miscast as the go-to guy for the Sixers for years and received his fair share of criticism in his eight years in Philadelphia. The Sixers never made it past the second round of the playoffs throughout Iguodala’s tenure in Philadelphia and this transaction signifies the beginning of a new era, one that Sixers faithful should be very excited about. Bynum instantly makes the Sixers a threat in the East and while they are not in the class of the Miami Heat, they should project to win around 50 games this season and fight for a high playoff seed.

It is unclear whether Andrew Bynum will choose to sign an extension with Philadelphia but much like in Howard’s situation, he would be turning down millions of dollars if he leaves after the 2013 season. Plus growing up an hour outside of Philly can’t hurt, right?

Grade: A

Denver Nuggets – While the Nuggets clearly upgraded in talent, acquiring 2012 All-Star and Olympian Andre Iguodala, it did come at a cost of helping a conference foe get significantly better as well. I’m sure General Manager Masai Ujiri will live with the trade-off however, Iguodala is a picture perfect fit for the up-tempo style George Karl employs and the Nuggets save money long term on this deal, shedding the contracts of Afflalo and Harrington. Iguodala quietly had the best three point shooting percentage of his career this season (39.4 percent from deep) and is an elite defensive stud. While he only averaged 10 shot attempts a game, he averaged 12.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.5 assists for the Sixers in 2011-2012 and is no longer in a situation where he is expected to be a heavy scorer as he was circa 2006-2010 in Philadelphia. With great point guard play from Ty Lawson and Andre Miller at his side, I expect an uptick in Andre’s scoring in 2013. A starting lineup of Javale McGee, Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler/Danilo Gallinari, Andre Iguodala and Ty Lawson is young, scary athletic and should be an incredibly fun team to watch this upcoming season. Masai Ujiri has done a masterful job building this Denver Nuggets team since trading Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks in February 2011 and while they are likely not a championship threat, this team is an unenviable match-up on any given night.

Grade: A-

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The NBA All Under Appreciated Team: 5 Players Who Deserve More Credit

As NBA fans, we’re often quick to bash a player if we think they are underachieving or if they just irk our souls. When you see these guys that are multi-millionaires playing with less than stellar effort, making questionable decisions on and off the court or just having an off-night; its easy to criticize and we are entitled to that as fans who love the game. I have no problem “going in” on a favorite player or team of mine if I don’t like how they are playing. Having said that, this article is going in the opposite direction. I want to give props and due respect to 5 particular players whom are either unheralded or underappreciated in the grand scheme of things. Some of it may be lack of exposure to their games as a couple of these guys are up and coming players, some of it is players who we are quite familiar with but take for granted. We complain about their shortcomings while not acknowledging their contributions to their squads as their respective teams would be much worse if they were not playing.

All Underappreciated Team

Point Guard – Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

Westbrook is the most critiqued player in the NBA west of South Beach. His supporters recognize that he needs to be an aggressive scorer in order for Oklahoma City to be at their best. On the other hand, his naysayers believe he needs to defer more to superstar teammate Kevin Durant. What his detractors don’t seem to understand is that Durant himself wants Russ to be an aggressor and look for his shot. They also don’t grasp the fact that Oklahoma City is at their worst when Kevin Durant has a higher usage rate in games than Russell Westbrook. According to advanced stats gurus Alok Pattani and Dean Oliver from ESPN, the Thunder are 38-11 with an average of 108.8 points per 100 posessions when Russell Westbrook has a higher usage rate. When Kevin Durant has a higher usage rate however, Oklahoma City is 22-12 and their average points per 100 possessions dips to 106.3, still a very efficient offense but proof enough that the Thunder are at their best when Westbrook is taking the majority of the shots.

As far as how he plays the point guard position, Russ will never be John Stockton or Magic Johnson who were perennial assists leaders in their heyday and that much has been established. Then again, Westbrook did not play point until his rookie year and it is not his natural position. As far as his positives are concerned, his freakish athleticism, yearly improvement and his youth (he will be 24 in November) are on his side. He is a 2-time All-NBA second team member and the sky is the limit for the guy, people just need to get off his back and let him play his game.

Honorable Mention – Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors

Shooting Guard – Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors

Mar 28, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) shoots against the New Orleans Hornets during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. New Orleans defeated Golden State 102-87. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

For Golden State’s blatant tank job they committed after the All-Star break, one positive did occur in regards to the Warriors future and that is the emergence of Klay Thompson. It shouldn’t be surprising that he can play considering he has NBA lineage in his family, he is the son of former #1 overall draft pick Mychal Thompson who had a productive 13 year career playing for the Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers. Thompson falls more in the unheralded category as he is only about to enter his second year as a pro but he has immediately made his presence known. In 29 games as a starter for the Warriors, Klay averaged 18.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3 assists in 33 minutes per game. In addition, he is a threat from long distance as he shot 41.4 percent from 3. Truth be told it defies logic how he was not a participant in the 2012 All-Star Weekend 3-Point Contest (he was shooting an insane 50% from 3 point range prior to the All-Star Break). Either way, with a revamped squad including a hopefully healthy Andrew Bogut and rookie Harrison Barnes the future is looking good in Golden State and I suggest you watch this video to get familiar with Mr. Thompson as he should be a name we will be accustomed to hearing for a long time

Honorable Mention – Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies

Small Forward – Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia 76ers

July 12, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; United States forward Andre Iguodala (9) dunks to score a basket against the Dominican Republic in the second half at the Thomas and Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Maybe its because I’ve been around a bunch of Philadelphians but the overwhelming majority of the ones I have come across cannot stand Andre Iguodala. Furthermore his name is always circulating in trade rumors. I never understood why either, he isn’t a great scorer but is an elite lockdown defender who is consistently matched up against the other team’s best player on a nightly basis, creates plays for others as he has averaged close to 5 assists a game throughout his career and plays a well-rounded game, only Lebron James had more triple-doubles in the 2010-2011 season. Andre Iguodala is a big time player as evidenced by his selection to the Eastern Conference All-Star and 2012 US Olympic teams. You can argue that a guy who has never averaged 20 points a game throughout his career making 80 million in his contract may be ridiculous but even that is short-sighted. If he is the best player on your team, you may have problems but as a complementary player Andre Iguodala is a guy you can absolutely win with if he is on your side. Short of getting a bonafide superstar, the Sixers would be making a huge mistake if they trade Iguodala.

Honorable Mention – Shawn Marion, Dallas Mavericks

Power Forward – Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers

May 12, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers power forward Pau Gasol (16) reacts after making a shot as time expires in the second quarter of game seven of the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs against the Denver Nuggets at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

I’m not going to lie, I do get incredibly frustrated with Pau at times because he does get in his own head. The rumors surrounding his relationship with his fiancee during the 2011 NBA Playoffs were a huge distraction and his game suffered tremendously as a result. Although Gasol had a solid season in 2012, averaging 17.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists a game, Pau was clearly distracted by trade rumors surrounding him in Lakerland. In his defense however, Mike Brown frequently had Pau in the high post in an attempt to give Andrew Bynum an expanded role in the offense and it was a difficult transition being relegated to the 3rd option offensively.

The positives far outweigh the negatives with Pau Gasol however, to put things into perspective as to how great Gasol has been as a Laker it took them two full seasons since Gasol got to Los Angeles in February 2008 for the Lakers to have a three-game losing streak. Gasol’s basketball IQ is out of this world and he is the perfect complementary player to play alongside Kobe Bryant, a guy talented to take over games if needed but knows his role in the general scheme of the Lakers offense. When a season like 2012 is considered to be average or subpar, you know you are an incredible basketball player. Gasol was the piece to put the Lakers over the top in 2009 where he outplayed Dwight Howard in the NBA Finals and again in 2010 where his Game 7 performance against the Boston Celtics (19 points, 18 rebounds, 2 blocks) led to the Lakers winning 2 championships. It still amazes me how fans take Pau Gasol for granted, he is amazingly skilled in the post, a tremendous passer, a solid defensive player and has had plenty of big game moments. With the addition of one of our generations best point guards in Steve Nash to make the game easier on all of the players in Purple and Gold, expect Gasol to have a great 2012-2013 season and be an important cog in the Los Angeles Lakers championship aspirations.

Honorable Mention – Kris Humphries, Brooklyn Nets

Center – Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons

 

April 17, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe (10) against the Cleveland Cavaliers at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

Monroe comes from a pedigree of great Georgetown big men, Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning and Roy Hibbert and has not disappointed in his 2 seasons in the NBA as the 7th overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft. For his 2011-2012 season, Monroe averaged 15.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists while only playing a little over 31 minutes a game for the Detroit Pistons. Expect these numbers to improve in 2012-2013 as he should assume a bigger role in the Pistons offense. Monroe also proved to be an efficient scorer as he shot 52.1 percent from the field and unlike most big men is a decent free throw shooter, shooting almost 74 percent from the stripe. Monroe’s skill set at the age of 22 is already impressive, he has an array of moves down on the block and is capable of hitting mid-range jumpers from 15-18 feet in addition to being a very good passer.  If controversial draft pick Andre Drummond pans out, a nucleus of Drummond, Monroe, Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey has the potential to make serious noise in the Motor City.

Honorable Mention – Marcin Gortat, Phoenix Suns