Since some people consider it bad form to post about the draft, and there are some interesting discussions about what to do with our cap space and if it is possible to attain a good big man for a reasonable price, I decided to post about young, not too expensive players with potential of growth.
It may not be very fascinating to talk about someone other than the top 3 draft picks, or the crop of All-Star free agents, but championships are ultimately won by teams. Yes, the Old School Celtics did not only have Bird, McHale, DJ and the Chief, but also Danny Ainge and Cedrix Maxwell, the Showtime Lakers had Kurt Rambis, Michael Cooper and later AC Green, the Bad Boys had John Salley, Rick Mahorn and Vinnie Johnson. More recently, the Spurs had contributors like Bruce Bowen, Steve Kerr, Robert Horry and Francisco Elson.
Also, young promising players may still grow into very good players, like Gerald Wallace after being picked by the expansion Bobcats, and Jermaine O’Neal after leaving Portland to Indiana. There was a post some time ago that playing time is the oxygen of rookies. Likewise, a change of scenery and playing time can be oxygen for young players who have had a reduced role in the league.
Finally, taking on young players with reasonable contracts is a medium risk, high reward strategy, while taking established stars, who have huge contracts and are usually nearing their 30’s is high risk – high reward. As much as players have proven their worth, you never know if they can come up with similar numbers when at a different team, with different coaching styles and other supporting casts. Only look at Elton Brand and Hedu Turkoglu, or how Shawn Marion worked out for Miami.
I have looked at the league rosters, and came up with some players which could become contributors. I have limited the scope to players no older than 25, and with current contracts of $3 million and under, with a few exceptions. I did not put too much emphasis on our immediate needs, and only a bit about how we could attain them. We have some cap space, we have players who can be traded and we have draft picks. Your guess is as good as mine.
Charlotte – D.J. Augustin (age 22, salary 2.3 million). After a promising rookie year, Augustin’s minutes and stats took a fall this year. I think this is mainly due to the arrival of Stephen Jackson at the 2 guard position, since Felton’s minutes also went down. Augustin is a speedy guard, who has good ballhandling skills and shoots a high percentage of his 3 points (.42 over two years). In April, he played 21.4 minutes, averaging 9.8 points and 3.1 assists, while shooting .500 from the field and .538 from 3. According to draftexpress, he can guard but is hampered by his size. He’s younger and cheaper than Felton, and might produce similar numbers if he gets the minutes. Obviously, we can use a small, fast guard who can drill the long shot.
Chicago – James Johnson (23, 1.6). I would prefer to have Taj Gibson (24, 1.0), but he seems unattainable, given his strong rookie season. Johnson, stuck behind Luol Deng, Gibson, and Hakim Warrick, showed glimpses of promise. In March, due to injuries to others, he averaged 21.4 minutes, 8.2 points on .517 FG%, 3.8 Reb’s, 1.6 assists and 1.3 blocks. That is not bad at all. Johnson looks like a decent shotblocker and rebounder, who can also hit the occasional 3 (.381 in March). This shows that with consistent minutes, he can be a contributor.
Cleveland – J.J. Hickson (21, 1.4). How would Hickson play on a team not dominated by someone like James. Would he blossom or would he fold? I don’t know. He’s not one of my favorites on this list, despite the positive factoid that draftexpress praises his work ethic. He can rebound and score some at a high percentage, but he’s not much of a shotblocker or passer.
Dallas – Rodrigue Beaubois (22, 1.1). Another small, speedy guy, he is less of a distributer than Augustin, but he can score in bunches. Behind Kidd, Barea, Terry and Butler on the depth chart, he averaged 20 minutes in March, scoring 14.5 points on .520 FG %, and a scorching .469 from 3. Admittedly, to padd these stats he had one insane game against Golden State, scoring 40 and going 9-11 from behind the arch, but his overall 3P % shows it is no fluke (.409). According to draftexpress, he has excellent wingspan, which helps him to be a capable defender. He could be a guy who can play next to Tyreke to open up the floor and handle the speedy guys of the opposition.
Denver – Arron Afflalo (24, 1.1). Is Afflalo the new Trevor Ariza? A solid all-around player, not extremely athletic but strong and smart, and good on defense. His extra value for the Kings comes from his ability to hit the 3; he made .434 this year, and has .399 for his career. A starter at Denver, they will not happily let him go, but he can be the sort of a glue guy that every team loves to have.
Detroit – Jonas Jerebko (23, 0.5). A crowd favorite at Detroit, this guy can rebound and brings lot of energy to the court. He’s like a Scandinavian Casspi, and a bit taller, more athletic and stronger as a tweener SF/PF. His best month statistically was in February, when he scored 10.9 points and collected 7.1 boards in almost 30 minutes. Not a great shotblocker, but stays with the play to contest shots. He is capable on defense.
Two more posts to follow. I hope to have the next one ready tomorrow.