Stock Up, Stock Down in 2009
|04.11.09 at 5:56 pm ET|
Quick quiz. In April of 2008 Kevin Durant was, what?
A. A bust.
B. Way too thin to handle the rigors of the NBA, unfortunately, cause he was so much freaking fun to watch in college.
C. About to be named Rookie of the Year even though nobody really thought he had played all that well.
The answer is C, and if you ask people about Durant now, they will tell you that they would have taken him over Greg Oden (still not sure about that one myself) and that Durant might be the most important young player in the game (a different argument, but an interesting one). Point is, perceptions change in the NBA quickly and often from season to season.
With that in mind, here’s a look at who made a jump in 2008-09 and who took a hit in the Atlantic Division.
1. Doc Rivers (Celtics): I wrote about this earlier in the week, focusing on how the players view their coach. For these purposes it’s important to remember that even as late as the conference finals there were people who didn’t believe in Doc, like, at all. The criticisms were not without some merit and certainly Rivers had something to prove in the playoffs, but his work this season has been blessed by all corners of Celtics fandom.
2. Nate Robinson (New York): We can all agree that if Nate the Great were playing in Milwaukee and scoring
17 points a game off the bench he wouldn’t be getting profiled in major publications, or making Letterman appearances. But, whatever. He’s awesome to watch and in a normal year his restricted free agency would mean somebody would overpay to have him dunk on tall dudes. Not sure that’s going to happen in this economy, but the Knicks have gone from having fan pressure to sign restricted free agent David Lee to having fan pressure to sign David Lee and Nate Robinson. Wouldn’t have said that at the beginning of the year.
3. Devin Harris (New Jersey): From injury-prone complimentary guard to scoring machine All-Star. Would be higher if Nets had made the playoffs.
4. Mike D’Antoni (New York): He’s pretty much handled the New York media and the fans seem to be sold on what the Knicks are doing, which in turn buys he and Donnie Walsh some time to do whatever it is they will do by 2010. (You know how they say you can’t rebuild in New York because the fans won’t let you? It’s like Knicks fans are going out of their way to disprove that notion with this team).
At any rate, D’Antoni has received generally high marks and there is chatter in the stat-geek community that he’s not really the terrible defensive coach everyone makes him out to be. That’s good for now but even with all that if the wins don’t creep higher next year it won’t be long until the NY tabs are running Teflon D’an(toni) back pages.
5. Andre Miller (Philly): Miller has two things going for him as he heads into unrestricted free agency. He’s quietly putting together another highly efficient season and he’s also doing it at a time when people are starting to be less impressed with gaudy scoring numbers and looking deeper to value players. In uncertain times, Miller’s consistency is his greatest asset. You want to gamble or take a sure thing these days?
Stephon Marbury (seriously, but you’re not wrong for withholding judgment)
Rajon Rondo (on the cusp of national stardom)
Andre Iguodala (should be on the cusp of national stardom)
Andrea Bargnani (at least offensively)
Mareese Speights: (The under the radar stat geek rookie find of the year.)
1. Chris Bosh (Toronto): His numbers are about the same which makes this unfair, but remember, this is about perception and this has not been an easy season for a number of reasons. From the Raptors disappointing record to his 2010 free agency, plus the weird thing with Shaq and an off the court controversy, Bosh has seemed like the unhappiest 20 and 10 guy in the league.
If Toronto doesn’t make the right moves this summer get ready for a lot of, ‘What’s the matter with Chris Bosh?’ stories next season.
2. Everybody else in Toronto: The coach got fired a year and 17 games after winning Coach of the Year, the GM is taking on water and Shawn Marion hasn’t exactly set himself apart from the guy who played with Steve Nash in Phoenix. Just a bad year for the Raps. The most disappointing team in the NBA, especially when you consider Bosh and Jose Calderon had good years.
3. Elton Brand (Philly): It should have worked, and maybe it still will. From all indications the Sixers aren’t giving up on their prized free agent after a year in which he was hurt most of the year and ineffective when he did play. The Sixers played better without Brand, but that just meant that they were a 40-win or so team that won’t be favored to get out of the first round of the playoffs again. GM Ed Stefanski needs to see this play out next year, but this year? Not so much.
4. Lawrence Frank (New Jersey): There had been a lot of talk out of Jersey that Frank was in trouble, but that seems to have subsided a little bit. The question here is if everyone assumed that the Nets would be a 25-30 win team this season and it turns out that they are, why are people mad at the coach?
5. Eddy Curry (New York): Curry has gone from a wasted year on the court to a tragic figure off it. It’s so bad even Shaq is backing off. Curry’s at the point in his career where he has to decide if he wants to keep playing because the days of NBA teams wildly overpaying semi-decent big men large sums of money are probably over.
And some Celtics
It’s hard to pick on the Celtics for winning 60 games amidst all the injuries and there isn’t really anybody on the roster who has taken a dramatic step back this season, but Gabe Pruitt did not progress the way many people would have liked and first-round pick JR Giddens has been so far removed from Doc’s thought process that he’s whatever comes after afterthought. Patrick O’Bryant would count too, but he’s now the Raptors’ project.