Sunday, October 08, 2006

Some "Deep NBA Thought." Woot.

After a brief hiatus, our very own Sean Deveney re-emerges into the world of bad NBA article writing!

A quick request by my trusty editor, Stan McNeal, has sent me deep into NBA thought.

Aha! So we have a certain trusty editor to thank! Why, thank you!

Stan asked me to nominate some candidates for the NBA's top breakout player for the upcoming season, which, I found, is tricky business. Defining a breakout player can be as difficult as defining an MVP.

Gosh, I totally agree. I mean look at the baseball season that just ended! One can really never truly decide between Travis Hafner’s unbelievable OPS and Derek Jeter’s SKFBTWPIHC. For those of you ignorant readers, that would be his record setting “Saving Kittens From Burning Trees While Positively Influencing His Clubhouse” numbers.

Guys like Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh already have had breakout seasons, but they have not had that now-the-world-knows-me type of exposure yet. In that sense, you could say Elton Brand broke out last season, in which he went from being a good player on bad teams to a great player on a good team — and in the process, became more of a household name for sports fans.

Hey Sean? Generally you have a “break out” season by… breaking out. As in, having ridiculously better numbers than you had in the rest of your career. Elton Brand?

Career until ’05-’06: 19.6 ppg, 10.5 rpg

’05-’06: 24.7 ppg, 10.0 rpg

Just saying…

That could happen to both Bosh and Howard this year.

Yeah! All they have to do is… play the same and they’ll have had breakout seasons! Awesome how that works.

But for the sake of our little conversation here, let's assume that, in order to have a breakout season, you have to be early in your NBA career, and you have to be well out of the realm of the common sports fan's knowledge.

Joe Mauer just had a “breakout” season and he’s still out of the “realm of the common sports fan’s knowledge.”

With those conditions, I came up with five guys I'd look for to have a breakout year. As always, I'm interested in hearing your additions, subtractions and mindless ridicule.


1. Charlie Bell, Bucks. Milwaukee traded fragile T.J. Ford,

Yeah, go ahead and jump on the “TJ Ford is fragile” bandwagon. Seriously, he’s had one freak injury, and now sports writers all over make it seem like he’s the second coming of Grant Hill.

in part, because they liked what they saw out of Bell at the end of last season.

No, it’s purely because they bought into the overhype of Mr. “I scored 50 points in a meaningless game for the Toronto Rapters so I’ve now officially broken out!”

Bell had a hard time fitting into the NBA because he was a 6-3 shooting guard in college. Getting significant playing time in March last season, Bell averaged 12.1 points and 4.1 assists while handling point guard duties when Ford was injured.

Ford, ’05-’06: 12.2 ppg, 6.6 apg

Near the end of that month, he led the team to back-to-back wins in which he had 24 assists and the Bucks averaged 128.5 points.

Yes, great job using a sample size of two games.

He is a great defender and can shoot — this could wind up being an upgrade over Ford.

I am willing to bet anyone 50 bucks that TJ Ford has a better season than Charlie Bell.

2. Monta Ellis, Warriors. We still might be a year away from Ellis' breakout season, but the guy is going to be good.

So he’s a “year away from his breakout season” so you’re putting him on your 2006-2006 breakout list? Fantastic! I always love to see good, logical reasoning, and honestly, have you ever failed me in that regard?

Drafted out of high school in the second round last year, the only question about Ellis is whether he will put in the work it will take to be an everyday NBA player.

Somehow, I think that no matter how much “work he puts in,” he’ll never get past Baron Davis on the depth chart. Just a thought. But keep working Monta!

A year or two in college probably would have helped him in that area. Still, he showed last year that he does belong in the NBA.

There are about 400-500 players in the NBA. How does proving that he is among one of these hundreds show that he’ll have a break out year again? Or will all 400 players have a break out year?

He is one of the five quickest guys in the league,

Hmm. Here’s 10 guys faster than him: Steve Nash, Jason Terry, Chris Paul, TJ Ford, Tony Parker, Dwyane Wade, Rip Hamilton, Rafer Alston, Allen Iverson, Jahidi White. Oh wait, forget that last one.

and even if he never develops a completely reliable outside shot, he is going to score.

That sure makes a lot of sense.

With Baron Davis and Jason Richardson in the backcourt, it might be hard for Ellis to get court time, but I suspect that if anyone can find time for him, it's new coach Don Nelson.

“Finding time” does not equal “being an everyday player.” I mean, Vitaly Potapenko “found time.”

3. Luol Deng, Bulls. The only thing that has kept Deng from being a breakout player is his health.

He played 78 games in 2005-2006.. So you’re telling me that if he had just played in those four games he missed, he would’ve been a breakout player?

He is capable of scoring 17-20 points per game, though the Bulls' slow-down pace probably will keep him away from 20-point games.

Yeah, too bad he missed those four games. I mean, he could have really gone off. Like, 80 point games or something. Talk about fragile.

He has long arms and is a solid defender, but it seems that coach Scott Skiles has not quite figured out how to deploy Deng yet.

“Deploy Deng”? What is this, the Vietnam War?

That, in part, is because Deng has not quite harnessed his skills — he can post up, he can put it on the floor, he can pull up for jumpers, but he is not sure when he should be doing what.

Inside Luol Dong’s Head (the first installment of the 7 part series!):

Luol Deng’s Right Brain: We should really put the ball on the floor, Luol.

Luol Deng’s Left Brain: Nah. Let’s post up.

Luol Deng’s Right Brain: Hold up, hold up. Coach hasn’t even deployed us yet. Let’s stop getting ahead of ourselves here.

Hopefully, this is the year Deng, who is only 21, puts it together.

“It” being the two sides of his brain of course.

4. Anderson Varejao, Cavaliers. This might sound weird, but a scout I know said the player he compares Varejao to is Ben Wallace. In part, that's because Varejao is lacking offensive polish.

So were Luc Longley, Bryant Reeves, and Isaac Austin.

But it's also because Varejao plays with heart, intensity and defensive abandon, much like Wallace.

Wallace’s HIDA (Heart, Intensity, Defensive Abandon)* ‘05-’06: 97 (!!!)

Varejoa’s HIDA ’05-’06: 43

Dude, that’s not even close.

I don't know if Varejao can dominate a game from the defensive end and on the glass the way Wallace can, but as he started getting increased minutes late last season, he began to show that he can be a rebounding machine, an ideal complement to LeBron James.

Why the hell is a “rebounding machine” the ideal complement? Come to think of it, you could have put anything here and it would have sounded good. Thieving rascal, you.

The re-signing of Drew Gooden probably does not help Varejao's chances at minutes, but I think the Cavaliers will find a way to play him 25 minutes per game.

Honestly, Varejao is the first guy you mention that both actually qualifies as a player who hasn’t yet had a “breakout” year, and possibly could have one this year. It sure would have made a lot more sense, though, for you to mention his 17.6 RbRate instead of the re-signing of Drew Gooden. Then again, you’re Sean Deveney, who am I kidding.

5. Ray Felton, Bobcats. Felton did not enjoy the early part of his rookie year — but the late part certainly opened some eyes. Yes, he needs to be more consistent with his jumper. But he did shoot 35.8 percent from the 3-point line. And few noticed that he averaged 16.6 points and 7.4 assists over the last three months of last year. The Bobcats will improve with Emeka Okafor and Sean May healthy. If Adam Morrison can be the scorer the Bobcats hope he is, Felton should average 15 points and 8 assists this year.

Ray Felton assessment is dead on… but why, why, why did you have to bring up Adam Morrison?

*Yes, that’s a made up stat, how’d you guess.