Second Prize Is A Set Of Steak Knives
October 5th, 2008
I should have written this note before I did. But you’re not the boss of me. Unless you are the boss of me. In which case, hey. Sorry I’m late. Traffic was bad.
These are the camp battles that we are to watch with captivated interest. If you’re not even slightly interested, then don’t worry, because I’m intrigued enough for the both of us.
– Atlanta re-signed Mario West, and signed Marcus Hubbard, Frank Robinson and ShamSports.com favourite Olumide Oyedeji, after having earlier signed Thomas Gardner and Othello Hunter. These moves give them three shooting guards to battle for one backup spot, but Gardner has the advantage of 50% guaranteed money. Hubbard and Hunter will fight for the inactive list power forward spot, but Hubbard’s grand total of three NCAA Division i games can’t work in his favour. (If anyone can tell me why he played so little, please do.) Oyedeji has already been waived, which is a damn shame.
Sham’s predictions to make it: Gardner and Hunter.
– Boringly, Boston only signed one player for training camp, with the re-signing of Sam Cassell taking their roster to 16 players. Come on now. Even if they haven’t a hope of making the team, play the game and bring in some fringe D-Leaguers. You don’t have to give them any guaranteed money, and you get to look at players that might help you one day. Even if they don’t, you lose nothing but the tiny amount that you have to pay them for the fortnight that they’re there. Signing only Cassell, though, is still enough to give Boston a problem, for they now have 16 players for 15 spots, with no obvious cuts. Maybe the Darius Miles comeback story isn’t going to be quite as fairytale as we had hoped, for his fully unguaranteed contract looks very expendable right now.
Sham’s prediction: Sorry, Darius, but you’re a massive health concern, you have a 10-game suspension to deal with, and Bill Walker just got a four-year contract. I’m not seeing where you fit any more. Failing that, someone might remedy the situation by trading a second for Gabe Pruitt. Someone like the Thunder, maybe.
– Charlotte took on three guys, like the trooper that she is. New head coach Larry Brown has always had a thing for guards with lesser offensive skills who work hard on defence. so that, plus the Bobcats’ lack of third option at point guard, might bode well for Donell Taylor. Other camp invites Marcus E. Williams and Andre Brown have less of a chance – the Bobcats have enough players at Brown’s power forward spot, and while Williams has the ability to make it, he just so happens to play the one position that Charlotte doesn’t need any help at.
Sham’s prediction: Donell makes it. How long he lasts for is another matter.
– Chicago beautifully combined the training camp signing requisites of “fringe NBA talents” and “hometown guys to give people something to care about”, when they signed Elton Brown, Roger Powell and Darius Washington. Powell, the hometown boy, has no chance to make it as a reformed small forward, given Chicago’s present depth there. Brown isn’t exactly the calibre of post scorer that Chicago needs, but his skillset fits the team, and he has NBA talent. Washington has less of a chance, given the team’s guard depth, but the Bulls could still use an extra defender at point guard, which gives him a chance.
Sham’s prediction: Since Ben Gordon took the qualifying offer like a damn fool, the Bulls are now able to afford 14 players. So Brown should make it, along with Demetris Nichols, whose $150,000 guarantee and good outside shot serve him well. Also note – I didn’t mention Michael Ruffin – the Bulls other camp signee – at any point. There’s a reason for that; the Bulls need an extra centre, particularly a defensive one…..but they don’t need Michael Ruffin.
– Cleveland made some of the best signings ever, bringing in Ronald Dupree, Vernon Hamilton and Jawad Williams, as well as making the ultimate random camp signing in Michael Dickerson, a man who medically retired five years ago. The randomness of that group is sublime, and is the reason that I love training camp. Those four, plus holdover Lance Allred, are battling for what is more than likely only one roster spot. (Note: Eric Snow will never play again, but they can’t trade his expiring contract if they waive him, so he’ll probably prop up the inactive list until the trade deadline. Also, Lorenzen Wright is D-U-N done and shouldn’t be taking up a spot, but he got guaranteed money, so they’ll probably stick with him too.)
Sham’s prediction: Don’t know. Dickerson is (or was) easily the most talented of the bunch, and the Cavaliers could use an extra shooting guard, particularly one with decent size. But the man retired in his prime with an assortment of injuries – now 33, and after five years out of the sport, how can we accurately predict what he can offer this season? We can’t, so I’ll go ahead and assume that it’s nothing, due to a lack of alternatives. (I’d dearly like to be wrong on that.) The other invitees offer little to move the needle. Allred perhaps has the most talent, but after bringing in Wright and drafting J.J. Hickson and Darnell Jackson, the Cavaliers don’t really need an extra big man any more.
– Dallas have given themselves a pleasant predicament. After signing Gerald Green, Keith McLeod and James Singleton spectacularly early (during the moratorium, in fact), the Mavericks then added some more players, signing JaJuan Smith, Cheyne Gadson, Reyshawn Terry and Charles Rhodes for camp. Green has a guaranteed contract, so he’s in, but the rest have a problem, and there are only two spots left to fill. In this blog, I have previously mentioned how Singleton is an NBA-calibre talent and a good signing for Dallas, but unfortunately for James, so is the other power forward, Charles Rhodes. Rhodes had a fine summer league, and has shown himself to be a candidate for this year’s Craig Smith Award™ (an award annually given to the undersized power forward that either goes undrafted, or who slides into the second round, because scouts overlook their skill set, perhaps believing it to be less important than the inch or two of height that would make them ideal for their position; formerly known as the Chuck Hayes Award.) The Mavericks don’t need both players, and so it looks as though they’re fighting for one spot. Working in Singleton’s favour is that Rhodes largely duplicates Dallas’s other power forward backup, Brandon Bass; working against Singleton is the fact that he’s four years older than Rhodes. Neither can play centre, and so the Mavericks can’t really keep both, so there’s a legitimately interesting training camp battle for you there. As for the guards, JaJuan Smith’s sweet scoring stands him in good stead for a spot on the guard roster as a shooter off of the bench, as does the NBA career to date of Keith McLeod. (Gadson is irrelevant.) Reyshawn Terry may play in the NBA one day, but he chose the wrong year to come over, because Devean George just took his spot.
Sham’s prediction: Singleton beats out Rhodes due to him having guaranteed money, and Smith makes it as the 15th man. But this won’t be the last time we see Charles Rhodes in the NBA.
– The Denver Nuggets often make signings that fill one of two criteria – veterans for the veteran’s minimum, and players that are widely disliked. They achieved both this summer, as they signed Ruben Patterson, Smush Parker, Mateen Cleaves, Juwan Howard, Nick Fazekas and James Mays for training camp, all of whom are at least one of the two. Given Denver’s tendency to go with only 13 players due to their self-inflicted payroll concerns, it seems tough for anyone of the above to get in, given that the Nuggets had 13 players under contract already, but the proposed Jamaal Tinsley trade may open up one spot, and Sonny Weems is not certain to make it (albeit probable). The Tinsley trade, should it go down, will spell doom for Parker and Cleaves, whose chances of making the team are miniscule anyway. Fazekas has NBA talent, but doesn’t seem to have made the best choice of training camp to join. Howard is D-U-N done, and hopefully Denver aren’t too attached to the sentimentality that accompanies his return to the team. Patterson is also returning to one of his former teams, and he’s got to be somewhat fresh, after his career-best 2006/07 season with Milwaukee went largely by the wayside. (He has only played in 20 games since then, while on an unguaranteed minimum salary contract with the Clippers last season. This is the sort of thing that will happen when you’re on the sex offenders register – you need to be more than marginal to get into the NBA.) And Mays always has Top Gear to fall back on.
Sham’s prediction: Ask me after the Tinsley deal. If there isn’t one made, expect nothing, because there just isn’t the money for it.
– Detroit brought back their former draft pick Alex Acker for training camp, and that’s it. Boo them. Boo them loudly. Boo them now.
Sham’s prediction: He’ll be cut. Detroit highly rated Acker a few years ago after picking him with the last pick in 2005, but he did nothing for Barcelona last year with plenty of opportunities.
– Golden State’s training camp signings were made well in advance of this great day, with Rob Kurz, DeMarcus Nelson, Dion Dowell and Anthony Morrow all signing nice and early. But, ever eager, they added two more to that list, bringing journeyman point guard Dan Dickau and love machine Justin Williams in as well.
Sham’s prediction: The Warriors need a point guard in the worst way, but Dickau is the only one of the bunch. He’s had a modicum of success in the NBA before, but only on a bad Hornets team, and he also apparently has a bad back right now. Nelson might make the team as a point guard defender, but he has substandard offence for the position. Dowell and Kurz add little, but Morrow may be a useful shooter off the bench, even if the depth chart is against him. Williams has a shot at making it, if only for his genuine size on a team bereft of much of that. But he hasn’t developed much. I’m going to call it as being Dickau and Williams that make it, with Morrow not far behind, and I fully expect to be wrong on this.
– Houston has very little money to spend, and few spots to spend it on, but they’ve played the training camp game anyway, and God bless them for that. Along with bringing in their draft pick, Joey Dorsey, to a first round sized-contract, their camp signings are off-guard Von Wafer and late blooming big man Marcus Campbell. The Dorsey signing gives them 13 guaranteed contracts, with Mike Harris and D.J. Strawberry also on the team with unguaranteed deals, and there may also be Dikembe Mutombo to add to that. The Rockets are also tiptoeing around the tax, so it looks bleak for those on the cusp.
Sham’s prediction: Doesn’t look good for Wafer or Campbell. Strawberry was acquired specifically for his unguaranteed salary, which has bad news written all over it. And despite the Rockets’ like of Harris, his unguaranteed deal may be more useful to them than whatever few minutes he gets. But he might make it if Dikembe doesn’t return. A dump-type trade of Steve Francis, Luther Head or (less likely) Chuck Hayes might open things up for somebody, but such a trade would be sought out only to save money.
– Indiana’s lone camp signing was their former figure of hate and love, Justin Frazier. We can make a teeny weeny allowance for their almost total ignorance of the training camp phenomena, because a summer of decent trading has left them with already 16 guaranteed contracts for only 15 spots, and probably regretting their decision to take out Stephen Graham’s team option.
Sham’s prediction: Croshere didn’t look like he had much left last season anyway, and while a redux of his would be nice, there isn’t the room for him here. It also doesn’t look good for Graham, who just isn’t required on the Pacers right now. Also note – if the Jamaal Tinsley for Chucky Atkins and Steven Hunter trade goes down as reported, as expected, then the Pacers again have to cut or move someone with guaranteed money. If they can’t get Denver to take back Graham or Josh McRoberts in the deal, then they’ll have 17 contracts for 15 spots. That would pretty much be it for Graham, and it doesn’t look great for McRoberts either, purely because of the numbers involved. This is unless a side move sees Shawne Williams moved on to somewhere where he hasn’t worn out his welcome. (Also note: if they see enough in McRoberts to keep him, contracts be damned – and they might – then Macy O’Baston is an easy cut, in spite of his $2.2 million deal.)
– The Clippers have spent their whole season reworking their entire roster, but after Jason Williams’s unexpected retirement, they suddenly have a spot to fill all over again. Always willing to play the training camp game (God bless you, Elgin Baylor), the Clippers brought in four players, ranging from point guard Dontell Jefferson, through to journeyman centre Jelani McCoy, via forwards Curtis Sumpter and David Noel. Paul Davis also has only a $200,000 guarantee, so his spot is still available on a team with no luxury tax concerns. That said, he’s probably safe – the Clippers don’t really have a third point guard, but Mike Taylor can handle the role better than Jefferson could, and McCoy doesn’t outclass him by enough to merit the spot over the far younger Davis, if at all. Sumpter and Noel have only each other for competition, but neither is needed.
Sham’s prediction: Screw it, pick one out of a hat. Jelani McCoy. There you go. (And Davis, obviously.)
– The Lakers did most of their training camp business early, signing Brandon Heath, Dwayne Mitchell and C.J. Giles long before September ended. They also brought in their second-rounder of this year – Joe Crawford – and re-signed Didier Ilunga-Mbenga, the most famous jug-eared half-Belgian half-Congolese seven-footer in the game today. (Note: former Clipper Josh Powell only has $200,000 guaranteed this season, and therefore is not a guarantee to make the team, but for the purposes of this paragraph, I’m treating him as though he is. He should be – he’s better than the others.) You will notice that those five players are all either shooting guards or centres, which gives you a clue what the two upcoming camp battles might be.
Sham’s prediction: Mbenga makes the team as the unnecessary fourth string centre (for those questioning my counting ability – Bynum, Gasol, Mihm, in that order), and all of the shooting guards lose out to the incumbent Coby Karl. The only way for one of the others to make it is for Powell to duly unimpress, or for Sun Yue to be imprisoned for heroin smuggling or something.
– Memphis signed Quinton Ross, which comes as a great relief to those of us out there to have posed the question, “Won’t somebody PLEASE think of Quinton Ross?”. Unfortunately for us Ross fans, Quinton seems to have chosen the one team that really doesn’t need a guard. (Memphis’s backcourt is small, something which Ross can help with, but it’s also deep, and in need of an extra shooter, which Ross doesn’t bring.) The Grizzlies’ other camp signings include former Blazer (for about a week) and summer league bench player, Brent Petway, and former Rockets draft pick Malick Badiane.
Sham’s prediction: Memphis needs a power forward, but Petway isn’t it. Ross has the most talent of the three, but the numbers are against him. Badiane therefore has a chance, but the Grizzlies threw several million at Hamed Haddadi earlier this summer, thereby filling up their “project centre” quota, and doing so without Badiane, a soon-to-be 25-year-old man still suffering from inherent rawness, and who runs like a pre-teen girl. (Hint: it’s in the wrists.)
– The finest quality that the Miami Heat possess is their ability and desire to sign everybody in the world of professional basketball, which leaves those of us obsessed with transactions gaping in awe. Having already waived Stephane Lasme and Bobby Jones earlier this summer, and signing Jason Richards and David Padgett straight after summer league, the Heat kept on playing the signing game, bringing in Eddie Basden, Matt Walsh, Omar Barlett and Tre Kelley for camp. Since then, the Heat have brought in Shaun Livingston, waiving Kelley to open up the spot.
Sham’s prediction: Walsh, Richards, Padgett, Barlett and Basden are all doomed since the Livingston signing, which gives the Heat 14 guaranteed contracts. The 15th man – Jamaal Magloire – has a 50% guarantee on his contract, and despite me often harping on about how poor Magloire was last year, he’s still better than David Padgett. Any role Basden may have filled has already been filled has already been taken by Yakhouba Diawara, any role Walsh may have had has already been filled by James Jones, the Heat have four point guards already that are better than Richards (who can’t take the court anyway), and Barlett…….well, he’s not got guaranteed money, or NBA talent. So I don’t think he’s making it.
I am continuously intrigued by the esoterica and minutiae of all the aspects of building a basketball team. I want to understand how to build the best basketball teams possible. No, I don’t know why, either.
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