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The Tobias Harris Trade: What It Means For Orlando And Detroit

(photo courtesy of Brace Hammelgarn/USA Today Sports)

(photo courtesy of Brace Hammelgarn/USA Today Sports)

The NBA trade deadline is quickly approaching. Many fans are anticipating big moves while others are expecting all talk and no player movement to really speak of. Well, to those that that were expecting something unexpected, it happened on Tuesday. The Orlando Magic traded forward Tobias Harris to Detroit for the services of point guard Brandon Jennings and forward Ersan Ilyasova. The trade of Harris was something that no one really expected, especially since the Magic signed him to a four-year, $64 million dollar contract as a restricted free agent. But nonetheless, the Magic felt it was what they needed to do in moving him. And for the Detroit Pistons, they felt they needed to make one more move to strengthen their team while losing another piece. But what essentially does Harris bring to the Pistons? And what does the combination of Jennings and Ilysova mean for the Magic?

The Pistons have been starting Marcus Morris and Ilysova at the forward spots all season long. And to the credit of both, they have played pretty well. But both are not really considered playmakers at the position. And with both at 26 and 28 respectively, the chances of them both developing into a playmaker is not very high. Tobias is having a bit of a down season this year (averaging his lowest points per game as a member of the Magic at 13.7 points per game). But even with that, he is still shooting better than both of these guys are at the forward position. And in addition to shooting the ball better, Harris is much better playmaker in transition and in the halfcourt offense than Morris and Ilysova. Before the addition of Harris, all the playmaking with the Pistons fell on the shoulders of Reggie Jackson. And although he is having a career year, Jackson will be worn out with the scoring and playmaking duties he has to shoulder each game. Harris alleviates that to an extent and can also allow Jackson to play off the ball some because of Harris’ vision on the court. Another good thing that comes with Harris is the versatility of the frontcourt of the Pistons is still maintained. Harris can play the small and power forward positions and that will allow him to play alongside talented rookie Stanley Johnson at times. The Pistons definitely upgraded their team with this move and also increased their expectations. And with veteran point guard Steve Blake there in Detroit, the Pistons could afford to move Brandon Jennings without fear of a huge dropoff.

In Orlando, it seems that Scott Skiles taking over has had an effect on this team. They are playing harder every night and you can see the improvements. But along with the improvements, you can also see who does and does not fit the system that Skiles wants in Orlando. Harris, unfortunately, just didn’t seem to fit what Skiles wanted despite efficient numbers. With them moving Harris, it now opens up more of a youth movement at the forward position. The Magic drafted Mario Hezonja this past NBA Draft and the rookie has been solid in limited minutes off the bench. The Magic looked like they were going nowhere with their current status quo, so they may as well allow Hezonja to get better and that requires more playing time. With Harris out of the way, look for more lineups with Hezonja and second-year player Aaron Gordon at the forward spots. In acquiring Ilysova and Jennings, the Magic get two veteran players that can be solid for them off the bench. The Magic have been backing up second-year point guard Elfrid Payton with Shabazz Napier. Jennings is an immediate upgrade over Napier and brings along some veteran experience that can help Payton grow on the court. He also is a former player for Skiles in Milwaukee. It should be interesting to see how they get along now. But along with his experience, Jennings also brings along an expiring contract at the end of the year ($8.3 million off the books at the end of the season). If the Magic are able to pull off the rumored trade of backup big man Channing Frye to the Los Angeles Clippers for Lance Stephenson(whom they will reportedly buy out if they acquire him), this is where things could get even more interesting for Orlando. The Frye trade and subsequent cut of Stephenson would give them an additional $9 million more in salary cap freed up going into the summer of 2016. Add that additional $17 million to the cap going up exponentially next year and the Magic will have money, young players and options. One of those options will reportedly be re-signing young guard Evan Fournier, who will be a restricted free agent. But even with that, they will still have money to burn on upgrades to their team. As far as Ilysova, he is there for one reason and one reason along: shooting. He is a former Scott Skiles player from his Milwaukee days (like Jennings) and Skiles knows how to get the best out of him, as Ilysova had two of his best seasons under Skiles. With him coming in off the bench, the Orlando Magic now have more firepower when going to their subs.

Both teams got what they wanted out of this one. The Magic got some cap space, options and a backup point guard. The Pistons got another playmaker and an upgrade at the forward spot. No true winner can be determined in this trade until we see how all players fit (or don’t fit) into their new teams. But on the surface, the Pistons committed highway robbery with this trade.

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The 2015 NBA All Ski-Mask Way Team

Who made the NBA's All Ski-Mask Way team this season? (photo courtesy of www.imgarcarde.com)

Who made the NBA’s All Ski-Mask Way team this season? (photo courtesy of http://www.imgarcarde.com)

The NBA season is almost to a close as the NBA Finals are upon us. We have had many exciting games, plays and individual performances along the way. Who can forget the reception when LeBron returned Opening Night to Cleveland or when Russell Westbrook was on his triple-double streak? While those moments stand out in the memory of a lot of people, there are also performances that many would love to forget. Some fans may want to even forget their teams even played this year. And even worse, there are some players that fans may want to forget were even on their roster this past season. The trouble is some of those players are hard to forget because of the huge pricetag they tote with them. Some fans may accuse them of stealing money from their organizations. These players have earned the ire of many fans across the board and have been taking their paychecks with a ski mask all season long. So to honor these players, The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog presents the NBA All-Ski Mask Way team, dedicated to recognizing the best of the best of stealing money from organizations in the NBA.

Lance Stephenson-Guard, Charlotte Hornets)

When Lance was given the opportunity in Indiana to replace Danny Granger, he took full advantage of his chance. He was putting up triple-doubles and making the winning plays for them. He also was the only one that played and showed up consistently when the Pacers played the Heat last season in the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals. It was all set up for him to have a huge payday and take his career to the next level. Some thought he would stay in Indiana and continue his growth there, but he decided to take his game and go to Charlotte. His deal with the Hornets was for three years and $27 million (last year of the deal is a team option) and he was expected to be the number two option beside center Al Jefferson. Well, he did not quite exactly reach the level he thought. Lance averaged 8.7 points per game, even less than his average salary per year. And he shot below 40% from the field (37.6%) for the first time since 2011. And to top it all off, the youngster out of Cincinnati was relegated to the bench for most of the season. Not what you expected from him going there. He may rebound next year, but we know the Hornets are looking to get rid of him if they can. But for now, he is there little salary albatross they cannot ship out of town if they wanted.

Eric Gordon- Guard, New Orleans Pelicans

Who can remember in the summer of 2012 when Eric Gordon was a restricted free agent? At that time, he signed an offer sheet with the Phoenix Suns and declared that he had found his home and did not want to go back to New Orleans. Well, the then Hornets signed matched the four-year, $58 million offer from the Phoenix Suns and ever since he has been disappointing the Hornets/Pelicans. This season he continued his downward fall in scoring from 15.4 points per game to 13.4 points per game. And he wasn’t even a dynamic player this past season either. It seems like he has been passed by on the team by the play of Tyreke Evans and if Jrue Holiday is healthy next season, he could be looking at a bench role or even (or should I say hopefully) someone will take his expiring contract off their hands. The Pelicans are probably very thankful that he is coming off the books after this year. But until then, that over $15 million salary for next season is a haunting upon the management there in New Orleans.

Deron Williams- Guard, Brooklyn Nets

Who can remember the time when Williams used to be in the argument about the best point guard in the NBA? The Nets were banking on Williams showing them that he was that guy when they signed him to a five-year, $98 million in the summer of 2012. To say the Nets have not got a good return on their investment is an understatement. The guard out of Illinois has been battling injuries during his entire time in Brooklyn and when he has been on the court, he has not been the same guy he once was. In fact, since he signed the big deal with the team, Williams’ points per game have declined each season, dropping to 13.0 points per game this season (his lowest since his rookie season in the NBA). People can say that it was because of his coach and the change of system, but good players get it done no matter what system they are in. As time goes on, it has become apparent that Williams was a star in Jerry Sloan’s system in Utah, but is an ordinary guard outside of it. He does have his moments, but he is not steady enough to be even considered a superstar point guard anymore. He does not perform like it and he likely never will again. He played good at the right time for the Nets and Brooklyn has been footing the bill for his declining performances ever since.

Channing Frye- Power Forward, Orlando Magic

Channing Frye was one that probably would not have made this list if it had not been for Orlando overpaying to obtain his services. Nevertheless, the rangy big man out of Arizona locks down the power forward spot on this team. Frye had the worst shooting year of his career (39.2%) after signing the four-year, $32 million deal. The Magic may not have expected Frye to be a superstar, but they certainly did not expect him to have his worst output since the 2009-2010 season. And to be someone that is 6’11”, you would think that he would average more than 4 rebounds a game despite averaging 25 minutes a game. But that is just the reality when you have a stretch four shooting three’s that does not do much else. Hopefully next season will be better for him, but that all depends on if his jump shot is falling. Because if it isn’t, then he will not have much more impact on anything else at all. Whatever the Magic saw in him as a prized free agent was an illusion.

JaVale McGee-Center, Denver Nuggets/Philadelphia 76ers

The JaVale McGee experience was limited this year due to injuries at the beginning of the year. But once McGee hit the court, the hilarity ensued. It just seems like McGee is not all there at times when he is on the court. And honestly, it seems like he is purposely trying to make us laugh and make Shaqtin-A-Fool each week. Tragic Bronson, as he is called by Shaq on his bloopers segment, is a very talented athlete. He is that rare combination of speed, agility and leaping ability. And that was on full display when he was under the tutelage of former Nuggets coach George Karl. But since he has been gone, he has been non-existent and not deserving of that contract that pays him $11 million a year. He may not have played but 23 games, but that was enough of a sample to let us know he was getting things done the Ski-Mask way and that he played good enough at the right time to fool the Nuggets to give him a deal. Great thing for the next team that signs him is that he has devalued himself enough where he does not come close to getting that amount of money. Philly bought him out once he was traded to them and he is out there for someone to grab.

All Ski-Mask Way MVP- Kendrick Perkins, Center, Oklahoma City Thunder/ Cleveland Cavaliers

The MVP had some stiff competition this year, but in the end, it could only be him. The big man was getting an average of $9 million a year from the Oklahoma City Thunder. When he was brought there, he was brought in for brute toughness, his defense and his locker room leadership. He definitely was not brought there for his scoring at all. But when his defense started to suffer and he was just a body out there that could not finish a layup consistently, then he became a liability. Honestly, his contract extension was not the smartest thing that Oklahoma City could have done because at the time, his deal knocked them out of contention to sign both Serge Ibaka and James Harden. And for what? 4 points per game. He was eventually traded to the Utah Jazz and bought out by them, only to join Cleveland on their championship run. But even though he is making a little less than $500,000 for the rest of the season, he still robbed the Thunder in broad daylight for a couple years. He is the true definition of doing things the Ski-Mask way.

Honorable Mention

Landry Fields-Guard, Toronto Raptors

Many have not heard this name in forever and that is because since he has been a member of the Toronto Raptors, he has entered the basketball equivalent of the Witness Protection Program aka the end of the bench. Not what many expected from a guy that made $8.5 million this season. The Raptors must be jumping for joy that he is not on their roster next season at that number. And with the exit of him, maybe they can use that money to bring in someone that can actually contribute in points per game and not claps per good plays by his teammates.

This is your 2015 NBA All Ski-Mask Way team! Hope you all enjoyed the team and enjoyed arguing about how bad they were this year.

The Orlando Magic Underwhelm With The Hire Of Scott Skiles As Their New Head Coach

Scott Skiles is now the head coach of the franchise he used to play for. But this may not be the best decision made for the team. (photo courtesy of www.wn.com)

Scott Skiles is now the head coach of the franchise he used to play for. But this may not be the best decision made for the team. (photo courtesy of http://www.wn.com)

The Orlando Magic started last season looking for progress from third-year coach Jacque Vaughn and his young team. Although they were young, they were a talented squad that some could see making it to the playoffs potentially if they were to reach their ultimate level. Unfortunately, the Magic were the same team they were last year and it seemed like no progress was made. So the organization decided to part ways with Vaughn halfway through the season. The team with so much talent just did not come together under Vaughn’s leadership. The season ended for them mercifully in April and then the search for a new coach began. There were names mentioned like former Scott Brooks and Tom Thibodeau as the next coach of the Magic. But for Orlando, they decided to not hire these coaches in favor of one of the franchise favorites. Scott Skiles was a hard-working player when he played in the NBA. He did not have any skills that were extraordinary, but he was a smart, heady player that left it all on the court. And he can famously be remembered for being an irritant to second-year center Shaquille O’Neal when they were in Orlando together as well as his record of 30 assists in one game in 1990. Well, Skiles will now be returning to where he had his best success as a player. Skiles was officially named the new head coach of the Orlando Magic on this past Friday. And with that, the new era of Magic basketball has begun. But how long will this era last is the question many have.

Skiles has been in the NBA a long time as a coach and has had a few stops. In Phoenix, Chicago and Milwaukee he helped make those teams better and he has a 51% winning percentage in the NBA as a coach. It is undeniable how much he squeezed out of those teams when many did not see the type of things he did. And with most of them, there was not much to work with. But the things that he accomplished with the teams he coached came with a price. Skiles was as demanding as a coach as he was a player. He was tough on players and sometimes overstepped his bounds as a coach. He knew tough love as a coach and some players needed that. But he never knew when to throttle it down on the sideline or at practice. The result of his propensity to continue to push his teams was him ultimately getting fired from two coaching jobs and him resigning from the Milwaukee job. The reason he was fired from two of his coaching jobs he was is because he wore on those teams. Eventually, the players tired of listening to him rant at them about things. His act wore thin and he was jettisoned. In Milwaukee, his resigning was due to him not being very fond of the ownership at the time and who can blame him? At that time ownership was very bad. But the team probably would have fired him there as well if he did not resign due to his abrasive coaching style. In the end, he is a guy that gets results but wears thin on people, including management. In the short-term, he can get some results. But in the long-term, he is not the answer for any team. He is merely a stopgap.

For Orlando, they had a chance to bring back a former player they loved, but they also had a chance to bring in someone that would make a difference in the long run. And by taking a look at Skiles and his coaching career, long-term is something that should never be attached to his name. The Magic have a ton of youth on their team and those players will need some tough love along with some encouragement along the way. Skiles has proven that he is incapable of the encouragement portion and would rather coach NBA players like he is their taskmaster. As time goes on, he will become the frustrating irritant that he was when he played with Shaq in Orlando. And that will eventually drive the Orlando players crazy. The NBA is a player’s league and very seldom do coaches win out over players. In a year or two, the Magic will go from just a young team to a team that could potentially make some noise in the East with guards Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo along with big man Nikola Vucevic. Skiles will drive them to success at first, but he will eventually become the one that drives them towards talking to management about getting rid of him. His burnout factor on his players will help usher in a coach that will benefit from what he is trying to build. Honestly, it is amazing that he continues to keep getting jobs despite everyone knowing his history on the sidelines. These young players don’t need a taskmaster like Skiles at the helm. They need a coach that can get the best out of them while knowing how to balance personalities on a team. There is a reason teams Skiles coaches take a drastic dip in his last year coaching them and it’s definitely not the players. Add Orlando to the list of teams that will tire of him eventually and jettison him.

This experiment is one that will not work for the Orlando Magic. They fired Jacque Vaughn and had a chance to bring in better coaches with more success. But instead they fumbled this coaching hire like they have fumbled this franchise for the last four years and hired a guy that has no business even being on a sideline as a head coach again. Congratulations on your head coaching job Scott Skiles. And good luck when you are fired in two or three years and have worn out your welcome.

The Houston Rockets Will Never Win Anything With Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard is not the guy to take Houston where they want to go. (photo courtesy of www.anyandeverythingblog.com)

Dwight Howard is not the guy to take Houston where they want to go. (photo courtesy of http://www.anyandeverythingblog.com)

The Houston Rockets staved off elimination at the hands of the Golden State Warriors Monday night. Many expect them to still lose this series after going down 3-0, but of course, many did not expect the Rockets to even be in this position. Down 3-1 in their series versus the Los Angeles Clippers, the Rockets became only the 10th team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a series. Plenty started to believe in the Rockets again. They were powered by star guard James Harden and the role players on the team were playing well. But as they head out of the Toyota Center for potentially the last time, the joy has turned to concern and focus. The Rockets have been leaning heavy on the services of James Harden this series. And all except for Game 3, Harden has been there and shown up. But there is the matter of the other star of this team. Dwight Howard is as good of a physical specimen as there is in the NBA. His size, speed and leaping ability are things that athletes dream of. With the physical matchup he had going into this series, there was some thought he would have a chance to dominate the series. Well, that thought has quickly turned into what most thought it would be in the end: disappointment. And that is the ultimate problem when it comes to Dwight Howard.

Before Howard came to Houston, the Rockets were a franchise trying to make it back to the level they were in the mid-1990’s with Rudy Tomjanovich as coach and Hakeem Olajuwon as the centerpiece of their team. While they did not quite make it there, the team made it back to the playoffs in 2013 while being led by Harden and a miscellaneous crew of players. When Dwight came to town, he was hailed as the missing piece to take the Rockets to the next level. Howard is a former Defensive Player of the Year, so naturally he was expected to help take their defense to the next level. But on the offensive end, he was expected to have an effect as well. Howard was to be working with Olajuwon, who still lives in the Houston area, on his post moves. And he was going to get his wish to get more opportunities on the block. Well, that happened and that proved to expose Howard more than anything. Howard may be a good athlete, but he is not the greatest when it comes to post play. Throwing it down to Dwight is always an adventure and has been so since he has been in the NBA. You would think at this point in his career he would have some sort of consistent post moves besides catching alley-oops and offensive rebound putbacks. But unfortunately he either does not have that down or is lacking in confidence in making those moves. Well, whatever the case, he is not dependable there. And when he gets in position, he can be fouled, which leads Dwight going to the free throw line, and that is not a win for Howard either.

Along with Howard’s play on the court, he also came to Houston to be a leader in the locker room. Dwight Howard mistakenly gets credit for leading the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals versus the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2008-2009 season. But in all actuality, it was the versatility of point forward Hedu Tukoglu that led them to the Finals. But make no mistake that he was a presence though, averaging 20 points and 15 rebounds. But how quickly some forget that the Magic were outclassed in that NBA Finals and Dwight did not have quite the effect he was thought to the entire game. His leadership was not evident there at that point when they were down. Fast forward to now and the Dwight Howard experience has not gone as planned for the Rockets. He is there, but last year they were bounced earlier than they thought and this season he missed half the games with knee issues. But even when he was on the floor, it seemed like he was not the same athletic Dwight we are used to seeing and it also seemed like he was not in any way a part of the leadership there. It is officially Harden’s team now and also when they huddles are going on, notice that Howard does not say much at all. In fact, veteran guard Jason Terry is way more vocal than he is and he did not play for the Rockets last season. Howard is not a leader and will never be one. And if someone is following him as their leader, then they may want to understand that Howard has not shown that he can be a leader at any point and time of his career. And any leader that is seen laughing on the bench when their team is getting blown out and that does some things that are not the mark of a leader is someone you may not want to follow anyway.

The addition of Howard could have been good, but Howard did not recognize his gift and put in the work to become the big man that many thought he could. So instead of getting a guy that could help take them to the next level, the Rockets got a big man that is closing in on 30 years old and is not the dominant big man and leader they thought he would be. To best use Howard, he needs to be a rebounder, finisher and defender because his offense is not something that you can depend on to ever take you where you want to go. When Orlando went to the NBA Finals, it was almost like a needle being found in a haystack and being thrown back in, only to be missing again. That glimmer of Dwight being the man to take you to the Promiseland is something of a mystery. Dwight is going to lead the Rockets nowhere fast. And that is just the cold reality of his presence in Houston.

The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog Presents The 2015 NBA Top 5 Draft Pick Predictions

Who goes where when it comes to the NBA Draft? (Photo courtesy of www.insider.espn.go.com)

Who goes where when it comes to the NBA Draft? (Photo courtesy of http://www.insider.espn.go.com)

Tomorrow’s superstars could potentially be in the 2015 NBA Draft. Many are excited over the many talents that are out there including the teams. But before anyone can pick, the NBA had their usual routine during the Conference Finals, the NBA Draft Lottery. In the lottery, the order in which teams pick is determined by their record and the bounce of a ping pong ball. The more you lost during the year, the more ping pong balls you had available to obtain the 1st overall pick. There were many teams that were hoping to obtain the 1st pick, but in the end, the Minnesota Timberwolves ended up with the number one spot. They were followed by the Los Angeles Lakers and then the Philadelphia 76ers. The top five was completed by the New York Knicks and the Orlando Magic. With that being set, many are starting to envision who will be wearing their favorite team’s jersey. Well, let’s take a second and check to see who could be landing where!

1st Overall pick (Minnesota Timberwolves): Jahlil Okafor, Duke

The Minnesota Timberwolves already have the reigning Rookie of the Year, Andrew Wiggins, to build around and now they have the 1st overall pick. With the team they currently have, they are more of a speed team. With players like Zach Levine and Wiggins filling the wings and point guard Ricky Rubio dishing assists, it would actually make more sense for them to select Towns to run with this team. But again, the Timberwolves do need someone they can throw the ball to in the post and get a basket. And with that notion, they may not want to wait and see what Towns becomes at the NBA level. So with the affinity that Timberwolves coach/general manager Flip Saunders has for Okafor, it is almost a no-brainer that he gets selected there. When the game slows down, the Timberwolves are hoping Okafor can be the guy to sustain their offense with his offensive footwork and soft touch. Of course the Timberwolves may suffer defensively with the young big man, but they will take their lumps there if the big man is able to produce for them.

2nd overall pick (Los Angeles Lakers): Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky

One of the coveted big men in this draft is headed to the Los Angeles Lakers. Assuming Flip Saunders is still in love with Okafor, the second most-coveted big man is headed West. The Lakers are looking for yet another piece to help them in their rebuild. They selected power forward Julius Randle last season out of Kentucky and he was essentially hurt all year after he suffered a season-ending injury in the first game of the season. But even though they lost their top rookie, the Lakers still got great play from second-round pick Jordan Clarkson out of Missouri. Now with Randle coming back next season, the Lakers can add a healthy but aged Kobe Bryant and versatile big man in Towns. The big man out of Kentucky will add rebounding, shot-blocking and versatility to the Lakers frontcourt and he will also be able to learn the Laker way under Kobe for what some think is Kobe’s last year in the NBA. Look for the Lakers to begin the rebuild with Towns, Randle and Clarkson and maybe another piece in free agency to add with Kobe Bryant. It may take a little time for Towns to show his skills. But once Towns settles in, the Lakers will be happy with the monster they end up drafting.

3rd overall pick (Philadelphia 76ers): Emmanuel Mudiay, Guangdong Southern Tigers (Chinese Basketball Association)

The Philadelphia 76ers had a chance to get multiple picks in the lottery. But with the way the ping pong balls dropped, they ended up with only one. However, the 76ers still ended up in great position with the 3rd overall pick. The last couple of years, the 76ers selected injured players and essentially redshirted them for their first season in the NBA. Well, this season will be something different. The 76ers have some nice complimentary pieces that would fit well on a team that had a star. But the team is void of star power currently as they stand. Nerlens Noel is a player the team is high on, but they also have a decision to make with how they can use he and Joel Embiid. They may try Noel at the power forward position, but they will be physical and rugged up front. The problem with this team is they do not have a point guard. Well, in this draft, they have their choice of which point guard they want. Some may want the services of D’Angelo Russell here, but the 76ers may have others ideas. 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie was the only general manager to fly to China to see Mudiay and that should tell you right there the way he is leaning. The 6’5” point guard, who many don’t know a ton about, will be the 76ers international man of mystery this year and he will be one that will have Philly fans excited because of his size, speed and athletic ability.

4th overall pick (New York Knicks): D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State

The Knicks are going to have a lot of cap space this summer and plenty of Knicks fans were hoping the number one pick would be joining the players the Knicks are able to obtain with the money available in free agency. Well, everything did not pan out as well as the Knicks and their fans had planned. But all hope is not lost. Things could have been worse for them and they could have landed even further back. They will more than likely not get one of the coveted big men in this draft and that could have been something that would have helped Carmelo Anthony when he returns next season. But another thing they didn’t have last season was solid point guard play. The Knicks need a player that can be special with the basketball and bring some sizzle to the Garden. Russell is as talented an offensive player as there is in the draft. He has a nice stroke, good handles and can make the perfect pass in a tough situation and he is no slouch defensively either. He and Carmelo together and maybe a big man in free agency could be an interesting dynamic together. And the Knicks will finally have a point guard that could compete with the top point guards in the NBA potentially in a point guard driven NBA.

5th overall (Orlando Magic): Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky

The Orlando Magic have been out of the spotlight since they traded away Dwight Howard. The team has not been close to being a playoff-caliber squad and that is quite bad considering they play in the Eastern Conference. But this team does have some young pieces they can build with. Victor Oladipo is starting to catch his stride in the NBA, starting point guard Elfrid Payton got better as the season went on and Nikola Vujevic was a machine inside. The Magic fired their head coach, Jacque Vaughn, during the season and reports are that they are looking at current Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau and are willing to do anything to get him there. If that happens, you can bet he will look to build his team identity through defense. And what better piece would fit his scheme than Kentucky Willie Cauley-Stein? The athletic big man from Kentucky will remind some of current Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah with his game. He is not a scorer, but he is a guy that will defend, block shots, rebound on both ends of the floor and give you putbacks. The passing is not the level of Noah, but he can have a great effect on a team that is trying to form an identity.

This NBA Draft could help a lot of teams, but these in the Top 5 need it the most. And if they draft correctly, these guys could make their teams better immediately if they are selected where they are. It should be interesting to see if these selections hold true to form or if trades happen to change up the selection. What are your thoughts on The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog’s Top 5 NBA Draft Projections?

It’s time for Dwight Howard to accept his sidekick role permanently

James Harden and Dwight Howard trying to get on the same page. (photo courtesy of www.washingtonpost.com)

James Harden and Dwight Howard trying to get on the same page. (photo courtesy of http://www.washingtonpost.com)

During the summer of 2013, Dwight Howard had a decision to make. Did he want to stay with the Los Angeles Lakers and pair with Kobe again or did he want to move on to play somewhere else? The relationship between Howard and Kobe in his one year with the Lakers was strained at best. Kobe was serious and about business. While Howard was jovial and never seemed to be serious about winning in Kobe’s eyes. In the meeting the Lakers had with Howard when he was making his decision where he would sign, Kobe went directly at Howard and told him that he could “teach him how to be a champion”. Howard listened to Bryant, but he was not at all interested in sticking around somewhere that he felt he could not be himself. Howard and Bryant were just not meant to be a pairing. Their personalities just went together like oil and water. And ultimately a separation was needed. Howard signed, for less money and one less year, with the Houston Rockets franchise. He was viewed as the guy that could change their franchise and help them ascend to greater heights than they did before. Well, two years later, the story of Howard in Houston has not gone the way he thought it would.

Howard had a good first season with the Rockets, averaging 18 points and 12 rebounds. The Rockets made it back to the playoffs on the strength of Howard and Harden, yet they ran out of gas in the 1st round of the NBA playoffs, losing to the Portland Trailblazers in six games. Howard had a great series versus the Trailblazers, putting up 26 points per game and grabbing 14 rebounds per game as well. But his efforts were not enough for them to continue forward. Going into this season, many thought that Howard would pick up where he left off versus Portland. But unfortunately he did not have the regular season he thought he would. Howard had progressed in the 2014 postseason. He was actually using post moves and looked like he knew what he was doing down there. But that did not last this season as he went back to the usual Dwight. Of course it did not help that he was injured most of this season, but when he was out there, he was the big man that could do everything else but put together two post moves back to back. Over the years, what made Howard so special over his career is his athleticism as a big man that allows him to block shots and be a bulldog rebounding the ball. That incredible athleticism allowed him to get by without having any real post moves for most of his career. But as time goes on in his career, the injuries are piling up and the athleticism is not what it once was. Now the soon-to-be 30 year old center is entering a phase of his career that may take him out of the spotlight even more. He had wanted to be a leader of his team. But the time has come for him to succumb to being the sidekick.

Dwight has realized that he is not the best player on the team in Houston. That title belongs to Rockets shooting guard James Harden. The veteran big man has said that he is willing to be the sidekick to Harden and that should be what he should do. After all, Harden has pretty much carried this team to the spot it’s in now without the services of Howard for much of the year. It was an easy decision for Howard to defer to the best player on the team. And if they are to make a run, Howard must realize that he is the sidekick and stay in his role. In fact, the best thing that could have happened to this Houston team was him getting injured. It allowed for more players like Terrence Jones to develop more and it also allowed Harden to have uninterrupted time as the leader of the team. Now with Howard there as the secondary guy, he can potentially go back to the things that made him good in Orlando, being the anchor on defense and rebounding. And if Howard can zone in on doing those things, the Houston could be a bigger threat than originally thought, especially if guys like Trevor Ariza, Jason Terry and Corey Brewer are hitting threes. The penetration of Harden along with the effect of Howard on the boards would be staggering to teams. But what happens after this season if the Rockets are not successful with Howard as the sidekick?

In the 2015-2016 season, there could be some issues between Harden and Howard. Assuming that Howard could be healthy, he could go back to the guy that would be requesting touches in the post. And as is documented by his play over the years, he cannot really be consistent with his post moves. Howard requesting touches in the paint without being able to do anything with it would do two things to the Rockets offense. First, it would take away the possessions that Harden has the basketball. Harden is by far the best playmaker the Rockets have and when he has the ball in his hands, good things tend to happen for Houston. So it would be imperative that Harden have the ball to help everyone else around him, including Howard, be more effective. Secondly, Howard requesting post touches will make the flow of the offense slow down. No one really fears him in the post when he has to make post moves. Teams fear him more when he gets offensive rebounds. Putting Howard in potential pick-n-roll situations more and then surrounding he and Harden with shooters is the most efficient way they can run offense.

Dwight may be content with playing the sidekick role for this postseason, but we have all witness the times where he expresses disgust when things don’t go the way he wants them to go. And that can be a bad thing for any team. Dwight may have to come to grips that he is not the main attraction there in Houston. James Harden has taken over that title for the foreseeable future. It’s up to Dwight Howard to understand that he cannot be the main focus at this point anymore. The best thing he can do is be Robin instead of trying to be Batman.

Agent Zero Reinvented?

Gilbert Arenas was on top of the world three years ago. He was considered one of the top point guards in the NBA and he was one of the most lethal scorers in the NBA when he was “in the zone”. Then, just like that, Arenas hit the toughest stretch of his career.

Arenas and then teammate Javaris Crittendon got into an incident with each other where guns were brought into the locker room. This incident led to Arenas getting a lengthy suspension and putting a black eye on his career. That incident, along with knee surgeries, caused Arenas to fall from grace and tarnish what was once a promising career. The Washington Wizards were looking to move him. They lost all faith in Arenas being a solution and had deemed him the problem.

With the huge contract Arenas was under, moving him was no easy task. But there was one team out there that was looking to cause a major shakeup and that team was the Orlando Magic. The Magic traded Rashard Lewis to Washington for the services of Arenas in hopes that he would become the guy that everyone feared. Well, the magic didn’t return as Arenas changed teams. In fact, Arenas looked increasingly like he would never get over the serious knee surgeries and that he was a shell of himself. Gone was the explosiveness. Gone was the brashness. Gone was the guy we knew as Agent Zero.

After the NBA lockout, their was a clause created called the amnesty clause. This clause meant that teams could get rid of one bad contract and not have any repercussions in releasing that player. As soon as that clause came about, the first person many teams spoke about was Gilbert Arenas. Arenas, like most thought, was released by the Magic. He was thought to be done in most fans and GM’s eyes. After all, who wanted a guy with a bad knee who seemed to have lost his explosiveness and jump shot?

It took a while, but the Memphis Grizzlies, in March 2012, took a chance on signing the fading star with limited expectations. They were hoping to get the guy we all saw in Washington and not the guy in Orlando that looked pedestrian at best. Memphis was in need of more offense and a backup to Mike Conley, Jr. So far, Arenas has been on the money. But, he’s done it in a different way than usual.

Arenas used to be able to explode past you to the rim as well as shoot the deep ball. Now, with his explosiveness gone, he now plays off the ball a little bit better and has become more of a jump shooter than playmaker. Another noticeable difference is he is now giving effort on the defensive end. Arenas always had quick hands and feet, but he never seemed to have a ton of interest in that end of the court. Flash forward to now and he is deflecting passes and using his basketball smarts to make plays on the defensive end.

Arenas seems to have turned a new page in his career. He has scored in double-figures 3 of his 8 games with the Grizzlies, but not only has he done that, he has played with an intense desire to not only make this team better, but to revive his career. You could say he has reinvented himself, knowing that this may be his last chance to make something happen in the NBA.

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