Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year's Resolutions: COACH LET EM PLAY!

Its 2009, a chance to start over for all NBA teams, with still about 45-50 games left to play in the season, there are many changes that coaches can still make to energize their teams. Recently there has been an alarming trend for coaches to play their young players less and less, hindering their development and causing them to force the issue in their limited playing time.

Here then are the names of 10 players that are currently outside the top 150 in minutes played so far this season (30 teams x 5 starters = 150 players with "starters minutes"), that deserve more playing time. C'mon coach, let them play!

10) Yi Jianlian, F - NJN
Yi has started every game this season, but has been pulled out of games early as a result of his continued struggles with his shot. After a few quick fouls or missed shots, Nets coach Lawrence Frank loses confidence in his young forward and pulls him. For Yi to have confidence to improve as a playmaker, he needs to be able to continue to shoot without the added pressure of losing playing time. Here's to Frank playing Yi more than just 25 minutes a game, and Yi shooting greater than his miserable 39.0% clip.

9) Andres Nocioni, F - CHI
Its a tall order for anyone not named Rose to garner consistent playing time in the Chicago Bulls rotation, but if anyone is deserving of a playing time increase its Nocioni. This feisty Argentine has been forced into more time due to injuries as of late, and has responded with double-digit scoring in his last 8 contests. Nocioni creates many mismatches at the forward position, especially with his penchant for knocking down treys in the clutch. Although the Bulls have a lot of young players they would like to develop, they won't be much better if they prevent Nocioni from playing more than a measly 24 minutes a game.

8) Trevor Ariza, F - LAL
The Lakers have a logjam at the forward position, which has even forced all-star Lamar Odom out of the starting lineup. However, even in limited minutes, Ariza has found a way to shine. The 5th year man out of UCLA has earned a reputation for being a scrappy player who leads the league in hustle. Ariza is averaging an incredible 3.5 steals per 48 minutes, and almost 10 ppg despite being on the floor only 24 minutes a game. As the Lakers look for more energy off their bench, look for Ariza to earn more playing time by making big hustle plays similar to the outstanding saves he made during the Christmas day game against the Celtics.

7) Kyle Lowry, G - MEM
Lowry, a 3rd year PG out of Villanova has clearly outplayed 1st round pick from a year ago Mike Conley, while coming off the bench for the Grizzlies. Lowry has found himself in the starting lineup all December and has responded, averaging 9 points and 5 assists, including a career high 12 assists last week at Minnesota. With rookie OJ Mayo and star Rudy Gay looking for scoring opportunities, Lowry is a perfect fit to control the offense on this young Grizzlies team and deserves to play more than his season average of 23 minutes per game.

6) Andray Blatche, C - WAS
This one is just puzzling. With the Wizards experimenting with different starters such as JaVale McGee and Dominic McGuire, there should be no reason for Blatche not to see more time on the court. This Wizards team is struggling through injuries to stars Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler, so there are minutes for the taking. Interim coach Ed Tapscott and his 6-24 club have nothing to lose by developing Andray, especially when he is averaging 12 pts, 7 reb, and a blocked shot in his 10 starts. Get this guy on the court!

5) Russell Westbrook, PG - OKC
The only reason Westbrook is not higher on this list is because he has already been inserted as a starter and is starting to see much more playing time than earlier in the season when he was sharing time with Earl Watson. This rookie, the 4th pick in the draft has had a very inconsistent rookie year, laden with shooting woes and turnovers, but has clearly shown flashes of brilliance. So far this season, Westbrook has twice exceeded 30 pts, twice handed out 11 assists, grabbed 10 rebounds in a game, and also has 2 games with 5 steals. Westbrook has given the Thunder reason for optimism, and with only 3 wins, there is no reason not to play him at least 40 minutes a game. Yet his season average is still under 30.

4) Kevin Love, PF - MIN
As the 5th pick in the draft, Love has made a solid contribution of 8 points and 8 rebounds per game despite only starting 1 game and averaging just 22 minutes. Love continues to fight Craig Smith, Ryan Gomes, and Rodney Carney for playing time, and has been inconsistent over the last few months. However, as the 5th pick in the draft on a struggling club, the Wolves must make Love's development their priority. Minnesota's resolution for the new year, should be to insert Love into the starting lineup.

3) Tyrus Thomas, F - CHI
Tyrus Thomas is probably the most tantalizing, yet frustrating fantasy player that is always available on the waiver wire. Many thought that in his 3rd season in the league, this former 4th pick of the draft would finally realize his full potential. Thomas, at his best is capable of a double double with 2 steals and 2 blocks - in short, monster fantasy stats. However, rookie coach Vinny Del Negro does not tolerate Thomas' ill-advised shots and mental mistakes that lead to inopportune turnovers. Still, Thomas needs to play through these issues, and needs some more experience before he is classified as a bust. Tyrus did not even get off the bench in 3 games in December! That is no way to bring along, what could be in my opinion, the breakout player of the 2nd half of this season. Here's a plea to coach Del Negro: LET HIM PLAY!

2) Michael Beasley, F - MIA
Michael Beasley was absolutely dominant as a freshman at Kansas State last year, posting double double after double double, impressing everyone across the country with his moves around the basket as well as his strong rebounding skills, which earned him the #2 pick in the draft. I'm pretty sure that those skills are still there, and the bench is not the best place to showcase them. The Miami Heat are letting Joel Anthony, Udonis Haslem, and an aging Shawn Marion, take away playing time from Beasley, who must learn to hone his craft against NBA-level forwards. Although Beasley started the year as a starter, he has since been pulled from the lineup and averaged only 19 minutes per game in December. Here's to more playing time for Beasley, so that he can show us why he was the #2 pick overall.

1) Greg Oden, C - POR
This was supposed to be his year. This season was supposed to be when Greg Oden showed us how he was the next David Robinson, how he would stake his claim as the next dominant big man in the NBA. However, injuries again were his downfall. But when it appeared he was recovered, turnovers and foul trouble were his problems. Now he shows an inability to mesh with the rest of the team and is overshadowed by the highly efficient Joel Przybilla. Through 26 games played this year, Oden is averaging only 8 points and 7 rebounds, which are not even average for an NBA center. Its about time Oden gets on the court and becomes the dominant player that we all know he can be. With a supporting cast of rising stars Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge and playing for a team that is in the hunt, there is less pressure on Oden to perform, but that does not mean lower expectations. Greg Oden needs to find more than 23 minutes a game, and that starts with staying healthy and not picking up cheap fouls early in games.


Anonymous said...

trevor ariza is going to end up being the center of the nucleus (with andrew bynum and jordan farmar) that will bring the lakers championships in years to come. calling it now.

Izzy said...

agree with the last comment. ariza has been the lynchpin of the lakers success this year. without ariza, the lakers are a 8-10 loss team. with farmar healthy, this core can do a lot of damage in years to come.

i have added you to my blogroll list at my site keep writing that good stuff.