By Tom Minear
The Mouth from the South is back for another round of random thoughts. So what is Tom Minear thinking about? The Playoffs? Well, that and Steve Nash, Monta Ellis, Brandon Roy, Tyrus Thomas, Sebastian Telfair and the 2007 Draft.
Nash for MVP
You have probably seen a few hundred columns on this year’s MVP race. We know Dallas could not have won 67 games without Dirk Diggler, we know the Lakers would be in the lottery without Kobe and we know that Tim Duncan, LeBron James and Tracy McGrady are all extraordinary basketball players in their own right.
But honestly, I think Steve Nash has to take home his third consecutive MVP trophy. He’s the best point guard of this generation, and this has been Nash’s best season yet in the NBA. You know the stats, you know the records. It’s been spelled out time and time again.
No one can say exactly who is more valuable between Dirk and Nash. In my opinion, it’s Nash, but really I only decided because of a certain Phoenix v Dallas match on March 15. Remember? The double-OT classic where Phoenix prevailed, 129-127.
That game was the making of Nash as this year’s MVP.
Go get a tape and watch the final 13.6 seconds of regulation. You will see Dirk Nowitzki, a 90% shooter from the charity stripe miss the game-winning free throw.
Then you will see Steve Nash drain a long three with 2.7 seconds left, to force overtime where he led his team to victory over the best team in the league.
Nash is the definition of clutch. Nash is the MVP.
It’s spelt R.O.Y. …
I know this website is produced by a certain Canadian basketball writer, and has many Canadian basketball fans as readers. So before I announce Brandon Roy as the most obvious winner of Rookie of the Year in recent memory – well, since Chris Paul’s romped home last year – I would like to say that Andrea Bargnani is quite an amazing player.
But it’s no coincidence that Portland’s star two-guard spells his surname R.O.Y.
It’s not every day you get a rookie with such composure and leadership, and the ability to post numbers along the lines of 17-4-4 with a steal. Roy is a very talented young player, and I still can’t believe he slipped to number six in last year’s draft.
At 22, he already possesses a Wade-like ability to put his team on his back and carry them to the finish. Roy does all the things you can’t teach, and looks set to make his name as an elite NBA guard.
I know Portland was not very successful this year, but next season is a different story. They have a very strong young core, and with Brandon Roy leading the charge, anything is possible.
… and it’s pronounced MON-TAY
It’s not MON-TUH, it’s MON-TAY!
If you don’t know that now, then . . . well let’s just say that I know Monta Ellis is the Most Improved Player in the NBA, and I live in Australia.
Sure, there’s a lot of praise for the real K-Mart and Big Al Jefferson, and rightly so – both have had superb seasons and look set for very long and successful careers. But come on, people. Monta Ellis has come from the clouds to emerge as one of the most talented guards right now.
Check the numbers . . .
2005-06 statistics: 6.8 PTS, 2.1 REB, 1.6 AST, 0.6 STL
2006-07 statistics: 16.7 PTS, 3.1 REB, 4.2 AST, 1.7 STL
You think that’s good? How about the fact that in his first season, he posted very poor numbers with only Baron Davis, Jason Richardson and Mike Dunleavy ahead of him on the depth chart?
Then this season, he came in behind Baron, J-Rich and Stephen Jackson, as well as the rejuvenated Mikael Pietrus and the surprising Matt Barnes.
Yet somehow, Monta ended the year as Don Nelson’s starting two-guard. The dude has amazing hops, great agility and speed, and all the fundamentals of the game at his fingertips. He’s an excitement machine – and only 12 months ago he was little more than a no-name second rounder.
Sounds like Gilbert Arenas . . . sounds like the Most Improved to me.
Bassy gets busted – again
I don’t know who I feel sorrier for – Boston or Bassy?
Let’s see . . . Sebastian Telfair has been issued summonses for speeding, driving without a license and gun possession. This comes after he was caught with a loaded handgun on the Portland team plane last year, and then had a $50,000 diamond chain stolen from his neck outside a restaurant owned by Sean Combs. I doubt Boston will keep him, and does anyone else really want him? Sure, the kid has a whole boatload of talent, but career numbers of 7.4ppg and 3.2apg are not flattering at all. Combine this with his uncanny ability to find trouble, and you have one very flammable package.
But honestly, I think I feel worse for Boston. According to a team source, “he’s not going to wear green again,” despite the fact that only one summer ago the Celtics invested their future in this young man. I don’t say that lightly, because Danny Ainge shipped off Raef LaFrentz, Dan Dickau and the number seven pick in the 2006 Draft for Telfair, Theo Ratliff and a 2008 second-rounder.
By the start of next season, they will be left with just the pick and the injured back of Ratliff. They could have had Randy Foye . . .
What time is it?
I love me some Tyrus Thomas, I really do. Anyone see his play from Game One against Miami? He delivers a huge block, then an even bigger swat on the next possession, before charging back down the court for a thunderous alley-oop jam.
Right now, he is little more than a SportsCenter regular. But with a bit more muscle, this kid can be anything. I’m thinking an even more athletic and even more exciting version of Josh Smith – wait, is that possible?
Dreaming of draft day
Memphis and Boston cannot wait until draft day, when both teams will probably be signing two legit superstars in Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. They need it as well – the Celts and the Grizz have disenfranchised superstars and young kids still struggling to find their way in the big smoke, so adding Oden or Durant would be a huge boost to the team and its supporters.
But what about Milwaukee?
Right now, they have the third best chance to land the top pick, and going on recent history, it’s not hard to imagine them snagging a very early selection. But if they pulled off a pick in the top two, then they suddenly look like a playoff bound team very, very soon.
Last season, the Bucks’ ideal starting five would have been Mo Williams, Michael Redd, Bobby Simmons, Charlie Villanueva and Andrew Bogut. Of course, injuries destroyed their season and left them with a dismal 28-54 record.
But think positively for a second. Picture the Bucks with Kevin Durant starting at the three, and players like Simmons, Patterson, Skinner, Boykins and Bell coming off the bench. That’s an awesome roster.
You have a proven scorer, a rising floor general, and three of the most talented and versatile big men in the game. Add to this to the solid depth at every position, and the right game plan, and Milwaukee could become a major threat in the Easter Conference next year.
Of course, they need some luck first.
And now for the playoffs…
If you have not read my playoff predictions, then this is what I am thinking . . .
Phoenix will beat Dallas in the Western Conference Finals, while Chicago will knock off Cleveland in the East. Steve Nash will keep it rolling, win his third straight MVP trophy and cap it all off with an NBA Championship.
I stand by those predictions, but I still have a couple of sneaky feelings about the Warriors, the Rockets and the Cavaliers.
Golden State is an underrated team. I know they just scraped into the playoffs, and I know they don’t really play much defence, but offensively, they have probably the best starting five in the game. Baron, Monta, J-Rich, S-Jax and Baby Al are a very dangerous unit, and if Dallas isn’t completely on their game, then there is a serious upset on the cards. Wouldn’t Nellie love that?
Houston really stood out from the weekend’s playoff action. Yao got it done with another big double-double, and T-Mac was absolutely rolling the second half. His game continues to improve out of sight, and if he can keep scoring and creating at his current rate, then the Rockets could cause some damage. I also love the role-players under Jeff Van Gundy – Chuck Hayes, Shane Battier, Rafer Alston and Luther Head are not big names but always get down and dirty, and that’s what you need most come playoff time.
Finally, the Cavaliers. In my first Hoops Addict column, back in January, I passionately called out for LeBron James to start “playing like royalty.” Now, I have a feeling that he is about to explode and show everyone what he can truly do.
I know Cleveland lacks a great supporting cast, but LeBron has been steeling himself all year for these next two months. He has copped criticism, wore injuries and played through pain all for these games. I think he is ready to take the Cavs to great heights, with the kind of dominating play we have not seen since Jordan.
Look, I know it’s a big call, and I know it will be tough for Cleveland to win it all this year. But now is LeBron’s time to shine. I can’t wait to see it.