Tag Archives: JaVale McGee

Northwest Division Preview

New kid on the block

Doyle Rader: The Northwest Division looks to be one of, if not the most, competitive divisions in the NBA this season. Last year three teams (the Thunder, Nuggets, and Jazz) made the playoffs. Utah made a late push to secure their playoff berth only to be eliminated by the Spurs in the first round. Denver took the Lakers to seven games in the Western Conference Semi-finals. And the Thunder eventually lost in the NBA Finals. This season the division is only deeper.

Both the Portland Trail Blazers and Minnesota Timberwolves were early season darlings to make the playoffs last season with the Blazers’ hot start and the emergence of Ricky Rubio in Minny. What curtailed these teams was the fire-sale in Portland and the injuries that plagued the Timberwolves. However, Minnesota has completely reloaded their roster in an attempt to make a playoff run this year. They just have to wait for Kevin Love to recover from his broken hand.

Travis Huse: What’s remarkable about this division is that each of its franchises is looking toward the future.

Let’s begin with what’s been going on in Denver: the Nuggets’ reload looks really enticing to me, much in the same way that the Pacers have the past couple of seasons. They’re going to play blindingly fast, group-effort basketball, a hard-nosed team approach. What really makes things interesting is Iguodala’s defensive role, alongside his ball handler abilities, which were hidden behind Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday in Philly.

Iggy will have to play the roles of Danny Granger, Metta World Peace, and Lebron James simultaneously, and how successful he is at integrating with George Karl’s style will determine the success of this team. Coupled with the maturation of Ty Lawson and JaVale McGee (seems strange to mention maturity and McGee together), this is a well-built team, with players who complement their teammates’ strengths. Next step: tightening up on defense.

DR: Yes, their pace belies a low defensive effort as they want to be streaking up and down the floor. However, this team has the potential to be quite serviceable defensively and it all begins with Iguodala.

He will be their premier perimeter defensive player and will be tasked with defending the opposing team’s best wing player and even point guards at times. Denver must focus its defensive efforts in transition. This is where the team will be most venerable. In the halfcourt they have the like of McGee and Timofey Mozgov, as well as Kosta Koufos (who I particularly enjoy watching), to anchor the middle with Iguodala patrolling the arc.

Where I think Iguodala will be most beneficial to the Nuggets is when they play the Thunder. It will be his job to guard Kevin Durant. Oklahoma City won this division last year on the back of Durant’s scoring so bringing an elite defender was very important for Denver.

TH: Yeah, OKC is still the hands-down favorite to win this division this year, regardless of whether or not James Harden receives an extension. But next year, who knows? There’s so much young talent on these teams and the stars for each team are about to truly hit their stride.

Damian Lillard running the Blazers could change the entire dynamic of LaMarcus Aldridge’s game, assuming they didn’t handicap themselves too much with Nicolas Batum’s contract. In the Northwest, they’re the furthest away from being a playoff lock, and I could envision this division becoming as competitive as the Southwest was a few years ago. They’re thin as hell as just about every position, but for a rebuilding team, they don’t look to be wallowing in their sorrow for much longer.

DR: You’re right, the Thunder are the class of the division. That shouldn’t change this year and perhaps Kendrick Perkins will actually be useful to them now that Dwight Howard is in the West. Yet, he is still a liability against the more hybrid centers.

As for Portland, Lillard has shown that he is ready to compete at the NBA level. In five games this preseason, Lillard has averaged 17 points on 50 percent shooting while also dishing out six assists per game. Beyond the numbers, he is assertive on the court, even aggressive at times. Against the Lakers he frequently attacked Steve Nash off the dribble, getting to the rim with ease once he became comfortable with the flow of the game. Of course, Nash has never been a good defender but it was impressive to see a rookie go directly at a two-time MVP with little regard for his mythos.

What will hurt the Blazers is their lack of depth. Jared Jefferies will contribute more than anyone knows off the bench, though it may not always show up in the box score. Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard, the team’s only true center, are major questions who have considerable upside.

Outside shooting will also be an issue going forward. This is a team built around the mid-range jumper. If Aldridge goes down again, this team will wallow in the basement once again.

TH: You’re neglecting Batum here. His contract is so weighty, the Portland front office will push him to fill more of a starring role, and the hiring of Terry Stotts as head coach will also give him more responsibility. If Stotts is able to formulate this team based off what he saw in Dallas, and modify the 2011 championship core of Jason KiddJason TerryDirk Nowitzki (Lillard, Batum, and Aldridge, respectively), the Blazers have more than enough skeleton for their squad.

Which means:

Much is spoken on how the NBA’s system favors tanking. But teams are finding creative ways to rebuild without having to ride the lottery hoping for a once-in-a-generation talent. The Blazers are well on their way to rebuilding (only 7 months after blowing their team up), without having to seriously tank.

They were only 8 games out of the playoffs last year, and while this year might be a bit sore, Blazers fans should be optimistic. They managed a sizable reformation in the quietest way possible, and they did it with a vacant GM seat for over a year. Looking at what Neil Olshey created with the Clippers, it will be interesting to see how he fleshes out their roster.

Another franchise attempting a “soft rebuild” is the Utah Jazz, a team that has really reached a crossroads. Swapping Devin Harris for Mo Williams isn’t exactly a game-changer (it’s never a good idea to start a third-string PG from the Clippers), and Raja Bell is as good as gone. They need guard help badly, and the big man logjam finally must give. If the team still cannot decide whether they trust Enes Kanter or Derrick Favors, they need to move them sooner, rather than later. By all accounts, Kanter has an ego, and will not like playing second fiddle to Al Jefferson; but Jefferson’s much too good to move.

DR: If we are going to make a Mavs comparison when it comes to the Blazers, I feel that Batum represents more of a Shawn Marion role. Only his scoring responsibilities will be somewhat equivalent to Marionon the Suns.

As for the Jazz, they have a wealth of big men and they seem to be happy about it. I don’t think it’s a question about if they are willing to move Jefferson, but rather they could lose Paul Millsap. That would truly be a blow to this organization but as you pointed out they have Kanter and Favors.

Last season, Kanter was essentially a non factor. His skills around the rim were unpolished, to be kind, and played mostly during garbage time. So far in the preseason he has been drawing double-teams and averaging a team high 12 points per game. The jazz seem content to run out a platoon rotation in the post which should help later in the season as it allows their stars (Jefferson and Millsap) to rest. Kanter and Favors should garner around 20 minutes a night.

Mo Williams is a completely serviceable point guard. I doubt he can return to the form he showcased in Milwaukee, but he still has the ability to run an offense effectively while also scoring the ball. Like Memphis, Utah runs a lot of post plays but Williams’ outside shooting and ability to dish the ball should open up the floor creating opportunities for shooters like Alec Burks, Randy Foye, Gordon Hayward, and Marvin Williams.

Hayward will be key for the Jazz. He is quietly becoming a good perimeter defender and has gained a considerable amount of muscle since coming into the league. Tyrone Corbin has molded Hayward into a hardnosed, physical defender. It would not surprise me if he was at least discussed as a possible DPOY if his improvement continues. He won’t win, but he making the discussion is always a plus.

TH: I’m not saying that their big man platoon isn’t a bad idea. It’s a great thing to have through an 82-game season. However, both Kanter and Favors are starting-caliber players in the NBA right now. Favors is nearing the end of his rookie contract, a solid producer with room to grow (and a team option for next season). Aside from the solid production at a low price tag, these players are highly desirable for contending teams for many reasons. Kanter is a skilled big body who plays a thin position.

Would the suddenly broke Sam Presti really contemplate letting James Harden go in order to free up cap space? Probably not, but that is not a bad rumor to float.

I can only think of three NBA teams who wouldn’t listen to offers on Kanter, because they are seriously the only NBA teams without concerns in the middle. The Lakers have Dwight now; the 76ers are going to see where Bynum goes as a leader. I had to throw in the Raptors, because, well, they’re in a similar situation as the Jazz; the arrival of Jonas Valanciunas has made Bargnani more than expendable.

You’re also right about Mo Williams: He is a completely serviceable point guard. But with their lineup, the Jazz are one torn ligament away from Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson bringing the ball up the floor. The Jazz are lacking roster balance, and their contingency plan is Alec Burks.

DR: My love of the bad boy Pacers has always endeared me to Tinsley and Watson filled in well when Devin Harris was hurt last year. It could be worse for the Jazz.

One team with high hopes for the season is already bemoaning their star being out with injury. As I mentioned above, Kevin Love will miss at least the first month of the season with a broken hand resulting from the oh-so-cool-bro knuckle pushups. Luckily, the Timberwolves have reloaded their roster.

They brought in Brandon Roy, fresh from retirement, bad knees and all and added Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved from Russia. Nikola Pekovic also hails from Russia and is one of the better centers in the league. Despite the number of white guys on this team, the Timberwolves are primed to make the playoffs. Hell, their guard rotation alone is enough to get them there and they are stacked beyond that. Once Love returns they could be dangerous in the West.

It will be interesting to see how Derrick Williams fits into the rotation. He seems to be the odd man out this year despite being drafted so highly two years ago.

TH: With Love out until December, this Timberwolves squad is left without its two young stars in Love and Ricky Rubio. How the team fares without them will be a good litmus test to see how the rest of the rotation fits. But this is also a team that, like you mentioned, added Roy, who’s never been afraid to put his team on his back. These injuries will strengthen the Wolves, and I anticipate one of their wings picking up the scoring slack. There are many questions as to just exactly who will rise, but their depth chart, from 1 to 3 is loaded with talent. J.J. Barea is only one year removed from being an unstoppable blur for the Mavs, and he’s still buried behind Rubio and Luke Ridnour. Shved’s a monster, and should have a fairly easy transition to the NBA with Kirilenko beside him.

And all that is forgetting Chase Budinger, who will be able to fit in much the same way that Wilson Chandler has in Denver, slashing and providing decent outside shooting (believe it or not, he posted a 40% 3-point percentage last season) for the second unit. The whitest of white dudes in the NBA these days, Budinger is often overlooked, but his time spent with Rick Adelman in Houston will give him an early chance to prove himself. He’s dangerous when left in the corner, and when Love and Rubio return, it will be key for them to utilize their passing abilities and wing talent.

Injuries or not, this team is going to be fast and fun, with a healthy amount of competition amongst players vying for minutes. The coaching change should help us to see a bit more specialization of players, as well as championship experience.

Oh, and they got rid of Michael Beasley. Thumbs up on that one.

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The Denver Nuggets: A Beautiful Mess

This sums up the Nuggets

When Dwight Howard was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in a three team deal, many thought that the Denver Nuggets landed one of the best players in the swap. Denver acquired All Star and Olympic small forward Andre Iguodala. His versatility and ability to play both sides of the ball will be integral for Denver in the coming season. This has many hyping the Mile High City as a team to watch. However, there is a bit of a problem. The Nuggets are loaded at the forward position with seven of their 15 players listed as a forward. Iguodala will start for the Nuggets but what kind of rotation will they employ?

The Nuggets will have athleticism in droves with players who can stretch the floor and (hopefully) guard the perimeter. Yet, that is almost all they have. If ever there was a Free Darko team, this is it. (Anthony Randolph being on the roster helps that claim.) Can a team exist with a roster full of forwards? If it can then head coach George Karl will certainly have to be creative.

Danilo Gallinari was the starting three for the Nuggets last season. This year he will likely not crack the starting lineup without a significant injury or some lineup shuffling by Karl, though some have suggested that he will start alongside Iguodala at either the two or three. But that doesn’t matter.

Denver will be a rangy mass of confusion, ingenuity, and joy. And all of that comes from the two forward positions and the potential log jam they create on this roster. Of course, depth is always a good problem to have and the Nuggets do have capable players filling out the rest of the roster. Let us not forget JaVale McGee is also on this team. The Nuggets have the ability to be the most dangerous and frustrating team in the league. That alone is exciting. And McGee! Never forget that he is on the team.

With all these wings, five of the seven forwards are small forwards, the Nuggets will have to focus on perimeter defense. They were last in the NBA in field goal percentage allowed in long 2-pointers and 3-pointers. Iguodala should help to alleviate this problem but this isn’t a defensive team at heart. Sure, it has players that can defend. McGee, Iguodala, and even Kenneth Faried, despite being undersized for a four, can hold his own. But this is an offensive team that likes to run, Denver had the second fastest pace last season, and that will not change in the coming season.

As noted above, the lineups that the Nuggets run out on the court this season will be the most interesting aspect of the team. Small ball will be a relative term when it comes to Denver but that is the style of ball we should expect most out of this team if they are to navigate their abundance of wings. Perhaps medium ball is a better term to describe their style of play based on size. Nonetheless, on-court groupings of Ty Lawson, Iguodala, Wilson Chandler, Gallinari, and Faried are completely plausible, though not wholly advisable. Yet, that is the allure of this tradition-be-damned team. Kosta Koufos and Randolph could be on the court at the same time as Corey Brewer and Andre Miller. Lawson and Miller will share the backcourt again and it isn’t out of the realm of possibilities that Gallinari will play the five in limited stretches. It’s maddening and thrilling all at once because it can work. Karl’s open offense allows for it.

And then there is Timofey Mozgov.

Lawson’s pure scoring will be accented well with Iguodala’s ability to play off the ball, run the floor, and defend. Faried and McGee will man the post well. But the rest of the team is an enigma, aside from Miller, in how they will mold together into a cohesive unit, especially with Chandler coming back from injury.

This is an unbelievably deep team. There is no questioning that. They will hit their opponents with speed and the ability to score from anywhere. Denver is dangerous but they must maintain an incredible tempo to realize their full potential. George Karl knows this and will put his team and players into every possible situation to get the most out of them and this will give teams, and fans, reasons to pull their hair out.

Denver’s brash iconoclasm will cause many to question whether there is a method behind the madness or if they are functioning purely on calculated abandon. Their roster begs these questions but that seems to be the goal. Traditional positions are dead and Denver is currently at the forefront of experimentation. It won’t always be a pretty endeavor but it should work. This team has the skill required to compete in the ever-deepening competition in the Western Conference. By the time the playoffs roll around, the Nuggets should be considered a dark horse. That is, of course, if everything falls into place.

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Highlights from the Drew League vs. Goodman League Rematch

The phrase “going ham” has been garnering quite a bit of usage around the Twitterverse by NBA players so it is more than appropriate to use to describe the performances of John Wall and Kevin Durant on Sunday night. Wall dropped a game high 55 points and Durant had 50. Yet, the Goodman League, which both players played for, lost to the Drew League, 151-144.

James Harden, Marcus Banks, JaVale McGee, DeMar DeRozan, Matt Barnes, Rudy Gay, Michael Beasley, Brandon Jennings, and Gary Forbes, among other, also participated.

Despite the show that Wall and Durant put on, the highlight of the night was Nick Young‘s hair.

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Andray Blatche holds a Workout for Wizards Players and has a Coloring Book

Getting in shape

Labor talks seem to be moving along but no real information about how far they have or have not progressed keeps everyone guessing as to when, or if, the labor dispute will be resolved. Players are even in the dark about the state of negotiations and have begun to take matters into their own hands by organizing workouts and practices with their teammates. Amar’e Stoudemire has organized a mini camp for the Knicks and now Andray Blatche has organized workouts with his fellow Washington Wizards. With the season tentatively scheduled to begin on November 1, Blatche’s decision to organize workouts to ensure that his team is in game shape when, if, the season begins is a good one. There is just one problem, though. Only two other players showed up to the first workout session on Monday.

Chris Singleton and HamadyNdiaye joined Blatche while the rest of the team was a no-show. Some players have excuses for not attending, Mike Prada points out at Bullets Forever.

Trevor Booker is in Israel, so his absence makes sense.  Kevin Seraphin is at Eurobasket, of course.  Mo Evans is kind of busy with lockout stuff.  I’m not sure where JaVale McGee is, but I know he was in Los Angeles most of the summer, so he might also be going to Las Vegas.

The reference to Las Vegas is because that is where the Impact Basketball League is taking place for two weeks. Six Wizards (not Albus Dumbledore, however) will be playing in the league which is a five-on-five, eight team tournament featuring only NBA players. So, Blatche’s timing may be a little off but it seems that most of the Wizards players, who are in Los Angeles this summer, just did not want to make the flight across the country to attend the workouts. Life must be so hard for them. Yet, Blatche is not dejected by the turnout and is hopeful that John Wall and Rashard Lewis will attend later this week.

In order to entice more of his teammates to join his workouts Blatche should offer them something in return for their burdensome travel across the country in first class. He may have just the thing, too.

Pure awesome

When he is not stumbling into situations that paint him in a negative, immature, and likes-to-party-at-stripclubs-because-lap-dances-are-awesome light, Blatche does a lot of community service (not court appointed). Much of the work centers around children and teaching them the values of nutrition and a balanced diet. Honestly, this initiative is something that is important as more and more children are becoming obese. Hats off to Blatche for reaching out into the community to address this issue. Back to the item to lure his teammates to his workouts, however. To promote a healthy life style to kids, Blatche has released a coloring book extolling the benefits of eating right. Yes, a coloring book. Who would not want one of these? His teammates probably do.

Blatche hands out the coloring and activity book, Get Ready, Get Set, Get Healthy with Andray Blatche, when he attends elementary schools. In addition to promoting healthy eating, Blatche is also emphasizing walking as a positive form of excercise and is planing gardens in the Miami area. Think what you want about him and his game, but Blatche is proving that he may just be maturing. Perhaps he will one day be the recipient of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award.

Take a look some of the pages from the book. If you do not want to eat better and color then there is probably something wrong with you. This book is awesome. However, the page with the happy cow is a little disconcerting. The happy fish is okay, but the cow? That page makes a strong case for vegetarianism. Who wants to know that their food was once happy and alive before being slaughtered and served up for our delight? (I digress) Hopefully, this book will help more children than Wizards players who attended Blatche’s workouts make the right choices when it comes to what they eat.

Pictures after the break.

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David Kahn’s Quest

I want it all and I want it now

With the NBA Draft less than 48 hours away rumors have abounded. Teams are trying to move up, teams are trying to move down, teams are trying to acquire players who are clearly off-limits, and teams are trying to move players and get into the draft. What can we make of all of this though? Many league insiders are on record saying that this is one of the worst draft classes they have seen. Why all the excitement? Well, to be honest there has really only been one man making a lot of noise as the draft approaches.

David Kahn and the Minnesota Timberwolves have been at the forefront of just about every conceivable trade rumor there is leading up to the Draft. They really do not want their number two overall pick. Derrick Williams, who is projected to be the second pick, has a similar build to Michael Beasley and the team is not interested in another combo wing player. It is because of this that there is now speculation that the Timberwolves are considering taking Enes Kanter with their pick. Kanter is a power forward and the Timberwolves already have a pretty good power forward in Kevin Love. So that is likely a bluff but they really want to rid themselves of the number two pick.

Thinking about drafting someone other than Williams is really not that surprising given the trade rumors that have been centered around the Wolves recently. The first reports were that they were shopping Kevin Love and their draft pick for Pau Gasol. Then it was Michael Beasley and their pick for Andrew Bynum. Clearly, Kahn must have a Lakers fetish. Obviously, there has been no serious comment from the Lakers as they probably considered making these trades for all of 0.0612 seconds.

Kahn has even inquired about the possibility of adding Steve Nash to his team for a package including the number two pick. Again, the Phoenix Suns have no interest in trading Nash nor does he have any interest in going to a team that is the farthest thing from a contender in the league.

The Wolves have also fruitlessly pursued JaVale McGee and Andrew Bogut in yet more attempts to rid themselves of their pick. It seems as though David Kahn is on a quest. He wants something but has stumbled across a castle that is blocking his path. Taunts in a French accent are being hurled at him while he dodges falling cows. Yes, Kahn’s trade “attempts” (if they can be called that) are that farcical.

At least he can perceive himself as being actively engaged at trying to improve his team. The guy did just land Ricky Rubio and celebrated his arrival in Minnesota with rock and roll blaring from a boombox at the airport. That is some class right there. He is the long-awaited savior of the franchise, after all.

If the Timberwolves do move their draft pick in a trade it will not be for one of the home run and completely lopsided deals that Kahn has been seeking. It will likely be more of a bloop single to shallow center. If they cannot move their pick before the Draft, being suck with Williams is not such a bad dilemma to find themselves in especially if they are looking to make improvements to their roster post Draft. A package containing Williams could be very appealing to clubs. However, it has yet to be seen how seriously anyone will take Kahn after throwing his hat in the ring again and again in completely outlandish trade scenarios.

(Many apologies for not working in a Star Trek II reference somewhere.)

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Javale McGee aiming to ‘bite’ the competition

Fans, get ready for the 2011 Slam Dunk Contest because Javale McGee is ready to get paper.  Literally.

A video leaked today showing McGee biting a piece of paper out of the net before dunking the ball.

McGee has some good competition with Serge Ibaka, Blake Griffin and Brandon Jennings also taking part.  This is the first time he has ever competed in the Dunk Contest and hopefully his tutor, Chris Webber, will have him primed for the event.

The Beef is a big fan of the young man and we doubt he leaves the fans in LA unimpressed.

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10 Player Report Card

Back on October 14 I listed 10 NBA players to watch this season based on what they had done in the preseason or at the FIBA World Championships as well as my own personal biases towards some of them. Now that the season is a quarter of he way finished there is no better time than to hand out a report card. Not only is it a nice little grading scale for the players but it also serves as somewhat of a referendum of my choices.

Patrick Beverley | Grade: N/A

About ten days after I declared that you, the Beef readers, should pay attention to Beverley, the Miami heat went and cut him to make room for Jerry Stackhouse. Geez, way to throw egg in my eye, Pat Riley. Therefore, Beverley receives no grade at all. He is currently playing in China with the Shanghai Dongfang Sharks, Yao Ming‘s old team.

Darren Collison | Grade: C

Collison’s first real stint as a team’s starting point guard has not gone as smoothly as he or the Indiana Pacers would have hoped. He has already missed three games due to injury which has thrust T.J. Ford, who is ever-present on Indy’s trade block, into a larger role with the team. Collison is averaging just six minutes more per game than Ford but his average stats, outside of his 13.7 points, are not much better than Ford’s numbers. 2.7 rebounds per game for Collison compared to Ford’s 2.5 and 4.4 assists to Ford’s 3.9. Collison also has an assist to turnover ratio of 2/1. Collison needs to improve his non scoring categories if he and the Pacers hope to see a return of the player that filled in for Chris Paul so wonderfully last season.

Dominique Jones | Grade: Incomplete

Jones has appeared in only nine of the Dallas Mavericks’ 20 games thus far. Because of this, his grade is an incomplete. When he does get time on the court his play is marred by turnovers. This is undoubtedly because he likes to get to the rim in traffic when hands come flying in at the ball from all directions. His lack of minutes is also due to the fact that the Mavericks are unbelievably deep this season, especially at shooting guard. Hopefully as the season progresses, Rick Carlisle will find more minutes for this promising rookie. However, for that to happen, Dallas will need to start blowing teams out more frequently instead of playing somewhat tight games.

Linas Kleiza | Grade: D –

The Toronto Raptors are not as bad as we thought they would be this season but Kleiza is far worse than anyone could have imagined after a quarter of the season has passed. He is a shell of the player he was during the FIBA World Championships this summer. So far, Kleiza is averaging 9.6 points and 3.7 rebounds this season in 23 minutes per game. Gross. He is also shooting an appalling 24 percent from deep. What happened to the fit, muscular Kleiza that we saw over the summer? Apparently he left that side of himself in Turkey. Maybe he should tell Allen Iverson where to find it.

Kevin Love | Grade: A +

“Yeah., yeah, yeah … here he goes again lauding the efforts of Kevin Love. We know, you have loved him for some time now and his numbers a ridiculous this year but you really do not need to keep piling on the love.” (That  is what I can assume your thought process is, if you are a regular reader, when you see Love’s name mentioned anywhere on the site.) He had the first 30-30 game since 1982. He has pulled down 15 or more rebounds in a game ten times this season. No other player has done that more than six times. He leads the league in both offensive, defensive, and total rebounding and leads in total rebounding average with 15.3 per game. This is what I wrote about Love when I said that he was a player to watch this season, “Plain and simple: Kevin Love is the best rebounder in the league.” Looks like I was more than right.

Wesley Matthews | Grade: B +

Matthews stepped into the starting lineup when Brandon Roy went down with an early injury for a couple of games. Since that time he has usurped Nicolas Batum in the starting rotation. He now frequently leads the team in scoring. In the seven games that Matthews has started this season he is averaging 20.9 points, connecting on 2.4 shots from deep, four rebounds, and 1.6 steals. He has topped the 20 point plateau in four of his last five games.  It appears that the money that the Portland Trail Blazers spent to lure Matthews away from Utah has been a good investment.

JaVale McGee | Grade: C +

Both of us here at the Beef want nothing but good things for McGee. He is one of those players who we can just not seem to quit rooting for. McGee is having a decent season with the Wizards this year but he could improve his numbers. Head Coach Flip Saunders wanted McGee to improve his rebounding during the preseason and as McGee is currently averaging 8.5 rebounds there is certainly still room to improve. He should be a double-double threat every night. Where he does not need to improve is with his shot blocking. McGee currently averages 2.6 blocks per game and has a total of 49 blocks this season which ranks him second, in both categories, in the NBA behind, of all people, Darko Milicic. I said in my initial article that McGee edged out Andray Blatche to make the list but it looks like Blatche will have the final word with the season he is putting together thus far.

C.J. Miles | Grade: B

Miles is Utah’s sixth man this season as Raja Bell finds himself in the starting lineup. Obviously, Jerry Sloan knows what he is doing bringing Miles of the bench as an offensive spark. He is averaging 11 points per game but 17.2 per 36 minutes which is better than Al Jefferson. Miles is in there to score the ball and little else. It would be nice to see him improve his field goal percentage which is only 39.7 percent at present. Bringing it up to 42-43 percent is what he needs to shoot for.

Ramon Sessions | Grade: either B – or D depending on the night

Sessions is another one of those players who I just cannot quit. He has flashes of brilliance followed by the dregs of mediocrity. He is averaging 10.7 points and 4.4 assists this season as the Cleveland Cavaliers’ backup point guard who sometimes gets the start. However, his game-to-game numbers are like a roller coaster ride. Here are his point totals through 20 games this season: 14, 4, 21, 7, 9, 6, 15, 14, 17, 7, 16, 2, 15, 3, 13, 5, 14, 11, 18, 2. Twice this season the only points he has scored have come at the charity stripe. His assist numbers remain fairly consistent though which seems to be his most redeeming quality as a player this season and why I am not grading him harsher. Despite his scoring ups and downs, he is the tied with Antawn Jamison for total points on the team with 213 and is just one point behind J.J. Hickson who is third on the team.

Marreese Speights | Grade: D

There are some redeeming qualities for the Philadelpia 76ers this season, unfortunately Speights does not find himself among them. He is averaging only 12.8 minutes per game scoring only 5.3 points and collecting 3.8 rebounds. His per 36 minutes numbers are much better but they do not matter when it takes him three games to log that much time on the floor. Doug Collins cannot seem to find a place for him in the regular rotation with Elton Brand, Thaddeus Young, and Spencer Hawes ahead of him. I said that he needed minutes to see actual dividends in my original article and it looks like those minutes may never come.

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