Original article: http://itsahardwoodlife.blogspot.com.au/2011/11/new-dawn-is-breaking.html
- Rubio; Rubio did indeed channel Rondo in his shortened rookie season; he was dropping dimes, making hustle plays, racking up steals and just generally making the team work until he was cut down by injury. He shot better than expected, but his numbers did start to fade towards the end. He didn't really get a chance to battle Irving for the ROY trophy, but far exceeded expectations and certainly silenced some of his doubters.
- Beasley vs Williams; this one remained somewhat unresolved; Beasley ended up in Adelman's doghouse, and injured to boot, whereas Williams' play was wildly inconsistent, especially after Rubio went down with an injury. Neither spent a great deal of time at the SF position, as Wesley Johnson continued to inexplicably log heavy minutes. That said, Williams remains on the roster, and Beasley is a restricted free agent they will likely let go. Whether Williams is going to be a face of the franchise remains to be seen though.
- Jeff Green; I'd barely finished writing about whether Green would stay a Celtic when he was extended the qualifying offer, and then subsequently forced to sit out for the year with heart problems. The Celtics exceeded expectations by being within a game of the Finals again, but you have to wonder how far they could have gone with Jeff Green on board in place of say, Sasha Pavlovic. Green is now an unrestricted free agent, and his future is a source of much consternation amongst the Celtic faithful.
- Kemba vs DJ; the trade deadline came and went without DJ being traded, and he continued to start when healthy. Whether this was because Walker underwhelmed or MJ was trying to tank and land the top pick we'll never know, but with DJ not offered an extension, odds are he walks out the door and Walker steps into the void unopposed.
- Biyombo; Biyombo's NBA season began quietly enough, a few minutes here, a few minutes there, but when the injuries started piling up and the season declared lost, Bismack started receiving consistent minutes and showed the makings of a promising defensive PF/C in the mold of Serge Ibaka. He showed the makings of offensive ability, with decent footwork in the post, and even held his own (somewhat) against Dwight Howard during one of their clashes. His offensive limitations are still a cause for concern, and he fouls more often than he should if he wants to play big minutes, but he was a bright spot in an otherwise dreary season for the Bobcats.
- Lance Stephenson; the acquisition of Leandro Barbosa to fill the role of bench scorer in the off-season killed Lance's season before it started. He was relatively quiet in the regular season though, not getting into too much trouble, but when the post-season came along Lance was right back in the spotlight. His beef with the Miami Heat was well documented by the media, and ended with a forearm shiver from Dexter Pittman in the dying moments of a blowout game. To his credit, Stephenson didn't fight back, didn't even fall over in fact. Entering the third year of his guaranteed contract, Stephenson needs to claw his way into the rotation as a key bench player if he wants to make an impact in this league.
- Nick Young vs Jordan Crawford; this one had a simple resolution when Nick Young was sent to the Clippers as part of the deal that netted the Wizards Nene. Except that Crawford didn't exactly flourish in Young's absence, and the Wizards are apparently targeting a SG in the draft. That said, Crawford seems tailor-made for the 6th man role, and would provide valuable scoring and shot-making for a Wizards team looking to make inroads into the playoffs next season.
- Kyrir Irving starting?; Irving spent the early parts of the season playing limited minutes behind Ramon Sessions (rather than Baron Davis, who was amnestied), and it worked wonders, Irving was productive, careful with the ball and earned himself ROY to boot. Sessions was traded at the deadline, and Irving got the start in the end. They shut him down when the season was lost, but he has shown signs of entering the PG elite sooner rather than later in this short season.
- Greg Oden?; Oden was a no-show once again, he was waived by the Blazers and hasn't played a game in recent memory. A free agent now, Oden has had the same surgery as Kobe Bryant to help his knees recover, but I've heard reports he's going to sit out another season until he's completely healed and ready to go rather than risk an early return.
- Jimmer was an absolute let-down (shocker), but Reke was still bounced from position to position seemingly at random. New coach Keith Smart decided to play him at the SF towards the end of the season, which didn't work very well either, as we was forced to guard the Durants and Lebrons of the world, and was clearly undersized. Reke is a true combo guard; too much of a scorer to be a point, not enough of a shooter to be an off-guard. Word on the street is that Evans is on the block, and the Kings would prefer to build around Thornton, Thomas and Cousins; all players with defined positions and skillsets. How Tyreke went from ROY to the trading block so quickly is a mystery, but a new home and a better coach should cure what ails him.
- The Warriors never really got off the ground, but the blame can't be placed on Jackson's shoulders; Curry couldn't stay on the court, and they traded away Udoh and Monta for an injured Bogut to boot. The good news was Klay Thompson proved his worth as a franchise cornerstone, Jeremy Tyler showed he could play in this league and the Warriors got to keep their draft pick. With a healthy roster next season, Jackson should have more opportunities to have an impact.
- Denver? Faried played so well that they traded Nene, McGee was brought in and produced, Wilson Chandler returned and Gallo starred when he was healthy. Jordan Hamilton didn't really see the light of day, with the depth of Denver more or less intact, but they gave the Lakers a scare in the first round, and Karl proved what a special coach he is by getting some use out of McGee, who they hope to retain.
- Luis Scola's backup? Motie remained overseas, Hill was traded and Patterson played the backup role well. That said, Motiejunas is apparently coming over this season, so Patterson's spot is far from secure.
- Replacing Yao? Thabeet didn't do any more in Houston than he did in Memphis, and he too was traded away. Camby was brought in as a temporary replacement, but Drummond is their real target, with GM Daryl Morey looking to trade up and secure him in the draft.
- The fate of Flynn? He was traded to Portland with Thabeet, where he actually stands a chance of earning regular minutes with Raymond Felton not working out and the PG crop in the draft being relatively slim. Lillard is Flynn's biggest threat, but he would be a reach at 6, and might not be available at 11.
- Vince and T-Mac? Vince signed in Dallas in a bid for a ring, and still showed flashes of Vinsanity, but was asked to do too much for a Dallas team that was really looking to the FA pool this off-season rather than repeating as champs. T-Mac signed with the Hawks, but he never worked his way into a key role, but had a nice game against the Celtics in the playoffs.
- Detroit rebuild? Lawrence Frank actually did a good job of making his team competitive for the most part; he managed to forge Knight and Stuckey into a surprisingly productive backcourt, and Monroe played at a near All-Star level. With another year of maturation, a top-10 pick and a full training camp for Frank to continue to influence his players' development, it's starting to look like the dog days are over for the Pistons.
- Evan Turner; another inconsistent season, he seemed to have found himself at odds with Doug Collins, but lifted his game in the post-season and while he remains a somewhat positionless player, he's made himself relevant enough to be a part of their future still.
- Bayless? Bayless is a personal favourite of mine, and it looked like he was going to break out into the starting role until he went down with an abdominal injury late in the season. That said, he played well in extended minutes with Calderon injured, and Toronto is apparently targeting a SG rather than a point in the draft, which opens the door for Bayless to stick around and succeed Calderon.
- Gerald Henderson; Henderson still wasn't particularly healthy, but he was the Bobcats' top scorer, hit a few clutch shots and showed himself to be the prototypical shooting guard in playing style and skillset. If he can continue to produce at this level, barring Beal being taken 2nd overall by the Bobcats, he should find himself a key part of their rotation for the foreseeable future.
- Kanter; Enes Kanter acquitted himself admirably in limited minutes, he showed nice touch around the basket, and complemented fellow young stud Derrick Favors, but his conditioning was an issue, and limited minutes were probably a blessing in disguise. With a year of pro-ball under his belt, Kanter should be more prepared for the next season, and can continue to learn behind Jefferson and Milsap.
- Josh Smith SF? Smith dropped a whole lot of weight to play SF, but when Horford went down with injury Smith was forced to play big, and had an amazing season as a very versatile combo-forward, doing a little bit of everything. Widely considered an All-Star snub, Smith was a difference maker against the Celtics, and with Horford back, could finally take the Hawks into real contender status - if he isn't traded.
- Russ Westbrook's maturation; Russ showed some definite growth, he did a better job of picking his moments to score, and helping the Thunder reach the Finals for the first time in OKC. That said, he still made numerous boneheaded plays at key moments (the most infamous being a foul with the shot-clock about to expire against Miami). Russ will never be a pure point, but he's getting better at taming his scoring instincts, and the Thunder are better for it.
So there you have it, a recap of all the forgotten storylines of the pre-season, with some very interesting results! Hope you enjoyed reading, and stay tuned for my live draft coverage/analysis in a few days.