Posted: Thursday November 9, 2006 11:46AM; Updated: Thursday November 9, 2006 1:32PM
Samuel Dalembert (right) looms large in the Sixers' hopes of making the playoffs.
Okur was only a bit player during his two seasons in Detroit, and his full range of talents never blossomed until he signed as a free agent in the summer of 2004. Okur was always considered a little soft, partly because, at 6-foot-11, he sometimes depends on his perimeter game, but he's averaging almost 9.2 rebounds per game to go with 17.4 points.
The 76ers are an obvious choice as a bubble team, but I'm going to take somewhat of a flyer on my off-the-radar guy and go with Samuel Dalembert. With a nailed-in-place big man like Chris Webber in the lineup -- if C-Webb wasn't one of the most skilled and canniest players in the league, he wouldn't be playing at all -- the 76ers need an active, assertive center to make noise in the Eastern Conference.
Dalembert could be that guy, but, all too often, he seems reserved, almost cowed by the responsibility. Perhaps this is a natural consequence of having, oh, a couple hundred passes bounce off your hands, as Dalembert has.
But it's not impossible that he would develop into a kind of mini-Mutombo, with an established identity as a strong shot-blocking, muck-up-the-paint pivotman who could help out on offense once in a while.
What? Atlanta a playoff team? It could happen. Because anyone on the Hawks by definition qualifies as off the radar, I could cheat a little and offer up Joe Johnson, but my guess is that Johnson, currently third in the league in scoring behind Allen Iverson and LeBron James, will make his first All-Star team (as a roster addition).
The real unknown key here is Zaza Pachulia, a 6-11 center with formidable skills (though a mild case of turnover-itis). He is getting 18.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, and, if the Hawks have truly found chemistry and an identity, Zaza will soon be identified as one of the top big men in the East rather than a guy whose name suggests someone working the pole at one of those, uh, dance clubs so cherished by NBA players.