Scouts' midseason assessments
Brandon Roy's multifaceted skills, Marc Gasol's growth have impressed NBA scouts
Rick Adelman has kept Rockets in playoff contention despite loss of Yao Ming
More topics: Biggest overachievers, disappointments, under-the-radar rookies
We gave you our midseason awards and, on Thursday, the rest of the 2010 All-Stars will be named. But we checked in with a handful of scouts to get their thoughts on the season so far. Here's how they voted in some key categories:
Biggest surprise so far:
Brandon Roy. "His ability to take over a game is still underrated. Outside of Kobe Bryant, he probably does the best job of getting a good shot in one-on-one situations. He has a post-up game, so you have to honor that, but he's a tremendous ball-handler. And being able to play from the top of the floor, you're going to have to bring more than one defender at him because he's either going to be able to knock down shots against smaller guys or he's going to be able to get by bigger guys."
New Orleans Hornets. "I've been impressed by New Orleans and its ability to get back over .500 and make it through the coaching change. They've simplified things a lot and haven't run 1,000 Princeton sets like Byron Scott had done. They have a little bit better emphasis on defense and run a little less. But they're a team like Miami, where there is so much pressure on one player every night to have a great night. David West is a good player, but he can't bring the ball up and direct the team. Just watch the game and watch the flow of it and it just impresses me more and more how good Chris Paul is. You go through and at the end of the game you're left wondering how they just won by 12 points."
Marc Gasol. "Yes, he has lost weight. And yes, he's in the best shape of his life. And yes, he's learned the NBA -- the travel, the lifestyle. But give a lot of credit to having Zach Randolph as a teammate for Gasol's growth. Teams are going to key in on a guy who's a guaranteed double-double, which has given Gasol a chance to showcase his ability to fit in. He's an effective post scorer and has a pretty good right hook near the basket. But he's also an excellent finisher in the lane and does a great job of not turning the ball over for a big man. And while he is just an average shooter outside the lane, he goes to the glass and can clean up for Randolph."
Coach who has done the most with the least:
Rick Adelman, Rockets. "Adelman in Houston has done a tremendous job. They lost their franchise center and obviously they've had to deal with the Tracy McGrady situation. But it hasn't taken away from them playing hard on a daily basis. It hasn't served as an excuse or a distraction for their team. The system is largely the same; the biggest difference is they are trying to play a little bit faster than they have in the past -- that's strictly personnel driven. That fits Aaron Brooks and it fits some of their more athletic bigs -- Luis Scola, Carl Landry and Chuck Hayes -- who are not classic low-post players, but they all run, rebound and defend, so they're taking advantage of their skills set."
Paul Westphal, Kings. "He's an open-minded guy in the way that he coaches. He's looked at his team and figured out how to put them in spots to be successful, versus just running the same plays everybody else runs. They push the ball up the floor but they're organized with it. They're not afraid to play small when they need to, but they have a versatile enough team that they can play big. Westphal seems to have given them some confidence. They're playing freely and they seem to have a little bit more of an identity in terms of what they're trying to do."
Scott Brooks, Thunder. "They're all buying into him and his system, and he's set the tone for what is the Thunder's identity. They're a young group, but he has them playing hard, and that's a huge battle. There's nothing unique about his system; it's a traditional NBA package and a culmination of all the things he learned from George Karl as an assistant and as a player in the league. He has yet to coach a full season, so he's still learning, which you have to do with this job. He's maturing into the job and he does have a great guy next to him in Maurice Cheeks, who proved in Philadelphia he could coach but now he's helped bring that staff along."
Most impressive rookie besides Tyreke Evans and Brandon Jennings:
Jonny Flynn, Timberwolves. "He's got a chance to be in that mix with Evans and Jennings. He's a pretty good player and he's going to be in position to put up shots and score points. He can score off the dribble, can shoot and can distribute; he understands well who to pass it to and when to make the pass. Flynn isn't the tallest guy in the world but makes up for it by being a good athlete and being pesky on defense."
Omri Casspi, Kings. "Love his toughness, his maturity. He's an aggressive driver and has been consistent knocking down perimeter shots, which was a question mark about him. He's not a lockdown defender but he has the ability to stay in front of people and is physical enough that he doesn't give up easy stuff."
Taj Gibson, Bulls. "A large percentage of his points is off putbacks, which makes him a good blend guy. He's not a particularly good jump shooter and he's not going to be a household name, but he's a guy who's going to give you spirited minutes."
Team that isn't as good as its record:
Miami Heat. "Miami has 2½ good players, so there's a lot of weight for Dwyane Wade to have a great night every night, and if he doesn't they're going to get blown out. I'll credit Jermaine O'Neal with a half and Michael Beasley as Miami's other good player. Beasley has taken a step from last year, when he was an every other game guy; now he's involved and engaged and playing with a purpose in two out of every three games. But I just don't think they have that much talent. Mario Chalmers was in the starting lineup because they didn't have anybody else, and because of that he played a lot more confidently. He knew he was going to play. Last year's playoffs demolished his confidence and, more important, Erik Spoelstra's confidence in him. Mike Bibby will take advantage of guys who are inexperienced, and he really made Mario look bad and it really affected his confidence."
Phoenix Suns. "They're back to playing the style and system that players wanted to play in, and that starts with Steve Nash, and they're really good at it. In the course of an 82-game season, they're going to score a lot of points and win a lot of games and they're going to entertain their fan base, and those are all really good things in pro ball. But the playoffs are going to be matchup-based. Their bigs, outside of Amar'e Stoudemire, are not quality in terms of offensive production. The thing that may prevent them from advancing in a series, though, may be their bench, which is a little untested."
Portland Trail Blazers. "I'm surprised that Portland has continued to have success. They're treading water and doing a pretty good job despite their injuries. On any given night, they've gotten inspired play from different guys. People don't talk much about Steve Blake, but he's a pretty good teammate. He plays hard and gives that total effort all the time. He's ego-less. He can knock down threes when his feet are set and people double off Brandon Roy or go get LaMarcus Aldridge. And of course, Roy and Aldridge are still a pretty good 1-2 punch. But with no Greg Oden and no Joel Przybilla -- no true centers -- that will hurt them come playoff time."
Western Conference team with the best chance to beat the Lakers:
Denver Nuggets. "Denver will benefit from having played them in the conference finals and they can match up with them in that they have some players who can beat them defensively, from Chauncey at the 1 to J.R. Smith's ability to shoot to Carmelo Anthony's ability to score. That was part of the argument in favor of getting Ron Artest; the Lakers brought him in specifically to defend the likes of Anthony, who should be in the discussion for MVP."
Oklahoma City Thunder. "I'd really like to see Oklahoma City play the Lakers. [The Thunder] have a definite size and strength advantage at point guard with Russell Westbrook, who has exceptional defensive tools with his length and quickness. Thabo Sefolosha at the least is an above-average wing defender who can give a good defensive effort on Kobe. And I don't care how good a defender Ron Artest is; Kevin Durant is going to score on him. But the Lakers are always going to have an advantage in the paint, even if the Thunder get everything imaginable out of Nenad Krstic, Jeff Green, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison."
Team that has done the least with the most:
Washington Wizards. "I think you see what bad chemistry can do to a team with talent in Washington. What happened with Gilbert Arenas tells you what kind of environment that locker room had. I can't even imagine showing up for work everyday with what's gone on there of late and it not having an impact. You could tell early that there was some resistance, particularly with Gilbert Arenas, in terms of exactly what Flip Saunders wanted to do. Flip loves to run a number of halfcourt sets, and Gilbert liked to play with a lot more halfcourt freedom. And then with the other players having to get re-acclimated to playing with Gilbert after two years, it all seemed to have had a negative effect, particularly on a guy like Caron Butler."
Philadelphia 76ers. "I don't think they have great confidence in what Eddie Jordan is trying to teach them. He's trying to tweak things here and there, but when they've been really good is when he just lets them go and they go up and down the floor and press and trap and play small; that's the way it's been the last couple years, and that's the way their team is built. They don't have a point guard. Lou Williams is a good combo guard, but I don't know if he's really a starter. Andre Iguodala plays his best probably when he's at power forward and can play undersized. When it's a half-court game, a lot of his weaknesses become more glaring. I don't think he's a guy who can be your money winner, a franchise guy. Neither is Elton Brand with this team. He's completely out of sorts with Jordan's system and with the other players around him. They need to change the pieces around him or try to change him."
Why the Magic have struggled to pick up where they left off last year:
"You can't just point the finger at Vince Carter. They don't have the same seriousness or urgency in the regular season that maybe they once had, which is which seems to be frustrating to the Orlando coaching staff. There seems to be a lot of ego management that seems to be necessary for Orlando to make a run like they did last year. In truth I have hard time coming up with a team that has more overall talent than Orlando. But will these young guys be able to turn on the switch come playoff time and up their intensity? Will they find a balance between playing getting Dwight Howard involved and involving their three-point shooters?"
Carter hasn't fit in with Orlando mainly because he needs the ball in his hands a lot, and that takes away from Rashard Lewis' effectiveness. When they had Hedo Turkoglu, he often would act like a second point guard at times. With as much as he could create off the dribble and in pick-and-roll situations he created a lot of problems. They miss him and they miss that chemistry that they had; they had all been around each other and together for 2 to 3 years and had gone through some stuff. That's different now.
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