As we said last night in Smack, we found out Jameer Nelson was alive last night. Nelson went 5-for-8 for 17 points, and added four assists in Orlando’s fifth-straight win. But His PER is a John Crotty-esque 11.05, awful for a player that was chosen in 2009 as an All-Star. When you’re having a worse impact on the floor than you’re backup – Chris Duhon – then something is up.
Nelson can still hoop. He isn’t bad in the pick-n-roll, and always plays hard. He’s a good dude too. But something happened this year, and even as the season continues, Nelson is having a hard time rediscovering what made him an underrated beast. Or maybe, I just became too infatuated with Orlando’s two-year Eastern Conference Finals run to realize he’s shot under 45 percent in three straight seasons. His two-year run became the staple of who he is rather than the other six seasons.
Duhon gets a lot of hate. But ever since I ran into the man out in a random club on the Jersey Shore, I figured he was all right. On the court, he gets criticized even more. The Orlando offense is virtually the same with him in there, but the defense is actually over 11 points per 100 possessions better when No. 25 is running around. His 9.09 PER kinda outweights that though.
When Nelson first came out of St. Joe’s, I thought he’d be one of the better backup point guard in the league, a sixth or seventh man capable of coming in and dominating for stretches in the second and fourth quarters. Instead, they turned him into a starter long ago. Duhon is most definitely a backup. If Orlando wants to keep Howard happy, they could probably do a lot worse than grabbing another lead guard.
Start up the “Iman Shumpert is a future All-Star” chants. As I’ve pointed out before, I don’t know if Knick fans are more entertaining when they completely suck or when they’re in their current position: decent…giving fans just enough hope to call them contenders…while everyone else agrees wholeheartedly: they really aren’t that good. Whatever you think of Shumpert – solid role player, future star, the man to take New York to the promised land – it remains to be seen whether he’s even a point guard at all. Any rookie who takes 20 shots in one game and makes five of them, all while playing with two multiple-time All-Stars either has massive balls or a vision-impaired helmet on. Or both.
There are some who believe Baron Davis will walk into New York once his injury vacation is over and revitalize that offense and his career. He’s returning to practice next week, but what will come back with him? His handle? Vision? Shot? Leadership? His gut? Reports are saying Davis actually appears to be in pretty good shape, and we all know how he loves to thrill a desperate crowd. He could still give the Garden another year and a half of playoff-worthy basketball. But the pieces still don’t completely fit in New York.
Of course, this is still the Knicks we’re talking about, and instead of going after another floor general who’s consistent, thinks pass first and doesn’t do anything stupid, they’re reportedly going after J.R. Smith.
This one’s easy. We’ve been riding Devin Harris into the ground all year because for possibly the first time since he was shipped out of Mark Cuban’s Wonderland, the Wisconsin product has a very good team… and he’s been terrible. The other night in a win over Denver, he had 10 points, seven dimes and a couple of timely threes. I remember raving that night about his 25 minutes: “He made a positive impact. He hit shots… and he only turned it over once.” Damn, this is the same guy who was an All-Star not too long ago right? The same guy who averaged over 21 points a game barely two years ago, right? Now he’s 28, and the wheels are breaking off.
Some Toronto papers have prophesized perhaps a Harris-for-Jose Calderon swap. Both players are in the final year of their contract, both would make better fits on other teams and both salaries would work. Whatever happens with Harris, it’s apparently this already-surprising Utah team would be even better with someone else. The team scores just over 97 points per 100 possessions when he’s out there, 106 when he’s not. His game (dribble, penetration) doesn’t sit well in Salt Lake City.
Another easy one. While everyone is quick to refrigerate Derek Fisher, the Pres still offers a few things you can’t teach: clutch shooting, a calming presence and the best leadership skills in the NBA for a player who basically sucks. As a backup playing 10-15 minutes a night, I love him. But as a starter? The Lakers have a few gaping holes in their lineup, but the point guard spot might be the largest one.
Even though he’s now out with a rib injury, Steve Blake is taking and hitting more shots this season. But still, the team is 4.5 points per 100 possessions better with the player who most resembles a hit man on the bench. That’s actually worse than Fisher, something you almost have to try to do. And the third point? Darius Morris? I thought he was teetering on the edge of Smush Parker territory against Dallas on Monday night.