I was surprised by the All-Star season from Harris. He was a better player than I thought he'd be. He is fortunate that he had this kind of team and that Lawrence Frank got the best out of him by going to the dribble-motion offense that John Calipari ran in Memphis. He is one hell of player who doesn't have a lot of weaknesses in the physical part of the game. He doesn't have great size, but in exchange for the lack of size comes great quickness. When he's on the drive he has pretty good vision for the floor, though once he gets up in the air he doesn't have the size or strength to make the pass baseline to the opposite corner. The part about Harris that may keep him from being the player everybody wants on their team is that he can be a little bit selfish in the heat of the moment. As a person who is going to be in more of a leadership role this year, he is going to lose some respect among his teammates if he isn't getting back or he's complaining to the ref and using it as an excuse to not get back on defense. He needs to mature quickly as their point guard and leader, especially now that Carter is gone.
Carter was such a good leader who went out of his way to make his teammates look better, to the point that he bought into the idea of Harris' becoming a star and shared the attention with him. This year Harris is going to be in a different situation because he'll be the No. 1 guy and other teams will be focused mainly on him, so how much will he do to help his teammates? As well as he played last year, I'm not going to put him on the same level as Jason Kidd or even Rajon Rondo right now. I like Rondo a lot better for all the things he does at both ends of the floor.
Lopez is going to be a very solid 12-year pro who might be even an All-Star midway through his career. He looks and plays like his main goal is to win. He has good skill level and some toughness to go with it. He's a poor defender right now because he has no clue. He just doesn't understand it. Like when he's rebounding the defensive board, he becomes a space-eater who worries too much about protecting his space rather than just going out and getting the ball. What I mean by that is when you see a shot go up, you can just see him spreading his legs and arms, as opposed to focusing on where the ball is going. Don't worry about your own space, just worry about using your height and athletic ability to go get the ball. I will say he's not afraid of contact, though sometimes that gets him in foul trouble. He's probably one of those big guys who is used to playing in the back like a goalie and blocking shots, because when it comes to doing his work early and keeping people out of the lane, or knowing how to front his man and still get back to box out, he doesn't have an understanding for all of that yet. But it will come.
On offense, Lopez is very versatile with good size and hands and a lot of smarts. You can see how young he is when he tries to make a pass out of the high post and you can tell he never saw the defensive player who breaks up the play. But for a rookie his career got off to a strong start last year and he'll show a lot of upside moving forward.
Lee is a good young shooting guard who plays all-out at both ends. He is an excellent shooter, though he can be defended. He isn't going to demand a double team and you can guard him out of the game if you really focus on it, but he is a very solid player. He gets out and runs the floor, he competes on the glass, gets back on defense and he can defend his own man as well as a point guard. He could start on a lot of teams, and eventually he could turn into a Raja Bell type of guy.
I think the Nets are going to be worried about Yi Jianlian. When things weren't going well for him last year and it become clear the expectations were too high, he looked like he was wondering what the problem was and whether he was good enough. He is a very skilled offensive player who sees the game well, and he looks like he has a good IQ. I hear he had a good summer of hard work and built himself up a little bit. He didn't look quick enough last year; what he looked liked was a one-dimensional player as a shooter with deep range -- and no confidence.
Yi is a big guy who last year couldn't guard his position at all as a power forward. His length helps him defend the post-ups, but if you take him outside, he can't stop anyone off the dribble. He has the reputation for being soft. At the end of the season, it was painful to watch him launching shots and getting beat back on defense and giving up the offensive rebound. He doesn't look like he is very popular with his teammates. I'm not saying he's a bad kid, but it didn't look like he had a lot of support from his teammates. Maybe the expectations of who he is are going to need to be lowered. To me, he looks like somebody who can be a backup center or a guy you use at forward when you want to go with a big lineup. I just don't see him as a starter for a playoff-contending team. The word is out now that he's a bit like Darko Milicic as far as being rated too highly in the draft -- and Darko had more potential than this kid.
They're saying rookie Terrence Williams can be a stud, but he's a stud without a position. Is he a 2, a 3 or a 4? Which means he'll have warts no matter which position he plays. He is very athletic, but there are going to be questions.
I have the impression while watching Josh Boone that he doesn't like the game, that he's playing basketball because he's big. I think he's a sensitive guy who loses his confidence quickly, as evidenced by his 37.6 percent free-throw shooting last year. But I can also see the potential because he's big and talented and he can run the floor, so you can get the ball into him in the paint before the defense gets back because he can outrun everybody.
Chris Douglas-Roberts could be at the end of somebody's 10-man rotation because he has an uncanny ability to score. He's not a great shooter but he can break people down and then pull up from 6-to-8 feet. He's an average NBA athlete at best, but he's also a tough kid who competes, the kind of guy who plays hard and improves your practices.
Sean Williams is one of those guys who will break your heart. He has NBA athletic ability, but for every good thing he does, he'll do two things that are bad.
Jarvis Hayes can score, he's a good post-up player and a willing passer and rebounder. He can't guard shooting guards but he'll sure try, and after the game they'll know he was trying because of all the bruises on their forearms.
They must be a little bit disappointed in what they've gotten out of Keyon Dooling, and I would expect Rafer Alston to beat him out as the backup to Harris. At times they could play Alston and Harris together in a tiny backcourt, especially when Rafer has his shot going.
I view Frank as a very good coach. He's one of those coaches who can wear on the players as they get tired of listening to him bark, and in that sense I liken him to Flip Saunders, with Lawrence being better at the defensive end and not as developed offensively as Flip.
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