In this, the final Roundtable of the 2008-09 season, I wanted to tackle two questions. What can I say? I'm greedy. First, I wanted the experts to tell me who they thought the biggest non-injury bust was this season. I'm not looking to hear
Second, I want our experts to look to next season and give me a player to keep an eye on. Like, say,
Without question, the biggest bust this season is
People will look at
With apologies to Allen Iverson (PG/SG, DET) and
You can probably file him away under "bust" just behind the aforementioned players, but 2009-10 could tell a different story for Heat forward
Allen Iverson (PG/SG, DET) has to be the biggest non-injury bust of the year. He's banged up right now, but his pre-All-Star game averages of 18.2 points and 5.1 assists fell well short of the expectations owners had for him on draft day. His scoring output is by far the worst of his career, and his assist totals are his lowest in a decade. In addition (or subtraction), after shooting over 45 percent from the field the past two years with Denver, his field goal percentage has plummeted to 41.7 percent, his worst mark since the 2003-04 season (38.7 percent). There's no telling if he'll be back with Detroit next season, and if so, whether he'll be starting or coming off the bench. With so many question marks surrounding "The Answer," perhaps we should start calling him "The Riddler".
While we're looking forward, I'm expecting big things from
Speaking of the younger Gasol, I highly recommend that you reach for this young center in next year's draft. While his minutes and production have been inconsistent this year, he's ramped up his play recently and is finishing out a stellar rookie campaign. Because fellow rookie big man
As for a player going in the other direction, it's hard not to get excited about O.J. Mayo (SG, MEM). Critics say that all he can do is score and that he is a high-usage rate guard, much like our derided former star from above. First, let's not put them in the same sentence. Mayo's 24.8 usage rate would equal the second-lowest of Iverson's career, and his 16 field goal attempts a game is two field goals fewer than Iverson attempted right out of the gate in Philadelphia. They are not quite the same player, and much of it may be because Mayo is less of a hybrid guard and more of a traditional shooting guard. He can also do much more than score, however. He's shown the ability to contribute in steals, rebounds, and assists along side his threes and points. Even though he's hit a lull recently, his .380 three-point percentage is impressive for a player that attempts over two threes a game. And why couldn't he break out further next year? Right now, the 6-4 Mayo is only hitting 47.8 percent on his 'close and inside' shots, i.e. shots in the lane. Compare this to last year's breakout point guard, the diminutive Jameer Nelson (PG, ORL), who is hitting 57.3 percent on those shots this year. Next year, Mayo will be stronger, more ready for the year-long grind, in the middle of a high-paced offense, and ready to go strong to the hoop.
Josh Smith (SF/PF, ATL) is my runaway choice for most disappointing player. He's lost two full points off his scoring average, a rebound and assist off each of those averages, and his blocks have decreased by more than one per contest. He's still productive, but not quite the fantasy gold we thought he would be.
I see Anthony Randolph (SF/PF, GSW) as a guy who can jump to a 14 point and 8 rebound level with enough playing time next season. He had a four-game stretch from March 1-6 where he sent back 13 opponents' shots, too. He needs the PT, but Randolph could thrive in Golden State's high-speed offense.
It seems like the answer to the first question is quite simply, The Answer. His drop-off this season has been well documented above. Josh Smith and Rudy Gay also are solid choices though, unlike Iverson both players are under the age of 24 and could bounce back next season. Their fall-off in 2008-09 could only mean that there is a good chance they'll return better value next season if they slip in the draft.
I would also add
For next season, you have to like O.J. Mayo to come on strong. Eno is right-on about Mayo getting his '82-game legs' under him next season. Same can be said for Jeff's guy, Michael Beasley. Marc Gasol has nice plus-value as a big man to watch for next season. I could see a half-dozen centers getting drafted ahead of him who won't put up as good numbers. Augustin gets a huge boost if Felton doesn't return, and Randolph is a wildcard who I can see growing into what we've gotten out of
A few other names I would put out there are
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