This could be Larry Brown's final year in Charlotte. I have the sense that he's at odds with ownership over cost-cutting because he thought they were going to compete and everything they've done has been money-oriented. He'll be frustrated having to rely on D.J. Augustin at point guard, and when you're depending on Kwame Brown, Nazr Mohammed and DeSagana Diop as your centers, you're asking for trouble.
Their best player is Stephen Jackson. He can handle the ball, he's unselfish and he has a good basketball mind. He's a good shooter -- not great -- and he can score. I'd take him because I like his versatility. He's never going to be out of shape and he just loves the game. The problem is, he isn't going to fix anything for you. If your team is going good, then he'll be great. But he isn't going to grab a teammate and say this is how it's going to be, you've got to change your way. He's good to have on your team, but you don't want him running your team unless everything's fine.
I just don't see Augustin being able to take over the point-guard responsibilities full time. He isn't a Larry Brown point guard who comes down and gets the team into the offense and distributes the ball on a consistent basis. A Larry Brown point guard has to pass the ball, get it back and get it to the other side in order to attack. A scoring point guard like Augustin will take it to the basket because he's not looking to create plays for everybody.
Augustin's size is another problem. He is capable of getting to the rim but he shies away from deep penetration because he has trouble in there. Defensively, there are bigger point guards who can post him up. There are definitely spots where you could get the most out of him for a time and then get him out of there. But as a starter playing anywhere near 30 minutes, he won't be effective over the long haul. How is he going to be able to stay in front of the bigger point guards night after night?
Their other options at the point are Shaun Livingston and rookie Sherron Collins. I wasn't a believer in Livingston before his knee injury -- he's tall and thin and a lot of flash -- and since the injury he hasn't been able to move nearly as well. Is Collins going to turn into a John Bagley type, a guy who can't move well but is a good enough player? Collins is supposed to be a great guy/teammate, and that's how Bagley was: He had that knack for being able to play and get things done.
I keep trying to like Gerald Wallace's game, but I just can't -- which doesn't mean he isn't impressive. The guy collects stats and he plays hard. When a guy is falling down all of the time, it's either fake hustle or he's really giving it up, and with Wallace, I can't quite figure it out. But there's no doubt he puts up numbers.
He is one of the best in going to the basket and taking it on the dribble in transition and finishing. He's always competing for rebounds, gambling defensively and deflecting the ball and creating scoring opportunities. I think Brown would like him to be more of an all-around player, but he has to appreciate Wallace's heart and how hard he plays. Brown likes people who do a bit of everything, though I'm sure the non-shooting aspect of Wallace's game frustrates him. And Wallace is not a guy who makes plays for other people except when he's forcing turnovers. In that regard, he gives his team opportunities to score, but he doesn't make the pass while he's driving.
Most players have trouble driving when the defense doesn't respect their jump shot, but with Wallace, it's a matter of determination. He's not going to back off, and again, a lot of it comes in transition where he's got a head of steam. I wouldn't say he's among the best defenders; his prowess there comes when he's gambling away from his guy and trapping and messing with the game. He's a pest defensively, but I don't think he's a lockdown defender.
Boris Diaw is another multifaceted guy, though I'm sure Larry would like to see more toughness out of him on the defensive side. But that's never going to come. Diaw is the kind of guy who questions everything. He's much too smart for his own good, and Brown and a lot of other coaches don't like to have players coming up to you and questioning your game plan and why you're doing it this way. It seems like if it doesn't revolve around Boris, then he doesn't like it. But he's not good enough to carry a team.
What he does well, though, is rebound, especially on the offensive boards. He passes, he shoots, makes all kinds of plays and fills every column of the box score. He can be an excellent complementary player on a good team, but that's about it.
I don't think Tyrus Thomas will ever turn into something. He'll get everything based on his athleticism, and he'll be mistake-prone because he's doesn't have the ability to change the way he is. I don't think he'll ever be a knock-down shooter from 15 feet, a back-to-the-basket post player or a ball-handler. He's a face-up guy who can make shots, but he won't be great at it. As a defender, he'll block a shot here and there, but you can't count on him to guard the goal and design a defense around him because he won't be there for you on a consistent basis.
Gerald Henderson could be in the league for a long time as a utility player if things break right for him. The question is whether he gets the consistent minutes he needs in order to develop. Or is he going to hang around as a practice player, which puts him in danger of being replaced when a cheaper guy comes along? Or does he get impatient and go overseas to make more money?
They're facing a big drop-off at center now that Emeka Okafor, Tyson Chandler and Erick Dampier have all been sent away. Diop moves his feet and gives effort defensively, but if you're looking for scoring out of him, you're going to be disappointed.
Mohammed is an older version of Diop. He'll finish on the pick-and-roll and give you a putback here and there, but he's not a good enough rebounder. If he's under the basket, you foul him because he doesn't make his free throws.
It is shocking that Kwame was a No. 1 pick. He can't shoot free throws, he doesn't really have a back-to-the-basket game, he has poor footwork and poor hands. He looks like one of those guys who was never coached.
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