Dunson Checks In

Last summer, June's draft featured the highest quality of point guards the league has ever seen.  Amazingly 9 of the of the record 11 point guards selected in the Draft have become immediated contributors. That list doesn't include Ricky Rubio, who hasn't purchased a passport yet. Starting rookie T'Wolves point guard Jonny Flynn has been serviceable but not spectacular.  Combo guard Stephen Curry has generated plenty of buzz in Golden State and appears to be one of the few successful personnel decisions the Warriors have made.  However, the Warriors have a logjam at guard and Golden State's manicly uptempo offense is a statistical growth hormone therefore it's difficult to gauge his value.  

Rubio and Curry both look like they were babysat by Greg Oden and James Harden in the 90's but their playing styles are polar opposites.  Rubio's combination of shooting allergies and court vision in his scouting report sounds like a cross between Rajon Rondo and Jason Kidd.  Don Nelson's use of Stephen Curry's ability to create his own shot and ability to find his teammates is reminiscent of Steve Nash's role in Dallas.

Since Brandon Jennings' 55 point explosion in November, his scoring average, shooting percentage, assists and turnovers have plummeted each month.  Hybrid point guard Tyreke Evans is 2nd among NBA point guards but is mired in a 4-22 slump since New Years and in the wake of Kevin Martin's trade is probably scouring Craigslist for a sidekick on the wing in the Northern California area.   

Picks #17-21 saw 5 consecutive point guards taken.  Darren Collison's understudy Jrue Holiday was drafted 17th and promptly buried beneath Lou Williams and Allen Iverson on the depth chart.  Ty Lawson's impact has brought the Nuggets frontcourt depth and solidified their championship aspirations.  Eric Maynor has been traded midway through his rookie campaign from Utah to Oklahoma and Atlanta's Jeff Teague hasn't been invited into Mike Woodson's rotation.

With thte 26th pick, Dallas selected Rodrigue Beaubois, as Jason Kidd's future successor.  Although Beaubois is a natural point guard, when he's on the floor with Kidd, the 6'1 guard has become synonymous with cutting to the basket off pick and rolls, and converting Kidd's alley-oop passes into bone shattering jams.  Beaubois hasn't been thrust into the regular rotation but he's already endeared himself to the Mavs fanbase with his signature Roddy-Oop.

Beabouis was pursued as an h'or dourve to the Mavericks' 7 player trade involving Caron Butler by the Wizards but was ruled untouchable by Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban.  However, Beaubois' value, lies in his potential.  There is another ballhandler, who should force NBA writers to temporarily hold off on decreeing Tyreke Evans as the 2010 Rookie of the Year because a surprise contender has shot out the gate.

With the 24th pick New Orleans plucked unheralded UCLA senior point guard Darren Collison.  Darren Collison has been overshadowed his entire career, and this season has been no different.  Collison was scouted as a lightning quick point guard, with excellent vision who can finish in the paint with Tony Parker-like efficiency, as well as a suffocating defender, 90% free throw shooter and precise from beyond the arch.  

Aside the the NBA's standards of dwarfism, Collison was the total package.  The ex-UCLA point guard led the Bruins to 3 Final Fours but as a freshman was third wheel to Aaron Afflao and Jordan Farmar. As a sophomore, Collison was promoted to staring point guard. However, a pair of his backups were snatched up in the Draft like teens on Law and Order: SVU.

After his junior season, despite Collison assuming ballhandling responsibilities sophomore point guard Russell Westbrook was selected 4th overall by the Oklahoma Thunder.

The following draft Philadelphia took Collison's backup freshman Jrue Holiday, who averaged 8 points and 3 assists per game.  Collison slipped to 21st in the Draft to New Orleans, backing up the best point guard in the League.  At this point, he probably reached out Jim Sorgi for advice.  But then something funny happened.  Collison's first stint as a starter began just a dozen games into his career.  In those 8 games, Collison averaged 15 points and 6 assists in 8 games.  By contrast, Chris Paul recorded 16.4 points and dished out 6.8 assists per game.

Two weeks before the All-Star Break, Chris Paul suffered a knee injury which gave the Big Easy a collective heart attack.  

In his first game subbing for an injured Paul last January, Collison dished a Hornets rookie record 18 assists and scored 17 points.  In the month of February, not including Collison's 18 assist performance, Collison averaged 21 points, 9 assists, 2 steals and shooting 50% from the free throw line.  Collison earned his first career triple double less than a week ago after netting 13 rebounds, 12 assists, and 18 points.  

Despite getting snubbed for selection to the Rookie-Sophomore Game All-Star weekend, Collison is averaging 20 points, 9.4 assists and 2 steals per game since Paul's injury in January.  
Collison doesn't just excel statistically but he also aces the eyeball test.  Collison

The free agent class of 2010 is loaded like Jayson Williams' shotgun but the real gem may be trade rumors surrounding Collison.   There are a litany of franchises who will be in the market for a dynamic point guard.
Cue up the hype machine for Collison's rookie backcourt teammate Marcus Thornton as well.  In Paul's absence Thornton has picked up the scoring slack off the bench by composing 18 points per game in 28 minutes a night.  In a 37 point outburst against Cleveland Wednesday, Thornton exploded for 23 second quarter points off the bench.  However, Thornton's free throw average has flunctuated worse than the measurements on a season of Celebrity Fit Club.  Thornton averaged 90% from the charity stripe in February, 93% in January, 53% in December and 74% through November.    
On the other end of the spectrum and 15 inches later is Hasheem Thabeet of the Wizards...the Dakota Wizards.  The 2nd overall pick of the 2009 NBA Draft parlayed his poster boy status for posterizations into a D-League invitation.  Why the Grizzlies wasted their pick on an offensively anemic big man without any discernible post moves over Ricky Rubio, their original target perplexes me.  Rubio was infinitely more inclined to play in Memphis with Olympic teammate Marc Gasol than in the barren wasteland of Minnesota.

However, in the absence of Thabeet, Iranian center, Hamed Hadaddi usurped Thabeet's  NBA posterization endorsement deal.  In consecutive games, Nick Young and Gerald Wallace declared their manifest destiny all over Hadaddi. (But honesly, with Thabeet of Tanzania, the first Iranian in NBA history and the Spaniard Marc Gasol on a a franchise whose origins began in Vancouver--did Chris Wallace assemble a frontcourt or the lay the groundwork for a UN peace treaty?)

Thabeet's struggles are a micrososm of the struggles of the big men of the 2009 Draft who haven't fared well this season.  Blake Griffin hasn't touched the court since the pre-season.  Jordan Hill, and B.J. Mullens combine to average under 10 points a game.  The quality of big men in the League is deteriorating as the guard play reaches an all-time high.
The NBA has officially become a small world.


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