By Justin Shockley

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (L) and teammate Tyson Chandler react as they defeat the Miami Heat to win the NBA Championship in Miami, June 12, 2011. REUTERS/Joe Skipper (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)


When the first reports came out saying that the NBA lockout had been resolved, the casual basketball fan probably had very little to say other than a murmur under their breath about athletes and owners being greedy and obnoxious. For the casual fan the NBA won’t be relevant again until Christmas Day when they can actually watch a game again and even then their fervor or lack thereof for professional basketball will be even less than it has been in previous years.

The free agent market this year will not help create excitement for this year’s shortened season either most because the 2010 and 2012 classes have legitimate superstars like Lebron James in 2010 or Dwight Howard next summer. It is probably safe to assume that there will not be a prime time television special so that Marc Gasol can tell the world if he decides that he will be “taking his talents to the Garden State”. In fact, many causal basketball fans are probably content with watching college basketball when they get a craving for some hoops, and are most likely more interested in who will be on the next season of “Dancing With The Stars” than they are about this year’s free agent class.

While superstars are hard to come by in the current free agent market, this year has some really solid players including a few true centers that could help a team win a championship down the road. With the abbreviated preseason and soon to be a ticking clock for free agents, the next few weeks will teeter on interesting but definitely not be edge-of-your-seat spellbinding.

Marc Gasol, Tyson Chandler, and Nene are some of the biggest names in free agency this year and also happen to be true centers with big talent.

Tyson Chandler
Photo: Keith Allison/Flikr

Gasol is a superbly talented center with a wealth of experience to be only 26 years old, thanks to his extensive play internationally. With his size, passing ability, and overall skills Gasol will warrant a five or six year deal worth about 13-15 million dollars per year and can be a legitimate puzzle piece for a team hoping to win a championship soon.

Tyson Chandler is older than Gasol at 29 and his health is a bigger question mark than other available players because he has feeling a pain under right rib cage, but his emotional play, off court leadership, and unselfish team oriented nature are truly a great intangible package for a team to have. The Mavericks can attest to just how important Chandler can be because despite Dirk’s uncanny ability to be clutch, their championship hinged on Chandler’s play and presence in many ways. If the Mavericks decide not to pay big money to keep Chandler it would a mistake barring more injuries and if they don’t pay him, someone else definitely will.

Nene Hilario
Photo: Keith Allison/Flikr
As for Nene, yes, it’s true he may not be the biggest center in the NBA but his rebounding ability (when completely healthy) and wonderful offensive presence is a tremendous asset to have on a team looking to be a contender. Nene is also 29 years old and has a knee that is as rickety as an old rocking chair and he has missed way too many games the last three seasons to pay him huge money.

For teams that don’t mind a gamble, Nene could be a pick up worth about 7 to 10 million a year but any kind of gamble with that much money can be unnerving. Indiana, New Jersey, and Houston could be the most likely to roll the dice.

There are other free agents in this year’s field that could have an impact on the league such as Greg Oden, Brendan Haywood, Caron Butler, DeAndre Jordan, Vince Carter (if he is waived as expected), and Josh Howard. As it stands however, the free agent market is lackluster when compared to recent and upcoming years and there is just no denying it. The biggest thing that will excite basketball fans in the near future is that possibility that Chris Paul will be traded which will get a rise out of even casual fans. Call us crazy, but no one really cares what Jason Kapono is doing this year…unless there’s a chance he is going to be on the new season of DWTS.

Hey, if you want to keep up with all of the latest basketball headlines in one place, check out

By James Blackburn

Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden (L) and forward Kevin Durant (R) celebrate after Harden scored a 3-point shot against the Memphis Grizzlies in the second half of Game 7 of their second round Western Conference NBA basketball playoffs in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma May 15, 2011. REUTERS/Bill Waugh (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Second Round of Western Conference NBA Playoffs- Game 7
Thunder win 105-90

Box Score

Scouting Reports


James Harden (31 min, 6-10 FG, 4-8 3pt, 4 reb, 3 assist, 4 steals, 17 TP)

Strengths – Smart player who makes good decisions. Solid all-around type player who is versatile and can do many things well; reminds me of Josh Howard. He plays a similar role to the one that Howard played in Dallas. Spaces the floor with his outside shooting. Has the ability to shoot with feet set off the catch, and can also create his own offense where he can shoot off the dribble and attack the basket because of athleticism. Poised and calm throughout game. Good rebounder and passer. Moves well without the ball and floats to the right area of the floor where guard can see him off of penetration. Plays the passing lines well and is a solid defender in general.

Weaknesses – One of the things that makes Harden so good is that he does a great job of maximizing his skills and strengths, and minimizing his weaknesses. With that said, Harden needs to continue to improve his dribbling. Sometimes when he attacks the basket, his handle is a little shaky and he losses control. He was ineffective from the line today (1-4) but has been a 80% FT shooter for his career.

Overview – The more and more I get to watch Harden the more I like his game and the way he plays. He is not flashy and is humble in how he plays. He is such an all-around talent and contributes in so many ways to help his team win. Harden is probably one of the reasons the Thunder were willing to part ways with Jeff Green (among others, like needing another big). The trade has allowed Harden to play more minutes and to become the third option behind Durant and Westbrook. He is stepped into this new role and has flourished. Harden continues to improve every year and his contributions will continue to go mostly unnoticed because of Durant and Westbrook playing on the same team. Has the potential to be an All Star with in a couple of years.


Zach Randolph (38 minutes, 6-15 FG, 5-6 FT, 10 reb, 1 blk, 1 st, 17 TP)

Strengths – Great midrange shooter. Can hit the 15-18 foot jump shot with consistency from any angle, but he prefers the baseline. Good pick-and-pop player because of shooting ability. Does a good job of drawing contact. Does a good job of shielding more athletic and taller defenders with body and creating space with his strength and width. Patient in the post. Does a nice job of catching, turning, and facing the basket, where he displays solid footwork and patience and takes what the defense gives him – very much like Tim Duncan in that regard. Lefty. Never gives up on the play – scrappy and physical, not the prettiest game. Unconventional style.

Weaknesses – Does a decent job of getting up and down the floor for size, but needs to continue working on getting back on D quicker. Poor P/R defense. Not athletic or long, but uses size well like Charles Barkley used to. Good rebounder in general, but missed more than a couple of box out assignments from the weak side today where his man got the offensive rebound and scored. Forced some shots early in the game against great post defense, but in the second half did a better job of passing out of the double team. He only had 1 assist, but this can not be blamed solely on Randolph. The Grizzlies team struggled today from the field hitting only 39% for the game.

Overview – One of Randolph’s best seasons since being in the NBA. Rewarded by being named to the All-NBA 3rd team. Not the best performance by the big man today, but give OKC players credit. They did a great job defending him and threw some double teams on him in the second half. The Grizzlies ran the offense through him practically the entire second him, but Randolph had difficulty scoring over Ibaka and Collison today.

Shane Battier (27 min, 2-6 FG, 4 reb, 1 st, 4 TP)

Strengths – Good set shooter from 3. Talks on defense and does a good job of playing help defense and being in good defensive position. Gets hand up on shooters.

Weaknesses – Good defender in general, but is slow moving laterally. Can not create his own offense. On a 2 on 1 break, he floated to the corner for the 3, when he could have had a wide open lay up.

Overview – Battier was a great pick up for Memphis and was one of the most underrated and overlooked mid-season pickups in the NBA this year. Battier’s grit, toughness, and smarts were one of the big reasons Memphis had made it this far. He has taken a lot of the principals that were taught to him at Duke and carried them to the NBA. Great role player.

Marc Gasol (37 min, 4-10 FG, 4-4 FT, 7 reb, 2 blk, 12 TP)

Strengths – Strong rebounder. Good passer; throws good outlet passes to guards leaking out. Sets wide screens. Great post defender, plays big and tough, makes himself tall and wide. Likes turn around jumper from over his right shoulder.

Weaknesses – Must continue to work on midrange/FT area jumper. Kendrick Perkins would give him a lot of space and dare him to shoot that shot today. Complained to the officials several times about a no call, while other team went down court and scored.

Overview – Gasol is a great complementary piece next to Randolph. He does all the dirty work, defends, and sets screens. Any scoring he does is an added bonus. His offensive game has improved immensely since coming into the league. Settled for the easy play today at times offensively instead of attacking, evidence by his 4-10 shooting. Gasol and Randolph should serve as one of the league’s most feared front courts for years to come.


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