Back on October 14 I listed 10 NBA players to watch this season based on what they had done in the preseason or at the FIBA World Championships as well as my own personal biases towards some of them. Now that the season is a quarter of he way finished there is no better time than to hand out a report card. Not only is it a nice little grading scale for the players but it also serves as somewhat of a referendum of my choices.
Patrick Beverley | Grade: N/A
About ten days after I declared that you, the Beef readers, should pay attention to Beverley, the Miami heat went and cut him to make room for Jerry Stackhouse. Geez, way to throw egg in my eye, Pat Riley. Therefore, Beverley receives no grade at all. He is currently playing in China with the Shanghai Dongfang Sharks, Yao Ming‘s old team.
Darren Collison | Grade: C
Collison’s first real stint as a team’s starting point guard has not gone as smoothly as he or the Indiana Pacers would have hoped. He has already missed three games due to injury which has thrust T.J. Ford, who is ever-present on Indy’s trade block, into a larger role with the team. Collison is averaging just six minutes more per game than Ford but his average stats, outside of his 13.7 points, are not much better than Ford’s numbers. 2.7 rebounds per game for Collison compared to Ford’s 2.5 and 4.4 assists to Ford’s 3.9. Collison also has an assist to turnover ratio of 2/1. Collison needs to improve his non scoring categories if he and the Pacers hope to see a return of the player that filled in for Chris Paul so wonderfully last season.
Dominique Jones | Grade: Incomplete
Jones has appeared in only nine of the Dallas Mavericks’ 20 games thus far. Because of this, his grade is an incomplete. When he does get time on the court his play is marred by turnovers. This is undoubtedly because he likes to get to the rim in traffic when hands come flying in at the ball from all directions. His lack of minutes is also due to the fact that the Mavericks are unbelievably deep this season, especially at shooting guard. Hopefully as the season progresses, Rick Carlisle will find more minutes for this promising rookie. However, for that to happen, Dallas will need to start blowing teams out more frequently instead of playing somewhat tight games.
Linas Kleiza | Grade: D -
The Toronto Raptors are not as bad as we thought they would be this season but Kleiza is far worse than anyone could have imagined after a quarter of the season has passed. He is a shell of the player he was during the FIBA World Championships this summer. So far, Kleiza is averaging 9.6 points and 3.7 rebounds this season in 23 minutes per game. Gross. He is also shooting an appalling 24 percent from deep. What happened to the fit, muscular Kleiza that we saw over the summer? Apparently he left that side of himself in Turkey. Maybe he should tell Allen Iverson where to find it.
Kevin Love | Grade: A +
“Yeah., yeah, yeah … here he goes again lauding the efforts of Kevin Love. We know, you have loved him for some time now and his numbers a ridiculous this year but you really do not need to keep piling on the love.” (That is what I can assume your thought process is, if you are a regular reader, when you see Love’s name mentioned anywhere on the site.) He had the first 30-30 game since 1982. He has pulled down 15 or more rebounds in a game ten times this season. No other player has done that more than six times. He leads the league in both offensive, defensive, and total rebounding and leads in total rebounding average with 15.3 per game. This is what I wrote about Love when I said that he was a player to watch this season, “Plain and simple: Kevin Love is the best rebounder in the league.” Looks like I was more than right.
Wesley Matthews | Grade: B +
Matthews stepped into the starting lineup when Brandon Roy went down with an early injury for a couple of games. Since that time he has usurped Nicolas Batum in the starting rotation. He now frequently leads the team in scoring. In the seven games that Matthews has started this season he is averaging 20.9 points, connecting on 2.4 shots from deep, four rebounds, and 1.6 steals. He has topped the 20 point plateau in four of his last five games. It appears that the money that the Portland Trail Blazers spent to lure Matthews away from Utah has been a good investment.
JaVale McGee | Grade: C +
Both of us here at the Beef want nothing but good things for McGee. He is one of those players who we can just not seem to quit rooting for. McGee is having a decent season with the Wizards this year but he could improve his numbers. Head Coach Flip Saunders wanted McGee to improve his rebounding during the preseason and as McGee is currently averaging 8.5 rebounds there is certainly still room to improve. He should be a double-double threat every night. Where he does not need to improve is with his shot blocking. McGee currently averages 2.6 blocks per game and has a total of 49 blocks this season which ranks him second, in both categories, in the NBA behind, of all people, Darko Milicic. I said in my initial article that McGee edged out Andray Blatche to make the list but it looks like Blatche will have the final word with the season he is putting together thus far.
C.J. Miles | Grade: B
Miles is Utah’s sixth man this season as Raja Bell finds himself in the starting lineup. Obviously, Jerry Sloan knows what he is doing bringing Miles of the bench as an offensive spark. He is averaging 11 points per game but 17.2 per 36 minutes which is better than Al Jefferson. Miles is in there to score the ball and little else. It would be nice to see him improve his field goal percentage which is only 39.7 percent at present. Bringing it up to 42-43 percent is what he needs to shoot for.
Ramon Sessions | Grade: either B – or D depending on the night
Sessions is another one of those players who I just cannot quit. He has flashes of brilliance followed by the dregs of mediocrity. He is averaging 10.7 points and 4.4 assists this season as the Cleveland Cavaliers’ backup point guard who sometimes gets the start. However, his game-to-game numbers are like a roller coaster ride. Here are his point totals through 20 games this season: 14, 4, 21, 7, 9, 6, 15, 14, 17, 7, 16, 2, 15, 3, 13, 5, 14, 11, 18, 2. Twice this season the only points he has scored have come at the charity stripe. His assist numbers remain fairly consistent though which seems to be his most redeeming quality as a player this season and why I am not grading him harsher. Despite his scoring ups and downs, he is the tied with Antawn Jamison for total points on the team with 213 and is just one point behind J.J. Hickson who is third on the team.
Marreese Speights | Grade: D
There are some redeeming qualities for the Philadelpia 76ers this season, unfortunately Speights does not find himself among them. He is averaging only 12.8 minutes per game scoring only 5.3 points and collecting 3.8 rebounds. His per 36 minutes numbers are much better but they do not matter when it takes him three games to log that much time on the floor. Doug Collins cannot seem to find a place for him in the regular rotation with Elton Brand, Thaddeus Young, and Spencer Hawes ahead of him. I said that he needed minutes to see actual dividends in my original article and it looks like those minutes may never come.