Prior to the season, Jeff, Tom and I listed the guys we thought most likely to catapult themselves to the first round of our 2010-11 drafts. We tossed a few names around – Brook Lopez, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo – but we failed to include Russell Westbrook. The second-year point out of UCLA has played like Ethan Hunt the past few weeks, averaging 20.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 9.5 assists and 2.3 steals over his last eight games, and if he’s not a first-rounder next season, I’ll eat Werner Herzog’s shoe.
There are many aspects of Westbrook’s game in which to fall madly in love, but last week I sent a Valentine’s card to the part of his brain that controls defense. He is a freakish athlete and at 21 years of age he already shuts opposing guards down and has got a long and brilliant career ahead. With some improvement to his decision-making and a more accurate jumper, we could soon be speaking of him in the same breath as Deron Williams, Chris Paul and former Bruins backcourt mate Darren Collison.
It was a strange weekend in the NBA, highlighted by the new-look Knicks regurgitating late in regulation and then in overtime to the Thunder and also by the Jazz coming from 25 down to defeat Portland in OT. In the Knick game Tracy McGrady summoned the ghost of rotisserie past and dropped 26 points on 10-17 from the field in 32 minutes of work, but New York couldn’t overcome the aforementioned Westbrook (31-9-10) and Kevin Durant (36-5-3). In the Jazz/Blazers tilt, Brandon Roy returned to action and totaled 23 points, but he couldn’t offset the 22-point, 23-rebound, 5-assist effort out of Carlos Boozer as Utah continues to get it done.
With all of the player movement late last week, my intestines have been irate. Let’s take a look at how those involved in trades have done with their new teams:
Tracy McGrady (old team: Houston / new team: New York)
T-Mac still fires up that line-drive jumper with the same amount of gusto, but he did so with quite a bit of success in his Knicks debut on Saturday, finishing with 26 points. Most surprising was his 32 minutes of court time. McGrady, who continues to corrupt the minds of hopeful fantasy owners, is definitely worth an add. But temper expectations as his minutes will be limited for the first week or two and his shooting percentage could be painful.
Eddie House (old team: Boston / new team: New York)
House could be a sneaky pickup as a member of the Knicks. He could receive the same amount of minutes as the departed Nate Robinson and be an outstanding source of the three-ball. In his Saturday debut, he amassed 24 points and four 3-pointers in 36 minutes of daylight.
Nate Robinson (old team: New York / new team: Boston)
Kryptonate ate a bad burrito last week and has yet to suit up for the Cs. His value, which was creeping up as a Knick, will be diminished as a Celtic.
Steve Blake (old team: Portland / new team: LA Clippers)
Blake offers nothing but assists, but as long as Baron Davis is out he will pile those up in bunches.
Travis Outlaw (old team: Portland / new team: LA Clippers)
Outlaw should be returning from a foot injury in the next few days. He is enough the athlete and enough the talent to earn significant minutes with his new squad. He can shoot the three and block a few shots, but the Clipper frontcourt situation is getting congested and we need to see what occurs in the next few games.
Drew Gooden (old team: Washington / new team: LA Clippers)
Gooden has bounced around his entire career like a Hoppity Hop, but when he receives ample court time he does produce on the glass. The situation bears monitoring for the Clips, but don’t be surprised if Gooden is stuck in a timeshare with Outlaw, DeAndre Jordan, Craig Smith and Chris Kaman.
Kevin Martin (old team: Sacramento / new team: Houston)
Martin doesn’t seem to be a great fit in Houston, but this is where he ended up and he is coming off the bench… at least for now. This will put a terrific crimp in his value as evidenced by his 29.5 minutes, 13.5 points and 4.0 assists through his first two contests.
Carl Landry (old team: Houston / new team: Sacramento)
This trade is like the Louisiana Purchase for the Kings. Guys as rugged as Landry just don’t come around that often anymore. He reminds me of Anthony Mason without the ballhandling skills. He has started his first two games for Sacramento (14.0 ppg, 7.5 reb) and expect to see his numbers continue to move north.
Antawn Jamison (old team: Washington / new team: Cleveland)
Jamison owners are the big losers here as he goes from a situation where he has the green light in the parking lot in Washington to a situation in which he has to wait for a bailout pass from LeBron to hoist anything up. We’re still looking at 16-18 ppg, but Jamison will be exposed for the pedestrian yet solid all-around player that he is.
John Salmons (old team: Chicago / new team: Milwaukee)
Salmons joins his third team in less than a year, and despite underwhelming results for the Bulls, he will get a chance to resurrect his season with the Bucks. He played 33 minutes against Detroit in his Milwaukee debut and totaled 19 points and three 3-pointers. He followed that with 19 points, five rebounds, seven assists and a pair of threes in 37 minutes against Charlotte. His field goal percentage could destroy you in that category, but he will have every opportunity to turn his season around.
Hakim Warrick (old team: Milwaukee / new team: Chicago)
This is it for the athletic Warrick. If he doesn’t make the most of his big opportunity in Chicago, he will likely spend the remainder of his career as a journeyman. Through two games he is averaging 12.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.0 block in 28.0 minutes of work. Joakim Noah‘s impending return will eat into Warrick’s minutes, but he’s not a bad guy to take a chance on right now.
Marcus Camby (old team: LA Clippers / new team: Portland)
The Cambyman reluctantly arrived in Portland, where he will be expected to control the middle for the next two months. Through two games with the Blazers he has been an atrocity on the offensive end (2.0 ppg), but after a seven rebound outing against Boston, he corralled 18 in 36 minutes last night against the Jazz. Still a big shot-blocker (3.5 over his last two), health is the only thing standing in his way from being a top-5 center the rest of the way.
Tyrus Thomas (old team: Chicago / new team: Charlotte)
Thomas owners everywhere have sadistic grins on their faces as this fantasy beast in waiting is finally being unleashed. The Bobcats will be going small for much of the rest of the way and that will suit Thomas and his owners just fine. In his 25-minute debut vs. Cleveland he totaled nine points, 12 boards and a saliva-inducing six blocks in 25 minutes. He followed that effort with 12 points, 11 caroms and four rejects in 31 minutes at Milwaukee. Don’t be afraid to pounce on the groggy owners who missed the news of the trade.
Welcome to Week 18. There are five games on tonight’s slate, including Hawks at Jazz.