The NBA season is underway, and a lot of familiar faces are wearing different colors this year, with many free agent signings and trades taking place over the summer. The King went home, Pau became a Bull, Chandler Parsons and Mark Cuban got their party on while signing a contract, and Ron Artest, a.k.a. Metta World Peace, a.k.a. The Panda’s Friend reminded everyone that he was still crazy. However, some smaller names switched clubs, and their former teammates are already wishing their old friends hadn’t jumped ship. Obviously the Heat will miss LeBron and the Pacers will miss Lance, but what about the rotation guys? These are the role players on new teams whose former franchises already wish would come back:
Clearing out cap space to try to land a free agent is always a risky move, and when you don’t get the big name, it hurts that much more. The Rockets lost a starter and some rotational players for the hope of landing Carmelo, which never materialized. (Carmelo, those of us who love offense are still mad at you. We wanted to see you and James Harden take turns scoring 30 points every other night. I mean, I would have signed if I saw myself wearing Jeremy Lin’s jersey on the big screen outside of an NBA arena.) But Asik is the loss that the Rockets are going to miss the most. Dwight Howard is one of the best, if not the best, centers in the league, and his production will remain regardless of the situation around him. But Houston has lost the luxury of bringing Asik off the bench when D12 is tired or dealing with the back problems which have plagued him over the past few seasons. And Asik is loving playing next to league’s next superstar in Anthony Davis. He’s pulled in 11.3 boards per game along with 11 points while NBA fans collectively said “who?” when Tarik Black came in for Dwight during the Rocket’s first game of the season. But hey–Black’s 2 points per game and 2 rebounds per game are like a double-double, just one of a different kind than Asik’s. Management saw Dwight and James Harden are the cornerstones, with Asik as an expendable asset. Hopefully those cornerstones are happier being a couple seeds lower in the West this year.
The Blazers have one of the lowest scoring benches in the NBA today, and giving up a scoring guard for a more traditional point man is already hurting them. Last year, Portland’s starters were at the top of the league in scoring while their bench was dead last. The trend seems to have continued this year, especially now that they have parted ways with the only productive bench scorer from last year’s roster in Mo Williams. Williams averaged almost 10 PPG last year and has started this season off at 11.3. His replacement as a backup point guard, Steve Blake, sits at just 5 in the first few games. While Blake adds more ball movement to the squad, averaging about 2 more assists per game than Williams, the weak scoring performance from the bench continues to persist into ‘14-’15. Sacrificing the points that Williams would put up as a sixth man for a few more passes seems to be the wrong move for the Blazers if they want to move up the ranks in a stacked Western Conference, where teams like the Spurs dominate bench points per game.
As a Kings fan, this one hurts to admit. You can spend all summer telling yourself that the Kings needed more ball movement and that Darren Collison is a better defender. We picked up Ramon Sessions? I had forgotten he was still in the league, but I’ll take it. But then Isaiah drops 23 on his first two nights as a Sun…against the Spurs on one of those nights no less. Thomas has spent his whole career with a chip on his shoulder. And just because those shoulders are a little bit smaller than Darren Collison’s is not a good enough reason to see him walk. Oh wait, they didn’t see him walk. They handed him to the Suns on a silver platter in exchange for Alex Oriakhi. I’ll save you a trip to Google–Oriakhi currently plays for a Lithuanian basketball team. The Kings, who profess to love statistics, must regret the downgrade, with Thomas posting a PER of 28.4 while averaging almost 19 ppg, compared to Collison at a 21 PER with about 16 points a night and Sessions at -0.1 with 4.5 ppg. It’s okay though, I keep telling myself, Boogie will take us to the promise land.
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