Beasley, Thabeet Highlight NBA Retreads
By Alex Raskin
Senior NBA Writer
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After being selected with the eighth overall pick of the 1976 NBA Draft, center Robert Parish joined a Golden State Warriors team that was just two years removed from an NBA Title — another championship was conceivably right around the corner.
But even though the man who would become “Chief” was surrounded by elite talents like Rick Barry, Phil Smith and Jamaal Wilkes, the Warriors finished third in 1976-1977 and Parish averaged just 9.1 points per game.
Parish’s scoring improved in his second season (12.5 points per game), but the Warriors sank to fifth in the Pacific Division and things only got worse from there. By 1978-1979, Parish had established himself as a legitimate center (17.2 points, 12.1 rebounds, 2.9 blocks), albeit a losing one. The Warriors finished the decade with two sixth-place finishes and Parish’s reputation as a good individual player, who wasn’t necessarily a winner, was pretty much cemented.
Thankfully, Parish got a second chance.
Chief was packaged with a first-round pick (Kevin McHale) to the Boston Celtics for two first rounders (Rickey Brown and Joe Barry Carroll) and arguably the greatest frontcourt in NBA history was complete. Parish would team with McHale and Larry Bird to win three NBA titles and now Chief is remembered more for winning (and the longevity of his career) than his own personal stats, which remain impressive to this day. He also won a title in his final season as a member of the 69-win Chicago Bulls in 1996-1997.
Here are some of the NBA players who are getting a second (or third) chance to make good on their talents this season:
Michael Beasley, Phoenix Suns: Realistically, this is Beasley’s third chance, but he’s still only 23 years old, so there’s time to turn the ship around. The problem is that Beasley may have regressed in 2011-2012. He had career lows in points (11.5 points per game) and Player Efficiency Rating (13.11) and did nothing to further his reputation as a rebounder or a defender. In fact, Beasley’s best season remains his 2008-2009 rookie campaign. At least he could still hit free throws then (77.2 percent as a rookie, 64.2 percent last year). There is good news though. Beasley will get to play with a dynamic point guard in Goran Dragic this season and since the Suns lack scorers, he should see plenty of opportunities. The downside is that, with Luis Scola at power forward, Beasley will likely play the three, which isn’t necessarily his best position. He’s a defensive liability at both forward spots, but Beasley is much too fast for most power forwards to defend.
Andray Blatche, Brooklyn Nets: Now that he’s been waived using the amnesty clause, Blatche’s cap figure can’t be used against him in the court of public opinion. The Nets needed a backup for Brook Lopez and Blatche provides scoring. Defense and rebounding will be a work in progress, but he’s supposedly in better shape and as Nets general manager Billy King said, the Syracuse native has a clean slate in Brooklyn. The good news is that Blatche will be surrounded by scorers with the Nets’ second unit (MarShon Brooks, Mirza Teletovic, C.J. Watson) so he won’t be the focal point of the opposing defense.
Earl Clark, Los Angeles Lakers: The 14th-overall pick of the 2009 NBA Draft developed into a solid defender during his time with the Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns. The problem was, besides being able to run the floor, Clark offered nothing offensively. That’s why joining the Lakers is a good fit. If he’s coming off the bench with veteran Antawn Jamison (a good offensive player who struggles to defend), there won’t be much for him to do at that end of the floor anyway. Clark can guard multiple positions and now that his offensive shortcomings aren’t as much of a liability, he could finally start playing major minutes after never averaging more than 12.4 minutes per game throughout his career.
Toney Douglas, Houston Rockets: A tireless worker and talented defender, Douglas’ 2011-2012 season was an offensive black hole. He was packaged off in the sign-and-trade deal that sent Marcus Camby to the Knicks, which means he’s still looking up at Jeremy Lin on the depth chart. Douglas isn’t really a point guard (even though he’s generously listed at 6’2) so the fact that he hit just 23.1 percent of his three-point attempts last season is really an indictment of his entire offensive game (did we mention he struggles to penetrate, too?). However, Douglas did hit 38.9 percent of his three-point attempts as a rookie and 37.3 percent in 2010-2011. If he can find his outside shot, Douglas can definitely contribute to a winning team, because he’s among the best in the league at defending point guards.
Gerald Green, Indiana Pacers: We’re not going to count how many chances this is for Green. The point is, this could be the best one he’s gotten. The Nets pulled Green out of the D-League last season and quickly discovered that his ability to score hadn’t gone anywhere. In fact, the former 18th overall pick has only sharpened his game. He hit 39.1 percent of his three-pointers, 48.1 percent of his field goals and averaged 12.9 points per game over 31 appearances. For a team in need of perimeter scoring, the Pacers’ biggest offseason acquisition might help push this team to the next level.
Wesley Johnson, Phoenix Suns: We learned that Johnson isn’t a shooting guard, but besides that, his tenure in Minnesota wasn’t all that revealing. In a lot of ways, we’re still waiting to see what kind of player Johnson can become. He should refrain from shooting from the outside too much (31.4 percent from deep last year) and he should never have the green light to drive to the hoop. Realistically, Johnson is a good athlete who has more Bo Outlaw in his game than perhaps people realize. Johnson rebounds well for his size (6’7) and is actually one of the better perimeter shot blockers in the NBA. Hopefully he’ll have a chance to do what he does best in Phoenix: provide energy.
Robin Lopez, New Orleans Hornets: New Orleans could have used its second lottery pick to draft center Meyers Leonard, but they went with Austin Rivers instead. That, of course, opened the door for Lopez, who is coming off another lackluster season with the Suns. Lopez was more efficient last season (his PER went up over the league average of 15), but he didn’t play significant minutes, largely because Marcin Gortat continued to improve. Now Lopez has the chance to shed the “immature” label he picked up in Phoenix and he’ll do it alongside talents like Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson. Lopez should be familiar with Anderson (they played against each other in college and Lopez’s brother Brook is good friends with the former Cal Bear) so hopefully there will be a certain level of comfort when the two are on the floor together.
O.J. Mayo, Dallas Mavericks: Jason Terry struggled to make a name for himself before he joined Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks and now it’s Mayo’s turn. There’s no doubting Mayo’s talent, but he’s never really developed as a distributor or a defender, and that limited his opportunities with the Grizzlies. The good news is that players tend to play well alongside Nowitzki and Mayo could have significantly more room to work with this season.
Daniel Orton, Oklahoma City Thunder: Orton is the poster boy for staying in school. After leaving Kentucky before he’d even become a starter, Orton was considered a project in Orlando, but he completely failed to develop. Yes, the knee injury he suffered as a D-Leaguer is partially to blame, but Orton still looked lost in his brief appearances with the Magic last season. Fortunately he’s still only 22 years old, and anyone with his size (6’10, 255 lbs.) and athleticism has a chance to make it in the NBA.
Hasheem Thabeet, Oklahoma City Thunder: Give Sam Presti some credit. The Thunder general manager has been throwing a lot of crap against the wall this summer, and some of it just might stick. Thabeet is 25 years old (supposedly), so it’s too soon to write him off as a bust. He does some things well (blocks shots, was tied for 35th in the NBA in rebounding rate last year), but Thabeet offers nothing offensively and needs to add strength. Between Thabeet and Orton, the Thunder might have one real NBA center, and if that’s the case, the rest of the league should be very afraid.
Nick Young, Philadelphia 76ers: Doug Collins will get his chance to coach Nick Young this year, and there’s really two possibilities. The first is that Collins reaches Young, gets him to play tough defense and helps to improve the 6’7 swingman’s shot selection. The other is that Collins ties up Young and drops him off the Schuylkill Expressway. Either way, this is going to be a fun season to watch the 76ers. Young has enough talent to be a big-name player, but his boneheaded offensive play and indifferent defensive demeanor has kept him from NBA stardom.