This is interesting. Conrad makes some pretty strong statements here.

http://www.nba.com/pacers/news/question_050617.html

Q. When watching basketball, I look at all the players to see what players have the ability to be great if they stepped up their game. When I looked at Jeff Foster, I thought he could become a spitting image of a Ben Wallace type of player. They both are relentless on the boards, they both can score if they have to but prefer to be defensive players. And, if Foster works on his shot-blocking ability and is consistent like he was in the playoffs, I think Foster could become the next Wallace. Do you see any players on this team who, if they stepped up their games, could become great, and what do they need to work on to become that? (From Bobby in Eugene, OR)



A. On pure ability alone, the player who jumps to mind is Jonathan Bender. Take Tayshaun Prince, make him five inches taller, give him a better post game, more range on his jump shot and quite a bit more athleticism and you have what Bender could become a game-changing force who would cause matchup nightmares for every team in the NBA. Of course, the asterisk is, and always has been, his health. When knee problems cost a young player the better part of two seasons, it's a serious situation. It remains to be seen if Bender will be able to contribute in 2005-06 or what, if any, plans the team has for him.

I agree that Fred Jones has qualities within his game that could lead to stardom, but he needs to work on a couple of areas: his left hand and defensive intensity. Fred already has improved his jump shot, which was considered his primary weakness entering the NBA. Now, he must develop some left-handed moves to keep defenders off balance. He also lost some of his defensive tenacity last season, perhaps because of the unexpected wear-and-tear on his body.

Foster is a different body type than Wallace, longer, leaner and less muscular, but they do have similar styles. Where Wallace is a primarily physical force, Foster tends to rely on his quickness and athleticism. If Foster could develop a reliable mid-range jump shot, either from the baseline or the key, and become a more physical player, he could actually be a little better than Wallace.

Two other players have true star potential: Jamaal Tinsley and David Harrison. Tinsley is one of the most skilled point guards in the league but has to continue to grow out of some old, bad habits in terms of shot selection and decision-making. He also must maintain his commitment to conditioning throughout the season, take care of his body and make sure he can be as strong as possible at the end of the year. Harrison has the size, strength and touch to be a very good low-post threat and is an instinctive shot-blocker, as well. His areas of emphasis are on footwork, which will help him avoid foul trouble while improving his ability to get better post position, and conditioning.