Zach LaVine: Is He Any Good?

In the NBA, there are Dunk Contest Guys and there are actually-plays-in-real-games guys as far as effectiveness is concerned. Rare is the man who can combine greatness in the dunk contest with the kind of career that, say, Michael Jordan had or Dominique Wilkins had or Vince Carter had. Look at the past few years of the dunk contest for All-Star weekend. Hamidou Diallo and Glenn Robinson III and Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine. The only guy to do real damage in the dunk contest who isn’t a Dunk Contest Guy, at least not in how he’ll be remembered, was …

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Derrick Rose: Is He Any Good?

Derrick Rose is one of the most polarizing figures in basketball, with eye test fans insisting that he’s the Sixth Man of the Year and statheads countering with “go home, you’re drunk.” Rose drew a ton of All-Star fan votes, but fan vote alone wasn’t enough to get him into the game, and when sensible people got to decide who the All-Stars were, Rose was wisely left off the list. But that’s not the question we’re asking here. We’re asking if Rose is good, and the stats in 2019 don’t care that Rose was MVP once and got a salary …

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Taj Gibson: Is He Any Good?

Defense is a thorny subject when it comes to player evaluation. On the one hand, you’ve got guys like Klay Thompson, who are excellent defenders by reputation but who get murdered in the advanced stats because they’re constantly put on the other team’s best player, and if they’re not quite the superstar defender their reputation makes them out to be, the problem compounds into a point where they have the same advanced stats as the guy who hides on the opponent’s fifth option and can’t even guard him. And on the other hand, you’ve got a guy like LeBron James, …

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Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: Is He Any Good?

A fine argument could be made that the Los Angeles Lakers have the mother of all roster problems after superstar/unofficial GM LeBron James effectively tried to trade the entire roster plus their wives, children, and household pets to the New Orleans Pelicans in the ongoing dumpster fire that is the Anthony Davis fiasco. At perhaps greater issue is what this means in terms of a bunch of guys the Lakers are inevitably going to have to move if they’re to have any hope of maintaining even the faintest semblance of team chemistry. It may be deader than disco now, to …

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Jeremy Lamb: Is He Any Good?

Jeremy Lamb has begun to evolve into not just Kemba Walker‘s safety valve in Charlotte’s offense that forces the defense to respect him but into a bona fide second or third option in Charlotte’s overall game plan. His scoring on a counting-stat basis is at a career-high level, and he’s taking a lot more shots to tie or take the lead in the close games Charlotte always seems to lose, one reason that the Hornets, with their +0.2 point differential, nonetheless carry a losing 27-29 record into the All-Star break, the third year in a row they’re posting a positive …

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Wilson Chandler: Is He Any Good?

Wilson Chandler has started 32 games of the 36 in which he’s played for the Philadelphia 76ers this year, and to say that he’s the fifth option is mainly to say that five men exist on the basketball court at one time for each of the teams. When Philadelphia acquired Chandler, Denver threw in a pair of second round picks in exchange for nothing but a cash payment and the Sixers’ willingness to take Chandler’s $12.8 million salary off their hands. Chandler is an unrestricted free agent after this season, at which point he’ll either sign with some team on …

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Jusuf Nurkic: Is He Any Good?

The Portland Trail Blazers rely heavily on their backcourt offensively, using Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum to take most of the shots and do most of the scoring. But at the same time, they’ve got a big Bosnian in the middle of the paint defensively protecting the rim and in the low block offensively to create a focus to keep the defense from simply ranging out on Portland’s shooters and short-circuiting their offense. The big Bosnian, Jusuf Nurkic, is the subject of this week’s examination of his skillset, and on a Blazers team with aspirations toward genuine contention in the …

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Malcolm Brogdon: Is He Any Good?

As Rookies of the Year go in NBA history, Malcolm Brogdon is one of those guys that you’d never remember won the award. You’d say to yourself, “OK, who was a rookie that year, Joel Embiid…Buddy Hield…Jamal Murray…Ben Sim, no, wait, Ben Simmons got hurt that year…” Brogdon, the 36th overall pick, a second-rounder, ended up walking away with the award. Of the players in that 2016 draft, Brogdon is already third in Win Shares behind Simmons and Pascal Siakam, and just ahead of Domantas Sabonis. And if you think that looks an awful lot like a pattern developing before …

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Is Luka Doncic Really an All-Star Candidate?

Dallas Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic is currently second in the fan vote, behind only LeBron James, for the Western Conference All-Star starting forwards. Lukamania has seized the nation, as he has seized the mantle from Goran Dragic as America’s Best Slovenian. But what do NBA fans know? These are the same dingbats who have Derrick Rose second among guards in the same balloting. At least Dwyane Wade‘s vote total in the East is understandable given a lot of fans don’t care about his stats, they just want to see a Farewell Tour stop that involves sharing a court (albeit as …

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Nikola Vucevic: Is He Any Good?

This week, we’re taking a look at Nikola Vucevic, a guy who’s getting some All-Star buzz in the East even as he flies under the radar as the center of an Orlando Magic team firmly planted in that Mediocrity Hell between the Easy First-Round Outs (Miami, Brooklyn, and Charlotte, of whom only the Heat are even so much as at .500; the other two squads are below it through games of January 10) and the Panzer Battalion that is the Hawks, Bulls, Knicks, and Cavaliers. The Magic are in 10th place in the East, 2.5 games out of eighth place …

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