We’re approaching the beginning of training camp, so what better time to do a mailbag to begin to get us ready for the new season? Here are some interesting questions sent in by readers, and hopefully some satisfying answers.
Will Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade be a top-15 backcourt? — B. Márton (@BodMarton)
As you may or may not know, I’m not a big fan of Rondo. He’s a better shooter than he’s ever been, but he’s still erratic. Instead of making the pass to initiate an offensive set, he always looks to make assist passes. Moreover, he has sticky fingers, and rather than attempting to play solid defense, Rondo makes risky attempts at steals. That’s why his overall defense stinks.
At 34, Wade’s best years are history, but he can still be a streaky scorer when running isos on the left side. He used to be a terrific clutch-man, but while he can still carry a team in spurts when he’s hot, Wade lacks the endurance to be a reliable scoring threat in the endgame — unless, that is, his playing time has been carefully rationed. As ever, his three-point shooting is poor. In truth, he’d be more impactful coming off the bench.
Anyway, according to my reckoning the following teams have better guards:
Boston — Bradley & Thomas
Charlotte — Walker & Batum
Cleveland — Irving & Smith
Golden State — Curry & Thompson
Houston — Harden & Beverley
Indiana — Teague & Ellis
LA Clippers — Paul & Redick
Memphis — Conley & Allen
New York — Rose & Lee
Oklahoma City — Westbrook & Oladipo
Portland — Lillard & McCollum
San Antonio — Parker/Mills & Green
Toronto — Lowry & DeRozan
Utah — Hill & Hayward
That makes Chicago’s backcourt the 16th best out of 30 teams. The very definition of mediocrity.
Who will finish with a better record, the Knicks or the Bulls? — M. Martin (@4Martin22)
It will be close, but I think the Knicks because Kristaps Porzingis gives them a big edge in front-line scoring. Also, whereas Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott are Chicago’s only reliable three-point shooters, New York has a host of dangerous long-range bombers in Porzingis, Carmelo Anthony, Courtney Lee, Lance Thomas, Sasha Vujacic, Justin Holiday and Brandon Jennings.
The focus of the Bulls’ offense will necessarily have to be on Wade and Butler going one-on-one. Even with the addition of the oft-injured Wade, Chicago will still have trouble scoring.
Can the Wolves become a league-average defense in Year 1 under Tom Thibodeau? — C. Cove (@CorysAlterEgo)
It’s highly doubtful since there are no legitimate stoppers on the roster. That’s why last season, only Philadelphia, Sacramento, Houston, New Orleans, Phoenix and the Los Angeles Lakers yielded more points per game. For sure, Minnesota’s defense will indeed improve next season under Thibodeau’s guidance and insistence. However, this improvement will only result from precision teamwork — something that takes quite awhile to develop.
Give Thibodeau another year to get his kind of players.
Who’s a player we’ve given up on who will be a later bloomer? — J. Bikshorn (@OldManBikshorn)
I nominate Cleanthony Early.
He was the 34th player chosen in the 2014 draft, but suffered many setbacks during his subsequent two seasons with the Knicks. Various pulled muscles, and even getting shot in the knee during a holdup were reasons why Early missed 108 games during that time.
However, he’s an incredible athlete and an all-around nice guy. In his three-game stint in the D-League during the 2014-15 season, he averaged 20.3 points and 9.7 rebounds. Plus, he put up 18 points against the Clippers on March 25, 2015.
The guy can shoot, run, elevate, drive, handle and even play better-than-average defense. But his injuries have deprived him of any continuity in his development. In all respects, he’s still a rookie.
The only other serious flaw in his makeup is his work ethic. Early has to understand the kind of diligence, focus and passion it takes to carve out a sustainable career as a professional athlete.
So, he might wind up playing in the D-League or overseas, but later rather than sooner, Early will get his game and his health together and realize the potential he has to become a useful NBA performer.
Here’s hoping he does.
If you would like to have a question answered in a future mailbag, tweet @TodaysFastbreak or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.