Today we continue our look at the players waived or, occasionally, kept by NBA teams as the regular season begins. Next up we move into the middle of the country, or as I like to call it, "America's already-bloated snackhole." (I can say that because I live there.) That's right, it's the Central and Southwest Divisions. (Except that I was looking at the wrong division list when I wrote this and it's actually the Northwest Division. Deal with it, America.) And if you're just tuning in, don't forget to check out part 1.
Who got kept: Derrick Byars
Forget Stinson and Hill, this really came down to Byars vs. Richard for the last roster spot. And with all due respect to Richard, they made the right call. Richard played okay, although he averaged less than seven points per 36 minutes, and given that the team that already sports Joakim Noah in the frontcourt they really probably can't handle yet another guy who can't produce on offense. Not that Richard unequivocally can't, he just didn't demonstrate that sort of ability in the preseason, which is when he needed to demonstrate it. Byars helps the team in case Deng gets hurt again, or if John Salmons starts creaking (he turns 30 later this year). I won't discuss Byars in great detail here, because you can read this. It probably makes up for the Bulls cutting DeMarcus Nelson, maybe. Stinson and Hill are both probably headed to Europe, though I could see Stinson sticking around the D-League.
Who got kept: Coby Karl
See Marge? These guys get it. Karl actually didn't play particularly well in the preseason, but he had a pretty good Summer League with Denver, and he's definitely talented. He's a nice multi-faceted player who can shoot (and make) threes, help distribute the ball, pick up some steals and rebound a little bit. So in other words he's exactly the right kind of guard for Cleveland. He's also worked damn hard, and he deserves another shot at the NBA. It never feels good to get cut (I'm assuming), but it's probably especially hard for Rob Kurz, who was starting for the Warriors just last season. He'd definitely be a prime call-up candidate should he go to the D-League, as he's a 6'9" guy who can make threes, although he could stand to pick up his rebounding and defense. He also profiles well as a Euroleague guy, so he could end up there. Russell Robinson also could pick either option. He played pretty poorly both in Summer League and the preseason, with turnovers being the major problem. Another stint in the D-League could help that, as he averaged just two and a half per 36 minutes for Reno last season. I'll mention again that I haven't been including Jawad Williams in this discussion because he was signed at the end of last season and has a partially-guaranteed deal, so while he theoretically could be waived later on, the team has been somewhat more committed to him than these other guys. I'm somewhat optimistic about Williams's playing time, since at this point he's more capable than J.J. Hickson or Darnell Jackson, but Leon Powe and maybe Jamario Moon are around to take most of the backup forward minutes.
Who got kept: Joey Graham
Massive disappointment here, although there's nothing personal against Graham. There was just so much hope that this would be White's year in Houston, then the team decided it wouldn't be, then Denver decided it wouldn't be his year for them, either. Looby getting cut isn't a huge surprise, as he's still carpaccio-raw. But, White getting the boot on top of Sonny Weems being sent away is enough to make one question Denver's commitment to
Sparkle Motion the D-League. That would be rash, of course, and unfair to Denver who is clearly trying to win soon. Graham's per-36 numbers are almost identical to White's NBA figures, but I guess there's still too much uncertainty over what White can do when there really shouldn't be. He's headed over to Europe now, I assume, since he's said he's done with the D-League, and who can blame him. If an NBA team says they're committed to your development, then semi-promptly gets rid of you, that would be disheartening for anyone.
Who got cut: Maceo Baston
Who got kept: No one.
Sorry, Maceo. Have fun at your House Party. (Admit it, that's not the clip you were expecting.) (Also, note to self: when you get older, shave your head but leave the sideburns and add a mustache.) But hey, here's a crazy idea; the Pistons also waived their second round pick Deron Washington, who's a 6'7" small forward. James White is a 6'7" small forward. WHAT IF THEY'RE ABOUT TO SIGN JAMES WHITE? They're probably not, but they should be. While Austin Daye looked really, really good in Summer League, and Jonas Jerebko could be pretty good, it seems a bit crazy to rely on three rookies (remember DaJuan Summers) as key bench contributors, rebuilding or no rebuilding. And while James White doesn't have that much more NBA experience, he's been around for a few years and he can contribute. Come on, Joe Dumars. LET'S DO THIS.
Who got kept: No one.
Rod Benson is probably going back to Europe this year, even though he didn't have the best experience there last season (although being injured didn't help). I'd guess Nichols goes the same route, and both of them are good enough to play in the NBA right now. (Roberts is already over there.) As for the biggest question, whether we'll seee a return of Boom Tho-ness, I have no idea. Personally I wouldn't expect too much except maybe a continuation of his posts over at Ball Don't Lie. If this website were FreeDarko I'd probably launch into a discussion about whether this year's return to (or first crack at) seriousness for Benson and Gilbert Arenas reflects some kind of "down to business" vibe given off by the Obama Administration, but I have neither the time nor the ability to get into that right now. Or who knows, maybe Benson could write a book that would probably be better than Paul Shirley's (which I haven't read, but Benson's a better writer than Shirley so it's pretty much a lock.)
Who got kept: No one.
This was bound to happen eventually, but I don't really have much to say about these guys. Hubbard could do with another season or two in the D-League and work on either a.) becoming a proper interior player, or b.) shooting better than .256 on his three-pointers. Because this in-between thing isn't working. Gaines played well for Austin last season, averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds per 36 minutes, and shot a good percentage with Maccabi Tel Aviv. I'd like to see him in the D-League again this season, but I'm not sure he's close enough to a call-up to make it worth his time. Let's see, what else can I talk about with these guys...uh hey, I think Ersan Ilyasova can be pretty good, but that's not really under the purview of this series. Three or four players likely going over to Europe. Whee.
Who got kept: Jason Hart
I don't have much to say about Jason Hart since he's 31 years old now and last played in the D-League eight years ago. This is probably a stale comment by now, and the team waived Antonio Daniels so they haven't gone completely crazy, but what's the deal with Minnesota and point guards? Who are these people? Who are the ad wizards that came up with this one? I've already written about this, but whatever NBA team ends up with McClinton (and there will be one, eventually) is going to love having him, and kick themselves for not having him earlier. Reiner got a raw deal by getting cut right before the game in his hometown, sure. But Nate Jawai is in Minnesota now, and that's something, right? It's at least as much a something as Oleksiy Pecherov being there, certainly.
Who got kept: Ryan Bowen
I saw Kelley play a little bit, and he looked pretty good. He's very quick, and he can get to the basket. Of course, he was being guarded by Curtis Jerrells at that point so take it with a grain of bacon salt. He's almost certainly headed to Europe. Michael Ruffin, eh. I have a sort of personal animus against him through no fault of his, since Eddie Jordan overused him when they were both with the Washington Wizards, but he's already landed on his feet overseas. The question of what Bowen can give the team at this point in his career is a good one, as he's 34 years old and has been pretty inconsistent the last few seasons. I just have to keep telling myself that the Thunder still have D.J. White and Serge Ibaka, and be content with that.
Who got kept: No one.
I wonder what will happen to Udoka, as he's probably still good enough to contribute at the back of someone's rotation, but he's also 32 years old and most of the teams that would be interested in him are already full up. He's a solid candidate for a mid-season replacement in case some small forward somewhere gets hurt. He can shoot the three a bit, his rebounding has improved the past few years and he doesn't turn the ball over much.
What, you want me to talk about Jarron Collins?
Who got kept: No one.
Wes Matthews and draft pick Goran Suton aren't really included in this, but in the interest of full disclosure Matthews is in and Suton is out. Suton would be a solid big man in the D-League should he decide to go that route. You're probably expecting me to express disappointment at Dupree being waived, but the fact is that he didn't play well in the preseason. At all. Well, I suppose that's not completely true as he averaged about ten points per 36 minutes, but he's capable of much more than that, and he didn't really contribute much in the way of rebounds, assists or steals. He's really only had one good game, though, against the Clippers when he shot 4-7 from the field and 3-4 from the free throw line, and in the rest he shot 5-13 overall. I'd like to see him in the D-League again this year, and maybe if he plays his normal solid, slashing game he'll restore some of his call-up-ability.