Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Stand out West Coasters

Here’s a look at some of the West’s most outstanding players that haven’t gotten much pub.

John Salmons
Dude has been great when given the opportunity. He’s shooting 48.7 percent, posting 18 points while dishing out 4 dimes and reeling in 4 boards. He came up huge against Phoenix and even bigger against San Antonio, but the Kings ended up losing those two contests each by 2 points. If not for a fourth quarter collapse against Phoenix and several botched opportunities against the Spurs, the Kings would be looking at a 6-1 win streak.

O.J. Mayo
Too bad nobody else (okay, save you Marc Gasol) can shoot the rock worth a damn on the Grizzlies in the early going. If Rudy Gay were shooting anywhere near his career norms, this team would have at least 2 more wins. The Grizz lost by 5 against the Kings, Phoenix, and Milwaukee. In those games, Gay has shot 40 percent, with a .235 percent against Denver where the team lost by 10. In those same games, Mayo is shooting 50 percent. As it stands, for the month of November, Mayo has been filling up the stat sheet, shooting 48 percent, with 23 ppg, 2.6 apg, 4.4 rpg, and 1.3 spg. Add to that deadeye marksmanship from beyond the arc (45%), and he’s hands down been the West’s best rook, and is neck and neck with Derrick Rose for the league’s best.

Rudy Fernandez
Unless of course you consider this guy’s efficiency. Sporting a rookie high 21 PER, Mr. Fernandez has been stellar. He’s hit 45 percent of his shots and his 3s and is shooting 94 percent from the line. Throw in a steal, 2 assists and 3 boards, and he’s the perfect game changer for the Blazers off the bench. Plus, he's so much fun to watch.

Roger Mason
Nobody expected Parker to join Ginobili on the injured reserve, but Roger Mason has stepped up to the challenge of trying to replace them. Shooting a blistering 47 percent from beyond the arc, the journeyman guard has given the Spurs some much needed perimeter scoring and ballhandling. He hit the game winner against the Clippers last night and is looking for his shot. And when his shot hasn’t been falling, he’s found other ways to contribute. Didn't give this guy much love when the Spurs signed him, thought it was appropriate to give credit where credit is due. Another solid signing by San Antonio.

Andris Biedrins
My man. Yup. Dude has been transcendent and a big reason the Warriors aren’t a laughingstock. The hype is all around undrafted rook Anthony Morrow right now (37 and 11 will do that) and the money’s being thrown at Stephen Jackson ($28 million), but the leader of this team in terms of playing ability has been AB. Leading the league in rebounds (15 per) and remaining in the top 20 in FG percentage (53) while boosting his atrocious free throw percentage north of 60 has resulted in a career year for the Latvian. Can’t mess with 17 ppg, 15 rpg, 2 apg,1.5 bpg and a sparkling 22.10 PER. He’s turned into Dr. Slantedstein’s monster all by his lonesome.

Shaquille O’Neal
The Big Diesel has been playing great. He’s also been pushing Rockets to the floor and leveling Pistons. All the while amassing only fines—no suspensions yet. His 1.27 blocks lead the Suns (that’s actually kind of pathetic) and he’s second on the team in scoring. He’s even averaging 2 dimes. All this while shooting a stellar 59 percent. He’s been a big reason why the Suns sport the West’s second best record. Now if only he could avoid back-to-backs the rest of the season.

Maybe it’s the quality of the opponents (Memphis, Minny, Charlotte, Dallas) that might curb onlookers’ enthusiasm for a 4-1 stretch this past week and a half. But that 9-point win in Boston was impressive no matter how poorly Doc Rivers thinks his team is playing. Credit the addition of Chauncey Billups, but don’t sleep on Mr. Mono-Name. Only taking 9.2 shots per contest is a crime for his production, because, unlike every other starter on his team who is well below the 45 percent mark, Nene is sizzling at 64 percent. He’s also throwing in nearly 2 steals and 2 blocks per contest. The rebounding isn’t great, but the steals and blocks show that he’s making things happen. Key reason, especially with a team in flux, why the Nuggets are looking more and more like playoff material (they just need to add some height and they’ll be set).

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