Monday, February 8, 2010

We All Did What We Could Do

Last year, we identified several role players (by which I mean, roughly, players who have less than a 10% chance of ever making an All-Star team) who have stayed with one team for six seasons or more.

Surprisingly, not much has changed since then: while a handful of teams parted ways with their yeomen (Etan Thomas, now of the Twin Cities), several other mainstays made it to one additional season (Sam Dalembert, Brendan Haywood, Erick Dampier, Dan Gadzuric, Nick Collison, Jeff Foster, Luke Walton). Notably, the above list includes almost entirely big men. Clearly, we should infer that skilled, coachable tall guys are difficult to find. (For purposes of this post, I am counting the current season as already complete, so a guy drafted in 2004 has already completed six seasons with his team, and thus could make it aboard this list.) Let us examine the latest cohort of Hard-Workin' Studs, who have now stayed with a single squad for six. Some of these guys belonged on my 2009 list, as they've been on their team since fall 2003, but I neglected to extol them then.

ANDERSON VAREJAO (Cleveland 2004-present) Derided for his floppy hair and floppy defense, Varejao actually has become the second most-valuable player on the Cavaliers, the Scottie to LBJ's Jordan. He plays energetic defense and always knows how to help a teammate when needed. On offense, he sets very sturdy screens and scraps well for rebounds. He is not yet much of a shooter, but most of his teammates take care of that burden.

NENE HILARIO (Denver 2002-present)
Nene's first few seasons in the league were beset by calamities: a torn ACL on the first day of the 2005-06 season, and later, a thumb injury and a cancer diagnosis in 2007-08. Lately, though, he has been playing quite robustly, earning some informal All-Star nominations. He helped to lead his team to the Western Conference Finals last May and might do it again this year. I still maintain that he belongs on this list, as his chances of ever making the Western conference All-Star team are low in a competition against Andrew Bynum, Greg Oden, Amare Stoudemire, Chris Kaman and both Gasol brothers. It is likely that we have seen the best Nene can offer.

KIRK HINRICH (Chicago 2003-present)
Hinrich was a serviceable point guard until the Bulls fortuitously received the top pick of the 2008 draft, wherein Derrick Rose presented himself for plucking. Hinrich plays good defense for a 6'3" guard and is often called "tough", which I think is code for "dirty". He is not a great NBA point guard, though, as his passing, shooting, and handling skills are not at the level of the PG greats. His shooting percentage this season has fallen to a horrible 38%. Recently, rumors have surfaced that Hinrich could be traded to the Lakers or Celtics; he would certainly be a wonderful addition as a sixth man on those two contenders, while the Bulls might be happy to be freed of his $9 MM salary obligation in 2010-11.

TRAVIS OUTLAW (Portland 2003-present)
Outlaw never has fulfilled the promise suggested by his auspicious membership in the '03 draft class, which has heretofore produced eight All-Stars. The guy can run the floor like a U. Bolt and energize the Rose Garden crowd, but unfortunately Portland coach Nate Macmillan believes in a slow game. Sadly, just as soon as fast-breaking PG Andre Miller joined the team this past fall, Outlaw's dream of ooping till Tuesday was slain. In this, his seventh season, he has spent the majority of the stretch healing a broken foot (the same injury that felled his fellow 3, Martell Webster, last season). Talk is that Portland may want to trade him in the next few days, as his contract expires in June and he would likely not be re-signed.

LEANDRO BARBOSA (Phoenix 2003-present)
Barbosa and Amare Stoudemire are the longest-tenured Phoenix players, the latter now in his eighth Sunny year and the former in his seventh. During the Suns' days atop the Western conference from 2004 to 2007, Barbosa won a Sixth Man of the Year award and looked like a future star. Of late his performance has regressed, though; his 2009-10 stats are depressed in nearly every category. On the court, his famed speed no longer looks lapine. Barbosa has figured in many recent trade rumors involving Phoenix, as it would be impossible to posit him as a core member of the team going forward.

WILLIE GREEN (Philly 2003-present)
Green is now in his seventh season with the Sixers. He seemingly peaked in 2007-08, averaging approximately 12, 2, and 2. This season he averages 9, 2, and 2 in five fewer minutes, suggesting that perhaps there is a ceiling to his willingness to exert non-shooting effort. Many players would be giddy to turn in a 12-point best, but that seems paltry for a $4 million man. Philadelphia has not had a proper shooting guard since Aaron McKie in 2001, and it has been surprising that Green could not make it as their new 2. It's been even more surprising that the Sixers have kept the man so long.

JASON TERRY (Dallas 2004-present)
Terry won Sixth Man of the Year in 2009, a nearly impossible feat as a third point guard (or, perhaps, a 6'2" shooting guard). Clearly, Dirk Nowitzki likes playing with Terry, who previously logged five seasons with the Hawks — a tenure that saw them miss the playoffs every season. Terry is a likeable player and a prolific scorer: perhaps the best man on this list. Like current Hawk Jamal Crawford, Terry has successfully escaped the fate of a Marbury, Francis, or Iverson, all tagged as short guards with little discipline.

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