The Chicago Bulls Derrick Rose is averaging 24.4 points and 8.1 assists per game. Photo by Jeff Lewis Derrick Rose has supplanted Kevin Durant as MVP favorite; there are only six elite teams in the league--and super early NBA Draft Lottery talk.By Michael Brown, Sentinel Sports Writer Mid-season MVP leader Coming into the 2010-11 NBA campaign, the majority of fans and pundits figured Oklahoma City’s prolific young scorer Kevin Durant was a cinch to win the coveted Most Valuable Player Award, but a certain 22-year-old point guard in Chicago is threatening that assumption.It’s no secret, if you have watched the Bull’s Derrick Rose develop since entering the league after playing one-year at Memphis, you know how special he is.Rose came into the NBA and was probably already the quickest point guard (apologies to Rajon Rondo) from one end of the floor to the other. Rose attacked the basket at-will, displayed an above average court vision, and willed Chicago to the playoffs during his 2009 Rookie of the Year season.Monday night, during a 96-84 Bulls win at Memphis, Rose posted his first career triple-double finishing with 22 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.The Bulls were missing starting forward Carlos Boozer, but that didn’t deter Rose from creating havoc for the Grizzlies’ guards. Rose averages 24.5 points per game, 8.1 assists and 4.7 rebounds and has led the Bulls to a 28-13 record going into the Jan. 19 home game against Charlotte. Rose’s MVP bid can only be derailed if the Bulls falter and Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder surge in the second half or if LeBron James leads Miami to 60-plus wins.Why they aren’t elite The words “great team” is thrown around in sports way too loosely these days and the NBA isn’t an exception.In the now instantaneous world of sports media where a team or a player’s last performance becomes the focal point, many tend to react in a knee-jerk fashion and anoint a particular win or standout individual performance as the next coming.At different times this season, teams such as the Utah Jazz, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks have all fallen into this category.However, upon closer look--in the West, there are the Lakers and Spurs and everybody else. And in the East, Boston, Orlando, Chicago and Miami are the torch bearers--while the rest are just playing out the season.While even the six elite teams I named have flaws, theirs aren’t as numerous as the rest of the league. And all of the elite teams I mentioned have exceptional game-changing players unlike the rest.True, Utah may have Deron Williams, an all-star point guard, but who has confidence that an under sized front court featuring Al Jefferson, Mehmet Okur and Paul Millsap can bang with the Lakers and Spurs big men in a seven-game series?If you said “no one,” you would be correct.The Lakers’ Monday night win against Oklahoma City exposed the Thunder for what they are: a high-flying fun team to watch, but a squad that has zero chance of being a threat to win the Western Conference.The Thunder’s leading rebounded is six-foot-nine Serge Ibaka with 6.7 per game, and other than Durant and Russell Westbrook, they don’t feature any consistent scorers.The Mavericks are another case of a not-so-elite team. They’re an exception due to being recently ravaged by injuries. Dirk Nowitski returned two games ago, but Dallas lost both--and is in the midst of a six-game losing streak.Dallas lost forward Caron Butler for the year and center Tyson Chandler has recently missed games because of an illness, the team reported.The Knicks’ resurgence is a nice story, but they’ve been placed on a pedestal that hasn’t been earned. After the Knicks had a productive December, there was speculation that they could possibly do some damage in the Eastern Conference playoffs.However, since the calendar flipped to a new year--New York is 4-4. They’re better than a .500 team but not that much better. The Knicks are closer to Atlanta and Milwaukee than they are to teams such as Boston and Miami.NBA Draft Lottery: A look way ahead
Since LeBron James took his talents to South Beach, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been awful, with a NBA worse 8-32 record. The Lakers recently defeated the Cavs by 55 points. James was all that team ever had, which was why he needed to leave. Photo by Jason LewisAfter watching the Lakers dismantle the Cavaliers by 55 points Jan. 11, and seeing Cleveland compile an 8-32 record since LeBron James decided to take his talents elsewhere--there’s still hope.Hope, not for this season of course. Cleveland as a basketball team and franchise are as dead as can be, but with every loss--they are more likely to be No. 1 in something: the lottery.With other bottom dwellers like New Jersey, Philadelphia and Sacramento, the Cavaliers could help themselves if they scour the college basketball landscape and draft a difference maker.Truth be told, with all of the one-and-done players gone--there’s not much left. However, a few players have caught my eye who I think can help an NBA franchise next year.If I was a NBA G.M. Ohio State freshman forward Jared Sullinger would be my No. 1 pick. He averages 17.5 points per game, grabs 10 rebounds and plays stout defense at six-foot-nine, 280 pounds. He reminds me of Elton Brand before the injuries.Kentucky freshmen duo, forward Terrence Jones and point guard Brandon Knight lead the Wildcats in scoring with 19 and 18 points, respectively. Jones is a physical four who can also shoot from outside and Knight is listed as a point guard, but will likely be a two at the next level.Duke’s Kyrie Irving and Kansas’ Josh Selby are the only two pure point guards I’ve seen that have a shot at making an impact in the NBA.Kawhi Leonard (Riverside King H.S.) of San Diego State, Jordan Hamilton (Compton Dominguez) of Texas and Derrick Williams (La Mirada H.S.) of Arizona are West Coast players projected to be selected in the lottery.
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