Wednesday, October 17th, 2012...3:58 AM

Top 10 Players on The Hot Seat this NBA Season

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10. Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets: 14.6 PPG, 6.2 APG in 2011-12 (with Knicks)

What better way to kick off this list then with Mr. Lin-sanity himself.  Last season Jeremy Lin made a name for himself by winning six straight games as a starter for the  struggling Knicks and brought major excitement to New York.  Lin handled all the media madness and big-city fame like a true professional.  I guess a degree from Harvard has it’s perks in other aspects of life aside from the Hardwood.  There is no doubting this young man’s heart and passion for the game because he is truly a class act and an inspiration to young ball players all over the world, yes the world.  However, Jeremy Lin earned his way to the hot-seat because his new 4-year 28 million dollar contract is a tad hefty for a point guard who only started 25 games last year.   There’s no denying Lin’s skill set and potential but it also helps having Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler in your lineup.  It seems that the expectations for Lin in Houston may be a little more than he can handle, but then again I’m sure this guy has been thriving off of Ney-sayers and doubters all his life.  You’re on the Hot Seat Jeremy Lin.  You either will, or won’t be worth the price tag.


9 .  Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks: 18.8 PPG, 9.6 RPG in 2011-12

If you were to ask me eight years ago if I thought Josh Smith would emerge as an All-Star and franchise player for the Atlanta Hawks, there’s no way I would’ve taken that question seriously.  Luckily for Smith, he’s aged like fine wine.  He came into the league as an immature one-dimensional player who’s only ambition was to see how often he could make sportscenter’s top 10 plays.  Eight years and five straight playoff appearances later, Smith has evolved into an exceptional NBA star with career highs in points and rebounds per game last season.  In order for Josh Smith to prove that he belongs in the “elite” category, he has to prove he can still produce and lead his Hawks to the postseason without the help of long-time teammate Joe Johnson who signed with the Brooklyn Nets this summer.  Basically by default, Smith is now forced to take on the role of the Hawks primary go-to-guy, floor general, and defensive leader for his squad. It is Smith’s responsibility to be the man that his teammates can count on.  This means he’ll be the guy taking the last shot (previously held by Johnson) and making everyone around him better.  You’re on the Hot Seat Josh Smith.  You can either be the man, or Atlanta will quickly be missing your buddy Joe Johnson.


8.  Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers: 20.7 PPG, 10.9 RPG in 2011-12

Any names like Superman, Freak, Human-Highlight, or High-Riser would suite Blake Griffin for his style of play.  After sitting out his rookie year, Blake Griffin took the NBA by storm from the second he stepped on the floor.  He immediately amused fans with his dazzling dunks and in-human like athleticism.  Kendrick Perkins and Pau Gasol will forever be remembered in infamy as victims of Griffin’s earth-shattering dunks.  There’s no debate that Blake Griffin has already earned a respected name for himself as one of the top power forwards in the game but will this dunk show last forever?  It will only be a matter of time until teams start to figure out that the only way Griffin can put the ball in the basket is from inside 5 feet.  In only his second year, teams have already played the “Hack-a-Blake” game and who can blame them?  Griffin shot a miserable 52 percent from the line last year and 59 percent for his career.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that Blake’s future is doomed because there are plenty of guys like him who came into the league as high-flyers and have evolved into well-rounded players.  Such as previously listed Josh Smith, Rudy Gay, Dwayne Wade, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, and some guy named Jordan.  So Blake Griffin’s task isn’t impossible but a lot more fail than succeed.  You’re on the Hot Seat Blake Griffin.  Evolve or dissolve.


7.  John Wall, Washington Wizards: 16.3 PPG, 8.0 APG in 2011-12

Nobody ever second guessed Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld when he took John Wall number one overall in the 2010 NBA Draft.  Wall was the obvious choice, everyone in Washington and the NBA knew it.  The Wizards felt their future was in good hands with Wall running the show and expected him to help reverse their losing record.  After two seasons John Wall has racked up 2,207 points, 1,104 assists, and 216 steals.  Pretty impressive stat line huh?  What Washington probably didn’t expect was he also turned the ball over 516 times, hit only 37 threes, and won just 43 games in two seasons.  Fortunately for Wall at 22 years old, time is on his side.  Being a Washington sports fan myself, losing is nothing unusual so I think he’ll be forgiven for his first two seasons.  However, with the additions of Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza, and 3rd overall pick Bradley Beal, I’m not so sure just how tolerant Wizards fans will be with another “rebuilding” season.  If in fact that is the case and the Wizards don’t win, fingers won’t be pointed at the coaching staff anymore, they’ll be pointed right at their so called “future” in John Wall.  You’re on the Hot Seat John Wall.  Either start racking up W’s, or start packing up your bags.


6.  LeBron James, Miami Heat: 27.1 PPG, 6.2 APG, 7.9 RPG in 2011-12

C’mon!  You really thought that after a championship, regular season/finals MVP, and Olympic gold medal I would exclude LeBron James from this list? Think again.  We all know Lebron overcame his playoffs/finals fears and finally took home the hardware but I think we’re forgetting the big picture.  This is the guy who’s drawing comparisons to not only the 5-ringed Kobe Bryant, but the 6-ringed Michael Jordan.  Lebron made this list at number six because that’s how many championships he has left to win until he can stand alone has the greatest of all time.  Not to mention that ridiculous championship rant during his Miami welcoming show, “Not one! Not two! Not three! Not four! Not five! Not Six!” but seven, yeah he went there.  LeBron pretty much shot himself in the foot by guaranteeing seven championships which coincidentally happens to be one more ring than his predecessor Michael Jordan.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people who enjoy ragging on LeBron James for little to no reason at all.  He’s without a doubt the best player, not just basketball player, but PLAYER I’ve seen play any sport in my lifetime.  I have no reason to say he won’t eventually fulfill his “guarantee” and be crowned the best to play the game when it’s all said and done but only time will tell.  You’re on the Hot Seat LeBron James, and will remain there until you live up to your own hype.  One down, six to go.


5.  Andrew Bynum, Philadelphia 76ers: 18.9 PPG, 11.8 RPG in 2011-12 (with Lakers)

Unfortunately for Andrew Bynum, instead of being rewarded for a long awaited breakout season with L.A. he was shipped to Philly because Dwight Howard finally decided to drop the diva act and leave Orlando.  While Howard is living it up and hanging out with movie stars in Los Angeles, Bynum is facing the bittersweet reality that he’s playing ball back home but knows another ring will probably have to wait another year…or ten.  Andrew Bynum was far and away the most improved post player in the NBA last year and showed that he can be relied on to get it done in the paint.  Achieving career highs in both scoring and rebounding, Bynum cashed in as he was named an All-Star Starter as well as earning 2nd team All-NBA honors.  With a new coach, team, and time-zone Bynum is expected to carry the load for Philadelphia and lead them back to the playoffs for years to come.  The only issue with that is Bynum came from a team anchored by Kobe Bryant with the help of Pau Gasol.  Therefore Bynum is unfamiliar with the franchise role that he’s expected to fill in Philadelphia.  You’re on the Hot Seat Andrew Bynum.  You win, you’re the hometown hero.  You lose, and Jerry West (Lakers owner) has just become a guru.


4.  Dwayne Wade, Miami Heat: 22.8 PPG, 4.6 APG, 4.8 RPG in 2011-12

Once upon a time Dwayne Wade was known as “Flash” and was thought to be in the conversation as one of the top 3 fastest players in the league.  Now fast forward to 2012, not so flashy anymore is he.  Six years and two knee surgeries since his 2006 NBA title run and finals MVP performance, D-Wade has certified himself as Lebron’s right hand man or side-kick if you will.  After averaging 25.5 points per game in his first season aside LeBron James, Wade’s totals dropped in every category as he battled numerous injuries all season. Once the knees gave out, so did that electric first step he once perfected.  I’m sure the Heat aren’t complaining about Wade’s performance in the NBA playoffs and the NBA finals of course, but I bet they’re well aware that all it takes is one little tweak in those knees of his to put him right back on the sideline.  Like all of D-Wade’s supporters I would love to see him overcome his health issues and renew his career as a top ten player again.  But if injuries keep “flash” on the sideline for too many games, Pat Riley may look at him more as a liability rather than an asset.  Riley is well aware that the sports industry is for business and not friendship, just ask Peyton Manning.  You’re on the Hot Seat Dwayne Wade.  The more you sit, the easier you’ll make it for Pat to make a “business” decision when your contract expires.


3.  Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks:  22.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG in 2011-12

After crying, begging, pleading, and tweeting, Carmelo Anthony’s wish was granted to be traded from Denver to New York.  Since Melo joined the Knicks, he’s averaged 24.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.5 turnovers, and has a winning percentage of 52.4%.  In Anthony’s seven and a half years with the Nuggets he averaged 24.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 3.0 turnovers with a winning percentage of 59.2%.  I’ll bet Melo feels pretty smart now for getting out of that apparently unbearable situation in Denver where he lead his Nuggets to eight playoff appearances in all of his eight seasons.  The truth is there’s no turning back now.  Carmelo Anthony dug himself into this hole and it’s up to him to dig himself out.  By the looks of the Knicks key pieces (Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, J.R. Smith) they seem to be built for playoff success.  After being swept by Boston in 2011 and steamrolled by Miami in 2012, Melo has to be on the brink of a breakout year or he will start to wonder why he ever left that “horrible” situation in Denver.  You’re on the Hot Seat Carmelo Anthony.  I know you aren’t laughing, but George Karl and the Nuggets organization might be.


2.  Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers: 20.6 PPG, 14.5 RPG in 2011-12 (with Magic)

Superman has landed in Hollywood!  Shocker Right?  Not.  Why it took what seemed like a decade for Dwight Howard to pack his bags and sign with the Lakers was one of the most frustrating stories to follow.  The way he handled his departure from the Orlando Magic was downright childish and annoying.  Nobody knew for certain that Howard would end up in L.A. but I’ll bet even the Kardashians knew he wasn’t singing long term with Orlando.  Dwight is showing all sorts of signs that he’s destined to follow in the footsteps of all the great Lakers big men that played before him.  However I can guarantee you Shaquille O’Neal didn’t appreciate the way Howard disrespected his former Orlando team.   That very well may have provoked the statement Shaq made about Dwight being the “3rd best” Center in the league behind Brook Lopez and Andrew Bynum.  I don’t see any harm in Shaq attacking Howard because hopefully he’ll take it as motivation to stop acting like a diva and help Kobe win his 6th ring.  Deep down I’m sure Shaq knows that Dwight will eventually be the centerpiece for this historic Lakers franchise because let’s be honest, Howard is the most dominant big man in the game right now.  Dwight should slide right into stardom in Hollywood and reach the finals very quickly.  But if he doesn’t, it might be as big of a deal as LeBron losing to Dallas in the 2011 finals.  Yeah Dwight, you’re on the Hot Seat.  Shaq should be enough motivation.


1.  Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls:  21.8 PPG, 7.9 APG in 2011-12

Ever heard the expression, “You never truly appreciate something until it’s gone”?  Peyton Manning and Derrick Rose are two perfect examples of what the true definition of a “Most Valuable Player” is.  Rose proved just how much he means to his Bulls team by not even being on the court, which resulted in their early defeat to the eighth seeded Philadelphia 76ers in last years playoffs.  Although Chicago managed to earn the top seed in the eastern conference with Rose sitting out about half of the season, they were without their leader when he was needed most.  Losing four straight games to Miami in the 2011 eastern conference finals definitely left a bitter taste in Rose’s mouth.  Then watching his team helplessly from the sideline as they fell to the last seeded 76ers surely didn’t wash that taste out.  Rose knows his road to recovery will be long and agonizing, but I’m sure he feels as if he owes it to his hometown of Chicago that there is lost time to make up for.  So the question remains will Derrick Rose ever be the same MVP type player we all remember?  Or will his health continue to weigh on him throughout his career?  All we can do, and all his loyal hometown fans can do is wait.  As guilty as I feel for placing Rose at number one on this list, he’s got to be the biggest question mark in a lot of people’s minds heading into this upcoming season.  Sorry Derrick Rose, you’re on the Hot Seat.  Godspeed.


By: Matt Stevens

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