Welcome to another edition of NBAhawks. Let's get down to it:
Nick Collison was an important complementary piece for the West-best Thunder that looked to push for a NBA Championship rematch with the Miami Heat before a first-round injury to Russell Westbrook dashed those expectations. Nick continued to provide his trademark hard screens and intelligent play, shooting 60% from the field and continuing his +/- dominance (he has been in the top-25 of plus-minus/36 minutes for the past 3 seasons, and was 12th in 2012/13). Oklahoma City's offensive rating increased by four points per 100 possessions when Collison was on the floor, taking OKC from having a top-5 offense to a far-and-away #1 offense, lapping the Heat's #2 offense by two points (it doesn't sound like much, but that's equivalent to the difference between the San Antonio Spurs' and the Toronto Raptors' offenses). Why Collison doesn't have an expanded role for the Thunder, particularly in the playoffs as many of the their best lineups feature Collison over Kendrick Perkins (Collison is present in 9 of the Thunder's 12 most dominant lineups, compared to Perkins' 3), is debated almost nightly by most NBA writers on Twitter, perhaps Scott Brooks has some master plan, but it remains to be seen.
Brandon Rush had a rough year as he tore an ACL in his left knee in the second game of the 2012-13 season, meaning he missed out on the Warriors ascension to a NBA must-watch, and their upset of a 57-win Nuggets team in one of the most fun early series in a long while. In Rush's absence Harrison Barnes, the #7 overall pick, and Klay Thompson, the #11 pick from the year before, played very well, and with the acquisition of a free agent Andre Iguodala Rush was surplus to requirements and was shipped off as part of a salary-shedding deal with $24 million dollars of expiring contracts to the Utah Jazz. The Jazz are a young team with quite a bit of talent even after letting both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap move on via Free Agency. It would appear that if Brandon has fully recovered from his ACL then he will compete for the starting Shooting Guard spot with Alec Burks who some of you may remember playing for the Colorado Buffaloes back when they were a part of our conference. If he loses out on the starting spot I'd imagine he'd find plenty of minutes at backup SG and some minutes at SF in certain rotations. On a personal note, I'm disappointed that I won't be able to watch that Warriors team with a vested interest this upcoming year, but it may actually be a better situation for Rush to get healthy and play more minutes with a young and improving Jazz squad than splitting time with a loaded backcourt for a loaded team that aims to contend this year, especially considering Brandon is in the last year of his deal in 2013-14, I just hope he can stay healthy. The guy seems snakebitten with those knees, hopefully the year following injury of his left will go as well as the season after his right ACL issues.
Another Jayhawk who's had some injury issues over the last couple years, Darrell Arthur looked headed towards a consistent 20+ mpg and spot starts for a good Memphis team before an ACL injury sidelined him for the 2011-12 season. He didn't quite look like the same player this past season as he averaged 6 points and 3 rebounds in 16.4 minutes per game. As is the case with many knee injuries, often the confidence in the knee is the last thing to return, so hopefully Arthur will have a true bounceback year... However, that bounceback won't come in Memphis as the Grizzlies traded Arthur for Kosta Koufos this summer. To be honest with you guys I have no idea what Arthur's role will be in that Nuggets team next year, with all of the turnover in that organization anything could happen with the lineup depending on the system that Head Coach Brian Shaw implements. Considering that the Nuggets traded a relatively valuable piece in Koufos for Arthur I'd assume that they have a specific role in mind for him, but we'll see what happens and whether Darrell can return to form.