Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Deron Williams isn’t living up to his big contract yet? Who else has to show you some more for the money in 2013?
Steve Aschburner: Let’s assume Carlos Boozer is too old an answer here, that JaVale McGee is too early an answer here and that Andrew Bynum is too obvious an answer here. Ersan Ilyasova is too below-the-radar for most folks, and I’m assuming that Rudy Gay soon demonstrates his true value either on the court for Memphis or in a trade package when the Grizzlies face some hard economic reality. So I’m going with New Orleans guard Eric Gordon, a player who has missed 112 of a possible 179 regular-season games over the past two-plus seasons. Gordon was handed a $58 million contract last summer despite his knee problems and has been accorded “franchise guy” treatment by two organizations and a suitor or two. He remains a potential star and, remember, in the NBA staying healthy isn’t just luck, it’s a skill.
Fran Blinebury: Roy Hibbert. After getting his big money, he’s down across the board in points, rebounds, field-goal percentage and even free-throw shooting. He gets a run for his money from Dwight Howard, who for all the noise, the drama and the diva tendencies, has just not played like a guy who will be offered the keys to the Lakers’ franchise. But he’ll get them anyway.
Jeff Caplan: Michael Beasley is tremendously under-performing his contract, but the Suns should have known better. So, hellooooo, Roy Hibbert. With Danny Granger down, Hibbert’s numbers are have taken a hit across the board. He’s not even shooting 40 percent from the field — inexcusable for a traditional big man, after being near 50 percent last season. Maybe expectations were too high simply from Hibbert being offered the max by other teams. The Pacers had to match, but they need more than Hibbert’s bringing.
Scott Howard-Cooper: If you are going strictly on contract, and rightly take Dirk Nowitzki and Andrew Bynum out of the mix because of injury, it’s Pau Gasol. But if this is about regressing in urgent ways, say hello to DeMarcus Cousins. His behavior is worse than before, his play is backsliding, and the Kings are going down with him. Cousins is the most important player on the team. That’s a measure of value beyond salary.
John Schuhmann: Amar’e Stoudemire is too obvious an answer, right? Jeff Green is probably an obvious answer too, but he’s my answer. Green deserves a ton of credit for coming back from heart surgery, but that doesn’t mean he deserved $36 million guaranteed. The Celtics need Green to keep their vets fresh and to keep things from falling apart when they go to the bench, but that hasn’t happened. He’s shooting 41 percent and he’s got the worst per-possession plus-minus in Boston’s rotation. Green has the physical tools to be a great player, but he’s never really been able to put it together. Now would be a good time.
Sekou Smith: If we go around identifying guys who aren’t “living up to their contracts,” the line around headquarters here could get pretty long. Williams isn’t even the highest paid player on the Nets’ roster — that distinguished honor belongs to shooting guard Joe Johnson. But neither member of the Nets’ starting backcourt, easy targets in light of what’s gone on in Brooklyn the past 10 days, can touch Philadelphia’s Andrew Bynum in this category. The former Los Angeles Lakers big man has yet to grace us with his presence this season, due to injury, of course. At least Williams, and Johnson for that matter, are in uniform most every night.