Cohen: Evaluating The Talent

By Josh Cohen
January 10, 2011


After providing a brief breakdown of how each player has performed this season thus far, vote on the grade you think each player deserves.

Grading System:

A - Excellent; Absolutely sensational; Definitely at a first-rate level

B - Pretty good; Generally content with a few exceptions here and there; Still need some improvement if they want to be a significant contributor

C - Somewhat disappointed; Expect more consistency; Hope for improvement as the season progresses







Dwight Howard
Casual NBA observers, especially outside of the central Florida region, may not appreciate all that Dwight Howard delivers on a nightly basis.

Fans from other markets tend to connect Howard exclusively with his power around the rim and intimidating presence due to his massive size.

But Superman, an appropriate nickname for the All-Star, essentially serves as the hero on nearly every possession on both ends of the floor.

Beyond the fact that he is averaging a career high in points this season (21.2) – largely due to his improved touch around the basket – Howard creates havoc for opponents because of how relentless he is and how precise he is with his decision-making.

D12 reads defenses better than ever before, which helps create many open looks for his teammates, and is always there to assist on defense when adversaries attack the hoop.

As of now, Dwight is the NBA’s 2010-11 MVP in my book.

What grade do you give Dwight Howard thus far this season?
What grade do you give Dwight Howard thus far this season?
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Jameer Nelson
After President of Basketball Operations Otis Smith decided to complete two blockbuster trades that included a swap of Rashard Lewis for Gilbert Arenas, some wondered what was in store for Jameer Nelson.

Being that Arenas was a starting point guard for a large percentage of his career, there may have been some belief by outside parties that Nelson would have to prove his value again and show he is the better fit to start games.

Rather than be dispirited by any unwarranted pressure, Nelson just continued to play his game and be the floor general that has clearly rewarded him the role of co-captain.

Jameer is averaging a career-high 6.6 assists per game this season and has been the Magic’s most reliable scorer in the clutch. In addition to his game-winning shots earlier in the year, Nelson awoke a seemingly unresponsive team to tug the Magic past the Celtics on Christmas Day.

Flourishing playing alongside Hedo Turkoglu again, Nelson deserves to be in discussion for an All-Star bid this season.

What grade do you give Jameer Nelson thus far this season?
What grade do you give Jameer Nelson thus far this season?
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Brandon Bass
All he needed was time to learn Stan Van Gundy’s system and space to work and just like that, Brandon Bass developed into one of the most consistent and effective power forwards in the NBA.

Many NBA critics thought the signing of Bass during the summer of 2009 was a brilliant decision. But after last season when the seven-year veteran played in just 50 games, some started to wonder if Bass’ arrival would be short-lived and unproductive.

But through persistent hard work and dedication, Bass has earned a starting role with the Magic and has transformed into a supreme scorer.

Never afraid to shoot over a defender or attack the rim, fans in Orlando, indisputably, have so much confidence when the Louisiana native takes a shot. Bass is shooting a career high 53 percent from the field and is averaging a career best 11.2 points per game.

As long as his tender knee doesn’t hinder his progression, it’s possible that Bass can earn Most Improved Player honors this season.

What grade do you give Brandon Bass thus far this season?
What grade do you give Brandon Bass thus far this season?
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Hedo Turkoglu
Fans in Toronto and Phoenix must be thunderstruck. Fans in Orlando, on the other hand, must be smiling.

After a year and a half of perplexing disappointment with the Raptors and Suns, Hedo Turkoglu has returned to the place (maybe the only place) that he thrives at.

Such a distinctive talent and difficult matchup for opponents, Turk has allowed the Magic to play at a faster tempo because of his exceptional court awareness and effective distribution.

Recently racking up a career-best 17 assists against Dallas -- which was one shy of the franchise record set by Penny Hardaway in 1995 -- Hedo has been easily the most impacting of the four acquisitions in last month’s trades.

One of the leaders on the 2008-09 Magic team that advanced to the NBA Finals, Turkoglu may ultimately prove to be the X-factor on whether Orlando wins the NBA championship or not this season.

What grade do you give Hedo Turkoglu thus far this season?
What grade do you give Hedo Turkoglu thus far this season?
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Jason Richardson
Jason Richardson has always been one of those players that has superstar talent but is more fitted to be a supplementary option. Like he was last season in Phoenix when it advanced to the Western Conference Finals, J-Rich flourishes when there are others helping him set up for open shots.

It took a few games for him to get acclimated and discover his rhythm, but lately J-Rich has been on fire from long distance. In the Magic’s last two games, the former NCAA Champion at Michigan State shot 7-of-11 from 3-point range.

For a team that relies on its outside shooting, it was imperative to add a guy like J-Rich who can shift momentum in a heartbeat with his offensive arsenal.

What grade do you give Jason Richardson thus far this season?
What grade do you give Jason Richardson thus far this season?
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Gilbert Arenas
It remains a mystery how heeled Gilbert Arenas’ knee is. After such a long recovery process during his final years in Washington, it’s possible – despite claims he is completely healthy – that it may take a little more time before Gil’s resurgence begins.

Not nearly as explosive at getting to the basket as he once was, Arenas tends to settle for jump shots when he is looking to score.

But more importantly, the three-time NBA All-Star is doing a tremendous job helping his teammates get high percentage shots up. Along with Hedo Turkoglu, Arenas has helped speed the tempo of the game to create more fast break opportunities.

What grade do you give Gilbert Arenas thus far this season?
What grade do you give Gilbert Arenas thus far this season?
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J.J. Redick
J.J. Redick has become such an integral part to this Magic team that he is often on the floor in crunch time.

Beyond his 3-point shooting ability – which is his trademark – Redick seems to always make great decisions and be willing to take charges and be relentless when defending some of the premier wing players.

What grade do you give J.J. Redick thus far this season?
What grade do you give J.J. Redick thus far this season?
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Ryan Anderson
Perhaps the happiest of everyone involved after the trades, Ryan Anderson has taken advantage of the opportunity to be the primary backup power forward and backup center.

With Orlando lacking frontcourt depth, Anderson has accepted his role with open arms and has flourished. In the Magic’s last five games, Rhino has scored in double figures in four of those contests.

What grade do you give Ryan Anderson thus far this season?
What grade do you give Ryan Anderson thus far this season?
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Earl Clark
Completely overlooked at the time of the trade, Earl Clark has proven to be far better than just a throw in. For example, when Orlando’s bigs were in foul trouble against Houston on Friday, Clark stepped in and contributed in important minutes.

With time and further development, the New Jersey native could turn out to be a secret weapon in the future.

What grade do you give Earl Clark thus far this season?
What grade do you give Earl Clark thus far this season?
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