Darko Milicic, signed by the Minnesota Timberwolves to a four-year, $20 million deal last July, has not been a disaster on the court this season. That's a big deal, because for the last six years, Darko was among the worst big men in the NBA. Signing one of the NBA's worst big men to a $20 million contract on the first day of free agency seemed like a bad idea to most folks. But Wolves GM David Kahn did it, and it's certainly not the worst decision made last summer.
But Kahn, intent to prove himself wrong, feels emboldened. According to Ben Golliver of SB Nation blog Blazersedge, Kahn assessed Darko's future All-Star hopes during the broadcast of last night's Celtics-Wolves game. And the assessment didn't involve maniacal laughter.
Here's Kahn, as quoted by Golliver for CBSSports.com:
We think that Darko can actually get to sort of a near All-Star if not All-Star level. There's not a lot of quality centers in our sport. There's no reason to think that a year from now if Darko were to continue his trajectory upwards, he couldn't be in the mix about a year from now for the All-Star game.
Fox Sports North opted not to include a laugh track. A pity, really.
Just so we're clear, let's talk about Darko's upward trajectory for a minute.
Not bad! He has improved this season. Darko's scoring is up to 9.3 points a game from 6.7 last year. His rebounding is up to 5.2 boards a game from 4.9. Assists? Almost 2 per game. Blocks? 2.3.
OK, so Darko has improved. Where does he stand compared to other Western Conference centers?
- Nene is better than Darko at everything but blocking shots. It's not really close.
- Marc Gasol shoots better, scores more, rebounds better, passes better and turns the ball over much less frequently. Gasol is one year older than Darko.
- Emeka Okafor is a better and more efficient scorer, a better rebounder and is universally considered a better defender. Okafor is 28.
- Tyson Chandler scores much more efficiently, rebounds better and is considered a candidate for second place in Dwight Howard's Defensive Player of the Year contest.
- Andrew Bynum, just back from injury, has traditionally scored better and more efficiently, rebounded better and defended better than Darko. Bynum is two years younger than Milicic.
- Andris Biedrins is an infrequent scorer and poor man defender, but is far better than Darko on the glass is just 0.4 assists per game behind Milicic. Biedrins is a year younger than Darko.
- DeAndre Jordan shoots less frequently and is a bit behind on blocks, but is a superior rebounder and is far more efficient than Darko. Jordan is 22, three years younger than Milicic.
- Marcus Camby gets twice as many rebounds as Darko in similar minutes, and just a bit few blocks.
- DeMarcus Cousins, a 20-year-old rookie, averages more points and rebounds than Darko in fewer minutes, and shoots a bit less efficiently, trails slightly in assists and by quite a bit in blocks.
- I am not including anyone from the Spurs since Tim Duncan refuses to admit he's a center. I will do the same for the Jazz, even though Al Jefferson has played center for two full months now. Also, obviously, Yao Ming, Mehmet Okur, Greg Oden and Chris Kaman have been injured.
I'm not saying Darko won't belong in the All-Star conversation. I'm just saying that if you include Darko, you have to include guys like Andris Biedrins and DeAndre Jordan. That's all.