PORTLAND DEAL COULD BE GOOD FOR MAYNOR

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Former Ram Eric Maynor is averaging 4.2 points and 2.9 rebounds per game in four NBA seasons.

Former Ram Eric Maynor is averaging 4.2 points and 2.9 rebounds per game in four NBA seasons.

Nobody knows the NBA’s Northwest Division like Eric Maynor.

The former VCU star – the Rams’ all-time leader in points and assists – was dealt Thursday prior to the NBA’s trade deadline from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the division-rival Portland Trail Blazers. Maynor was originally drafted by the Utah Jazz in 2009, meaning when he slips on his Blazers’ jersey this week, he’ll have played for three-fifths of the division in four seasons. Denver and Minnesota, you’re on the clock.

Maynor struggled this season after tearing his ACL last year. After three solid seasons as Russell Westbrook’s steady backup, Maynor saw his minutes evaporate in favor of second-year man Reggie Jackson. Maynor did not play in any of the Thunder’s three most recent games and has logged double-digit minutes once since mid-December. He’s averaging 2.8 points and shooting .313 from the field, down from his career marks of 4.2 points and .395 shooting. Maynor’s assist-to-turnover ratio is still a desirable 2.5-to-1, however.

So, it was probably time for a fresh start for Maynor, who heads to a 25-29 Portland team that is currently 10th in the Western Conference. The Blazers desperately needed an upgrade behind All-Star point guard and odds-on Rookie of the Year favorite Damian Lillard. Lillard’s current backups are journeyman Ronnie Price and former Duke standout Nolan Smith. I would consider Maynor, who can still run an offense, a considerable step up from both Price and Smith.

It could also serve as an audition of sorts for Maynor, whose original rookie contract expires at season’s end. There’s always a market in the NBA for point guards with 3-to-1 career assist-to-turnover ratios.

RAMS IN THE PROS: SANDERS SURGES

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Former Ram Larry Sanders (center) is averaging 8.0 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game this season.

Former Ram Larry Sanders (center) is averaging 8.0 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game this season.

It looks like Larry Sanders is starting to figure out this NBA thing.

The 24-year-old former VCU star and current Milwaukee Buck is enjoying a breakout season. Selected 15th overall in the 2010 NBA Draft, Sanders is beginning to deliver on the promise Milwaukee saw on film and in workouts.

Through a quarter of the season, the 6-foot-11, 235-pound center was averaging career-highs of 8.0 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. Sanders is shooting 54 percent from the floor, and as of this writing, his 3.0 blocks per game average was tied for the league lead.

Last season, Sanders averaged just 3.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. But a strong preseason and training camp earned him increased playing time from Bucks’ Coach Scott Skiles. Sanders responded with 10 points and seven rebounds in an opening-night victory over the Boston Celtics.

On Nov. 30, Sanders recorded his first career triple-double with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocked shots in a loss at Minnesota. His 10 blocks tied the franchise record, set by Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Abdul-Jabbar later took to Twitter to congratulate Sanders.

Sanders followed with 18 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks against the Celtics the next night.

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TO BE FAIR, HE WAS OPEN

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Doesn’t look like Eric Maynor’s surgically repaired knee bothered him on this shot. He finished with seven points and three rebounds in Oklahoma City’s 86-84 loss Thursday.

MAYNOR, SANDERS PRESEASON REVIEW

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This is an important season for the careers of both Eric Maynor and Larry Sanders moving forward. Maynor is in the fourth and final year of his rookie contract and coming off a season-ending ACL tear. Sanders has been a bit of an enigma in Milwaukee his first two seasons, but is showing signs of breaking through. That makes both of their preseasons all the more worthy of inspection.

LARRY SANDERS


This was an interesting preseason for Sanders. On one hand, he seemed to really help his prospects by playing pretty darn good on the floor. He was better offensively than he’ll get credit for, and he was great rebounding the ball and blocking shots. His per 36 minute averages of 12.8 rebounds and 4.1 blocks are eye-catching. But there’s a flip side. Sanders was suspended for one game for “conduct” issues during the preseason. In addition, he continued to foul at a head-spinning rate of 7.1 per 36 minutes.

Despite his shortcomings, Sanders appears to be making headway in Milwaukee and could even start at center, especially if Samuel Dalembert continues his slow and steady decline.

Jeremy Schmidt of “Bucksketball”:

The real battle here appears to be between Dalembert, Sanders and Udoh. And if we’re using preseason numbers, it’s hard to look away from Sanders. He’s been a better shot-blocker, rebounder and scorer than Dalembert in his five games. Plus he has a mobility that Dalembert lacks – even if he doesn’t have the same awareness defensively. And defense is where this battle will be won. The Bucks didn’t go crazy for shot-blocking this offseason to ignore it come November. They want a center that provides support defensively first and foremost.

ERIC MAYNOR

This is an important preseason for Maynor as well, but for different reasons. Maynor’s coming off the first serious injury of his career and needs to establish two things. No. 1, he needs to prove to the Thunder, and himself, that he’s healthy. No. 2, he needs to remind Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks that he remains a better option than Reggie Jackson, the second-year man who filled for Maynor last season. He appears to have succeeded on both counts. Maynor’s performance this preseason should set him up for solid minutes again behind Russell Westbrook.

Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman last week:

Take away that bulky black contraption tucked beneath the black sleeve covering his right leg and you wouldn’t be able to tell Maynor had even torn up his knee. There are moments like Tuesday night, when Maynor shows the same wizardry that he’s always possessed running an offense.

It’s important that Maynor’s healthy and ready to contribute, because this is a contract year, and there are plenty of teams out there in search of playmaker. If he plays well, there could be a starting role waiting for him somewhere. On Monday, The Oklahoman reported that the Thunder and Maynor had put contract negotiations on hold, which makes it all the more likely that he’ll be a restricted free agent next summer. 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ERIC MAYNOR

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I don’t stop to recognize too many VCU-related birthdays, but then again, few players have the body of work of Eric Maynor. So, happy 25th birthday to VCU’s favorite son. Still the best I’ve seen don the black and gold.

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This literally never gets old

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