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2015 Basketball Ratings Preview
 
By Glenn Guzzo
 
            Once again, the sneak preview of Strat-O-Matic’s Pro Basketball card set reveals some juicy cards that will have gamers salivating soon.
 
            Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, the NBA’s leading scorer, may have been under-appreciated in the league’s MVP voting, but he isn’t underrated in Strat-O-Matic. The quicksilver point guard combines dazzlers of 1-17 (normal) and 1-12 (fast break) with a 35 – that’s correct – for his defensive rebounding. The fruit on the bottom (of his card): blank defensive columns for Penetration and Fast Break. Sweet.
 
            Whether you’re drafting a squad or making sure the stock-team’s lineup on the floor has everything covered, you need multi-purpose guys like Westbrook and the NBA’s other superstars. But take a look, too, at this sleeper:
 
            Miami center Hassan Whiteside played only a bit more than half the Heat’s games (48) and played only about half the time in those (24 mpg), but he is the only starter or near-starter with a 1-20 block rating, he boards at 4 / 25, has blank defensive columns Inside and on Fast Break, and shot 62.8 percent from the field. OK, so he’s got some problems with fouls – avoiding them and shooting his own free throws. Nobody’s perfect.
 
Triple Doubles
 
            The rare feat on the hardwood is as rare in Strat-O-Matic’s ratings – double-figure ratings for dazzlers, blocked shots and rebounding.
 
            Only one man qualifies in all three areas – Houston’s Josh Smith, with 1-10 dazzlers in normal passing, a 1-10 block rating and a 17 rating for defensive rebounds. Too bad his shooting will have you nick-naming him Air Smith. Nobody’s perfect.
 
            But Westbrook and several others can combine normal and fast break dazzlers with defensive rebounding, or combine offensive and defensive rebounding with blocks.
 
            Detroit’s beastly center Andre Drummond is rated as a 23 / 11 rebounder with a 1-12 block rating. The Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan doesn’t qualify at his primary position, center, but as a power forward, he has 16 / 44 rebounding to go with a 1-13 block rating.
 
            Eight guards do the trick:
 
            Boston’s Evan Turner (15-10 dazzlers, 39 defensive RB); Dallas’ Rajon Rondo (17-13 dazzlers, 30 defensive RB), Golden State’s Stephen Curry (11-10 dazzlers, 11 defensive RB), Houston’s James Harden (15-13 dazzlers, 21 defensive RB), the Clippers’ Chris Paul (18-17 dazzlers, 14 defensive RB), New Orleans’ Tyreke Evans (15-10 dazzlers, 19 defensive RB), Washington’s John Wall (17-14 dazzlers, 15 defensive RB), and a card from the extra-players set, Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio (18-13 dazzlers, 33 defensive RB).
 
            San Antonio’s Manu Ginobli just missed with a 14 for his defensive rebounding, 1-15 dazzlers normal and 1-9 on the fast break.
 
Teasers
 
            Other than Whiteside, only two little-used subs get the coveted 1-20 block rating.
 
            No one gets a 1-20 dazzler for either Normal or Fast Break passing. Nor 1-19. Paul is the top playmaker again with 1-18 and 1-17.
 
            Only three men get the coveted blank defensive column for Outside shots: Cleveland’s LeBron James, Golden State’s Andre Iguodala and San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard. Nine other players have blank columns for Penetration shots and nine more for Inside shots.
 
Those Extra Players
 
            Always necessary for an authentic replay, you’ll need the 72-card Extra Players set to get Kevin Durant, Rubio and the rookie cards of several first-round draft picks.
 
 
Click here to download the 2014-15 Basketball Ratings Preview.