Friday, November 2, 2012

NBA Conversation

The NBA season has just started, so it's time for my good friend Phil Schneider and I to trade some thoughts on the upcoming year.  This conversation started a month ago and has been condensed here, so some references are dated.



Owen
Okay, Phil.  The NBA is starting next week, and this time around we have a full season to enjoy.  I for one think that this could be a transcendent year: LeBron finally has his title, the Thunder are chomping at the bit to win one of their own, and the Lakers have assembled a starting lineup that will be unstoppable in the 2008 NBA Finals.  Since the Howard trade will obviously attract all the attention in the West, what was your favorite move by an Eastern team, and did anyone do anything significant enough to unseat Miami?

Phil
I think Philly grabbing Bynum will help them in the long run, but I don't think it gets them in the mix for 2012.  Watching a lot of Wizard and Warriors games last year, I don't think paying Nick Young and Dorrell Wright the money they should have paid Lou Williams money makes sense.  Atlanta blew up their team and they should be better in the future, but they aren't a great playoff team next year.  Boston is always dangerous and I think Jason Terry is a step up from a hobbled Ray Allen, so they might be the only  team that can hang with the Heat.  As an old dude I think I might have to go all in on the Knicks next year. J-Kidd, a 35 year old rookie point guard, Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas, and Marcus Camby.  Are we sure they aren't bringing Isiah back to run point?

Owen
They just might bring him back. Is Pablo Prigioni going to be selling his grandma's pasta in Times Square if this whole NBA thing doesn't work out? If he does wind up doing that, he should hire Amare as a maitre d' or something, because I think he might be living on borrowed time. He may not even be the best power forward in the five boroughs. I also love the Knicks' addition of James White, who might just be the best dunker in the league, which he'll get to show off when they're getting blown out by another team. I agree with you that Terry is a step up from Ray Allen, although a summer of rest might be all Jesus Shuttlesworth needed since he's one of two or three NBA players who are really serious about taking care of their bodies to the point that he doesn't even drink. I'm kind of hoping that Bynum recreates his clothesline of JJ Barea on Nick Young sometime in February when Young has been shooting contested 25-footers for five minutes in a row while Bynum posts up John Henson or Andrea Bargnani . My question is about how Chicago will do until Rose gets back in March or whenever, because their entire offense is pretty much geared around Rose's ability to penetrate. Now they're relying on some combination of Kirk Hinrich, Nate Robinson, and Marquis Teague to hold down the fort for four or five months. Of those, believe it or not, I like Teague the best, even if he is a rookie. He may not even be rookie-eligible since he played at Kentucky last year. How do you see the Bulls coexisting for all that time without Rose?

Phil
I figure if a team can defend the way the Bulls can defend, they will always win games, but man I don't know where the points come from if Rose isn't there. They honestly could use a no- remorse gunner like Corey Maggette or Adam Morrison or Mike Beasley. Someone who can ball hog and score; maybe they can spring Kevin Martin from the Rockets. So I am going to do my traditional "get over-excited about the Warriors" post. It feels like with Barnes, Curry, Thompson, Lee, and Bogut they really have five guys who could dominate a game on the right night. Bogut is a stat nerd dream player, and statistically is as good a defensive center as Tyson Chandler. Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry, Brandon Rush and Festus Ezeli are a solid bench too. I honestly think they could end up as the 6th or 7th seed in the West. Any thoughts? Tell me how crazy I am
Owen
How could you forget about Draymond Green? Personally, I love him, and I think he brings a lot of skills to the table, and a great attitude as well. I guess it's okay to gush a little over Barnes, since Curry is the quality point guard that experience has demonstrated Barnes needs to thrive. As long as Bogut is healthy, he can cover for a lot of defensive mistakes by Lee and Curry, and hopefully Festus Ezeli leapfrogs Biedrins in the rotation sooner rather than later. There's a lot to like, but that said...6th seed? We know that the Spurs, Lakers, Clippers, Thunder, Grizzlies, and Nuggets will almost certainly top the Warriors, and both the Jazz and Wolves (once they get Rubio back) are going to be competitive. I think the Warriors take a big step forward this year, but they're going to be in a dogfight for the last spot in the West if things go pretty well for them. Speaking of the Clippers, do you think they make any serious forward progress this season, or will Vinny Del Negro cost them actual improvement and make them the sixth seed in the West?
Phil
I don't love the Clippers' moves. Jamal Crawford makes them even worse defensively and I think Lamar Odom is done. I think they underachieve again and CP3 bolts somewhere. I can't believe the OKC trade, by the way.  This makes them way worse. Kevin Martin is a terrible defender AND a ball stopper, and they are really going to miss Harden in crunch time. It is all breaking the Lakers' way this off-season.
Owen
You may very well be right about Odom, and it's not like a lot of these guys are going to develop new skills under Del Negro. I couldn't believe that Harden trade when it happened; they seriously gave up one of their three best players over a difference of $4.5 million? Kevin Martin IS a terrible defender, and it's hard to play either him or Sefolosha in crunch time because of their defensive/offensive deficiencies. What do they do? Play Westbrook and Maynor on the floor together? I'm not sure. What I am sure of is that this makes the Rockets unquestionably my favorite team to watch that won't win anything. They have, by my count, SIX young players that I am excited to watch (who may see floor time in varying amounts): Harden, Jeremy Lin, Royce White, Terrence Jones, Omer Asik, and Scott Machado. Harden, Lin, White, and Machado all have the passing gene and lots of creativity, and I think Jones is going to be a stellar NBA player. Pencil me in for a few Rockets games on the tube where they're losing 115-105. Who's your favorite League Pass team this year?

Phil
I have to go with the Timberwolves, especially when Love and Rubio come back to mix it up with AK-47 and Brandon Roy. The Kings are such a mess, but Boogie Cousins is a must-watch guy, and I like Aaron Brooks for them too. Let's wrap this up with predictions:
West

1.Spurs
2.Thunder
3. Lakers
4. Nuggets
5.Memphis
6. Clippers
7. GSW
8. Utah

East

1. Heat
2. Boston
3. Indiana
4. Atlanta
5. Nets
6. Philly
7. Chicago
8.Bucks

I am going boring and picking a Heat vs. Lakers final with the Heat winning again.
Owen
I agree on the Wolves, but until Rubio and Love return, eh.  The Kings are fun to watch like a five-car pile-up; I pity poor Thomas Robinson getting stuck with knuckleheads like Boogie and Tyreke Evans.  Predictions, huh? I have some predictions:

West

1. Spurs (Kawhi Leonard is going to make a mini-leap this year and make them that much better)
2. Nuggets (Ty Lawson running the break with Iggy and a more experienced Faried is going to be electric)
3. Lakers (by default in their division; I REALLY don't like their options off the bench - any of them)
4. Thunder (the difference between Harden and Martin could mean the division)
5. Grizzlies (Gay and Randolph finally get to play together!)
6. Jazz (once they trade one of their bigs for another guard)
7. Clippers (it's too bad that Vinny Del Negro is coaching this team)
8. Warriors (I'm humoring you to an extent here, but the Wolves' injuries have sold me)

East

1. Heat (obviously)
2. Pacers (I like Paul George and the Mahinmi upgrade to their bench, and I feel like the Celtics will pace themselves a little)
3. Celtics (here because of age, primarily, but they'll beat the Pacers in the playoffs)
4. Hawks (Josh Smith is in a contract year - this could get interesting)
5. Bulls (they will obviously miss Rose, but I don't think they'll fall that far)
6. 76ers (I have to admit that I like Lavoy Allen to cover while Bynum is hurt - which is frequently)
7. Nets (apart from Reggie Evans, their big men are Downy soft)
8. Bucks (it's a good thing they have a three-headed shot-blocking monster to cover for Ellis and Jennings at the rim)

I am going to pick the Heat, like everyone else on the planet, but over the Spurs, who find a way past the Thunder this time.