A Chucker Darkly: Another Weekly Roundtable
USA Today Sports
These weekly roundtables have quickly become a part of our regular routines and we have every intention of extending through the of the regular season. We hope you’re enjoying them as much as we are. Don’t forget to check out question 6, which asks for answers from you, the readers.
Editor’s Note: Andrew Johnson (@CountingBaskets) is the author of this week’s questions.
1. Now that the Knicks and the Nets have traded away most of their assets, if you are a GM who gets your first call for a trade with the most desirable assets and most questionable decision making?
Ian Levy (@HickoryHigh): I’m still calling the Knicks, offering all my crumbling, decrepit detritus for Iman Shumpert.
Rich Kraetsch (@richkraetsch): I’m calling the Knicks and I’m asking about Iman Shumpert and Tyson Chandler. Both bring a lot to the table and can find in most team structures. Shumpert I believe can flourish in a, well, an actual system whereas Tyson you can plug into most teams and carry on without much disturbance.
Kyle Soppe (@unSOPable23): Call me old school, but I’d want something that few teams have. I can find specialists, but how many 6’7” point guards are out there? Shaun Livingston isn’t going to cost you a ton, he’s 28, and he’s got the size that would be tough to defend. If I’m a playoff team that needs a little bit of depth, I’m inquiring about Livingston.
Cole Patty (@ColePatty): Shumpert is still the prized jewel here. While both teams are filled with a mixed bag of veterans and minimum salary players, Shumpert is the most exciting cost-controlled asset out of the litter. I do like younger Plumlee’s potential as a “closer than you think” second.
Zachary Bennett: (@ZacharyBD) The only thing making Iman Shumpert more desirable would be if he brought back his flat-top.
Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla): I’d rather not make a deal with either of those teams. Instead, I’d be curious to see what Boston would want for Rajon Rondo. If the Celtics stay “at the top” of the worst division in modern sports history, devious things might take place, like trades of the Pau Gasol-for-Javaris Crittenton ilk.
Andy Liu (@AndyKHLiu): I guess it depends what teams I’m hypothetically going to own and what assets I have. If I were the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, or Indiana Pacers, who would I give up? I like Iman Shumpert, Omer Asik, Rajon Rondo, amongst some lower-level guys but it appears most GMs aren’t as foolish as we would want them to be. And the temptation to hoard assets means first round picks aren’t going anywhere; which means true game-changers will be hard to find.
Matt Cianfrone (@Matt_Cianfrone): The Knicks. Really the only desirable asset that has any semi-realistic chance of being moved is Shump. Also while the Nets are a mess the trade with Boston made a bit of sense at the time, unlike the Knicks trade for Bargnani. Just more of a history of bad inexplicable trades with the Knicks regime than with the newer Nets one.
Kevin Ferrigan (@NBACouchside): I’d probably call up the Pistons and see what they wanted for Greg Monroe. Or maybe I’d try to grab Shumpert like everyone else has suggested.
Patrick Redford (@patrickredford): The Knicks because how high is James Dolan right now? Also, maybe they’ll decide to attempt to tank instead of accidentally doing so and they’ll throw you Chandler or something.
2. Outside of the Heat and the Pacers the Eastern Conference is something like 3 wins and 115 losses vs the Western Conference. Should the league do anything about the current East-West disparity? And if so what?
Levy: No. It won’t look this bad at the end of the year and these things move in cycles. Any changes to playoff seeding or conference structure will have a much bigger long term impact than the particularly extreme disparity this season.
Soppe: I’m with the majority on this one. For this season, I wish we could balance the scales, but Ian is right, this sort of thing works in cycles. If I had to change something, and this wouldn’t really fix the East/West thing, I’d do away with divisions and just work with conferences.
Kraetsch: There’s not much that can be done, it’s always cyclical and if the East is so poor this year, that will be reflected heavily in the lottery. Obviously with this year being called one of the deepest drafts ever, you’ll see an influx of elite level talent pouring into the Eastern Conference and I’d imagine before long a closer blend between the two. I would argue, however, that if you look at new coach hires, the better ones tend to be done in the East but again, that could just be perception.
Patty: It is too cyclical to change the league over. Eventually there will be an era where we say the same thing about the West, just a matter of time.
Bennett: In my lifetime the West always seems to be better than the East; that’s the way it is. Hehe, I’m having fun. People are freaking out about this, it seems, and it’s rather annoying. Nothing will be done to fix this ‘temporary’ problem. I would like to talk about retooling playoff seeding sometime, though.
Karalla: The West was an awful conference during the ‘90s, even when Houston won its two titles. The East will eventually become competitive again, though it might take a while. If it were up to me, though, I’d completely do away with the NBA’s current schedule model and roll out something entirely different. I’m not a huge fan of the unimportance of divisions. I want to turn the world upside down, and the East’s implosion could be the spark we need to set off a revolution. Or something.
Liu: Sure, I’d change it up every year on a whim if it were a perfect world. Of course, you will have owners whining about the “unfairness” and need for a structured system, but owners whine everyday, anyway. Get the best 16 teams in the playoffs. That’s fair enough for me.
Cianfrone: Nope. This stuff goes in cycles. This will correct itself in a year or two, especially with the draft class that is headed into the league.
Ferrigan: Nothing to be done. Well, actually, I’d suggest removing the East from most national TV games outside of Pacers and Heat, but that’s never going to happen, since the NBA doesn’t have super cool awesome flex scheduling capabilities.
Redford: I like the idea of a 16-team seeded playoffs. It makes intuitive sense. However, I like the stakes of being in a conference and having the seeding work like that. Regionalism huzzah!
3. Boogie Cousins, misunderstood or understood perfectly well?
Levy: I don’t understand him at all. I have a really hard time donning other people’s thought processes and the ways he goes about implementing his basketball talents is utterly confusing to me.
Kraetsch: I think we know what he is at this point. He’s kind of a tool, he pisses a lot of guys off, doesn’t present himself well but he’s really, really good at basketball.
Soppe: Painfully well understood. He’s got talent, but he seems to be the type of player that will never fully mature. That being said, talent talks at the end of the day, so he is going to continue to get chances. You’ll have to catch lightning in a bottle to get the multi-year all star he is capable of, but the fact that there is lightning to be caught is a start.
Patty: Misunderstood. Boogie has done his fair share to cause the disconnect, but the disconnect still exists. Cousins’s reputation has reached a point where he can get technical calls by behaving in a manner other players have the freedom to without worry of referee interference. So in that sense, I find him to be misunderstood.
Bennett: He already has a reputation but, to be fair, playing for the Sacramento Kings doesn’t help his cause. Entering the league and joining a franchise in disarray was toxic for everyone from the get-go. He’s stuck in a ditch, lost, looking for the road to redemption and it’s still early in the journey that is his career — this shady hitchhiker is perfectly understood.
Karalla: I still think it’s a bit early to be judging a 23-year-old. I’m 22, and if for the last three-plus years 40-somethings spent thousands of words examining my personality issues, I’d probably be unpleasant about it, too. Don’t forget: LeBron’s “Decision” came when he was 26, and he’s admitted he’s infinitely more mature now than he was then. Dwight Howard’s professionalism is somewhere wafting around among the scent of his locker-room farts. Boogie is still a child by society’s standards, and honestly it’s annoying that we continue to make a huge deal about how a young man is moody. He’s learning.
Liu: He’s fun to watch when he’s not doing childish stuff that Chris Paul does. Oh, wait..
Cianfrone: Probably understood well right now, but that doesn’t mean it can’t change. He is still just 23 and never been on a functional NBA team. No matter what I really enjoy him though. He is pretty dang good when he stays calm, which is happening more often this season.
Ferrigan: Pretty well understood, but he’ll grow up, I think.
Redford: *clears throat for like 15 minutes* Boogie Cousins is misunderstood unless you understand him to be a worthy all-star and actual great dude.
4. Based on the season so far, which potential Western Conference playoff matchup are you most excited to see?
Levy: I want a YMCA-style all-day tournament with everyone playing round robin style on parallel courts. Everyone should be wearing solid color pinnies.
Kraetsch: Portland vs. Golden State could be a hoot from a “I love 130-120 games aspect” but as far as a great back and forth series I would love to see Portland vs. Oklahoma City. This would be a legitimate underdog vs. favorite matchup that usually lends itself to great drama. Plus, the teams matchup perfectly, are relatively well balanced. Man, can we just skip the rest of the season and go to the playoffs now?
Soppe: Oklahoma City vs Golden State. Two great fan bases, two exciting teams, two star players that we all seem to love. They’ve had two buzzer beating games this year and man are they exciting to watch. I love the Serge Ibaka/David Lee matchup as an under the radar subplot, as both are vastly underrated in what they bring to the table. But who am I kidding? I want to see Steph and Durant in a three point contest, Westbrook slashing through the lane, and Iguodala doing a little bit of everything.
Patty: The Clippers against the Warriors. An offensive shootout that I think could attract the casual fan into loving the game more.
Bennett: Can I say the Wolves here? Nevermind. The Golden State Warriors and the Portland Trail Blazers. Everything about these team’s philosophies, on both sides of the ball, leads me to believe that if these two met in a seven-game series; an arena might combust. I want to see points, and a lot of them.
Karalla: It feels like the Clippers and Rockets have played 17 times already, so I’m already tired of it. I’d like to see Dallas play anyone (for obvious reasons), but I’m really hoping for a Spurs/Thunder series somewhere deep in the jungle that is the West playoffs. We were robbed of a 2012 WCF rematch last season thanks to Westbrook’s injury, and I’d absolutely love to see he and Durant try to once again knock off the seemingly immortal San Antonio dynasty.
Liu: If you’ve watched every night of Western Conference basketball, you’d know it doesn’t matter. We all thought an aging team like the Dallas Mavericks and unproven team like the Portland Trail Blazers would barely make the playoffs, if at all. And now? I’d watch that series over any in the Eastern Conference sans Miami-Indiana and they’d rank barely in the top ten in Western Conference matchups.
Cianfrone: There are about 20 I would love but right now I think Houston vs. Golden State tops the list. Bogut vs. Dwight, Beverly vs. Curry, Iggy vs. Harden; there is just great individual matchup after great individual matchup. Add a massive amount of threes to that and I’m not sure how it wouldn’t be immensely entertaining.
Ferrigan: Blazers v. Spurs. Two of the prettiest offenses in the NBA. Lots of fun matchups with Parker and Lillard, Duncan and Aldridge.
Redford: Thunder v. Clippers, but Andy is right. This particular series would rule because LA has nobody to stop Durant, PF’s Blake Griffin & Serge Ibaka are a fun study in contrasts, and Westbrook & Paul would piss each other off so much.
5. Do you have a guilty pleasure player, a guy with a really inefficient game firing without conscience or taking contested iso jumpers that you love to watch anyway?
Levy: This makes me seem like a soulless automaton, but no. I want basketball to be played at its collaborative peak. I can appreciate some acts for level of difficulty, but at heart I’d always like to see players and teams find ways to make the game easier.
Kraetsch: Does Damian Lillard count? Shooting 39% (47% eFG%) right now but god I love watching that guy play and every shot he takes SEEMS like a good idea. Second place would be Russell Westbrook, even on those “Okay, my turn!” possessions I still love every minute of it even if, say, Brandon Jennings does the same thing and I call him a bum.
Soppe: I’m all about efficiency, so I really struggled to find the volume shooter type that I enjoy. I decided to flip the script and list a player who has been very efficient who I can’t stand to watch: Boris Diaw. Kraetsch sited every Lillard shot as seeming like a good idea, and I feel the exact opposite way for Diaw. There is not one spot on the floor I am overly comfortable with him shooting the rock, yet he’s converting at a 57% clip (third highest FG% of players that average double figures). His 65% success rate from inside the three point line is silly good (better than Andre Drummond and LeBron James), yet when he attacks the rim, I find myself yelling at the TV, crying that there HAS to be a better option.
Patty: I love efficiency as much as the next guy, but I don’t find it hard to like a player like J.R. Smith unironically. He just comes off as fascinating to me. In the guilty pleasure variety, I would guess Brandon Jennings fits the bill. Something about him draws me in, but I’m not exactly sure what it is. Rudy Gay could technically fit the bill, but I’m more obsessed with the player he could potential than how he plays.
Bennett: Isaiah Thomas, but I’m not sure that this is an acceptable answer. He’s outplayed Greivis Vasquez, shooting over 40% from everywhere on the floor and it’s always entertaining watching short guys score, especially if they’re left-handed. Will he continue to play this well? I hope so. This likelihood that this continues? Not very. He’s the local kid who spends the most time at the neighborhood court. Thomas is running the show when he’s in the game, but the Kings are winning and that makes him my guilty pleasure. To the defensive minded Michael Malone; play Isaiah Thomas more.
Karalla: I like watching guys who do nothing but bust their butt on every single possession. I don’t care what DeJuan Blair shoots in the paint, I don’t care if Jimmy Butler’s jump shot has improved or if it hasn’t, I don’t care if Tony Allen misses more layups in one game than I did in my entire one-year high school career. Those guys and others really don’t do anything spectacular, aside of course from out-working everybody else every single time down the floor. I enjoy watching players play as hard as they can, and I’d like to think that, numbers aside, there is always room on a roster for a player who’s willing to work his ass off for 10, 20, 40 minutes a night.
Liu: Random man-crushes like Nick Collison and Nick Calathes don’t really make too much of an impact to count here, huh? I do despise watching guys like J.R. Smith and Monta Ellis shoot so carelessly without playing defense but there’s one person I don’t care about: Russell Westbrook. I don’t think I have and efficient words to describe him but he’s the best. This after watching him sky over Andrew Bogut for a rebound and nailing a GW three with time expiring over my Golden State Warriors.
Cianfrone: Well, I assume everyone loves Nick Young so I guess he wouldn’t fit the bill leaving my answer as Brandon Jennings. As a Bucks fan there were many frustrating Jennings nights but there was just something about him that I couldn’t dislike. Even now that he is left I find myself rooting for him fairly often. In all reality it probably comes back to the “Fear the Deer” run more than anything but I just can’t rid myself of my Jennings fandom.
Ferrigan: John Wall’s pretty inefficient and Russell Westbrook’s been pretty inefficient thus far this year, but they’re still two of the most exciting players in the league. Also, KEMBA WALKER. So much fun to watch.
Redford: All of my favorite players are this type of player. I have never touched a calculator in my life.
6. For the readers, a repeat of Question 5: Who’s your guilty pleasure player?
We’re leaving this last question up to you the readers. Put your answer in the comments or use the hashtag #Question6 to share your answers on Twitter. I’ll find them and drop them in here. Check back throughout the day as answers roll in.