Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said: 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.
1. On Friday the Orlando Magic released Hedo Turkoglu (who hasn’t played all season). He reportedly has a few teams interested in his services, but if this were to be the end for Turkoglu how would you summarize his NBA legacy?
Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla): Turkoglu’s career was basically over once he signed that whopper of a contract with the Raptors in 2009, what has to be one of the most puzzling, inexplicable signings in modern league history. His value was so shot after the deal that he was traded twice during the following league calendar year, spending the remainder of his career in various NBA purgatories. I consider him a casualty of general managers’ irresponsible spending habits. Turkoglu became a prisoner of his own device in a way, becoming first a very desirable commodity because of his above-average point-forward abilities but then immediately a volatile contract that fiercely outweighed the value brought by its signee. Hedo Turkoglu was the reason we had a lockout.
Andrew Johnson (@countingbaskets) Curse of the Most Improved Player. If you look at the history of Most Improved Players, it is not a pretty one. Generally it is a big contract followed by reversion to the mean, though Paul George breaks that trend this year I think.
Kyle Soppe (@unSOPable23): Overrated. I’m an unapologetic Raptors fan, so that plays a role. But other than back-to-back outlier seasons in Orlando (2007-2009), was he ever really that good? Subtract those two seasons, and you’ve got a player who averaged 10.5 points per game that averaged more than five rebounds or five assists just once in 11 seasons. He had the good fortune of stringing together two outlier performances and parlaying that into a massive payday, but his NBA legacy as a whole is nothing to write home about.
Miles Wray (@mileswray): Turkoglu was given many blessings throughout his career and never seemed to be concerned about appreciating them. He started out with the outrageous Bibby/Webber Kings (alongside a young Gerald Wallace, no less), then spent a year getting all sorts of minutes and starts for a vintage Popovich Spurs team, then was traded to the Magic, and was carried into the NBA Finals upon the shoulders of a non-disgruntled Dwight Howard. But one gets the feeling that, despite being a part of such an outrageous amount of elite teams, the part of Turkoglu’s career that he himself values most is that year in Toronto–since that’s when he got that fat ol’ contract. Hedo always had enough exposure in exciting, nationally televised games that he could have been lots of people’s favorite player–but he ended up being nobody’s favorite. (Even if you are an avowed devotee of Turkish basketball, aren’t you more proud of the resumes of Mehmet Okur, Ersan Ilyasova, and Omer Asik?)
Andy Liu (@AndyKHLiu): Did not follow much of his career so don’t have many insightful words. However, I remember him as a stretch forward that could both dribble and pass. In many ways, he wasn’t so much underrated as a player that was versatile and a bit ahead of his time. Prime Hedo would make a very solid player in today’s NBA.
Matt Cianfrone (@Matt_Cianfrone): As a reminder of just how good Orlando Dwight Howard was. Hedo wasn’t really ever good until he was put alongside Dwight in a system that played to the strengths of the roster perfectly. Like many good role players he flourished next to a player that minimized his weaknesses and accentuated his strengths and once he left Dwight he went back to being the player he was before he found him, a mediocre at best one, except this time he had a big contract.
2. What does life after basketball look like for Andrew Bynum?
Karalla: I have this crazy fantasy that he and Phil Jackson will take several cross-country motorcycle trips together, and each will help the other expand their mind (and, presumably, their taste in music). But seriously, Bynum was a young pup when he came into the league, and you have to wonder how many more teams will give him a contract. His career could be over soon. Maybe he’ll go to college, get a degree, and become a working zombie for the rest of his life. Or, maybe he’ll spend quality time with the Zen Master in the hills of Montana. One can hope.
Johnson; Let’s hope not too fat, that weight he added while sidelined is not a good sign for his knees.
Soppe: I would love to say that a young kid like this would get an education, but Vegas isn’t fielding that as an option to this question: not enough bets. He’s that guy that dominates open gyms. The elder statesmen that is the only one allowed to call fouls. The one who the other players love to hate. I hope he can recover (it’s the NBA, he’ll still find a way to get at least one more contract) and make an impact in the league, but it’s not going to be easy.
Wray: Geek Squad technician.
Liu: Hopefully, something that makes him happy. Although there were many “reports” of him doing a lot of things, it just never seemed like he was into playing basketball or put up a facade in that manner. And that’s OK. He got paid and now he can hopefully venture into different alleys that will be of his choosing. Maybe bowling?
Cianfrone: Lots of bowling and computer things, those seem to be things he actually enjoys doing. I just hope whatever it is he is happy doing it and not in pain.
3. Who wins the Atlantic Division crown?
Karalla: Brooklyn. At this point, I’m beginning to believe that Brooklyn’s front office is the only one that actually wants to make the playoffs. Forty wins will probably do the trick this season, and surely the Nets can find enough wins against other runts in the East to achieve that, um, honor.
Johnson: I will go with the Raptors. Masai may not have the freedom to blow the team up, a second round playoff appearance is awfully attractive to an ownership and fan base starving for playoff appearances. Plus the tank is already very crowded, not many people seem to know this but most teams that miss the playoffs do not get a top three pick.
Soppe: Toronto! They are a different team without Rudy Gay and with Kyle Lowry playing at a high level, they might not only win this division, but actually be the best team. Terrence Ross is playing well and DeMar DeRozan has discovered a bit more well rounded of a game. If Greivis Vasquez can settle into a role, Toronto should approach 42 wins, plenty to win this division.
Wray: I predict Toronto not just to win the division but to climb into the three-seed over Atlanta. Who ever said this team was tanking? Masai Ujiri is well over the salary cap and both of his trades–shipping away Bargnani and Gay–have yielded returns that have improved the team for both the present and the future. His ability, proven in Denver, to turn bloated contracts into solid rotation players remains masterful–and we have a ways to go before the trade deadline yet.
Liu: Is there still room on the Toronto Raptors bandwagon? The only obstacle to the playoffs i sa Masai Ujiri firesale. It wouldn’t and shouldn’t surprise if the Raptors did trade away Kyle Lowry, DeMar Derozan amongst other players but if they stood pat, there’s plenty of talent to take the division. With Brook Lopez out and Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce getting nothing but older, it’s possible we get a Raptors-Pacers Eastern Conference Finals (only with a LeBron injury, of course).
Cianfrone: Comedy fans. I want to say Toronto, as the Raptors have looked much better since the Rudy Gay trade but Masai Ujiri has talked in the past about wanting a superstar and thinking it is the way to win in this league. Since no superstars are coming to Toronto on their own the path to a superstar is via the draft, which means I expect Kyle Lowry and potentially Amir Johnson at least to be headed out the door so the Raptors find themselves in the lottery. With Boston and Philly also tanking I guess I would choose the Knicks because the Nets are without their best player for the rest of the year. Either way it will be hilarious and confusing as it all happens.
4. Which team, currently under 0.500, is the most fun to watch right now?
Karalla: If it’s not the Knicks, it has to be the Kings. Isaiah Thomas is one of the funnest players in the NBA, DeMarcus Cousins belongs in the 18th and final column of the league’s periodic table, and Rudy Gay is an ever-repeating casualty in the Battle for Better Statistics. Plus, the team never gets better.
Johnson: The Pelicans, when Anthony Davis is playing. He’s already a force and so versatile.
Soppe: Johnson is 100% right. The Timberwolves are right at .500 as of my answer, otherwise they’d be in consideration. I expect Minnesota and New Orleans to finish over .500, so give me the 76ers as a team that is fun to watch that will finish under .500. They just play so fast and reckless, and while it’s not poetry in motion, it sure is fun to watch (for better or for worse).
Wray: Philly for sure. When have we ever not at least secretly loved the team that’s first in pace? I’m already palpably excited for Nerlens Noel’s debut, and fat chance I’d ever watch any other team if they call up Antetokounmpo the Elder.
Liu: The Pelicans, when Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson are healthy. It’s especially fun when Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday are rolling, slashing off pick-and-rolls and ultimately making this offense unstoppable. It might be too bad the #FullSquad might not even play 50 games together. Can we get them a one-year waiver to the Eastern Conference?
Cianfrone: The Anthony Davis led Pelicans. I’m a hugeeee Davis fan so I love watching the Pelicans as often as possible when he is healthy and playing. They are even more fun with Ryan Anderson by his side consider teams have struggled to find a way to slow down the Pelicans offense when the two share the floor. Add in Brian Roberts (a favorite random role player of mine), Jrue Holiday and Tyreke and I find it hard to find ways New Orleans isn’t fun.
5. What does rock bottom look like for the Knicks? Nets?
Karalla: The Knicks signing Carmelo Anthony to a six-year, $120 million contract extension. That’s all I can think of, considering this has already happened and probably will happen on the court soon. For the Nets, rock-bottom would have to involve Eastern European hitmen “trading” members of the team for “players to be named later.” Write your own conclusion.
Johnson: I think the Nets sneak in with a seventh or eighth seed only to get swept by Miami or Indiana, Bucks style. For the Knicks, I think they have a few more rungs to hit, all revolving around JR Smith and ‘decision making.’
Soppe: Signing Melo and JR Smith is the right answer for the Knicks. They are who they are, and it’s not going to change. For the Nets, it would be Deron Williams finding his way out of town. Yes, I realize he is inked for the next few seasons, but if he leaves, this team becomes something worse than bad: unwatchable.
Wray: Um, it looks like this, right? Isn’t this the absolute worst any team could do if they operated as if the salary cap were nonexistent? It’s impossible to spend money any less efficiently while being more organizationally dysfunctional, right? Right? Never mind. They’ll probably find a way.
Cianfrone: Stephon Marbury was hanging around the Knicks the other day right? His returning for some random reason would be the Knicks rock bottom. For the Nets it is Reggie Evans starting games again