Galactic Pot-Healer: Another Weekly Roundtable
USA Today Sports
These weekly roundtables have quickly become a part of our regular routine and we have every intention of extending them through the rest of the regular season. We hope you’re enjoying them as much as we are.
1. How many playoff games do the Chicago Bulls win this year?
Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla): Depends on who they’d draw in the second round. I don’t see them losing to Brooklyn, Washington, or anyone else in the first round. I want to believe the Bulls could beat Indiana in a seven-game series, but I can’t envision a scenario in which they beat Miami more than once or twice. So, to be safe, I’ll say they’ll win 7 games — 9 if they draw Indy in round 2, and 5 if they play the Heat. (I’d want the latter matchup to last as long as possible, though. I love how Joakim Noah hates Miami.)
Seth Partnow (@WhrOffnsHppns): Right now, I’d set that line at 6, though I think it’s closer to 7 if they get the 3 seed and 5 if they get the 4, basically aligning with Bobby’s analysis. I’m not buying the Pacers’ “swoon” enough to predict a 7 game series or a Chicago upset though.
Jacob Frankel (@jacob_frankel): Six. They’ll make it out of the first round and win two against the Pacers.
Cameron Purn (@KeeperOTCourt): They can easily lose to Brooklyn, who now have a healthy and extremely capable point guard in Deron Williams and a newfound identity. But I don’t foresee that happening as I once might have given that Garnett is out indefinitely, Lopez isn’t coming back, and guys are still filtering in and out of the lineup. The Bulls are sorely missing offensive firepower, and are packing their bags after the second round no matter what, but they should win against a 6-8 seed and put up a fight until the end. Six wins.
Andrew Johnson (@countingbaskets) Looks at current standings. I am going to go full on recency bias here, since no one keeps records of these things, and pick them to beat Brooklyn in seven and the then beat the Pacers in six and lose to Miami in six. So that gives us eight wins and 902.5 playoff minutes for Jimmy Butler.
Kyle Soppe (@unSOPable23): I’ll be the low man and say three. There potential matchup with the Nets feels like a beat’em up drag’em out affair where both teams struggle to win back-to-back games. The Nets have won 13 straight at home and seem to be peaking at the right time. I love the Bulls grit, but their inability to pull away from teams makes them a tough team to feel good about picking.
Kris Fenrich (@dancingwithnoah): I’m going safe here. They’ll win the first round on the ferocity of Joakim Noah alone, then win a pair against Miami or three against Indiana giving us a grand total of 6-7 wins which is probably 4-6 wins more than they should get which is, once again, a testament to the power of Thibs.
Andy Liu (@AndyKHLiu): Assuming season ends today, the Chicago Bulls play the Brooklyn Nets and co-create the most forgettable 80-78 contests of all time. But since I have to pick who loses to the Indiana Pacers in the second round, let’s go with Bulls winning in 7 (like last year) and losing in 6 to the slumping Pacers.
2. Who is the third-place finisher in this year’s MVP vote?
Karalla: Joakim Noah, probably. Narrative. But don’t forget about DeMar DeRozan and John Wall. Although they play on teams that probably wouldn’t compete for a playoff spot out West, they’re the most valuable members of each of their teams, both of which have taken significant leaps this season. That’s not to say they’re deserving of basketball’s most coveted individual regular season award, but their play deserves recognition, and if their mentioning on Hickory High is the most they get, then so be it.
Partnow: It’s between Noah and Blake Griffin, whose improvement and increased role for the Clippers has somehow been a somewhat under the radar story for much of this season despite playing in Los Angeles. Another story for another time, but the Clippers as a whole seem to be the unconsidered contender. If Griffin misses any time with his back injury, the edge swings overwhelmingly to Noah. His transformation into a point center has catalyzed Chicago and given them just enough offense to be a threat to the reeling Pacers in the East.
Frankel: He hasn’t been the third most valuable player this season, but Noah will be third because the narrative is too perfect.
Purn: It’s likely to be between Noah and Griffin in the eyes of the general media. Griffin’s more of a superstar and a sexier offensive player, though, and his team has actually fared worse with him off the floor than Noah’s Bulls have (+8.4 vs +6.2 Net Points per 100 possessions per 82games.com). Slight edge to Griffin. Darkhorse selection: Stephen Curry, who’s done great to hide the fact that his team’s offense is poorly run.
Johnson: The media shares my heavy recency bias, so that leaves out Paul George. I guess Noah, unless it’s something Flip Saunders can gin up a campaign to get Kevin Love some votes.
Soppe: I guess today is “Kyle the contrarian” day. Give me Big Al Jefferson. The man is averaging nearly 22 (on over 50% shooting) and 11 with a block and a steal per night. Not to mention he has the Charlotte Bobcats in the playoffs (I understand it is the Eastern Conference, but it is still an accomplishment). I’ll pull out the “valuable” argument here: how many games do the Bobcats win with Cody Zeller as their starting center (joining Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Josh McRoberts, Kemba Walker, and Gerald Henderson as starters)? My guess is that they’d win more ping pong balls than games. Plus, Al is short for Albus, which has to count for something.
Fenrich: Tough tough question. I’m a split between Noah and James Harden and believe Noah will get the vote because he allows voters to be progressive by not selecting a dominant scorer while also being completely justified in giving Bron or Durant the numero uno spot. Noah for safety, Harden for … um, other reasons I guess.
Liu: Who should be and who will be seem like different answers. It feels like Blake Griffin is garnering a ton of MVP votes with his improvement and stretch of CP3-less wins. I’d go Blake Griffin as the guy who will get third and Kevin Love as the one who deserves it. If only because it just looks so depressing to be in Minnesota right now.
3. How many playoff games do the Toronto Raptors win this year?
Karalla: I could see Brooklyn boring Toronto to death in the first round. It wouldn’t last six games. The Raptors could probably take John Wall’s Wizards, however. If the over/under for Raptors wins were 4.5, I’d take the under. I’ll say four just to be lame.
Partnow: If they make the second round, they are probably getting gentleman’s swept, so it can’t be higher than 5. Much like Bobby, I think they handle Washington with minimal fuss, but Brooklyn could be a battle. Still think home court and younger legs get the through that series, so I’m going to be optimistic for them and stick at 5.
Frankel: Five. I think they’ll win in the first and get the gentleman’s sweep from Miami.
Purn: I see them losing if they play the five seed, and maybe even losing to the Wizards whom are currently in sixth. Three games sounds about right — this isn’t a team whose execution or young pieces I’d trust in a long series, especially when pitted against veterans, intense scouting, and bruising defenses.
Johnson: If they’re playing Washington I think they win in the first round. I feel like the Wiz will be more of a just happy to be here team. The Raptors with Lowry’s attitude have much more fight, grit and general cliche potential. I’ll give them one at home against the Heat fueled by pure Canadian patriotism.
Soppe: Raptor Nation! As much as I want to say they will push Miami, I think they’d need a monster performance from Jonas Valanciunas, and I think we are still at least a year away from him being able to dominate a series like this. Johnson is right, five is a good number and would be deemed a success for this franchise. That being said, should they get by Washington in the first round, Miami won’t be able to go into coast mode like they seem to do at times. Logic says five is the ceiling …. which means I’m saying six!
Fenrich: Right right, Toronto for five wins. As it stands, they get Washington who I predict they’ll beat in six games. That’d put Miami or Indiana ahead of them and while I’d be rooting for the Raptors to beat Indiana, I have to assume the Pacers rediscover some semblance of their identity in the next month. At times I can be easily boxed into conventions. I’m working on this.
Liu: If the season ended today the Raptors would play the Wizards. If the Wizards have a healthy Nene Hilario, then 2. If not, then 5. They’d win in seven and steal one against the Miami Heat.
4. Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Josh Smith. Cut one, trade one, start one. Go.
Karalla: If this were a vacuum, I’d keep Monroe, cut Smith, and trade Drummond, because he would warrant the most talent back in return. However, trading Drummond would look REALLY bad, especially because his cap number is low for the near future. So, to be pragmatic, I’ll flip Monroe and start Drummond. Monroe would fit in on sooooooo many teams. Detroit would have plenty of options.
Partnow: Objection: relevance. Part of the reason you can’t trade Josh Smith is his contract. Of course you cut the guy with the most years and bad money on his contract. But purely from a basketball standpoint, keep Drum, trade Smith, cut Monroe (who I suspect will be doomed to the Al Jefferson Memorial Good Stats on Bad Teams Trophy in perpetuity now that Big Al has found a decent home.)
Frankel: Start Drummond. He’s the best of the three and costs the least. Cut Smith. I’m a Smith apologist, but he’s been straight up bad this season. That contract will be worth it if he reverts to his form of a few seasons ago, but right now it’s horrid. I’d trade Monroe. I’m not really sure how good he is, and he’s going to be asking for the max this summer.
Purn: Drummond stays a starter. He is their best asset, is more than worth developing, and their only true center. Smith was flung into a situation where he was asked to do too much in terms of shooting and shot creation, but he’s welcomed that role to a fault. He’s hasn’t been worth his contract — cut him, and get a large return for the youthful Monroe.
Johnson: The question is whether you are better off unloading Smith and possibly giving up assets in the process or trading Monroe and getting a couple. Monroe is about to come off his first rookie deal so they may not get as much for him as some people think. The obvious answer is Monroe, which may be also the right one. But, I might hit a reset with a straight up trade for Andrea Bargnani’s expiring contract.
Soppe: What I would do personally and what is in the best interest of the Detroit franchise are two different things. I don’t think J-Smoove is ever going to be a winning player, so I’d prefer to cut him. That being said, you probably get more value for him than Greg Monroe. Either way, you’re building around Drummond and feeling very good about it.
Fenrich: So weird since the NBA, unlike the violently dangerous NFL, guarantees contracts. Anyways, I’ll suspend disbelief and dump Josh Smith. We’ll pretend the league was so embarrassed for Detroit that the other 29 owners agreed to give Joe Dumars a second amnesty option. While Drummond probably generates a bigger and better return, I have to keep a guy who can wow with beastly maneuvers like him. If it was 1965 and we were talking about the Ft. Wayne Pistons, then keep Monroe, but we’re in 2014 and as much as I enjoy Greg’s understated passing and even keeled demeanor, he’s getting traded. Drummond is mine …. all mine!
Liu: Cut and trade Josh Smith at the same time. Don’t care who we keep between Andre Drummond or Greg Monroe (though Drummond seems like the easy choice).
5. If you needed one basketball team this season to win a single game (opponent and location TBD) to save your life, who would you pick?
Karalla: Spurs, probably, as long as Gregg Popovich would promise me beforehand that he wouldn’t rest his entire starting lineup. (Although, even then, they’d still probably win anyway.) Playoff Miami would finish second in consideration. Third: Dallas, because if I’m going to die, I might as well go out after watching Dirk play basketball one last time. It’s important to ask, though: Do the players know my life is on the line? If so, I’m not sure I could count on Pop for sympathy if things start going awry in the second quarter. That would be a lonely death.
Partnow: Miami. Give me that higher ceiling than anyone else and I’ll assume that my life is sufficient motivation for them to give a crap.
Frankel: Miami. The level of intensity their aggressive defensive trapping system reaches in important games is insane. And though Durant’s been better this season, I’ll still put my money with LeBron in a make or break game.
Purn: I nearly went with the Spurs, but part of that team’s full potential comes from their game planning and execution — less relevant here than in a seven-game series. It’s hard to pick against the Miami Heat who have an frighteningly good balance of talent and tactical expertise, in addition to possessing the world’s best player.
Johnson: I am picking the Chicago Bulls because Thib’s coaches like that every game anyway.
Soppe: I love the Chicago pick based on grit, the Heat pick based on talent, and the Spurs pick based on the fact they don’t lose, but I’ll roll with the Pacers. I think they are a steady team that physically matches up well with any opponent. They consistently defend all five positions and have an elite level talent, something you could argue that the other three mentioned teams don’t have (Chicago lacks the top shelf guy, Miami lacks interior defense at times, and San Antonio has future HOF’s, but probably not a top 15 player in today’s game).
Fenrich: Gotta be the Heat for me. It’s a good team as others have written, and they have LeBron James (ya’ll musta forgot!). I love Kevin Durant and Russ, the Spurs are as consistent as they come, but LeBron minus headband in game six was like watching a man possessed by a tireless demon. I’m convinced that adrenaline-fueled Bron could’ve set a world record in the 800 meters, caught a touchdown pass against secondary in the Super Bowl, beaten a roided out Lance Armstrong in the mountain stages of the Tour de France, bodyslammed Andre the Giant, and eaten more hot dogs or chicken wings than Kobayashi. No other player in the league makes me feel that way so if my life’s on the line, I’m riding with the King.