Now Wait For Last Year: 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 them through the rest of the regular season. We hope you’re enjoying them as much as we are.
* Cole Patty (@ColePatty) is the author’s of this week’s questions.
1. The NBA All-Star Starters were announced Thursday night. Were there any glaring misses to you, or do you agree with every pick?
Dan Lewis (@danlewismedia): I wish that Kobe Bryant had not been voted in. I don’t feel any fear saying that either, because Kobe himself was pretty adamant that the fans not vote him in this season due to his injury. I would have liked to see James Harden make the roster, if only to see his beard get more airtime.
Kyle Soppe (@unSOPable23): “Misses” is a goofy word for the All Star Starters. It is designed for the fans to pick who they want to see, so that’s who wins. That being said, whoever “wants” to see Carmelo Anthony play hasn’t watched enough basketball to vote. I’d be fine with Paul Millsap, John Wall, or (my boy) DeMar DeRozan over him.
Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla): I honestly do not know who the starters are, nor am I anxious to find out. I’m guessing LeBron is starting, and probably Carmelo Anthony, too. I saw on Twitter that Kobe got the starting nod. I wish the All-Star game would drop the East/West thing and instead just allow the players to choose which team they play for. I’d love to see Dirk team up with LeBron, because we all know that’s going to happen in Dallas next season. It’d be like a preview.
Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin): The All-Star game is a fan construction, so whoever the fans vote for is the right choice. The All-Star game is a fan construction, so whoever the fans vote for is the right choice. The All-Star game is a fan construction, so whoever the fans vote for is the right choice. The All-Star game is a fan construction, so whoever the fans vote for is the right choice. The All-Star game is a fan construction, so whoever the fans vote for is the right choice. (Repeat until blood pressure recedes to safe levels.)
Patrick Redford (@patrickredford): I think LaMarcus Aldridge should be there over Kevin Love. Before Zachary comes down here and hits me with some facts, Aldridge has been awesome this year and is that sort of inside-out player who you have to double team or else he’ll get that jumper off wherever he wants.
Zachary Bennett (@ZacharyBD): The All-Star game is voted by the fans, and it was a remarkable run to get Kevin Love into the starting lineup. The Wolves digital media team, and fans alike, provided Love with 34,013 more ASG votes than Dwight Howard between January 9th and 23rd. Howard led love on the 9th by 26,085 votes and finished 7,928 behind. There’s something to be said for that.
Myles Ma (@MylesMaNJ): Anthony Davis. I think this is sort of egregious. He’s a baby, but the Brow is one of the best bigs in the league, even better this season than Blake Griffin. Davis has emerged as a dominant shot blocker and rebou—other voters don’t care about that? Never mind.
2. Pick four players this season to do a no props dunk contest.
Soppe: Dwight Howard*, LeBron James, Gerald Green, Paul George. *DeAndre Jordan if a defender doesn’t count as a prop.
Lewis: Can Monica Wright dunk? I’d like to see her and Kevin Durant release whatever emotions they have towards each other right now in a slam dunk competition. If they aren’t willing to do that in New Orleans, I’d like to see Nate Robinson, Terrence Ross, Tim Hardaway Jr. and JaVale McGee dunk.
Karalla: Is it OK to say LeBron is an overrated dunker? His signature tomahawk is powerful, but when was the last time he truly wowed you with his acrobatics in the air? His athleticism is not in question, and he attacks the rim with a force unequaled by any athlete, save Marshawn Lynch attacking the hole. LeBron hasn’t earned my vote. I’d want to see Robinson, Green, George, and Brandan Wright (that’s “Brandan Wright #NBABallot” to you). Yep.
Conlin: Garrett Temple, Pablo Prigioni, D.J. Augustin, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Just so the Bucks can win something.
Redford: Ben McLemore, Terrence Ross, Dennis Schroeder, and Jordan Crawford.
Bennett: I don’t disagree with the answer Lewis gave, but — LeBron James, Paul George, Terrence Ross and DeMar Derozan.
3. Lance Stephenson, All-Star?
Soppe: Yes! Please. The man is entertaining (like it or not, that’s part of making it) and ranks in the top two on his team in points/assists/rebounds. He has more triple doubles this season than John Wall (also an all-star) has for his career. Ooo yea, and those numbers are being put up for what might be the best team in the league.
Lewis: Yes, most definitely yes. It’s not like the game means anything to the players until the fourth quarter – Stephenson off the bench during the game would at least bring a little fight into the game. Plus, someone on the East has to guard Steph Curry, right?
Karalla: He’s an interesting dude to watch and is one of the more valuable players in his conference. I don’t see why not.
Conlin: There are four potential spots for him. The two guard spots should go to John Wall and Arron Afflalo. Objectively, they’ve had better seasons than Stephenson. If you want to slide him into one of the wild-card spots, I wouldn’t have a particularly strong disagreement, but I wouldn’t put him there myself.
Redford: Nope. It’s easier to put up respectable stats as a third option on a good team than it is to be efficient as the sole good player on a bad team. I like him a lot and I hope I’m wrong, but it feels a bit Mo Williams-ish.
Bennett: I don’t see this going well for him, so, yes. An All-Star appearance isn’t something worth trying to take away from the guy.
Ma: Uh, yeah. There aren’t many guards in the East that are as versatile as Stephenson, and as far as entertainment value—if humping the air after a stepback jumpshot doesn’t make you an All-Star, I don’t know what does.
4. When it comes to title contenders in the West, many omit the Portland Trail Blazers. Is there more bark to this team than bite?
Soppe: Probably, but they are a contender. Sure, defense appears to be optional, but that hasn’t stopped them yet. I get the whole “defense is a staple of winning titles” argument, but this offense isn’t a fluke and I think they can tighten up the defense enough to contend. Nicolas Batum is the key for me, and I’m a believer in him being exactly what the Warriors wanted Andre Iguodala to be: a difference maker who can make up for the flaws/shortcomings of his teammates.
Lewis: No, I don’t think so. I do not think they are capable of beating Oklahoma City in a seven game series, and the road to the Finals is at the crossroads of I-35 and I-40 in Oklahoma City. I don’t think it is farfetched to believe that they could make it to the Western Conference finals, but they’ll have to earn home court in order to make it to the Finals, and I think OKC takes that from them by the end of the season.
Karalla: The Mavericks showed in 2011 that having a team full of defensive-minded players is not a prerequisite for winning a championship. If Batum can at least make life sort of difficult for Kevin Durant should they meet in the playoffs, Portland has a chance. That’s compounded if Russell Westbrook isn’t back at 100 percent come May (or isn’t back at all). It’s not like anyone can stop Portland defensively, anyway. I believe which team wins the West this season will come down to which team is able to score the most points, not which team allows the fewest.
Conlin: We’ve all seen this helpful infographic about the changing strength of schedule in the second half of the season, so a wait-and-see approach seems to make the most sense. If they can weather the tougher schedule and end up with a top-four seed, I’ll call them a contender. But winning three straight series without home-court advantage seems far-fetched.
Redford: Nah, the Blazers seem very real to me. I don’t have any numbers here because I don’t like numbers, but watching them, their offense feels varied and creative. Basically, if you don’t double Aldridge, he scores. If you do double him, you have to contend with their army of shooters and also Damian Lillard. They remind me of a more interesting version of those Dwight Howard Orlando teams.
Bennett: Unless the Blazers’ bench begins consistently struggling, I don’t feel they can’t be a title contender. However, it does feel somewhat like the Thunder and a healthy Spurs team could be a tier above Portland. It’s not a very wide difference, but a difference none-the-less.
Ma: I think they are a contender, but it might be because I want them to be a contender. Their offense is blowing teams away. Yes, their defense is bad. But their scheme seems conservative by design as evidenced by their league-worst rate at forcing turnovers. They save their energy for the sexy end. If they can turn up the intensity during the postseason—and I think they can—they’re a contender.
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo double header. First, what has been your favorite moment from the Alphabet? Second, what flavor(s) would a smoothie named “Giannis” consist of?
Soppe: My favorite Antetokounmpo moment has to be the circulating picture that he has actually grown since being drafted. The man is 19 years of age and averaging better than 23 minutes per game. We’ve got a lotttttt more to see from the Greek Freak, and my life is better because of it. As for flavor of smoothie, I’m going Cherry based (the most “in-season” fruit during the tail end of the NBA season). But one flavor simply isn’t enough. I love me some bananas and blueberry yogurt, so let’s toss those in there because I love me some Giannis. Blend and enjoy.
Lewis: My favorite Greek Freak moment is his block on Kevin Durant. It hasn’t been his most athletic play this season, but when you’re able to stuff someone who you idolize, that must have felt pretty sweet for Giannis. As for the smoothie, well, for the dairy base, we’re going with Chobani pear yogurt, because it’s Greek and tastes great (duh). A little bit of ice, to make it cool, and some mint to add a bite of freshness to the smoothie. Toss in some blueberries, a banana, some acai, a little bit of Nutella and a scoop of protein formula, then bang, you have a Antetokounmpo. A healthy slurry of God bless America.
Redford: The interview that Abbott did with him. He is pretty funny and his voice is suuuuuuper Greek. The smoothie has Greek Yogurt because duh, a little almond butter, some honey, blueberries, blackberries, pomegranate juice and a little bit of kale for superfood purposes.
Bennett: Frankly, as a Zach, I’m sick of going from one end of the alphabet to the other every time i have to write my name down. The Giannis smoothy would consist of Greek frozen yogurt that used imported dairy from Wisconsin to produce. With purchase of this exotic snack you will also have the last name, Antetokounmpo, copied to the clipboard of your computer. How they pull that off, I do not know. I digress.