The Divine Invasion: 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.
1. Jeremy Lamb. Perry Jones. Steven Adams. Reggie Jackson. Which one of the Thunder’s young guns is the best player five years from now?
Rich Kraetsch (@richkraetsch): Do I get tomatoes thrown at me if I say Steven Adams? Seriously, I’ve been on this guy’s bandwagon all year and everytime I see him he improves a little bit more. I think Lamb and Jackson will both be huge parts of their core, but I absolutely see Adams stepping in and being one of the better pure “big men” in the league in five years. No, he won’t be putting up 20-15 numbers but I can see him fitting a Bogut-esque role.
Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla): The real question is will any of those guys even be on the roster in five years, am I right? …OK. Reggie Jackson is a really exciting player to watch, so it’s tempting to take him based solely on entertainment value. Adams, right now, reminds me a lot of Nick Collison, only he has more skill. There’s value in a center with decent touch around the rim who is not only willing to play defense, but also who’s willing to be physical. I like Rich’s Bogut comparison. He might never be an elite player, whatever that means, but if he’s big and plays hard on both ends, he’ll make tons of money and have a very good career.
Miles Wray (@mileswray): Adams will provide the most value because he resolves the team’s most dire need: he’s such a better fit than Kendrick Perkins in the starting lineup it’s befuddling that the transition hasn’t taken place already.
Myles Ma (@MylesMaNJ): I agree with everyone else: Steven Adams. At 20 years old, he’s already a regular rotation player on the best team in the west, averaging 15 minutes a game and appearing in every contest thus far. He’s not a scorer and he turns it over too much, but he gets to the line at a high rate and has the highest offensive rebounding rate of anyone on the roster this season. On defense, the Thunder are a little worse with Adams on the floor, but he’s a pretty good shot blocker. If he can improve his free throw shooting, he’ll be a solid player in his league.
Andrew Johnson (@countingbaskets) I agree with the consensus on Steven Adams, but Jeremy Lamb is also a decent bet. He is still only 21 and is a real offensive threat with a good true shooting percentage and low turnover percentage.
Kyle Soppe (@unSOPable23): I’ll take the bait and say Reggie Jackson. Athletic point guards are becoming a staple of good teams, not the exception, and at 23 years old, Jackson has plenty of room to grow. In five years, he will be at his peak (at least age wise), and potentially on another roster. I’ll say in five years, Jackson will be getting more minutes and have more opportunity that Adams, thus giving him a chance to flourish. Adams is the safe pick, but I’m not looking for safety in answering this question.
Andy Liu (AndyKHLiu): The fact that three out of the four names have been mentioned speaks volumes about the drafting and developing of the Oklahoma City franchise. And it isn’t Perry Jones is a total scrub or bust of a player (drafted late first round but had early first talent). He was the one called upon to defend LeBron James in the second half of the Thunder’s huge win. Keeping that in mind, I’d probably go with Reggie Jackson. He’ll be the first or second option for a pretty good team after the Thunder are unable to re-sign him. Wait, that sounds familiar…
2. Right now the Miami Heat’s first round playoff opponent would be the Brooklyn Nets. Any chance this ends in an upset?
Kraetsch: I just can’t see it. Miami’s struggles seem to fit more with a team just treading water until the playoffs. If they were going up against a Pacers team from year’s past or even a scrappier team like Chicago, maybe. I just can’t see Brooklyn pulling it out.
Karalla: I could win the lottery, but I probably won’t.
Wray: Not unless the entire Heat roster indulges in some delicious crab dip.
Ma: Hell no, UNLESS Brook Lopez comes back at 100 percent, LeBron James is injured in a bicycle accident and the Birdman decides to live in a hawk’s nest to ‘be among his people.’ Then maybe.
Johnson: Not in a seven game series. This gets back to Chris Webber’s keys to the game, Le Bron James showing up the the arena. Behind James Miami is an older and thinner team than last year. James is now probably the second best player in the league and is likely to lose the MVP vote legitimately (not based on voter fatigue), but that’s more than enough to handle the Nets.
Soppe: The Nets figure to offer one KG outburst and one fourth quarter showdown featuring Paul Pierce vs LeBron James. But a threat to win four out of seven? Not in my opinion. They probably go down 2-0, steal one at home (and by “steal” I mean win a game in which the Heat mentally check out of midway through the second quarter) and are never heard from again.
Liu: Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were old the last time they improbably took the Miami Heat in the Eastern Finals. Not only are they a shell of their former selves now but the Brooklyn Nets don’t have Rajon Rondo. So, no.
3. Give me compelling three reasons to watch this year’s All-Star game. If you can’t come up with three, give me an alternative activity to fill that time.
Kraetsch: I used to love the All-Star Game and All-Star Weekend, then I turned 18 and it stopped being as fun, but I’ll bite. Given the lack of defense and Stephen Curry’s lights out shooting this year, he’s liable to put up big numbers, maybe 40-50? Joakim Noah will take it way too seriously, hustle down the court and probably block some shots and get mad that someone missed a defensive rotation. You get to see Tony Parker and he rulz!
Karalla: 1. This could be Dirk’s last All-Star game, and even though he’s the most boring ASG player ever, it’s still worth mentioning. 2. Those jerseys are so dang cool!!!! 3. Hold out hope that Anthony Davis ends up on the roster (he will) and that he does something amazing (he probably will).
Wray: Use that time to watch the awesome trans-continental basketball documentary Elevate, free of charge on Hulu. It’ll make your heart swell with anxiety, pride, sympathy every time the Hamady N’Diaye’s and Gorgui Dieng’s of the world enter a game or–all too often–get cut.
Ma: You basically have to watch it like you’re a spectator at an excellent Rucker Park street ball game. Invite all your friends over and yell obnoxiously at everything. Is that three?
Johnson: Seems like a good time to take up Parkour. I suggest going in whole hog in a nearby post-industrial wasteland.
Soppe: Three compelling reasons? Yikes. I’ll take the “alternative activity” option, and I’ll give you three of those: fantasy baseball rankings, dinner preparation, YouTubing Allen Iverson greatest moments.
Liu: Curry. Curry. Curry.
4. Who would you rather have right now — Anthony Bennett, Adam Morrison or Kwame Brown?
Kraetsch: YOU CAN’T MAKE ME CHOOSE! I won’t do it! I guess Bennett since maybe you can turn that lump of goo into something. I wanted to say Kwame but we’re a good two years removed from the last time he was even remotely effective and I don’t want to pay for the search party to find Adam Morrison.
Karalla: Bennett, because right now he’s just young and fat. That might be blunt, but at least you can work with a guy who’s young and fat. Send him to the D-League, get him on a professional diet, and see what happens. He’s just a kid. It’s wayyyyy too early to give up on him.
Wray: Real talk: Kwame Brown’s rebounding and defense is the most-reliable and longest-lasting skill-set amongst all three candidates. It’s been three seasons since Brown’s health didn’t knock him out for the majority/all of the season, but if picking up a low-risk backup-5 like Greg Oden is a savvy move, it wouldn’t be unwise to see if Brown can deepen your bench for the league minimum. Bennett’s salary is $5.3M this year and only goes up–that’s a rookie contract that really will mess with your salary cap, and for unknown return.
Ma: I want to say Bennett, since he’s only a baby and I already know about Adam Morrison and Kwame Brown. But—like Michael Jordan—I pick Kwame Brown. He’s clearly not a No. 1 draft pick talent, but he’s lasted more than a decade in the NBA, which is more than Adam Morrison can say. Also, Kwame Brown and Adam Morrison were disappointing, but I don’t think they were as bad their rookie seasons as Anthony Bennett.
Johnson: I have to with Bennett if only because of youth and the shoulder injury. I think people have underestimated how much those can mess with a player’s shooting touch. So, there is a non-zero chance that a year removed from surgery Bennett could regain his shooting and work himself back into shape. But Wray is right about the salary, draft picks are coveted because the CBA depresses their salaries below their market value, obviously not the case with Bennett right now.
Soppe: Bennett is the right answer, but I’d take an empty roster spot and the added cap room if that’s an option.
Liu: Anthony Bennett hasn’t even played a full NBA regular season yet. Adam Morrison isn’t an NBA player but Kwame Brown was a serviceable backup big man when he was healthy. Here’s hoping Bennett can provide some type of scoring off the bench in his career. If you want depth and immediate help, then Brown’s skillset is unexciting but necessary. If you’re a young team developing talent, then Bennett is your best bet.
5. Pick your favorite dunk contest performance of all time.
Kraetsch: There’s an obvious choice (VC in 2000) but to make it more fun I’ll pick Dwight Howard’s 2008. It gets underrated because of the Superman theatrics but aside from wearing the cape, he had some incredible, you have to see it to believe it dunks including throwing the ball off the backboard mid-air and slamming it home with the off-hand.
Karalla: Vinsanity, for sure. Also, I feel like Paul George’s 2012 performance was underrated. Even aside from the blacklight theatrics, this dunk was really impressive.
Wray: For me there are two dunks with transcendent cleverness that were ruined by poor timing. 1. Gerald Green 1.0’s socks dunk would have threatened to shred the underlying fabric of sneaker sponsorship…if it hadn’t been the exact same between-the-legs jam he had executed on his previous round. Years later I see the beauty in this replication–it logistically proves how Green’s shoes are little more than decoration, it is his self that provides all that air–but, as you can hear from the TV commentary, it felt redundant and underwhelming in the moment. 2. Last year’s Jeremy Evans painting dunk was such an unexpected combination of athleticism, artistry, and foresight that it really should end the prop game for 2014 and beyond–it’s very unlikely to be matched, never mind topped. Unfortunately the world was tired of seeing the same tenth-man from a small market two years in a row. Shame.
Johnson: Gotta go with the small guy here and Nate Robinson. Robinson is just fun to watch period, plus the heightened (get it?) degree of difficulty. I feel like the basket height should be adjusted to 4 feet 3 inches above each contestant’s head to really test their hops. Let’s see Superman then.
Soppe: As a Raptor fan, Carter in 2000 trumps all. The dunks during the regular season (Paul George, DeAndre Jordan, Terrence Ross, etc) have been better than the dunk contests, and I can’t imagine this year’s event being any less underwhelming.
Liu: Dunk contests are boring. Way too much downtime and hype go between for forced applause after dunks we’ve seen many times. But Jason Richardson getting robbed because he didn’t simply go for an easy dunk gets it for me.