The Man in the High Castle: Another Weekly Roundtable
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. We needed an emergency question this week to address the Derrick Rose and Marc Gasol injuries so Question 6 for you readers will return next week. In the meantime feel free to shout out at us in all caps, about any of our answers on Twitter.
Editor’s Notes: Bobby Karalla (@BobbyKaralla) is the author of this week’s questions.
1. What’s been more surprising this year (and which is more sustainable): Portland’s offense or Phoenix’s defense?
Andrew Johnson (@countingbaskets) I have been more surprised by Phoenix’s defense. But, I actually think it is more sustainable. Portland has a number of players shooting from the outside at what be career rates, which should revert closer to their long run averages.
Zachary Bennett (@ZacharyBD) It’s likely both Phoenix and Portland could “regress to the mean.” The Blazers are playing confidently, shooting well beyond-the-arc while Jeff Hornacek has the youthful Suns motivated to play well defensively. However, if losses begin to pile up will Phoenix retain this energy or will it dissipate by the defeat? When the chemistry develops around the league, the Suns will begin to cool-off(had to), though I think Hornacek has does a solid job so far.
Cole Patty (@ColePatty): The Suns defense is much more surprising, Portland’s offense was really good last year until the bench would come in and mess everything up. I think the Trail Blazers’ offense will be strong all year. Maybe not this good, but really good.
Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin): Didn’t we all expect Portland’s offense to take a step forward? Perhaps not this large, but it’s not like this is a total shock. Phoenix manufacturing a defense around Miles Plumlee and P.J. Tucker, though, is bang-my-head-on-my-desk perplexing. I can’t imagine it keeps up.
Kyle Soppe (@unSOPable23): Suns defense. The Trail Blazers have plenty of talent on the offensive end, so their offensive production isn’t overwhelming. As Conlin mentioned, Phoenix isn’t exactly loaded with defensive upside, making them the right answer to this question. Plumlee is averaging over two blocks a night and Markieff Morris is averaging nearly 1.5 steals, not sure that either one of those early season trends continues or that the Suns continue to hold opponents under 98 points a night.
Patrick Redford (@patrickredford): Phoenix has been more surprising but Portland feels more sustainable. At some point, the braintrust in the desert will presumably initiate strategies to punt on the year. Meanwhile, Portland is really balanced and has a bench with some actual NBA players, which is an important thing.
Ian Levy (@HickoryHigh): They’ve both been surprising but I think Phoenix’s defensive improvement is more sustainable. Although it might not look quite this good across the entire season, their improvement is linked to system changes. I’m more apt to trust the Phoenix process than the Portland product.
Matt Cianfrone (@Matt_Cianfrone): The Suns defense has been more surprising because of the amount of youth involved there. It isn’t common for so many young guys to be able to be successful early, especially guys who are adjusting to major minutes in the NBA like Plumlee, who has been the anchor. I do think Portland is more sustainable though, because they have so many really good offensive players and really make it a point to find good shots. When you do that with the players they have a great offensive is bound to happen.
Kevin Ferrigan (@NBACouchside): The Suns defense. Who on the team, save Eric Bledsoe, projected as a competent, let alone standout, defender going into this season? Big shouts to Jeff Hornacek for cobbling together such a good team defense, so far, without much in the way of obvious talent on that end.
Andy Liu (@AndyKHLiu): Surprising? The Phoenix Suns good at anything is superficially surprising. Portland had a very good starters-based offense last year so I’d assume that’s more sustainable, especially considering their bench improvements.
2. Is it crazy to think that at least 13 teams in the West would almost assuredly make the playoffs if they played an Eastern Conference schedule?
Johnson: Fifteen if we put them in the Atlantic Division.
Bennett: Obligatory: Leastern Conference.
Patty: I would say it is not crazy to think that, but it is hard to really know on vacuum questions like this.
Conlin: Don’t be ridiculous. It would only be 12.
Soppe: Not crazy at all. I’m not buying the Lakers, but teams like the Suns/Pelicans/Nuggets are playoff teams in the East (heck, they might all be capable of earning the five seed).
Redford: Ban divisions.
Cianfrone: Can we try so we can get the Swagtime Lakers in the playoffs?
Ferrigan: It’s crazy that the East is that bad, but no, you’re perfectly right to believe that to be the case. I’m surprised, though, because coming into the season, I thought the East would be much improved at the top, but the Nets are imploding and Derrick Rose …oh God… *sobs uncontrollably*
Liu: This is a depressingly accurate question.
3. Minnesota is top-10 in both offensive and defensive rating. Product of an easy schedule or are the Wolves legit?
Johnson: I think legit, more or less. I forgot how good K-Love is, he was one of the best players on the 2012 Olympic team.
Bennett: I’d like to say, the Wolves schedule isn’t “easy”. They’ve played 10 games and six of them part of back-to-backs. They lost to the Cavs and Clippers by inches on the final play in each respective game — literally, inches. The starters are legit, but the bench isn’t, so, this answer probably jinxed it; they’ll start losing now.
Patty: They are legitimate. Kevin Love was a top five player in the lockout season, and I think it was easy to forget that during last season’s injury plagued year..
Conlin: The Wolves are definitely legit. They are not fake. They are a real NBA team. They are not a figment of your imagination.
Soppe: Legit! All hail Ricky Rubio! Ok, so I’m a little biased (man-crush alert), but I love what I’ve seen from them. The defensive will probably tail off a bit, but this offense isn’t going anywhere. Obviously Kevin Love is the stud, but don’t forget about Kevin Martin (who is averaging 23.1 points this season and has had five seasons with at least 20 ppg). Nikola Pekovic allows Kevin Love to showcase his well rounded, inside/out game, and that’s when the Timberwolves can succeed. Assuming health, this is a playoff team that no one will want to play.
Redford: Seems good to me. Rick Adelman is a wizard and I hope history gives him his fair shake as one of the best coaches to ever do this thing.
Levy: I think they’re certainly legit. I’d be surprised if the defense stayed in the top ten all season but their offense is good enough that even if their defense regressed toward the league average they could still have a top ten point differential.
Cianfrone: The success is legit, though I’m not sure the defense is. The Wolves are clearly one of the six or seven best teams in the West, partially because they have a lot of talented offensive players in a gorgeous offensive system. They have defensive flaws but maybe Adelman is such a good coach he finds a way to make it hold up, it is certainly possible.
Ferrigan: Legit. They probably won’t sustain that level of defense, given their personnel, but the offense is a thing of beauty. I had forgotten how great it is to watch the Adelman offense go when it’s cooking, but man is it great and holy crap are the Wolves cooking to start the season.
Liu: The football-styled Kevin Love-outlet transition offense is going to remain top-10 all season. I have a hard time believing Love and Kevin Martin are going to sustain a top-10 defense, however. But no one will care as long as everyone is healthy, probably pushing them into the playoffs. It also speaks to the formula of an elite offense paired with an average defense. The Blazers and Mavericks are doing the same, and successfully.
4. James Harden’s defense has quickly become a talked-about problem, yet he’s worth more win shares defensively than any other Rocket besides Dwight Howard and Chandler Parsons. Choose one of the following and explain: A. Houston’s defense is even worse than we thought! B. We’re overreacting about Harden’s defense, especially considering he’s a great offensive player. C. Small sample size. Relax. D. Irrelevant.
Johnson: D, it raises new questions for me about defensive Win Shares.
Bennett: Answer B. Although I don’t think we’re the ones overreacting.
Patty: All of the above. I will add in, it is interesting how Harden is falling out of the good graces of peoples’ perception. I still love him as a player personally, but there certainly isn’t as much innocence surrounding the bearded one.
Conlin: Well, defensive win shares often reward players for playing among good defensive lineups, regardless of how responsible they are for that good defense (to wit, Carlos Boozer has ranked in the top 20 of defensive win shares in each of the last three seasons). Houston’s defense isn’t good, but that doesn’t really matter – even Kemba Walker, who played almost 3000 minutes for the league’s worst defensive team had positive DWS last season. So I guess my answer is D.
Soppe: Houston’s defense is worst than we thought, but that may not be a bigger problem than we thought. Dwight Howard has a way of covering a ton of defensive flaws, so while I think Harden’s defensive ineptitude is real, I’m not sure it kills the Rockets hopes.
Redford: Maybe the stat takes into account Houston’s defensive strategy of ‘funnel everyone to Dwight and hope he can block the shot’. Very prescient.
Levy: I just don’t think Defensive Win Shares does a good job of separating out his contributions from the other four players on the floor. He’s been an abject disaster at that end.
Cianfrone: A small sample screwing with a stat that has problems judging individual defense from lineup driven performances.
Ferrigan: D. Win Shares is based, primarily, off of defensive rebounds, steals, and blocks looked at in a team context. So it doesn’t have much to say about how good Harden’s defense actually is. Harden’s defense? It’s RILL RILL bad, your eyes are not playing tricks on you.
Liu: I don’t think Harden is as concerned as the rest of us about his defense, as long as he’s this good defensively. This is why they brought in Dwight Howard, anyway. One would hope the effort is there when the proverbial spotlight is brighter.
5. This is 2013, and this is America, and we only deal in absolutes. If you had to pick one thing to blame aaaaaall of the Nets’ problems on, where are you sending your criticism? Jason Kidd for being unprepared? Injuries/age that hinder the roster? The front office for hiring an inexperienced Kidd and putting that roster together? The owner for being so gutsy? Some random fan for being annoying? Twitter? Miley Cyrus?
Johnson: I blame the Park Slope Co-Op.
Bennett: Dramatic storylines in New York? Weird. The Jason Kidd saga is fascinating. He’s supposedly watching opposing coaches and taking notes during games, I’d like to read those. The theory of him being a good coach because he was a point guard isn’t a good one. He’s not prepared and as a player he reacted to what he saw, moving instinctively. He doesn’t seem to have a plan, there’s no adjustments being made or even signs of any emotion from the guy. I like him, but, this team is in disarray and it’s probably because of a lack of guidance, and where they’re located on a map.
Patty: Father Time.
Conlin: My theory – hiring a young, inexperienced coach for a veteran team isn’t inherently a problem. Look at Erik Spoelstra, for example. The (potential) problem arises when it’s a young, inexperienced coach who was playing in the league last year. Imagine that you’re Kevin Garnett. Don’t you think part of you is thinking, “I’m just as experienced as Jason Kidd. I’m just as smart as Jason Kidd. The only reason he’s coaching is because he retired last year and I didn’t”? Ostensibly, there is nothing that makes Jason Kidd more qualified to be an NBA head coach than Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce. I have to imagine that’s part of the problem. But if we’re only dealing in absolutes, I blame Obama.
Soppe: Any question that involves a pop culture option is concerning, but Miley is the right answer. Here’s my theory: the Nets have struggled this season with age/health and Cyrus has struggled (I guess it depends on your definition of “struggle”) in general. All of that, and the rest of the world’s problems, end after December 6th. Why the 6th? Miley and Johnny Manziel will both be 21 after that day, which means the world we live in will be a considerably different place. If the world is different, that means the Nets are good. So I blame Miley for the early season struggles, but she also gets the credit when they turn things around and make the playoffs.
Redford: Jason Kidd grabbed the wrong power amulets. D’oh!
Levy: Scott Sereday.
Cianfrone: James Dolan. The Nets clearly heard rumors that the Bargnani trade was coming which led to the trade for the Boston group. If that never happens the expectations aren’t as high and maybe we don’t react this way. Those darned Knicks ruin everything.
Ferrigan: Deron Williams. He’s been getting a pass forever, but he just isn’t the player his reputation would have people believe he is. With the newer Nets being older guys, they need Lopez and Williams to be great. Lopez has been, but Deron’s not even close. Deron hasn’t even been average! He’s been bad. If they are going to turn it around, they need much more from D-Will.
Liu: It’s probably still way too early to make assumptions. The Eastern Conference is real bad, Michael Jackson (Kanye voice). If they can stay healthy and Jason Kidd can help mesh the team come playoff time, they’ll be fine. The expectations of a championship were always too high.
EMERGENCY BONUS QUESTION: Derrick Rose and Marc Gasol will both be out for a while. How drastically do these injuries change this season’s outlook (ie are Chicago and Memphis goners) and will we ever see the real Derrick Rose again?
Redford: I don’t know, maybe? Memphis is set up okay, as is Chicago, but neither can count themselves among the elites. If they both come back relatively healthy by playoff time (which, uh huh yeah sure), each team will be a really interesting 7 seed.
Bennett: The Grizzlies will need to find a new identity and the Bulls are used to playing without one, well, without Rose anyway. Being in the East makes circumstances in Chicago — better? I don’t expect either player back this season.
Levy: They could still both sneak into the back end of the playoffs. But there’s going to be a lot of sadface cat GIFs flying out of Memphis and Chicago IP addresses this year.
Patty: Both teams will be fine. Gasol is a huge part of Memphis, but he’s only out until Christmas. They can be survivors until then starting Kosta Koufos. Rose is a big blow, but between the East’s quality and Chicago’s ability to grind games out without him, they will likely be playing games that matter in April.
Soppe: I’m with Redford here. These injuries don’t knock Memphis or Chicago from the playoff picture, but they should no longer be considered title contenders. Mentally, I don’t know how Rose can recover this season, and the Grizzlies were struggling with Gasol. In the end, without a healthy star, neither of these teams is capable of scoring enough to be considered a serious threat.
Cianfrone: They are done as meaningful contenders. Neither team was exactly lighting the league on fire while healthy and the loss has taken the most important pieces out of an entire unit, Rose to the Chicago offense and Gasol to the Memphis defense. As for Rose I hope so, so I will say that yes we will. It is just to sad to think of not getting at least a few more seasons of fun Rose.
Ferrigan: Memphis was never a real contender anyway, but they are definitely done as a pseudo-contender now, too. The Bulls are so done. In their first game after Rose’s diagnosis, the Bulls were absolutely demolished by a real contender in Los Angeles. Rose’s teammates have to be so disheartened that there’s a very good chance he will miss the season (again) and they certainly played like it on Sunday. Chicago’s window with this particular core group of guys has closed. Luol Deng will almost definitely be leaving town by year’s end, if he’s not traded before then, and it’s hard to see how they replace him well enough to compete for a title next year. As to whether we will ever see the real Derrick Rose again: I hope so, but honestly, I doubt it. I have to think two major knee injuries in under two years will be pretty devastating to a player with Rose’s level of explosiveness, especially given how much his game depends upon that explosiveness. Even should Rose return to form, we’ll now have lost essentially 3 Derrick Rose playoff runs and nearly 2 full seasons in the period when he should have been at his most world destroying athletically. What a damn shame.
Liu: Did either really have realistic title hopes? I’d say no, so this doesn’t change much in the grand scheme of things. What it does do is rob us of Marc Gasol’s brilliance on both sides of the ball and make us question whether Rose will fully recover and look the same again. That’s the saddest part of all this. Neither team were winning the title with or without their star but stealing away one of the most explosive players of our, my, generation? Screw that. Ugh.