The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe: Another Weekly Roundtable
These roundtables have quickly become a part of our weekly routines and we have every intention of extending them right through the regular season. We hope you’re enjoying them as much as we are. #Question6 is on hiatus this week as we tackled 20 questions and shared some preseason picks (located right after Question 10) in preparation for opening night.
1. Who wins the battle for the Central Division? Are there are any survivors?
Andrew Johnson (@countingbaskets): Chicago, running away.
Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin): Chicago seems to be the best regular-season team of the bunch. Indiana might have the higher ceiling in the playoffs with their insanely effective starting five, but Chicago is the safe bet for the regular season.
Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla): As long as Rose stays healthy (had to say it), Chicago will win the battle and take no prisoners.
Kyle Soppe (@unSOPable23): I’ll take the bait. Give me the Indiana Pacers. Yea yea yea, I know how good the Bulls have looked in the preseason (specifically Rose), but is it not possible that Paul George is the best player in this division over an 82 game stretch. Rose is probably more talented, but his health is at least a minor concern, and should he tweak his knee here or there, he’s proven likely to take the time off and not force things. I’m picking the Pacers based on the idea that Rose players closer to 65 than 80 games, thus allowing the Pacers to edge them out.
Cole Patty (@ColePatty): I was on the “Pacers can still be better than the Bulls, even with Rose” train at the start of October, but give me the Bulls. Rose looks amazing, and regardless of if I still think he wasn’t the most deserving of MVP the year he won it, he is still really good. I think it is close, but the Bulls are likely stronger in the starting line-up, and I’m not one-hundred percent sure what the Pacers bench is going to bring with Danny Granger out for the time being.
Jacob Frankel (@jacob_frankel): Bulls will win the division because that’s what Thibs does, but the Pacers will be a better team.
Andy Liu (@AndyKHLiu): An extremely improved and good division but the Chicago Bulls and Coach Thibs seem to live for the regular season.
Matt Cianfrone (@Matt_Cianfrone): Bulls. Thibs doesn’t play his guys all those minutes to lose the division.
Sean Widmer (@SeanTWidmer): I like Rose and the Bulls but can’t shake the feeling that the Pacers are going to pick up right where they left off and take the division. Paul George and Hibbert with monster seasons coming up.
Kevin Ferrigan (@NBACouchside): The Bulls. They are going to crush the Pacers this year. I think Rose is taking it personally that people are trying to make it a conversation when Indiana could do nothing with the Bulls when Derrick was last healthy. Given how amazing he’s looked so far, I don’t think there’s much question who the better team is.
Patrick Redford (@patrickredford): Chicago. A hypothetical second round series between these two would be such an archetypal Eastern Conference series, nothing but fouls, scowls and jowls (or something).
Rich Kraetsch (@richkraetsch): I’m a Bulls fan, but I can’t let go of the fact that Indiana improved tremendously in the offseason. If Hibbert is closer to playoff Hibbert than beginning of last year Hibbert it’s a runaway. If he or George regresses then it’s all the way Chicago. Gun to my head though, I’m still taking Indiana.
Brandon Curry (@ByBrandonCurry): A healthy Derrick Rose is what separates these two teams, assuming Paul George doesn’t take another step up the star ladder. Obviously health will play a major factor, but if both teams stay relatively healthy, I give the edge to Chicago.
2. Which likely playoff team spontaneously collapses?
Johnson: Do people still consider the Knicks a playoff team? If so, I pick them.
Conlin: It’s a question of degrees of likelihood (I don’t think any of the expected top 6 in the West or top 5 in the East falter much), so among those 11 teams, the one with the biggest (and I use that word generously) bust potential is probably Golden State. People seem to be acting like they were a 60-win juggernaut last year – they only won 47 games and won one playoff series, in large part because their opponent was without (possibly) their best player. In reality, the likelihood of Golden State stumbling and missing the playoffs is maybe 5%. But that’s probably higher than Miami’s.
Karalla: Wouldn’t it be funny if the Knicks fell apart? Are we considering New York a likely playoff team? My own division predictions be damned, a discontent Melo could do more damage to his own team than to opponents. (Changes Atlantic prediction to Brooklyn.) Just in case.
Soppe: I don’t think the Knicks are a good basketball team or major threat in the postseason, so I’m not counting them in this exercise. I’ll be watching the Rockets closely, as they aren’t exactly full of flawless players. You’ve got a superstar in James Harden who has had one year as the go-to guy, Jeremy Lin who has made more money as a result of one month than any human being should be allowed to, and that big guy in the middle who has been amid a controversy or two over the past few years. I don’t see much veteran leadership on this roster (Marcus Camby’s time as an influential voice is long gone), and while I wouldn’t project a collapse, it wouldn’t exactly surprise me.
Patty: I really want to say Brooklyn, but no matter how many injuries they could possibly have they are deep enough to still make it. There are six sure-fire playoff teams in each conference, so the question comes who is the most likely to be wiped away from injuries from a lack of talent depth. If Harden and Howard get hurt — which I don’t find likely — can Lin, Asik, and Parsons combine into an eight seed? I don’t think so. I highly doubt both players get hurt, but out of any team that could have their season sunk by injuries, it is Houston.
Liu: A battle between the New York Knicks and Golden State Warriors goes to the Dubs. The Knicks will win enough games with Carmelo Anthony and a three-point shooting happy team, especially in an improved but still weak Eastern Conference. A combination of injuries (likely) and regression (won 47 games last year but finished their last 30-ish games .500) can lead to an ugly season.
Cianfrone: Knicks. New York was most successful last year playing Melo at the four and surrounding him with shooters. Yet this offseason they lost shooters in Jason Kidd (no matter how bad he was late), Chris Copeland, and Steve Novak and replaced them with Beno Udrih, Metta World Peace and Andrea Bargnani. While I like World Peace all three are shooting downgrades and Bargs moves Melo to the three. This has potential disaster written all over it.
Widmer: I have a real sneaking suspicion that it’s going to be the Nuggets. I don’t think they collapse out of the postseason completely but I just don’t believe that a team built around JaVale McGee will challenge for a top 4 seed like the the Nuggets did last season.
Ferrigan: The Nuggets probably. They lost the most talent in the offseason and they brought in a lot of, um, not very good players to fill the voids. They will probably still be above .500 and claw into the playoffs because their home court advantage is bananas but they were a 57 win team last year. They will be lucky to win 47 this year.
Redford: I love the Warriors and I want to believe, but this franchise has been spiritually snakebitten for so long that picking them feels right. There are health issues and bench scoring issues here, and their successes last year had somewhat tenuous footing, between Curry’s health, their merely average point differential and the occasional Jarrett Jack blackout game.
Kraetsch: The Nuggets are the easy answer here just because their team, front office and staff is night and day from where they were last year. My dark horse would be the Knicks and that’s only because I don’t believe JR Smith will have a good year and the black hole that is Andrea Bargnani is sure to do some damage to their already unstable footing. As Cianfrone mentioned as well, Carmelo was at his peak with shooters surrounding him, the current crop of “shooters” is a significant downgrade.
Curry: It’s tough to ignore the chronically injured Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut. If those two miss serious time like they have so many times in the past, Golden State could fall out of favor in a stacked Western Conference. However, that could be said for a number of other teams as well. Health will play a major role in this category as always.
3. Who wears out their welcome in Denver first, Brian Shaw, JaVale McGee, Kenneth Faried, J.J. Hickson?
Conlin: I’ll take E; Randy Foye. He’s just not a good basketball player.
Karalla: Anyone except Kenneth Faried, because he’s so darn lovable.
Soppe: I agree that Faried isn’t going anywhere and I can’t imagine Hickson being a disappointment as we kind of know what he is at this point. JaVale McGee is the answer just because of that dangerous P word that get’s people in trouble in professional sports: “potential”. The physical tools seem to be there, but a goofy dude who makes bonehead plays look routine can wear on an organization rather quickly if the on the court production isn’t there.
Patty: I want to say Hickson, because I think of him as a player you don’t want on your team. However, the realistic answer is Faried. JaVale looks to be the focal point, and Shaw and Hickson are newcomers. I think Denver is looking to deal a limited player on a rookie contract because, this could possibly be as good as it gets. If some team buys into potential improvement, they might overpay in a deal for Faried which leaves Denver with Hickson, Arthur, Mozgof, and McGee as the front-court. A back-up center or a two-guard with some size would make the most sense a player Denver would grab in such a deal.
Johnson: Totally based on rumors in my twitter feed, Kenneth Faried.
Liu: I don’t think people care enough about J.J. Hickson and probably love Kenneth Faried too much (energy guys are universally beloved) so I guess Brian Shaw? The fact that he wants Faried to resemble a back-to-the-basket-esque player is an ominous start.
Cianfrone: There are two answers to this one I think. Hickson will wear out his welcome with fans thanks to him doing J.J. Hickson things like missing box outs on free throws and just not making defensive rotations. But Kenneth Faried will wear out his welcome with Brian Shaw and the front office thanks to his poor fit in the new half court, slowed down game Denver is playing this season. With no semblance of offensive skills outside of catching and dunking, and no real understanding of how to play good defense Faried may not be in Denver by the start of next season.
Widmer: Brian Shaw. He’s replacing one of the greatest NBA head coaches of all time. The second the Nuggets start to slide the blame will be placed directly on his shoulders even though it should probably be placed on the shoulders of JaVale McGee.
Ferrigan: Well, I’m inclined to say Hickson because he’s the worst of that bunch of players, but given this offseason, I can’t say I have much faith in the guys working the gears in Denver anymore, so it’ll probably be the tremendous Kenneth Faried. Or maybe Brian Shaw because George Karl’s great and any rookie head coach is highly likely to be a disappointment by comparison.
Redford: Hickson Hickson Hickson. I watched a lot of his games with Sacramento and Cleveland and he frustrated me like few other NBA players have before. If the Nuggets rely on him for anything beyond ‘don’t burn the house down and be tall for, I don’t know, 15 minutes?’ Denver fans will know that feeling.
Kraetsch: The clear favorite is Brian Shaw. We waited so long for him to finally get the reigns as a coach and at this point, I’m starting to see why. Faried as a back-to-the-basket guy, wanting a team with Ty Lawson as their PG to play half court, grind-it-out style ball. I get he’s trying to be everything George Karl wasn’t, but I’m not sure that’s the greatest plan.
Curry: I recall predicting that Brian Shaw would mold a scheme around the traits of these current Nuggets on an earlier roundtable. Oops. Some of the quotes coming from him and around the team right now have me worried. Taking the Pacers model and plugging the likes of Lawson, Faried and McGee into it would be like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Who goes first, though: the personnel or the brand-new coach? My guess would be the former.
4. If DeMarcus Cousins takes the leap this year, which mythical beast will he need to assume as his spirit animal?
Karalla: A bull head with a T Rex’s body and the extremities of an enormous grizzly bear.
Soppe: A new mythical beast that we have yet to see. A DeMarcus Cousins.
Patty: Hundreds of meters tall, and with the ability to bend limbs — and tentacles! — into tight shapes and places while somehow extending and retracting them. DeMarcus Cousins must become H.P. Lovecrafts’ cthulhu. A giant part man, part dragon, part octopus being, the cluthu’s reputation of a harbinger of doom fits perfectly into the large, quick, and surprisingly lithe Cousins. His mix of skill potential and physical potential could be a monstrous issue for opposing teams to handle on a nightly basis. Sadly, I don’t think he has the teammates to take that form.
Johnson: One that defends the pick and roll and is allergic to long jump shots.
Liu: I’ll leave the puns for the smart guys.
Cianfrone: Ivan Johnson. I won’t explain this because I fear for my life but just trust me on this one.
Widmer: I’ll go with a greek monster and say Medusa. Because no matter how good he becomes this season he will still have the moments where he looks like his lady parts hurt and that leads to taking entire games off.
Redford: Scylla, the six-headed dragon beast that takes advantage of a nearby whirlpool in The Odyssey to devour ships full of sailors. Cousins’ main problem is not knowing where to be, specifically with getting his ass into the paint. Scylla is a fearsome monster at any measure but it leverages its proximity to the whirlpool to fill up its belly.
Kraetsch: My brief Wikipedia glancing on Greek mythological creatures yields a very obvious result – Kobaloi, which is a species of mischievous creatures, fond of tricking humans or in this case tricking opposing defenders. Also, this creature allows the fallback of him regressing and tricking all of us (or, well, Sacramento Kings management) for thinking he was a max player.
5. Bigger limiting factor in the Celtics’ backcourt, Avery Bradley or Jordan Crawford?
Conlin: I don’t think the Celtics have any delusions about what Jordan Crawford is or potentially could be. But it seems like they think Avery Bradley could be a legitimate point guard someday, despite his deficiencies as a ball-handler, passer, and shooter. Call me crazy, but I don’t think that works out.
Soppe: I think Conlin is spot on here. Crawford has his fair share of deficiencies, but the C’s seem hell bent on giving Bradley shot after shot to shine. The bigger limiting factor is Bradley, and not because he is any less talented, I just think he’ll be on the court and in a more visible role.
Patty: The fact they are together? Bradley would fit perfectly with James Harden, and even though Jordan Crawford tries to emulate the bearded-one at times he isn’t James Harden. Bradley can be a very good player in a role — maybe similar to George Hill’s role with the Pacers is even possible — but Jordan isn’t going to get Avery to that role.
Frankel: Bradley. True, Crawford shoots too much, but at least he can make things happen off the bounce and shoot from outside a bit better than Bradley. Bradley’s defense is massively overrated. Pressuring an opposing point guard can only make so much impact, and he doesn’t have the size to match up with elite wings.
Johnson: Since I wrote a couple of pieces pointing out that Bradley isn’t a Point Guard, I will go with Bradley. But, it depends on how long Rondo is out, and, therefore, how long they go on pretending Bradley can play point.
Liu: I don’t think it matters. Boston knows what they have in each and they aren’t trying to make the playoffs. Ultimately, both guys are barely above average and I would guess Jordan Crawford’s wanton offensive style fits no one in particular. So, yeah, him.
Widmer: Just let Kelly Olynyk run the point. Thanks.
Redford: Bradley. Crawford’s delusions of grandeur are at least less self-sufficient.
Kraetsch: As others said, Bradley is going to have more chances to be a drag than Crawford so the answer has to be Bradley. Each time down court Bradley will have the ball in his hands or defending the primary ball handler on the other team. That’s a scary thought for any Celtics fan.
Curry: We know what we have with Crawford, right? I imagine him changing his ways or developing into something different is unlikely. Bradley will get another test run at the point to see if he can actually be of value there, although his recent seasons suggest that might be out of the question. But if he’s bad there, and the Celtics want to be bad… now I’m confused.
6. Which Zeller finishes the season at #1 in #ZellerRank?
Soppe: Cody. I think he is slightly more talented than Tyler and has a clearer path into major minutes. Tyler’s Cavs win more games, but Cody has the better statistical season.
Patty: Cody. He’s the most talented one, and probably gets the most minutes in the shallow Bobcats frontcourt. Tyler will play an awesome glue role, picking up center minutes when needed for Cleveland. However Cody will get a large chance to show his doubters why he is better in the NBA than they once thought. I expect mixed results to come of this chance.
Frankel: Gotta be Cody, just because of the way minutes will pan out. The Cavaliers’ frontcourt is a mess.
Liu: Not the one that couldn’t crack a banged up Cleveland rotation last season.
Cianfrone: Cody. He has the most talent and the easiest route to actual playing time. Luke will get minutes because we can’t honestly expect both Anderson Varejao or Andrew Bynum to actually play 82 games but Cody will do way more with his minutes. I think.
Widmer: Cody. He’s a good rebounder on defense with pretty soft hands under the basket on offense for a bunch of easy bunnies. Plus the Bobcats had the worst FG% in the league last season and I don’t see that improving at all. Enjoy all those offensive rebound opportunities Cody.
Ferrigan: Cody. He’s just all around more talented and better. Plus he’s in a better situation as far as opportunity goes.
Redford: Zody Celler, because he is better at basketball than his brother and also won’t have Anderson Varejao and Andrew Bynum ahead of him.
Kraetsch: I was going to make the Luke joke but someone beat me. So it’s definitely Cody, he’ll have the chance to shine on the Bobcats and he just stands out as a guy who will be more motivated to succeed in the NBA than he was at any point in Indiana. I could be wrong and what we saw was a sign but when he displayed talent and seemed to put 100% effort, he was nearly unstoppable.
Curry: Cody. He’s my pick for Rookie of the Year. There should be plenty of minutes for him to get a hold of in Charlotte and should work fine playing off Al Jefferson. It will be interesting to see if his efficient college game will transfer over early, and if so, that will only help his cause in today’s league.
7. Does Michael Kidd-Gilchrist find a jump shot? If so, who loses their shooting ability to maintain balance in the universe?
Conlin: If Kidd-Gilchrist shoots 40% from three for the first two months and Klay Thompson is in an unprecedented slump, what’s the protocol there? Do we call someone? Is Miss Cleo still available?
Soppe: No, I don’t think MKG develops a J this season, but if he does, everyone else will experience some sort of decline. Why everyone you ask? In order for MKG to hit a solid percentage of his shots, the hoops will need to be lowered or the ball shrunken, which will, of course, catch all other players off guard. But if we maintain the same regulations as far as the game of basketball is concerned, MKG isn’t disrupting the balance of the universe any time soon.
Patty: Not this year. I think jumper improvement is possible, and we have more moderate examples than the Jason Kidd cliche. Look at Gerald Henderson, he started off as a terrible jump-shooter and now he’s an ultra-efficient mid-range shooter and more than capable of knocking down the deep ball. But Kidd-Gilchrist is a long term project with the shooting form, so NBA shooting balance will not be threatened by the Kentucky prospect this year.
Frankel: You know when there’s been a massive, horrible natural disaster, but you just can’t stop watching the carnage? That’s MKG’s jumpshot. From what I saw at summer league, the form hasn’t changed, and the entire motion is just nauseating.
Johnson: This is the second Bobcats related question, I refuse to answer on principle.
Liu: Sure he can, though that might not happen this season. The guy is 20 years old. Let’s talk about Kyrie Irving’s horrendous defense instead.
Cianfrone: As a fellow New Jersey guy I hope so but man that form is so terrible it will take time. I hope he does eventually, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it never happens.
Ferrigan: The answer is no. But if it did happen, Durant is the obvious answer, both because he did that stupid movie where this happened and because he has talent to spare as it relates to his shooting ability.
Redford: Sure, why not. The balance will have to be taken from within the Kentucky family, and I suspect Eric Bledsoe will end the season at 11%. But he will continue to run real fast which is something.
Kraetsch: I’m not banking on the jumpshot coming, nothing to suggest it will happen this year and I don’t have an overwhelming belief that he’ll ever become an efficient shooter. Thus, the universe we know will remain.
Curry: Only if they let Mark Price play in his place and wear his jersey.
8. By the end of the season which player will have the worst contract in the NBA?
Conlin: Probably the same guy who does now – Gerald Wallace.
Karalla: If the Knicks re-sign Melo, there you go. Otherwise, Gerald Wallace.
Soppe: Any Brooklyn Net gets the silver medal, but this panel is correct. Gerald Wallace
Patty: End of the season means that expirings don’t matter, which sadly gives Hedo Turkoglu — my favorite punching bag — a break. So I have to say Amar’e Stoudemire until he can actually play 50 games in a year.
Johnson: Amare Stoudemire. Stoudemire will have the worst in terms of production per million for this year and next likely. It’s not Wallace, I don’t think Wallace even has the worst contract for a Celtics small forward.
Liu: Carmelo or Kobe Bryant, though I’m cheating here and stretching this a bit past the season. They’ll remain with their respective teams and it appears they’ll be paid handsomely to do so.
Cianfrone: Gerald Wallace. Though watch out for Eric Gordon, if he misses a ton of games again he probably starts to join the conversation.
Widmer: Royce White is still in the league for the 76ers right? I know he’s not making a ton of money like the guys mentioned above but at least they all can travel with the team and play in the games.
Ferrigan: What Andy said about Kobe. He’s going to be making somewhere near 35 million per annum for bad defense and declining offensive production. Yuck.
Kraetsch: Easier answer is probably Gerald Wallace but I have to go with Kobe on a pure dollar/production level.
9. Which team does Omer Asik play for in April?
Conlin: My heart says New Orleans. We’ve been waiting for the Ryan Anderson-Asik swap since mid-July. But my head says Houston. After watching their defense fall apart whenever Asik wasn’t on the floor last year, I think the idea of always having either Asik or Dwight Howard on the floor is too enticing for the Rockets to pass up.
Karalla: If I’m Houston, the only way I trade Asik is if he absolutely refuses to dress. His defense and rebounding is/are way too valuable.
Soppe: How about the Trailblazers? Portland has 0 depth and unless they are ready to give Thomas Robinson big time minutes (I think he’s a full grown man but he hasn’t been able to get big time PT just yet), they could use another big. I like have LaMarcus Aldridge as a PF, so a clog the pain type of center would be a nice addition.
Patty: Houston. I thought the Wizards had an outside shot of swinging a three team deal where Thad goes to Houston, Emeka and a pick goes to the tanking Sixers, and Washington gets Asik. But then Ernie Grunfeld got Marcin Gortat instead. I personally don’t think New Orleans wants Asik, most bloggers dream deal. So then there are some other possibilities — like Atlanta giving Millsap — that I doubt come into existence in this realm. Asik gives the Rockets much needed depth at center that is instantly gone without him, so he stays.
Johnson: No idea. 50/50 he stays in Houston.
Liu: Houston. Morey isn’t dumb. He knows Asik’s defense is invaluable and in the event of a Dwight Howard back aggravation or injury, Asik becomes their second-best player in what is a sieve-like perimeter defense.
Cianfrone: Houston. The Rockets are potentially a title contender and Morey won’t mess with that. With the questions about Dwight’s back still lingering a bit, and the fact that he tends to have games where he gets in foul trouble I don’t think Houston can risk asking Marcus Camby to anchor a defense for extended minutes. I am intrigued by the Asik to New Orleans for a package built around Ryan Anderson talk though.
Widmer: New Orleans. I’m still buying in on the Ryan Anderson for Asik chatter.
Ferrigan: Houston. Morey’s too smart to trade him away for a lowball offer and I suspect that’s all he’ll get. Team’s think they’re going to panic trade him for lesser players – which, much as I like him, Ryan Anderson definitely is.
Redford: Rox. Did you see the defensive quarters he and Dwight put together this *preseason? Dude.
*: Yeah I know.
Kraetsch: Houston. I just can’t see how they won’t find a way to make Asik work there. He’s far too valuable for a team with true title hopes and a team that can, if they find the right fit, be one of the better defensive teams in the league. The Ryan Anderson for Asik deal makes sense on a lot of levels, but Asik is a championship-level defensive talent. They’ll find a way to make it work.
10. The DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay combination: hilarious or ridiculous?
Conlin: This depends on the other three guys – if DeRozan is the 2, Gay is the 3, and there are two traditional bigs on the floor? Hilariously bad. If it’s Lowry, Novak, and one big, it’s a salvageable unit. And I say this knowing full well that I might be the last human on Earth who thinks Rudy Gay can still provide good value to an NBA team.
Soppe: Bias alert. It’s not an ideal combo, but I think both can play, which is a good start. It’s ridiculous if they continue to settle for jumpers, but I think it could be a fun duo should both play to their strength and attack the basket.
Patty: Ridiculous. I feel like this is an ill-fated combo straight out of the late-90’s, early 2000’s. I love their defensive prospects, but the offensive limitations are tough to get over with the two together. Maybe they go out and grab a stretch four, but at the lack of spacing with the current incarnation of the roster won’t be fun.
Frankel: Kind of under the radar, the unit with these two, Kyle Lowry, Amir Johnson, and Jonas Valanciunas had a super super good defense. I think it can work on that end, but on the other they’re basically the same player, taking bad shots and not doing anything else.
Johnson: I am with Frankel, I think there is some defensive potential there. But it’s hard to ignore the spacing issues on offense.
Liu: Get them a point guard. Maybe it’s Kyle Lowry, maybe it’s not, but those are two good players that could use someone that can run an offense.
Cianfrone: Somewhere in the middle. The defense should be pretty good but there are going to be moments and shots from each of those guys where laughter is the only appropriate response.
Ferrigan: Ridiculous. Well, unless you buy that Rudy’s improved vision is going to fix things for him… which I’m like 75% of the way in on!
Redford: Hilarious. I find ridiculous basketball to be really funny, so this is going to rule. One game, DeRozan will hit like four threes and talk about how they play so well together and then go 3/28 for the rest of the month.
Kraetsch: Patty was right on the money with a late 90s, early 2000s Cuttino Mobley/Steve Francis-type combo of guys that look, act and occasionally play like great NBA players but have deficiencies that can’t be unseen. It’s going to be a hilarious combo of missed 18 footers, failed alley oops, bad three points, hero-ball and oh man I should probably put the Raptors as one of my League Pass teams, no?
Even more roundtable questions below!
11. Who finishes the season as the Pelicans’ best shooting guard?
Conlin: Are we still calling Tyreke Evans a shooting guard? I think the most likely scenario is that New Orleans’ crunch-time five plays Eric Gordon and Evans together (with Evans as the nominal small forward). In that case, I think Gordon wins by default.
Karalla: Gordon, because I can’t see a way that Evans would take many minutes at the 2 away from a healthy Gordon. However, a healthy Gordon isn’t something we see very often, so by season’s end, barring a trade, it might just be Anthony Morrow.
Soppe: Reke. I like him being off the ball and think he has the physical tools to succeed. If you want a scorer, the answer is Gordon and it’s not close. But if you want someone who can do a bit of everything, I like Evans to be the more valuable of the two 2’s.
Patty: Gordon. I think Eric Gordon is the best player when healthy, and both Gordon and Tyreke will play together late. I love the upside to New Orleans backcourt anyways. I personally believe Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans were victims of the talent around them — Jrue last year, and Tyreke in the long-term — so I’m all in on the Pelicans. This also comes from the belief Anthony Davis makes a leap this year.
Johnson: Not Austin Rivers
Liu: Ryan Anderson? *Shooting* guard implies shooting and player implies health. Neither Eric Gordon or Tyreke Evans assume those traits.
Cianfrone: Probably Gordon but if he can’t stay healthy maybe Jrue Holiday. I don’t think Holiday would play a ton of minutes at the spot but if Gordon isn’t healthy I wonder if New Orleans would close games with Brian Roberts and Holiday in the backcourt to keep Evans at the three. But if Gordon stays healthy he is pretty talented so that would be the answer.
Widmer: I’m with Liu. If Ryan Anderson doesn’t get traded it’ll be him… again.
Ferrigan: Eric Gordon, I guess. Not a lot to like about their SG rotation, especially if you view Tyreke as more of a SF, as I do.
Redford: I still believe in Eric Gordon. He’s injured, doesn’t like beignets or something, and has a lot of other shooting guards around him, but an engaged Gordon can defend and shoot with the best 2’s in the league.
Kraetsch: Eric Gordon…. IF he’s healthy, so Tyreke Evans it is!
12. In the unlikely case that LeBron does not win the MVP this year, who does take it?
Conlin: Jason Richardson in Philly’s Tankpocalypse? Either him or Rose. I can totally see the national media tripping over themselves to give Rose the award if Chicago locks down the No. 1 seed in the East.
Karalla: Rose. Follow the narrative. Or, let’s say Kobe comes back in late November and scores 35 a game AND the Lakers somehow grab the 8 seed. Maybe. Just maybe.
Soppe: The obvious answer is Kevin Durant, and I’ll say Paul George is second. If the Thunder can snag the top overall seed in the West without Westbrook for a quarter of the season, KD will win the award.
Patty: What if Dwight Howard plays like 22.9 points, 14.1 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, 1.4 steals per game 2010-11 Dwight Howard? He also had a 26.1 PER while winning Defensive Player of the Year that season. I’m not holding my breath, but I think he’s the only person to interfere with the inevitable LeBron-Durant one-two finish.
Frankel: Durant. It’s a legitimate possibility that he hits 28/8/6 on 64% true shooting. He has the narrative on his side, the voter fatigue on his side, and he’s also legitimately the second most worthy.
Johnson: Derrick Rose, everybody likes a comeback story.
Liu: Derrick Rose or Kevin Durant. The former out of his own greatness and a fair share of sentimentality. The latter due to another historic shooting season buoyed by a weaker team and extra exposure in that assumption.
Cianfrone: Durant because he will keep the Thunder afloat without Russell Westbrook. But imagine an injured superstar comes back earlier than expected and leads a team that would floundering and headed to the lottery into the playoffs. If Kobe Bryant does that I would be surprised if the narrative doesn’t just run wild and lead to Kobe running away with the award. It would be fantastic and terrible at the same time.
Widmer: Durant. I just feel like nothing would make David Stern happier than to leave the league in a place where the league’s most likeable guy is the MVP. Oh yeah, that and the fact that he could go for 30+ ppg this season. That part doesn’t hurt much.
Ferrigan: Durant. He’s the second best player in the world and he’s going to shoulder a huge burden until Russ returns. Combined with the Thunder’s relatively easy schedule to start the year, the narrative writes itself. You’ll be hearing about it for a while about how carried them without Russ and then when they take off towards the top of the Western Conference and another mid-50 win season people will be raving about him.
Redford: This is somewhat unpredictable because so much of it depends on narrative that we can’t predict at the moment. That being said, Durant because the Thunder will still be awesome without Russ and he may hit 50/40/90.
Kraetsch: Durant. The Thunder won’t miss as much of a beat as we think they will, Durant will score a ton per game at a crazy efficient rate while the guys around him begin to improve. Westbrook comes back and the Thunder cruise to the playoffs yet the narrative is the NBA’s most likable player with the greatest smile leads his team of nobodies to the promised land.
13. Who claims the 8th playoff seed in each conference?
Conlin: Atlanta in the East, Dallas in the West. The fact that both of those teams are first alphabetically in their respective conferences may have influenced this decision.
Karalla: Cleveland and Denver.
Soppe: Boston and Portland.
Patty: I think 7-10 in both conferences are going to be the muddiest of muddy waters. So I’ll explain some teams I think COULD make the 8-seeds that people are seemingly writing off. First, the Denver Nuggets won FIFTY-SEVEN games last year. They still have Lawson, Chandler, and Gallo. Do the losses of Koufos, Iggy and Brewer equal a regression of around fourteen losses? Possibly, but that is pretty massive step-back for a team that isn’t losing a LeBron, Durant, CP3 type player. As for the Eastern team that is getting written off, maybe the Milwaukee Bucks aren’t that much worse by switching out Monta for Mayo and replacing Brandon Jennings with Brandon Knight? Throw in progression from John Henson, and good years from Gary Neal, Carlos Delfino, and Caron Butler, and the Bucks could get their eight-seed — again. My actual guesses are NOPE and Washington.
Johnson: Toronto and Minnesota. Bonus prediction, Minnesota wins a game in their series.
Liu: I want to see the Detroit Pistons’ front-line go up against the miniscule Miami Heat so them. The Western Conference probably comes down to the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Portland Trailblazers, and New Orleans Pelicans. So pretty much everyone. A healthy Dirk and improved backcourt probably has Dallas in the driver’s seat for the seventh seed so I’ll take the Wolves, while setting up candles in a dimly lit room praying for Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love to stay healthy.
Cianfrone: Cleveland and Portland.
Widmer: Atlanta and Portland.
Ferrigan: Cleveland would be my choice in the East assuming perfect health. But I just can’t see Cleveland- especially Bynum and Andy V- staying healthy enough to win 40 games, so I’m going with Detroit. Out West, I think Dallas upgraded a bit and Dirk won’t miss as many games this year, so I like them to eke back into the playoff picture.
Redford: Dallas and Cleveland.
Kraetsch: Cavaliers and Minnesota
14. Who plays Kevin Love in the movie version of the Timberwolves season?
Conlin: Have you seen Jon Hamm’s beard?
Johnson: Justin Timberlake
Liu: Ask Bill Simmons.
Cianfrone: Nikola Pekovic. Because he asks to and no one says no to Pek.
Widmer: Bill Walton
Ferrigan: I don’t know some unathletic white guy. – NBA GMs, apparently
Redford: Vincent Gallo.
Kraetsch: Brad Miller is available.
15. One word to describe Kevin Durant’s 2013-2014 season?
Frankel: See question 12.
16. What album would be the perfect soundtrack for the 2013-2014 Golden State Warriors season?
Conlin: Hot Fuss. Everyone enjoys it at the time, but in the end turns out to be far below transcendent. But then you think about it several years later and say “You know what? Hot Fuss was pretty fun. I liked that album.”
Patty: The Warriors are going to be fun, boisterous, and on the top of their game. So I think Young Jeezy’s “The Recession” is fitting. Jeezy already came out with strong albums in “Thug Motivation 101” and “The Inspiration,” but he really hit another gear on this album as one might expect the Warriors will with Iguodala and a re-vamped bench. The album ended out on its highest note though with the hits “Put On” and “My President,” and I don’t expect that part to be symbolic.
Frankel: Gotta go with Soulja Boy’s recent mixtape “23”. The banger and one of the lead singles on the tape “Rollie” has obvious implications; a lot is dependent on whether or not Stephen Curry rolls his ankle. Similar to his “Life After Fame” mixtape, a main theme on this one is how famous he is and what’s it’s like. “Chains on my neck/now they know my name” comes from “Jackie Chan”. Similarly, this Warriors team is decked out in sleeved jerseys and everybody knows who they are. They got a Sports Illustrated cover and Stephen Curry is 6th in #NBARank.
Liu: Some Christian rock band.
Widmer: Jock Jams. Always Jock Jams.
Redford: No Age’s excellent 2010 album, Everything In Between. Both garnered universal anticipation following the success of the jagged punk fuck-all of their debuts, and both added something to the formula that improved everything. Let’s hope Steph and co. have a “Fever Dreaming” in them.
Kraetsch: De La Soul’s 3 Feet High & Rising. A team that is still having fun, but knows they are good and knows they need to get to that next step… but they still REALLY enjoy getting high. A team that can be accepted by basketball purists and casual white audiences because their stars are all approachable and non-threatening. You can dance to it, but there’s also some real great music sprinkled in. It’s not going to be the best album of all time, but you’re going to enjoy the ride.
17. Who reveals themselves to be the league’s best garbage time player?
Conlin: This is how Al Jefferson is approaching the season.
Soppe: Gotta be Thad Young. He’s probably the best player on this 6ers team right now, and with Philly as the early favorite to lead the league in garbage time, that makes him the early season favorite.
Patty: Gerald Green was built for this Suns team, and this Suns team was built for Gerald Green. He will perpetually be in garbage time, and really will be a lot of fun in more of an entertainer role than anything.
Johnson: Nick Young
Liu: Kyrie Irving is going to be awesome, garbage time or not, but mostly in garbage time.
Cianfrone: Anthony Randolph is going to kind of be in the Nuggets rotation, at least to start the year. Denver will have plenty of garbage time games. Anthony Randolph has made a living showing flashes in summer leagues, practices and preseason. I think it is finally time for him to wow people in real games, just at the point where it doesn’t matter.
Ferrigan: Jordan Crawford will be the most hilarious player in the Celtics “garbage time all the time” season. Ditto for Nick Young on the Lakers.
Redford: I’m gonna interpret this as coolest because we need to talk about Greg Oden. The Heat will win a ton of blow outs and if Oden stays relatively healthy [knocks on every piece of wood in my house], he’ll get some burn and basketball twitter will fall over itself fawning.
Kraetsch: Tie between Thaddeus Young and James Anderson. Both will embrace their role to the fullest extent on a crippled Sixers team. There are no rules this year in Sixersland so long as you don’t win any games.
18. Kawhi Leonard or Paul George? In a game of horseshoes?
Conlin: Leonard is clearly better than George at horseshoes. It’s insulting to even ask this question.
Soppe: Two players I love more than the game of basketball itself. But everyone knows that having two first names (Kawhi doesn’t really count as a common first name) is a major flaw in the game of horseshoes. This seems like the type of quiet/under the radar type of thing Leonard would excel at. While other players go to the club, the “Spurs Way” is to get to bed early, in order to be fresh for their 6:00am Horseshoe tourney.
Patty: On the court — I have to defend George, it is knee-jerk with all the criticism he has taken this summer — George. In horseshoes, I have to imagine Kawhi’s hands influence the game in some way? I really have no idea how horseshoes work though, I’ve never played as a bigger advocate of bocce ball.
Johnson: Kawhi Leonard, not sure why.
Liu: Wouldn’t Paul George just do 360 windmills? Yes, so him. Kawhi is more length and IQ than athleticism.
Cianfrone: George. I think Kawhi’s hands being so massive would probably cause problems for him holding and throwing the horseshoe.
Widmer: Leonard for sure. I just have a feeling that Tim Duncan actually makes everyone play horseshoes with him on the plane. Practice will prove to make perfect for Kawhi.
Redford: George. Horseshoes is a game of angles and George has more reach, which will at least make it easier for him to drop it near the post.
Kraetsch: Pop probably has some intricate strategies with horseshoes that he passed on to Tim Duncan, who passed them onto Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli who eventually gave them to Leonard.
19. Which movie is a better metaphor for the Brooklyn Nets, The Usual Suspects or Encino Man?
Conlin: I’m going to go off the board here and pick Murderball. I think Brook Lopez is going to be the only guy left standing on the roster by the end of the season, the rest will be strewn about with various injuries.
Johnson: I am pretty sure Prohorov was the Keyser Soze, so The Usual Suspects.
Liu: See Question 14.
Karalla: Last Vegas
20. Who wins more games this season, the Orlando Magic or the Syracuse Orangemen?
Conlin: Orlando strikes me as an incredibly high-variance team this year. I could see them winning anywhere between 13 and 38 games. Syracuse will probably win between 27 and 28 games. I’ll go with Syracuse.
Soppe: Syracuse has the ACC preseason player of the year, and while I think James Michael McAdoo takes the award this season, that is the same number of players the Magic have that would make the preseason all ACC roster. Syracuse wins more games and the Magic might get to pick their best player in the draft.
Patty: Syracuse, as they have a shot to win thirty games and the Magic likely do not.
Johnson: Go Orange.
Liu: Syracuse plays zone and has a head coach that’s sort of an asshole. Saying that, only one team is trying to tank for Wiggins.
Cianfrone: I know nothing about college basketball this season but everyone else seems to think Syracuse is going to be good so Cuse. It is will be close, but in the end the Magic start to tank and that leads to the final difference. The real question is could Syracuse beat the 76ers. (And no, no they can’t. That isn’t a real question no matter how many times we hear a variation of it this season.)
Widmer: The Magic. Oladipo won’t allow for a sub 25 win season.
Ferrigan: I don’t know enough about college ball to answer this but I’ll guess Cuse.
Redford: Orlando. Don’t they play ~10 games in college?
Kraetsch: Has to be Syracuse right? They’ll win ~30 games and even though the Magic will improve, they are probably 25-27 game level at this point.