Time Out Of Joint: 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. Am I crazy, or is Terrence Jones the perfect power forward companion to Dwight Howard?
Kyle Soppe (@unSOPable23): In theory, the entire Houston Rockets team should be a near perfect match for D12. A superstar guard, a reliable rebounder/effort guy (Jones), and a ton of players willing to shoot from anywhere beyond the three point line. I do like the grit Jones brings to the table, but I wouldn’t mind seeing him improve as a passer a little bit. On a similar note, Howard is the perfect companion for Jones, as the second year man is benefiting from the attention Howard draws. Either way, I like the combination for the first 40 minutes of the game (learn to make free throws, and this team can contend with the best of them on a given night … or first half).
Andrew Johnson (@countingbaskets) Jones has been impressive. He still needs to add a three point shot, to really be ‘perfect’ for Howard and the Rocket’s system, currently he is shooting in the Josh Smith mid to upper twenty percent range.
David Vertsberger (@_Verts): I think you might be crazy. I haven’t bought into the Terrence Jones hype, mainly because – like Andrew said – his three-point shot isn’t there yet and because his defense is pretty porous. Not that he’s a bad player, but he’d never start on a contending team at this stage of his career. I just can’t see it.
Rich Kraetsch (@richkraetsch): Yeah, you’re crazy. He’s been fine but the perfect companion is, as we saw some years ago a Rashard Lewis/Hedo Turkuglo type guy, a Ryan Anderson pre-neck surgery. Not to take anything away from Jones but I have a hard time noticing his contributions while watching live and it’s more of a box score “Oh, hmm, he had 15.”
Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla): It’s tough to think up a perfect companion for Howard. Ideally, it’d be a four who could shoot the three and operate from the inside the arc, which really narrows the list down to Dirk Nowitzki and a few stretch fours (like Turkoglu in his prime, for example) who can control the ball. But, oh my god, what if Dirk takes the minimum to play in Houston next season??!
Kevin Ferrigan (@NBACouchside): He’s definitely not perfect, but he’s probably sufficiently good. He’s the right type of player to put along Dwight in that he’s a 4 man who can shoot. If they are able to move Asik for a better replacement, though, they should still do that.
Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin): I certainly wouldn’t say perfect, considering how much emphasis Houston places on range shooting (and how positive an effect that can have for a low-block player like Howard) and Jones shoots just 27% from downtown. There are certainly a great many things that Jones does well, and the fact that his cap figure is only, like, $122.50 this season makes him a very nice compliment for their roster. But in a league where LeBron James and Kevin Durant spend time at power forward, it’s hard to call anyone else a “perfect” fit.
Andy Liu (AndyKHLiu): Perfect is Ryan Anderson. So technically, no, but Terrence Jones has been a pleasant surprise from the his college and rookie days. He’s shelved most of the bad shot selection and has played within his game – drives to the basket, flip shots, and the occasional jumper. The defense isn’t very good but that’s why Dwight is there. Daryl Morey would probably like to upgrade the position but he has zero leverage with Omer Asik and it’s looking like Jones and Donatas Motiejunas will share minutes.
Miles Wray (@mileswray): Rashard Lewis was and is Dwight’s most perfect companion, because Rashard don’t want them rebounds.
2. Rudy Gay and the Kings, really?
Soppe: I’m not married, but I’m guessing this is what a honeymoon is like. No flaws are revealed, just good times doing whatever you want. A statistical turnaround was likely (he’s simply not as bad as he showed in Toronto), but I wouldn’t call it sustainable. For the season, Gay is right at his career 45% shooting from the field, and that is with him making nearly 53% of his attempts for Sacramento (just as unsustainable as the 38.8% he was shooting in Toronto). The Kings love to get up and down, a style that suits Gay well, but isn’t going to long term success until they buy in on the defensive end. We’ve yet to see the crazy side of DeMarcus Cousins and don’t overlook the fact that the Kings are still just 8-9 with Gay in the lineup.
Johnson: Taking the under here too. But, also don’t think his Toronto numbers were his real level either. Good news for Sacramento is that he is playing like it is a contract year, so maybe he will opt out of last year. In any case, both teams are playing a much better and more entertaining brand of basketball since the trade, so I say wins all around.
Vertsberger: I was immediately fidgety about seeing Gay excel in Sacramento, but the coaching staff has played him to his strengths. Instead of isolating him behind the arc, he’s finding the ball A LOT in the short-mid range area. He’s being forced to run off a load of screens, making for seems to the basket that he’s no longer passing up for the 18-footer. His defense still stinks for the most part, and a good amount of the shots he’s making are still confounding, but I can bet Gay continues to be more efficient as a King than as a Raptor.
Kraetsch: It’s been a fun ride while it lasts but I feel like we said the same thing when Rudy went to the Raptors. It’s a short term burst of energy to a team but eventually it wears on them. As others have mentioned, Sacramento has done a great job of putting him in a place to succeed which is good to see and is contributing to this sudden resurrection. With that said, I’ll bet it falls apart here shortly.
Karalla: He’s shot at least 57 percent in six of his last seven games, which is ridiculous for any player in the NBA. The big difference with Gay in Sacramento is that he’s only taken 20 shots three times in his 17 games with the Kings, as opposed to him doing it seemingly every other night in Toronto, and in Memphis before that. Part of his success is probably a result of teams not knowing yet how to defend Sacramento. The Kings have a point guard, wing, and center who can all score. That’s tough to plan for. I doubt that changing jerseys mid-season is enough to completely change a player, but I hope for Gay’s case that he becomes more efficient so writers have one less thing to humorlessly make fun of on Twitter.
Ferrigan: I’m delighted, if only because it makes a lot of snark snipers look foolish. Rudy Gay is a very talented guy and he’s finally in a role where he fits. Sure, he’s overpaid as a third banana, but that’s not his fault. It’s the fault of Memphis’s management from several years ago. He’s almost certainly bound for some regression to the mean, but I think as long as his usage rate stays below 25 (hat-tip: Tom Ziller), he’ll remain a very productive player for them.
Conlin: MY BABY’S ALL GROWNS UP! MY BABY’S ALL GROWNS UP! (To answer your question, no, I do not feel deterred by the fact that he’s excelling on a different team and that the Raptors have been markedly better since trading him. Thank you for asking.)
Liu: When writers/bloggers/fans/analysts make fun or incessantly poke at a player’s weaknesses, it doesn’t necessarily mean they dislike the player personally (except maybe the David Lee-Sloan thing, that was odd). So I, among many of Gay’s detractors, I’m sure, are happy to see him succeed especially after what Mike Malone said after the trade. Can he sustain this production? I’m not sure. And I don’t really care. This Kings team is just fun to watch right now, lose or lose.
Wray: Trades are not zero-sum creatures and, with so many bright minds calling shots across the league, most transactions end up coming out win-win. But it’s hard to get too jazzed about being a trade partner across the table from another team that felt a wild rush of relief once the paperwork was finalized.
3. Which potential playoff matchup feels more compelling, Heat-Pacers or Heat-Spurs?
Soppe: The matchup itself with the Pacers is more intriguing to me, but the fact that a showdown with San Antonio would take place in the finals makes that the right answer. It gives you everything you could possibly ask for in a finals: the greatest player in the world, an all time great on the other side, the best team/organization of the decade-plus, a top five coach of all time, a rematch, and the talk of one dynasty ending while another receives that title. Don’t get me wrong, I love the battles with Indiana, but this might be the last time we see the Spurs at this absolute elite level (probably the fifth consecutive year that’s been said), making that the matchup I want to see decide our 2014 champion. Hey, there’s nothing saying we can’t party like it’s 2013 and get both of these matchups, right?
Johnson: Pacers are the most fun team to watch this year. On the other hand the Heat feel older each game this year, (which is technically true). I am pretty over the Heat. So, I am rooting for Pacers matched against a healthy Thunder team in the finals.
Kraetsch: Heat-Pacers for sure. It’s just a more interesting storyline, a team that pushed the Heat to the limit two years ago and again last year just continued to get better and better, added new mercenaries, swapped guys around all leading to this year, the year we all expect them to finally slay the beast. The Spurs, yeah, that’s fun and all but they were a few seconds away from winning the title last year and really made drastic changes, the narrative is not as fun for that. Moreover, the idea that the Pacers could knock the Heat out of the finals for the first time since the Big 3 experiment means more to me than the Spurs winning the title against the Heat (Dallas already did that).
Karalla: Like Kyle, I’d rather see Spurs-Heat because it would come in the Finals. Imagine how much less exciting Spurs-Heat would have been last season if it were played in the ECF or in the first two rounds. ‘06 Dallas/San Antonio was the greatest series I’ve ever seen, but somehow no one remembers it, or at least as vividly as they do (and will) the ‘13 Finals. I also believe Indy/Miami will definitely happen barring injury, which sort of takes away the luster of the series, in my eyes. The “unexpected” element of Miami-SA last season made the series even more appealing, and would again this year.
Ferrigan: Heat-Spurs. Last year’s Finals was probably the most fun and beautiful basketball I’ve seen in recent memory. The Heat-Pacers matchup will have lots of aggressiveness and mean mugging, but the games are likely to be the ugly affairs that have been commonplace in the Eastern conference going back at least the whole two decades I’ve been watching basketball.
Conlin: It depends on what you value as a viewer. The Indiana-Miami matchup is more physical, in a lot of ways more like rugby than basketball. The San Antonio-Miami matchup is more tactical, in a lot of ways more like chess or fencing. If you’re more interested in the physical actions of the players, the moments that really jump off the screen, Indiana-Miami is more compelling. If you’re interested in the game within the game within the game, with layers of subtext and deception, San Antonio-Miami is the matchup for you.
Liu: Can I choose Heat-Thunder? That’d be the runaway favorite for me. Alas, the two series pits the Heat-Spurs as excitement and entertainment and Heat-Pacers for the intrigue and rivalry. Since I like points and threes a lot more than post-ups and defense, I’d enjoy watching a Heat-Spurs rematch a bit more.
Wray: Heat-Spurs could bring about a historic first: a Spurs team playing with naked emotion, fury, outrage, visible passion. We saw small cracks in the Spurs’ psycho-spiritual fortress last June, I feel like a rematch could provide adequate pressure to make the dam burst. Modern ratings records should shatter with either matchup, though.
4. Is there still a place in this crazy, mixed up basketball world for MarShon Brooks?
Soppe: There sure is. A soon to be 25-year old swing man who has two capital letters in his first name, stands 6’5”, averaged 12 points, four rebounds, and two assists as a rookie is going to get his chances, and in the right system, he could fill the role of “bucket getter” on a second line. I’m not saying he’s great, but in a league where the troubled and chronically inefficient J.R. Smith can win awards, Brooks’ story still has to be written.
Johnson: The Celtics players dubbed Brooks the best one-on-one player on the team, and that’s both his value and his problem. Both years with the Nets, Brooks did well as a slasher getting to the rim often and finishing, but he had no outside game and the defense off the ball was lacking. If he can add a respectable catch and shoot game he can stick in the league, otherwise he will be tearing up Europe.
Vertsberger: I’m not going to answer this question. Instead, I’m going to laugh at all the Nets fans I knew who get bragging about this guy – pointing to some draft site comparing his playstyle to Kobe Bryant’s. News flash, Raymond Felton’s playstyle is basically the same as Chris Paul’s. Ya dummies.
Kraetsch: MarShon is your prototypical bad team scorer, the tired and true theory of fantasy basketball where you target the best scorer on a crappy team. Put MarShon on a team that doesn’t care where they are going and just need to find a way to get to 90 and he’s perfect. His days of being a piece on a contender are long gone (if they ever existed, really).
Karalla: If he wants to go anywhere, he needs to develop a three-point shot (30 percent for his career). He’s not good enough a scorer to play a wing position and not be able to hit the long ball, the way Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant have been able to. Scouting be damned, I’m always hesitant to write a player off before their third season is even over.
Ferrigan: Sure. He can get buckets in isolation and that skill will probably keep getting him chances in the league, even if he seems constitutionally incapable of playing defense or looking for the open man. I’d be fine with the Bulls (or any other team in need of scoring punch, really) taking a flyer on him, if only because they need more shot creators and Brooks wouldn’t cost them anything. Maybe Thibodeau could get something out of him on defense.
Liu: The Warriors are playing Kent Bazemore minutes. So, in short, yes.
Wray: Keep that chin up, MarShon.
5. If you could only read one basketball writer for the rest of your life, who would it be? (You’re all fired if you don’t say me).
Soppe: A very distant second place to Mr. Levy for me is Bill Simmons. I’d love to shed some light on a writer less accomplished, but Simmons’ vantage point as a superfan has special appeal to me. He speaks his mind and calls things how he sees them without much of a filter. The ability to identify with him is what separates him from the pack for me.
Johnson: Breaking the roundtable fourth wall, Ian? I like it! I don’t know that I could go with that level of commitment. Seriously, I go back and forth between wanting fun ‘Who says No?’ trades, existential ponderings and wanting serious analysis.
Vertsberger: Zach Lowe, but only because Ian wouldn’t let me pick him.
Kraetsch: It’s hard to type with a gun in my back, Ian. But seriously, I’d have to probably go with a Zach Lowe because if I’m only reading one for the rest of my life the length of his pieces are an asset. I’d also maybe pick SI.com’s Ben Golliver, his pieces are more concise and are essentially more well-developed game stories which would keep me in the loop.
Karalla: I hate this question as much as I’m intrigued by it. There’s not a single writer whose work I have to read as soon as it’s published. But, that said, I’ve read everything Lowe has written since he moved to Grantland. I suppose then, by default, he’d be my answer. I think only reading stuff by one (or two, or three) guys is really cheating yourself, though. /Instantly grows old, finds wheelchair, sits in it, smokes pipe, drinks whiskey: Kids, read as much as you can, by as many writers as you can, including those at this site! (Ian, do I get a raise now?)
Ferrigan: Lowe seems to be the default choice, but you couldn’t go wrong with Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo! Sports, Matt Moore of CBS Sports, Tom Ziller of SB Nation, or Rob Mahoney of Sports Illustrated, to name just a few. I’d probably say I would read me, though, because if I can’t read my own work it’s going to be very hard to try to write well. (How’s that for an ego-centric cop out, Ian?)
Conlin: This is tough, because I read different guys for different things. Personally, I think Lowe is at the top of the totem pole in terms of breaking down a game and relaying that information in easily-digestible ways, and the fact that he writes so much, every day, makes him a very strong choice if I could only read one person for the rest of eternity. But I think there are guys out there (Kevin Arnovitz and Tom Ziller to name two) who are better “writers,” meaning strictly the way they compose thoughts and ideas. If I’m reading to glean information about basketball, I’d pick Lowe. But if I’m reading to be wowed by the craft of writing, I’d go with Arnovitz.
Liu: I’m very much with Conlin here. It just depends what kind of basketball writing there is. Similar to reading on a broader scale, the genre matters when parsing through the subjective nature of “best”. That being said, I really do enjoy Ian Levy’s writing on Hardwood Paroxysm (not just saying that), Jonathan Abrams/Lee Jenkins on features, Andrew Lynch on stats-y things, Ethan Sherwood Strauss’ different perspectives at Truehoop, Zach Lowe for video analysis, Kevin Draper/Jacob Greenberg for more question-raising stuff, and Matt Moore/Zach Harper for funny/witty team-wide analysis. So, yeah, there’s a lot. Maybe choosing a site (?) would be a more realistic alternative for just basketball. I guess, gun to my head, I’ll go with Strauss. I enjoy the art of writing itself perhaps more than the content sometimes. He’s up there with Arnovitz, at least for me.
Wray: So much skill out in these e-spheres, but nobody has excited and challenged me like Bethlehem Shoals.