NBA Roundtable: New Season, New Outlook

The Days Of Wenches Are Sadly, Long Gone

Welcome to our first NBA Roundtable. We have combined forces with some of the best personalities on the internet and with our powers combined, hope our readers will appreciate the part of our sums. In no order, they are the Hoopstradamus, The Elusive Heisenberg and Downtown Charlie Brown both are contributors here, Sportschump fresh off his Ballhyped sportsblog of the year win (Gratz chump!), Fishman  from KeeperOfTheCourt.com,  and lastly myself from my Full Court sized home on the internet, The Pest.

Enough introductions. Lets put down a spread of food, have the wench bring us some ale, and inaugurate the first meeting of the NBA Roundtable.

1. Who are the legit contenders this season for an NBA title and who do you have in the finals?

Downtown Charlie BrownFull Court Pest

I have the Heat and the Thunder in the finals with the Heat winning. I think Westbrook will try and prove a point which will cost his team and get him traded in the offseason. As far as contenders, obviously Miami, OKC, Indiana, LAL, and CHI. Those really are the only teams i see contending this year

Sports ChumpSportsChump.net

Of the three major sports leagues, picking chalk to win a title is usually safest in the NBA.  Nobody could have predicted that the Cardinals or Packers would have finished atop their respective leagues last year and for a change, nobody thought the Dallas Mavericks would be raising last year’s O’Brien Trophy either, which leads me to believe things will return to normalcy in 2012.  Miami has struggled early but I just think that team is too talented not to be there in the end.  And even though they have a new head coach, the Lakers are also as talented

The NBA's Version Of A Peace Pipe

as any team in the league.  While off to ferocious starts, I still see the potential number one seeds , Oklahoma City and Chicago, as too inexperienced… and experience wins championships in this league.  We’ve been waiting a while now for Kobe to square off against LeBron in a seven-game series.  Why not now is what I’m thinking.  Can you imagine the television ratings?  After a summer of discontent, that’d be David Stern’s wet dream.  He and Billy Hunter might actually smoke a peace pipe.

The Elusive HeisenbergFullCourtPest.com

Miami- Made the finals last year and are even more dominant in this early season. Can’t count out a team with that much talent, and barring injuries to one of their main guys should make a deep playoff run.

Chicago- Offense looks a little less stagnant, and their defense is as terrific as ever. Will still have problems with Miami but look to be in good shape.

Oklahoma City- Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Ibaka, Collison, Perkins, Sefolosha, Cook, Maynor. This team has so much talent to not be considered as contenders.

Dallas- Despite losing Chandler/Barea I’m not going to count them out just yet. Their offense will be fine and Haywood is a suitable center.

Los Angeles- …. Lakers. Now even I’m not sold on this pick. However they have to be in the discussion with the way their big 3 of Kobe/Gasol/Bynum have been playing.

Finals: Miami vs OKC. Chicago didn’t make any moves that address how badly Miami dismantled them last year, and Miami just keeps looking better. OKC was primed to make the finals last year before they ran into Dallas playing the best basketball of their lives. So long as the Westbrook situation doesn’t blow up they should be playing for it all in June. Miami wins though.

The HoopstradamusHoopstradamus.com

I’ve got Miami and Chicago in the East, and Boston as a dark horse contender. I think they’re being smart this year and taking it slow. I still fully believe that Boston is not a team anyone is going to want to face in the playoffs. Oh, and if Philly keeps up with what they’re doing right now, it’s going to be hard to ignore them as contenders.

The West is a bit more tough with teams like Portland and Denver. As far as sure-fire contenders go, I’m going with Oklahoma, and both Los Angeles teams. The thing about the West is that each of these teams have glaring weakness. No one knows what’s going on in Russell Westbrook’s or Vinny Del Negro’s head. The Lakers looked bad last year in the playoffs and now they lost Lamar. I never thought I’d say this, but I think Mike Brown may have actually rejuvenated the Lakers the way that Germany rejuvenated Kobe. And yes, I am completely ignoring last years champs.

The PestFullCourtPest.com

The Thunder, Clippers and Blazers in the West. Miami and Chicago in the East. I have no faith in anyone else’s medicine without funny things happening to alter the outcomes. I won’t deny a puncher’s chance at a lucky run by Memphis, Boston, LAL  or even San Antonio (and in that order) to make some noise, anything can and does happen in the playoffs, but I don’t think anyone else has the horses to stay in that race with the first six mentioned above. That means you Chandlerless Dallas.

FishmanKeeperOfTheCourt.com

East: Heat, Bulls. West: Thunder, Clippers, Blazers

I currently have the Blazers and Heat in the finals. CP3 will courageously lead his teammates into battle, but their defensive woes and inexperience spell trouble. For the Bulls and Thunder, while talented, I expect them both to implode – this is mostly due to the type of offense they require from their point guards. No one can stop the Heat but themselves; their new additions and ever-so-ripe defense appear to put them above the league. The Blazers, looking surprisingly sharp following their adoption of a faster pace, appear to be a matchup nightmare for everyone.

2. What is going to be the biggest surprise of this season?

Downtown Charlie Brown - Full Court Pest

Have To Say, This Actually Sounds Plausible For The Chipmunk

Kobe wins his second MVP. Now stay with me, This may be Kobes last super productive season and i think they will want to honour the “old breed” before having to give MVPs to Durant, another to Rose. Howard will never win an MVP it seems and everyone hates Lebron so…. It is looking like he is going to have a fantastic year and i am sure his numbers will level off a little. I could see a 27/5.5/5.5 season out of him and if his shooting improves to 47% range, says all the right things and the Lakers win the Pacific and get a top 3 seed in the West. It very well could happen, you would have to overlook all the bad he does, but worse things have happened in MVP voting.

Sports ChumpSportsChump.net

Your average basketball fan knew which teams would be good and bad in 2012, however, I don’t think anybody could have predicted the 76ers would have gotten off to such a torrid start.  Aside from Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand, can you name another one of their starters?  I didn’t think so.  They currently have seven players scoring in double digits and rank atop the league in both points scored and allowed.  That’s a pretty good combination.  I guess Doug Collins can coach after all, huh?  I’m just happy I don’t have to listen to him on TNT anymore.

Fishman - KeeperOfTheCourt.com

Besides Jeremy Lin scoring 50 points, I’d have to go with the Philadelphia 76ers’ success. Doug Collins is one of the best basketball minds ever, and I firmly believe he has a way to get through to his young and talented roster. They’re already starting the year off strongly by showing a better understanding of their roles and looking very potent defensively.

The Elusive HeisenbergFullCourtPest.com

Would a first round exit for the Knicks count? If not I’ll go with the Cavs making the playoffs. They are in that 8th spot now and Irving is starting to look more comfortable.

The HoopstradamusHoopstradamus.com

The Cleveland Cavaliers. In the playoffs. Upsetting the Miami Heat. Okay, not the last part, but wouldn’t that be hilarious? Dan Gilbert got ridiculed a bit last year for drafting Tristan Thompson, but the Canadian is showing people that he can play! Kyrie Irving is also panning out well, putting up 17 points and 5 assists in just over 27 minutes a game so far. Right now, most people think the Cavs are just a team with potential but I could definitely see them making a run for the 7th – 8th seed.

The PestFullCourtPest.com

After years of doubt, ridicule, disrespect and general idiocy by national journalists David Kahn is going to take home the Executive Of The Year Award. Unlike Mark Warkentien who won because his injured players stopped being injured in 2009, David Kahn will deserve it. He created a plan and stuck to it for 2 years while the media made him a laughing stock. He acquired and retained several gifted young athletic players most of the league had given up on and told them he believed in them. Said he was going to deliver the next truly great point guard capable of making them stars. They bought in. He told them he’d use their talent to create a team a point guard could not refuse. He knew it’s the only way to retain a true star in a small market. Except that star told him not to draft him and refused to come over the ocean. People said he was over-rated, a bust in the making and would never play a game for the team.

David Kahn is The Honey Badger. He just doesn’t give a shit. He believed Rubio was what he thought he was. He believed he could make him come. Honey Badger takes what he wants. He drafted him and built that team anyway. Ricky Rubio couldn’t refuse. Ricky Rubio looks happy. Ricky Rubio looks like the Realio Dealio. He still packed on more talent like JJ Barea on an amazing contract. He hired a perfect fit top flight coach who got the most out of the same Webber who made fun of him above. The T-wolves are the most talented young team in the league, loaded with assets and picks and David Kahn looks like the most fearless GM in sports.

Fishman - KeeperOfTheCourt.com

Besides Jeremy Lin scoring 50 points, I’d have to go with the Philadelphia 76ers’ success. Doug Collins is one of the best basketball minds ever, and I firmly believe he has a way to get through to his young and talented roster. They’re already starting the year off strongly by showing a better understanding of their roles and looking very potent defensively.

3. What is the biggest potential trade of this season?

Downtown Charlie BrownFull Court Pest

The obvious answer would be Dwight Howard. I am going to go a different direction. I see STAT getting traded this year. New York is just bad, They are a bunch of ISO and beat your man players trying to act like a team. I dont know where he goes, or what he is traded for but i could see him getting traded. Maybe for Josh Smith who is on his last legs in Atlanta, They could reach and go after Howard. I am sure they have many options, out of Melo and STAT you keep Melo and i think that is how it goes.

Sports ChumpSportsChump.net

I’ve been trying to come up with a name other than Dwight Howard to put in this category but I just couldn’t do it.  To pretend Dwight-gate isn’t the biggest trade story in the NBA is like saying the country has a slight unemployment problem and refusing to talk about it.  Not only does Orlando’s future hang in the balance with this deal, so does the future of the team he’s traded to.  Whether it’s Chicago, Los Angeles, New Jersey, Golden State, New York or some surprise team we haven’t heard about yet, those teams all stand to get substantially better, or worse, depending on what they give up to get him.  Of course, Dwight will likely still be in a Magic uniform come All-Star weekend where I’m sure he’ll be hosting VIP party after VIP party.  Heck, maybe he’ll have enough fun that weekend to decide he wants to stay in Orlando, and all this trade talk will be for not.  Most of us, however, think it’s a little too late for that.

Fishman - KeeperOfTheCourt.com

A Deron Williams trade could actually be more impactful than a Dwight Howard one, provided that Dwight goes to LA and fills in for Bynum…who might actually be a little better than him. If these specific events do not occur, this season is all about wherever Dwight Howard goes. I would really like to see him pair up with Deron Williams in New Jersey, simultaneously reviving Williams’ motivation and restoring the future of the franchise. If he ends up in Chicago – despite a loss of Noah or Deng – that team’s defense is going to be disgusting. If that happens, Thibbs needs to play Gibson over Boozer, as they’d have the potential to break all-time defensive records… that’s another matter though. Actually, Gibson should always play over Boozer. Have I mentioned that Carlos Boozer is bad at basketball?

The Elusive HeisenbergFull Court Pest

Did You Hear The Man Sarver? Trade Steve Nash. Ding! Ding!

Other than the obvious Dwight Howard trade bonanza, something involving Steve Nash is my hope. Watching him on the Suns bums me out. I think Indiana needs to take a look at making a move for him. Pairing Nash with Granger/West/Hibbert/Hansbrough would be best for all involved. Collison can resume his New Orleans role as a sparkplug off the bench. Now to be fair I’m not sure who Indiana would have to give up, but if they keep most of their core intact and acquire Nash I would pick them to beat anyone other than Miami or Chicago in the Eastern Playoffs.

The HoopstradamusHoopstradamus.com

Russell Westbrook for Deron Williams. It needs to happen. This is, of course, if the other biggest potential trade (Dwight Howard) doesn’t pan out for New Jersey. With Lopez on the sidelines the Nets have nothing to offer Orlando, and their abysmal record isn’t going to keep Deron happy, or attract Howard. For Oklahoma, they’ll finally have a pass first PG who will look for Durant first but still be able to produce for himself.

While this may sound far-fetched, the biggest long-term winner from a trade like this could be Russell Westbrook. I don’t like the way he plays, but that’s right now. He’s the type of guy that needs to spend some time on a team that he can call his own, without the pressure that contending in OKC next to Durant brings. Give him a season or two playing his way through his mistakes, and I really think he could become a guy I like. Until then though, I’ll still resort to calling him Westbrick.

The PestFullCourtPest.com

If Dwight is traded it impacts the entire league, but that is obvious. What’s more interesting is who’s really in the market to land him and make themselves an instant contender. With the obligatory change/third team that can make any trade happen, trading Chris Bosh, Amare/Chandler have got to be things these teams are considering. They’re good with what they have but they’re amazing with Dwight. What if the Wolves offer a package of Williams, Randolph, picks and change for Dwight? It’s really not a comfortable time to be really good in the NBA. My real pick: what the Clippers do with the glut of talent in the swing positions. One should be coming and the potential for them to be league dominating good is totally there.

Fishman - KeeperOfTheCourt.com

 A Deron Williams trade could actually be more impactful than a Dwight Howard one, provided that Dwight goes to LA and fills in for Bynum…who might actually be a little better than him. If these specific events do not occur, this season is all about wherever Dwight Howard goes. I would really like to see him pair up with Deron Williams in New Jersey, simultaneously reviving Williams’ motivation and restoring the future of the franchise. If he ends up in Chicago – despite a loss of Noah or Deng – that team’s defense is going to be disgusting. If that happens, Thibbs needs to play Gibson over Boozer, as they’d have the potential to break all-time defensive records… that’s another matter though. Actually, Gibson should always play over Boozer. Have I mentioned that Carlos Boozer is bad at basketball?

4. Are the Clippers for real as the team to beat in the league? In the West?

Downtown Charlie Brown - Full Court Pest

Ariel Photograph Of The Los Angelos Clippers, Circa Past NBA History

No and No. Paul is fantastic and you can see the chemistry building but they still have some major flaws. First off their back up bigs consist of Brian Cook and Reggie Evans. Let that sink in for a bit. After that they have glaring holes in their interior defense. It consists of Blake Griffin who is not known as a good defender and The 9 million dollar man Deandre Jordan. Jordan is a fantastic shot blocker who fouls too much and looks kind of lost out there at times. With Chauncey and Paul at the Guard spots and Butler playing the 3 they have good wing defense but with the way the rules areit all depends on Interior Defense and that is a spot they lack. They have some good trade chips so i expect a trade out of them to get a backup 4/5 player and maybe they can be that team.

Sports ChumpSportsChump.net

I don’t think there’s any doubt the Clippers are a playoff contender.  They’ve already beaten the Heat AND the Lakers this season, the two teams I picked to be in the Finals.  But this team has barely logged any minutes playing together.  Chris Paul will get some nods for this year’s MVP as most of us thought he would, but I still think they’re a strong guard and some depth away from being serious contenders.   Still though, no team, particularly a poor defensive one, wants to travel to Lob City.

Fishman - KeeperOfTheCourt.com

The Clippers are definitely not the team to beat in the league – that team remains as the Miami Heat provided their roster remains healthy and intact. If the Heat had made a few more free throws and ran offenses down the stretch the other night, they’d have handled the Clippers just fine. If we’re talking about the West, the Clippers are definitely towards the top, but the Thunder remain as the team to beat.

The Elusive HeisenbergFull Court Pest

I didn’t even list them as a contender, so I’m going to say no. They haven’t shown any signs of real dominance to me anywhere other than highlight reels. Like I said, I love Paul and Blake, but they need a better coach and more time together. For next year they might be the team to beat in the West, unless OKC pulls it all together.

The HoopstradamusHoopstradamus.com

Explain How The Two Brightest Stars Of The Newest Generation Of Superstars Were Shown The Ropes By Vinny Del Negro. Explain it NBA!?!?

Absolutely not. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are a formidable duo right now, but as a bitter Bulls fan I can say with confidence that VDN can and will find a way to screw it up this season. Despite last night’s game I still think the Lakers are a small step ahead of them, and I’d probably take OKC in a seven-game series as well. On the other hand, if the Clippers manage to turn their defense and rebounding around this season, I might change my mind.

The PestFullCourtPest.com

The Clippers are far from the perfect team and have their flaws. I admittedly picked them to win the title in Sportschump’s NBA Pick’em Contest at least partially to root for them. But every time I try to speculate on how they stack up against other teams I either end up way in their favor or it’s a wash. Every team in the West is flawed. I don’t trust Russell Westbrook at all. Portland is probably best suited and are depending on 37 and 38 year olds at the 5. I think the Lakers and Mavs are done with this conversation. So why not? The Clippers have superior players at the 1, 4 and 5 to every contender in the league and a ton of depth at the 2 and 3. Sorry, but I just don’t believe in Miami’s ability to match up. Not a problem in Chi-Town however their woeful offensive execution makes me lean wash on them too. LAC is going to be WAY better come playoff time then now so I’m picking Clippers.

Fishman - KeeperOfTheCourt.com

The Clippers are definitely not the team to beat in the league – that team remains as the Miami Heat provided their roster remains healthy and intact. If the Heat had made a few more free throws and ran offenses down the stretch the other night, they’d have handled the Clippers just fine. If we’re talking about the West, the Clippers are definitely towards the top, but the Thunder remain as the team to beat.

5. After two weeks which team had the best off-season, who had the worst?

Downtown Charlie Brown - Full Court Pest

I want to give props to the Clippers and Pacers for their offseasons but i feel Minnesota had the best off season. Not only did they bring in 2 rookies who could be a cornerstone of the franchise, they brought in a rookie who is fantastic to watch. The reason I put Minnesota first is not due to a turn around in their record, it still is quite poor at 3-7, it has to do with the impact on the fans. Minnesota, thanks to Rubio, is a can’t miss game when it is on TV and fans (myself included) are dying to try and get a Minnesota game on TV. Minnesota is 5th in overall attendance this year after being 24th last year. Rubio has truly made the game fun for the fans in Minnesota and it shows with ticket sales.

Win A Title, Leave Your Friends, Make Some Money, That's The NBA

The worst off season is tricky. Besides New Yorks absolutely moronic contract for Tyson Chandler i really think the Lakers had the worst off season just due to the trade that was rescinded. The team is playing good but that failed trade angered Lamar Odom who they had to give up for nothing, Pau probably has resentment over the trade and Bynum has shown he can be the go to big guy on a team which is something he may not have the chance to with Pau and Kobe with him as opposed to Paul and Kobe. Getting Chris Paul would have made the Lakers contenders for the title, Troy Murphy could have started alongside Bynum and they would have been fine, but now it looks like they will contend for the division title and not much else as they are largely the same team as last year and any improvments in Bynum are offset by losing Odom.

Sports ChumpSportsChump.net

If it weren’t for Tim Tebow, the Clippers are all anybody would be talking about this winter.  It’s hard not to find Blake Griffin’s face on every third television commercial and I don’t think there’s any question they made the off-season’s biggest splash by landing Chris Paul.  They’ve gone from a team that nobody watches to must see TV.  I’d say the worst off-season would have to go to the Washington Wizards who did absolutely nothing to improve their team.  Either them or the Sacramento Kings, who appear to be dead team walking.  The Maloof’s matching Louis Vuitton suitcases are as good as packed, meaning we can all stop making fun of Seattle as the only city who let a team get away.  Nobody knows for sure whether the Kings will move to Anaheim.  Now that there are two GOOD teams in L.A., there might not be as much interest for a third one in SoCal, meaning Kings’ fans might ironically have Chris Paul to thank for staying put.  My honorable mention for a team with the worst off-season has to go with the New Orleans Hornets, who not only lost the face of their franchise, they were reminded that they’re essentially nothing more than a league-owned farm team waiting to disband.

Fishman - KeeperOfTheCourt.com

Best: LA Clippers. Sure, they had to give up a good amount of young talent, but it was more than worth it. Butler was an underrated pickup, and while I’m not a huge fan of running Billups at the two position, the Clippers have transformed themselves into a versatile, intelligent team who can contend for many upcoming years.

Worst: Sacramento Kings. They offered a $40 million dollar contract to Marcus Thornton – a scorer. As if they didn’t already possess enough one-dimensional players in Fredette, Salmons, and Garcia? The newly acquired Travis Outlaw has also proven to be worthless for the Kings. Thornton’s contract, along with these signings and the loss of their most willing passer in Udrih provide for a laughable situation in Sacramento. Things aren’t looking any better when you consider Cousins’ attitude problems and the recent firing of Paul Westphal.

The Elusive HeisenbergFullCourtPest.com

Best offseason I still think goes to the Clips. They got Billups for dirt cheap, acquired a top 5 player in Paul, and retained DeAndre Jordan. While they aren’t on pace for 1st in the West or anything their offseason moves have panned out for the most part. If they can trade Williams/Billups for a legitimate shooting guard they will be in great shape.

Worst is tough. Lakers lost Odom (and their Bynum injury insurance) for essentially nothing in return, and one of their players changed his name to Metta World Peace. With that said, they are still potential contenders, give credit to Mike Brown for renewed focus on defense. Phil Jackson was an all time great, but sometimes teams just need a change of scenery, and it’s looking good for the Lakers so far.

So I’m going to have to say Dallas. Even though I listed them as contenders, they really won’t be the same team without Chandler and Barea, and Odom looks lost out there. They could prove me wrong but I really don’t like what they did (although their hand was sort of forced, they can’t pay everybody).

The HoopstradamusHoopstradamus.com

I’ve got the two teams from LA here again. I have to give the Clippers the best off-season. They got one of the three biggest potential prizes in Chris Paul, filled that small forward gap for a slightly over-paid Caron Butler and added Reggie Evans for cheap, to fill a back-up role they were desperate to fill. They stole Billups for less than four million dollars and retained DJ who is out to prove that he is worth his contract.

On the other side of Hollywood live the Los Angeles Lakers though. After a disappointing defeat in last year’s playoffs, Lakers fans put their hopes in to the idea of getting Chris Paul, Dwight Howard or maybe even both. Before the season was set to start, this looked very possible. All of this was of course, before “basketball reasons” happened. After David Stern vetoed the trade, the Lakers went from possibly having the best off-season to the worst. They had to give away Lamar Odom because he was unhappy, but they just decided to give him to the team that swept them, which was just mind-boggling to me. While I don’t think they’re contenders for a championship, they’re contenders for Dwight and Deron, and Odom could be a valuable asset to those trades. On top of all of that, no more Phil Jackson, and Gasol isn’t likely to be in high spirits either.

The PestFullCourtPest.com

It’s between Portland and Minny. Portland added Gerald Wallace who fits like a pod around peas ( I know this was a late season add, but it’s a gimme), got way younger at the point by flipping Miller for Felton and added another pea pod player in Crawford who ‘will’ hit Ball Swingin Shots in the playoffs for them. Ask yourself this: how many teams in history have actually managed to get much better after losing their best player in his prime for nothing? It’s pretty special how they managed.

Minny on the other hand finally got Rubio to come over and show everyone he’s legit, signed Anthony Tolliver, Wesley Johnson and JJ Barea to a ridiculously favorable contracts. They picked up the perfect coach in Rick Adleman. Anthony Randolph and Beasley are showing signs of coming around. And oh yea, they drafted Derrick Williams who has all-star written all over him. Minny wins.

I think Dallas loses. Not paying Chandler was worth it in the long run, but their team is undeniably weaker. That they can’t motivate Lamar Odom beyond scrub level hoop and that their geriatric roster is even older, it’s looking pretty sad for the champs.

Fishman - KeeperOfTheCourt.com

Best: LA Clippers. Sure, they had to give up a good amount of young talent, but it was more than worth it. Butler was an underrated pickup, and while I’m not a huge fan of running Billups at the two position, the Clippers have transformed themselves into a versatile, intelligent team who can contend for many upcoming years.

Reality: At The End Of The Season We Will Run Another Round Table - Topic: How Dumb Do We Sound Now?

Worst: Sacramento Kings. They offered a $40 million dollar contract to Marcus Thornton – a scorer. As if they didn’t already possess enough one-dimensional players in Fredette, Salmons, and Garcia? The newly acquired Travis Outlaw has also proven to be worthless for the Kings. Thornton’s contract, along with these signings and the loss of their most willing passer in Udrih provide for a laughable situation in Sacramento. Things aren’t looking any better when you consider Cousins’ attitude problems and the recent firing of Paul Westphal.

 

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