Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Roundtable Discussion, Part 1

The following is a roundtable discussion that occurred on September 25. This is Part 1 of a 3 part series. Be sure to leave feedback in the comments section. Due to the overwhelming length of these posts, they will be moved after the weekend, but I'll provide a link to each part for your viewing convenience.

Roundtable discussion, Part 1
Chip: New team, new coach, new season about to start. First question, let’s start at the end. How do you see the season ending?
Spartacus: I think, in all likelihood, we’re looking at 36-37 wins as the most likely scenario. We’re looking at 2 young PG’s. Navarro is a veteran overseas, but is still an NBA rookie, so we’re not sure how well he’ll go through that transition. Darko, for all intents and purposes is still a big question mark. He’s still unfulfilled potential at this point. Throw that in with a new coach and a new system and it’s an uncertain reality to face.
C: Well, we know what Darko can do to a ref’s family, but we don’t know what he can do on an NBA court.
S: Exactly.
Zack: I’m a little more optimistic. I was right around 36-38 wins, but I’ve bumped it up in the last couple weeks, looking at a win total in the low 40’s and grabbing one of those last playoff spots.
C: What do you see as the big difference that will allow us get a few extra wins to enter the playoff picture? You’re talking about an additional 5% upgrade over an 82 game season.
Z: I’ve downgraded my predictions on the rest of the West. Portland is a couple of games less now. I saw them as a playoff possibility before.
C: They still have LaMarcus Aldridge, Channing Frye, Brandon Roy, Jarrett Jack, Sergio Rodriguez.
Z: They’re loaded with young talent, that’s for sure.
S: Darius Miles is supposed to be healthy now.
C: He is healthy and is supposed to come to camp without a contract.
Z: Well, physically healthy anyways.
C: Yeah, physically. Very good point. LOL
Z: The Clippers with Brand out. They’re looking at a repeat of the Grizzlies season last year.
S: Exactly. Especially with Sam Cassell sitting there looking at Boston going, “Please.....please”
C: Now wait a minute guys, we saw Chris Kaman this summer. He completely dominated the Grizzlies big men in Summer League. None of them are actually in the NBA now and I don’t think any of them are in any training camps...
S: Summer League All-Stars! They’re the biggest crock every year.
C: He at least admitted that he needed to improve and is showing signs of carrying that out. You’ve got to look at a team with Al Thornton, Corey Maggette...
Z: Al Thornton impressed me during the summer league.
C: Summer League All-Star here too. But he’s a 23-year old rookie.
S: He impressed me last year in college, too, though. He was a little older, a little more mature than everyone else.
C: I wonder how greatly the demise of the Clippers is being overstated. It’s hard to see how they won’t have an impact with the talent they still have on that roster.
S: I think everything rests on how Sam Cassell reacts to the situation.
C: What about Tim Thomas?
S: *snort*
C: Tim Thomas plays where all of a sudden you’ve got this weird situation where there are four outside shooters, a slashing point guard and a big man in the middle. I’ve heard some people think this is an effective way to play these days. Trying to get perimeter shooters with slashers and a big guy. Hmmm...who do we know doing that?
S: There’s nobody that does that. Well, not successfully of course!
Z: Going back to the original point, I see the Grizzlies grabbing one of those last playoff spots—the 6th, 7th, 8th spot that always seems to be up for grabs.
C: Last season’s 6th-8th spots were who?
Z: Golden State, the Lakers and Denver.
C: I look at those teams and wonder, where is the slide? Granted, the Lakers aren’t going to improve, but are they gonna slide? They do have one or two guys who can shoot.
Z: I think they’re going to slide, because they’ve got turmoil. They’re in a big media market ready to pounce—they’ll take anything they can get.
S: Who exactly were their big offseason acquisitions? They got Derek Fisher.
C: Which is a pretty good acquisition.
S: But other than that, what did they do?
C: They re-signed Luke Walton.
Z: They drafted a PG for the second year in a row, just like the Grizzlies.
C: They’ve got Jordan Farmar starting because they got rid of their starter from last season because Smush Parker is in Miami now.
Z: Javaris Crittendon is who they drafted.
C: I don’t have a lot of faith in rookie PG’s, as much as it pains me to say that.
S: And Crittendon is more of a scorer than a playmaker, whereas Farmar is the opposite.
Z: Then you have the Warriors losing Jason Richardson, which will definitely hurt them in the short term as they try to replace his scoring.
S: Losing Richardson and then waving good-bye to Jasikevicius, which means both of their SG’s are gone from last season.
Z: Baron Davis is wanting a contract extension.
C: He won’t get it.
S: And Monta Ellis probably stepping into the starting lineup.
Z: They’ve got some question marks, which is why I’ve got the Warriors and Lakers falling out of the postseason, even if Memphis doesn’t take their spot.
C: So, if someone was going to fall, you’ve got those two. Who do you see, other than the Grizzlies, potentially stepping up?
Z: You’ve got to like the Hornets.
S: We were talking about them earlier today. You almost have to like them. Peja is back healthy, they signed MoPete in the offseason and Tyson Chandler looks like he’s ready to just destroy the entire league on his own.
C: As long as he doesn’t have to shoot the ball anyways.
Z: And I really like David West. He hits that 15-ft. elbow shot all day long.
S: He’s like another P.J. Brown. He says, “I’m just going to sit out here all day long until you stop me”.
C: David West is an average PF who can take advantage of whatever you give him, but won’t enforce himself on anyone.
S: He’s not going to go down to the low post to bang around with everyone. Like Zack said, he’ll take that mid-range shot all night and at the end of the game you look at the stats and go, “Hey, West had 22 and 11. How did that happen?”
C: Offensive rebounds. He grabs 4-6 every game it seems, which allows him easy putbacks, so he doesn’t have to shoot that much to get his points. He’ll get points and rebounds, but he doesn’t seem to give you much else. Like David Berri said after reading Ryan Schwan’s Hornets blog—he’s average. But on the right team, an average player can be exceptional.
Z: I like their coach, too.
C: The Original Grizzly—Byron Scott.
Z: I think he’ll rally the troops. Even when they’ve had injuries, I thought he handled things well. A lot of the 82 game season is about who can deal with adversity. Who can suffer an injury to a key contributor and keep the momentum until that guy can make it back.
C: If I was going to say that there is one thing that scares me about calling the Hornets a lock for the playoffs, it is that they seem fragile. There isn’t a single player on their team that I would bet would play 80 games this year.
Z: Chris Paul, he’s so young, but he plays a style that lends itself to contact.
C: It’s such a physical game and he’s not really a physical specimen. You’ve also got Peja...
Z: History speaks for itself there.
C: But they’ve also got the ironman in MoPete. Until last season, he had the longest active consecutive game streak going. Of course, you find that when people break down, especially around the age of 30, it doesn’t seem to stop with just one injury.
S: It becomes a chronic problem, more often than not.
Z: Speaking of injuries, if there was one Western Conference team that you think is going to get the injury bug this year, who would it be? There’s always one.
S: Sacramento.
Z: I’m looking at Sacramento or Utah.
C: You know who I think? What do you look for when you look for potential injury bug? Players who play a lot of minutes.
Z: Rely heavily on one player.
C: Teams that have a preponderance of older players.
Z: And a short bench.
C: And a team that avoided injury the previous year. I’m picking the San Antonio Spurs. Nobody got hurt last year. They basically go 6 deep and they’re all over 40. You look at that team and go, “If Tim Duncan doesn’t go down, it probably doesn’t matter”. They did finish 3rd in the conference and 2nd in their division last year and still managed to be 1st overall. But you look at a team with Michael Finley, Bruce Bowen, Robert Horry, Manu Ginobili. Fabricio Oberto has already broken his jaw, his face, something like that. Tony Parker’s never been hurt, Tim Duncan is passing 30. Who else? That’s their 6 or 7 guys, right?
Z: So who is more valuable to them? Parker or Duncan?
C: Duncan in the regular season and Parker in the playoffs. Because Duncan, night in and night out, never seems to fail you. He’s going to do his job.
S: 25 and 10, just like clockwork.
C: Parker in the playoffs, just has so much speed that they more he wears out the opponent, the more effective he becomes. In a short series, I want Parker. Over 82 games, I want Tim Duncan.
S: With that speed that Parker brings, it frustrates a defense. And in a playoff series, where you know that you’re going to see the same guy the next night and the next night, it becomes a mental issue, which makes him even more effective. That’s why quick heady point guards destroy teams in the playoffs.
C: So my Glass Team, the Red Cross team to watch this year is the Spurs. It’s very hard to do it two years in a row.
S: Part of the reason why they’ve been prevented from winning consecutive titles. It seems like someone ends up with a nagging injury late in the season that affects their postseason performance. That’s what happened with Duncan two years ago when they lost to Dallas. He goes down towards the end of the year and never fully recovers in time for the playoffs.
Z: So who’s better—the Spurs, Mavs or Suns? They’ve been the top three for a few years now.
C: This is the first year that I see there being some weakness at the top. Not a lot, but it is there. Of the three, I think in the regular season, you have to say that the Dallas Mavericks have the best combination of depth and talent.
S: What did they have, 67 wins last year?
C: Yeah, and the only guy who could beat them was their former coach.
S: Did you read the post by Henry Abbott on TrueHoop today about them hiring Paul Westphal? The guy he quoted just absolutely destroyed them for that move. Apparently, he was a student at Pepperdine and believes that Westphal destroyed that program. He detailed the roster from 2 or 3 years ago, where there were 3 or 4 NBA level talents on the team and they finished below .500 in the WCC.
Z: And he was using John Calipari’s, well it was his (Westphal’s) “Attack, Attack, Attack” philosophy?
S: The guy went on to say that he had that much talent in one of the worst conferences in America and still ran the program into the ground? Why would you want him anywhere near your team?
C: The last time Dallas hired a former Phoenix coach, it didn’t end well. When John MacLeod came to Dallas, he had a great history of running a team from top to bottom. Then he promptly took a playoff team that made the Conference Finals in his first year and dropped them off a cliff. They won like 15 games by the time he was done with them. That’s why I’ve never been a fan of hiring former Phoenix coaches. Uhh..........Phoenix head coaches that is!
S: Nice save.
C: Well, we’ve kind of covered the West now. Can anyone stop Boston in the East?
Z: I think so.
S: We’ve gone over this before. I even had a blog post about it, because I’m not conceding the conference championship to Beantown just yet.
C: I’m not conceding the division to them yet.
S: They asked Jason Kidd about that the other day, if anyone can stop Boston. He said that Toronto won the division last year and all of a sudden everyone is counting them out. I’m not sure why. They’re a great team that’s only going to get better.
C: New Jersey is still solid, too.
S: Exactly what he said. He felt that his team still had a great shot. There are others in the East, too. With Miami, it would take...
C: A miracle?
S: Well, a healthy Shaq, Wade and a lot of help from their role players to beat the Celtics in a playoff series. I think that Chicago could potentially take anybody down in a best of 7, if they are clicking on all cylinders.
C: I think if any team can come up out of the East and truly be an elite team, you have to look at Chicago before you look at Boston.
S: Well, you can’t forget about Detroit either.
Z: I’m a big fan of the Pistons’ chances in the East. They are getting old and their days are numbered, but they’re still dangerous.
C: Is Webber coming back?
S: No, they are moving Rasheed over to center and starting Antonio McDyess at PF.
C: Interesting. I don’t think that will work, but we’ll see.
S: Here’s the thing though. With Sheed, you’ve got the one guy that Tim Duncan freely admits gives him absolute fits when they are matched up. That was at PF. You move him to C and he becomes the Mehmet Okur of the East, because McDyess can hit the midrange shot with consistency too. Can you see the frontcourt guys in the East following him out to the perimeter?
Z: I also really like the young wing guys for Detroit—Arron Afflalo and Rodney Stuckey.
C: Summer League All-Stars again.
S: Not as much as you’d think. Afflalo I wasn’t as high on, but I detailed Stuckey in our draft preview. He’s just a flat-out scorer.
C: They’ll still have that typical rookie adjustment. (Speaking directly to Zack:) I can’t believe that you’re talking to me about Afflalo after I wrote about him over the summer and you chastised me about him. Don’t even talk to me about Arron Afflalo!
Z: I just didn’t like him college.
S: He looked good in college...just not in the tournament.
C: He was the only guy on their team that could score.
C: What will end first, the New York Knicks season or Isiah Thomas’ trial?
Z: You mean trials?
S: Yeah, are we including the future civil suits that will be forthcoming?
Z: I’ve been reading the headlines from this trial and it looks like something out of Penthouse. It’s unbelievable.
S: I don’t know. Like Chip has said before, if you have jurors falling asleep during proceedings, it can’t be that interesting.
C: I’ve never heard of a sexual harassment suit where people were falling asleep. That doesn’t seem to follow.
S: Of course, the clips they’ve had of Isiah and Starbury on The Fanhouse and Deadspin have been endlessly entertaining. Absolutely priceless.
Z: So who’s winning the East?
C: I’m going out on a limb and saying Chicago.
S: I think they are still a year away.
C: I thought they were a year away last year.
S: They still haven’t added any low-post scoring. That’s still holding them back.
C: Ben Wallace is currently enrolled in the Mark Price Shooting School.
S: I think Detroit does it as kind of a last hurrah before they begin a minor rebuilding phase. They need to rebuild their frontcourt.
C: You’ve got to face facts though. The Red Sox have the best record in baseball. The Patriots are a dynasty that’s gotten better. It’s obvious that it is a New England type of year. It’s happened once before where one city held all three major sports crowns at one time. It was a “Tiger Slam”, not a Bobby Jones Slam, as it spanned two calendar years, but they were all in possession at one time. It was the Knicks, Jets and Mets in 1969-70. Boston/New England has a really good shot at doing that this year.
Z: I’ve got to stick with the Central Division and go with the Pistons.
C: You’re not taking the Knicks? Interesting that nobody is taking the Heat. We haven’t even talked about Orlando.
S: They have to get an upgrade at PG. Jameer Nelson is not the answer if you want to go far in the playoffs.
C: They have an interesting situation where this coming summer all three of their PG’s will be free agents...and they have no money.
Z: They’re not talking with Nelson on an extension right now either.
S: They realize they have to get an upgrade, so they might be in the market for one of Houston’s 8 PG’s.
Z: What about the Cavs?
C: I don’t believe that they will be able to re-sign both Andersen Varejao and Sasha Pavlovic, which makes them weaker right off the bat. Larry Hughes is still fragile and Big Z is getting older by the second. Drew Gooden is getting more and more confident, which is always a bad thing. LeBron James can only do so much. It was a fluke run last year. Let’s face it—how many times can he go out on a court and score 29 of the team’s last 30 points, including 25 straight? That was probably the best individual performance I’ve ever seen in an NBA game, and I’ve seen Dominique Wilkens and Larry Bird’s battles, and I saw Michael Jordan a hundred times. That game was the best effort by a single player I’ve ever seen, and it shocked Detroit so much that it cost them the series.
Z: And I think this is in spite of the coach not really utilizing LeBron in the best way. I never really liked what he’s done with LeBron to this point. Against the Spurs, he really took it to them in the post early in the first game...and then they never went back to it. I really question their coach more and more every time I watch them.
S: If you remember, it was about halfway through this past season, there were rumblings that LeBron was unhappy and thinking, “Hey, maybe I need a new coach here”. Then, all of a sudden, they go on a run, make the playoffs and the rest is history. That problem still remains though. I think that’s what is going to hold Boston back, as well. Doc Rivers is a (cue Bill Walton) H-O-R-R-I-B-L-E coach. He was a horrible coach in Orlando.
C: He got them to the playoffs.
S: And what happened then? They blow a 3-1 series lead against Detroit that began the futility that is Tracy McGrady’s quest to surpass the first round of the playoffs. Speaking of T-Mac, what do we think about Houston? Best offseason in the West?
Z: I think so, and I can’t believe that that package includes Stevie Francis.
C: That’s the key. I question whether or not they truly had the best offseason outside of Boston. I’ll play devil’s advocate here. They have something like 16 signed PG’s, right?
S: The only team with more is Portland, because they insist on getting one thrown in with every trade they make.
C: Yeah, but Portland hasn’t signed them all—they just own their rights. I mean, how do you see Steve Francis, Mike James, Rafer Alson and the kid from Oregon, Aaron Brooks, working together? That’s four PG’s and not nearly enough playing time to go around.
S: First of all, forget about Brooks. He’s a non-entity this year.
C: But he was a Summer League All-Star!
S: Point taken. Rafer Alston—they’ll find a way to either trade him or waive him.
C: Then you’re still left with Mike James and Steve Francis.
S: Which is OK if you’re bringing Steve Francis off the bench as your 6th man, saying “Hey, go out there and score”.
C: And Steve Francis is willing to accept that role.
S: I think if you let him know “We don’t want you to do anything but score”, I can’t imagine him not being OK with that.
C: Has he ever felt any team thought otherwise?
S: That’s just it. If he’s in the starting lineup, you can’t have him doing that. He has to be a playmaker/facillitator to get Yao Ming involved in the offense, first and foremost. That’s one thing I still don’t think they’ve grasped as the key to their success.
C: How does Yao fit in with Rick Adelman’s typical style of play? Again, everyone agreed that he’s a great hire...but is he the right hire for that team?
S: I think there are still a lot of questions about that, although his history with big men who can pass well—Divac, Webber, Miller—says that he’ll “work things out” just fine.
C: Then there’s McGrady. Has he ever made it through a season without injury concerns? And then we’re going to put him in an up-and-down the floor style of play with his bad back? You’ve got a 7’6” sloth at center. Let’s face it, he’s incredibly talented, but he is not fast. Big Jake beat him down the court for pete’s sake. Then you’ve got T-Mac and his back, Bubble Butt Bonzi and then Shane, who isn’t a speed merchant. And you want to play an uptempo pace?
Z: They might have the highest ceiling and the lowest low.
C: Exactly. I don’t really know what to expect from this team. As they get closer to the playoffs and realize that they’re destined for 3rd in the division...or maybe even 4th.
S: I don’t know. I could see them moving up to 2nd behind Dallas.
C: San Antonio breaks?
S: No, the Spurs realize, much like the Lakers did, that you don’t have to win 60+ games every year. You just have to make the playoffs and then take care of business. All they have to do is make the postseason.
C: Especially if they make the playoffs and then play Houston in the first round, because that’s a guaranteed win. LOL
Z: With Houston, I think the best recipe for success will be to have McGrady as the de facto PG. Even if he doesn’t bring the ball up the floor, in the half-court sets, he has the ball in his hands and makes the decisions.
C: That could work, because none of their PG’s are really pass-first playmakers. Of course, then you have McGrady and Shane......and backing them up, thinking he’s more talented than they are, unhappy Bonzi.
S: I don’t like having Rafer Alston on that team. I don’t like Bonzi on that team, because he’ll do what’s best for Bonzi at the expense of everyone else. The one thing that I think makes this the best offseason for them was getting Luis Scola. That move, by itself, the acquisition of a consistent low-post presence to put next to Yao is a tremendous upgrade over a Juwan Howard or an undersized guy like Chuck Hayes.
C: So, just so I’m clear, we’re saying their great move is bringing in a rookie international player?
S: Yeah. Well that, and bringing back Mike James and Steve Francis. Again, with all respect to Marc Stein’s rankings, I put us a close second in the West with the moves the Grizzlies made this offseason. I look at Seattle’s moves and just don’t see how their moves fit together.
C: I don’t see Seattle’s moves doing anything substantial for them for the next 24 months.
Z: I agree. While you can look at their moves and say, “Wow great moves”, in reality what they did was trade away proven talent now for potential in the future.
C: Potential at the same position with Durant and Green.
Z: Kurt Thomas was a nice pickup, as well as the additional draft picks that came with him.
C: That was a nice move on the Sonics part.
Z: Let’s say you make the same trade that Seattle did. Do you take Jeff Green at # 5 with Durant already being take at # 2? There’s a slew of choices at # 5 and you take another SF.
S: That’s exactly what we talked about the other day. How do you not take Corey Brewer, Brandan Wright or Yi Jianlian? Do you think Yi would have balked at being in Seattle?
C: Of course not. Jeff Green is the one guy I thought fit poorest alongside Durant.
Z: Didn’t I read that they’re going to play Durant at SG?
S: Sure did. A 6’10” SG that's the size of a # 2 pencil.
C: Well, you can’t play him under the basket.
S: You can put him at SF where his height still gives him an advantage over most guys. He’s not a physical player at all, though. It’s funny, because right now he’s looking more and more like Rashard Lewis....the guy Seattle just shipped out of town for a conditional 2nd round pick. I still cannot believe the contract that the Magic gave him.
--End Part 1--


Anonymous said...

Your quality discussion covers a lot of topics on the real. Like Durant for instance. He reminds me of a young Rashard Lewis when he was starting out. Personally I feel that he won't fare well at the SG due to his lankiness and possible slower step against the quicker SGs' like Rip Hamilton or Dwyane Wade. He would be suited at the SF position and if later on the PF slot whenever he puts on enough muscle to play at the position.

Houston I think will have some time to adjust to Adelman's Princeton offense. I'm not a fan of this scheme b/c despite it makes the offense fun. The scheme can ruin and spoil players where they don't take playing defense seriously enough to realize they a team needs both to win games. Expect some liabilities among the Rox's players due to lack of better endurance and speed.

San Antonio: Chip, I hope you didn't jinx Tony Parker for this season when you said that he never gets hurt. lol

Look for the Kings, Lakers, Clippers, Wolves(for obvious reasons) and Seattle to blow Hoobastank for the upcoming season.

Ryan Schwan said...

Nice discussion - get me on a conference call next time so I can argue with you. :)

I've said this a couple times in my blog - I'm still thinking Phoenix is the one that breaks down. Grant Hill, Nash and Stoudemire have had significant problems in the past. And they have a 7 man rotation: Barbosa, Bell, Diaw, Hill, Marion, Nash and Stoudamire. And all of that group plays huge, fast-paced minutes. Somethings going to break.

I think you also underestimate the Spurs depth. They have a rotation of Duncan, Horry, Oberto, Elson, Barry, Bowen, Udoka, Ginobli, Finley, Parker and Vaughn. None of those guys have been injury prone at all(Horry's a lazy faker) - and no matter what you think of Vaughn and Elson, in an 11 man rotation, they don't have to give that much. Last year the Spur stars also played very few minutes. 32 for Duncan and Parker, 27 for Ginobili. Popovich keeps em fresh and in good shape.

Eric said...

The Rockets, Jazz, Warriors, and Lakers seem like the weakest teams in the West to me.

The Griz have some improvements to make though if they're going to make the playoffs: namely, getting Rudy Gay to pass the ball consistently.

ChipC3 said...

I think this discussion would be better as a podcast than a writeup. Maybe in the future we can do this so you can click and listen instead of having to read all our thoughts. Not to mention Spartacus not having to type it all up!