It’s the TSHQ NBA Roundtable Extravaganza. Christmas is here and the NBA is finally back and we here at TSHQ have given you a division by division preview and now I, Seth “Mo Kids, Mo Problems” Cox, am joined by Bryan “Low Down” Doherty, K.M. “Hobo Beard” Venne, Jason “Old Man” Glover, Coley “Simpsons Quote” Michalik and Cole “Lake-tard” Zwicker to break down the biggest questions coming into the season. Would love to get your feedback, and as always, agree, disagree let us here about it. Here is part 1 of the TSHQ Ruthless Roundtable NBA Preview.
How Bitter are you About the Lockout and how will it affect your fandom:
Seth Cox: I only care because I was hoping we lost the season so I didn’t have to watch Steve Nashs’ final season in a Suns uniform be a complete disaster. Other than that I am excited to see basketball again.
KM Venne: Could not care less. Lockout is a thing of the past, the league is back, the Knicks are serious contenders, life is grand. All is forgiven.
Bryan Doherty: Bitter? Try indifferent. Between College Football, the NFL, College Basketball and even Hockey I haven’t missed the NBA. The NBA is like the lime in a Corona or an orange in a Blue Moon. It’s a cherry on top of a sundae. It’s simply just extra. I can do without it. I won’t turn it down, but if it comes without it, I’ll be more than fine. It’s not a must for me. I’ll go back to watching now that it’s here. But no, I’m not bitter as I would never say I’ve been a huge NBA fan to have my fandom impacted anyways.
Jason Glover: I am not really bitter at all. Honestly, I just missed the games and talking about the game of basketball. Also, I am brainwashing my 2 year old into a huge Bulls fan, so not having the games on TV had me sitting and watching Youtube clips with him. Simply not the same.
Cole Zwicker: Sadly, I forgave the NBA for the lockout, mostly because I’m a sucker. The Association is like a drug to me. No matter how hard the players tried to push me away by not grasping reality (they had no leverage), no matter how hard the owners tried to do the same by driving a stake into the union for effect, and no matter how much all parties involved walked all over the true fans of the game, I came running back. I always will, and the NBA knew it. Even when Stern kicked my team square in man-purse by inexcusably vetoing the Paul trade I rationalized that atrocity in order to justify sticking around. Like I said, I’m a spineless weasel. I’ll wake up Christmas morning and watch all 5 games, and appreciate the more intense, competitive, 66 game season from a viewers standpoint. The NBA, where forgiveness happens..
Coley Michalik: The NBA to me acted like a puppy who just pissed all over a new rug. You want to disown it for how it treated you, but it just gives you this look and you melt inside. How could you stay mad at that face? I just can’t. Plus, my Celtics kick off the season on Christmas day for my enjoyment? It doesn’t get much better than that. It would have hurt more if the entire season were missed, but since that is not the case I’m just happy we’re back to basketball.
Can the Bulls and Thunder Take the Next Step?
KM: No and no. They can’t even hold their ground. Everyone knows the Bulls are not going to be the 1 seed in the East. And they are so poorly set up to play the Knicks or Heat that they are highly unlikely to make the East Finals. Likewise, the Thunder have a chance to be a top 2 seed, sure, but again, can they reach the WCF again? I would strongly lean they miss then WCF before they win it. OKC has a better chance to keep steady in the wild, wide open West, but not a great chance of taking another step, and I will be absolutely floored if the Bulls don’t regress this year.
Cole: The Bulls can’t beat Miami in a 7 game series. The Heat just have too much star-power. Put LeBron on Rose to close games and Chicago can’t score. Rip Hamilton’s corpse doesn’t change that. Until the Bulls acquire another playmaker who can create his own shot they’re stuck hoping someone else knocks off Miami. If they are fortunate enough that New York does the job then I guess they can “take the next step”, if you define taking the next step as advancing farther in the playoffs based on the circumstances and not progressing as a team (I think the Bulls overachieved last year and have maximized their roster potential).
Conversely, OKC is the odds on favorite to win the more wide open West. No team in the West really presents a significant matchup problem for the Thunder with Tyson no longer running circles around Perkins, so there is no reason to think they can’t represent the WC. I also think Ibaka and especially Harden take significant steps this year, which will only help ease the burden on Durant and Westbrook. The Thunder do have their weaknesses, mainly that their bigs can’t pass and the Westbrook/Durant potential chemistry crippling alpha dog battle, but every team in the West is somewhat flawed. OKC’s combination of youth, cohesiveness, and star-power renders them the least flawed..
Bryan: The Thunder can. They’re built to thrive in a season like this and should be among the top contenders in the West. They have probably the 2nd best offensive player in basketball surrounded by a group of good defensive players. They have youth, depth and energy. They’ll be in good shape come playoff time. The Bulls overachieved last year. They simply ended up on the right side of the bracket. Last year the Celtics, Heat and Bulls were the 3 best teams in the East and the Bulls got the benefit of letting the other two square off first. Then they proceeded to get their shit punched by the Heat. I think the Bulls have a similar season in 2012 if not regress. Finals contender? Not with that mason playing PG.
Seth: I’m assuming that means to the finals, and if both teams are in the finals that means at least one of them are winning it. So, no they can’t take the next step, and honestly I am in line with KM here, I don’t think either one reaches the conference finals.
I don’t buy that Westbrook and Durant can co exist, I think the Thunder should trade him to the Suns, but that’s just me. No, but really they need to do something b/c Durant doesn’t have the personality to take over, and Westbrook has too much confidence thinking he should be.
As for the Bulls, I was one of the loudest critics for a reason. They didn’t have a team to get to the finals, and they still don’t. Why waste that money on Rip? Why not make a big play for Jason Richardson? I don’t know what to think.
Jason Glover: I think the Bulls a bit more so then the Thunder. The Thunder will be very good but the Bulls simply have more room to grow from last season. Rose can still get better, but more importantly if Boozer and Noah can stay healthy the Bulls will be much better then they were last season. The Bulls had a Great season last year despite Boozer and Noah missing a ton of games. Couple this with the addition of Hamilton and the Bulls just have a chance of having a crazy good season and perhaps a Championship.
Coley: I’m high on both of these teams. I have long coveted Kevin Durant since the Sebastian Telfair days of the Boston Celtics, and instead he went to Seattle. Now, after claiming consecutive scoring titles, it is getting to the point where Durant is one of the best players on the league with one of the most well rounded lineups surrounding him. Serge Ibaka and skinny Kendrick Perkins may not be the most offensively inclined front court in the league, but they certainly are one of the toughest on the defensive end. And on a team with Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Durant, their bigs don’t exactly need to be Dirk Nowitzki. This team plays defense, possesses shooters who can score from all areas of the court and has some depth in quality role players. I see no reason (other than Westbrook’s inability to pass in the 4th) why the Thunder couldn’t win the West.
Now the Bulls have a tougher road to the Finals having to, more than likely, run through the Heat. While LeBron James and Dwayne Wade have massive advantages at their positions, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah are significantly better than their Miami counterparts. Carlos Boozer was hurt all season during his first year in Chicago so there’s no reason to believe he cannot have a bounce-back year and at least be a push against Chris Bosh. Rip Hamilton has been brought in to aid Rose on the offensive end but it remains to be seen how his defense will hold up under Tom Thibodeau.
Do the Celtics and Lakers have another run with their squads?
Bryan: A run? Sure. Win it all? Probably not. I don’t think either team has the depth or youth in this type of season to play 66 games and make it through 4 rounds of the playoffs. Do I think both could make their conference finals? Sure. The Celtics are set up better with less quality teams in the East than West. The Lakers have a multitude of teams to compete with. I’m not concerned with the Celtics playoff seed at all. If they avoid the Heat in Round 1, then I don’t see any way they don’t make the 2nd round and then it comes down to their matchup. But only Chicago and Miami should be able to give them a competitive series or beat them in a best of 7.
Seth: The Celtics I think have the ability to coast through the season, take the 7th or 8th seed and make a move once in the post season. So yes, I do think they have a run in them.
As for the Lakers, I want to see Mike Brown coach, but they have a foot in the grave right now and they downgraded their team so much.
Jason: No. Both are fading fast. The Celtics will struggle with the Heat and the Bulls in a 7 game series and the Lakers will not get past the Mavs or Thunder as Kobe will take another step back this season.
Cole: No. Both are done, at least as currently constituted. The Lakers are “Three and a Half Men” with Kobe, Bynum, Gasol and Devin Ebanks. The rest of the team are a conglomeration of scrubs. Three man teams don’t win, especially in a shortened season with the amount of minutes and usage it will take to for them to keep the team afloat. It also doesn’t help that when one of the three is injury prone and the other two are both on the wrong side of 30.
The Lakers fortunes change only if they land Howard without giving up both Bynum and Gasol. End of story. Right now, they’ll be lucky to make it out of the first round.
Similarly, Boston is dead in the water without a lifeboat. They have no bench now with Jeff Green lost for the season and Delonte West departing for Dallas. Like the Lakers, their old legs won’t take kindly to the short turnaround between games. They also have Jermaine O’Neal starting at center, which I dare say is telling in itself. The Celts will be back in ’12 with a plethora of cap room at their disposal to reload, but this year they aren’t beating Miami, Chicago or New York.
KM: Nah. Both teams are just so thin this year. With their age and the shortened season, they are just trying to overcome too much. It’s as simple as that.
Coley: I don’t see why not. As I look over the entire league there isn’t a single team I look at and say, “They’re the clear favorites.” While some teams look sexier than the others, these teams both have veteran players who know how to win when it matters. While they may look lack luster during the regular season, no team would be happy to draw them in any round of the playoffs. Do I expect either of these teams to reach the Finals? No, but if they got there I wouldn’t be absolutely shocked.
Are the Heat the Favorites?
Jason: Sadly, yes. I really hate to say it as I am not a fan of that team at all. I love team basketball and the Heat really do not fit that mold. But the bottomline is is that they have 2 of the top 3-4 players in the league and a solid PF. I would love to see them fail again to a team that plays team ball like the Bulls, Thunder, or Mavericks. Heck, I would like to see the Celtics knock them out in the playoffs for old times sake.
Cole: Without question. The Knicks are the only team in the East that can beat the Heat as currently constituted, meaning there is a high probability the Heat make the finals, which is more than any other team can say, especially if New York lands on the other side of the playoff bracket and get bounced early. The West is definitely more wide open. OKC, Dallas and Memphis are all capable of representing the West in the finals, with the Clips on the doorstep as well if they can land another big. The Heat are the most likely to make it to the finals, hence they are the favorites.
Coley: They didn’t have the best record in the East last season. As a matter of fact, they didn’t even clinch the two seed until the final two weeks of the regular season. Then, they pretty much handled every team they faced in the postseason once Dwayne Wade snapped Rajon Rondo’s arm in half. But the East continues to get deeper and deeper talent wise. I see no reason why the Bulls couldn’t give them a better series than they gave them last year and once the Knicks get healthy I truly believe they could give the Heat some trouble. The Heat once again have the most talent on paper but I’m not just going to hand them the East. They are beatable.
KM:According to Vegas, yes. We’ll know a lot more about if the Heat are favorites after we see how the Heat and Knicks match up in the regular season, but as the defending East champs, they deserve to be considered favorites for now.
Seth: I don’t see anyone that should be favorites over them, so I will say yes just because of that.
Bryan: Yes. They went to Game 6 of the Finals in Year One. They’ll only be more comfortable playing with one another. Who do you see beating them in the East? They have the best player in basketball and two of the top 5. I’ll be stunned if they’re not back in the Finals.
Where will D12 and CP3 land and are their nicknames lazy?
Seth: Howard is going to end up somewhere that is not LA or NJ. I know he only wants to resign there, but in this short season, and team can win it all by making a big move and throwing a nice package at the Magic and not giving a damn about next year when they actually have a shot at this years title. My sleeper is the Pacers.
They have some nice pieces they can offer, but they also have a nice core of players.
Offer something like: Granger, Hibbert, and George Hill plus picks for Howard and the cancerous contract known as Hedo. Can’t tell me that isn’t a win/win for both teams if the Pacers are in contention.
Bryan: He’ll finish the year in Orlando unless LA offers Bynum and Gasol. Nets are probably out of it now with Lopez hurt. Is his nickname lazy? Of course it is. Even Superman is pretty lame. NBA players are the dumbest professional athletes.
Coley: The Nets have, in my opinion, the best pieces for the Magic to build around. Andrew Bynum completely ruined his trade value when he tried to murder JJ Barea in the playoffs last season. If the Thunder wanted to, they could get Howard but it would cost them Ibaka, Perkins, and either Harden or Westbrook. It would be easily the best package offered but I don’t think the Thunder are in any hurry to break up their core.
CP3 is possibly the worst nickname in the league, rivaled by D12′s Superman. How many athletes are going to try that nickname? Even Cam Newton and Robbert Griffin III are busting it out. Listen, Shaq is the only Superman, end of discussion. Durantula has the best nickname in the league as it stands now. Also, every team who dubs themselves the “Big Three” should have to pay Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish.
KM: Dwight Howard probably is a little more likely to end up in New Jersey then stay, and a little more likely to stay then end up in LA, but the percentages on all 3 of these scenerios is somewhere between 25 and 40%, which is to say all 3 are still very feasiable. Asking if these nicknames are lazy is like asking if Seth is lazy. Of course.
Cole: First off, the nickname “D12” is ridiculously lazy. A physical specimen like Dwight should have a nickname like “Optimus”, or something remotely creative or original. We unfortunately can’t rely on Dwight for a self proclaimed name like my boy Sasha. If it were up to him he’d just be the tremendously unoriginal Superman (rolling eyes). D12 is embarrassing though. I have more love for CP3 because of the Hornets Rick Flair “CP3, WOOOOOOO” chant by the PA announcer every time Chris scored. It just worked.
As for where Dwight ends up, I’ll still say the Lakers. If the Lakers are really willing to go all in for Dwight a Gasol and Bynum trade can’t be beat. It may not even come to that though if Bynum stays healthy and plays like he did in LA’s second preseason game. Drew runs circles around Brook Slowpez in virtually every facet of the game (defense and rebounding are in fact important elements to basketball, Brook), so unless the Nets can concoct a phenomenal multi team trade, barring Dwight reneging on his cold weather stance (sorry Chicago) LA is in the lead. That of course is assuming Dwight is still amenable to joining Kobe without Paul in the picture. No way is LA surrendering anything without a guarantee Dwight signs longterm (obviously).
Jason: I have really know idea what will happen to Howard. All signs point to the Nets, but I could still see the Lakers happening if the Lakers are willing to give up Gasol and Bynum.
As for the nicknames, they are very weak just like D-Rose is weak. Best newer nickname in the NBA belongs to the Bulls’ Omer Asik whom we all call the Turkish Hammer here in Chicago. Black Mamba and Flash are also pretty darn good as well.
Who Wins a Wide Open ROY?
KM: I like Ricky Rubio to win ROY. I think Minnesota has to feature Rubio in nearly every offensive possession to justify the fact they have been telling the fans to wait for him to turn things around for the last few years. Opportunity creates the stats that win you ROY, and Rubio will have serious opportunity to get those stats. Being on the same team as ROY favorite of the books D-Rock can’t help, but I’d take him at +800 without hesitation.
Jason: Really it is between Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams as they both have a ton of talent and both play for crap teams. It could either way but I am leaning towards Williams.
Bryan: Derrick Williams. Did you really think I’d pick anyone else? He was the best player in CBB last season and goes right into a situation where he can perform and produce which is basically all the ROY requires.
Cole: Kyrie Irving. I’ll have you know I was fully prepared to endorse Kenneth Faried due to the friendly system fit in Denver, but after the Nuggets re-signed Nene and penciled him in the power forward slot in the starting lineup next to Mozgov, Faried is left trapped behind a frontcourt logjam. Irving is the favorite, unsexy pick, and my reasoning is similar to what I expect the mass majority opinion is: out of all the legit candidates (Williams, Rubio, Walker), all of whom are expected to be on bad teams; Irving is the best bet to see high usage and thus post notable stats. I don’t think Irving is the most talented rookie. I do think he’s in the best situation to put up numbers. Sometimes it’s that simple.
Seth: I like Iman Shumpert. Who doesn’t? He is going to get mass amounts of time in the backcourt playing with All-Stars all over the floor. He is a great defender on a horrible defending team. Sign me up.
Coley: I like two players: Iman Shumpert and Kemba Walker. Shumpert has a much better team around him, so his chances to score in a bigger market on a better team will make it look like he’s playing better basketball than other rookies in the league. Walker, however, was one of the best players in college last year. He is a winner. Is he about to lead the Bobcats to the Finals? No. But he will score on a nightly basis while creating his own shots. If he can create for others and put up some serious assist numbers, then he’ll demand attention for the award. I’m going to pick Shumpert because he’ll have an easier go of it with Stat and Melo demanding attention, but I’ll be damned if Walker disappoints.
Are the Knicks and Grizzlies Contenders?
Bryan: No, neither is. The Knicks may win some games and may even win a series, but they’re not a threat to the Big 3 of the East. As for Memphis, I think they were a flash in the pan last year and actually finish right around the same spot as last year (I have them 7th). Their frontline is nice but we haven’t seen them do it with Rudy Gay implemented. Can’t just take the Coley Michalik philosophy and add a talented player and automatically make that team better. Sometimes adding another talented player actually hurts.
Cole: Yes, both are for real. The Knicks have the best frontcourt in the league, and if Tyson does for the Knicks what he did for Dallas they’ll be much improved defensively. New York has two significant x-factors, the first being Baron Davis. The “Baron is elite playing on a big stage for good crowds” storyline is clearly in play here with the MSG factor. When right, and by right I mean inspired, Baron has top 10 potential at the position. If his back problem doesn’t linger Baron will be a season altering addition for the Knicks. The second x-factor is Iman Shumpert. New York needs someone to check Wade, and Iman, or “I” “Mahn” looks to be the best perimeter defender on the roster.
As for Memphis, losing Darrell Arthur for the season was a huge blow, so I’m banking on the Grizz finding some veteran frontcourt relief to enable them to truly contend. With Gay back in the fold Memphis has the perimeter scoring punch they desperately lacked last year against OKC. The Z-Bo/Gasol combo runs shit and can’t be stopped, so Memphis will be a player regardless.
Coley: Absolutely. This is the most parody I’ve seen in the league in some time. While most people give Memphis’ credit to Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol last season (rightfully so), their team was turned around by the improvement of Mike Conley, Jr. and the addition of Tony Allen. These guards gave the Grizzlies one of the best defensive backcourts in all of the NBA and Conley’s ability to control the tempo of the offense was huge. With Rudy Gay back into the fold, this could develop quickly into one of the top teams in the league early on this season.
Jason: No. They are both really really close, but the Knicks still do not play defense and they will never win unless they do. Chandler is simply not enough to make up for Amar’e and Melo. The Grizzlies remind me of the Bulls in that they have their talent spread out everywhere, but that talant is just a tiny bit lacking. Still both should finish in the top 4-5 in their respective conference.
KM: The Knicks are serious contenders. Davis, Melo, Amare, and Chandler is stronger on paper then everybody. If the Knicks keep adding enough depth to get through the regular season in one piece, they are the best bet on the board to win it all. The Grizzlies are contenders as well, because the West could really send anyone, and the Grizzlies have a frontcourt advantage that no team can match outside the team also mentioned in this question. Both should have solid years.
Seth: See KM’s response.
What team makes a surprise run in the playoffs?
Cole: LA Clippers. Lob City Baby! The new kings of the NBA Baby! But on a serious note, this is really the only team that qualifies as a “surprise” team that could make a run in the playoffs. Would you really be surprised if the Knicks or Grizzlies made a playoff run? I thought not.
Actually, I hate this question, because I wouldn’t be surprised myself if the Clippers made a run. There isn’t a Memphis scenario here like last season. It’s OKC, Dallas, Memphis and the Clips in the West and Miami, Chicago, New York and Boston in the East. Barring unforeseen changes, there are no dark-horses. Out of the above list of teams however LAC fits the profile the closest.
Jason: In the east I could see the young Pistons or Wizards sneeking in somehow. In the west it is much harder to say but I guess the Warriors would be a risky pick that could happen.
KM: I’ll take the Spurs. They had the best record in the West last year, and everyone has written them off for dead just because Manu was hurt in the playoffs. Amar’e was hurt in the playoffs and nobody holds it against the Knicks, so you figure it out. I think the Spurs are probably the favorite for the Southwest right now and a serious threat to win the Western Conference.
Coley: A surprise run to the playoffs? Well, I’m not going to be surprised if the Clippers make it considering Chris Paul led a far worse Hornets team to the playoffs last season. The team I could see getting in if absolutely everything went right for them is the Detroit Pistons. Brandon Knight was one of the best point guards taken in this years draft. Him along side Rodney Stuckey should be a solid dose of offense out of their guards. Consider in that they still have veterans in Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace, and you have two guys to lean on when the going gets tough. In order for this to be a playoff team though, Greg Monroe needs to become the beast he was projected to be before his days at Georgetown. He needs to put up a 15-10-5 stat line and show off his well rounded skills. Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva are being payed to play. While I don’t expect them to be making the All Star team any time soon, it is my scenario and I did say everything had to go right. This team has the pieces, now let’s see if they can slide in as the seven or eight seed.
Seth: It’s in vogue to pick the Clippers, but they are still the Clippers until they win something. No I am going to go with another Western Conference squad, the Portland Trail Blazers.
It’s a short season; they have a nice, deep roster that can come at you in waves as well as having options on the offensive end, and lock down defenders to stop the other team from scoring.
The other team I like, as I said in the D12 section, is the Pacers if they are able to make a move for a game changer.
Bryan: East is nobody. The favorites will all win through. 2nd round will be Miami, Boston, Chicago and one of NY/ATL/ORL, none of which will be a surprise. In the West, again, a run probably has to be the conference Finals. I don’t think 1 series win is a run so I’ll say if they get the right matchups the Trail Blazers. Just been a team whose makeup I’ve liked for a few years.