NBA fans, welcome to a new weekly feature here on Saving the Skyhook, as we’ve gathered up a couple of writers from around the FanSided NBA network to participate in a discussion on the hot topics around the league. Each week we will invite writers to join us to give their thoughts on certain topics, which allows a variety of opinions on the big happenings in the Association.
Joining us this week:
I’ll also be contributing in the discussion as well, so now that we’ve introduced the lineup, let’s get straight to this week’s topics!
1. It would be hard to have a hot topic roundtable without mentioning the hottest team in the league right now. The Mavericks have been playing some great basketball as of late, and are beating some very good teams in the process. So tell me, are you buying the Mavs in terms of having the potential to be NBA champions this season?
Cody Norman: You know, the Mavericks really seem to be clicking this season. I expected them to be much better than they actually were last season but they look to be in midseason form already. In fact, they’ve been in midseason form since game one. This team just has so many weapons. Dirk Nowitzki is, obviously, one of the best in the game. He and Tyson Chandler are an outstanding compliment to each other in the front court. And the combination of Caron Butler, Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion is just potent.
However, can they sustain the same level of play throughout the entire season? All four of the aforementioned guys aren’t getting any younger. But, then again, neither are the Boston Celtics. I think these guys definitely have the potential, and the talent, to go all the way this season. Especially when you consider the deep wallet and strong passion of owner Mark Cuban.
James Grayson: I think it’s quite easy to buy into the Mavericks recent play mainly because they do this every year. Last season there were a lot of “on the fly” moves and it showed by the playoffs that their comfortability with one another wasn’t quite there. With a full off-season under their belt expect the Mavericks to make a serious run at the Lakers even if it’s only for one season.
Blake Lovell: For some reason, I really think this might be the year for the Mavericks. We all know that certain teams get hot at some point in the season. I mean, just about every team does it. But if you look at the makeup of this team, they have most of the pieces that you need to win a championship. They have the veteran point guard in Jason Kidd. They have the superstar in Dirk. They have the shooter in Jason Terry. And they have the high-energy, physical players like Brandon Bass, Caron Butler, Shawn Marion, and Tyson Chandler. If they can stay healthy, this team is a legitimate threat to the Spurs and Lakers.
2. Speaking of hot teams, the Knicks have turned things around after a slow start. Now we all would probably agree that the Knicks aren’t championship contenders. But do you see this team as a playoff team? Or is this just one of those good runs every team seems to have during the season?
Cody Norman: Yes, the Knicks are in the midst of a four game win streak. But the only quality team they beat during that stretch was the New Orleans Hornets. And, quite frankly, I don’t think New Orleans is going to be anywhere near as good as they looked in the first part of the season. They just don’t have the firepower to run alongside Chris Paul.
With that being said, I do think the Knicks have a chance to steal one of those last two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. They are no worse than the Milwaukee Bucks, a team that snuck into the playoffs last season. Heck, the Cavaliers may even challenge for that final playoff spot. And everybody and their mother saw the stoot slappin’ they took at the hands of the Miami Heat. I don’t think it’s a stretch to think Amare Stoudemire can take this team into the playoffs. But they won’t make it out of the first round.
James Grayson: The Knicks are a playoff team but not a very good one. Their defense is very porous and and get easily out-matched against most of the good teams. Raymond Felton and Amare Stoudemire are playing well, but not nearly well enough to make some noise in the league.
Blake Lovell: I agree with Cody and James, in that the Knicks are more than likely a playoff team. But let’s keep in mind that the Eastern Conference isn’t exactly…..well, the Western Conference. The Knicks should be able to maybe get as high as a five seed if they continue to do what they’ve been doing. In watching the Knicks earlier in the season, they took bad shots and played horrendous defense. They’ve improved in those areas recently, and against bad teams or not, the Knicks have looked like a dangerous team at times. They have the makeup of a playoff team, but it’ll take a trade to bring in another veteran player before they are taken as a contender.
3. Two names being thrown around in trade rumors right now are Andre Iguodala and Gilbert Arenas. Any thoughts as to where you see these two winding up?
Cody Norman: Quite honestly, I don’t see Gilbert Arenas going anywhere. His contract is absolutely absurd and I’d be shocked to see a contender go after Arenas simply due to the attitude/ego of the former superstar. Andre Iguodala, though, has a very real chance to get moved. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get moved to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Dan Gilbert has talked a lot about his frustrations with his team’s underperformance so far this season and he is the type of guy that might snag Iguodala in a move that can only improve his team.
As a Cavaliers fan, however, I worry that his will to win may persuade him to make a move that could only hurt this team in the long run. The Cavs aren’t ready to compete this season. And, barring any odd occurrences, the Cavs won’t be ready to compete next season either. I think it’d be best to sell this trade deadline and resist the urge to buy. Outside of the Cavaliers, I think Iguodala may be a good fit for a team like the Phoenix Suns, the Oklahoma City Thunder or the Golden State Warriors. Iguodala’s skill set would mesh very well with any of those three teams. It will come down to whether or not these teams are willing to pay whatever cost Philadelphia is asking for their star. That remains to be seen.
James Grayson: Andre Iguodala has been a questionable asset for the 76ers ever since they drafted Evan Turner but time and time again the front office has persisted on making it work. That significantly changes now that Philly isn’t competing the way they’d hoped. I think he ends up on a team trying to make a move into the upper echelon of the league. It wouldn’t be far fetched to see a team like Phoenix, Milwaukee, Portland or maybe just to shake things up the Boston Celtics. As for Arenas it’s clear that his time at Washington has always been questionable. There have been a number of rumors that he would be going to Orlando but who knows where. All I know is I don’t want him on the Hornets.
Blake Lovell: Orlando has been a rumored destination for Arenas, but I just don’t see that happening. I don’t think Stan Van Gundy signs off on that one. Arenas will probably end up staying in Washington unless he does something crazy. As for Iguodala though, that’s where things start getting interesting. The Sixers have said that they aren’t shopping him, but given the start that they’ve had, why not? It’s obvious they are in rebuilding mode, so you might as well go ahead and move him to get as much for him as you can. Bring in some young talent and go from there.
If Carmelo ends up getting traded from Denver, I could see Iggy wind up there in a three-way trade or something like that. If the Nuggets are going to try and replace Carmelo, you wouldn’t drop off as much with Iguodala. Portland would be another intriguing situation, as would Phoenix. I think this will all depend on the Carmelo situation, because I think if he gets traded, Iguodala somehow winds up in Denver.
4. We’ve had several surprise teams around the Association through a quarter of the season, both good and bad. Which team that you thought may be great or may be terrible has done the exact opposite and surprised you the most?
Cody Norman: The San Antonio Spurs are, in my opinion, the obvious choice for this one. This is a team that has been built around the same three players for what seems like 20 years. Their core three go out and perform every single night and don’t get a whole lot of recognition for their stellar play. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli are being surrounded with good, young talent such as George Hill and Dejaun Blair. They are only going to get better as the season progresses.
And, on top of all that, they have one of the most brilliant coaches in NBA history sitting on their bench. They’ve got everything going for them. And everything seems to be clicking early on this season. If they can continue this same effort throughout the entire season, don’t be surprised if they go toe to toe with LA for the Western Conference title. They certainly match up well with the defending champs.
James Grayson: This is hard for me to say but I’m very surprised with the San Antonio Spurs. When everyone was pointing to their decline they keep on ballin’. They have the most wins in the NBA and are showing no signs of slowing down. They are a true class-act in terms of professionally run organization. While they may seem old on the surface they’ve done a great job of continually building a foundation for the future. These Spurs are the real deal.
Blake Lovell: Heading into the season, the Mavs and Spurs were the two teams I thought could make one big run before they started questioning the value of their older players, and maybe heading towards rebuilding with new pieces on their team. But I didn’t think these two teams would be this good this early. However, they haven’t been the most surprising to me. The Sacramento Kings have simply been awful to this point in the season, and I honestly believed they could contend for one of the last playoff spots in the West. Given the new pieces that they brought in, and having the reigning Rookie of the Year on your team, it just seemed like a potential breakout season for this team. It hasn’t been, and it doesn’t look to be getting much better for them.
5. To wrap up this edition of the roundtable, let’s debate the NBA point guard situation. This gets talked about every day and is obviously a personal preference here, but if you’re starting a team and get to handpick your point guard, who you going with? Paul? Williams? Rondo? Westbrook? Someone else?
Cody Norman: Oh, man. I would take any of those four guys on my team in a heartbeat. I am a big fan of the run-and-gun brand of basketball – similar to that of Byron Scott – so I’d be more apt to go after a guy like Russell Westbrook. His athleticism and his ability to run the floor is unrivaled by any other point guard in the league. He finishes with emphasis around the basket and he is a smart point guard. He doesn’t turn the ball over a whole lot and has a great feel for the game. Westbrook has an uncanny ability to find his teammates for easy buckets and can score in bunches.
He provides an entirely different dynamic to a basketball game. And, most importantly, the guy has fun playing every single night. He knows how to keep his teammates loose and he seems to be an outstanding addition to the Oklahoma City locker room. Russell Westbrook is definitely my guy.
James Grayson: This is the most obvious choice for me as I’m picking Chris Paul. Not one other point guard possesses the desire to win like Chris does and he continually maximizes the production of his team-mates. He’s by far and away the most efficient point guard and his defense is right at the top. While Williams has the size, Rondo has the passing and Westbrook has the athleticism there’s not a better all-round, pure point guard in the league than Paul.
Blake Lovell: How can you go wrong here? All of these guys have developed into such great players, and oh, these guys are still very young. For me, it’s a choice between Chris Paul and Deron Williams. The size of Williams and the physicality that he plays with at that position is just so impressive, while Paul’s ability to create open shots for anyone on the floor is unmatched. You could certainly use a guy like Williams if your team was in need of more points produced at the point guard position, but in most situations, Paul would be my guy simply because he’s got all the intangibles. Like James said, it would be hard to find another point guard with overall skill set of Paul.
What are your thoughts on these hot topics around the league? Let your voice be heard in the comments section below!