NBA Roundtable: Carmelo, First Coach Fired, and Early Season MVP

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another edition of the NBA Roundtable here on STS! You can check out last week’s edition for all the info on the roundtable, but we’ve got plenty to discuss this week, so let’s get right to the introductions!

Joining us this week:

Cody NormanRight Down Euclid

BryanA Royal Pain

Dan JeppersonSTS and Kobe is the Smoke Monster

1. Carmelo Anthony says he’ll only sign a contract extension if he’s traded to the Knicks. So plain and simple: is Carmelo a Knick before the end of this season?

Cody: Plain and simple: Yes, Carmelo Anthony is a New York Knick by the end of the season. He has made it very clear that he will not be resigning with the Denver Nuggets. And the Nuggets seem ready to part ways with their superstar given their inability to retain him after this season.

If/when Melo goes, don’t be surprised to see Chris Paul catch the earliest flight to NYC this offseason and join Anthony and Amare Stoudemire at Madison Square Garden. That team, to me, automatically becomes about 20 times better than the Miami Heat. Paul, Anthony and Stoudemire complement each other very well whereas Miami’s big three do not.

Bryan: I hate this part of the NBA. Matter of fact, I hate it when it comes to all of the professional leagues, but especially in the NBA. You signed the contract – honor it. But the worst part is taking the team hostage as Carmelo has done. Wanting out is one thing, but, more or less attempting to force your way onto the franchise of your choice is sandbox stuff. He’s more or less admitted he wont sign a contract extension unless it’s to a small handful of teams, so, it forces the Nuggets to only deal with a few franchises – and even then, if you’re the Nuggets you have to hope they a) can make the move from a salary cap standpoint and b) have the returning assets.

So that brings me to the Knicks – what exactly do they have that would make the Nuggets better? Not much. I like Gallo, but is he a premier return for a All-Star talent like Carmelo? Clearly not. The Knicks draft picks wont be more than average and while the Knicks do have the expiring contract of Eddy Curry, that’s still an extremely small return for a player of Melo’s caliber, especially when rumored offers of Derrick Favors, good quality draft picks, and an expiring contract of Troy Murphy (similar money to Curry) are apparently available. If the Nuggets do what’s best for their franchise, as they should, Melo will not be a Knick this season.

Dan: I don’t see why not. I think the writing is on the wall for the Nuggets; either they move Melo to the Knicks and get something for him, or they don’t and lose him entirely at the end of the year. I do think one factor here may be the relative success from the Nuggets so far this season. Currently they’re 6th in the West, and basically still in the cluster as the Hornets, Blazers, and Suns. If they’re pretty well in the same position closer to the deadline, I can easily see them wanting to pull the trigger. Besides, there are plenty of teams with quality guys who may be willing to be the third team in a transaction.

Blake: At this point, it seems like the Nuggets have to trade him. I know it wouldn’t be easy, but they have to just say “let’s go ahead and try him now and see how much we can get.” They don’t need to keep letting this drag out, because they really aren’t getting anywhere by doing that. Yes, they have a decent record right now, and when Carmelo leaves, their record probably won’t improve dramatically or anything like that. But, go shopping and see who the best player you can get in return is, and then go from there. In watching the Knicks play last night, if they add Carmelo to the mix, this team might reach “contender” status in the Eastern Conference.

2. Don’t look now, but the Miami Heat are starting to put it together. However, wins against the likes of the Warriors and Kings don’t exactly scream “World Champions” just yet. Do you think the Heat can sustain this type of play with their current roster, or is it a must that they go out and get a big man in a trade in order to be a true championship team this season?

Cody: Sure, I see no reason why the Miami Heat cannot sustain this type of play throughout the entire season. They have, unarguably, the most talented trifecta of superstars in the entire league. However, they will not make it past the Boston Celtics and/or the Orlando Magic in the playoffs without a quality big man. The addition of Mike Miller to their rotation later this season will help out but it won’t be enough to play a physical style of basketball, one that Boston has become all to accustomed to.

Miami is more talented at this point in the season. But they do not have what it takes to match up against the forces of the Eastern Conference – or the LA Lakers after that – come playoff time. Not to mention, karma will catch up to the arrogant three. That’s all I’m going to say.

Bryan: The Heat are good. Very good. The one recurring theme I’ve seen with the Heat is a lack of ball movement. There are simply too many guys used to being the guy on their squad (and have been their entire life), so, they’ve had their struggles adapting. With that said though, I don’t think it’ll be too much of an issue as the season goes along. Anybody who thought they were going to challenge the Bulls record this season wasn’t seeing things clearly and didn’t understand the concept of team basketball, but that doesn’t mean the Heat aren’t very good. They’ll be able to beat most teams off a talent advantage alone, but the playoffs might be a different animal, especially towards the ECF and Finals when defenses really clamp down.

It’ll be interesting to see how Mike Miller improves (and he will) the Heat, especially come May. Could they use a big man? Who couldn’t? But will it prevent them from winning a potential title? I don’t think so. I question if they can win the title this year – it’s still a growing year and I think they’ll have some issues assuming the Celtics and Lakers stay healthy. Could they win it all? Sure. They’re a three headed monster, but, it wont be a breeze.

Dan: Interesting point here about the big man. The Heat have absolutely looked better of late. Now that the Cleveland game is behind them, it feels like LeBron in particular is play with more ease, and I think that’s paying dividends for the rest of the team. Still, the Heat could use some help on the offensive glass. While they lead the league in defensive rebounds and total rebounds (852 DRB and 1101 TRB), they’re 18th in the league in offensive rebounds (249). More importantly, there’s still plenty of room to improve in rebounds given up to opponents, where they stand 10th in Opp ORB, 11th in Opp DRB, and 7th in Opp TRB.

Blake: Yes, the Heat have played better lately. There’s no question about that. They’ve won 10 in a row. But let’s not crown them just yet. In that 10-game stretch, here’s some of the teams that they’ve beaten: Wizards, Pistons, Cavs (twice), Bucks, Warriors, Kings, Hornets. Not exactly the NBA gauntlet right there. And when you look at it, aside from a few of those, none of those teams are known for their stellar inside game.

With LeBron and Wade on the team, the Heat are going to win a lot of games. But when it comes to a playoff series, I just have a hard time believing this team can win consistently without a hard-nosed, in your face big man. Bosh has always been a finesse player, and simply will struggle to win the rebounding battle against guys like KG and Dwight Howard. I’m how or who they get to fix this problem, but this may be what keeps them from being the superteam most of us thought they would be.

3. A team heading in the opposite direction is the New Orleans Hornets, who seem to have lost that early season confidence that they had. So tell me, will the Hornets make the playoffs this season?

Cody: You know, there is always one team that starts out hot at the beginning of the season and then falls off as the season progresses. I believe New Orleans is that team. They just don’t have nearly enough talent to compete with the big time forces of the NBA. Chris Paul and David West may win a few games on their own. But, outside of those two guys, they are very slim talent-wise. I’d be surprised if Paul and West stuck around for too much longer. With ownership issues and everything else going on down there, it’d be a good thing for both guys to pack up and get out as soon as possible. That team is going nowhere.

Bryan: If the Hornets do make the playoffs, it’ll be a struggle and towards the bottom of the conference. If Denver does end up moving Carmelo, that should give the Hornets a better opportunity as they’ll most likely bow out providing the Hornets an extra playoff slot, most likely a 6-8 seed. The Suns, Grizzlies, and Rockets should all put pressure on the Hornets for a late seeding playoff spot, but, assuming Chris Paul stays healthy and the Nuggets drop out of the playoff race once/if Melo is moved, they should be able to sneak in at the bottom.

Dan: Hard to say. I wouldn’t count them out, but the West feels like it’s even tighter than it was last year. The Mavs and Spurs have been playing exceptionally well, this may be a case of the odd-team out.

Blake: There’s just so much going on with this team right now that I worry that they’ll be able to sustain their early season success. I mean, the NBA has had to take control of the ownership of the team. Then there’s relocation talks. Then there’s talks of Chris Paul being traded. I think Monty Williams is a good coach, but this team is facing an uphill battle. They have the pieces to be a playoff team, and I think as long as Paul is there, they’ll be able to get one of those last spots in the West.

4. It happens every year, but unfortunately, a head coach around the league will be fired at some point. Let’s take our guesses. Who is the first NBA head coach fired this season?

Cody: This is always a tough one to gauge. I think Flip Saunders may be looking for a job here pretty soon. His team(s) have underachieved severely throughout the last few years and I think it is only a matter of time before Ted Leonsis gets rid of him in favor of a new face in the franchise. With another losing season and another high draft pick, the Wizards could turn their entire season around next season behind the speed of John Wall.

Bryan: You’d normally assume that worst or second worst team in the league would be the one to pull the trigger first, but, I don’t see the Clippers or Kings putting the axe on their head coaches yet. The same holds true for the T’Wolves and their recently hired Rambis. I however can’t say the same for the Pistons and John Kuester. Between his documented issues with players and poor team performance, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him get the pink slip soon.

Dan: This is a fairly uninformed statement (i.e. I haven’t heard of any public declarations of trouble from the front office), but I feel like the ever-revolving Clippers coaching position may claim the first coach of the season. Despite one of the strongest rookies in the league, the Clippers look awful at 5 and 20. What’s more, the last game I watched of theirs was basically the Blake Griffin show. If he’s playing well, the Clippers are at least in the game, but that’s about it. Vinnie Del Negro may not have a wealth of other tools to work with, but things look bad in L.A.

Blake: There’s a lot of different ways you could go with this one, but it just seems like Bryan is right on this one. Kuester will probably be the first one fired, and while that may be a short-term solution, this team is a mess and Joe Dumars better figure something out pretty quickly. It still baffles me that they haven’t traded Richard Hamilton or Tayshaun Prince yet, because if you’re going to go into rebuilding mode, you better go ahead and get some young talent in exchange for these two. Their value is going to keep dropping if the Pistons keep losing, so they better go ahead and make a trade soon or it won’t matter who the coach is. This team doesn’t seem like it has a direction right now, and they look like they are in the middle of trying to figure out whether to be a playoff team or a rebuilding team.

5. Let’s wrap up this edition of the roundtable with MVP talk. With several of the best teams in the NBA being on long winning streaks, and certain players stepping their game up quite a bit, there are many candidates for early-season MVP. Who is your pick for most valuable player in the league so far this season?

Cody: Honestly, I do not see any way you can give the early-season MVP to anyone but Amare Stoudemire. Stoudemire has been absolutely lights out as of late. Eight straight games with 30+ points is unreal. And with the brand of basketball the New York Knicks have been playing as of late, I don’t think I could make an argument for anybody else as the early-season NBA. Just imagine the production this guy will have after the Knicks acquire Melo before the deadline.

Bryan: It’s a bit hard to get a read this early simply because there are so many players playing at such a high level, but, I’d have to go with either Derrick Rose or Dirk Nowitzki currently. Both players are playing the best ball of their careers and both players are playing without that second additional star, like a Pau Gasol or Russell Westbrook.

Dan: I’ve got to throw a plug in for Deron Williams. A lot of guys were writing the Jazz off after Boozer’s departure, but Williams has firmly taken command of the Jazz offense and has lead them to a 18-8 start, with five of those losses coming from the Thunder, Heat, Mavs and Spurs.

Williams is playing above his career averages in minutes played, field goal attempts, field goals, field goal percentage, three pointers attempted, three pointers made, free throws, rebounds, assists, steals, and points. In fact, this is his best year in PPG (23.0), steals (1.3) and one of his best years in assists (9.8) and FG% (.468). That said, the Jazz don’t typically get the same attention as bigger market teams (Lakers, Celtics, Heat, etc.) so I think that if Williams is going to make a real case for MVP, he’s going to need to lead the Jazz to either the 2nd or 1st seed in the West to seal the deal.

Blake: It’s gotta be Amare Stoudemire. No, the Knicks aren’t the best team in the East, and may not even be a true contender…..yet. But the way that Amare has been playing so far this season is phenomenal. The guy is scoring at will, and this streak of 30+ points has just been exciting to watch. Obviously, you could make arguments for several other players, but Amare has been the player that has stood out thus far this season.

What are your opinions on these hot topics? Let your voice be heard in the comments section below!

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