Hello, friends! I can’t even really remember the last time we did an RTOE. So, here one is. We’ve got Derek, Jordan, Ian, Eric, Robby, Andrew, and Raffers on the case. Enjoy. – Ed.
1. No coaches have been fired yet. Does one get fired before the end of the season? If so, who will be the first?
Derek James: Based on history, yes, someone does. Then I look at the standings and see that there are teams that are struggling at the bottom that recently hired a coach, making it unlikely they make another change quickly. On the other end, a lot of the teams that were supposed to be bad have already out-performed expectations, so that adds another wrinkle to this. At this point I think the guys we talked about being on the hot seat — Mike D’Antoni, Mike Woodson, Jason Kidd, and Randy Wittman — are most likely safe for now. It may have to be a surprise firing since I don’t really see an obvious answer.
Jordan White: With so many teams tanking, and those team’s bad coaches only aiding their cause, it’s tough to see any coach getting the axe before season’s end. Further, it seems as if the coaches of the not-tanking-but-still-
Ian Levy: Jason Kidd and Mike Woodson are locked in an epic duel. Loser has their entrails fed to the pigeons at Battery Park. Winner gets to look for a new career.
Eric Maroun: I can’t imagine that we really go an entire season without a coach getting fired. Given the fact that James Dolan reportedly said that he expected to win a title this season and the Knicks currently find themselves at 12-22, Mike Woodson may not be around come April.
Robby Kalland: I think we’ll make it to the end without a mid-season firing. It looks like Kidd and Woodson, who seem to be the most likely candidates to be fired during the year, will at least be given the rest of the year to try and work out their teams’ issues.
Andrew Lynch: Here’s a scary thought — with everything that’s gone wrong for both teams, the Knicks are just a game and a half out of the 8th seed, and the Nets are a half-game back. As in, both New York teams might very well make the playoffs. The Hollinger Playoff Odds have the Knicks at 45.4% to make the postseason and the Nets at 35.6%. Granted, there’s a fair amount of cross-sampling going on there, where one makes it at the other’s expense, but there’s a probabilistic universe where Mike Woodson and Jason Kidd are coaches in the 2014 NBA Playoffs. THINK ABOUT THAT.
So maybe they end up saving their jobs, especially for the duration of the season if they’re in contention. That likely comes at the expense of the Cavs, but Mike Brown’s 5-year contract probably makes him fairly safe, at least for now. Randy Wittman could lose his job if the Wizards miss the playoffs, but that would require a step back from Washington — and even then, the Wizards would presumably wait until the offseason to make a coaching change, as Wittman’s contract expires after the season.
Larry Drew? Probably safe this season, since being inside a tank is one of the safest places one can be, or something. Mike D’Antoni? Gets the benefit of the doubt given all of the Lakers’ injuries, plus the year left on his deal. To me, that really only leaves Utah’s Ty Corbin. There’s certainly a faction of Jazz fans who have voiced their support for Corbin’s ouster, but Utah’s been markedly better with rookie Trey Burke, which might give Corbin some breathing room. Then again, Corbin, too, is in the last year of his contract, so his dismissal would come at a minimal price.
…oh, you wanted an answer to the question? Yes? Yes. I’ll say Corbin.
Scott Rafferty: I’m starting to think that we’ll make it through the entire season without anyone getting fired. Even with the likes of Mike Woodson and Jason Kidd failing to live up to their lofty pre-season expectations, they’re still around and I’m convinced they’ve gotten through the worst. Plus, the Knicks and Nets actually have a good chance of making the Playoffs even after all this mess. And a second round appearance for at least one of them isn’t out of the realm of possibilities because the East is just that weak.
2. Which non-contender do you find yourself drawn to on League Pass most often?
Derek: They’re good, but not yet a contender, so I’ll say the Blazers.
Jordan: If we’re interpreting non-contender as simply non-title contender, it’s an easy tie between the Pelicans and the Suns. Anthony Davis is fearsome in his skill and rapid advancement, and the two point guard offense in Phoenix is endless fun.
Ian: The Phoenix Suns or the Brooklyn Nets. I’m all about the #PlumleeLife
Eric: It’s the Knicks, and it’s not even close. JR Smith has been at his JR Smithiest this year. Bargs has been Bargs. Glazed donut face insults have been thrown around on Twitter. I have yet to not be entertained by something regarding the Knicks every time I flip to a game of theirs. It’s unbelievably fun provided you’re not actually a fan of them and throwing objects at your television in frustration night after night. Sorry Jared.
Robby: The Phoenix Suns. When Bledsoe is healthy, this team is so much fun to watch. They’re young, talented, and play hard every night. Jeff Hornacek has done wonders in his first season, and with Dragic and Bledsoe this team pushes the pace as well as anyone in the NBA.
Andrew: See, this is a trick question, because I don’t get the Suns on League Pass. They’re in my local market, so I can’t pick Phoenix. And (again, with apologies to Jared) credit to Eric for the Knicks answer, because dammit, it’s so true. But the team I keep coming back to this season is Dallas, and it’s all Dirk Nowitzki’s fault. He’s playing so incredibly well, and it’s always fun to watch a Rick Carlisle-coached team. Also, as a connoisseur of awful shooting forms, I’ll always turn on a game that involves Shawn Marion jumpers. They’re mesmerizing.
Raffers: The New Orleans Pelicans. Watching Anthony Davis develop into a star has been everything I could’ve ever hoped for, Eric Gordon is somewhat healthy for the first time in ages which makes me happy and Jrue Holiday is quietly having a great season. It’s too bad they’re incredibly inconsistent.
3. If you could take one player of a sub-.500 team and put him on a fringe contender to make them better, who would it be and what team would you send him to?
Derek: I immediately went to the Atlantic Division and realized Thad Young was still there. I’ve heard Houston, so I’ll say there.
Jordan: I’d send Thaddeus Young to the Timberwolves. Though he’d have to slide back to the three as a starter, he could be dangerous in small-ball lineups with him at the four and Love at the five. He’d give the Timberwolves some needed shooting, athleticism, and perimeter defense.
Ian: I’d put Steve Nash back on the Suns. He’d be utterly redundant, even if he was healthy enough to contribute again. But it would go a long ways towards restoring psychic balance in the NBA universe. Plus it feels cruel to have the Suns be fun and relevant again while Nash is decaying in Los Angeles.
Eric: Anthony Davis on literally any fringe contender because I’m selfish, want more Anthony Davis in my life, and can’t think of a team that wouldn’t get better with him in the rotation.
Robby: Arron Afflalo. I’m all about #FreeThadYoung, but Arron Afflalo is such a terrific shooter and a solid perimeter defender at the two-guard spot and I think he would be incredible for the Thunder. The Thunder could use another perimeter scoring option alongside Durant. Afflalo has the ability to play off the ball, space the floor, and knock down spot-up threes, but he’s also shown in Orlando that he can be the primary guy and play off the dribble when Durant was on the bench.
Andrew: You’re so lucky the Wolves are 17-17 so I can’t say “Take Kevin Love and put him on the Suns,” because I absolutely would have said that. And Anthony Davis on the Rockets would be terrifying. But I’m going thermonuclear with this one: Jordan Crawford. Miami Heat.
No explanation needed! …but here’s one anyway. Miami’s resting Dwyane Wade as often as possible — though he did recently suit up for his first back-to-back in over a month — and the current incarnation of Crawford would be a perfect stopgap with Wade out of the lineup. And when Wade is playing, Crawford gets to go full Crawford off of the bench. Jordan Crawford for President of the Larry O’Brien Trophy of the United States of America!
Raffers: Before the Thunder shipped James Harden off to the Houston Rockets last summer, I was hoping they’d trade him to Washington in return for the third overall pick (Bradley Beal), so I’m sticking with that. A backcourt of Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal and Kevin Durant, to go along with Serge Ibaka and whoever you want at the center just sounds amazing to me.
4. What has been your favorite game to watch so far this season?
Derek: Timberwolves-Thunder is typically a fun matchup.
Jordan: This is tough. Watching Phoenix come back from a 21-point deficit agains the Nuggets, with Goran Dragic leading the way; Chris Paul doing Chris Paul things with 42 points and 15 assists against the Warriors; The improbable Clippers comeback against the Timberwolves; and, of course, JR Smith being JR Smith.
Ian: Heat – Pacers and Pacers – Heat. Those games just have a vicious intensity that I don’t see anywhere else.
Eric: Both of the Miami-Indiana games this year have been great. There’s no reason that this shouldn’t be a Christmas Day game every year for the foreseeable future. The combination of star power, playoff atmosphere, and rivalry between them makes every time these two play a must watch event.
Robby: Not sure I can single out just one, so I’ll cheat and pick three. I was in the arena for Al Horford’s buzzer-beater to beat the Wizards, Pero Antic’s wild one-footed three that sent the Hawks to OT where they beat the Bobcats, and Andre Iguodala’s buzzer-beater three to beat the Hawks by one (after Steph Curry went nova in the fourth). Those three have been my favorite games of the year to watch.
Andrew: November 14th. Thunder at Warriors. Before injuries had taken Russell Westbrook again; before they’d taken Andre Iguodala, for however briefly. Most of the players — both in the basketball and the “all the world’s a stage” sense — did their parts, though Oklahoma City was without Kendrick Perkins due to a death in Perkins’s family. Ibaka; Durant; Westbrook. Thompson; Curry; Lee. All scored 20-plus points. But it was Iguodala who scored last, hitting the game-winner as the buzzer expired.
I don’t know why I’m describing all of this, really; if you’re reading this, you saw the game, and you know exactly what happened. I guess it’s because talking about it makes it real again, and it seemed so unreal in the first place.
Raffers: My favorite game so far has been when the Trail Blazers played the Pelicans on December 30th. Damian Lillard was awesome and he hit a ridiculous pull-up three from waaaay out to tie it up near the end of regulation, Anthony Davis and LaMarcus Aldridge were battling all night long, Jrue Holiday was doing All-Star-things and Tyreke Evans hit the game-winning jumper as the buzzer sounded. There was so much young talent on display and they all lived up to the hype. Such a good game.
5. Which player would be number one on your “This Guy Is Not Getting Enough Attention For Having a Surprisingly Good Season” list?
Derek: Can Isaiah Thomas ever get enough attention? I loved him in Washington and have loved watching him progress in the NBA.
Jordan: Jon Leuer. He’s been an efficiency darling this season — 19.6 PER, a 58% True Shooting, and 56% eFG. According to Basketball-Reference, Leuer’s averaging 18 points and nearly nine rebounds per 36 minutes. Close on Leuer’s heels: Al-Farouq Aminu, displaying a newfound sense of control and discipline, especially on defense.
Ian: David Lee. We’ve all had some fun at the expense of his defense, but he’s actually been respectable at that end for large swaths of the season. On offense he’s continued to put big numbers with terrific efficiency. His contract is enormous and lengthy but I think he’s someone for whom the pendulum of public opinion may have swung to far. Enjoy him for what he is.
Eric: Prior to the season, there was a debate whether or not Danny Granger should get the start over Lance Stephenson if Granger was healthy. It was rendered a moot point when Granger sat out the beginning of the year, but Stephenson has earned a starting spot regardless of Granger’s health status. He has improved his per 36 numbers in nearly every meaningful category, and he fits perfectly into the Pacers system which has allowed them to become a legit title contender and hold the best record in the NBA 40% of the way through the season.
Robby: I’m going back to Arron Afflalo. He’s been so good for the Magic this season despite the team’s struggles. Afflalo is shooting 41.9% on threes and has a 53.6% eFG%. He’s a solid perimeter defender and continues to be an effective and efficient scorer despite an increase in his usage. He gets lost in the misery that is the Magic and the Eastern Conference as a whole, but he’s been a lot of fun this season and should get more shine.
Andrew: George Hill. I think a case could be made for Hill, Stephenson or David West, as they’re all vital cogs to what Indiana does. And that’s probably a good indication of how valuable Roy Hibbert and Paul George are, but the less-heralded Pacers deserve credit for playing their roles with due diligence and consistent execution. Hill does exactly what Indiana ask of him — and needs from him — and he does it well. He’s shot almost 40% on 3s this year, and while his assist numbers are down a bit on a per-minute basis, that’s largely a result of Stephenson taking on a larger share of the playmaking responsibilities. He might not be the most important player in Indiana, but Hill could use more recognition for his adaptability and willingness to put the team first.
Raffers: Mike Conley. The Grizzlies haven’t been very good thus far (actually, they’ve been pretty terrible), but Conley is having his best season as a pro, averaging 17.6 points, 6.3 assists and 1.6 steals per game on 45.2 percent shooting from the floor. If the Western Conference wasn’t so stacked with #PointGods, maybe we’d be talking about Conley a little more.