The NBA’s nearly back and it’s got us doing the church Nae Nae in anticipation. However, when we’re not showing praise for the game, we bide our team with basketball debates because that’s what hoops
nerds enthusiasts do. Take a look at our stances on everything from J.R. Smith’s place in the triangle to NorBeL’s hairline. Maybe Carlos Boozer can introduce him to his hair paint specialist?
1. Can Portland finally turn the corner this year or are they the Western Conference Hawks?
Damien Lillard’s a star now and LaMarcus Aldridge remains as an easy top five power forward. However, legacy issues with depth stomp out the Blazers’ aim to be contenders. Portland’s front office hasn’t made any roster changes to address the team’s league-worst bench ppg despite touting a league best ppg for starters. There’s also the case of Damien being a suspect defender so we have to wait and see if he can improve on that front.
Also Damien Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge rack up huge minutes the past two seasons: about 36 and 38 per game respectively. I’m not saying the long-term injury bug’s looming but Head Coach Terry Stotts has no plan B if they crash and burn.
The Blazers can’t look like the Hawks in a literal sense since they drafted a top point guard. Yet there’s an outside chance of them reaching the Conference Finals based on potential match ups and the fact that past teams have gone that far with less starting talent. LMA and Wesley Matthews are in the last year of their respective deals as well. So, while a tough, second round out looks right for Portland, some overachieving could make them raise a few eyebrows in May. — S. Cadet
2. Will you buy league pass to watch entertaining, bad teams like the Wolves and Bucks?
The casual fan may not give a damn about the Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks but they’re more than enough for yours truly to invest in League Pass for the third straight year. Watching Jabari Park and Giannas Antetokounmpo form one of the taller (and more thrilling) young duos in the league while being coached by Bad Karma Kidd? Yes. YES, PLEASE.
Let’s not sleep on the three man fast break with Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine. They have the potential to make Minnesota residents forget Adrian Peterson had the worst 2014 for an NFL running back not named Ray Rice. — J. Tinsley
3. Guess the date by which the Lakers miss the playoffs.
October 28th because this is not a playoff team and not even close. Their improvements are marginal and both Carlos Boozer and Jeremey Lin are defensive sieves coming onto an already horrendous defensive team. This coupled with the fact that new coach Byron Scott has decided he doesn’t want his team shooting threes because he doesn’t like points or something and you have a receipt for disaster. They won 27 games last year in a year where it took 49 wins to grab the eighth seed in the West and 36 year old Kobe coming off two major injuries to the same leg isn’t adding 22 wins to their tally.
Laker fans, you silly rabbits you, I give you until April Fools day to pretend that the Lakers have a chance at seeing the playoffs this year. — Bansky
4. What will OKC look like with Russell going full-Westbrook in Kevin Durant’s absence?
The easy answer says Russell will shoot 20-ft jumpers early in the shot clock, attack the basket on every possession and try to dunk on the whole world. At the same time five of OKC’s first seven games are against playoff teams from last year. OKC’s also not built to score by committee with Jeremy Lamb’s inconsistent shooting, Serge Ibaka’s lacking post game and Kendrick Perkins being Kendrick Perkins.
Throw in SCOTT BROOKS BALL and you have a potential, early doom-and-gloom narrative fit for Skip Bayless. OKC should be good enough to right the ship with Durant gets back but they may suffer enough L’s to keep make them fight for home court in a crowded Western Conference. — S. Cadet
5. What’s more likely to happen: LeBron winning Defensive Player of the Year, shooting 60% from the field or he shaves his head for his 30th birthday?
LeBron James is stubborn and very cognizant of his follicle deficiencies. Though he could use his 30th birthday in December as sort of a “new decade, new me” moment, he’s not shaving his head. At least not this year. The King is more likely to sport a full du-rag before that happens. As far as DPOY is concerned, we all know that’s the one individual award LeBron covets, and whether it was by choice or not, he took a step back defensively last year.
That leaves us with the possibility of a perimeter player shooting 60% from the field. His field goal percentage has increased every season since 2007-08, topping out at 56.7% in his final campaign in Miami. While it’s unlikely he’ll make the egregious 3.3% jump this season, it’s still the most likely of the trio of scenarios presented here. And if he does achieve the feat (while posting his usual numbers), pencil him in for his fifth MVP trophy. — J. Tinsley
6. Is Anthony Davis overrated?
It was probably around the time that people began wondering if GMs would take the Brow over Kevin Durant* and LeBron if they were starting a franchise that Davis became overrated.
Davis’ numbers are great but his team has won 37% of their games during his tenure. Much of the summer was spent wondering why Kevin Love was unable to translate his gaudy stats in Minnesota into wins while concurrently praising Davis for his numbers and ignoring his won loss record. Shareef Abdur Raheem’s first seasons at 18.7/6.9 and 22.3/7.1 looked similar to the Brow’s 13.5/8.2 and 20.8/10 and we weren’t chiseling his bust for the Hall.
I’m not disputing the fact that Davis is well on his way to becoming a top 10 player in the NBA, I just think it’s time we stop pretending he’s already there.
7. Which one of Phoenix’s point guards will be traded first?
I really want to say Tyler Ennis, but that seems like a cop-out. Eric Bledsoe is staying put for five more years at $70 million after an uneasy contract stalemate. Goran Dragic, the other half of Phoenix’ dynamic two-point-guard backcourt from last season, is likely to decline his player option for 2015-16 and become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this upcoming season. That makes him a good candidate to be traded, right? Maybe to the Pacers for Roy Hibbert? Not a chance. I suspect the Suns will do everything in their power to re-sign Dragic long-term.
Isaiah Thomas seems the most likely to be traded. With his reasonable contract, Phoenix shouldn’t have much trouble getting GMs to line up for a point guard capable of averaging 20 points a night. Add in the Suns’ glut at the guard position and you have the makings of a quality trade chip. — Samir S.
8. Can the Spurs repeat?
I love the Spurs. Their championship win over the Heat a few months back was one of my personal highlights of the year and evoked similar feelings to AC Milan’s revenge triumph over Liverpool in 2007.
But…here’s the thing. For the last five years, the media has written off the Spurs due to the ever increasing age of their big 3, saying “this is the year they’ll fall off”. Time and again the Spurs have made a mockery of these predictions, quietly racking up 60 win seasons and performing well in the playoffs (with one exception,) culminating in a Western Conference Finals win two years ago, and a dominant championship last season.
This year? Much of the media learned its lesson, and is proclaiming the Spurs the favorites to win it all this time around. This makes me uneasy as pundits always get things wrong regarding the Spurs, so now I’m inclined to believe that this really is the year things start to drop off for San Antonio. They’ve never won a back-to-back championship. And they usually avoid controversy, but this just happened. And…the age thing, again. Sorry Spurs, as much as I hope you can get it done, I’m not betting on you this year. I’ve got the Clippers for the West (2015 MVP Blake Griffin has three point range now, y’all), and the Cavs for the East. The most entertaining Finals of all-time will be won by the Clips, in seven. — Derz
9. What happens first: DeMarcus Cousins getting his sixth technical or JR Smith learning the triangle offense?
Smith ain’t learning the triangle and Boogie already has two technicals in three preseason games. I’m going to go with the techs. It took Demarcus 19 games last year to get his sixth tech and I’m not expecting anything different this year. If anything the Kings have improved enough that they’ll be playing in more competitive games. Big Cuz might be getting more techs this year out of pure intensity and competitiveness.
These guys are who we thought they were.Cousins is going to continue being the best center in the league and cussing out refs. J.R is going to keep jacking up shots and showing chicks his pipe collection. — Bansky
* – The future of the league is Kevin Durant. HE IS ONLY 26 YEARS OLD. He just missed becoming the first and only member of the 30 ppg 50/40/90 club last season. He da real MVP. — Bansky