Greetings everyone, plenty to talk about as the playoff races heat up.
One thing I wanted to address before we start: I got a lot of questions about "why'd you leave so-and-so off your All-Defense team?" Even with 15 players on it, culling the list down in such a subjective enterprise was basically impossible; as you saw, I also fudged a couple positions to get the most deserving players on the list.
The hardest players to exclude were Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Shawn Marion, Andrew Bogut, Rajon Rondo, Omer Asik and Ekpe Udoh. A couple of them didn't have the minutes, a couple didn't have the numbers, and at small forward in particular it was an impossible task to narrow it down to three players. If you think one of those guys belonged, well ... like I said, I have numbers to back up what I wrote, but evaluating defense is still heavily subjective.
After the Heat get bounced in the second round do they blow up the team before next season?
Keep in mind that Miami's most likely second-round opponent is Indiana, not Boston. I like the Pacers and all, but I don't see them giving the Heat that much trouble. Bigger picture, though, I agree that the Heat will face a difficult offseason if they can't make it back to the Finals.
Isn't it inevitable that Pop will enventually need to use Duncan and Splitter against the lakers if they meet in the playoffs?
I have been baffled all year at how little burn Spitter is getting because he's played extremely well in his chances, and while the Spurs have rebounded well on the season they were brutalized by the Lakers the other night. Will be very interested to see if they counter Gasol-Bynum with Splitter- Duncan, because Blair and Bonner just don't have the size.
Did Thibs lock up coach of the year with how he handled the rotations last night, especially Watson & Rose's minutes?
Thibs and Popovich are the only realistic alternatives in my book, although Doc Rivers is making a late charge. I still lean toward Popovich, but it's difficult to argue against either.
Your take on the Odom saga? Do you think anyone will pick him up next season?
I think he'll end up back in L.A. after the Mavs either waive him or trade him to another team that waives him. Might be Clippers instead of Lakers though.
John, how do you see the bottom half of the Western Conference shaping up in terms of seeding?
Today's Per Diem. Stay tuned.
Do you see Portland making a run at a coach like Stan Van Gundy and do you think he would be a good fit? Thanks
Yes, but the problems in Portland are higher up than Stan Van Gundy. They need to hire a good general manager and, more importantly, the meddlers in Seattle need to get out of his way.
Are you answering questions in the comments section too?
Should the Blazers 're-tool' or rebuild? It seems like they have two good pieces.
I think 're-tool' makes sense. They have an All-Star big man in his prime, as long as this hip thing doesn't turn out badly, and a couple other good pieces -- Batum and Elliot Williams can be a killer wing combo next year. Between the draft picks and the cap space they're in position to do some really interesting things this offseason. But again, who is making the decision? That's key.
Harden or Ibaka? Can OKC keep both? If not whoes the better fit with KD and Westbrook?
they can keep both but they're probably going to have to amnesty Perkins to do it. Based on his play this year that seems like a win-win. If I had to choose one, though, I'd go with Harden. And if I run another team I absolutely positively offer him a max offer sheet if and when he hits free agency.
Should Miami trade Wade? It seems Wade might cost James a title with his up and down game
That scrub who is barely hanging on to second place in PER? Sure, deal the bum! Miami's problem is that they surround the two best wing players in basketball with such a hilariously weak supporting cast. The Miller and Anthony contracts were killers, and they've struggled to get impactful players with their minimum deals -- an area where teams like Dallas, boston and San Atnonio have basically lapped them.
Has anyone else noticed that it might be better to have the 2 seed in the East for the Heat? Chicago may potentially have to play the Knicks and Celtics first 2 rounds. Heat would get ice cold Sixers and Pacers. Thoughts?
Yes, this is absolutely true. It doesn't seem to me that Boston will catch Indy for third, although the Celtics have defied expectations for most of the past six weeks. New York-Philly is more up in the air though, NY is only a game back and wins the tie-break. Also, keep an eye on Orlando if Dwight Howard is out for much longer. They could skid past everybody.
What do you think of Gordon Hayward's recent stretch of awesome play?
Has always had the skills for it. My biggest problem with him was that he was being too nice out there and not attacking. Aggressive Hayward is a heck of a player.
Prediction: This will be the last year of Derrick Favors career that you will be able to leave him off your all-defensive team.
You may be on to something there, yes. He's really come on strong in the second half of the season, and I suspect they'll trade to open up a starting gig for him next year.
thoughts on Ray Allen coming off the bench? Definitely part of the late surge of the C's. How do you feel he is taking it?
It makes a ton of sense because none of their bench players can score; now they have some offense with that second unit. Also, Bradley has been killing with the starters and they didn't want to mess that up. I'm sure Allen isn't ecstatic over this, but he's a professional.
Can Lester Hudson ball? Legit bench player for the Cavs in the future?
I know he's played extremely well, but I can't say I'm a big fan. His history is that he shoots every time and not terribly accurately, and he's 27
What do you mean "I like the Pacers and all, but I don't see them giving the Heat that much trouble." Pacers beat the Heat pretty convincingly in their last game, and the game before that went to the wire in OT. Considering the chances the Pacers were given against Chicago last season, don't you think you might be underestimating their chances in a series against the Heat?
No, because in the playoffs Indy's bench advantage over Miami is of much less use than in a regular season game where the starters play fewer minutes. I have no doubt that Pacers can win a game or two, but the series? Can't see it.
What Western Conf. playoff scenario puts the Lakers in the best position to make the Finals? I would love them to avoid BOTH Memphis and OKC but that is likely impossible. Your thoughts?
I think they'd have to hope Memphis takes out OKC in the second round and that they can beat the Spurs. Obviously, a first-round re-match with Dallas would be pretty interesting too.
Would the Hawks rather stay in the 5th seed and play the Celtics 1st round or drop to the 6th seed and play the Pacers?
I think they'd be OK playing Boston if they could get home-court advantage. Even during Boston's hot streak they barely beat Atlanta in the two meetings. And Orlando may be taking the No. 6 scenario off the table anyway
Who does Miami amnesty this summer? It seems inevitable they'll free up some room, regardless of how they finish their season.
Gotta think its Miller. But remember they're not freeing up "room" so much as the ability to use their midlevel exception.
Would the Rockets consider keeping Dragic and trading Lowry for a big man?
I think they would definitely look at that, yes, but i also depends on what it would cost to keep The Dragon. As I've noted, I think Portland in particular may make a crazy offer for him.
Odom: Worst minutes per dollar ever?
Gilbert Arenas would like a word with you.
Which teams should be really afraid of the Mavs? OKC?
Dallas doesn't look good right now, but OKC is the one team I think they could put a scare into just because I think they get in their heads with the zone defenses and what happened last year. Even with all that's gone wrong this year, they've played the Thunder very well.
Who would the Hawks rather see in the second round, Chicago or Miami?
The Hawks will be grateful to see anybody in the second round, but given that they won once in Miami and nearly did so a second time, I'll go with Miami.
Hey John do you think the Lakers can get to the Finals? A Celtics-Lakers Finals would be my dream to bad it might not happen
My mileage account shares your dream. Unfortunately, it still seems unlikely. As well as Boston is playing, beating Chicago and Miami consecutively is a tough order. Ditto for L.A. knocking off San Antonio and OKC. And I don't think the first round is a gimme for either of them.
Does DWill stay in NJ/Brooklyn?
I really doubt it. Nets would have to trade for Dwight Howard at the draft for that to be a realistic possibility.
What is going on with Evan Turner? First Collins promises to let him start for the rest of the season and now Meeks is back starting. Is this short sighted decision going to blow up this offseason?
I don't know why he started Turner in the first place, and the offense went off the rails at the time, so I can't see why anybody in Philly is upset with this. Turner is a half-good, marginal starter right now; he's in the right role. Only problem for the offseason is whether to trade one of Turner or Iggy because they can't play together.
More favorable Finals' match-up for the Spurs: Miami or Chicago?
I think they'd much rather face Chicago. They just don't have the athletes to deal with Miami's wings, and their ball movement and spacing can cope with Chicago's D.
Any thoughts on Tom Benson purchasing the Hornets?
Besides the obvious bounty jokes, I'm pleasantly surprised that they found a local owner to keep the team in New Orleans. And I think ti's a VERY good thing that the league sold the team before the lottery drawing, because it would have looked so bad if the Hornets had won. In fact, at the Hoop Summit we were half-joking, half-discussing whether the league should rig the lottery AGAINST the Hornets just to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
Better for the Jazz to miss the playoffs and keep their pick, or make playoffs and lose in first round while gaining playoff experience for the young core?
If you can make the playoffs, you do it. Period.
I'm going to explode come May, right?
I wish I could confidently answer yes. Not sure I can. One thing that helps is that none of West top 3 seeds have a natural Dirk-stopper.
Am I crazy for thinking the Memphis could make the Conference Finals? They can beat the Clips in R1 and OKC in R2.
No, you're gonna have a lot of company on that bandwagon. But I want to see more from Z-Bo these final few weeks.
Do you think Thibs sticks with Korver in at the end of the game over Rip in the playoffs?
Most likely, yes. More spacing with Korver, and more familiarity. Plus Rip hasn't played all that well, the outburst vs. New York excepted.
If possible shouldn't Philly deal both Iggy and Turner? Regardless of their record they seem like a team that is closer to a rebuild than a re-tool.
I think the right move for Philly is to trade one of them and amnesty Brand. But they have a lot of directions they can take this thing in the summer.
I know this isn't right up your alley but damn I miss the Sonics. Any rumblings out of Sacto now that the Maloofs are in hot water again that a move to Seattle might be closer?
From what I understand, if the Maloofs move this team anywhere it's still Anaheim. Anything else requires them to sell, and I think the league would frown on sale-relocation when their is local interesting in keeping them.
Any chance the Nuggets suprise people if they make the playoffs, given that they may actually be healthy by then?
Interesting team, and one I'm going to see later tonight at Staples Center. I think the sheer speed of their play could give San Antonio or the Lakers some problems, but I liked their odds better before the Nene-JaVale trade.
If Boozer has another lackluster post season, do you see Chicago amnestying him?
No -- too much value there to just amnesty him, especially since they wouldn't have the cap to sign a comparable player. Now a trade, that's more likely.
Is there really such a thing as "a natural dirk-stopper"?
Perhasp not. But somebody like Luc Richard Mbah a Moute gives you more of a chance.
Any news on Al Horford? At first the assumption was always that he'd be back for the playoffs, but it's been crickets for a while now.
He's been working out and they still hope to have him back for the playoffs, but he will NOT be at full strength.
With all kinds of contenders needing a productive big, why is Chris Kaman still in New Orleans? The Spurs for one would be so much more effective with Chris next to Duncan! any insight?
I thin the Hornets will try to re-sign Kaman. They need a center too you know
How overpaid will Jeremy Lin end up being in terms of production because of potential off court benefits to a franchise?
Not overpaid at all, because the most he can make next season is the midlevel exception. Now, will he be overpaid on his *next* contract after that? Very probably, yes.
man Asik was a BEAST last night. do you think he's the best defensive center in the league?
No, but he's up there. As you saw last night, he and Gibson together are just a dominant defensive frontcourt. Darn shame about the offense. I left Asik off my all-defense because I couldn't justify him given the low minutes, but as long-time readers know I love watching him defend.
Is Kobe playing tonight?
Not sure yet; but follow our Dave McMenamin on Twitter ( @mcten ) and you'll be the first to know.
John if the grizzlies somehow play the heat in the finals, would the heat even stand a chanche regarding the grizzlies lowpost scoring and perimeter defense?
Um, yes, I think the Heat would stand a chance. But that is a very good match-up for Memphis.
Are the Bucks out of it after the loss to NYK? They still have a sched advantage over them and they play the sixers next week?
The body isn't cold yet, but that loss was a killer. (If I'm a Bucks fan I'm still haunted by that crazy 3 by Jennings). MIlwaukee may have a better shot at catching Philly because they play head to head and can own the tie-break. It won't be easy to chase down either though. Advice: Root for Boston to have its seeding locked up before final game against Bucks.
What is Stern's dream finals?
Lakers-Heat. I don't think there's any question about that. I don't think they'd mind Thunder-Heat, Lakers-Bulls or Lakers-Celtics either. Spurs-Bulls? Not sure they're as excited for that one.
Don't these Dallas and Miami teams remind you of the 2007 versions of those teams (but reversed)??
So much so that I wrote it after the second game of the season. So, yes. We'll see if the ending is the same too.
Should the Nugs re-sign Javale for Nene-like money?
No, but I think they can get him more cheaply than that. Not sure who is willing to tie up their cap in an offer sheet for him, especially given all his assorted antics.
Who do you see coming out of LAC/MEM assuming the Clips have home court?
Very close to a coin toss. I still need to analyze that one more closely but I'd expect a long series for sure.
Any chance the league could buy the Kings from the Maloofs (a la Hornets) to keep them in Sac?
I suppose we should consider that a possibility given that it's already happened once, but I'd put it in the single-digit percentiles. The two likely outcomes are 1) Maloofs get slapped down and get back to agreed-to arena deal, and 2) Maloofs try to move to Anaheim.
Folks, that's all the time I have, but thanks for all the great questions. Quick programming note: I'm taking next week off to recharge my batteries, so chat and Per Diem will be back the final week of the season.