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March 15, 1:00 PM ET
Chat with Kevin Pelton

Kevin Pelton
  (1:01 PM)

Hey everybody, welcome back to our second weekly chat. I'm here to answer all your questions on the NBA, the Pac-12 Tournament and travel to Indianapolis.

Deven (New York, NY)

Hi Kevin. How concerned should we be about the Knicks right now?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:04 PM)

I think we're at about a DEFCON2, more because of injuries than because of play. The Knicks have to have Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler healthy for the postseason, but their depth is so severely compromised right now that extended absences will mean giving up a serious run at the No. 2 seed in the East. I'm slightly less concerned about New York's chances of winning the Atlantic because I just don't think Brooklyn is very good.

Jason Gallagher (Chicago)

Is it just me or should we turn our discussion from "Utah vs. LA for the 8th seed" to "Dallas vs. LA for the 8th seed"?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:06 PM)

I think that was a possibility had the Mavericks won at San Antonio last night. Alas, that loss was pretty costly to their chances of making a late run. My simulation only shows them reaching the playoffs about a quarter as often as the Jazz, though it should be noted there's no accounting for recent play whatsoever the way I'm projecting the rest of the season.

zack (stl)

How big a fan are you of Bradley Beal? He's posted a near league average PER and will play the entire season at age 19.

Kevin Pelton
  (1:08 PM)

Huge fan. Beal kinda divided statistical analysts last summer -- the Hollinger Draft Rater did not like him, but I rated him behind only Anthony Davis. At this point, now that we know for sure he can contribute in the NBA at a young age, he's got major star potential.

Devan (Kentucky)

With Kobe out, what are the chances of the Lakers making the 6th, 7th, or even just keeping the 8th seed?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:10 PM)

I addressed that for Insiders in today's Per Diem (http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/story/_/page/PerDiem-130315/nba-los-angeles-lakers-do-minus-kobe-bryant) but suffice it to say that unless Kobe misses more than about a week and a half, I don't think his injury will have a major impact on where the Lakers land in the playoffs. Actually, losing Wednesday's game (and the foul that should have been called) may prove more meaningful.

zack (stl)

Who will be the better player in five years: Andre Drummond or Anthony Davis?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:12 PM)

This is a really difficult question. I recently toyed around with a system that would take my pre-draft ratings, where a player was picked and their rookie performance and utilize all of them to assess where players stand after one season in the league. Beal was third. Davis and Drummond came out tied for first.

Kevin Pelton
  (1:13 PM)

I think I would ultimately lean toward Davis just because we have a longer track record of him playing at an elite level.

Corbin (Portland)

Kevin, lookin' good as always. Basically since he's been drafted, there's been discussion about Damien Lillard's upside. What do projections of 22-year old rookies looked like in reality?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:15 PM)

And, to complete the run of rookie long-term questions, Lillard is tricky. Age is hugely important when it comes to projecting upside, and we really need to compare what Lillard is doing now with how guys like Beal and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist play three years down the road because of the age difference. I think I would put Lillard fifth after those four one-and-done players in terms of rookie potential. I see him making a couple of All-Star Games over the course of his career.

Hazeltine (Vegas)

Which injury has had the most effect on their team: Lou Williams, Rajon Rondo, Danny Granger, or Amar'e Stoudemire?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:18 PM)

I suppose that depends on how you define "most effect." For example, Rondo's injury may have had a positive effect, as I explored last week. I think the Pacers probably have lost the most games because of any of those injuries, but ultimately Paul George stepping forward in Granger's absence has made them a stronger playoff contender.

alex (seattle)

Is this the last year where the Huskies can miss the tournament and Romar keeps his job?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:21 PM)

When we get to seven misses in nine years (the track record of Romar's predecessor, Bob Bender), then we can talk about firing the most successful coach in modern program history. But only then.

Richard (Portland, OR)

Is there a way to quantify the irregularities in NBA front office decisions? For example; Will Bynum hits Tyler Hansborough in the stomach, gets ejected & suspended. Roy Hibbert shoves David Lee for shoving him, gets ejected and suspended. Serge Ibaka punches Blake Griffin (viciously and obviously intentionally) in the groin, gets a flagrant one and no suspension. Lamarcus Aldridge gets walked under 3 times in 3 weeks, no comment from the NBA. It happens to Kobe once, and it's the end of the World and they're apologizing for the refs "missing a call at the end."

Kevin Pelton
  (1:23 PM)

I think too many factors go into these decisions to ever try to apply any sort of objective reasoning to them. I mean maybe if we had some kind of force measures on players so we knew how difficult various dirty shots are, there would be something. Otherwise, it's too easy to use confirmation bias to see what you want to see in plays.

Nick (NJ)

Any chance OKC will try and move up in the draft to pick up OK State's own Marcus Smart? Using assets like their 2 first rounders and either Lamb, PJIII or Reggie Jackson?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:24 PM)

I'm not sure they could get high enough with those assets, but no, I think the lesson of the Harden trade OKC made is that the Thunder wants to diversify its resources rather than concentrating them on one player. Oklahoma City passed on some quality player-for-player offers to make the deal they did.

Byungmin (Atlanta)

While Howard is not 100%, I feel like he doesn't get enough touches at all. It seems that he is almost excluded from the Lakers offense. I don't think he can power through and make a bucket like when he was healthy, but maybe a few more touches could help? Or Is Howard still not healthy enough to carry the offensive load?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:27 PM)

Are we talking post touches? If so, then no. Completely agree with Mike D'Antoni about the inefficiency of straight post-ups. He probably could stand to be a larger factor in the pick-and-roll game, and will probably get that chance if Kobe misses time.

Jerry (the rez)

Assuming they can't land Howard, should Houston make a play for Josh Smith or keep their salary cap powder dry for Kevin Love or some other floor-spacing 4? PF seems their biggest need, but Smith's love for the long 2 seems a terrible fit.

Kevin Pelton
  (1:28 PM)

I'm intrigued by Smith in Houston, and would love to see it happen. I think the Rockets could probably coach Smith to at least take those shots from beyond the arc, which would help a little.

Adrian (Vancouver)

You think the Lakers would have been in a higher position for a playoff seed if they had Afflalo, Vucevic, and Harkless?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:30 PM)

I'm as excited about Vucevic's long-term potential as the next guy, but no way. Even a hampered Howard has been significantly more effective this season, and upgrading from Jodie Meeks to Afflalo would not come close to making up the difference.

Joseph (West Hartford)

The 3-4-5 battle in the West is just stupidly competitive. How do you think they'll finish, and who makes it the furthest when it matters?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:33 PM)

I still think the Clippers are the favorites. There's a tendency to overstate the value of momentum. The Clippers have been the best team over the course of the season, and they have a more favorable schedule than Memphis (11 of the last 19 on the road, if my quick count is accurate). My simulation shows the Clippers finishing third 58% of the time, with Memphis accounting for about 3/4 of the rest of the scenarios.

Jeff (Toronto)

Kevin, Where can we find PER for a specific date range? Say, since January 1st, for example.

Kevin Pelton
  (1:34 PM)

I don't think this exists publicly, unfortunately.

Drew (Indianapolis)

What do you believe is the Pacers effective ceiling this season? And further, how do they break through in the future?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:36 PM)

The Miami Heat, and Dwyane Wade aging/injury, respectively.

Pip (PDX)

Best guess, who gets in the 8th seed?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:37 PM)

Well, Milwaukee still probably won't move past the eighth seed ... oh, not that eighth seed? Lakers, most likely, although any of the four teams in the race for 6-8 are a realistic possibility.

Matt (Oakland)

Didn't mention Denver in your 3/4/5 scenerio, i take it your not to high on them.

Kevin Pelton
  (1:39 PM)

I am high on the Nuggets as a team, but I'm not as high as most people on their chances of landing home-court advantage. It still happens in about 40% of simulations.

Jason (Cleveland)

I have seen a lot of people who believe Chris Grant made a mistake by drafting Tristan Thompson over Jonas Valanciunas two years ago. Based on what you have seen from both those guys this season. Do you think Grant made the correct choice?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:40 PM)

I definitely thought that was a mistake at the time. I don't think anything Valanciunas has done or hasn't done this season has changed my mind, but Tristan Thompson is displaying significantly more offensive potential than I expected at this point of his career. Also, it turns out that Thompson blocking them from taking Thomas Robinson in this year's draft might not be such a bad thing.

Brian (LA)

Who would you take in a Denver/Mem series? Whoever has the home court advantage right?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:43 PM)

Probably, yeah. One interesting fact is that the Grizzlies have shown a reverse home differential almost as large as the Nuggets' home advantage. Memphis ranks 10th in the league in adjusted home differential, but 4th on the road. (Denver is 3rd/7th).

Kevin (Toronto)

When do you see the Heat's winning streak end? Will it be tonight in Milwaukee?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:43 PM)

I'm going with Monday at Boston, which would leave Miami tied with Houston's 2007-08 streak as the longest in recent NBA history. If the Heat can navigate tonight's game and that one, we could be talking 27 before Miami is seriously tested.

David (New Orleans)

Have you been disappointed by Irving's season? While he was very, very good, he did not live up to your preseason predictions.

Kevin Pelton
  (1:46 PM)

Not really. Basically, SCHOENE was applying the improvement of guys who were like Irving but not as effective as he was during his rookie season. Realistically, he didn't have as much room for growth as they did. So I would say injuries are the only disappointing aspect of his season to me.

Ryan (New Hampshire)

Do you think if Stephen Curry Stays healthy, he could break Ray Allen's three point record?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:47 PM)

Certainly. Despite the injuries, a lockout and the month remaining in this season, Curry has 575 career 3-pointers. Over his first four seasons, Allen had 497. So he's safely ahead of the pace.

Guy (There)

The consensus now seems to be that Miami is in OKC's head and San Antonio represents the best challenge for Miami in a potential final's matchup. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:49 PM)

I don't agree that Miami is in Oklahoma City's heads or that has much to do with the recent results in the series. I do think San Antonio might be the tougher matchup because in some ways the Spurs play a more contrasting style whereas the Thunder is trying to do relatively similar things to the Heat with less elite talent.

Playtime (Valpo)

How does Dion Waiters compare to Beal's long term outlook?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:50 PM)

I think he's in the discussion for the next tier of rookies after Davis/Drummond and Beal/Kidd-Gilchrist/Lillard. I would put him in there with a potentially healthy Jared Sullinger and, based on his age and a decent rookie performance, Maurice Harkless.

Jason (Cleveland)

What percent chance do you give the whole Lebron opting out of his contract and returning to Cleveland at the end of next season?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:51 PM)

That's a tough one to handicap. Maybe 5%? It's real enough that if I were in Cleveland I would keep my cap clear just in case, but certainly not something to expect.

jesse (waterloo)

Kevin, if you needed to start a franchise with Russell Westbrook or James Harden, who do you take? Did the Thunder make the right decision?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:52 PM)

I would probably take Harden at this point because I think in many ways it's easier to build a team around his skill set. However, that's not the same as the decision Oklahoma City faced. The Thunder could trade Harden and still play a relatively similar style, as they've been able to do this season. Trading Westbrook would have meant rethinking everything they do.

Brian (Denver)

I'm a Nuggets fan who really loves watching this team play. Going forward, should I be concerned with tge "they have no go to guy" narrative. Personally, I hope they keep this team in tact over the next few years, and see what happens.

Kevin Pelton
  (1:55 PM)

Well, it seems like the Nuggets' organization has embraced the whole "winning without a star" philosophy, so I don't think there's too much need to worry about radical change just for the sake of getting a player who scores a lot of points per game. So the biggest concern in Denver should probably be the quality of the teams in San Antonio, Oklahoma City, L.A. and Memphis. That's what is going to keep the Nuggets from advancing deep in the playoffs.

Greg (Minneapolis)

Which current NBA assistant do you think would do the best job for the Wolves (specifically a Rubio/Love core) if Adelman retires because of his wife?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:57 PM)

I would say Mike Budenholzer in San Antonio. It's difficult to understand why he hasn't gotten a shot given the success of the Spurs. I think, like Adelman, he could put together a solid defense given the limited parts the Timberwolves have while creating an offense that would space the floor for Rubio to operate a la Tony Parker.

Rich (Oakland, CA)

Why don't the Warriors take more 3s? Instead they seem to take too many long 2s, despite leading the league in 3%.

Kevin Pelton
  (1:58 PM)

I'll have to watch for this, but their ratio of long 2s/3s isn't notably bad, and a lot of the guys taking long 2s (David Lee, for example) don't really have 3-point range.

Joe (SF, CA)

Kevin, how much and how long would you go for Jarrett Jack? I am afraid the Warriors will give him too much money and too many years. He is an important player for them, but he is getting a little long in the tooth.

Kevin Pelton
  (1:59 PM)

I think I'd be comfortable offering him three years for the mid-level. The potential for the final year to be valuable as an expiring contract mitigates the risk of a decline.

Kevin Pelton
  (2:00 PM)

Alright, that's all the time I have today. Thanks for the questions and see you next week when we'll be chatting during the NCAA tournament. Cue Bart Scott: "Can't wait!"