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March 22, 1:00 PM ET
Chat with Kevin Pelton

Kevin Pelton
  (1:16 PM)

Hey everyone, sorry for the late start. After getting some passwords squared away, let's watch these early NCAA tournament games and talk NBA (and perhaps a little NCAA).

Nathan (North Carolina)

Hey Kevin! I was wondering what you think about Jimmer Fredette? I personally think he can become a sixth man who can come off the bench and score quickly, but right now Coach Smart won't give him a chance. Seems that after every game that Jimmer does well (for example the recent game against the Bucks) he seems to be punished the next game (fewer minutes or even DNP sometimes). Is his best chance to be traded to another team or wait until Coach Smart if fired? I just wanted to get your thinking on that. Thanks!

Kevin Pelton
  (1:20 PM)

It's crazy to think that Keith Smart is punishing Jimmer for playing well, in part because it implies a consistency to his rotation that simply doesn't exist. The Kings have put Smart in a tough spot because they have too many players of about the same overall ability. So it's going to be hard for any one player, like Fredette, to stand out. But he has shown enough this season to indicate he can fill an Eddie House-type role in the NBA. Sixth man is a bit of a stretch because of his inconsistency and dependence on outside shots, but he should get a look on a nightly basis. Sacramento's roster could be entirely turned over by next season and it's certainly possible Smart will be gone by then, so we may get an answer sooner rather than later.

zack (stl)

Will ever post your WARP statistics on espn for insiders?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:22 PM)

Definitely something we're working toward doing, although it could take a while because the formula is somewhat more involved than even PER.

Enrique (Chicago)

Greeting! How does a Deng/Boozer for Gasol/WMP swap in the offseason sound? I actually think this is a win win for both teams!

Kevin Pelton
  (1:24 PM)

I spitballed this one at one point during the Sloan Conference and agree it could help both teams, but Boozer's contract ultimately makes it a non-starter if the Lakers aren't interested in clogging their cap for the summer of 2014.

Mike (Utah)

Over half of the Jazz's roster will be UFA this offseason. Should the Jazz let guys like Mo, Al and Sap walk and just hit the reset button?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:25 PM)

I think Williams and one of the big men will be gone, but I don't know that the Jazz is ready to rely on just Favors and Kanter in the frontcourt and whichever big man Utah re-signs will continue to have trade value if/when the young guys are ready to be the starting duo.

Brady ( Texas) [via mobile]

What moves should the Mavs make this off season? Do you see any major moves that Mark Cuban could pull off?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:27 PM)

Finding an answer at point guard has to be the first priority. That could be tricky in the late lottery, which would make Brandon Jennings the main target. That would take a lot of money, but I think people are understating Jennings' upside.

hadi ( ky) [via mobile]

Are the lakers chances looking good in the playoffs?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:28 PM)

The Lakers' chances of making the playoffs are looking good. Their chances of doing something in the playoffs are not as good. Curious to see how much Pau Gasol's return helps. The Lakers have been great with Dwight Howard on the floor and terrible when he's on the bench since the All-Star break.

Jonah (San Francisco, CA)

Can Indiana legitimately challenge Miami in the East? Will Paul George's offensive growth show up against the best defenses in the postseason? Who wins an Indiana-Boston series, if both teams are healthy?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:29 PM)

I think the Pacers can make the Heat work in a series, but can they actually beat a healthy Miami team four times out of seven? The odds are long.

RL (DC)

Do you think Wall is going to ask for a MAX contract?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:32 PM)

No question he will (and should) ask for the max. Whether the Wizards should be willing to pay it is a trickier question. Tom Haberstroh wrote about this today: http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/story/_/page/PerDiem-130322/nba-wizards-john-wall-worthI would probably give it to him, if only because I think players' value tends to skyrocket in restricted free agency. If Eric Gordon got a max offer, I think Wall would as well.

Dave Fletch (Annapolis, MD)

How can you find NIT info on espn.go.com and women too?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:33 PM)

Plug opportunity! I did a log5-style breakdown of the women's tournament yesterday: http://espn.go.com/womens-college-basketball/tournament/2013/story/_/id/9080817/2013-women-ncaa-tournament-predicting-how-bracket-play-out

Chris (SLC)

Jazz miss the playoffs? Gut Feeling?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:34 PM)

At this point they make the playoffs in 18.3 percent of simulations, and I think that might overstate their chances a little bit with the Lakers getting healthy and the Jazz fading.

Ruben (Chile)

Do you see the Celtics making a final title run ?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:35 PM)

I think they can win a couple series, maybe even get to the conference finals if they avoid Miami, but it's hard to see Boston winning three playoff series at this point. That's too much to ask for them to maintain that level for two months and beat the Heat.

barry (cleveland)

Is it fair to blame Byron Scott for the Cavs loss to the Heat? The lead was 27 points when he took his starters out. By the end of the 3rd quarter the lead was 9 points and all of his starters were still on the bench. Most coaches would have tried to weather the storm by putting some of his starters back in to slow the Heat down.

Kevin Pelton
  (1:36 PM)

I say this in the nicest way possible, but the Cavaliers were scenery in the Miami Heat movie on Wednesday. I don't think there's anything Cleveland could have done to change that outcome.

JJ (Bay Area)

Randy Bennet must have listened to you David Locke's talk about fouling down 7. Thats something I wont think will be talked about much but definitely got back in them back in the game.

Kevin Pelton
  (1:38 PM)

I watched Survive and Advance last night, and it was interesting -- as Locke tweeted me during the original airing -- how aggressively North Carolina State fouled during their title run. Some of today's coaches might be able to learn from Jimmy V. (That doesn't apply as much in the NBA because free throw shooting is generally much better.)

Alec (Los Angeles)

What do you think the Clippers ceiling is in the playoffs? And how much of a remedy will Bledsoe be when he returns?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:40 PM)

I think we have a tendency to overstate the importance of recent results. Overall, the Clippers have still been better this season than Denver. It's going to be challenging for them to upset either Oklahoma City or San Antonio, but I wouldn't rule out a Western Conference Finals run.

ryan (illinois)

Hey Kevin...question about the celtics.....I know Denver has the main title od the team "nobody wants to face in the playoffs", but doesnt Boston assume SOME of that title as well? I feel like they know they match up well with the heat and dont fear them either. What other team in the league can say that?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:41 PM)

I would point out Indiana feels the same way about Miami. Conversely, I don't think the Heat fears anyone. They'd probably prefer not to play Boston because that series will be tough and physical, but I'm not sure it makes a big deal either way.

Jeremy (New Orleans)

Kevin, I've always wondered when people criticize a team like Denver for lack of a go to "crunch time guy". Shouldn't we be analyzing how efficient the offense as a whole is in those situations and isn't there a case to be made that just running the normal offense is more efficient?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:42 PM)

I don't know that I would necessarily say _more_ efficient, but I think multiple options in particular can be as effective as relying on one star player, and the Nuggets are an example of that.

Matt (Chicago)

Will the effort the Heat are using in recent weeks to continue this streak hurt them in the long run?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:43 PM)

See, I don't know that they are expending that much effort. Obviously in games like Cleveland, it's pretty much been quarter-long spurts. But I'm generally not a big believer in the concept of peaking early. If stars were logging longer minutes, that would be a different story.

Nick (Miami)

What are the Grizzlies's chances of making it to the finals? Hollinger said he thought MEM was the team with the best chance to unseat Heat and now he runs their team.

Kevin Pelton
  (1:46 PM)

As the Oklahoma City win showed, Memphis can compete with anyone, but right now making it out of the first round is not a lock. I don't place as much stock in playoff projections at this point because of the importance of matchups, but simulation shows them getting to the Finals about 8% of the time right now.

Tommy (Houston)

Kevin - I'm concerned about the Rockets adding Josh Smith at a max (or near max) salary. I don't see a core with him as the 2nd best player as a championship contender, and his inability to shoot along with Asik's will screw up their offense. How do you view his potential fit/non-fit there?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:50 PM)

I'm in favor of Houston making a run at Smith, so let me make the argument. First, I wouldn't say Smith is unable to shoot relative to power forwards, which is the appropriate comparison in this case. His ability to draw a defender to the perimeter may be more important than his actual percentage beyond the arc. Second, the Rockets really aren't that far from the second tier of contenders (Denver, L.A. Clippers, Memphis) right now in terms of point differential. Adding Smith plus the development of Lin/Harden could make up that difference.

RL (DC)

I think the Lakers would like to play the Spurs over any other team at the top of the West. If not the Spurs, who is the best match up for the Lakers?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:51 PM)

I think the Lakers do, and should, want the Clippers in a 3-6 matchup. That's by far their best chance of advancing, though the Clippers may not hold up their end.

Jerry (Cleveland)

I am very impressed with Denver and their chances of representing the west,,,,,,do you agree

Kevin Pelton
  (1:53 PM)

It's weird to be in the position of talking down the Nuggets, but we're seeing them at their absolute best right now. I think it's possible they can compete with Oklahoma City over seven games, especially if Derek Fisher sees regular minutes, but it's still unlikely Denver beats both the Thunder and the Spurs.

Bruce (Jersey City)

As the great philosopher The Rock said to John Cena, "You think you can beat me. I KNOW I can beat you." That pretty much applies to the Heat, and everyone else, so can you please stop taking questions of the form, "Does my team have a chance against the Heat?"At any rate, I don't expect them to beat the Heat either, but what do you think are the reasons my Brooklyn Nets are so streaky? They've ripped off a few streaks this year where they crush people for a few games in a row, and then flop again. What's the problem?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:54 PM)

When I wrote about the Atlantic Division earlier this week, I posted running five-game averages of ratings all season, and Boston, Brooklyn and New York have all been streaky. I think it's partially the fate of teams around .500. I did look for trends with the Nets, and it doesn't seem to be more about the offense or defense in particular.

Bill (Tennessee)

I don't see much resemblance between my spurs and the 2010 Magic, regarding talent distribution in the lineup, depth, experience, COMMITMENT TO THE TEAM & NOT SELF (D Howard). It really strikes me as forcing a square peg in a round hole. It also strikes me that you and Paine (spurs are lucky) are again underestimating this underated extremely impressive organiztion.

Kevin Pelton
  (1:56 PM)

So who would you say instead? Easy to pick apart any comparison because no two teams are identical.

dc (dc)

To be fair, if Wall continues to shoot even close to the way he has for the past month, he's well worth a max deal, right?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:57 PM)

Absolutely. And while he's not going to keep making 50%-plus from 3, I am in general a Wall believer. Just look at the impact he's made on the Wizards since his return.

Sammy (Alabama)

What do you expect from the Bulls come playoff time? How far do you think they can go?

Kevin Pelton
  (1:59 PM)

At this point, if Derrick Rose doesn't return, I would be a little surprised if Chicago wins a series. The Bulls just seem to have expended too much energy covering for Rose's absence this season.

Mark (NYC)

Kevin, how wrapped up do the refs get, when reffing Heat games? IE, when playing Boston, whenever Boston would start to pull-away, it would seem that the Ref's had a friendly whistle ready for Miami, to keep the game-close. Do they get wrapped up in the moment?

Kevin Pelton
  (2:00 PM)

One of the things research studies have confirmed is that referees are, in fact, human and are affected by the same things as all of us. At the same time, so are people evaluating whether their calls are correct or not, and it's easy to pick out calls that fit your theory.

Bob (LA)

Who's the best player in the NCAA tourney? And which player projects best to the NBA? Are they the same player?

Kevin Pelton
  (2:02 PM)

Tough call as to the first question right now, but I think I'm going with Otto Porter. I think the answer to the second question might be Marcus Smart, assuming we're counting guys who *were* in the NCAA tournament.

RL (DC)

Can you explain the Luxury tax and how it increases over years or does it increase the further you are over the cap?

Kevin Pelton
  (2:03 PM)

30-second chat version: Yes, it increases the further you are over the cap, and there's a repeater tax for teams that have paid the previous two years. I think the cost of the repeater tax is probably a bit overstated, though. The progressive tax is actually more painful for teams.

Kevin Pelton
  (2:04 PM)

I would say that rules limiting the flexibility of tax-paying teams (no sign and trades, smaller midlevel, etc.) are actually a bigger driver for owners like Mark Cuban trying to avoid high tax bills.

Ryan (Toronto)

Would indiana make the playoffs in the west, and if so what spot would they replace?

Kevin Pelton
  (2:05 PM)

Certainly they'd make the playoffs. They'd be in the mix for 3rd-6th. Their overall profile is almost identical to the Grizzlies' this season.

Wayne (Vancouver)

Do you agree that Miami will be even better in playoffs than they are now? Given that Norris Cole plays 18 minutes a game with an awful PER and negative plus/minus -- keeping him on the bench when Lebron/Wade/Allen/etc don't need as much rest inthe playoffs would be a huge positive. Basically Miami probably has more to gain when rotations tighten than any other contender.

Kevin Pelton
  (2:06 PM)

Yep. You nailed it.

Younger (Los Angeles)

The discrepancy between East and West seems ginormous. You would have to think that the odds of the Heat advancing to the finals if they were in the west would be...

Kevin Pelton
  (2:08 PM)

I think somewhere around 60%, maybe? As opposed to around 90% in the East? Simulation only has them winning the East about 75% of the time, but that seems too low for the reasons explained in the previous question.

Kevin Pelton
  (2:10 PM)

Alright, that seems like a good question to wrap things up. Thanks for bearing with me and enjoy Ole Miss-Wisconsin. We'll chat again next week.