Thanks for joining me for another edition of our weekly NBA chat here at ESPN.com. Looking forward to your takes on what's been an very interesting past few days around the Association as we hit the midway point of the season. So, let's get started.
Can the Suns make the playoffs without Eric Bledsoe? Will they?
My short answer is no. There's just too much talent out West to overcome if you're not loaded with your full aresenal of talent heading into the stretch run of the season. Bledsoe is their best player, and his playoff experience just being around the Clippers the past few seasons will come in handy when the young Suns get into the thick of the playoff race. I think they fall just short, but it's still been a remarkable and unexpected ride for Phoenix so far.
I know Heat reporters are tired of this question, but do you feel it's possible that the Heat go after Bynum? He's not exactly the picture of health, but he was giving noticeable minutes to Cleveland despite attitude issues. I think it might be less of a risk for Miami (and Oden's health!) if they pick him up.
The fact that Bynum has yet to be signed is an interesting development unto itself. There were reportedly eight teams interested when he was released by the Bulls two weeks ago. Since then, relative crickets. As long as he's out there, the Heat will always be a team potentially connected to his services. But if you take Pat Riley for his word last week, there was not much interest from Miami in Bynum at this point.
Michael, really enjoy your chats. Would Melo ever consider coming to Miami to play with LeBron via free agency this offseason? Obviously the Heat would have to cut ties with either D. Wade or Bosh but lets say Bosh signs with Dallas, would a core of James, Wade and Melo be able to win multiple titles?
Legistically, financially and stylistically, it will never happen. And I normally never say never when it comes to NBA free agency after what LeBron James pulled off four years ago. But I can strongly say that Melo to Miami is a moot point.
We are starting to hear that some of the potential Lottery picks are not sure about entering the draft. What happens if after all this tanking Embiid, Parker, Wiggins etc stay in college another year?
You can count on most, if not all, of those guys coming out. There really is no incentive for them to stay in college when they're assured to be lottery picks. What we're also seeing, though, is that some of these guys might not be the absolute franchise-changing NBA talents they've been hyped up to be all this time. With the draft, there's just no way to know for sure.
Michael, really enjoy your chats and insight on ESPN. With the Heat possibly having a clean slate next season (Lets say the Pacers dethrone the Heat in the Conference Finals), who are some potential targets to pair with LeBron in order to get him to stay? I don't think D. Wade and Chris Bosh would suffice at the point.
Panic much? While I get the concerns over Dwyane's long-term future as a running mate for LeBron, what I don't understand is the notion that LeBron is looking to catch the first flight out of Miami as soon as he can opt out of his contract. The bottom line here is that LeBron must make the first move. His opt out deadline is on the eve of free agency. If there is an opt-out, without a subsequent immediate signing of a new long-term deal, then Miami has a serious problem if LeBron truly opens himself up to free agency. I've said all along that I'm not completely convinced LeBron is opting out. I see him playing out this deal for at least another season. There are just too many variables and questions in play for him to commit to Miami for another five years and essentially bargain his leverage.
Should the Bobcats make a max offer to Lance Stephenson in the off season? Is that too risky of a move? Does he deserve it? As a Bobcat fan it still pains me that we didn't trade the #2 pick (MKG) for Harden when it was rumored to be offered
And it will pain you even more if your team gives Lance Stephenson a max contract after what you've seen from him over the course of 40 games this year. He's certainly one of the most improved players in the league. But max guy? I'm not buying that just yet. MKG has had a rough start to his NBA career, and he was basically hyped as a can't-miss prospect in the draft. This is why I can't get too excited about these college phenoms right now, because that transition to the NBA is much tougher than it appears, especially for wing players.
what's up with the Melo trade rumors?
All you probably need to know is that the Knicks won't be trading Carmelo unless Carmelo publicly demands to be dealt.
What are your thoughts on the Atlanta Hawks? How far do you think they are away from competing for a tltle? One or two pieces? Thanks.
Yes, but I could probably say the same for eight other playoff teams that fall behind the obvious title contenders right now. The Hawks play much harder and smarter than they have in the past few seasons. They play as a team, which wasn't always the case when Josh Smith needed some "me time" in Atlanta. But they need another shooting guard with size and athleticism and a big man. As I mentioned earlier, the same could be said of a number of squads.
Do the Wolves turn it around and make the playoffs? Anyone we can trade for that helps us? Whom would we need to give up to get him?
An Arron Afflalo or Jeff Green would be perfect in Minnesota. But the problem is that it will require giving up a key piece or picks that would be extremely difficult to part with. That said, Kevin Love is the only untouchable in Minnesota. Problem is, there's not much to offer that would bring back the kind of help you need to get firmly into the mix among west title contenders.
Michael, do you think that a healthy Oden could slow down Hibbert in the playoffs to a significant degree? And would playing Oden disturb Heat's fast paced defense?
That's at least the expectation for Miami. But I havne't seen enough on a consistent basis from Oden yet to believe he will be a major answer for Hibbert in the playoffs. Perhaps that picture will come into focus in the coming weeks and months as Oden gets acclimated with NBA action after more than four years of inactivity. Oden is the X-factor for the Heat if healthy. But right now, that "if" is as massive as Oden himself.
WHO SAY NO... GREG MONROE AND BRANDON JENNINGS/CHARLIE V FOR RONDO AND JEFF GREEN...
Michael, what are your thoughts on the job Mike Budenholzer has done with the Hawks? Ferry and company seem to have them on the right track.
It's just a shame that they lost Horford for the season, because we can't get a true read on this team's potential. I'm not sure they will be all that much better, record-wise, than they've fared in years past. Atlanta is one of those franchise's stuck in the middle. They're never bad enough to be lottery-bound consistently. And they're not good enough to break through and get to the conference finals - regardless of who is coaching, running the team or on the roster.
Michael: What do you think about the posibility of Melo and Rondo playing together? Do you see them being able to mesh well together and contend with a solid supporting wing-shooter? If so what team do you view having the best shot at grabbing them both? Bulls, Knicks, or Lakers
Has to be the Knicks, because they already have one of those two guys on the roster. And I could see Melo and Rondo playing together. If Melo and Iverson made it work relatively well, then he can play with Rondo if it came down to it. The question is, would that pairing move the Knicks any closer to the Pacers or Heat? I'm not so certain it would.
Mike,Who do you think will be able to better defend David West assuming we see a ECFs rematch. Birdman, Beasley or Bosh
None of the above. The Heat's best defender on West is probably Udonis Haslem. But West will still get his respectable numbers.
What happens in Brooklyn in the off-season if Pierce leaves as a free agent (Clips?) and KG retires, especially after they gave up all those picks? Could be a big mess nobody really talking about...
They can afford to let Pierce walk. That void would be easier to fill than the one Kevin Garnett would create with is play and impact overall, even in his diminished state. But one thing Billy King knew when he pursued those guys was that the window to win it all would be extremely small.
Who says no... Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson for Brandon Jennings/Greg Monroe?
Well, I'm saying no to any more of those type of questions.
I keep hearing the Knicks will try and pair Melo with Kevin Love in the next few years if possible. Is it me or does that seem like a bad match?
I've seen worse teammate pairings. Love has developed into such a versatile player that he can be effective in almost any system, alongside any player.
Michael, what do you think the Jazz have to do to become a contender in the next few seasons? Obviously, they will get a pretty good draft this year, but what other pieces to they need to be looking for to become a contender in the West?
They'll need to convince a veteran, productive free agent to come in and help guide those young guys. I've been skeptical of Trey Burke throughout the season, but I like what he's been showing lately. They have some quality young pieces, but this will be a slow rebuild for the Jazz. I just can't see any way they can fasttrack the process, especially out West.
Michael, is Anthony Davis already becoming a superstar before our very eyes? He looks so fluid on both ends of the court and looks a player who isn't rattled easily. Do you think he's a player that can lead a team to a championship as its main piece somewhere down the road?
There are times when I clearly see a Duncan-Garnett hybrid in Davis. His game is just that expansive. But in the current NBA, he'll need a reliable guard to get him the ball. I love the Hornets' team overall. I think they'll need another season to really mesh and sort out some clearly defined roles. I think there is fair pressure on Monty Williams to get these guys over the hump as coach. But overall, yes, Davis can be the anchor of a team that ultimately contends in a major way, given a bit more time.
Well, that's my time for this week. Thanks for joining me. I'm headed out in a few to catch the sliding Heat and the returning Rajon Rondo tonight in Miami. Until next week, stay safe and take care. Peace - MW