The NBA All-Star Weekend is here. Our three guests today on Around The League talk about: their favorite All-Star moments, give their predictions for NBA All-Star Weekend and discuss what teams we should keep an eye on, heading in to the homestretch of the NBA season.
Our guest: Justin Jett (Vice Sports and Dime on UPROXX) , Ryan Magdziarz (Lineups & 4SZNS) and Kory Waldron (Off The Glass Basketball)
Photo Credit: Associated Press via NBCSports.com
Question: All-Star Weekend is upon us. What are your predictions for the 3-Point Contest, Slam Dunk Contest and the Skills Challenge? Who is your prediction to win the NBA All-Star Game MVP?
Justin Jett (Vice Sports and Dime on UPROXX):
Three Point Contest: Buddy Hield
Slam Dunk Contest: Miles Bridges
Skills Challenge: De'Aaron Fox
All-Star Game MVP: Steph Curry
Ryan Magdziarz (Lineups & 4SZNS):
Three Point Contest: LOADED. Steph is winning it in front of his hometown crowd.
Slam Dunk Contest: DSJ because of size and creativity. All other contestants are better in-game dunkers.
Skills Challenge: No question, Luka in a landslide.
All Star Game MVP: Huge weekend for Steph. MVP of the All-Star game to go along with his 3 point champ trophy.
Kory Waldron (Off The Glass Basketball):
Three Point Contest: Buddy Hield
Slam Dunk Contest: Miles Bridges
Skills Challenge: Luka Doncic
All-Star Game MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Photo Credit: (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images ; John Swart/AP; Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images; Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)
Question: "What is your favorite NBA Slam Dunk Contest and why?"
Justin Jett (Vice Sports and Dime on UPROXX): "As the years go by, dunks get better, training gets better, and players simply get more innovative. Zach LaVine's second slam dunk championship has a special place in my heart because that is where I believe we saw the most special dunks."
Ryan Magdziarz (Lineups & 4SZNS): "Dunks get better, more athletic, and more creative every year, but from an entertainment and aura stand point, Vince Carter in 2000 was an absolute showmen. Revolutionized dunking for all NBA fans. raised the bar for dunk contests from the point forward."
Kory Waldron (Off The Glass Basketball): "My favorite NBA Slam Dunk contest is 2009, Nate Robinson vs Dwight Howard. Robinson in the all green kryptonite uniform, I remember being with all of my buddies watching. It was an event, this may have been the last dunk contest I was impressed by prior to the Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon showdown a couple years ago."
Photo Credit: NBAonTNT via YouTube
Question: "What are your thoughts on the All-Star Draft, and if you could change anything, what would it be?"
Justin Jett (Vice Sports and Dime on UPROXX): "I love The Starters idea of having the captains make their picks live at the game. This way, it would feel even more like a fun pick-up game and emotions would be fresh so the intensity would be raised."
Ryan Magdziarz (Lineups & 4SZNS): "I loved the All-Star draft. It makes you feel closer to the action, and gets you more familiar with the players personalities. I would change the setting of the live draft to be more of a banquet. All players live in person at the banquet/show, getting loose on some wine/ champagne (something classy). Almost like an award show. They would be able to joke more with one another, and it wouldn't feel so uptight. Earnie and the TNT boys would still host, but more of the attention needs to be on the players that our draft and their reactions"
Kory Waldron (Off The Glass Basketball): "I enjoy the new format I think playing for charity and allowing captains to put together their own teams gives it a fresh new take. I can’t say at the moment there is anything I’d change."
Photo Credit: Getty Images via SportingNews
Question: "How do you see the bottom of the Western Conference Playoff Race playing out, after the All-Star Break?"
Justin Jett (Vice Sports and Dime on UPROXX): "I have been a firm believer in the Sacramento Kings chances of making the playoffs. They have a fantastic backcourt, a good PNR big man, shooters on the wings, and they just got a real small forward, even though that real small forward is just Harrison Barnes. I think they snatch either the 7th or the 8th seed. They also have the 10th easiest schedule after the All-Star break. This leaves the Spurs, Clippers, and Lakers. The Clippers are feisty and have deep talent without a big star, although Danilo Gallinari has been great when on the court. The Spurs and Lakers, meanwhile, have a coach and player that essentially never miss the playoffs. Ultimately, I believe LeBron simply will not be able to miss the playoffs and will get this team into the playoffs.
Ryan Magdziarz (Lineups & 4SZNS): "I think the Spurs and the Clippers slide out of the playoffs, while Sacramento gets a huge playoff appearance, and the Lakers barely squeak in as well."
Kory Waldron (Off The Glass Basketball): "The Western Conference remains basically a 14 team deep conference. I expect the Clippers to take a step back. Even still, I think it’ll be a close race between the Clippers, Kings and Lakers for the eighth seed. Lakers with LeBron James leading the way, more than likely secure that spot."
Photo Credit: USA Today Sports - Troy Taormina
Question: "What is one team that everyone is overlooking, that could make some noise in the playoffs?"
Justin Jett (Vice Sports and Dime on UPROXX): "The Houston Rockets have a lot of bad players, James Harden may have another MVP season ripped from him, and they do not play defense. That being said, they are going to be finally healthy after the All-Star break, contain a player who is having a historic season, and play in such a volatile manner because of how many threes they take. They could steal games and series with a hot James Harden night and an insane shooting performance. Plus, they still have four of their five starters from last season which was a team that pushed the Golden State Warriors to the brink. They have a good chance of being bounced from the playoffs early but I could easily see them making a run."
Ryan Magdziarz (Lineups & 4SZNS): "Not so much everyone is overlooking, but no one is taking the Thunder serious as far as being a threat to the Warriors, and I think thats a mistake. OKC is very big, long, and dangerous. Very switchable defenders, PG13 is playing like a MVP, and pass first Westbrook has made an appearance every now and again this year. Making noise in this years playoffs is the OKC Thunder's middle name."
Kory Waldron (Off The Glass Basketball): "The only team that comes to mind would have to be the Indiana Pacers in the East. Victor Oladipo went down for the season and with that the Pacers were written off. If Myles Turner elevates his game to the next level while the team remains unified I think they match up fairly well with any team in the East. Wesley Matthews was a huge signing off of the waiver wire, which makes them even closer to shocking people with a second round appearance."
Arranged & Edited By:
Creator of The Up & Under
Welcome to the 5th edition of, Around The League! In today's article, our three guests discuss the Kevin Durant press conference, where he called out a reporter, and give their thoughts on the winners and losers of the NBA Trade Deadline.
Our guests this week: Tommy Dee (Fan Sided and SNY), Rohan Katti (Behind The Buck Pass) and Warren Shaw (Shaw Sports and Close Up 360)
Photo Credit: Sportingnews.com
Question: Over the last few days, which team made the biggest move(s) to help their team for the playoffs? Explain your reasoning.
Tommy Dee: "I played against Elton Brand in high school - he was a tremendously smart and gifted player and is really off to a great start early in his career as an executive after incredible success as a player. To me, the 76ers have done well in basically upgrading at the wing spot with Harris and Simmons and adding depth overall. That's what you do when you think you're close, you get aggressive. Guys like Elton are great for the league in that he just showed he knows when it's time to step on the pedal to win a ring. His move made Masai react in getting Gasol, who they gave a lot for my mind being that he's only 26. But the reality is the Raptors had to keep pace and got the best big not named Anthony Davis available. Sixers also did well to add Jame Ennis and Malachi Richardson. I like what the Bucks did in adding 3-Kola. I've said for a long time now that what they are building, starting with length, which was a strategy led by former GM John Hammond, should really be talked about more as being a great model for this "modern NBA." Mirotic's 7.2 three pointers attempted per game fits in perfectly with what Mike Budenholzer wants to do offensively. They are the best team defensively in terms of rating and are a top 5 offense offensively and now they have depth. That recipe keeps you playing late into the springtime."
Rohan Katti: " The rich got even richer when the Milwaukee Bucks traded for Nikola Mirotic. The team with the league’s best record managed to get a player who will seamlessly integrate into their system without giving up any rotation pieces. Thon Maker and Jason Smith were not close to sniffing playing time with the Bucks, so sending them away for Mirotic was a as good of as a trade that one could ask for. One of the potential concerns for Milwaukee come playoff time was that if Brook Lopez got played off the floor, there was no one who could truly take his spot. Ersan Ilyasova and D.J. Wilson are capable of playing small ball five but not for long stretches, and Wilson has little experience. Now with Mirotic, that concern has been mitigated as he can perfectly fit into Lopez’s role of being a gunner and Mirotic is even more mobile than the lumbering Lopez. With the Pelicans last season, Mirotic showed exactly how deadly he can be at the five, and this move just provides more versatility for Mike Budenhozler and more spacing for Giannis Antetokounmpo to dominate."
Warren Shaw: "While it's easy to point to the 76ers due to their myriad of moves, I need to see the fit of so many new personalities before crowing the trade deadline winner. I believe it's Toronto who helped their case for stability the most with the addition of Marc Gasol who aids them on both sides of the ball. His ability to post up, pass and screen give Toronto added dimensions offensively as the Raptors nurse Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry along through "load management" and nagging injuries. Gasol can carry a team with his scoring (for short instances) and facilitate from the post or elbows. Defensively he's smart and should fit nicely with Leonard as they are both active communicators on that side of the ball. Toronto also created roster spots in the deal for Gasol which will allow them to be active in the buyout market where veteran bigs and shooters should be available to fill out their team. We the North hopes to be singing We are the champions at season's end and the addition of Gasol puts them in a better position than before."
Photo Credit: NJ.com
Question: Did the 76ers give up too much for Tobias Harris?
Tommy Dee: "I don't think so. Talk about depth. Mike Scott is an underrated stretch 4. Simmons per minute is terrific. Yes, they gave up two first round picks, but you can't just build a sustainable championship caliber team on just picks. Their core is set now that they've figured out the Fultz distraction and moved away from Okafor. While Tobias is a risk because of free agency, I don't see him wanting to leave before they see what they have, which could be special and will take time. I just think it's a wise move by Brand as it relates to leveraging those draft assets."
Rohan Katti: "If Tobias Harris had at least one year left on his deal, this would be a fantastic deal for the 76ers. Unfortunately, Harris is a free agent this summer and Philly emptied their remaining draft capital and some depth to get the deal done. Landry Shamet was a great shooter for the Sixers, who need all the shooting they can get, and Mike Muscala provided lineup versatility, though he wasn’t playing that well. The four first-round picks that Elton Brand sent away is obviously a lot, and it means that Philly cannot make any more big deals. If the Sixers want to vault into the top tier of the East with Milwaukee and Toronto, they’ll need to add some depth to their bench on the buyout market, which will be difficult with both Wes Matthews and Wayne Ellington already deciding to sign with the Pacers and Pistons, respectively."
Warren Shaw: "We thought rookie GM, Elton Brand pushed all of his chips in on this season after the addition of Jimmy Butler. But he decided to double-down on his bet after the addition of Harris before the deadline. Philly was "pick rich" and channeling his inner Danny Ainge didn't sit right with Brand who sees an opportunity for his process-driven squad in a LeBron-less Eastern Conference. Trepidation about surrendering Miami's 2021 first-rounder in the deal with Harris is fair. However, securing Harris to form arguably the best starting five in the conference, was a risk worth taking. Harris is already thinking about staying, which eases the loss of a player to be named later. Brand's shrewdness in flipping Markelle Fultz to Orlando recouping two picks, including a first-rounder, along with Jonathon Simmons, also puts a band-aid on the cut created to acquire Harris."
Photo Credit: Sports News
Question: What team did you expect to make a move before the deadline, but didn’t? Why did you think they would/should make a move?
Tommy Dee: "It's tricky because there will still be moves because the buyout market has become so previlent recently. That said, I thought the Nets would be more aggressive. They have momentum, but I get why they didn't gamble on trying to get a top 4 seed at this point with the Bucks, Raptors and Sixers all being assertive first. That's where it really helps that you play in Brooklyn. No one was pressing Sean Marks to make moves. What a luxury."
Rohan Katti: "Even though there were rumblings that they were close to acquiring Marc Gasol, I am very surprised that the Charlotte Hornets did not make a move. Currently sitting at seventh in the East, Kemba Walker’s free agency this summer is looming over this team. If Walker decides to leave, the Hornets are stuck in a bad spot with no sure-fire talent for a full rebuild. Their best shot to staying relevant is to retain Kemba, and making a move at the deadline that could help move up the standing and possible have a hard-fought first round series would help the Hornets’ case."
Warren Shaw: "Blame NBA Twitter for this, but the Utah Jazz had been linked to guys like Mike Conley and Nikola Mirotic before the deadline. Instead, the Jazz are left with their palms face up hoping to hold on to their spot in the very deep Western Conference. Memphis proved unwilling to deal (or at least not for Utah's offer) Conley and the Bucks sneakily struck a deal for Mirotic. The Jazz were left without a viable backup plan to secure shooting or improve their point guard situation. As all teams will, they'll monitor the buyout market but a trade could have been beneficial especially knowing free agents aren't clamoring to visit Salt Lake City in the summer."
Photo Credit: NBCDFW
Question: How would evaluate the Mavericks/Knicks trade that ultimately landed Kristaps Porzingis in Dallas for Dennis Smith Jr. and cap space?
Tommy Dee: "Mark Cuban is a calculated risk taker. It's simply who he is and he's rolling the dice big time here. He traded for a player with unparalleled potential coming off a knee injury that wants to control trade leverage against him moving forward. The Knicks understand they've rolled the dice as well, albeit with less risk, and are happy with the cap space outcome. Frankly, I can't believe they were able to clear space AND land an unprotected 1st round pick. History may highlight this trade as the greatest in Knicks history. I watched every second of Porzingis' career and spent brief time with his group. There's a lot to the idea that he's not getting the best advice in my opinion. Plus, the biggest red flag for me was that he got hurt making an extraordinary play, which tells me that his body may not be able to handle heavy exertion. That's what big time basketball is. That worry is something that the team had when they drafted him."
Rohan Katti: "In a trade that shocked the NBA community, the New York Knicks traded their most talented player since Patrick Ewing for a dream. Initially, I was not that shocked at the trade because it’s a no-brainer for Dallas to acquire a tremendous talent for picks and a player that wanted to be traded and the Knicks will always make terrible deals. However, now that some time has passed, I’m flabbergasted that New York actually traded Porzingis. Unless they have a commitment from two top free agents to sign with them this summer who did not want to play with Kristaps, there was no reason to trade the unicorn. They could’ve created cap space in other ways, but instead used Porzingis as a sweetener in a salary dump. If the summer doesn’t go the way the Knicks want, they are stuck in a worse rebuild than what they started with."
Warren Shaw: "This is a trade with various angles but in the end, both teams are happy--even if the fan bases aren't. Dallas couldn't pass on the opportunity to deal a malcontent in Smith Jr. and couple Porzingis up with Luka Doncic for what should be a European duo for the ages. Dallas also creates cap space while mortgaging picks, but if the Unicorn can return healthy, they should be able to add a third viable piece sooner than later. The Knicks acted hastily and we'll never know if they could have gotten a better deal for Porzingis. The important aspect of this deal is the belief that they may have a subsequent "wink wink" agreement with a pending free agent. It also allows them to fuel the tank for this summer's draft. On another note, if Scott Perry and company have any inclination that it could take Porzingis a while to regain form, it might have been wise to get out when they did. Again, as I said, many angles to this deal. We won't know the full ramifications until next season."
Photo Credit: NBC Sports
Question: What are your thoughts on Kevin Durant’s blowup, where he told a reporter to “grow up”?
Tommy Dee: "I like to think that I'm am the pied piper of anti Zero Sum thinking, but happen to agree with Durant 100% in this particular situation. Look, the NBA needs the media in a lot of ways, but what players don't need are opinion hit pieces, which this was. (Look at what the writer inferred via a link regarding what KD said about the Scott Brooks firing for example.) He said KD approved of the firing when what he actually he said was that he supported his organization 100%. He was being a team player, while showing respect for Brooks. There's a very obvious difference from what was inferred and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous. I have no idea how the editors didn't pull that out of the piece. That, to me, is negligent. There was a time where columnists actually made efforts to build relationships with players. It's a slippery slope, but that's what made great writers great. Durant handled it very well and what bothered me was that reporters got offended that he didn't talk to them. Talk about entitlement. We live in a crazy world as it relates to media nowadays. I'm all for player empowerment against agenda and click-bait. Their jobs are stressful enough as KD pointed out. I think a lot of people in media need to grow up and understand that it should never, EVER be about them."
Rohan Katti: "Kevin Durant has no idea how to handle the media, which is going to make life very difficult for him if he does indeed sign with the Knicks this summer. Part of the job of playing in the NBA is interacting with the media, and it is part of the media’s job to interact with players. The reporters are just doing their job and it is frankly childish for Durant to have acted like that. KD avoided media for the longest time after the Porzingis trade and it would’ve been easier for him to just act normal instead of acting in a manner that raises questions."
Warren Shaw: "It has to be unsettling to answer questions about something that is months away and probably even more unsettling to know questions about him are being asked to his teammates. Still, Durant's battle within himself at times and with the media can be exhausting. Unfortunately, the business of the league cares not for his feelings but rather the clicks and page views generated from his frustration. It's a vicious cycle where media members could, in turn, ask him to "grow up" as well. This is a world where everybody seemingly wants things both ways but inevitably, peace will only come when we accept things for how they truly are. Durant nor the media have reached that middle ground yet. Hopefully, KD can block out the noise and just play ball but something tells me the Slim Reaper will try to snatch the souls of more media members before the season is out."
Written and Arranged by: Alex Golden
We are back for Week 4 of Around The League and this week we had 3-fantastic guys, share their thoughts on the hot topics in the NBA. Unfortunately the answers were turned in before the stunning Kristaps Porzingis trade, but we do discuss: what the Pacers should do without Oladipo, what the Pelicans should do with Anthony Davis, the surging Brooklyn Nets, Luke Walton's future and the best rivalries in the game today.
So without further ado, let me introduce our guests on Around The League With Alex Golden 4.0:
Blake Murphy (The Athletic), Tony East (8 points, 9 seconds) and Zak Noble (4SZNS Podcast).
Photo Credit: Nuvo.net (Phil Taylor)
Question: Unfortunately, Victor Oladipo went down with a season ending knee injury, in a Pacers win against the Raptors on January 23rd. Should the Pacers do anything with their roster before the Trade Deadline?
Blake Murphy (The Athletic) - "This is such a tough question. Indiana can still be good and tough and strong defensively without Oladipo, but he's so important to their offensive upside that I'm not sure they can win a playoff series without him if they land in the 4-5 matchup in the East, which feels likely. Selling as a near-certain playoff team is tough, and the Bird rights on some of their expiring contracts (Thad Young, Bojan Bogdanovic) might hold more value than an asset they'd get in return. Tyreke Evans (non-Bird rights) probably becomes too important with Oldaipo down to move. Still, I think a name like Cory Joseph might make sense to see what's out there on, and non-Bird free agent Kyle O'Quinn might be attractive as a depth add elsewhere. Big picture, I think they're too far into this to blow it up or anything."
Tony East (8 Points, 9 Seconds) - "I see value in being buyers, sellers, and doing nothing for Indiana. If they can acquire a good player on a longer term deal, they could at least somewhat compete the rest of this year while being really good in the future (Conley, Jrue, Love, etc.). But trading AWAY assets when your team is at a forward-thinking crossroads seems like a bad idea if you’re just thinking holistically.
The “sellers” idea just comes from timing. All these expiring contracts lends the mind to think that trades make sense. But there’s not a ton of expiring trades that make sense since the Pacers themselves are looking ahead at cap room.
Ultimately standing pat and promoting Edmond Sumner just feels like the best move that rewards the right people. They will still be good and have a bright future."
Zak Noble (4SZNS Podcast) - "In all honesty, this team has played enough games without Victor that I believe they will still make the playoffs as is, in a very shallow Eastern conference. They have proven to be a top 3 defense regardless. On offense they make teams get out of sync to adjust to their slow pace. With that said they should bolster the roster any way they can. Target A being Mike Conley. Anything to bolster rebounding and volume 3 point shooting."
Photo Credit: SI.com
Question: Rich Paul of Klutch Sports told New Orleans front office that his client, Anthony Davis, wants a trade and doesn’t plan to resign. What should the Pelicans front office do with Davis and the rest of their current roster?
Blake Murphy (The Athletic) - "The most clear part of this is whether they move Davis or not, they should begin selling their other assets. Either way, they are moving Davis at some point and can begin expediting a rebuilding by dealing Jrue Holiday, Nikola Mirotic, E'Twaun Moore, Julius Randle, Jahlil Okafor and whoever else. It's unlikely any of these names are part of a rebuild, and it would seem that selling Davis in the search of a foundational star is a better, if more difficult, approach than remaining semi-competitive given the realities of that market. As for Davis, I see the argument for moving him now (better offers with two playoffs of Davis going to a buyer, avoid the optics or any cultural impact of dragging this out) or waiting until the summer (the Celtics can get in the mix, there is pick certainty, they can target Zion or whoever, etc). I also wonder if the NBA's recently announce investigation may take a Lakers deal off the table for the deadline, which would shift the weighting further to the summer."
Tony East (8 Points, 9 Seconds) - "The Pels should hold off on doing anything for now. If they wait until the summer, they allow Boston and their numerous assets to get involved in the bidding war which drives up the price somewhat.
If they do trade him now, Toronto and Philadelphia seem like the only teams with the right combo of win-now assets to entice New Orleans to make a deal pre-summer. Siakam/OG/Valanciunas/Wright for example from Toronto, and Simmons/Korkmaz/Amir/1st out of Philly. But I doubt that happens pre-free agency.
As for the rest of the Pels roster - keep it! Jrue Holiday is a boss, they have some nice frontcourt players otherwise, and most of their picks going forward. If you get competent players for AD you can still compete. Don't give in!
Plus, a rebuild could send them to Seattle. They will do everything in their power to avoid that. "
Zak Noble (4SZNS Podcast) - "They absolutely have to trade Davis for the best package available. The timeline being summer at the latest. I would for sure keep Julius Randle. Only trade Niko for younger, more promising assets. Otherwise, keep them. Jrue Holiday has very high value around the league right now, so I would capitalize on that, for the best package of young assets available. If they make sound decisions, this team could be ready right now and for the future."
Photo Credit: Slam Online
Question: The Brooklyn Nets have been playing really good basketball lately and are currently 6th in the Eastern Conference. What has been the key to their recent success?
Blake Murphy (The Athletic) - "I think a lot of it is the commitment to the culture and system. Obviously, Spencer Dinwiddie and D'Angelo Russell showing the growth they have helps immensely, and Dinwiddie's absence is going to hurt. Still, Kenny Atkinson has been consistent in the demands for the team's approach, their young players have grown up within that philosophy, and they've added smart, high-culture vets to supplement the rotation and the locker room. Sean Marks and Atkinson have really made the most out of a really bad situation, and the Nets can hope from here that those cultural building blocks form a steady foundation once (if) they can find some high-end talent to take them to the next step."
Tony East (8 Points, 9 Seconds) - "Loading! 20.3 points and 7.3 dimes per game since December 1st. He’s finally putting it all together, it has been a joy.
They are really hitting their stride, it’s a shame Spencer Dinwiddie just went down with an injury (he’s been great too). Joe Harris has been lighting it up, Jarrett Allen has developed rapidly yet effectively, and they have a roster that just fits, an underrated part of team building. They are going to be really good in the future."
Zak Noble (4SZNS Podcast) - "By empowering Kenny Atkinson and developing their youth. Finding a core that just puts their heads down and goes to work night in and night out, more consistently than most, in the NBA."
Photo Credit: Al Drago/Associated Press
Question: Recent reports came out that LeBron James’ camp would “prefer a coaching change”. What are your thoughts on this report coming while LeBron is nursing an injury and what are your thoughts on Luke Walton as coach?
Blake Murphy (The Athletic) - "I have a hard time making heads or tails of the constant and oft-conflicting reports out of LeBron teams. The Lakers are a top-10 defense this year and have performed about how I'd expected before the season, and that's before pricing in James' injury and the other, smaller setbacks the team's run into. No, the offense hasn't been what a James-led team should be, but they also have one of the worst shooting teams in the league around James, and I'm not sure that falls on Walton. I don't think Walton's been Coach of the Year or anything, I just think that if he looks like The Problem to you, your expectations may not have been in the right place for this team."
Tony East (8 Points, 9 Seconds) - "I don’t know what to think of Luke Walton as a coach. He was awesome coaching the Warriors, I don’t want to take that away from him, but I think a lot of people could be awesome in that role.
Generally, I think he is a good coach. He has great sets but his talent optimization isn’t perfect. A team with LeBron, however, needs the opposite. That team needs a coach that can optimize the roster and the players around it and not be as set-heavy (you have LeBron, let him figure that out). I think someone else might make more sense coaching this Lakers team, though I’m not sure who that is.
The timing is interesting. LBJ is getting an outside view of Waltons coaching and maybe he has soured on him. Stuff doesn’t leak out of LeBrons camp without good reason, so maybe something is coming. But I don’t know whose available right now that is better."
Zak Noble (4SZNS Podcast) - "I respect Luke Walton as a coach. I believe he’s a top 15 coach in the league. I like him a lot when it comes to developing youth. However, it’s almost impossible to be LeBron's coach, and I’m not sure he’s ready to take a team like this, to where LeBron’s expectations are."
Photo Credit: USA Today
Question: What is the best current team rivalry in the NBA and what is the best current player rivalry in the NBA?
Blake Murphuy (The Athletic) - I think at a player level, the most entertaining one right now is the Joel Embiid-Russell Westbrook one. There are probably (definitely) more competition-based ones, but those two offer just such an explosion of personality, it's hard not to enjoy it. Team-wise, it's a little harder to say, because the Warriors being as good as they've been (and James changing teams) has sapped a bit of the higher-end rivalries. I do like Boston-Philadelphia as a pretty consistent battle with both fanbases on Twitter stepping up for those meetings. Boston-Toronto has felt like it's a playoff series away from boiling into a proper rivalry for a few years now, too.
Tony East (8 Points, 9 Seconds) - "Does Warriors-LeBron count as a rivalry? I want to pick GSW-Cavs but that isn’t a rivalry anymore. Celtics-Lakers has been a joke for a while now. Sixers-Celtics is getting up there I guess but I’ll take Warriors-Lakers at present time.
Player rivalry, oh man. D’Lo and Swaggy P was really fun. Portis and Mirotic was fun too. Kyrie vs LeBron is probably number 2 for me, but I’m taking Russ versus KD. The pretty shots and the competitive nature of both dudes is awesome to me.
Honorable mention: Kelly Olynyk versus anyone."
Zak Noble (4SZNS Podcast) - "I thoroughly enjoy Philadelphia versus Boston, even though it’s more of a fan and city thing, and not necessarily a full blown rivalry on the court. Player wise: Joel Embiid verse Centers, Joel Embiid verse Russ, Steph verse Kyrie, and Steph verse Harden are some of my favorite player rivalries right now"
Arranged By: Alex Golden
In today's article of Around The League, you will read the responses of Oliver Maroney, Brady Klopfer and Spencer Percy on: which teams are buyers and sellers heading into the Trade Deadline season, Dennis Smith Jr.'s future with Dallas, do the Utah Jazz have the right pieces in place to contend in the West and what has been the root of the Boston Celtics struggles this season.
*Some of these answers were submitted before the Oladipo injury...
Photo Credit: The Boston Globe
1). Which team(s) do you see as the biggest buyers before the NBA Trade Deadline and what upgrades do they need?
Oliver Maroney (Lineups & The Big 3): "I think there’s a lot of teams that’ll end up being buyers. Teams like Houston, Portland seem like obvious choices based on where they are and the assets they can potentially throw in a deal. I think a team like Brooklyn may end up being buyers because of the players they possess, the injuries on the roster and their potential cap flexibility."
Brady Klopfer (SB Nation): "The Rockets, and they need virtually everything. Houston still has as good a chance as any team in the West to dethrone the Warriors, but they're compromised in the areas that allowed them to push Golden State to the brink a year ago. Even if Chris Paul and Clint Capela return to full health, the team lacks the versatile, switch-everything three-and-D perimeter players that drove them to a top-seven offense and defense a year ago. Gary Clark and Danuel House Jr. are good finds, but they're not replacing Trevor Ariza. Kenneth Faried is a nice pickup in January, but not a difference maker if Capela is in foul trouble in May. James Harden's brilliance will take the Rockets far, but their ceiling is capped until they find more quality role players."
Spencer Percy (Queen City Hoops & Buzz Beat Radio): "I'd put Indiana right atop of that list. The Pacers are a team that should be looking to improve on the margins now and attempt to close the gap on Toronto and Milwaukee, which they're not far away for doing. With six expiring contracts, this team is primed to make a deal.
The news of Memphis now ready to listen to offers for Mike Conley and Marc Gasol is interesting. Conley would be an immense upgrade for Indiana at point guard and make them a serious contender in the East. What's better, Conley's huge deal comes off the books in 2021, which lines up with Oladipo's contract. This would help Pacers management plan the next step of the franchise three seasons from now.
Houston will make a trade to improve, Portland should be thinking creatively with some of the assets they roster, and Utah has some ammo to improve if they wish. Don't forget about the Lakers, but conventional wisdom is they will be relatively patient until this summer. Lastly, New York - watch carefully what they do to get off salary in preparation for this summer. The Knicks are about $12-15 million away from creating a max slot, depending on a few different factors."
Photo Credit: Slam Online
2). Which team(s) do you see as the biggest sellers before the NBA Trade Deadline, and what type of return would they want?
Oliver Maroney (Lineups & The Big 3): "Obviously, the Knicks want to clear cap space and they’re basically signaling to tank the rest of this season. They’ve got young players like Allonzo Trier and Mitchell Robinson that could get some much needed experience starting too, so I think it would be beneficial for them.
I also think a team like Chicago, who possess a lot of potential players that could help another team. A guy like Lopez, maybe Jabari Parker for a draft pick and/or maybe a young piece would potentially net them enough to sell their future and where they are headed. They have a decent young core with players like LaVine and Lauri Markkanen, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see them let go of other pieces they may not see as the future for draft picks or other compensation."
Brady Klopfer (SB Nation): "It could shape up to be a good year for sellers, as 14 teams in the West and 11 in the East currently have legitimate playoff aspirations. Only five teams - the Suns, Cavaliers, Hawks, Bulls, and Knicks - are ready to start playing for 2020. Of those five, the Cavs jump off the page. They sport the league's worst record, yet have a roster replete with veteran talent that doesn't fit into their timeline at all. Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Rodney Hood, Alec Burks, Matthew Dellavedova, and Larry Nance Jr. are all players capable of improving a playoff team and bringing back a decent return. Cleveland isn't rushing to trade any of them, but certainly will do so if the price is right. If they're willing to eat some bad contracts in return, they could find themselves pulling in a nice haul."
Spencer Percy (Queen City Hoops & Buzz Beat Radio): "Atlanta is the leader in this category. It was reported last week that the Hawks have Jeremy Lin, Kent Bazemore and Dwayne Dedmon all for sale. All three of these players could help numerous contenders and the Hawks will be seeking young players plus draft picks. Lin and Dedmon are on reasonable expiring deals, but Bazemore has a player option for $19 million next season, so matching that salary becomes tricky.
Memphis is apparently ready to sell, but is that a real want to make a deal, or simply a willingness to listen?
I'll say it now. New Orleans needs to get Anthony Davis healthy and trade him. I'd say there's a 1% chance he re-signs with the Pelicans this summer and them team is starring at a missed postseason now three games out of the eighth seed with what sounds like 2-4 weeks without AD. Yikes.
Chicago will try to find a home for Jabari Parker and Carmelo Anthony via trade before being forced to talk buy-outs. Would they be willing to have a conversation about Zach LaVine now that he's back healthy?
Cleveland should be having conversation to desperate teams about Kevin Love (looking at you Charlotte), but there's nothing else in that cupboard that's worth anything of real value."
Photo Credit: RAY CARLIN SPECIAL TO THE STAR-TELEGRAM
3). Dennis Smith Jr. and Rick Carlisle had productive conversations and he looks to return to the team. However the writing is still on the wall, whether he will be a long term piece of the Mavericks core. What type of player do you see Dennis Smith Jr. becoming in the NBA, whether it’s with Dallas or someone else?
Oliver Maroney (Lineups & The Big 3): "I think he’s talented in a guard heavy league. He’s not James Harden or another elite-level player and I don’t think I see him reaching that potential ever. But, if he’s given a role to be a true number one or two, I think he’ll thrive and exceed anyone’s expectations.
This league is all about fit and where players stand with coaches and the organization. Obviously, Dallas hasn’t really worked out. But, If another coach took Smith under his wing and really worked with him, gave him full offensive freedom, I could see it really work in the right situation. I still don’t think he becomes Curry, Harden or even someone like Lillard. But, he could be a really gifted offensive player and it wouldn’t be the first time we’d see a player play leaps and bounds better in a new situation (see Oladipo)."
Brady Klopfer (SB Nation): "Smith entered the 2017 draft as a tantalizing athlete with a few major weaknesses. In his short NBA career, he's displayed a lot more of the latter than the former. I'm not particularly bullish on his future, as he seems to occupy combo guard purgatory. He's not a good enough playmaker to have full-time ball-handling responsibilities, but he's not a good enough shooter to make a living off ball. The potential is still high enough, and the age still young enough, that Smith could likely net a nice return on the trade market from a team willing to take a chance on a clear talent. But to this point, I don't see many signs pointing to Smith ever being more than a mildly above-average combo guard."
Spencer Percy (Queen City Hoops & Buzz Beat Radio): "I like Dennis Smith Jr. An explosive guard who can get to the cup, has made strides as a pick and roll ball handler and also shows promise as a catch and shoot player. Smith is ultimately more of a combo guard type of player. Reminds me of Eric Bledsoe in some ways, but I think the ceiling is higher.
Phoenix and Orlando should both be inquiring about Smith and Orlando might be desperate enough to make a deal prior to the February 7 trade deadline. I still believe there's a universe where Doncic and Smith can play together. At the very least, Smith would be a wonderful super-sub off the bench for Dallas. That takes sacrifice on Smith's part and doesn't seem like something he's willing to do at the present time."
Photo Credit: Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune
4). The Jazz have been playing much better here of late, but they’ve been somewhat underwhelming based on preseason expectations. Do you believe that Utah has the right pieces in place, to be a serious threat in the Western Conference?
Oliver Maroney (Lineups & The Big 3): "Utah are right at the top of the Western Conference in my mind. They’re really talented and have tons of good role players surrounding stars like Gobert and Mitchell. This team is well coached, understands what they need to do and they seem to catch fire later in the season. I think they’re a force to be reckoned with and a team that could go deep in the playoffs."
Brady Klopfer (SB Nation): "It depends on how you define "threat". At this point I don't see any team in the West posing a serious threat to the All-Star laden Warriors. But are the Jazz a serious threat to be the best of the rest? Absolutely. They may have started slow, but this is a team that finished fifth in the entire league in net rating a year ago, and has only improved on paper. They have a truly elite defense, and when they can find lineups that create spacing - or, against all odds, work despite a lack of spacing - their offense is good enough. Much depends on which version of Donovan Mitchell we see for the rest of the season, but there's no reason Utah can't fight back to the second seed and a spot in the Western Conference Finals."
Spencer Percy (Queen City Hoops & Buzz Beat Radio): "Utah has underachieved this season. They've started to come on more recently now that Donovan Mitchell has woken up. The Jazz space the floor and share the ball as well as any team in the league. This team is littered with high IQ players.
All that said, Utah is one playmaker away from having enough juice to make a serious run in the postseason. Imagine Brad Beal and Donovan Mitchell next to each other... By the way, the Wizards should be open season on anyone on their roster, but they won't be.
Jeremy Lin could also help Utah, depending on how creative Quin Snyder is willing to get with small lineups.
Ricky Rubio and Derrick Favors expiring deals for Mike Conley? Utah could throw in a pick.
The Jazz need to think outside the box leading up to this trade deadline. I believe they could be a top-four team in the West by the end of the regular season and that's still well within reach."
Photo Credit: NBA.com
5). Many expected Boston to be the clear cut Favorites to represent the East in the NBA Finals this season. However, they haven’t lived up to expectations, as they’re currently 5th in the Eastern Conference. What has been the root of Boston’s struggles and can they overcome them by Playoff time?
Oliver Maroney (Lineups & The Big 3): "Too much talent that isn’t playing consistent? I don’t know. I couldn’t pinpoint one thing. I think the Celtics have so much talent and depth that it’s difficult to figure out what players to play, when and for how long. Stevens is an excellent coach but no coach can get every player to buy into playing their role all the time. They have guys who are expecting big paydays, players who expect more minutes or who’ve had more minutes in the past and I think that’s a huge issue. Nobody likes to go from playing more to less. Whether they say it in the media or not, I don’t think any player appreciates when their minutes are taken. So, it’s a really tough dilemma the Celtics face.
However, even with all this, I think come playoff time the Celtics will be a scary team to play. All the players will be pushing for minutes, guys will hopefully be more bought-in to winning and not their individual roles. Plus, they possess one of the deepest teams in the league without question."
Brady Klopfer (SB Nation): "It's a boring answer, but I think the issues with Boston are overstated, and really just came from a poor start to the season. The Celtics are third in the league in net rating, trailing only the Warriors and the Bucks. They're back to playing like a team that is one of the best in the Association. The season started slow, for myriad reasons - a sophomore slump for Jayson Tatum, the integration of Gordon Hayward, and Brad Stevens opting for his five best players to start, rather than his best and most cohesive five-man unit - but those problems are all slowly dissipating. I would still aver that the Bucks and Raptors are the top squads in the East - by the slimmest of margins - but that speaks more to their gains than to Boston's regression. This team is really good."
Spencer Percy (Queen City Hoops & Buzz Beat Radio): " I didn't mention Boston in the buyers question earlier because I saw this specific question about them. There seem to be some chemistry issues with that group. Kyrie Irving isn't quite the leader he aims to be yet and the younger crop on that roster has clearly had some issues following. It feels like Boston might need to move a key piece before value drops even more.
It's probably going to be difficult to trade the $67 million remaining on Gordon Hayward's deal over the next two seasons, but there are clearly some fit issues there. Jaylen Brown is the name to watch - an incredibly high ceiling two-way wing still on his rookie deal. The Celtics will almost assuredly get in the Anthony Davis trade talk before the deadline, and with how things have gone so far this season, the sense of urgency for them to make a godfather offer now to acquire AD is likely real. Waiting until the summer could prove costly with the Lakers and Knicks looming."
Written By: Alex Golden
I talked with Andy Larsen (Salt Lake Tribune), Jeff Garcia (Locked on Spurs) and Justin Rowan (Fear The Sword) about All-Star voting, Oklahoma City's pedigree, Kemba Walker's future, James Harden and Chris Paul's pairing and more. Here are the six questions we covered in this week's version of: Around the League with Alex Golden.
Photo Credit: SI.com
Question 1: Should winning matter when it comes to selecting the All-Star Starters and Reserves? Who are your starters for both the East and the West?
Andy Larsen (Salt Lake Tribune): "Sure, in as much as those players contribute to winning."
West: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Steph Curry, James Harden
East: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Joel Embiid
Jeff Garcia (Locked on Spurs): "No. If the player is worthy of an All Star nod, he should get the nod plain and simple. The game is about celebrating their accomplishments at the midpoint of the season."
West: James Harden, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Luka Doncic, LeBron James
East: Kemba Walker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, K.awhi Leonard, Dwyane Wade (sentimental pick), Joel Embiid
Justin Rowan (Fear The Sword): "Starters no, I think the fans pick the players they would get the most enjoyment out of seeing. However with the reserves I think if there’s a player that is doing something exceptional and the team is out of the playoffs exceptions should be made. What would an All Star game be without Anthony Davis?"
West: Steph Curry, James Harden, LeBron James, Paul George, Anthony Davis
East: Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Joel Embiid
Photo Credit: NBA Getty Images
Question 2: Out of the Top 5 teams in the Eastern Conference (Boston, Toronto, Indiana, Milwaukee and Philadelphia), which team needs to make a move to bolster their roster the most (before the trade deadline), and why?
Andy Larsen (Salt Lake Tribune): "In my mind, Indiana is a clear talent tier below the other four, but obviously they're having another tremendous season. And given their whole long-term-oriented situation, it's hard to suggest that they need to make a trade. So for me, the answer is Toronto: with the clock ticking on Kawhi, some clearly defined weaknesses, they have the most to gain by making a trade to fill that hole on the wing."
Jeff Garcia (Locked on Spurs): "None. Toronto is playing great leading the East, Philly is starting to figure out things with J. Butler added, the Bucks are playing well and Indiana are quietly flying under the radar while riding a solid record. Don't fix what's not broken."
Justin Rowan (Fear The Sword): "I think it’s Toronto. While they might legitimately have a shot this season without making a move if they catch a few breaks, I think a trade is essential to keep Kawhi. It’ll be tough to go into this summer with multiple teams able to offer two max slots for Kawhi to build the team he wants, and Toronto can only counter with a 33 year old Kyle Lowry and his bad back. I think they need to be aggressive in going after a Bradley Beal or CJ McCollum to help build up both their chances in June, and to keep Kawhi."
Photo Credit: Slam Online
Question 3: Kemba Walker is having a fantastic season, but his team is still floating around a .500 record. Will Charlotte ever be able to get guys around him to win, or would he be better off exploring his options in Free Agency this summer?
Andy Larsen (Salt Lake Tribune): "It depends what Kemba wants: does he want to be a No. 1 guy, or does he want to be a championship contender in the East? I could see Charlotte making a jump into the group of Eastern Conference contenders with some well-timed moves, but they haven't exactly made a lot of those, have they? And, to be frank, are Eastern Conference contenders actually contenders, or a clear tier below their Western Conference counterparts? He probably needs to leave to have a realistic chance at winning a title, but it's not necessarily clear that his FA opportunities are going to be definite contenders as well. Still, it's worth exploring for him."
Jeff Garcia (Locked on Spurs): "No trade. Stay the course. He is their cornerstone. He will attract free agents. If the Hornets don't have him then who can they lure?"
Justin Rowan (Fear The Sword): "I’m skeptical that they will ever be able to attract the talent he needs in that market. That’s another team that should be aggressive at the deadline, I just don’t know how meaningful any potential moves would be. Charlotte can offer him more money than anybody, so if I’m Kemba I’m probably staying unless there’s a super team situation where they are able to add him. If it’s just another team that has flexibility, would like to build around him, but doesn’t already have the pieces in place I don’t think it’s worth the risk."
Photo Credit: Bleacher Report
Question 4: James Harden has been unbelievable here lately, all while Chris Paul is out injured. Did the Rockets make a mistake in tying up so much money in Chris Paul, that they won’t have the significant funds to build a deeper team around Harden? Or is a healthy Paul still the best counterpart for Harden?
Andy Larsen (Salt Lake Tribune): "Full stop: yes. Chris Paul was in the same draft as Deron Williams, point guards can age harshly, and the prospect of paying him four years into the future is a rough one. Healthy Chris Paul in 2018-19 is still a pretty good counterpart to Harden, though maybe not ideal. But in 2023? I have significant doubts."
Jeff Garcia (Locked on Spurs): "When healthy Paul is a solid counterpart for Harden. He removes the ball handling from Harden and can direct the troops on the floor. Yes, giving him that much money was a bit much but having Paul in tow once he comes back makes Houston that much deadlier in the West.... when healthy!"
Justin Rowan (Fear The Sword): "I don’t think it’s a mistake, because they didn’t have the ability to go out and get another star. They tried pitching LeBron and Paul George, but neither had an interest. I think it’ll end up looking like a bad deal, but it was the best option available."
Photo Credit: ClutchPoints
Question 5: Are we believers in OKC, or will their inability to spread the floor hurt them in the playoffs?
Andy Larsen (Salt Lake Tribune): "Their inability to spread the floor will hurt them, but so will Russell Westbrook's insistence on taking multiple bad shots per game. Obviously, they've started the 2018-19 season well, but I have significant doubts, largely due to their paper schedule. They're a good team, but not a great one, and largely due to George this season."
Jeff Garcia (Locked on Spurs): "That will ultimately be their downfall. They do not have reliable shooters. Consistent shooters. If any team that may need to explore adding a player would be OKC. They got the inside game down with Adams and Westbrook drives, and Grant doing his damage in the paint. But outside of that, lack of perimeter shooting will be their doom in this day and age of the NBA where shooting is a premium."
Justin Rowan (Fear The Sword): "It’s tough to get behind them. Not only due to their lack of spacing, but just because there are so many teams that are more talented than them and I just don’t believe in Westbrook’s decision making in playoff situations."
Photo Credit: AwfulAnnouncing,com
Question 6: Who is your favorite NBA play-by-play announcer and why?
Andy Larsen (Salt Lake Tribune): "For me, it's Kevin Harlan. Sure, there's Ian Eagle's brilliancies, and Mike Breen is very very good, but Marv Albert has clearly slipped multiple notches. Kevin Harlan's "LEBRON JAMES WITH NO REGARD FOR HUMAN LIFE" or "RIGHT BETWEEN THE EYES" or any number of his catchphrases are still among the top individual calls in play-by-play history. The game-by-game quality varies with him, but his floor is still pretty high, and at his best, no one does it better."
Jeff Garcia (Locked on Spurs): "Whenever he calls games (and I know it is rare nowadays).... Bill Walton. Need it say more? However, I would go locally in San Antonio. The radio voices for the Spurs, Bill Shoening and Paul Castro, do a bang up job doing play-by-play and deserve a pat on the back."
Justin Rowan (Fear The Sword): "My favorite color commentator is probably Hubie Brown, just because I always felt like value was being added to the broadcast which is so rare. For play by play it’s definitely Kevin Harlan, just because of his great signature calls, the excitement he brings, not to mention he narrated most of my favorite basketball moments. Including Game 7 of the 2016 Finals."
Written By: Alex Golden (Creator of The Up & Under)
Welcome to Around The League With Alex Golden. In today's debut article, I gathered some of NBA Twitters finest, to discuss some of the current events in the NBA. The League is always on the go, and with so many storylines and topics to discuss, I wanted to find a central location where we can cover that for you. So without further ado, here is the debut of: Around The League.