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)