The NBA season is half-way over and it’s time to buckle down and get serious. We don’t discuss enough basketball here at THE Ultimate Sports Blog even though we love it. So to repay you NBA fans back, I’ve decided to go out and get four of the best basketball minds I can think of and present you with…..
The Ultimate Sports Blog’s
NBA Mid-Season Round Table
It’s pretty simple. I present the guys with 10 questions and we discuss them. Here’s the crew:
Dustin James: I run this here blog. You should know me by now.
Steve Cook: Cook is our resident NFL pick’em & MLB expert. Well hell, honestly the guy is an expert at a variety of topics and is always welcomed at these things. Ladies, he’s also single.
Todd Bergman: Bergman is a massive sports fan who we would love have contribute to this blog more often, but he’s too busy doing things regular human beings should be doing. His opinion is always welcomed here.
Samer Kadi: Samer is not only one of the brighest minds I have ever crossed when it comes to sports, but he’s got arguably the sexiest voice you will ever hear as well. When this guy talks, you need to listen. He makes people smarter.
Jeremy Lambert: Jeremy is one of my best friends and is one of the biggest sports fans I know. You probably know his name because he writes for 1,394 different web sites. Why? Because the guy knows his shit.
(NOTE: Most of us wrote these BEFORE the trade that Sacramento made with the New Orleans Pelicans for DeMarcus Cousins. Please take that into consideration when reading!)
1. Which Western Conference team has the best chance of knocking off the Golden State Warriors?
Dustin James: It pains me to say this because I dislike them so much, but it has to be the San Antonio Spurs. Even without Tim Duncan, the Spurs machine continues to roll on. The Spurs are the “New England Patriots” of the NBA. It seems like they will always be good as long as Bill Beli….errrr Gregg Popovich is still around. Luckily for us, LaMarcus Aldridge is absolutely awful in the playoffs so the Spurs will end up missing Timmy more than they ever thought when the games actually matter. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger folks. It’s not my fault Aldridge is garbage when it matters.
Steve Cook: None.
OK, how about the San Antonio Spurs? The Spurs blew the Warriors out of their home gym on opening night and aren’t all that far behind them for that #1 seed. Gregg Popovich is the smartest man in basketball and the Spurs are the best-run organization in all of sports. Pau Gasol & LaMarcus Aldridge down low, Kawhi Leonard doing his thing, Tony Parker running the show…there’s always a lot to like with the Spurs. They’re pretty far ahead of the Rockets & Clippers in the “Who in the West looks almost as good as the Warriors?” conversation.
Todd Bergman: I am going with the San Antonio Spurs. They have the ability to lock down defensively and drag the Warriors into an ugly series. Golden State does not like to play a physical style of basketball and San Antonio has the team to do that. The ability to play defense is something that gives the Spurs a slight advantage over the Rockets in the West. I don’t think that anyone is going to beat Golden State but if I had to choose anyone, it is the Spurs.
Samer Kadi: The San Antonio Spurs, naturally. On paper, it appeared early on that the Los Angeles Clippers had the tools to potentially make a series with the Warriors interesting. However, their regression since December coupled with Chris Paul’s injury and the fact that they are, well, the Los Angeles Clippers all combine to make that very unlikely. And while I am of the opinion that good as the Spurs are, they pale by comparison to some of the better Spurs teams from recent years, the fact remains they are the San Antonio Spurs, with the best coach in the NBA sitting at their helm. Kawhi Leonard has emerged as a borderline superstar, and LaMarcus Aldridge, much to Dustin James’ chagrin, remains one of the best big men in the league. With that being said, despite their embarrassment of the Warriors on opening night, I don’t think the Spurs are ultimately good enough to beat them in a playoff series. San Antonio will always have a great regular season record, but the fact is Tony Parker is not the player he once was, and the team is weak at the point guard position. By contrast, with Steph Curry running the show, and Shaun Livingston coming off the bench, the Warriors are clearly superior in that area. It doesn’t help that the Spurs are prone to struggling against athletically superior teams and that Kevin Durant was major thorn in their side when he was in OKC. Put him on an even better, more loaded team, and that’s unlikely to change.
Jeremy Lambert: THE PELICANS CAUSE BROW AND BOOGIE GONNA BUST THEY ASS!!!!!!!
2. Which Eastern Conference team has the best chance of knocking off the Cleveland Cavaliers?
Dustin James: Boston Celtics. The Celtics are the best road team in the Eastern Conference right now and are only three games out of first place. This team could definitely give the Cavaliers some fits come playoff time. I also think Boston is in a position to potentially make a move at the deadline that could bring in another sneaky good player that puts them over the top. Watch out for this team in the coming weeks. They are going to be a fun one to watch.
Steve Cook: None.
OK, how about the Toronto Raptors? You might recall that they took the Cavs to seven games last season in the Eastern Conference Finals and just acquired Serge Ibaka to shore up their defense. Add him to DeMar DeRozan & Kyle Lowrt and you’re got a group of players that can give some teams some problems. Oh, and Toronto came within one game last season. Cleveland doesn’t look dramatically better this season, so a little bit of improvement is all they need.
Todd Bergman: This would be the Boston Celtics. Boston is good on the road and at home. They also have a point guard in Isaiah Thomas, who can control a game on a nightly basis. He makes everyone around him better and if all else fails Olynyk can come in and injure Kevin Love again. Boston is slightly ahead of Washington in this category because of Boston’s ability to win away from home. At the time of me typing this article, Boston is 17-12 away from home while Washington is 10-14 on the road. Whomever is going to play Cleveland is going to have to win games in “The Mistake by the Lake” so this is why I am going with Boston.
Samer Kadi: The Washington Wizards. The Toronto Raptors’ acquisition of Serge Ibaka definitely makes them an even better team than they already were, and the Boston Celtics, led by Isiah Thomas’ incredible heroics and Brad Stevens’ coaching are a team to be respected. However, while at least one other member on this panel shares my distaste for Scott Brooks, it is impossible to deny the good job he’s done with the Wizards so far, especially in light of their atrocious start for the season. And I believe they are the team with the best chance to beat the Cavs.Realistically, this season’s NBA finals were set in stone on July 4, when Kevin Durant joined the Golden State Warriors. Good as any other team might play, it was improbable for anyone to stand in the way of GSW vs. Cavs III. Nevertheless, Kevin Love’s injury makes things slightly more interesting in the East, and I can see the Wizards’ extremely talented backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, in addition to Otto Porter who’s having a career year, giving a potentially Love-less Cavs all they can handle. Still, as it stands, Kevin Love is supposed to be back for the playoffs, and while he might not be able to his best basketball on his return, betting against a Lebron James team to come out of the East is a bit foolish.
Jeremy Lambert: Who cares about the East?
3. There will be a trade involving a major player at the NBA trade deadline (if you answer “yes”, who will it be?).
Dustin James: Yes, I just don’t know who it will be. There are a number of different teams that could make a splash in the trade market in the following weeks. Cleveland could trade Kevin Love. The Knicks could trade Carmelo Anthony or Derrick Rose. The Sixers could trade one of their young guys. The Blazers could trade either Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum. The Chicago Bulls could trade Jimmy Butler. The Pistons could trade Andre Drummond. The rumors go on and on and on. Anyway, I think someone’s changing teams and I think that someone will be Carmelo Anthony. Don’t ask me why, but I think Carmelo to the Los Angeles Clippers makes total sense. Carmelo is a nightmare of a player and the Clippers are a disaster of a franchise. What’s more perfect than Carmelo going to LA and absolutely ruining the Clippers’ post-season run? I can totally see that happening.
Steve Cook: Yes, and if Carmelo Anthony has any luck at all it’s going to be him. I think it’s time for Phil Jackson to pull the trigger and set the guy free. The Knicks as they are currently constructed are an untenable situation and it’s time to cut Carmelo loose & start things over. As long as Carmelo & Phil are together, this thing isn’t going to work. Phil ain’t going anywhere, but he has to be wondering if this Kincks headache was really worth breaking up with Jeanie Buss for. The answer’s no, Phil. You should have stayed retired, or at least waited until Jimmy Buss figured out he couldn’t construct a winning Lakers team. But you had to go to New York. Bad move.
Todd Bergman: For the sake of the trade deadline being exciting and not just filled with expiring contracts being dumped, I will say yes. Let’s go with DeMarcus Cousins going to Boston in exchange for a couple of those first round picks that Boston has stored up for the last couple of years. The trade is a little strange because Sacramento is actually within a game and a half from the 8th playoff spot in the West. This is the closest that they have been in forever. Here’s to hoping that Sacramento uses these picks to draft better players than Ben McLemore or Willie Cauley-Stein.
Samer Kadi: I am currently leaning towards no, unless we loosen up the definition of a “major player,” but should it happen, I would expect for that player to be Carmelo Anthony, in light of the widely publicized New York Knicks drama.
Jeremy Lambert: Nah. We already got BROW AND BOOGIE!
4. The eight playoff teams out of the Western Conference will be…..
Dustin James: (1) Warriors, (2) Spurs, (3) Rockets, (4) Clippers, (5) Grizzlies, (6) Jazz, (7) Thunder, (8) Pelicans.
Steve Cook: Golden State, San Antonio, Houston, LA Clippers, Utah, Memphis, Oklahoma City, New Orleans
Todd Bergman: Golden State, San Antonio, Houston, La Clippers, Utah, Memphis, Oklahoma City and Portland.
Samer Kadi: The Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz, Memphis Grizzlies, OKC Thunder, and the Los Angeles Lakers. Wait, what? The Lakers didn’t turn out to be as good as many ridiculously predicted at the beginning of the year and are second from the bottom? Color me shocked. I guess it’s going to be the Sacramento Kings instead.
Jeremy Lambert: The current top seven and BROW AND BOOGIE!
5. The eight playoff teams out of the Eastern Conference will be……
Dustin James: (1) Cavaliers, (2) Celtics, (3) Raptors, (4) Wizards, (5) Hawks, (6) Pacers, (7) Pistons, (8) Bulls
Steve Cook: Cleveland, Boston, Washington, Toronto, Atlanta, Indiana, Milwaukee, Miami
Todd Bergman: Cleveland, Boston, Washington, Toronto, Atlanta, Chicago, Indiana, Milwaukee
Samer Kadi: The Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors, Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons. Of course, half those teams aren’t any good.
Jeremy Lambert: The Cavs and seven other teams.
6. Which team that is currently outside of the playoff picture has the best chance of sneaking in still?
Dustin James: The New Orleans Pelicans. They just traded for DeMarcus Cousins and the combination of Cousins and Anthony Davis should be enough to catapult the Pelicans into the playoff picture.
Steve Cook: The Miami Heat have been playing out of their minds for the past month and have gotten themselves two games behind the eighth place Detroit Pistons. They have to cool off somewhat eventually, but the teams they’re competing with won’t take much to beat. Detroit, the Chicago Bulls & the Indiana Pacers all seem ripe for the taking in the 6-8 spots. Personally, I’m rooting for the Heat, Bucks & Sixers to take those three slots. Nobody in those spots is going to win their series, so I’m rooting for the most entertaining teams to get in there. The Heat have Dion Waiters, the Bucks have the Greek Freak, and the Sixers have The Process Joel Embiid. All are entertaining in their own special way. I’d rather see those guys in the first round than anything being offered by the Midwest Triad.
Todd Bergman: Those teams would be Portland and Milwaukee. Both have stars on their teams that are able to guide their teams down the stretch. Let’s also be honest here in that, being the 8th seed in either conference is not a glowing reward. Both teams are within 2 games from the final spot and there is plenty of basketball still to play.
Samer Kadi: The Sacramento Kings. I’ve softened my stance on Demarcus Cousins as of late. He’s clearly the best big man in the league, and despite being a complete headcase, he is unguardable by most teams. If he continues to get it together, he can carry his team into the playoffs.
Jeremy Lambert: BROW AND BOOGIE!
7. Which team that is currently in the playoff picture has the best chance of shitting it all away still?
Dustin James: The Denver Nuggets are currently the eighth-seed in the West, but not by a very large margin. They are 25-31 on the season and are 14-18 against the rest of the Western Conference. Even with the trade for Mason Plumlee that they pulled off last week, the Nuggets aren’t guaranteed to make the playoffs. This team is still not very good and could end up falling apart at the seams at any moment. There are five teams that are staring up at the Nuggets and waiting for them to slip. The pressure is on now.
Steve Cook: I’ve already discussed Indiana, Chicago & Detroit in the previous question, so let’s go out West & point out the Denver Nuggets. A team with Danilo Gallinari as its top scorer is not a team I can have any faith in. Just below them are the Sacramento Kings, who at least have DeMarcus Cousins and the entertainment that involves. Anthony Davis could carry the Pelicans up to eighth place as well, but I’m leaning towards the Kings because their schedule looks a little bit friendlier. Unless they trade Cousins, then forget I said anything.
Todd Bergman: I feel like this could be the Indiana Pacers. They are so inconsistent and lack an ability to play defense. It is a shame because Paul George really is a brooding superstar but has little to no help on his team. 7 game win streaks are quickly forgotten by 4 game losing streaks. It will be very close for the Pacers as they finish as the 7 seed but barely make the playoffs.
Samer Kadi: The Chicago Bulls. Of course, due to my above answer, it would make more sense to go with the Denver Nuggets, since I’m expecting the Kings to sneak in instead, but the above question clearly says “shitting it all away.” Should the Nuggets slip out of the picture, it would be harsh to make that claim since they’re already overachieving and exceeding expectations. The Bulls on the other hand, are a complete disaster and a train-wreck of a team, despite a pretty reasonable roster. And if they can’t make it to the playoffs, in the Eastern Conference no less, “shitting it all away” wouldn’t begin to describe it.
Jeremy Lambert: OKC cause they do things like this.
8. Which player will be hoisting the MVP trophy at the end of the year?
Dustin James: LeBron James. Because he is the best basketball player alive.
Steve Cook: If Russell Westbrook keeps getting triple-doubles and single-handedly keeping the Thunder in the top eight of the Western Conference, it has to be him. He’s becoming a folk hero in Oklahoma City because he’s the one that stayed. OKC fans will treat this like the Thunder winning the ship.
Kevin Durant, sup Jeremy Lambert.
Samer Kadi: James Harden. Russell Westbrook is having the best individual season out of any player the league and I think what he’s doing is being unfairly taken for granted simply because he’s made the jaw-dropping look routine. Westbrook’s season has been nothing short of spectacular. At first glance, it might appear that his supporting cast is as good or even better than Harden’s, but that cast was built around Kevin Durant staying with the team. When Durant left, the Thunder found themselves in a terrible spot where the rest of the team didn’t really compliment Westbrook as much as it should, especially due to the lack of any halfway decent shooter. Meanwhile, James Harden’s supporting cast and D’Antoni’s offensive system are perfect for him, and he’s shining as a result. Of course, this is not meant to take anything away from Harden, as clearly, without him, none of that would be possible. He’s having a tremendous season and as a result of his team’s record, he will likely finish the season as the league MVP, even if my personal MVP would be Westbrook, as averaging a triple double for the season (with 30 points, no less) is preposterous. No amount of “stat padding” arguments can change that, since his team actually needs him to average those numbers just to compete, let alone win, and if ball hogging and stat-padding are enough to get those numbers, then maybe other 6’3 guards would do it, or any other player in any position for that matter. There’s also the fact that he’s been amazingly good in the clutch, which is very unusual for him.
9. Who’s your favorite to win it all?
Dustin James: The Golden State Warriors. Yes, it pains me to say this, but the Warriors are winning the NBA title. They just have way too many pieces and when it’s LeBron vs. The Four Horsemen of Golden State in the NBA Finals, it will prove to be too much for LeBron. Kevin Durant will be hoisting an NBA championship trophy at the end of the year and my good friend Jeremy Lambert will probably break his television. Look away Jeremy. Look away.
Steve Cook: Warriors. Curry? KD? Klay? Draymond? A insatiable desire to get the rings they thought they earned with 73 wins last year? They got it all, baby. The desire for revenge, especially if it’s the Cavs they meet in the Finals, will carry them to the top of the heap again.
Todd Bergman: Golden State. They have it all and a vendetta against Cleveland. If you did not know, Golden State blew a 3-1 lead last year when LeBron pulled his Vince McMahon card and got Draymond Green suspended for game 5.
Samer Kadi: The team with the 4 all-stars in its starting line-up.
Jeremy Lambert: BROW AND BOOGIE!
10. True or False. Kevin Durant is still a bitch.
Dustin James: True. I still believe if you’re going to leave a team for another team, you should be completely honest out of the gate so you can avoid all drama. If Durant would have went to Russell Westbrook after last season and told him he liked playing with him but he wanted a change of scenery, we probably could have avoided all the drama we had between those two this season. But no. Durant didn’t do that. Instead he choose to hide his desires and did everything behind his old buddies back because he was afraid of the consequences. That my friends, is the definition of a bitch.
Steve Cook: Kevin Durant going to Golden State in free agency isn’t something I had a problem with. It’s called free agency for a reason, holmes. Players, especially players at Durant’s level, can go wherever they want. Teams won’t pursue certain guys because of their salaries and their not seeming like a good fit, but if a free agent wants to go somewhere and a team wants them there, there’s nothing saying the deal can’t be made. There’s no reserve clause tying a player to the team that drafted him anymore, and from where I sit that’s a good thing. Durant had every right to leave OKC. OKC fans don’t want to hear that, but it’s the truth. Every free agent has a right to leave the team they were on. That’s how sports works.
That all being said, I lean towards “True”, and here’s why: KD hasn’t really owned his new status as the NBA’s top heel. He walks by former teammate Russell Westbrook at All-Star Weekend with his hood over his head, trying not to make eye contact. It was Westbrook talking shit and looking like the winner a couple of weeks ago, even though his team never got closer than twelve points. His mother’s out there trying to make like everything’s all right and being all “Can’t we all just get along?”. We all know Durant loves his mother, but that’s a bad look. When LeBron James made the decision to go to Miami, he owned it. He told us “Not one, not two, not three, not four…”. He embraced the hate. Durant needs to do that if he’s going to become the ultimate superstar people believe he can be. If the Warriors win this year, he needs to be at the forefront. He needs to be the reason they won the title. Not Steph. Not Klay. Not anybody else. It has to be Kevin Durant. Then, and only then, will Kevin Durant not be a bitch.
Todd Bergman: False. The guy has a right to play wherever he wants to play. This is the beauty of free agency. Plus, Durant will be back in Oklahoma City in like two years. I wonder if these upset Thunder fans, will welcome him back or if they will continue to whine.
Samer Kadi: False. Kevin Durant just made a basketball decision and he’s being unfairly trea… Uh yeah, sorry, couldn’t type that with a straight face. Kevin Durant is still a bitch.
Jeremy Lambert: True
And that’s it for us! See you on the court!