1) Other than Kevin Durant, name three players that will be a part of the next generation of NBA superstars.
Sebastian: Of course, you have to consider John Wall even though he has yet to play a regular season yet. It is pretty obvious that the talent is there, and we are just waiting to see it. Derrick Rose is another one, and I think he will get there because of his work ethic. Rose works so hard to add pieces to his game every year, and he just seems to improve each year. For the final spot, I am going to go with Brook. Probably a long shot, but once the Nets start winning, Brook will start to get attention for his play. Also, he has one of those personalities fans love, people outside New Jersey just don’t know about it though.
Mark: For starters, is LeBron James still young enough to be the next generation? If not, I’ll go with three Calipari PGs: John Wall, Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans. All three will need a solid supporting cast around them to win it all, but I think all three are capable of being a part of that next batch of upper echelon players.
Devin: John Wall, John Wall, and John Wall. Okay, now that I’ve got that out of my system, let me choose two more – and my other two are point guards too. Firstly, I think Derrick Rose is an obvious choice. He’s got elite athleticism and is starting to really get a feel for the game. While there are still concerns about his jumper, and his assist rates are more Steve Francis than Jason Kidd, the league is favoring athletic point guards more than ever, and he’s the closest thing to the PG prototype we have. Except John Wall. (That was the last time, I swear.) The other guy I’d choose is Stephen Curry. The guy has absolutely zero issues with the spotlight and his jumper is so beautifully smooth. He doesn’t have a traditional release – he releases the ball lower than you’d expect from most shooters – but no one in NBA history made more threes in their rookie season than Curry did (166), and his percentage was third-best of all-time by qualifying rookies. He’s more of a combo guard than either Rose or Wall, and his instincts as a playmaker are questionable, but I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for outside shooters and a feeling that Curry will light up the league for the next decade, one three-pointer at a time.
DV: John Wall quickly comes to mind, and it isn’t primarily because of his skills on the court. He has the charisma and smile that Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant had/have that made them household names, which is the true measure of superstardom. If your grandmother knows who a certain player is, he’s a superstar, and I think that’s going to happen for Wall. Of course, it helps a ton that he’s also an athletic freak that can score and pass at a prolific rate, and a great teammate. Derrick Rose is still young and still has some upside, basically getting a consistent jumper will do big-time wonders for his game. He does everything else well and is a dynamic ballplayer on the hardwood. Rose is another athletic point guard that can score almost at will and is a blur on the court. It helps that he plays in the third largest media market as well. I really like Stephen Curry’s game… okay, no, I love it. He’s an excellent shooter and is growing as a point guard. He’s in the perfect offensive system to utilize his skills and he’s coming off a great rookie season where he really stepped up in the second half of the season. Curry was recently the darling of the NCAA Tournament a couple of years ago and has a baby-face that will endear him to female fans. However, all of the real hardcore NBA fans know that he’s an assassin on the court.
2) Recently Brandon Jennings has been making a lot of noise and thinks the Bucks should be considered the favorite in the Central. Thoughts?
Sebastian: It all depends on how Andrew Bogut looks when he comes back from injury. If he is playing like he is a top 3 center (which I think he is), then yes the Bucks could be favorites. Also, as a Net fan who wasn’t particularly enamored with CDR, I am interested to see how he does this year.
Mark: It’s not that farfetched. They were a lot better than I thought they would be this past season and I think both he and Andrew Bogut are both going to be better players this season. Chicago probably looks the best on paper, but depending on how things shake up health-wise, I can see the Bucks being there until the end.
Devin: He’s got to talk up his team, and he’s got a point. Bogut is one of the more underrated centers in the NBA (he’s definitely top 5), and although the team doesn’t boast any big superstars they’ve got great balance in their lineup from top to bottom. Adding Maggette was a huge boon since he’s a monster at getting to the free- throw line, something Milwaukee sorely lacked last year. All in all, I don’t think that they’re better than the Bulls right now, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them turn a few heads – especially as Jennings continues to develop that sweet stroke.
DV: The key for the Bucks’ success will be a full healthy season (and postseason) from Andrew Bogut. The former number one overall pick has really blossomed into one of the better centers in the league, when healthy. I think Brandon Jennings will improve and he can become a really great point guard in the coming seasons. I definitely love his swagger and last season he proved that he can back it up. Favorites in the Central? I still think the Chicago Bulls are the favorite. However, it wouldn’t be too surprising if the Bucks took the division crown when all is said and done, especially if the aforementioned two Bucks and Corey Maggette and John Salmons can share the ball and live in harmony.
3) Which players would you keep from the 2008 Olympics and 2010 World Championships teams to defend the gold in 2012?
Sebastian: I think you are going to have a large chunk of guys from the 08 team with just three guys from the 10 team. The three guys would be Westbrook replacing Kidd, Durant replacing Boozer, and Iguodala replacing Bosh. All three of these guys showed that they can do special things during international play. Kevin Love seems perfectly suited for international play, but if he can’t crack that ’10 lineup, he isn’t going to make the Olympic team.
Mark: I’m not really thinking scientific roster construction here, but just pulling names I want to see in consideration, I’d go with, from the 2008 team, LeBron, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, and Deron Williams and from 2010, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Love.
Devin: Here would be my lineup: point guards Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Chauncey Billups; shooting guards Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant; small forwards LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay; power forwards Chris Bosh, Kevin Love; Centers Dwight Howard, Brook Lopez. Alternates: Stephen Curry (guard alternate), Carmelo Anthony (swingman alternate), Derrick Favors (big man alternate). You start LeBron/Kobe/Durant/Bosh/Dwight (yes, LeBron at point) and rotate as the game progresses. I know I’m going star power here (although I’m leaving a few stars off the list, like Chris Paul and Deron Williams), but these guys really are the best basketball players in the universe. If they want it, this has to be the lineup. The only guy who should really complain about coming off the bench on this team is Wade, and the way everyone deferred to Kobe last time I doubt it would be a problem.
DV: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant are locks. Obviously they’re all wing players, so how about Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, and Brook Lopez, breaking the rules, as the primary post players. That’s seven players. Five more. We need point guards, so we’ll go with Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Derrick Rose. Ten down, two more spots. We’ll take another shooter in Stephen Curry, and another all-purpose big guy in Kevin Love.