Obviously, this is a New Jersey Nets blog, however, the NAS crew absolutely love the NBA in general. So, every week, Sebastian, Mark, Devin, and myself will answer questions regarding the L.
1) The NBA has a “super team” in Miami and Chris Paul is angling to be traded to join forces with an NBA superstar to form another power team. Are these sort of teams good for the league?
Sebastian: I think with all of the talent in the league, seeing it happen to one team isn’t really a big deal. I think there are enough good teams and individuals to prevent teams like the Heat from going for 65-70 wins. With that being said, I am probably going to be sick of seeing the Heat on national television after like the first week of the season.
Mark: I’ve already been on the record as saying “no.” I’m a big fan of parity in sports and while I appreciate a team going out building a dynasty through the draft and smart trades, the idea that the NBA’s top players are colluding to play with each other is something I don’t think the league will ultimately be better for.
Devin: No. No, no, no. Before I launch into my anti-superpower tirade, I have to say that they probably make the league a lot of money, and in this instance we’re going to be privy to a lot of amazing basketball next year in Florida. They’ve got perhaps the best 1-2-3 punch in NBA history, and if CP3 goes to Orlando, we’ll have four of the top five players in the NBA (Paul, Howard, Wade, and LeBron) on two teams in the same state. Throw in Bosh, Rashard, and VC (if they don’t move him for Paul) and these battles are going to be akin to basketball warfare. They’ll be very, very fun to watch. That being said, I hate what this does for the league. As I mentioned in last week’s NORT, parity is dwindling and friendships are dominating. I don’t want NBA players to want to kill each other, or scream “F*** YOU, MAJERLE!” for no reason like Jordan did, but I would like some competitive pride. I just don’t see any when you’re conspiring to play with other superstars instead of pushing yourself to be better than them. I hope Oklahoma City wins the next four championships (the fifth, of course, to be won by New Jersey).
DV:I honestly don’t mind there being one super team in the league like the one Miami has. I think how it all went down is sketchy, but if David Stern doesn’t have a problem with it (and he usually has a problem with everything), then I guess we need to move on. I view the Heat like the New York Yankees in baseball at this point. Love them or hate them, you’re going to watch and pay attention to them. Ask yourself this question if you’re not a Miami Heat and/or LeBron James fan – do you want them to lose? I mean, not just against your team, but lose as much as possible. Or maybe in the first round of the playoffs when as the top seed in the east after they play the eighth-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers? Maybe you want them to lose in the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. Well, the thing is, if you’re anticipating them losing in whatever manner, and the trio of LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh haven’t even played an NBA game together yet, you’re paying attention… and the NBA loves it. There’s nothing wrong with having a team that other teams’ fans hate and want to lose.
2) Who is a non-superstar player to watch for in the upcoming season? One from each conference.
Sebastian: Western Conference: Pooh Jeter. Kid was a stud in summer league (even hit a game winner), and I just got done watching some game tape on him for a post over at NBAPlaybook. Jeter is someone who can score in bunches, and if he gets minutes off the bench with the Kings (and I think he will) he has a chance to be a really good story.
Eastern Conference: In the East, I want to see how J.J. Reddick continues to progress. He has expanded his game and improved every year he has been in the league, and it is going to be interesting to see what he adds to his game for next season.
Mark: Eastern Conference – Andrew Bogut. I really like what the Bucks are putting together and while Bogut started getting some more national attention last season, I think he might make the full leap to “superstar” this coming year.
Western Conference – Darren Collison. With Chris Paul on the trade block, and I’m guessing he will be traded even before the season starts or at some point this season, Collison becomes the main man in NOLA. He was a fine fill-in last year when Paul was down with injury, but I bet he rises to the challenge again.
Devin: In the East, it’s got to be Mike Miller. The guy has been relegated solely to spot-up shooter role, and with defenses who will be focusing 98% of their defensive strategy on three guys that leaves an awful lot of open looks from downtown for a guy who’s shot over 40% from 3 in his career. He’s got to be the Heat’s Steve Kerr. He may not shoot a lot of shots in the regular season, but come playoff time that team will need someone to kick it out to when they’re down 2, seeing doubles on LeBron and Wade, and only have time for one possession. Keep an eye on him. I will be. Runner-ups: Devin Harris, JaVale McGee, J.J. Reddick.
In the West, watch out for Michael Beasley. If he’s really stopped smoking marijuana as Kahn claims and he starts focusing on basketball (because, really, what the hell else is there to do in Minnesota?) he could potentially develop into that amazing scorer we all saw in college. He’s not going to have to share a lot of possessions – he’d probably grind up Darko and put him in a bong before he lets him chuck – so if he can keep his mind on the court and off the cannabis I’d expect huge numbers from him, even as that team flounders. Runner-ups: Stephen Curry, Matt Barnes, Tyreke Evans.
DV: In the east, I’m going with Gilbert Arenas, who is no longer a superstar. How much tension will there be when he and John Wall take the court together for the first time. Awkward! Arenas, seemingly in a snap of a finger, had the Washington Wizards totally ostracize him last season as they removed images of him around their arena, as if he never existed. However, probably mostly because they can’t move Arenas’ contract with its multi-years and multi-millions left on it, the team will have to try to make the best of it. Arenas will need to make the best of it. Can he dial down his ego and let a rookie take the mantle he once had – the most beloved Wizard? Or will he be as enigmatic as ever and cause a riff between himself and the organization as a whole, possibly even becoming a detriment to Wall’s development? Stay tuned!
In the west, Blake Griffin is the call. Last year’s first overall pick didn’t get to do anything in the NBA thanks to injury, so this will be his rookie season a chance for him to show what he can do. There was a lot of hype surrounding Griffin and how he would help the Los Angeles Clippers move forward in its development, forming a good core with Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, and Marcus Camby. Camby is gone now, but the Clippers are looking like a young team with talent that includes Gordon, Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and two incoming rookies – Al-Farouq Aminu and Eric Bledsoe. Could the Clippers actually be assembling a good competitive team? Will it be led by Griffin? Can’t wait to find out the answer!
3) Let’s take an obsessive David Kahn mentality here; if you were to become enamored with one position, which would it be and why?
Sebastian: I’d say center. The reason is that there are so many young centers out there that I would love to have on the Nets (I think Brook is a better player than them, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want them on the team). The biggest name is DeMarcus Cousins, but there are a few centers coming from overseas this year that I think would fit the Nets style of play.
Mark: Well, in all seriousness, PG… I know teams with a dominant big man tend to win more rings, but I think its essential for any team to build around a first class floor general. It’s no coincidence that the Nets finally became relevant after acquiring Jason Kidd, and I still don’t think the Celtics make the Finals last season without Rajon Rondo, “Big Three” be damned.
Devin: For me, it would have to be center. The 5 spot has less depth than any other position in the NBA, and most of that is just force of nature: there are a lot more 6’2″ guys in the world than 7’2″ guys. Also, centers generally play less time than their guard and forward counterparts per game; while all guards in the NBA played an average of 21.5 minutes per game and all forwards 20.7, centers only played an average of 17.7 minutes per game (via HoopData). If you’re able to fill that position with two to three quality guys, you can rotate effectively for 48 minutes (more if you can play one as a 4) and wreak havoc down low. Not to mention that every championship team of the last thirty-plus years has had a serious low post presence.
DV: It’s easily point guard for me. The point guard is an extension of the head coach, setting up plays on the floor, as well as possessing the ball most of the game and dictating the offense. Centers are important, as well as the rest of the positions, but it all starts with the point guard. Literally. And think about this, and you fantasy basketball players know this, the ability to handle the ball and get assists is a very valuable quality from non-point guard positions. One of the reasons LeBron James stands out is his ability to facilitate the offense. The same for Kobe Bryant. The same for Michael Jordan. These types of players are very rare (obviously), but the ability to take the inbounds pass, dribble the ball to your opponent’s half-court (sometimes under pressure), setting up the offense, and either passing into the post, shooting a bullet to a cutting teammate, or throwing it up for nasty alley-oop cram isn’t rare. Point guards do it all the time. Hmm, I’m starting to understand David Kahn now… and that’s scary.