Obviously, this is a New Jersey Nets blog, however, the NAS crew absolutely love the NBA in general. So, every week, Mark, Devin, Justin, Danny, Vivek, and/or myself will answer questions regarding the L.
1) Who wins the respective Conference Finals?
Mark: In the East, my heart says the Chicago Bulls, but my brain says the Miami Heat. The Heat seemed to have figured out that whole “how will they close out a game” situation in the postseason, and I’m starting to think a team just can’t win a close game against these guys. And given that one of Chicago’s better scorers in Carlos Boozer is also perhaps their biggest liability defensively, I just don’t see how they’re going to score enough in the fouth quarter of a close game to keep pace with Miami.
In the West, I think the Oklahoma City Thunder are going to find a way to take down the Dirk-momentum train and the Dallas Mavericks. It’ll go all seven games, but I have to think a team with younger, fresher legs is going to prevail there.
Devin: Firstly, I think the Mavs win, no question. The way Dirk Nowitzki’s been playing, I can’t imagine Dallas not making it to the NBA Finals. I know Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant have been great, but Dallas’ attack was bordering on unstoppable before Dirk Nowitzki scored 48 points on 24 free-throws and 12-15 shooting. As for the East, I picked the Bulls before the playoffs started, but now I couldn’t tell you. The only thing I’m sure about after these two games is that this series is going to seven. Miami has two unstoppable scorers finally working in tandem, and Chicago has had an excellent defensive formula and ballerina/wizard Derrick Rose running the point all season. They’re as evenly matched as it gets. For what it’s worth, I do think the winner of the ECF will be your eventual NBA champion.
Justin: Miami and Dallas. Miami showed in Game 2 they can tighten the screws on defense, and Chicago doesn’t have a lot of answers for that. The Heat have enough length and athleticism to make finishing around the rim tough for Derrick Rose and Lebron and Wade can make enough plays on offense for Miami to win.
I saw enough from Dallas against the Lakers to pick them before this series started and game one only cemented those thoughts. While I think this series will stretch to at least six games, OKC has no answer for Dirk, and he’s crafty enough to continue getting himself to the foul line where he’s made 50 of his last 51 attempts.
Danny: Now that the Heat have stolen home-court advantage, Udonis Haslem is officially back, and they seem to have found a way to contain Derrick Rose, I’ll stick with my original prediction of Heat in seven. As for Thunder-Mavericks, I obviously loved Dirk’s Game 1 performance, but the fact that the Thunder hung so close in the game regardless was alarming. Still, I’ve got the Mavericks in six.
Vivek: The way things are looking right now, I would go with the Chicago Bulls and the Dallas Mavericks. Originally, I felt that the Heat could take down the Bulls in six, but I clearly underestimated Tom Thibodeau. The guy has stopped LeBron and Wade before and I believe that he can do it again. As for Dallas, Dirk is just unstoppable right now. He won’t get 40-50 a night (or at least, he shouldn’t), but the guy is a near lock to score 30 points against any team in the playoffs. The Mavs have the perfect combination of star power and depth, so this is their year in the West. However, KD will be back soon.
DV: I believe in the Chicago Bulls, especially since it seems like they haven’t peaked yet during the postseason. I know it’s in them and Derrick Rose isn’t the MVP for nothing. They have enough length in the frontcourt, especially from Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, in order to make an impact. Interior play will be the key, both with how players get to the rim and how players defend it.
Thunder up! I’m a big Durantula fan (who isn’t?) and if Westbrook can play under control, the Thunder will go far. What’s really good about the Thunder is that Eric Maynor is capable of running the team and James Harden off the bench can be devastating. Nothing against the Mavs, but OKC all the way.
I believe both series will go the full seven games.
2) Which two players do you think the Cleveland Cavaliers will end up taking with their first and fourth overall picks?
Mark: Kyrie Irving seems to be the consensus number one and I have no arguments there. For the fourth pick, I’m assuming Cleveland goes for a PF, which could be either Enes Kanter or Jan Vesely.
Devin: First pick is Kyrie Irving, without a doubt. Kyrie is a natural point and I see a poor man’s Chris Paul in him. He’s not as explosive as Derrick Rose or John Wall, but he controlled the floor comparably to those two in his short time at Duke. The only guy who could really challenge him is Derrick Williams, but Williams doesn’t have Irving’s upside and polish. Conversely, the fourth pick is wide open. My guess is that it’ll be a big man, as this draft has plenty of decent European bigs ranked in the top 10. Turkish center Enes Kanter, Czech forward Jan Vesely, and Lithuanian center Jonas Valanciunas are three guys they could look at.
Justin: I have no doubt at all that Cleveland will select Kyrie Irving with the number one choice. He may never be a superstar such as Derrick Rose or Chris Paul, but he has the potential to be an All-Star and in this draft he’s the closest thing to a sure thing. At number four, it gets a little trickier. If somehow Enes Kanter or Derrick Williams slip, then they select them. If not, they may go with an international player with mostly upside such as Bismack Biyombo or Jan Vesely.
Danny: Kyrie Irving obviously has to go No. 1. Baron Davis is only a short-term solution, so Irving would be a great pick to start building the team at point guard, one of the most important positions. And he’s also the best overall talent in the draft, so Irving is a no-brainer. As for number four, that’s a little less clear. If he’s still around, I’d recommend they pick Enes Kanter. While he hasn’t played 5-on-5 in public in about a year, he has shown great basketball skills rare for a post player that young.
Vivek: I think the Cavs should take Kyrie Irving and Enes Kanter. To me, Irving is the only player in this draft with superstar potential. The Cavs need a defined leader and Irving is that guy. Kanter is a guy that can score efficiently, has the size to become a paint force, and has a pretty smooth mid-range J. This guy can be an All-Star at the next level. Draft Express has Kyrie Irving as a Chris Paul/Mike Conley hybrid and has Kanter as the next Al Horford.
DV: At this point, I don’t see how the Cavs don’t take Kyrie Irving first. It would almost be a publicity disaster and they would hear it from the fanbase. Plus, I personally don’t think Derrick Williams is worthy of being the first pick because I’d get this Pervis Ellison (sans the long arms and small head) feeling from him. However, if the Cavs don’t believe in the bigs from Europe, they could take Williams first and then get either Kemba Walker or Brandon Knight with the fourth pick. Personally, I believe Knight has a shot of being better than Irving, but that’s me. In any case, it’s almost a no-brainer that Irving goes first. With the fourth pick, Enes Kanter would be a solid big, but Jan “The Dunking Ninja” Vesely or Kawhi Leonard would be nice picks as well. At this point, I’ll go with Leonard.
3) With his excellent numbers, should Kevin Love have made at least the All-NBA Third Team?
Mark: Love had an excellent season that probably went very unappreciated by the general NBA public, but those are some good names at the forward spots on the third team. I really like LaMarcus Aldridge as a player, and I feel he’s a better all-around player than Love, even if his rebounding numbers are nowhere close as gaudy. And Zach Randolph showed in the playoffs why he’s one of the league’s top PFs in the
Devin: I say it was the right call. Love is a great player with some specific, impressive skills, but when taken as a whole player, he wasn’t a top-6 forward in the NBA this season. The two forwards who made the all-NBA third team (LaMarcus Aldridge and Zach Randolph) were top players for playoff teams. Randolph ended up having quite the playoff run of his own, orchestrating a major first-round upset over the San Antonio Spurs and their king of power forwards, Tim Duncan. Love is a great player with some video-game numbers on a team that had the worst record in the NBA. Frankly, that’s not worthy of All-NBA anything.
Justin: Kevin Love put up great numbers for a team with a lousy record, its a classic dilemma, however I did not have a problem with him not being named to an All-NBA team. While his credentials certainly could have had him on one of the teams, the players who were selected all were worthy as well and no other player from a non-playoff team was selected.
Danny: Love had great numbers, but who would you take off that list? James, Durant, Gasol, Dirk, Aldridge, and Randolph all had better seasons than Love did. It’s a shame that he got excluded after such an impressive season, but the All-NBA voting is all relative. He got stuck in a bad year.
Vivek: This may sound crazy (very, very crazy), but I actually thought that Kevin Love should’ve garnered some MVP love. Think about this for a second: the MVP is supposed to be the player that is most valuable to his team. Take Love off of the Timberwolves and that team wins maybe five games. As expected, the statheads all back my opinion there. David Berri claims that the Wolves would win three games without Love. The guy definitely deserved third team honors for his ridiculous numbers and for the fact that his team was terrible, despite his historic season.
DV: It’s rare that any player on a losing team garners any sort of recognition other than, “Oh, he’s that good player stuck on a horrible team… too bad.” Love’s numbers were awesome for fantasy basketball enthusiasts such as myself, but when he didn’t get any real… well, love… I was neutral about it. At first I thought instantly of his stats, but then looking at the other forwards on the respective All-NBA teams and their team’s respective records, reality set in.