Obviously, this is a New Jersey Nets blog, however, the NAS crew absolutely love the NBA in general. So, every week, Mark, Devin, Evan, Justin, Danny, and myself will answer questions regarding the L.
1) Kevin Durant seems to be having a “slow” start considering all of the praise and hype thrown his way before the season, particularly when it comes to preseason MVP predictions. That said, is he even the MVP of the Oklahoma City Thunder? Overall, Russell Westbrook is looking strong and has a higher PER (25.1) compared to Durant (20.0).
Mark: Well, it’s a little chicken or egg here, but does Westbrook even put up his numbers without a player as good as Kevin Durant on the court pretty much demanding the attention of opposing defenses 24/7. Don’t get me wrong, Westbrook is a very good player and would love someone with his talent on the Nets, but Durant is the NBA of that team, and by season’s end, I think he’ll be MVP of the entire league.
Danny: I think Durantula is pressing a little bit now that, for the first time, he’s bearing the weight of lofty expectations on his shoulders. His team gave the Lakers a run for their money in the playoffs last year, and he was the clear leader at 21-years-old for the USA Basketball team in the World Championships this summer. Taking all that into account, the slow start isn’t a total surprise. But I don’t anticipate that his slump (if you can really call it that) will last much longer. He’s only shooting 36 percent from the field and 30 percent from beyond the arc, and there’s no doubt those rates will normalize to past levels over the course of the season. Not to mention his block, steal, and rebound numbers are up so far this year. As for the comparisons to Russell Westbrook, he showed that he can also be a great player in this league. But he won’t be the MVP of that team until he can hit jump shots regularly and convert in late-game, high-pressure situations. If you’re just going to go on PER, Pau Gasol was the MVP of the Lakers last season.
DV: Durant will be fine. Perhaps he’s dealing with the high expectations, not only on the court, but off the court as well. Durant has basically been labeled the Golden Child (Numpsi!) and juxtaposed to the “evil” LeBron James, which heightens Durant’s paragon status. While Westbrook will be a great player in the NBA, he’ll never be as naturally talented as Durant. However, a Scottie Pippen type of role is more than achievable for Westbrook. Considering Pippen is an NBA Hall of Famer that ain’t bad at all.
2) On Wednesday night, a highlight of Gilbert Arenas throwing an alley-oop to John Wall was symbolic on a lot of levels. Could it also symbolize the cohesion of the duo or is it a foregone conclusion that Arenas is out of DC ASAP?
Mark: I can’t envision a scenario where the Washington front office can really ever trust Arenas to be a building block for that team again. So I guess we can enjoy some of the chemistry that’s forming with him and John Wall in the interim, but Arenas will eventually be a goner in DC. No question.
Danny: It was a meaningless display of acrobatics and athleticism. The sooner Agent Zero swallows his pride and hands control of this team over to Wall, the sooner the Wizards can start developing into competitors. Arenas’ style of play will not allow him to play off the ball with Wall running the point, as he needs to have the rock in his hands to be most effective. He’s no longer needed in D.C.
DV: Arenas has already said that he’s already ruined his legacy with the Wizards and there’s no reason for him to stand in Wall’s way. I’d like to believe that the humility can be maintained, but it’s tough to because Arenas has been a top dog in the league and once he starts to shine again, entitlement might seep into Arenas’ play. It’s best to cut the potential power play and just ship Arenas off if possible.
3) Michael Beasley. Is all he needed was a change of scenery? Can he finally have the type of season we all think he can?
Mark: So many people were picking Beasley to be a “sleeper” this off-season that I wouldn’t even be surprised at this point if he put up a very good season. With that said, his scoring is up from his first two years in the NBA, but his rebounding numbers are down and his turnover ratio is currently pretty ghastly, so let’s hold off before we declare his career resuscitated.
Danny: A preface – what is it with wacky dreadlock pigtail hairdos in Minnesota? First Latrell Sprewell, then Troy Hudson, and now Michael Beasley. But anyway, it’s certainly helping Beasley that he can establish himself as a true feature on offense. In Miami, he was just a complement to Dwyane Wade. Now he can do whatever he wants like he could at Kansas State. To be honest, though, I think it has a lot to do with his new setting. In Miami, there were too many off-the-court distractions that he lacked focus and dedication to the game. Now that he’s in basketball Siberia, he has nothing but basketball. It seems to be working out.
DV: Beasley is once again “the man,” which is how he’ll work best. Sure, Kevin Love is a beast on the boards, but he isn’t one of those players that needs to score to be effective. Beasley, however, is at the very nature a scorer and needs to put the ball in the basket. Since there really isn’t any other players on the team that needs to be the alpha player, Beasley should flourish with and lead the T-Wolves pack.