NBA Chat With Michael Scotto 12/30/16

scottoNBA Senior Writer Michael Scotto will hold this week’s chat on Friday at 12:00 p.m. EST. Drop in your questions about trade rumors, the NBA Draft, roster moves or anything regarding your team. You can also follow Michael on Twitter @MikeAScotto.

  1. Rick in Seattle

    I cannot get anywhere with Jabari, so I’m coming to you for some common sense insight.

    The Lakers have a fine collection of young talent on the offensive side of the ball. What they lack are Defensive players who can stop the other teams from scoring. This is not hyperbole, this is fact.

    How they acquire that defensive talent is not the debate. Whether they choose to do it via trades, free agency or the draft–it is clearly needed.

    Yes, I follow the Lakers closely, so I am clearly biased. But almost any objective person will support the fact that without a good defense, teams will never win a championship! And, isn’t that why we play the game?

    Writer Hannah Kulik (Lakers Nation) pointed this out yesterday in her well written article on young Lakers center Zubac. She confirmed what I have been harping on for weeks. The Lakers FO grossly overpaid Mozgov to be a defensive rim protector–which he is not. From game to game, he can score a few points, which is fine and again helps the offensive side of things., But, his defensive efforts are no better than Hibert last year.

    This young developing team NEEDS DEFENSIVE players–and Mozgov (and Deng) ain’t it!

    I am not talking about a waste of money in years 3 & 4 of their contracts, as their skills continue to diminish. I’m talking about their contributions right now!

    During this upcoming off-season, we will again see some free agent possibilities. And, as the young Lakers core continue to improve, their chances of landing a decent free agent will also improve. But when their salary cap is saddled with $34 mil in two unproductive player salaries, those opportunities will be severely limited.

    The Lakers FO really needs to find a new home for Mozgov and Deng. Both
    are grossly overpaid for what they are producing on the court. Anyone can check this out by looking at their stats.

    You don’t pay veteran players that kind of money to be good mentors in the locker room–they are paid to produce on the court! Can the Lakers front office not see this, and go about correcting their mistakes? They (and all the Lakers’ apologists like Jabari) need to accept this and move on.

    The Lakers’ young core will never realistically attain success without adding a few defensive players to the mix. How they do that is up to Mitch Kupchak & company. But they clearly need to do it! And moving two large unproductive salaries would be an excellent place to start.

    • Michael Scotto

      Rick, something tells me you’re not going to like some of the inflated contracts handed out this offseason when the salary cap increases again.

      Mozgov played his best basketball during the 2015 NBA Finals for Cleveland when he had three double-doubles against the Warriors. Lakers management probably thought he would replicate those numbers once he returned to a starting role, which has not happened to this point.

      I was more blown away by the Luol Deng contract. I understand the need for a veteran mentor to Brandon Ingram, but not a veteran who appears to be on the decline on a four-year, $72 million deal.

      Regarding the trade market, it’s relatively quiet around the league due to the parity in the East from the No. 5 – 12 seeds and in the West from the No. 8 – 11. Even if the Lakers wanted to move either guy, their trade value is low right now.

  2. Rick in Seattle

    I know this will sound a bit like sour grapes, but it needs to be said.
    Who in the Lakers Front office is currently making personnel decisions?

    There is no argument that the Lakers have put together a talented group of young core players. However, has anyone even mentioned the players that they had previous opportunities at and did not pursue? Let’s look at a couple examples in the last few years.

    They had a real chance to draft Kristaps Porzingis in 2015. Instead they chose Russell. Porzingis has not only become a starter at PF for NYK, but looks now like the steal of that draft.

    Three years ago, the Lakers had Hassan Whiteside in camp, but for some reason decided he was not worth keeping. Whitside has gone on to be a very effective rim protecting center, and potential Eastern Conference all-all star for Miami.

    Also, around 3 years ago, the Lakers acquired wing Kent Bazemore in a trade. He was not considered a difference maker by the Lakers Front office at the time and therefore was not retained. Bazemore has gone on to be a starter and a more than adequate defensive wing player for Atlanta.

    These are only three examples (there are more) of what I would call overlooked opportunities. Consider what the current Lakers roster (and their current win-lost record) would look like if all three of Whiteside, Porzinis, and Bazemore were currently playing in LA.

    It is clearly understood, if Whiteside & Bazemaor had been on the roster from the beginning, the drafting decisions by the Front Office over the last three drafts would have been different. That’s understandable.

    I also realize that many of you will say to me, “Well hind sight is always 20-20”, and yes I will concede that there is some of that.

    But how many personnel mistakes does it take before we begin to start to have questions regarding their supposedly superior personnel dept?

    While I have great admiration for Mitch Kupchak, with 5 Championships in the last 15 years. Nevertheless, it raises a lot of questions in my mind.

    We are all subject to making the occasional mistake, but I’m beginning to have more and more doubts about this historically skilled front office.

    Hopefully the current rumors about Donatas Motiejunas come to fruition. He could make an interesting addition to the Lakers young core.

    • Michael Scotto

      The Lakers wanted a point guard and the 76ers took the safer route at the time. Any foreign player who shoots jumpers get stereotyped as “soft,” but Porzingis’ brother – Janis – played professionally and was there to guide him, which makes a huge difference in his development. Russell’s passing ability had Lakers fans thinking of the “Showtime” days. Okafor was hyped as a top prospect for longer than Porzingis despite defensive holes in his game.

      As for Whiteside, 29 other teams could’ve signed him, but didn’t. He had character concerns and ended up in the perfect situation in Miami where he was developed and nurtured slowly.

      Kent Bazemore was a guy I thought they could’ve kept, but he found an ideal situation in Atlanta where he got consistent minutes off the bench before becoming a starter when DeMarre Carroll left for the Raptors in free agency. Timing is everything in the NBA. Bazemore could’ve stayed in LA, but might not have gotten the same opportunity.

      Motiejunas doesn’t move the needle for me either way. There’s a reason why he didn’t end up getting traded at the deadline last season and the Rockets decided to let him walk as an unrestricted free agent.

  3. Thomas Johnson

    Is former Nets GM Billy King the worst GM in the history of the NBA?

    • Michael Scotto

      It’s hard to call King the worst GM in league history since the 76ers did appear in the Finals during his tenure. However, when I look at King’s tenure with the Nets, there’s no doubt he mortgaged the future for a one-year run for the title that fell woefully short. Now, Sean Marks and the new management must build from the ground up. Trading for Garnett and Pierce was exciting for Brooklyn, but the too many valuable assets were given away. Even if KG and Pierce stayed longer their better days were behind them.

      David Kahn is certainly up there in that conversation.

  4. Thomas Johnson

    Based on the first half of the season, which first-year players have outplayed their draft pick number?

    • Michael Scotto

      Malcolm Brogdon has easily been the player who has most outplayed his draft pick number after going No. 36 overall to the Milwaukee Bucks. He’s shooting 44 percent from downtown and has become a solid contributor off the bench in Milwaukee. Just ask LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. He posterized both of them.

  5. Thomas Johnson

    Has Kevin Durant improved the Warriors as much as many thought he would when he signed with them?

    • Michael Scotto

      Kevin Durant has made the Warriors the ultimate NBA 2K17 offensive cheat code and has been a better rim protector than I anticipated, but this means nothing now. Durant’s impact will be weighed on whether Golden State wins the title or not, plain and simple.

  6. Thomas Johnson

    Now that the monkey is off LeBron’s back (pressure to win in Cleveland) and the fact that Cleveland has to face easier teams in the East, are the Cavs the favorites to win the finals?

    • Michael Scotto

      The Cavaliers are the clear favorite in the East to advance to the NBA Finals where they’re expected to meet with the Warriors for the third straight time. I don’t think the pressure is fully off of LeBron since he’s competing with Michael Jordan to be recognized as the best player all-time. If LeBron and the Cavs beat the Warriors’ superstar foursome of Curry, Durant, Thompson and Green, it will be recognized as a title for the ages.

  7. Thomas Johnson

    I think Steven Adams is by far the hardest player in the NBA. Who are your top 3 toughest players in the league right now?

    • Michael Scotto

      My top three would be Russell Westbrook, Jae Crowder and Jimmy Butler. Those three play both sides of the ball with equal amounts of energy and give it their all every game. Tony Allen and Joakim Noah are also noteworthy for their defensive intensity and hustle.

  8. Thomas Johnson

    By the end of the season, do you think Mark Cuban will be calling Russell Westbrook a superstar after all?

    • Michael Scotto

      He will be calling Westbrook the MVP if he continues to average a triple-double.

  9. Aristotle

    Heya Michael,

    Justise Winslow: Another MKG or can Miami turn him into a Battier2.0 or more?

    • Michael Scotto

      I don’t get the sense Winslow will shoot the 3-pointer as well as Battier, but he’s more athletic. MKG, despite all the flack he gets for his shooting form, is a career 46 percent shooter and averages 9.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Winslow is currently shooting 40 percent in his young career while averaging 7.2 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. I think Winslow can be a solid player. He is trying to find his niche in the league. As Miami rebuilds, he’ll be given an opportunity to expand his game and see what he can do. The ball is in his court to make the most of his opportunity.

  10. Billie

    Who are some realistic trade targets that Magic fans should be paying attention to? Thanks!

  11. Charlie

    Do the Mavs move DWill and go in rebuild mode? What contender could use him? Cavs? Rockets? Clippers?

    • Michael Scotto

      Dallas should absolutely gauge the trade market on the value for Andrew Bogut and Deron Williams who are both in contract seasons. I’d expect more teams to call on Bogut because rim protection is a must in the playoffs. In addition, I’d also see if teams are interested in Wesley Matthews, JJ Barea and Devin Harris. Dallas is going to need to rebuild and those guys are solid veterans who can help contenders.