Welcome back to The ‘Shop for another week of NBA talk with Jabari Davis and Lang Greene. They’ll be joined today by SBNation’s Kofie Yeboah to discuss Houston’s chances out West and potential playoff showdowns, the exploits of the Diminutive Dynamo (Isaiah Thomas) and whether a franchise can be built around him, how the Knicks should build around Kristaps Porzingis and more.
Jabari: Allow me to welcome you to the mix this week, Kofie. We certainly appreciate you taking the time to join us. In order to add a bit of perspective and context, how about starting us off by letting us know which player(s), team(s) and eras of ball made you fall in love with the game?
Kofie: Hey guys, thank you for having me on. I grew up watching the NBA on NBC. I didn’t have cable for a long time so I used to VCR the games and then play them over and over again. I would try to imitate the moves in my playroom. I watched the Shaq and Kobe Lakers, the Sacramento Kings and of course Allen Iverson. I also remember the Jason Kidd Nets and the Paul Pierce-Antoine Walker Celtics….. I need to find my VCR player, man.
Lang: Good to have you Kofie. Thanks for linking up with us. One thing I want to get your insight on is the Houston Rockets. Is this team for real? Entering the season, I believed the Los Angeles Clippers would be the sleeper team out West but they’ve been ravaged by injuries to their top guys. Houston is winning at a high level and their squad is buying into Mike D’Antoni’s system. But here’s the deal … relying on Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson to stay healthy is a risky belief system. Plus their style of play, outscoring people, would work versus 95 percent of the teams in the league – but as I’ve said in the past – no one is beating Golden State in a track meet to 130 points in a seven-game series. What do you think?
Kofie: To be honest, over these last few years I had been hoping the Clippers would get over the playoff hump just so people could stop slandering Chris Paul for never making a Conference Finals. But here we are. Now, as much as I love the Rockets and James Harden, I don’t think that they are the team in the West to dethrone the Warriors. You can see how hard it is to beat the Warriors in one game; it’s even harder for a team to have to beat them four times out of seven.
I’m going to divide it like this. If these two teams do play each other, of course it’s going to be a three-point shootout.
In the first game where the Rockets won these two teams combined for 88 3PA. Eighty. Eight. Thompson, Durant and Curry combined for 10-37 from the three-point line and the Rockets won in double overtime.
In the Warriors’ 125-108 win over the Rockets, they shot 15-38 as a team from distance (39.5 percent) and the Rockets shot 20 percent from deep. As good as the Rockets have been, they’re going to have to hope that Golden State goes cold for four of those seven games but I just can’t see that happening. Curry, Thompson and Durant are such explosive shooters that it’s hard to believe that all three will go that cold. When all three of them go cold it feels like there is something wrong with the balance of the universe and that just goes to show just how good they are at shooting the rock.
I also think that against the Warriors and, in general, that too much of the offensive burden will fall on James Harden and I think that the number of explosive options that the Warriors have at their disposal will just be too much for the Rockets to deal with in a seven-game series. I am praying that everybody on both teams stays healthy and I’ll be happy for a Rockets-Warriors, Rockets-Spurs or Spurs-Warriors series. Any combination of those three will be lit.
Jabari: We dance around this subject each week, but I think we can all agree that if Golden State is healthy, you probably aren’t beating them in a series. Point blank, period. Trouble is, I kind of had that same feeling last season. Especially when they were up 3-1, but I’ll let that go at this stage. I think the Dubs win a hypothetical series against the Rockets in six games, but each one will be some of the most exciting basketball you can ask for.
Let’s kick it out to the Eastern Conference for a bit. Last week, we got into whether the Knicks would ultimately wind up parting ways with Carmelo Anthony and each determined he would likely end up outlasting Phil Jackson in New York. This story doesn’t seem to be going anywhere (admittedly, in part, due to folks just like us), so I’d like to get your thoughts on the idea of finally moving Anthony in the upcoming offseason. In particular, what type of player(s) would you like to see them put around Kristaps Porzingis?
Kofie: Man I’m a huge fan of Kristaps Porzingis taking over the reigns as the Knicks go-to player. I’m also scared that the Knicks are going to aim too high and then end up not giving Kristaps Porzingis the right amount of help that he needs.
This looks like it is going to be a lit Free Agency period.
I’m not an insider, but I do have some people that I would love to see play with Porzingis. If the Knicks want to move on from Derrick Rose at point guard, then this is the free agency class to do so. This is a strong point class that features the likes of Steph Curry, Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry. Now being realistic, the names I just mentioned are most likely just going to be photoshopped into Knicks jerseys as they sign elsewhere (CAN I DREAM THO?). Looking past the 1st tier, Jeff Teague, Jrue Holiday and George Hill are also up for grabs and I wouldn’t mind seeing any of them playing with Porzingod. What do y’all think?
Jabari: Keeping it in the EC, has John Wall played himself into the MVP discussion? He’s averaging 23.1 PPG, 10.1 APG and 4.6 RPG while his team is in the midst of a 19-8 stretch. They are just three games behind the 2nd-seeded Toronto Raptors in the loss column. If they can maintain this and work themselves into a three or four seed, what about Wall finally getting some love?
Kofie: I honestly think that the MVP race is already too clogged up with LeBron James, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, but that doesn’t mean that we need to overlook the fact that John Wall is BALLIN right now. However, John Wall is always going to get love from me because we’re from the same place (Raleigh be the city where we like to do the dance.) And yes, he dunked all over my high school.
Lang: Slow down. Slow down. Slow down. John Wall is balling, make no mistake, but he is on a different tier compared to Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Those two guys are putting up historical seasons. What Wall is doing is great, but I can’t put him in the MVP discussion. Right now, the three guys in my MVP race are James Harden, Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. Yeah, I’ll go with the King to close out the top three slots. Funny how a guy averaging 26-8-8 is considered to be “saving” himself for the stretch run. Still the best player in the league, but I would give the MVP nod to … The Beard.
How do you guys feel about Isaiah Thomas and the Boston Celtics? Obviously, we’ve never seen another guy under 5’10 put up these type of scoring numbers in league history but are you guys sold he’s a legitimate franchise player for the Celtics to build around. Meaning, he’s going to be tasked with taking out the King over the next few seasons. Is he that type of player? Or do you need more game footage?
Kofie: It’s amazing how Isaiah Thomas is so cold with it. His speed, quickness and bag of tricks around the rim are really fun to watch. The way he uses his body and the rim to get his shot off is so inspirational to 5’9/5’10 guys like me everywhere. As for building the team around him? Eh, why not?
Either way, he currently has a cast and crew with Al Horford, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder among others so it’s not like everything falls on his shoulders. Oh, I almost forgot, they get the Nets pick next year, which looks like it’s going to be pretty high up there again. LeBron is getting older … the Celtics add another potential piece in the draft. Three years down the road … who knows? I’m excited about it.
Jabari: Understanding the fact that crowded MVP discussions can be a bit unrealistic, I just feel like if we are going to praise Kyle Lowry to the point where he’s at least mentioned as a secondary thought (deserving as well), then we can still give Wall the same acknowledgement for what he’s been able to do with bringing Washington back from an early grave.
The Isaiah Thomas story is fantastic. From being the final pick in the 2011 Draft to being a likely selection for the All-Star game for the second consecutive year. On the question about being a franchise guy, isn’t there a legit argument about him being the best player on a Boston roster that features several lottery picks and another two or three guys that were first-rounders? At any size, if you’re the best player on a team that is just a half game out of the second-seed and you’re throwing up 29.1 PPG while dishing out 6.2 APG and killing it in the fourth quarter and overtime on a nightly basis, then I don’t see how we can call him anything less?
Last topic of the day, and we’ll keep it in the EC as we wrap another great week of b-ball talk. I understand what LeBron James is doing in trying to motivate his teammates while “encouraging” management to make a move to bring in an additional playmaker, but part of me has to chuckle a bit when he complains about the team being a bit top-heavy. Factual, yes, but that’s going to be the case when four of your players are making $85 million.
For the record, I actually agree he’s playing too many minutes and carrying too much of the burden. At 32, you don’t want a guy in his 14th season necessarily racking up the type of taxing minutes he’s playing. His 37.6 MPG is the most he’s played since 2013-14. While this is a burden that comes along with prolonged greatness (‘heavy is the head that wears the crown’ and such), you’re going to want ‘Bron as rested as possible when heading into that playoff push. Is there a guy out there that can pick up some of the playmaking slack for these Cavs? Let me get your best options and a quick idea of how they can actually go out and get a guy if a trade is needed.
Kofie: If LeBron says he needs a playmaker, I’m going to do everything in my power to get him a playmaker. I’m not sure who the Cavs should get, but one thing I do know is that Nate Robinson wants a phone call.
Lang: I like the position LeBron is putting management in. Let’s not get comfortable. That’s the message and the appropriate approach to have when evaluating whether a team has what it takes to win a title. We can debate if the media was the correct platform to voice his opinion, but the Cavaliers only have two guys averaging over two assists per game. Golden State has six, with Klay Thompson (1.9) and Shaun Livingston (1.8) knocking at the door. The Cavaliers’ offense absolutely stops if Kyrie or LeBron isn’t creating.
But on the flip side, I also want LeBron to understand that this is the consequence of advising management to pay everyone their money come free agency time. Pay Kyrie Irving. Pay Kevin Love. Pay himself. Pay Tristan Thompson. Heck, let’s throw J.R. Smith some big bread too this past summer. Now a few months later, hitting the media with we’re “top heavy” seems a bit weak. If you pay everyone at or near max, guess what, you’re going to be top-heavy.
A guy Cleveland should have on their radar is Ish Smith in Detroit. He filled in admirably when Reggie Jackson was hurt earlier in the year. He is a well-traveled veteran that has averaged 7.3 dimes per 30 minutes for his career. He doesn’t have a great jump shot, but analyzing how he’s bounced around the league and adapted to every situation without drama speaks volumes about how the guy might respond if acquired midseason. Just saying.
Hoop Freaks – thanks for joining Kofie, Jabari and myself this week at The ‘Shop. Make sure you hit us up on Twitter and throw some suggestions for next week’s show our way. LG. out.
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