So what I am going to try to do every now and then on this blog is have four questions per blog. Each question will have four sports fanatics answer questions I am pondering about the sport. Since it’s the first one I decided to go all out and do 25, but I swear I’ll keep it to four usually. And since the NBA season is about to start soon I figured let’s give it a shot with the NBA. Special Thanks to Ryan Berlin (Berlintee), Allen Ginzburg, and Mike Epstein for helping me out on the first one.
1. Does the NBA lose credibility with the vetoing of the CP3 trade?
AG: Absolutely. The NBA is essentially interfering with management decisions with these vetoes and the reasoning is clear, small market owners are seeking to prevent L.A. from getting another top player. The NBA should have no role in trades unless there was clearly something wrong/illegal done. In this case, it is clear CP3 is leaving and these trades gave them the best chance of getting some value back for him. The NBA seems more concerned about CP3 staying there this year then what would benefit either team.
ME: Absolutely. Aside from the majority of owners quashing a deal that was beneficial to a large market team (Lakers), the league’s ownership of the Hornets was an inherent conflict of interest. Stern tried to justify this by saying that the GM and management would have total independence, combined with the idea that the Hornets would be sold over the summer. The fact that the league’s first action after agreeing to a Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players was to take such draconian actions against a top 5 player makes them look like selfish fools.
RB: No David Stern is doing of him what his owners asked, to keep small market teams competitive. The Hornets are a team that is in real trouble right now….If they trade Paul and get no marketable players back in return then they will be royaly screwed…The deal with the Lakers and Rockets did just that. Scola, Odom and Martin are all on the wrong side of 30, or close to it Martin is 28, and you can’t market a team off of any of them. Chris Paul is the only thing keeping the Hornets alive right now. At least with the Clippers deal they were getting some young pieces and would have preached the future with the draft pick, Bledsoe and Kamans money coming off the books at the end of the season.
MF: Yes the NBA is taking a hit in its credibility. It’s a problem when the NBA owns one of its entities and that entity is now ran by the other 29 owners. David Stern is acting as interim owner, but has to listen to the input of the other owners, who unfortunately have biases for their owned properties. Thus no trade will ever have full consent. Along with the fact they are trying to sell a franchise its easier to sell with a franchise player than without. So the NBA is looking for the full dollar. Most of these trades generally the team losing a superstar is trying to salvage up to .75 cents on the dollar in talent terms. No franchise is going to give up a star in order to get CP3 just common knowledge.
2. Where would the best fit for CP3 be? Where do you think he will end up?
AG: I think he would fit in very well in NY with the fast-paced style. I thought he would end up with the Clippers, but since the NBA vetoed that trade as well.. he might end up almost anywhere.
ME: I think Paul would fit well on a team with lots of athletic players, such as the Hawks or Nuggets. He doesn’t need a big scorer like Kobe or dominant post player like D12 - Paul is the one who initiates offense with his playmaking abilities. That being said, I think he’ll end up on the Lakers, Knicks, or Mavericks, depending on who is creative enough to offer him the most money.
RB: The best fit for Paul I believe would be the Clippers. Pair him with Blake and possibly Eric Gordon, if they can keep his name out of trade talks, with Chauncey Billups coming off the bench. Then they could trade or waive Mo WIlliams. They arent a championship team yet but they sure would be close. The compo of Paul and Griffin would be dynamic for years to come, Stockton-Malone 2.0. The rest of the league is getting older, Kobe, Duncan, Garnett, Dirk, Nash, etc…Tjhe time will come when Griffin and Paul will dominate the NBA.
MF: CP3 would fit best with the Clips. Smart money would be that’s where he ends up. CP3 is the perfect complement to Blake Griffin, plus who wouldn’t want to see him toss up some great alley oops. Sorry Laker fans having Kobe and CP3 with just Bynum in the front court is not a winner, just a playoff pretender at best.
3. Where would the best fit for Dwight be? Where do you think he will end?
AG: Howard would fit in well with most teams, but this is a move the Lakers really need to make. If they get rid of Bynum, Howard would fit in perfectly and give them a needed star.
ME: I think Dwight would be a great fit on a team filled with shooters and solid defenders who can space out the floor and allow him to dominate down low… kind of like the Magic in 08-09. It was pretty surprising that the Magic responded to losing a close Finals with the Lakers by re-tooling their entire team. I think he will eventually end up in LA, Shaq-style.
RB: The best place for Dwight Howard is……..Orlando. he has built a name for himself there and is the best center in the league. He can dominate both ends of the floor and at times can be unstoppable. h He has been compared to Shaq his entire career so far and if he leaves Orlando they will forever be linked. If he stays with the Magic, those comparisions will stop. If they can build around him they will be able to compete against the elite team in the east..Unfortunately in today’s league players have all the power and can voice their displeasure and force trades. I don’t think Howard stays in Orlando. I don’t know where he will end up but I only hope it’s not LA. I believe Howard can save his image and his city. Kobe was unhappy for quite sometime in Orlando and teams were giving the Lakers the godfather offer for him left and right…But Mitch Kupchak made some trade built around Kobe correctly and he now has more rings than Shaq and is a Laker for life.
MF: The best fit would be Lakers, provides athleticism in the front court. He would have Kobe to take over the scoring load and crunch time baskets. This leaves Dwight to do what he does best easy put backs, rebounds, and defense.
4. Do you think the NBA lockout had any impact on how free agency will play out in the future?
AG: I think it will have an impact this year, but not much further.
ME: I think the main impact was the owners and league management losing a great deal of respect, from both players and fans. While owners tried to get concessions to pay the players less and simultaneously have more control over their franchise players (i.e., making it more difficult for a Durant or Lebron to leave their original teams), now players will respect owner’s wishes even less. We will see many more Carmelo style dramas demanding trades, and only player friendly owners (Mark Cuban, Jerry Buss) will maintain a semblance of respect.
RB: Absolutely. This NBA season is FUBAR. Clearly things between the players and owners are still hot. Nobody got what they really wanted but if the lockout continued everybody would get screwed and miss out on a lot of money. Things are not resolved and everybody is still mad. Because they were afraid of losing more money players and owners rushed into a deal and forced the CBA. Teams are forcing trades and overpaying for free agents, teams are not making calculated smart moves. Training camp isnt long enough for teams to build chemistry and this season is going to be a disaster. Free agency is forever changed because there will no longer be teams with a “big-three” because teams wont be able to afford them. Which is why sign and trades are the hot thing so far this offseason.
MF: In all honesty I think the saying “SSDD” applies here. Same stuff different day. Free agents are still going to collude together. Trifectas seem like the new fad, and superstars are going to force their way out if they are not happy. If you draft a superstar nowadays it looks like you have 4-6 years to build a contender, otherwise that player is gone. It’s rare to have a Derrick Rose or a Kevin Durant, so appreciate them if you can.
5. Is the addition of 3 superstars the key to winning NBA championships?
AG: Not at all. 3 superstars end up taking up too much room. I would much rather have 1 superstar and 2 other elite players that fit in the right positions.
ME: It depends on the mix. Mixing Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett worked well because they complimented each other and had committed role-players who blossomed into better players because of the Big Three’s presence. Lebron and Wade had similar games which commanded the ball a great deal, neither of which fits with Bosh’s dependence down-low; as a result, the Heat struggled to win in the 4th quarter. The Mavericks won with a team based on one Superstar (Dirk) and many solid role-players. The right mix of a Big Three can do it, but NBA games are 5 on 5 for a reason.
RB: No, the Mavs proved that last year. Dirk was their leader and they had the perfect compliments to him. If he wanted to take it inside and kick it out he had Jason terry to knock it down (not a superstar) If Dirk wanted to take it outside he had Tyson Chandler to clean up the mess and do the dirty little things on defense that nobody else would do. Jason Kidd’s and Shawn Marion’s superstar days are far behind them. Dallas had the right mix of talent and chemistry. Miami is a mess. They have two superstars and one glorified role player. Who takes the game winning shot, everybody wants the ball. Miami has $60 million tied up in three players. They simply can’t afford to correctly build around LeBron, Wade and Bosh. If the Heat can add another legitimate inside presence to clean up the garbage and play a little d then they might be able to get to where they want to be. The first theing they need to do is establish whose team it is. LeBron needs to take a step back and hand the reigns to Wade. Once they do that it will help them identify what kind of team they are and push them over the mountain top.
MF: Not necessarily but it’s the new fad, so I am going to say yes. It has to gel right though a la Boston 2010. You need three pieces that work together well. At the same time never putting ego above team. And role players need to provide defense and occasional buckets when Big 3s are struggling against defenses.
6. How many more championships must Kobe win in order to be mentioned in the same breath as Michael Jordan?
AG: I think some people would start talking about it if he got to 6, but I don’t believe he would fit. Kobe’s first 3 championships will always be tainted in that comparison because Shaq was the best player on the team. Kobe will be remembered as one of the top players of all time, but there will never be another Jordan.
ME: By pure numbers, ESPN will start to run specials once Kobe hits 6. But in reality, Kobe has always depended upon the presence of a dominant big man (Shaq, Pau) when he actually won championships. Although Jordan had Pippen, the Bulls couldn’t win when the team was based around Pippen without Jordan. Jordan won the key games and willed his teams to victory; Kobe’s championships were driven by his ability to defer to his teammates instead of trying to score every one of the team’s points (i.e., the 81 point game).
RB: Jordan is one of a kind…It doesnt matter how many rings Kobe wins. there are certain elite players of all time and Kobe is good but can not be mentioned in the same breath as Magic, Jordan, Kareem, Russell, Bird and so on….
MF: Its not going to happen ever. Kobe has 3 “tainted rings” due to his partnership with Shaq. Jordan never had big men help and he dominated the league to a level we have and may never see again. Kobe has 1-2 years left of being a superstar and maybe another 3-4 for his career. He would have to win at least 2-3 more rings I feel to be in that convo, its not feasible especially with the recent offseason moves.
7. If you were to make a trifecta of 3 current NBA players who would they be?
AG: Howard, Durant and Chris Paul (Only because of Kobe’s age, also would consider subbing Wade for KD).
ME: Chris Paul, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin. Although I worry about the defense a bit, their games and offensive ability would be absurd. Chris Paul to Griffin alley-oop? Nuff said.
RB: My trifecta would be Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard. I would surround them with another scoring shooting guard who can knock down the three ball like Aaron Afflalo and a power forward who can help grab rebounds and do a little bit of scoring Paul Milsap. I have my true point guard who is a pass first guy and can score when he is need to. I have my first scorer in Melo and my dirty work guy in Howard. I think Afflalo and Milsap are relatively inexpensive compliments to those three. Westbrook, Afflalo, Melo, Milsap and Howard is a championship team and could compete with anybody in the league.
MF: CP3 Durant Howard. See the answer to 5, you need selfless players who won’t have egos or care if they aren’t getting the exact amount of touches. They also need to not overlap in function like D-wade and LBJ. With that said each person serves a function with my 3. Durant offense great defender with lank; think Tayshaun but not overrated, CP3 offense initiator/distributor and steal master, and Howard master of the boards with easy put backs.
8. #1 seeds for East and West? Eastern Western Conference Champions? Overall Champion?
AG: Hard to answer until the free agency is finalized. Based on how teams are now, I would say Miami and Dallas. I think they would win their conferences and Dallas would be crowned champ. However, I have a feeling L.A. and NY may make moves that will put them in contention.
ME: Assuming all stays the same, Heat will be 1 in the East and Mavericks 1 in the West. Bulls take the East, Thunder take the West, and D Rose leads the Bulls to a game 6 victory.
RB: Chicago-San Antonio I think Dallas Repeats….
MF: Mavs and Bulls. Heat win East. Mavs win west. Heat beat Mavs in the finals.
9. Which team is the Cinderella team this year?
AG: Not sure they qualify as Cinderella, but I suspect OKC will be even better and give the top teams some serious trouble.
ME: Kings - look for Tyreke Evans to re-emerge as a rising star and D Cousins to get his stuff together (relatively of course - he didn’t change his name to Meta World Peace or tattoo and NBA championship on his biceps before the season began). Runner-up - Denver. Although they lost K-Mart and JR Smith temporarily to China, thats probably addition by subtraction. With Nene, Danillo and many solid role-players swallowed up in the Carmelo trade, look for George Karl to surprise
RB: If the trade for Chris Paul is made official my Cinderella team will be the Hornets. Kaman and Okafor give them a lot of size upfront…and with Ariza and Gordon they will score a decent amount of points but the Hornets are going to win games with their D. They are going to clean the glass and I think surprise a lot of people.
MF:Since it’s a short season with many back to backs you need to have depth and youth. In a retched Eastern Conference it wouldn’t surprise me if a team like the Indiana Pacers jump to the 5th seed, especially if Orlando loses Howard.
10. Which team will be a under achiever this season?
AG: San Antonio.
ME: Knicks - Carmelo doesn’t mesh well with Amare, and neither of them can play defense. Their roster is further handicapped by Dolan’s idiocy.
RB: My underachiever team will be the Knicks. There is a lot of hyper surrounding them and playing in New York with those fans and pressure wont help. I don’t think Mike Bibby is their answer at pg and any good. Jerry Colango made a mistake using his amnesty on Chauncey. The Knicks need a true point guard who can lead the team and distribute the ball correctly to Melo and Amare. Bibby cant do that. In addition to having no point guard the Knicks have no other weapons. They blew their load acquiring Chauncey and Melo and now have nobody left to help shoulder the load. They Knicks are going to be playing two on five basketball all season and that is not going to work in the playoffs. They will be exposed and lose in the first round.
MF: I’ll say Knicks. Two ball stoppers in Amare and Melo who haven’t exactly meshed together. Along with the rotting corpse that is know as Mike Bibbey as pg. This just screams disaster.
11. Is Kevin Love a franchise player?
AG: Yes, if you put the right guards around him.
ME: No - he’s a fantastic player, and a solid mature captain to have, but his game as a flex-4 is complimentary. Would you hesitate to trade him for Pau, Amare, or Griffin? Didn’t think so.
RB: No Kevin Love is not a franchise player. He is a good player, possibly a 20-10 player but he is not a dominant franchise guy.
MF: No he is a second banana, but a very good one to be honest. I am not sold you can build a franchise around him. The Timberwolves wouldn’t be a bottom dweller if this was the case.
12. Can Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook be able to win a championship or should OKC sell on Westbrook while trade value high?
AG: I would keep Westbrook, but not sure they can beat their competition yet.
ME: They can definitely win together, but chances would be better with a Chris Paul or Deron Williams. Durant and Westbrook are a good match because both can generate offense or be playmakers - hard combo to beat. Westbrook was a knucklehead at times last season, but he’s got plenty of time to learn and mature.
RB: There is no way a player like Westbrook can be traded…They already have Durant on board long term and can never let Westbrook get away. He is the perfect compliment to Durant. They have some nice role players in Harden and Perkins but they need a true inside presence. Right now they are a jump shooting team and think back over time not many teams have won a championship without a dominant bigman. If OKC can get the right piece and a good PF or Center to go along with Perkins the Thunder could be unstoppable. They already have arguably two of the best players in the NBA. They can win a championship they just arent there yet. Like I said before with the rest of the league getting older the Thunder’s window is quickly approaching.
MF: This team is built to win now and they are one of the few real contenders in my book. They need the Russell of the first half of the 2010 season the one more concerned with distributing. He can’t imitate Derrick Rose; the difference is Derrick Rose has no offensive help, he literally is option 1, 2, and 3 on offense unlike Westbrook.
13. What active NBA player assuming you could take them at their best would you choose to build a franchise around?
AG: Tim Duncan, although Kobe is a tempting choice. NBA is currently about big men, and Duncan revolutionized the PF position
ME: Lebron. As much as I hate to admit it, hes got more talent and potential than any other player. With a decent point guard, big man and shooters and a clear head, Lebron should be unstoppable. Keyword should.
RB: I would build a team around Dwight Howard. Everything starts up front. Aside from Michael Jordan’s Bulls every team of the last 20 years who have won a title have had a dominant big man, Duncan, Shaq, Hakeem, Dirk, Ben Wallace (yes in 2004 Wallace was dominant) and Garnett. Beyond that you have Wilt, Kareem, Walton, Moses, McHale and Russell. Howard does it all. Surround him with the right players, a true pg, I think Jameer Nelson is more of a sixth man than anything else. Give him some help inside Glen Davis will be a nice addition, and some perimeter players who can score and then he will be in the right situation.
MF: Tim Duncan. In the NBA you always win with big men. 4 Championships and can play both PF and Center. Can put up a 30 20 with 5 blocks if its needed. Can play in any style whether it was run and gun or slow down half court style of play. Malone and Barkley couldn’t hold this guy’s jock strap. Mind you he didn’t need help to win it all unlike Wade, Kobe, KG. Or Lebron who has shown he needs wade and bosh for one.
14. What is more likely to happen Mavs to repeat as champs or Derrick Rose to repeat as MVP?
ME: Rose as MVP - he’s only going to get better.
RB: If the Mavericks are going to repeat this is their year. A 66 game schedule only works in the aging teams favor. With the extra two months off Kidd, Dirk, Terry, Vince Carter, Odom, Marion and Haywood will be fresh and ready to go. They are an older team but they will score a lot of points. The loss of Chandler will hurt a bit but they will make that up with chemistry and the desire to prove everybody wrong again. Vince Carter has been called a cancer who can’t win and Odom is made he was traded. Both players i think fit in well with the mold of the Dallas Mavericks. they play a total team game and can score from anywhere on the court…Something the Heat can’t do.
MF: Mavs. There are not that many real contenders in my book. Miami, OKC, Mavs, and Bulls; With pseudo contenders in LA, Celtics, and Spurs. Derrick Rose has 2 other pgs alone to compete with for MVP, not to mention Durant, Kobe, Lebron, Wade, and Nowitski. Just ask Michael Jordan how hard it is to repeat MVP. Voters hate back to back MVPs, hence why Jordan lost MVP titles in 92-93 and 96-97 season.
15. Will Miami be able to get over the hump to win Championships or will there be more Lebron 4th quarter jokes?
AG: JOKES. Miami will always have a conflict because the coaching staff can’t control the players and Lebron/Wade are too similar.
ME: I don’t think these are mutually exclusive - Wade will take over the Heat in close games, and when he’s double teamed and Lebron misses game-winning 3’s and jumpers we’ll have plenty to mock him for. I think while Lebron shrinks and Rupal Bosh pouts on the bench, Wade will be able to will the team to at least one more ring.
RB: More 4th quarter jokes for the Heat. They don’t have what it takes to win. They have two top bananas and they both want the ball. The sooner Bron realizes this is Wades team and he takes somewhat of a backseat to him the sooner they can get to winning. Also the lack of a true pg and no post defense doesnt help their chances…A full house beats three of a kind everyday…
MF: Unfortunately I think this is the year Miami wins it all. They know the problem Lebron isn’t a finisher on the big stage. The ball goes into Wade’s hands in crunch time, and its really Wade’s team.
16. If Miami fails to win a championship. Do you break apart the Heatles? If so who would you trade and for who?
AG: Yes. I would definitely get rid of Bosh for a solid center. If your goal is a championship, then I would keep Wade. Not sure you can really get value for LBJ, but you need to get a GREAT big man and a solid point guard.
ME: I would trade Bosh for multiple solid-role players, like Kevin Love or David West, and try to acquire a veteran point guard like Nash or Chauncey or a playmaker who can defer to superstars, like Rondo. Lebron and Wade are still potentially the best combo of 2/3 since Jordan and Pippen, so I’d try brainwashing Lebron before I traded him.
RB: I am just going to keep going back to my favorite player in the NBA right now. The only player who could help them win if they don’t get it done this year is Dwight Howard. Wade won a title with an old and out of shape Shaq and a bunch of role players so You better believe him and Howard could get it done. A trade of LeBron to Orlando for Howard only intensifies the instate rivalry. And if there is anything this ear of NBA needs its a good rivalry, something it has recently lacked. I would take a team with Chamlers, Wade, SF a, Bosh and Howard anyday over Chalmers, Wade, LeBron, Bosh and Center a. Howard commands double teams in the post Bosh doesn’t Imagine how great the Heat would be with Howard going behind his back to Bosh then going out on the wing to Wade for the Jumper.
MF: Yes you have to break them apart. You can’t have a rock concert and promise not 1 not 2 not 3 not 4 but 7 championships and not win one by year 2. With that said, I know people are going to tell me I am crazy, I think you trade Lebron for either Durant or Howard, preferably Howard. This is Wade’s team and he has leadership and doesn’t falter on the big stage, that is what you want.
17. Are the Knicks contender or pretender? Can a 31 year old Chandler really turn around the defense?
AG: They aren’t contenders yet, but they could be with another piece or 2. Chandler will definitely improve the defense, but he can’t do it on his own.
ME: Chandler’s bum knees and lack of a contract year won’t do much for the Knicks, and while they’ll make some noise during the regular season, they just don’t have the right mix of players. Lebron, Wade or Rose will maul them in the playoffs, no question.
RB: The Knicks are pretenders…..see above answer for underachieving…..Tyson Chandler cannot turn around a defense by himself. He is a near dominant defender But needs help from other players….I don’t think Chandler’s age is a question because he doesn’t have a lot of wear on this tires because of his early days in Chicago. He was only averaging 19-25 minutes a game. it wasn’t until he got to NO that he started playing a lot of minutes and jumped to 30+ a game. He can rebound, block shots and plays the right way. he will take some pressure off of Amare but he is soft anyway because Melo led the team in rebounding. Bottom line Chandler will help but not that much because he can’t do it by himself.
MF: Pretenders. No real PG to run D’antonio’s system along with 2 ball stoppers who don’t make their teammates better. Chandler might help the defense, but he is a 31 year old with bad knees and he isn’t going to magically make Carmelo or Amare better defenders.
18. Is the window shut on Celtics? Lakers?
AG: Celtics? Yes. They are just too old and getting rid of Perkins was a mistake. Lakers? Losing Odom won’t help, but they have enough pieces to be good, especially if they can pull of one of these big trades. Getting Paul or Howard could change everything.
ME: Celtics’ window shut the second they traded Perkins. The Celtics succeeded with a team that played and acted like a family - the combination of losing Perkins and Rondo trade rumors will distract the team, as well as the aging Pierce and Garnett, who will lack the willpower to play through injuries. As long as the Lakers have Kobe and Pau, they’ve got a shot. Losing Odom hurt, but as long as the team doesn’t change drastically, I’m not going to question Kobe.
RB: Celtics yes. Lakers no. Other teams have emerged as top dogs in the east. Chicago, Miami, Orlando and even the Knicks to a lesser extent. Garnet, Pierce and my man Jesus Shuttlesworth aren’t getting any younger. They might be able to compete in the regular season with on 66 games but their legs aren’t what they use to be and they lost a big piece of the puzzle in Glen Davis. The roles have reversed. Rondo jumped on their back on ‘08 not he biog three are going to have to jump on his and Rondo isn’t that strong. The Celtics were built for the right now in ‘08 when the made the trades and that is what they got and that is all they will get. They are done.
As far as the Lakers go they still have the best player in the NBA. As long as Kobe plays they always have a chance. The loss of Lamar Odom will hurt a bit but if Kupchek can pull something off for Dwight Howard and Hedo they might be able to recover from the loss of Odom. But never count Kobe out.
MF: Celtics time of death was the Kendrick Perkins trade. They threw chemistry out of the window and they haven’t been the same. Lakers I will wait to see what the rest of the off-season brings, but when you trade Odom to the Mavs; let’s just say the Lakers are on life support.
19. Will the Spurs regret trading George Hill instead of Tony Parker last year?
AG: Yes. That was about loyalty, but it won’t help the franchise in the long term.
ME: Yes. Although Tony is more talented, they could have gotten more in return for him, which is crucial since Duncan and Ginobli don’t have much left.
RB: I don’t think so. This team has been together for a long time. They know how to win together and have a lot of chemistry. They won’t miss a beat.
MF: Yes the problem was they needed youth to help Duncan and Ginobili. With the whole drama with TP they needed to get rid of him. He is not that great of a PG, they could of gotten more value back for TP. Meanwhile Hill was playing great while he was on the Spurs.
20. Do the Pistons have the right building blocks in Brandon Knight-Greg Monroe?
AG: To be an average team? Sure, but not to be a contender. Pistons need A LOT more to really get back to being a good team. Those two players won’t be enough to keep them in most guys against good teams.
ME: Good foundation - more roleplayers and solid coaching will lead the Pistons towards a brighter future. Let’s be honest, things couldn’t get much worse, so its not a huge hurtle.
RB: You bet your ass they do. The pistons are in a five year rebuild mode…When Monroe and Knight mature into the players they have the potential to become the duo can dominate the game.
MF: I am not sold you can win a championship with Knight-Monroe as your one/two punch. They are great building blocks, but you need a superstar to really elevate this team to contention.
21. Is Kyle Irving the real deal?
AG: He could be. He has the talent, but that doesn’t always translate. No way to tell until he gets on the court and gets some playing time.
ME: No - best player in a weak draft.
RB: Probably. seems like he can do it all.
MF: No was the assumed best player in a terrible draft. One could argue that Brandon Knight will be a better pro.
22. Who wins the Jared Sullinger sweepstake? Who would he be the best fit for?
AG: No idea.
ME: He’d be the best fit on a team like the Bulls or Rockets. That being said, I think he’s doomed to suffer in Sacremento or Washington.
RB: Washington is bad and they need help….Pair him with Wall and the could be a nice duo for years to come.
MF: I am thinking Toronto or Orlando(if they trade Howard away). The best fit of a lottery team is either Houston or Detroit. Both have great pieces to surround him. Houston has Kevin Martin, Lowry, and Scola to surround him. Detroit has Prince, Monroe, and Knight. Both teams if given a superstar could take off soon.
23. Can the Bulls find a viable shooting guard to help the offensive woes for the Bulls?
AG: No, not to do enough. Also, there will always be some overlap based on the way Rose plays the PG.
ME: I think they did in Rip Hamilton - can score efficiently without needing the ball. Younger version is Kevin Martin, if they can get him.
RB: The rumors have them signing Rip Hamilton. I don’t think he is their answer, not in the short term or the long term. He is an aging vet who feeds off of his pg and coming off multiple screens to get open. Derick Rose is a shoot first guard. He can pass and create for other players but he is looking for his own shot first. As we have seen in the last few years Rip does also not play well in the run-n-gun style of offense. He works best in a slow half-court style of play. He tried to develop the run-n-gun that past few seasons, he was relatively successful but was largely unhappy and let his teammates and coaches know it. I think the best option for the Bulls would be somebody like Jamal Crawford who just likes to score. Keep him on the wing when Joakim Noah or Carlos Boozer get doubled they can pass it to him and he can score.
MF: Debatable for the amount of cap they will probably settle on RIP Hamilton. Who is a great 2 guard, but not sure how he meshes with D-Rose. The problem is they need a 2 guard that can create his own shots, and that’s not RIPs game. He runs screens and curls and he can knock down open 3s on the sides of the basket. The problem is Rose is more of a slasher and won’t wait long enough to let RIP run around screens.
24. Does the addition of David West increase the chance of the Pacers being a player in the Eastern Conference Playoffs?
AG: West is a good player, but not enough to propel the Pacers to compete for the top.
ME: Yes, although I think they’ll be fighting the Pistons for the 8 seed.
RB: The Pacers are the only team this offseason going about things the right way. They added a great player and leader in David West. I was a lot higher on the Pacers before the OJ Mayo deal fell through but they still have what it takes to be a 7-8 seed
MF: To contend no. To make it to the second round yes, especially if they are the 5th or 6th seed against a team like Orlando, Celtics, or Hawks they could win that matchup. I think Pacers fans will be happy with this team at least taking another step forward, instead of being an 8 seed punching bag.
25. Can Jimmer be a productive player in the NBA?
AG: Yes. Although he reminds a lot of people of a J.J. Ridick, Adam Morrison, Christian Laettner story, he is actually much better. He has a certain toughness that will serve him well in the NBA. He will need to adjust to no longer being a star or taking 40 foot shots, but he can be a solid player with those adjustments.
ME: I think he will end up like a Jason Kapono - can shoot and make 3s on a team with established playmakers. If you want him to play point guard or be a stopper on D, you’re out of luck.
RB: About as productive as Adam Morrison was….
MF: No I get strange Adam Morrison/JJ redick vibes. He might be able to come off the bench and be a spark plug for a couple buckets, but he probably won’t be a starter ever. It wouldn’t shock me if he isn’t in the NBA after rookie contract.
As a life long Lions fan it seems like clockwork every year. The Lions dominate the preseason and the fans around the area get excited. The sayings like “this is finally the year we turn it around” or “the roar is restored” are echoed all through southeastern Michigan. If there is one thing I have learned as a Lions fan it’s never to buy into the hype until the season starts. Otherwise you are 16 weeks in wondering why the hell you cheered for an 0-16 team. It was the mantra of the Matt Millen era, every year it was a different excuse be it an offensive coordinator change, numerous head coaches with different philosophies or just believing a new wide receiver was the solution to all our problems; or at least that’s what Matt Millen wanted the public to think. So pardon me if I don’t jump in on the hype of Super Bowl possibilities by Peter King or the fact that Robert Kraft anointed football was back in Detroit^1. While I will agree the Lions have made great progress from the Matt Millen era, they seem to be headed in the right direction under Jim Schwartz’s guidance. Don’t expect this team to be anything greater than a .500 team this year. My False Start colleague, Ryan Berlin, will argue that the Lions are a 10+ win team. I will be ecstatic if that happens, but at the same time I need to see it first hand after 16 weeks of play to really believe it. There are too many holes the Lions have yet to address on this team to think they are anything but a .500 team.
Reason 1: The Running Game
MF: Last year many people were shocked the Lions jumped back into the first round to grab Jahvid Best. Schwartz made a joke about how he went home at night and watched Jahvid Best clips on Youtube as though it was pornography. Best is part of the new breed of running backs, like Chris Johnson, that have the speed and elusiveness that cause fans to drop their jaws in awe. The knock on Best in college was his previous injury history. It was after week two that most Detroiters couldn’t stop talking about him after he dropped 78 yards rushing and 154 yards receiving against Philly. But his health history eventually plagued him as a Lion, after the first couple of weeks he had turf toe that lingered the rest of the season robbing him of his explosiveness. Like last year, the Lions have no suitable backup. Mikel Leshoure, the 2nd round draft pick from Illinois, was supposed to be the brute force that would finally help out the running game, but as with all Lions luck he tore his ACL within the first week of training camp. Behind Best there are a plethora of waiver wire and free agency pickups, most notably is Jerome Harrison. I don’t expect Best to last an entire season due to his previous injury history. He already had a concussion in pre-season. So what we are relying on is serviceable free agents and waiver wire backs to fill in a non-existent run game that was one of the league’s worst last year. Does this sound like a championship caliber squad to you?
RB: Yes the loss of Mikel Leshoure will hurt and the o-line has some holes. However, with a year under his belt and finally being healthy, minus the concussion, Jahvid Best is going have a great year. We saw flashes of the brilliance he can bring to this team last year. Like Feldman said a healthy Best can drop three tds with 78 yards rushing and 154 yards receiving anytime. I believe there are three keys to Best having a great year. First and foremost is his health. Obviously if he can stay healthy and play in all 16 games he will do well. The second key for a Best to have a successful year is Matt Stafford. If Stafford is around and plays this will open things up for Best. Stafford is capable of being an elite QB. He can open things up downfield with Calvin and Burleson, hit Pettigrew on an out route and then of course hit Best in the backfield with the screen pass. The screen pass can be the Lions best friend. With Jahvid’s speed and elusiveness he can get away from almost any defender ^2. The third and final key to having a successful Jahvid Best is Jerome Harrison’s presence in short yardage and goal line situations. With a big physical back like Harrison who can take the pounding inside, it will give Best a chance to sit out some plays and not allow his body to take the beating, thus allowing Best to stay healthy.
REASON 2: Lions Secondary
MF: The Lions did a nice job filling the holes they had at linebacker with Steven Tulloch and Justin Durant. The issue last year, and still this year, is the cornerback position. Eric Wright is OK, but expect big play receivers to burn this secondary. Unfortunately the Lions schedule has plenty of big time QB-Receiver combos this season. Aaron Rodgers-Greg Jennings X 2, Matt Ryan-Roddy White, Brees-Colston, Romo-Austin Miles/Dez Bryant, Rivers-Jackson, and to a lesser degree McNabb-Harvin X 2. Right there I named over half the schedule that can and probably will probably will burn our secondary, if Silver Crush doesn’t disrupt the QB timing. Compound this with reason one and it’s easy to see why this team is going to have a tough time being an above .500 team.
RB: Detroit has arguably the best front seven in the NFL. Yes the secondary is a little weak but if the front seven penetrates like they should and don’t give the QBs time to make their reads, the DBs will make plays. Everything starts up front. Third year DB Alphonso Smith is the perfect example of how a strong front seven can benefit the secondary. In just 12 games last year Smith had five picks. Smith’s interceptions came off of Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Sam Bradford, Donovan McNabb and Mark Sanchez. It doesn’t matter who the QB is, if the d-line and linebackers get through like they’re suppose to then the secondary will make plays. As long as the Lions have the biggest, strongest and meanest defensive lineman in the league, the secondary will be in good shape.
REASON 3: Health
MF: Health could be the biggest reason the 2011 Detroit Lions may not be anything more than a 6-10 or 8-8 team. Remember it was May when Zach Follett called Matt Stafford a “China Doll”. We have seen two straight seasons where Stafford has dislocated his shoulder. Over his two year career he has been sitting on the pine more than he has been on the field. Although Shaun Hill and Drew Staton put up valiant efforts when they were in the game; it doesn’t take even the most astute observers to see the tremendous down grade the offense becomes when Stafford is not playing. If you had to bet your life on the Lions being better than a .500 team would you trust that dislocated shoulder? Mind you he is the same division where he sees Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and Jared Allen twice a season. Once a shoulder is dislocated it has an easier chance of popping back out. Let’s just say I will be cringing every time I see Stafford take a shot. This along with the fact that Best, our best running back, has a bad health track record too.
RB: When speaking about health and the Detroit Lions three names come to mind, Jeff Backus, Gosder Cherilus and Stephen Peterman. Backus was responsible for injuring two quarterback. He was unable to keep Stafford and Hill healthy. I know you are going to say that Backus had a great year and he only gave up a few sacks. This is true but it was two of those sacks that took out Stafford and Hill. This is going to have to be a big year for Gosder. In order for the Lions to Succeed he really needs to step his game up. It’s his job to open holes for Best and keep Stafford on his feet. So far in his four tear career he has not quite been able to put it all together. If this is the year Gosder finally gets it then watch out because at ‘6”7 325 he is the quintessential right tackle. Finally, Stephen Peterman, what can I say about Peterman other than this guy sucks. He is really a horrible offensive lineman. What Schwartz should do in order to help keep his team healthy is move Big Jason Fox inside to right guard. I believe that this is the best way for the Lions to remain healthy. Having an o-line with Backus, Sims, Raiola, Fox and Gosder gives the team the best option to win.
MF: L-Close game but I’ll give edge to the Bucs.
RB: W-Suh will not allow LaGarett Blount to run anywhere and with an aging Ronde Barber and really no other great defenders I give the edge to the Lions
MF: W-Matt Cassell head gets torn off by Suh. Come on he has to entertain the home fans somehow right? After the total domination from a home game.
RB: W-With all the hype surrounding the Lions this year Ford Field is going to be rocking and the Lions will not lose their home opener
MF: L-Just something about being in the Metrodome and that creepy Viking mascot. Jared Allen and the defensive line of Minnesota give Stafford a hard time.
RB: W-This will be a lose one but if the Lions are healthy the Vikings won’t be able to keep up with the Lions Screen pass. Stafford and Best could be like McNabb and Westbrook in their primes.
MF: W-Its Monday night football in the D. All Calvin Johnson catches in the end zone will be ruled TD’s by the ref as to make up for robbing last year’s game.
RB: W-This is where the Lions show they are for real. Put it on the front page, back page or middle page, it doesn’t matter. The Lions will not lose on Monday Night. I repeat: the Lions will not lose on Monday Night.
MF: W-Let’s just say Matthew Stafford burns his home town team a new one at the greatest stadium on earth.
RB: L-After a short week the lack of rest catches up with the Lions and they finally lose one.
MF: W-Jim Harbaugh tells the press after the game. “Seriously guys we signed Alex Smith for one reason. To help us get Andrew Luck,”
RB: W-The Niners are improving but they aren’t there yet. Another win for the Lions.
MF:L-Who said nerdy white guys can’t ball? Doesn’t hurt to have dominant receivers in Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez.
RB: L- Matty Ice, Michael Turner and Roddy White prove to be too much for the Lions.
MF: W-The Broncos have a new QB controversy when John Elway decides to suit up after the crap he sees behind the O-Line
RB: W- The Broncos have no true identity and no big play guys.
MF: L-Jay Cutler finally gives a damn for something outside his own selfish needs.
RB: L- The Bears will steal one at home.
MF: W-When your newly drafted QB has a problem reciting a play for Jon Gruden it’s a red flag. Steve Smith tells Cam after the game “I like you, but god damn you are stupid.”
RB: W- Easy win for the good guys.
Green Bay Turkey Day-
MF: L-They don’t call them the Champs for nothing. Rodgers gets rid of the ball quick enough that he won’t have to worry about being sacked by Suh and the rest of Silver Crush. Although that doesn’t mean Suh won’t take a shot anyways, he doesn’t mind 20k fines folks.
RB: W-In both meetings last season the Lions gave the Packers a run for its money. Another national game will give the Lions a chance to prove they are for real.
MF:L-Who Dat makes the Lions into Who Dem?
RB: L-The Lions are for real but they aren’t ready to take that elite step.
MF: W-Donovan’s age finally shows up in this one.
RB: W-If all is right in the world the Lions will remain healthy and dismantle the Vikings again this season.
MF: W-Al Davis’s track stars realize there is more to the game then just running up and down a field. Can’t wait for the next top 40 time to be drafted by Al.
RB: W-The RRRRaidas are nowhere near the Lions level.
MF: L-A Norv Turner team during the back end of the schedule are generally impossible to beat, well until playoff time then they fold over themselves.
RB: L-Antonio Gates proves to be the X-factor. The Detroit Native will have a ridiculous game and just beat up on the Lions.
MF: L-Did you know it was in 1991 the last time the Lions won at Lambeau. Let’s just say Lions continue this wretched streak of awfulness.
RB: L-I agree with Feldman. However it will be close. The NFL didn’t schedule this game in the last week of the season for no reason.
OVERALL Record MF-8-8 RB-10-6
This is an 8-8, Berlin believes 10-6, team this year and in the retched NFC that is possibly good enough to back into a wildcard spot. No one should be disappointed with the 8-8, or 10-6, record as it will be the the Lions first time being .500, or above .500, in almost 11 or 12 years. To come back from such a retched era as the Millen Era in only three years is an impressive feat. All credit should be given to Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz. As I looked at the schedule I felt the Lions have a legitimate shot at beating all the teams on their schedule on any given day, but being a Lions fan and for reasons stated above I am not going to jump the gun on them^3. They are building a nice core and adding slowly and patiently, like all great teams do. Lions’ fans will have nothing to be ashamed about this season, since this team will play with passion and hard work. They are turning the corner, but it’s too early to say this team has arrived yet. The future is bright for the Lions, but they still have a ways to go to become the team we always dreamed about.
1. Since when does Robert Kraft’s opinion on football matter. Yes he owns one of the greatest franchises in the NFL over the past decade, but outside of that decade the Patriots never won a championship. Mr. Kraft’s opinion is valuable on the amount of cheese I want on my macaroni noodles, but outside of that meaningless.
2. I just got a boner.
3. Ryan ate the cornbread and drank the kool-aid. He believes and bleeds Honolulu Blue.