Editor’s (me) Note: I’m going to be gone doing Army stuff for the next few weeks, so if I don’t write for awhile, that’s why.
Five Reasons To Be Excited for the NBA Offseason
Side Note #1: Maybe I had been living under a rock or I just don’t follow baseball as close as I thought I did, but I had no idea Tony Gwynn had cancer so his death came as a shock to me. Gwynn batted .338 over a 20-year career. There is really nothing else to be said about his ability to play baseball. Virtually everyone has nothing but overwhelmingly positive things to say about him. There is really nothing else to be said about him as a human being.
Side Note #2: Meagan Fox wasn’t even in the third Transformers movie and she won’t be in the fourth one. It’s this chick, and she’s like, 18 so it’s kind of weird now. Someone teach Filler how to Google.
Ahh yes, that dark period when the NBA and NHL Playoffs are over and if you crave some kind of contact in your brand of sporting entertainment well you’re counting the days til football kicks off. Sure can’t find it in baseball – even blocking the plate isn’t allowed anymore. And with a proud Brazilian team winning World Cup games by flopping in the penalty box, you’re not gonna find it in soccer either.
Most of the NFL Offseason highlights are over with. We had the free agency frenzy, then the draft, Manziel went to Vegas, Manziel did the money phone… OK so maybe we can expect some more drama out of Manziel.
But it’s my contention that there are five non-baseball, non-soccer reasons to be excited about the dark period before football begins, and those reasons are in the world of professional basketball. It seemed to be a year of fives. 5-game Stanley Cup Final (which depressed me to no end I might add), 5-game NBA Finals, 5th championship for Timmy and Popovich. So here are five things I’m looking forward to this off-season.
- What is Melo going to do?
Unlike Filler, I find this to be the most interesting part of this offseason. Not because I particularly like or care about Carmelo Anthony (I’m rather indifferent to him, actually), but because I think it has the potential to not matter at all or drastically change the landscape of the NBA.
Allow me to explain.
Scenario 1 (highly unrealistic): Melo decides to be coachable and makes a concerted effort to actually play defense. Possible destinations? Let’s go to Trebek and play some Melo Jeopardy!
Contestant: Yes Alex, I’ll take “Damn good coaches” for 500, please.
Answer: This guy is one of 11 people to win a championship as a player and a coach, won coach of the year, and an NBA within the last three years.
Contestant: Who is… Phil Jackson?
Trebek: Ooh, no. I’m sorry the answer we were looking for is Rick Carlisle. He is also the coach of the only team to take this year’s champion, the San Antonio Spurs, to a seven-game series in the 2014 Playoffs.
Contestant: OK, I’ll take “Teams That Are Better Than We Think” for 1000, please.
Answer: This team has the only non-Lebron or Kevin Durant MVP of the past 6 seasons.
Contestant: Who are the Chicago Bulls?
Trebek: Correct! Derrick Rose won the MVP in 2011.
You see, if Melo wants to grow up, play defense, learn how to pass a little bit better and sit in the backseat of a team driven by a strong coach, then he should go play in Dallas or Chicago. Rick Carlisle is the most underrated coaching figure in all of sports. For him to take that roster and push the best Spurs team I’ve seen to seven games was unbelievable. Thibs is another strong-willed guy who is deservedly a perennial coach of the year candidate.
If Melo wound up on either one of these teams, you’re looking at an even-more ridiculously competitive Western Conference or a team that could add a little more to the balance of power in the East.
Scenario 2 (a little more likely): Melo goes for the money
In this scenario, the Knicks (who could pay him the most) are actually out of the question at this point. The dude chose to opt out. And on top of that, he’s not a Phil Jackson guy. And on top of that, even if he WAS a Phil Jackson guy, he told Melo he wanted him to take a pay cut. So on what planet does this end with the Knicks shelling out another max contract for the guy?
No, if Melo wants the money he’s probably going to wind up on a team with only one other max-contract dude and a team with the space to pay him, and the options aren’t great in terms of championship potential. We also assume that Melo still cares enough about his brand to go to a big-market or historically-significant team (this rules you out, Utah, T-wolves, Orlando, Charlotte, New Orleans, Toronto, and Sacramento). Who’s left? Philly, Detroit, Boston, Cleveland, and the Wiz.
OK, Boston MAYBE. But I don’t see him in Boston unless he can team up with other stars (see below). Hmm, sounds to me like this scenario isn’t going to happen either. Because I truly believe that Melo is going to go championship-hunting and it’s not going to happen at any of these places.
Scenario 3 (most likely): Melo takes a little less to team up with stars
Boston: Big market, good coach that’s not too intimidating and may not force Melo to play defense, and CAP SPACE CITY! Tell me you can’t see Melo, Rondo, and Kevin Love playing in Boston? Ok, so maybe you can’t because you’re a sane person, but when I saw Ray Allen leave Boston for Miami I said, “Wow, I really have seen everything in this new NBA,” and then I watched Doc Rivers trade himself to Clippers in absolute disbelief. Anything can happen in the new free-agent NBA and stars dictate what they want to do, people.
Miami: NBA analyst and known crazy person Steven A. Smith said there was a 95% chance Lebron and Melo would be on the same team if they both opted out of their contracts. I would have put the chances of that happening at 5% rather than 95%, but then I actually started to look at the facts:
– Melo already opted out of his deal
– Lebron has always publicly left the door open for opting out of his deal
– Lebron carried this Miami team all by himself this year
– When Lebron was asked after the Finals if he could see himself leaving Miami he sounded about as ambiguously 50/50 as you could possibly ever be
– This picture:
But the most interesting reason I think this is possible is that, oh yea, THESE GUYS REALLY LIKE EACH OTHER AND HAVE WANTED TO PLAY TOGETHER FOR A REALLY, REALLY, REALLY LONG TIME!
LA (both of them): I think if you put Melo and Kobe’s unchecked egos in the same locker room (because you know the Lakers are gonna hire some soft coach Kobe wants) might make the Staples Center explode. And remember that Melo wanted to play with CP3 only 4 years ago.
Philly: CAP SPACE CITY!
- What is Lebron gonna do? (in order from most to least likely)
Return to Miami: Let me start by saying I don’t think Pat Riley’s press conference where he basically called Lebron out is the reason why he’ll stay in Miami. In sports we see that team front offices seem to have all the power, so I actually like to see when players and superstars take control of their own career and have all the leverage. Lebron certainly has that here.
I said previously that Lebron would leave Miami if they didn’t win this year’s championship. I’m sticking with that, I just don’t think he’s going to leave this year and here’s why:
– The East is weak sauce
– He has another player opt-out option after next year (which is the one I think he takes and then leaves)
– The Heat aren’t that broken. They have a first-rounder and the cast to attract some FA role-player types. Wade and Bosh are just playing like old men and unfortunately there are three teams in the West that are better than they are in a 7-game set right now. I don’t think that changes
– I think if Lebron wants to team up with Melo, doing it in Miami is the best way to go. He could convince Wade to restructure and Bosh has already said he’s not going anywhere
– The biggest reason: Lebron still thinks he wants to be liked more than he wants to win the seven rings he also wants. And for whatever reason, we as fans love seeing one guy stay with one team (Kobe, Kareem, Olajuwon, Duncan, Jordan, etc.) and he’s already bolted his home town for the sexy all-star team in a really douchey fashion.
If you asked me a few months ago how realistic a Lebron return to Cleveland was after THIS year, I would have said “slim to none.” However, with the way the Finals played out I think a small part of the back of Lebron’s mind is saying, “If I’m going to have to be Superman, play hero ball on a team without another superstar, and get demolished in the Finals, shouldn’t I be loved in the process? That’s what happened in Cleveland…” Here’s what Cleveland has going for them:
– Another #1 pick
– The Lebron homeward bound redemption story (instant love from fans)
– Kyrie Irving, the point guard Lebron has never had
– Zydrunas Ilgauskas and his friendship with Lebron
Here’s what Cleveland has going against them:
– Cleveland is Cleveland. Miami is Miami
– Dan Gilbert’s 2010 letter after “The Decision” where he ripped Lebron apart
– The lack of anyone else besides Kyrie Irving
A lot has to happen here. A trade possibly involving Deandre Jordan and/or Blake Griifin for one, probably some contract restructuring, and some ego management.
- What is Kevin Love going to do?
Love is an interesting commodity because he’s more of a sure thing as it pertains to immediate impact than anyone you could get in this draft. That immediately puts lottery picks in play for trade possibilities. Having said that, you know what his ceiling is and you have no idea what Embiid/Wiggins’ ceilings are.
I could see Love on the Warriors, Celtics, Lakers, and Cleveland (to attract Lebron), MAYBE Phoenix but that’s about it. There’s a couple issues in play here but the biggest one is that Love wants to win. Why leave the team who could pay you the most just to wind up on another squad just like the T-Wolves but just in another city?
The Warriors have the best shot because they have the most pieces. The latest rumor is that Minnesota turned down a trade which would send Klay Thompson, David Lee, and the possibility of some kind of draft pick to the T-Wolves for Love.
… I’m sorry, what? Am I missing something here? I don’t understand how that’s a bad deal. If you’re Flip Saunders you’ve got to understand that if Kevin Love leaves – which he will – you get absolutely nothing. Remember how Lebron left Cleveland and they had zilch? Remember how Carmelo left Denver and they got a couple great picks (one of which they still haven’t used yet) and two starters? That’s what they’re looking at, here. Love is the hottest chick at the party right now but if Minnesota gets too greedy they risk getting Ringwalled. Lee and Thompson are great players who make your team instantly better.
- What do you make of this draft?
I said before I think Embiid=Parker=Wiggins. So with the Embiid injury(s), I feel that knocks him out of #1 pick contention. I don’t buy the OMG HE COULD BE HAKEEM OLAJUWON THOUGH argument. Please.
Let’s all calm down.
If I’m Cleveland, I take Parker. He’s more NBA ready even if his ceiling is lower than Wiggins. I just think with four top-four picks (three #1 overalls) in four years, you have got to get someone solid with this pick. I don’t think you can afford to go for the high-risk, high-reward guy.
The Bucks will take Wiggins. It’s a no-brainer if Love stays with you another year and you need to prepare the next dude to put butts in seats.
Someone asked me the other day, “Can Philadelphia really afford to take another injured first-rounder and sit them for a whole year?” My answer: YES! You’re Philadelphia! You’re terrible! You’re more than one piece away from contending, obviously. And if Embiid is the upside guy you think he is, then you absolutely take him and sit him for a year like you did with Nerlens Noel. It’s time for teams to stop thinking like the Heat and start thinking like the Spurs. Philadelphia has to think three years down the road. Let’s take a peek at that starting five if they pick Embiid.
C: healthy Joel Embiid
PF: Thaddeus Young
SF: healthy Nerlens Noel
G: Big Free Agent Signing (Cap space city, see above)
PG: Michael Carter-Williams
I’ll take it.
- The Chicago Bulls Identity Crisis
Who are the Chicago Bulls right now and who are they trying to be? If Derrick Rose can return to his former self, they instantly become the second-best team in the East. That tells you both how bad the East is and how highly I think of Derrick Rose.
It’s starting to look like Carmelo Anthony’s most-likely destination is Chicago. While this looks like an amazing idea on paper and for your NBA 2K15 video game team, I have some serious reservations:
– I’m a Knicks’ fan, and I can tell you that Carmelo doesn’t play off the ball defense
– I’m a basketball fan and I can tell you that Thom Thibedeau frickin loves defense
– I’m not a psychiatrist, but I can tell you that I don’t think Thibs and Melo are going to get along
– Having said all that, Chicago needs offense. Particularly a guy who can make his own shot. Melo can certainly do that. I just wonder if Melo will mesh well with Derrick Rose. He’s been the alpha dog his whole life, and I don’t think he can be that guy on Chicago. Rose is just better.