Several Society writers gather for a roundtable discussion to hash out current NBA happenings, including talk about the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers, who is in more danger of missing the playoffs between Oklahoma City and San Antonio, as well as the NBA experimenting with a new playoff format. Our participants this week are:
- DJ Allen (@DJAllen23)
- Evan Anderson (@Jordainian21)
- Alfonso De Falco (@FonzyDeFalco)
- Kyle Allan (@kallan441)
- Justin Kirkland (@jkirk41)
1. Are the Cleveland Cavaliers not as good as we thought after the trades, or are they a team still figuring things out?
Allen: They are for sure still figuring things out. I wasn’t on the hype train like everyone else when the trades went down saying “oh, Cleveland got so much better.”
This is very similar to the same situation when they acquired everyone during the offseason and we saw how that ended. They are still figuring things out and it’s going to take a while. They got younger but I don’t put them above the Boston Celtics.
Anderson: The Cavs are still figuring things out since the trade. From the looks of LeBron James, it seems he’s enjoyed the new, young players who have shown they have the competitiveness to become a pretty solid team in the East. Although, they can’t take too much time before the playoffs begin where they may draw a tough opponent in the first round.
De Falco: I would say they are still figuring things out. Going younger shows that they are not only gearing up for a deep playoff run but also building for the next few years.
Not saying that guys like Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood are going be the main deciding factors for what LeBron James is planning on doing this summer, but however, this roster does look slightly better and more importantly younger than it did a few months back.
Allan: I think this Cleveland team is still figuring things out. I certainly think they are in a better position, mentally, more than anything else after the trade. I think they know at some point this team is really going to click…it’s just a matter of when.
You could not say the same thing coincidentally when Isaiah Thomas was on the roster. They’ll kick it into gear once the playoffs come around, but remember that two of the players they traded for do not have playoff experience. That is something LeBron and Co. will have to pass along to them.
Kirkland: I said on “Just My Take” that I still liked the Boston Celtics better as a team and that Cleveland would run into some chemistry issues as the playoffs approached. I would not be surprised to see them still come out of the East because you can’t count out LeBron. Even though they came down to earth a little bit after their streak going into the All-Star break, they are still younger and more capable than they were before the trade.
This team will rise and fall with the play of LeBron James and will go only as far as he takes them. The most important aspect of this trade was their ability to simultaneously give LeBron a young core that could entice him to stay while also keeping the Nets’ pick. They will be in decent shape whether LeBron stays or goes.
2. The idea that the Washington Wizards are better without John Wall is ____?
Allen: Nonsense. John Wall is an All-Star and to say this team is better without him is crazy. However, the learning point from this is that maybe he should consider playing more without the ball.
The Wizards have looked solid with Bradley Beal leading the troops and maybe Wall should consider not putting so much pressure on himself to orchestrate everything.
Anderson: Disrespectful. The No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft has been the team’s leading point guard and has put his name in the league as an All-Star. The Wizards are currently struggling on a three-game losing streak as of this post, and have just dropped to the No. 5 seed in the East below Indiana.
With a healthy John Wall, the Wizards have a better chance of finishing games with wins. At the end of the game, Wall should have the ball in his hands to take control of the Wizards and continue to be the playmaking point guard he is when healthy.
De Falco: Absurd. Since being drafted No. 1 overall back in 2010, John Wall has been a multi-time All-Star and not to mention the face of the Washington Wizards. Once Wall is back and fully healthy, Washington will be fine.
Allan: Delusional. This happens a lot when teams lose a player for a certain period of time.
If this was a season-ending injury that is one thing because that really hurts the chemistry knowing you won’t be getting your best player for the rest of the year. With Wall being able to return in the future, it is much more of a ‘hold it down for now’ mentality and I think that is a lot easier to overcome than a season-ending injury. Once Wall comes back, the team will have gelled. That can only help them for a playoff run, right?
Kirkland: The origin of this was the “Ewing Theory” which was created by Dave Cirilli (A friend of Bill Simmons). Cirilli was convinced that both the Georgetown Hoyas and the New York Knicks played better while Patrick Ewing was either injured or on the bench for extended periods of time due to foul trouble. The psychology here is they depended on Ewing too much and when they were without him they discovered their own abilities and style of play.
That being said some of Washington’s guys are probably enjoying playing without John Wall, but that does not mean that they are better. The ball is zipping around without bias in their offense but the problem is there aren’t enough basketballs going into the bucket. Wall is an offensive force and they are certainly worse without him.
However, I would like to see Wall understand what is going on during his absence and come back and adjust his game so he can show his brilliance while adhering to the “everyone eats” mantra. He can be an assist hawk at times and that is no better than being a ball stopping jumpshooter on offense. The Wizards have been talented but flawed for some years now and their offense drying up when Wall is not on his game is part of that reason.
3. In bigger danger of not making the playoffs: Oklahoma City or San Antonio?
Allen: I would say OKC. Just off the strength of Gregg Popovich, I think they will make the playoffs. And let’s face it, while things may be ugly now, Kawhi Leonard may just come back. You never know.
The thing about the Thunder is that they lack a bench and overall, they’re just very inconsistent. Even with three high-level names, I wouldn’t be surprised if they missed the playoffs somehow.
Anderson: The Oklahoma City Thunder are in bigger danger. They are too inconsistent with their play which makes it hard to say they are a locked-in playoff team.
The Spurs have enough depth on their bench that produces on the court, even without Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs’ gameplan and coaching are still done by none other than Gregg Popovich, so we know they’re still a very fundamental team. If Oklahoma City wants to play in the playoffs this year, they need to become more consistent in their game.
De Falco: It has to be OKC. One night it looks like things finally clicked and then the next night it completely falls apart. Gregg Popovich and Spurs have been consistent for over two decades, always finding a way to get it done.
We might not know when or if Kawhi Leonard comes back this season but they have the depth and one of the best basketball minds to date to overcome his absence.
Allan: I would definitely say OKC. I just think somehow someway the Spurs will find a way to get in no matter what because of their coach in Gregg Popovich, but when it comes to OKC, it seems like one night they’ve pulled it together, but then we’re shown that we should believe the complete opposite their next time out.
Bringing in Carmelo Anthony and Paul George was great and all, but they really did not look to improve their bench depth and it’s now showing.
Kirkland: I am going to say OKC due to their lack of depth and the big loss defensively (Andre Roberson), but I think both teams will make the playoffs. The Spurs have a tradition of winning and dominance no matter who is in or out and it feels like they’re the New England Patriots of basketball. (System driven, interchangeable parts, legendary head coach).
The Thunder’s starting five can run with anyone in the league and staggering the minutes of Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, and Russell Westbrook has looked great when they’ve been on. I don’t think OKC is built to get far in the playoffs but they can be a scary team because they have three legit stars and that always matters.
4. The Warriors should feel ____ about a potential Western Conference Finals matchup with the Rockets.
Allen: NERVOUS! Houston is the real deal this season. I haven’t put much trust in this team in previous years but what I’ve seen thus far makes me think that they are a serious contender to the Warriors.
What makes it scarier is that Golden State has not looked great. They’re on a winning streak post All-Star break but they’ve looked very sloppy and careless at times. The Rockets shoot the ball well and a couple of turnovers could end up in a six to nine-point swing real quick. The Warriors must take these guys seriously if they want to repeat.
Anderson: They should feel shook! The Western Conference is the scary side of the NBA that’s lead by the Houston Rockets…yes, I said Houston Rockets, not the Golden State Warriors.
James Harden is playing like he has already locked up the MVP, but it’s not just him. Houston has been on a 15-game winning streak and they are proving they are a true contender to take down the Warriors. In a seven-game series, the Warriors would need to play every single game until the very last minute with a focus to win.
De Falco: They should feel worried. For the past three years, Golden State has been the team to beat. Now, James Harden and the Rockets look to take the top spot in the Western Conference.
Allan: Unsettled. Queezy. You name it. I think this will be the best series of the playoffs if it ends up happening. Golden State still has a very good chance of taking down Houston, but the Rockets are 32-1 when James Harden, Chris Paul, and Clint Capela are all on the floor at the same time. That is virtually unbeatable.
This would be the toughest test that the Warriors have had to face since their loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 Finals.
Kirkland: If the Warriors have championship DNA (they do) they will understand that the pressure is on the Rockets to come knock them off. If I’m a Golden State Warrior I am not nervous or unsettled about any 12 guys that decide to walk into Oracle Arena.
Let us not forget that Chris Paul and James Harden have a lot to prove in terms of playoff relevance and success. The onus is completely upon those two to show up and prove they can run with the big boys. When two or more superstars come together they HAVE to show results to prove that all the shuffling was worth it. The Warriors should be as confident as ever and keep that “come get us” attitude.
5. Are you in favor of or against the NBA switching to a best 16 teams playoff format?
Allen: Yes I am. I’ve felt this way for a couple of years now.
At the end of the day, it’s all about putting the best teams forward and seeing who comes out on top. So why not end the conferences and just say hey, the top 16 teams go at it. They could space it out enough so that traveling does not become an issue. I think this would be something great for the league. However, I don’t believe it’s necessary because the product has been great thus far in my opinion.
Anderson: I am definitely in favor of this. This would be so exciting and different to watch for the NBA!
Why not let all 16 teams that are heading to the playoffs battle in a playoff format that combines both Eastern and Western Conference teams? It would be very different to see Russell Westbrook and the Thunder play the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, for example, but at the same time, it would be great to see different paths teams have to take to actually get to the Finals.
As of now, everyone seems to enjoy the normal playoff format for the NBA, but I’d like to see something different.
De Falco: I have felt that they should have done this a couple of years ago. We have seen too many times a 7th or 8th seed in the East have a losing record while someone like a 48-win Phoenix Suns team back in 2014 misses the playoffs because of how highly competitive the Western Conference has been.
This can bring a breath of fresh air to the East-West matchups in the early rounds of the playoffs. We have already seen the All-Star game take a new format, why not try it with the playoffs? If they are unsure about it at first, maybe have the NBA G-League test it out one year. We have seen the NCAA use the NIT Tournament as a way to experiment new ideas.
Allan: I think this is definitely what the NBA should do in the future. This will always reward the best 16 teams possible. The current system doesn’t do that and it just seems flawed if a team in another conference makes it with an under .500 record over one team in the other conference who fought to obtain a respectable record and doesn’t get rewarded for it.
Kirkland: If they can work out the logistics I am not against it. The only problem is I think the length of the regular season would have to be adjusted to account for the extra traveling that no doubt would occur.
With the current format, there would be teams hopping on airplanes pretty much daily which doesn’t make for a good quality of life for players or coaches during the playoffs. I want to continue to see ready and well-rested players during the postseason and if Boston is facing Oklahoma City in the first round I don’t think you get a high-quality product without adjustments.