The playoffs are here and this is where we see which team has what it takes to win the Larry O’Brien trophy. A few of our society writers are going to indulge in some Eastern Conference basketball and give their opinions on a few topics. Our writers are:
Alex Fischbein – @ThatKidFisch
Kyle Allan – @Kallan441
Alec Walt – @AlecWalt
Alfonso De Falco – @FonzyDeFalco
Aram Cannuscio – @ACannus
1.) With the Cleveland Cavaliers seeming to be the favorites to come out of the East, with their recent struggles, what do they need to do to reach the Finals?
Allan: I think Cleveland needs to stay true to who they are and they kind of need to follow the same mold they had last year. Last year, they switched from a very high scoring group to a rugged defensive team. They let up 95 points last postseason second fewest to the Chicago Bulls. If they are able to step up defensively, I feel they can easily get back to the Finals.
Fischbein: The Cavs need to trust each other. The thing that will beat a team who can play a higher level of team ball(I.E. Warriors/Spurs) will be a team who can do the same thing. All of this drama about a power struggle between Kyrie and LeBron needs to stop and they need to just focus on playing basketball.
Walt: The Cavaliers need rest. It is clear the Golden State Warriors are exhausted trying to break the 1996 Chicago Bulls record. If they play the San Antonio Spurs in the West Finals, the series will go seven. With the Cavaliers basically winning the East, they need fresh legs to tire out the Warriors.
De Falco: One word. Health. The Cavaliers lost Kevin Love in the first round against Boston and then lost Kyrie Irving in Game 1 in the NBA Finals. When you lose two of your top three scorers in the deep playoff run they made, you’ll run into that problem. You really cannot predict injuries in this league and despite their struggles, LeBron will turn it on the playoffs and will make sure his other teammates will as well.
Cannuscio: Stay healthy and let LeBron lead the way. LBJ has played some incredible ball to finish the season and will be heading into the playoffs with a head of steam. As long as Kyrie, K-Love, and the rest of the Cavs do their job, they should find themselves in the Finals once again.
2.) Who’s the biggest threat to the Cavs? Can they pull an upset?
Allan: I think the biggest threat to Cleveland would be Miami. The Heat have something a lot of other Eastern Conference teams don’t have, and that is playoff veterans. Having Dwyane Wade on your squad might be one of the biggest assets you can have.
Fischbein: The Toronto Raptors are the biggest threat. They definitely can pull the upset because they have something that the Cavs don’t, bench scoring. The Raptors’ bench has been one of the best in the league and they could punish Cleveland’s bench if they’re in the game that long. Also, the Raptors two-guard lineup with Lowry and Joseph has been very effective. So the question there is whether Kyrie and Delly can counteract them.
Walt: The Miami Heat. I doubt they’ll upset, but Miami is 2-1 against Cleveland this year. Both losses were in Miami. The only problem is not every game is in Miami. No one knows LeBron James better than Dwyane Wade. The Heat would need a miracle to win that series.
De Falco: Anything can happen in the NBA Playoffs and one team that comes to mind that can give Cleveland a run for their money is the Toronto Raptors. I say this because the guard tandem of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have been unstoppable together, both averaging over 20 points a game. Out of all the teams in the East, Toronto has the best chance to pull the upset here.
Cannuscio: The Celtics are the biggest threat to the Cavs. Boston has some of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. This team is a lot better than they were last year and if they upset the Hawks and see the Cavs in the 2nd round, the Cavaliers are going to have a tough test.
3.) The Charlotte Hornets are surging as of late, can you see them making some serious noise in the playoffs?
Allan: I think the Hornets can win the first playoff series versus Miami but it won’t be easy. I would like to see how Lin can fare in the playoffs this season. People usually like to write him off around playoff time. I wonder if he can use that as motivation.
Fischbein: I can’t see them getting through to the 2nd round without Kidd-Gilchrist. They have been playing very well lately, but MKG gives them so many options on the defensive end when he’s on the floor. Without him, I don’t think that they will be able to matchup as well with teams like the Cavs, Raptors, or Celtics.
Walt: The Hornets aren’t strong enough to beat the Hawks, Boston Celtics or Miami Heat. If Nicolas Batum isn’t 100%, Charlotte will exit early.
De Falco: The Hornets are one of the hottest teams I believe heading into the playoffs. They are led by Kemba Walker, one of the underrated point guards in the NBA right now. Add that they have a veteran leader in Al Jefferson and a surprising player like Nicholas Batum and Marvin Williams playing well this year, I can see this team making a run in the playoffs.
Cannuscio: Falling to the 6th seed in the East has truly hurt the Hornets. They’ll face a tough Heat team in the 1st round, but they do have the firepower to pull an upset. I think Charlotte will win at least 2 games against the Heat, but I don’t see them winning a series. Kemba continues to get better year by year, but I just don’t think he has enough playoff experience yet to be able to lead this team to win a series. I’ve been proven wrong before, though.
4.) On a scale of one to terrible, how bad is the nickname “Agent Block”.
Allan: I think it’s pretty bad. It doesn’t come off of the tongue smoothly and it feels like he is trying too hard to re-create “agent zero”. Hassan, just keep blocking shots and let the nickname follow.
Fischbein: Terrible, absolutely terrible.
Walt: This nickname isn’t terrible, but not far from it. Hassan Whiteside leads the NBA in blocks per game, so I can understand why Dwyane Wade included “block” when thinking of Whiteside’s new nickname. I don’t think this nickname will stick if Whiteside leaves in the offseason.
De Falco: The main rule I have learned about nicknames is that you never give them to yourself. It sort of happens and Hassan Whiteside I guess never got the memo. Whiteside recently said his nickname is “Agent Block” because you guess it…. he blocks shots. Overall, I give it a 4 or 5, not the worse nickname but its simply boring and it will not stick. But do not worry the media will eventually find a nickname that will stick, even if you might not be a fan of it Mr. Whiteside.
Cannuscio: Terrible. I’m a much bigger fan of ‘The Great Wall of Whiteside’. Agent Block isn’t great at all, sorry Hassan. This is why the media or their teammates should continue to give out nicknames, not the players themselves.
5.) You are GM of the Chicago Bulls, are you pulling the trigger on a Derrick Rose trade?
Allan: I think I am. I just don’t see any progression further with him. It’s going to be a tough thing to do because he is a hometown guy, but maybe see if he can have a say in where he would want to go. Yes, I’m sure he would want to stay in Chicago, but he also wants to be a proven winner in the NBA. Chicago, at the moment, is far from that.
Fischbein: I’m pulling the trigger on that trade yesterday. It’s obvious that there needs to be something done to this team to get them back to a contender. Getting rid of that $20 million contract is a nice start.
Walt: I would try, but I don’t think I would accept the return. Derrick Rose has played much better than expected in 2016, but no team is giving away a lot to acquire him. Chicago is just counting down the days to free Rose’s contract.
De Falco: If I am GM of the Chicago Bulls, I will definitely be looking at offers for Derrick Rose, at the right price of course. Rose is still considered by most a top player (or at least has the ability to be when healthy). With the Bulls out of the playoff picture, they might be looking to rebuild with Jimmy Butler as the cornerstone for years to come. It wouldn’t shock me if Rose is in another uniform come the start of the 2016-2017 NBA season.
Cannuscio: No, I wouldn’t pull the trigger. You’re not going to get any significant assets in return for a player with 1 year left on his contract with that year being worth around $21 million. I’d keep him and just continue to hope that he can play somewhat well next season.