There are usually many unanswered questions this time of year. Will there be a blockbuster trade before the deadline? Which player will feel snubbed by not making the All-Star team? What team will make a strong push for title contention? In this edition of our weekly roundtable, we take a look at some lingering questions as we are more than halfway into the season. Our participants for this edition are:
- Eric Rose (@ericrose6)
- Max Mangigian (@PhillySportsMax)
- Cameron Fields (@CameronFields_)
- Evan Anderson (@Jordainian21)
- Justin Kirkland (@jkirk41)
1. What does DeMarcus Cousins’ return mean for the Warriors and the rest of the NBA?
Rose: For the Warriors, it means they are adding a fifth All-Star to their lineup which should be illegal. For the NBA, it also means the Warriors are adding a fifth All-Star to their lineup which should still be illegal. Seriously, Boogie put up 14 points and six rebounds in 15 minutes. He’s just one year removed from a dreaded Achilles injury and it was already clear what kind of impact he’s going to have on that team with the pick-and-roll possibilities. Assuming Cousins is not even close to 100%, the Warriors should be virtually unstoppable come playoff time. If they stay healthy, this team will probably sweep the playoffs.
Mangigian: It means the nightmare has finally arrived for the rest of the NBA. Do not let the standings fool you. The Warriors are atop the west by a half game, but the gap between the Warriors and others in the West is much larger than that. It means their roster contains five All-Stars, which has not happened since the ’75 Celtics. I am curious to see how Boogie’s decision will impact free agency this summer. Will stars team up and build another super-team?
Fields: DeMarcus Cousins is going to create an absurd amount of space for the Warriors, and that should scare the rest of the league. The Warriors’ spacing is already the best in the league because of their scoring threats of Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Now, with Cousins in the lineup, each of the starters’ abilities is going to be strengthened and amplified even more. If Durant cuts into the lane, he’ll command attention, thus leaving Curry, Thompson, and Cousins open. It’s even better that Cousins shot 35.4 percent from the three-point line last season, and in his first game with the Warriors, he made 3 three-pointers.
Anderson: It means the rest of the league is in trouble. The 5th All-Star for the Warriors finally got back on the court and it didn’t even look real. The Warriors are going to secure that No. 1 spot in the West because of his return. When the top scoring options in the league can shoot the life out of the basketball (Curry, Thompson, Durant), and you have another All-Star in DeMarcus Cousins, the fourth All-Star will want to do the same. The fact that Boogie hit 3 three-pointers his first game back shows he’s the right big man “splash bro”.
Kirkland: DeMarcus Cousins brings one more man to the Warriors lineup that can give you 30 or more. Keep an eye out for a positive effect on Draymond Green who will benefit from being guarded by the worst defender on the floor the majority of the time. Cousins is also a high-IQ player with an above average assist rate for a big man. The Warriors lineup is full of playmakers from top to bottom. The longer they play together the stronger they will become.
2. With the trade deadline fastly approaching, name a player that you think is a prime candidate to get traded.
Rose: I think it would be smart of Orlando to trade Terrence Ross because I cannot imagine the Magic have any chance of signing him as an unrestricted free agent after the season. Ross is having a career year, averaging 14 points on the best shooting splits he’s had since his Toronto days, and a team in need of a bench scorer should be all over him. Orlando’s front office isn’t exactly known for making good decisions.
Mangigian: I feel as if Bradley Beal could be on the move soon. It is entirely up to Washington to decide they have any intention of dealing Beal, but I imagine teams will be offering a lot to change their minds. The teams I would consider potential landing spots? The Lakers and Celtics. I think it’s fair to expect some personnel changes on the Los Angeles roster, with ample input from LeBron James. The Celtics have the assets to afford Beal, and it would not shock me if they offered some key pieces to get Beal to Boston.
Fields: Trade deadline news has been quiet for the most part, but Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez is someone who could be moved as the deadline nears. Lopez could be traded to the Warriors, as the Bulls said in December he and Jabari Parker are available to be moved. With Cousins back, the Warriors could still use Lopez on the bench. Lopez has averaged 5.9 points per game in 16.6 minutes per game for the Bulls this season. The Bulls (11-36) are rebuilding, so them moving Lopez could be a possibility.
Anderson: I think Dennis Smith Jr. from the Mavericks could get traded before the trade deadline. We all know Doncic is going to be the man in Dallas for a good couple of years, and that might not be the best situation for Smith Jr. based on his demand for the ball. The Mavericks don’t want to trade him but will if they receive quality value back. It might be best for this organization to move on from Dennis Smith Jr. if his role on the team is going to frustrate him and cause headaches for the front office.
Kirkland: Mike Conley and Marc Gasol met with Grizzlies’ owner Robert Pera to discuss the future of the franchise. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Grizzlies make a move. Memphis is 14th in the West and may need to consider breaking up the last of the Grit-and-Grind roster. Gasol has the skills and versatility to help a competing team making a playoff push and could get a solid return of assets from the right trade partner.
For first time, Memphis will begin listening to trade offers on franchise stars Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, league sources tell ESPN. Memphis has reached a crossroads and is preparing to weigh deals involving one or both of its cornerstone veterans. Story soon on ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 22, 2019
3. Which young core do you like better: The Brooklyn Nets’ or the Sacramento Kings’?
Rose: When I first read this, the Kings popped into my mind as if it was a no-brainer, but the more I thought about it, I have to go with the Nets. De’Aaron Fox will develop into an incredible player and I think Buddy Hield will too, but after that, it’s just Bagley, Cauley-Stein, and some guys. The Nets’ “big four” of Russell, Dinwiddie, Allen, and hopefully a returned-to-form Caris LeVert all seem to have the potential to be high impact players and I give the edge to them. Don’t get me wrong, though, both these franchises are in good hands. Also, can we just talk about how D’Angelo Russell is only 22 years old? Huh?
Mangigian: This is such a tough question. While both teams have young cores with tons of promise, my bias would lean me towards the kids in Sacramento. Not to discount the Nets young pieces. I was absolutely sick when the 76ers missed their chance to get D’Lo in the draft. I also loved Fox at third overall prior to Philadelphia moving up to get Fultz. Both teams are built for the future, and I am excited to see which core ends up being superior.
Fields: Both teams have good young players, but I’d have to agree with Eric in taking the Nets because of their depth. De’Aaron Fox has made a leap in his second year, as he’s averaged 17.4 points per game on 46.2 percent shooting this season. But with the Nets having a solid core of D’Angelo Russell, Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Caris LeVert, they have strong potential in the East. LeVert dislocated his right foot last November, but his status for returning is unclear, per the New York Post. Russell is the team’s star, as he’s averaging a career-high 19.2 points per game. The Nets are young, as their average age is about 25 years old. With the Nets (25-23) in sixth place in the East, they have a good chance of making the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
Anderson: That’s a close one, but I’m going with the Sacramento Kings. I like what De’Aaron Fox is becoming and how quickly he is understanding the flow of the game, along with Buddy Hield and even Bogdan Bogdanovic shooting the ball well. An impressive Justin Jackson has stepped up his role this season for the Kings which excites me about their potential as a whole. The Nets have a very impressive young core of players, but I see the Kings with the better core.
Kirkland: If this question was about the top two or three young guys it would be closer. But the Nets have a deeper roster of high-upside young candidates. In addition to D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen, and Caris Levert, the Nets also have two max slots available to sign potential free agents. It is a better environment for fostering young talent in Brooklyn and they have plenty of it.
4. What do you make of the Celtics’ leadership issues?
Rose: Kyrie being vocal about how hard it is to keep the young guys on track just doesn’t seem like it can end well. The man has always been bad with words but seeing as the team was one win away from getting to the Finals without him and Hayward, saying that his teammates don’t know what it takes to be a championship team is probably rubbing them the wrong way. It’s OK though, the world declared Brad Stevens a demigod before he even won anything so he should be able to fix everything, right?
Mangigian: I think the Celtics are having normal discourse when you have a roster as deep as they do. One thing we know for sure is that the roster will look different next year. The front office and soon-to-be free agents will have some decisions to make, and these issues are starting to clear things up for the long term. I still believe they will figure things out and make a run in the East.
Kyrie speaks on calling LeBron and apologizing after understanding what it takes to lead a team.
— Yahoo Sports NBA (@YahooSportsNBA) January 17, 2019
Fields: Kyrie Irving has just been keeping it real. After the Celtics lost to the Orlando Magic on January 12th, Irving said the Celtics were lacking experience, per Celtics.com. Per The Boston Herald, Irving mentioned how the Celtics didn’t have as high expectations last year compared to this season. Though Irving said he wouldn’t call out his teammates again, what he has said about the team is valid. The Celtics were supposed to be the best team in the East this season, and they’ve lacked consistency. They’re currently in fifth place, and they are still a solid team. But this season has been underwhelming for them so far, and it’ll be interesting to see if they can return to their old form.
Anderson: Kyrie Irving had to bring some type of leadership to this team, but it may not be the type they were expecting. As Rose said, Irving has never been too good with his choice of words, but he is being honest about himself and this team. The guys lack experience, and it’s hard for a champion like Irving to see the potential in a contender and be a part of it when he can’t automatically guide every one of the players to be a championship experienced player. At this point in the season, they need to keep being honest with themselves and get past these issues so that they can fulfill their potential.
Kirkland: Everyone on the Boston Celtics is learning. This is Kyrie Irving’s first time leading a championship caliber team. His teammates are mostly young and still getting their sea legs steady in the NBA. These are the growing pains of a team that will be competing for an Eastern Conference title each year that they stay together. Gordon Hayward seems to grow stronger by the day. The leadership issues have been overblown due to how vocal Kyrie has been but I think we will see a quieter Boston locker room going forward. They will grow from this.
5. Who is one player you think should make the All-Star game but likely won’t?
Rose: I think Bradley Beal ultimately ends up getting snubbed because of the current state of the Wizards. Beal is putting up a career-high 25 points and five assists and has had to take the reigns of a disastrous Wizards franchise that lost John Wall for the season. He’s putting up better numbers than he did last year when he was an All-Star, but I don’t think it’ll be enough to get him in this year. Unfortunately for Beal, the guard position in the East is stacked with Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Ben Simmons, Victor Oladipo, and Kyle Lowry all having great years and/or great teams, and Dwyane Wade being a shoo-in since it’s his last season.
Mangigian: Fan voting makes All-Star candidacy kind of wacky. It feels like a crime that De’Aaron Fox is getting considerably fewer votes than Lonzo Ball. In a packed Western Conference, Fox deservedly gets somewhat overlooked, but the second year guard from Kentucky has played phenomenal basketball. Not to mention, Fox has played a crucial role in the Sacramento Kings hot start to this season. Fox won’t make it this year, but he will soon.
Fields: Kyle Kuzma isn’t likely to be voted in as an All-Star starter, as he was ranked eighth in the West frontcourt for the latest returns. But with the West being packed with stars, he might not be selected as a reserve either. Still, Kuzma has shown why he’s the Lakers’ best young player in his second season. This season he’s averaged 19.3 points per game on 46.8 percent shooting. Since LeBron James has been out with a groin injury, Kuzma has been the Lakers best player, as he’s averaged 22.4 points per game in 12 of the past 14 games James has been out. (Note: Kuzma didn’t play in two of the Lakers last 14 games)
Anderson: Devin Booker doesn’t get discussed much, but I believe he’ll get snubbed of the NBA All-Star reserves. It doesn’t help that his team is ranked last in the West, but he’s running the show for them. Averaging 24.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, and seven assists per game, Booker has become a stronger sharpshooting guard and had some tough performances over the year. Booker deserves to make the All-Star team sooner or later, despite how poorly his team is playing.
Kirkland: Jrue Holiday is quietly having a stellar year in New Orleans. He is averaging 20.8 points, 8.1 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game with efficient percentages. He is also one of the best defensive guards that we have in the NBA and guards the league’s best on a nightly basis. Unfortunately, the competition for the guard spot in the West is ridiculous and Holiday will likely be snubbed. That doesn’t change the fact that he is one of the top two-way players around.