NBA Roundtable: LeBron James posters, Concern for the Warriors, & Ben Simmons rookie of the year?

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LeBron James NBA

Several of our writers got together to discuss current NBA happenings including LeBron adding another poster to his catalog, concern for the Golden State Warriors, DeAndre Ayton declaring for the NBA draft and is Ben Simmons the favorite for ROY. Participants this week: 

1.) LeBron James just might have given us the best highlight of the year. Where do you rank this dunk amongst the rest of his career?

https://twitter.com/BBallSociety_/status/974473749775945729

Linhares: It was probably his most vicious poster ever, just because he almost never gets the chance to meet anyone in the air. Most guys in the league are able to tell when James is about to take off and have the common sense to understand there really isn’t any point in trying to get in his way.

Apparently, Jusuf Nurkic is simply drowning in confidence or didn’t get the memo.

I’ll probably take some of James’s dunks over guys like Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace over this one, simply because of the stars involved. Personally, though, my favorite has to be the Jason Terry dunk, only because he hangs in the air for what must have felt like an eternity to the poor Jet.

Allan: I lose count when it comes to the number of insane dunks that James has given us over his career. People want to say he dunks less now in his career, now that may be, but I think he reduces his dunks for the ability to have these career games later in his career.

Just adds to the amazing legacy of one of the top two players 0f all time!

Cortes: This is easily a top-3 dunk for James in his illustrious career in the NBA. Just pure dominance and strength showed by the most unique player we have ever seen in the league. Did I mention that he’s currently 33 and in his 15th season in the league? 

Anderson: This is definitely one of the most vicious dunks of his career. I have to agree with Cortes and say this is a top-3 dunk for James. Watching this live gave me chills. It seems as though we see him dunking on someone different almost every other game, but with this one, we knew what was coming once we realized it was a three on one opportunity and James setting up for the lob.

Can’t even imagine what James rising up over you like that has to feel like. I imagine it is quite terrifying, maybe similar to watching the tides move out to sea before a tsunami.

John-Baptiste: DEFINITELY top 5. No question. The fact that James is in his 15th season and executing at this magnitude is ridiculous. This is definitely among his greats including the dunk on Jason Terry (see above) and the dunk on Damon Jones.

2.) On a scale of 1-5, how worried are you about the Golden State Warriors and their injuries?

Linhares: The easiest answer is probably to say zero. None of these injuries project as extending into the postseason, and I think it’s safe to say that as long as Klay, Steph, and KD are all close to 100 percent, they’ll be fine.

But, pretty much anytime your three best players are all injured at the same time, you just have to be stressed a little bit. Professional basketball teams are finely tuned machines and if even one of the pieces in it is missing, or not quite working right, the whole thing can fall apart.

It’s a widely accepted excuse that Steph simply wasn’t the same player during the Warriors infamous 2016 collapse, and that combined with a suspended Draymond Green opened the door for the Cavaliers championship. Now if Steph, Klay, and KD are all not right by the time May rolls around… and Green finds himself in trouble with the referees again… that door is going to swing wide open for somebody to take advantage of.

Cortes: I don’t see any concern for their injuries, so I’d say a zero. I think that they’re just playing it on the safe side in order to prevent what happened in 2016 when they blew the 3-1 lead. Remember, during those playoffs, Curry was hurt, Andrew Bogut ended up getting hurt, and Andre Iguodala was dealing with an injury as well. If these were the playoffs, it is possible that they would be playing, but since it’s just the regular season, they might just be being safe.

Allan: I wouldn’t say I would be worried as a Warriors fan but this Durant injury couldn’t have come at a worse time. They are still very much in the hunt for the 1st seed in the Western Conference but it has now gotten that much harder. Even if the Warriors are the 2nd seed, they just need to make sure they are fully healthy going into the playoffs, or especially when the Western Conference Finals come around. I see the Warriors facing the Rockets, and I truly believe that this Warriors team will go down to the Rockets. It’s because of what Chris Paul has done to make the best offensive player in the NBA even better, in James Harden.

John-Baptiste: I’d say the appropriate concern level should be about a 3. Not quite panic mode, but realistic mode to where they recognize that Houston is on their heels. Can the Warriors beat a fully healthy Rockets team if they are less than 100%? I’m not sure. They are the reigning champions and have to be dethroned, so they will always have that competitive pedigree. Curry’s tweaked ankle would’ve been more of a concern had it been a long-term injury. He’s the most important piece to that team. Durant’s ribs and Thompson’s thumbs are a little more troubling I’d say.

Anderson: I’m not worried about the Golden State Warriors and their injuries so much, but I will be if they keep letting the Houston Rockets slip away with that number 1 seed. I’d say the Warriors need to get healthy by the time the postseason is around because, without Durant, Thompson, Curry, and Green shook up from the Spurs, my scale would immediately go to a 5. Getting healthy is the most important goal for the Warriors right now and it’s not scary for them just yet, but it can be if it gets to a certain point later in the season.

3.) Deandre Ayton has announced that he will enter the NBA Draft. Is he the sure favorite for the number one pick?

DeAndre Ayton
Christian Petersen, Getty

Allan: He is surely going to be a top 5 pick in the draft but I wouldn’t say he is a lock for the first overall pick. I think that with the NCAA Tournament still going on, there could be a player still in the tournament who could really raise his stock. I think also there are some workouts with NBA teams that could sort out the top of the draft. It seems to have an effect more than ever in the past few drafts.

LinharesAyton reminds me of the kind of player Dwight Howard would probably be like if he was a millennial. So physically unique. Fast, strong, big, but can also operate in the pick-and-pop and stretch the floor like a modern big, something Howard was never able to become.

All that being said, I wouldn’t label him a sure thing number one pick. Is he in the running, and probably even the favorite? Absolutely. But this is such a stacked draft, I think it’s completely possible a general manager falls in love with a Luka Doncic or Marvin Bagley, both of which are at least on the same playing field as Ayton, and goes with the first overall.

Ayton is far from a sure thing to go first, but any mock draft that doesn’t include him in the conversation needs to be ignored.

Cortes: If the draft were to begin, I would select Ayton with the number one overall pick. I would consider other names because this is just a really deep draft with endless talent but Ayton is definitely worthy of that number one overall pick. Ayton really reminds me of Boogie Cousins, and we know how good of a player Cousins is. Either way, an NBA team lucky enough to land the number one overall pick should definitely consider Ayton for that pick. He’s a special player.

John-Baptiste: Initially I would’ve said yes. However, although Ayton might be the most talented and NBA ready player in this draft, I think teams will pick based on needs. A team with perimeter/wing needs would likely pick up a player like Bagley III or Keita Bates-Diop. For those teams near the bottom that may need a little bit of everything, expect Ayton to go first overall.

Anderson: I wouldn’t stamp him just yet as the number 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. At first, I agreed with Ayton heading first in the draft, but then the tournament gave me some different opinions. Honestly, I believe it all comes down to what team has the first pick in the draft and because it’ll come down to what they need. There are other players running for him like Doncic or Bagley III. He’s definitely up their for the running of number 1, but we’ll see where he lands come draft night.

4.) Another billboard has popped up lobbying for LeBron James. What’s your opinion on fans recruiting players via billboards?

LeBron James billboard to Portland NBA
Ira LaFontaine/Trill Blazin

Allan: I personally love it. Especially when it comes to the big players in the league. NBA free agency has really become something of a marveling sight over the past five years or so with James switching teams and going back to Cleveland, to Durant moving onto Golden State, it has been just a crazy past few summers. I think that it really speaks to what the fandom in the NBA has become. Basketball popularity has really risen over the past few years and I think the hype of free agency really is a big part of that.

Linhares: Do these people think James is going to look up, see the billboard and think to himself “well, that’ll do it. LABron it is“?

If these people want to waste their money for retweets and likes that don’t even benefit them, that’s fine. I just hope they realize they’re flushing their time and resources down the toilet for absolutely nothing.

Cortes: My opinion is: why not? It’s all in fun and fans get to show how loyal they are to their fanbase so I really don’t see any harm in putting up recruiting billboards. Even James seems to enjoy it so I think we all should follow his lead and enjoy the recruiting billboards these fans are putting a lot of effort into.

If James does indeed come to the Lakers the fan who put that up can unofficially say he helped recruit James to LA. Everyone wins!

Anderson: I think the billboard recruiting process is a great start for the future with getting new players to join their team. I think this is a great way to get the big picture out for someone that can change their franchise. It gives the fans something to get excited about and whats bad about that? Isn’t that what the NBA wants to provide to fans anyway? I love this idea and I think we will see more billboards in the future.

John-Baptiste: I think it’s amazing! Who wouldn’t want to be courted by fan bases of opposing teams, just knowing that acquiring you exponentially increases their championship odds? You think back in the 90’s fans wouldn’t have clamored for MJ to join their teams if they had the opportunity? I get the whole “we want to beat the best” attitude, but if acquiring the best gives you a championship window, why not?

5.) With another triple-double, Ben Simmons passes Magic Johnson on the list of rookie triple-doubles putting him behind Oscar Robertson. With that said, does Simmons have the rookie of the year trophy won already?

Linhares: I’ve really never wavered from my position that Simmons is the Rookie of the Year this season. Maybe the only way I didn’t see him walking away with it was if the 76ers simply fell apart during the second half of the season and Donavon Mitchell really, really makes a strong case for it.

Well, Mitchell has at least lived up to his end of the deal. Since January 17, he’s led the Jazz to a 22-4 record, moving their total on the season to 39-30 as of March 17, nearly identical to Philly’s record of 38-30. Even more impressive, Mitchell has undoubtedly been THE guy in Utah. With no Joel Embiid or Dario Saric to play off, Mitchell is scoring 21.2 ppg on .432/.344/.782 splits, pretty incredible marks for a rookie.

At the end of the day, Simmons is probably going to take home the trophy. Philly has gone 18-10 since January 15 and looks to be rounding into form with the playoffs approaching, making it tough for Mitchell to make up ground over the next month. Still, though, he’s definitely entered into the conversation alongside Simmons, and there seems to be almost a tie between the two right now. I’d be fine with it going either way, assuming nothing drastic changes over the remainder of the season.

Cortes: As good as Mitchell has been, I don’t think his season was enough to dethrone Simmons as the best rookie for this current season of basketball. Mitchell has definitely shown star qualities with his takeover ability through his scoring and he definitely has all the tools to be a perennial all-star in this league. Simmons has taken that a step further and has stuffed the stat sheet and scoring nearly 18 points a game despite not having a jump shot whatsoever. Both will be great, but Simmons has the slight edge for Rookie of the Year honors.

John-Baptiste: I would like to pre-empt this statement by saying  I don’t think Simmons is a true rookie. Just as with any other rookie who got that “red shirt” year due to injury. Anywho, by the rules, he is the Rookie of the Year. Simmons has been stuffing the stat sheet from opening night this season and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. He has Philly in the playoff race along with Embiid and has put on shows night in and night out. So much so, that there is talk about Philly being in championship contention in the near future with a few added pieces. Simmons provides a different dimension to what Philly already has and definitely can take them to the next level. Add a jumper to that already versatile game of his and you have your next superstar in the making.

Anderson: Yes, I think Simmons solidified himself as the Rookie of the Year even though it doesn’t feel like he’s a rookie this year. Mitchell is right behind for that award, but I just don’t believe he has been putting up better numbers than Simmons. Simmons has proved that he is a scorer, rebounder, and distributer in this league and will be a serious problem in a few years. If he can become more consistent with his triple-doubles, and eventually develop a jump shot, he can be stamped as Rookie of the year.

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