Trust It Or Bust It: Western Conference Roundtable
- Martin Soaries (@marley_mcfly)
- BJ Boyer (@wcboyer24)
- Alex Fischbein (@ThatKidFisch)
- Aram Cannuscio (@ACannus)
- Ryan Cowan (@RCC1992)
1. Is Anthony Davis a legitimate MVP candidate?
Soaries: Trust it. If the Pelicans do miss the playoffs and Davis somehow does pull off an MVP season, he’d be the first player to do so on a team that didn’t make the playoffs since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 75-76. His numbers are MVP numbers, but the only component holding him back is regular season success, otherwise it’d be his for the taking. But even so, he’s still legitimate, which is frightening.
Boyer: Bust it. I’m a firm believer in the notion that in order to win an MVP award, the candidate must have his team playoff bound. Davis’ slender frame sure does ooze MVP-caliber talent, but the troubled New Orleans Pelicans won’t come close to sniffing the postseason. If the Pelicans do somehow squeak into the playoff picture, I still doubt Davis’ ability to win the award as New Orleans would most likely be the 8th or 7th seed. The last ten award winners have had their teams finish with at least a third seed in their respective conference.
Fischbein: Trust it. Anthony Davis is tearing it up so far. He’s been either leading or close to the lead in multiple categories and he’s not showing many signs of slowing down. Davis could very well be the next headliner in this league.
Cannuscio: Trust it. Anthony Davis is by far the leading MVP candidate if the Pelicans could get some wins. His numbers speak for themselves and no big man in the league, outside of DeMarcus Cousins, has shown that they have the talent Davis encompasses. He won’t have any votes if New Orleans does not make the playoffs.
Cowan: Bust it. The Western Conference is stacked with great teams, making it a long shot that the Pelicans will be able lock down a playoff spot. Davis certainly has elite level talent and should continue to get MVP consideration, but without a playoff appearance it’s unlikely he will hear his name called for the award.
2. Are the Sacramento Kings a playoff team?
Soaries: Bust it. I believe they can be, but they won’t be a playoff team this year. It’s been the kind of start to the season where you can at least say the Sacramento Kings aren’t a waste of basketball time. They’re finally starting to hold their own a little bit behind the visible maturity of DeMarcus Cousins.
Boyer: Bust it. The playoffs are on the horizon for Sacramento, but they won’t make it to the party this year. The Kings have ascended somewhat, and that can be accredited to how great DeMarcus Cousins has been to start the season. It’s no surprise that the Kings have become a more respectable team as Cousins has see growth on and off the court.
Fischbein: Bust it. FOUR teams from the Southwest division all have better records than the Kings, three teams from their own division have a better record, and then there’s Portland in front of them with the Thunder getting KD and Westbrook back. The Kings had a great start, but they seem to be declining back down to the team people thought they were. Cousins seems to have the ability to play at a high level the whole season, but the rest of the team is the problem. Rudy Gay, Darren Collison, and company have more to prove.
Cannuscio: Trust it. Cousins is the face of that team. He will not let that team lose being the most dominant player in the NBA. He has a +128 plus/minus which is 16th in the NBA with all teams and 1st in the NBA for teams that are not above .500. (Second is teammate Darren Collison at +102).
Cowan: Bust it. If the Kings were in the East they would qualify for the playoffs without a doubt, but with so many great teams in the West battling for the last few playoff spots, the Kings will find themselves on the outside looking in. Despite the production DeMarcus Cousins is giving them, the Kings won’t be a real threat unless they make a move or two before the trade deadline.
3. Will OKC will be in the top 8 by the All-Star break?
Soaries: Bust it. It’s going to be an uphill climb for the Thunder that lasts past the All-Star break. They’ll still be in contention for a playoff standing by that time, but I don’t believe they can get over that hump until after the break. It would take an extremely heroic couple of months from Durant and Westbrook.
Boyer: Trust it, but Oklahoma City must get the ball rolling immediately. They’ve already won two games in a row with Durant and Westbrook back, something they managed to only do once in their absence. The Thunder have a home game on Tuesday against a tough Milwaukee Bucks team before taking on LeBron James and the rolling Cleveland Cavaliers. OKC’s matchup with Cleveland could serve as a measuring stick.
Fischbein: Bust it – OKC started in a bit too deep of a hole to climb back into the top 8 by the break. If this was the East I’d say they could make it there no problem, but in the West even the 9th place team normally has a winning record. I do believe, however, that OKC will make it into the top 8 after the break.
Cannuscio: Bust it. OKC does not have enough time and they simply are not a good enough team right now. As of right now they are not one of the top 8 teams in the West, even with a healthy Westbrook and Durant. I have said for a long time, Westbrook is one of the worst point guards in the NBA. Key word there is point guard. Russell is one of the most talented and versatile guards there is in the NBA, but he has no idea how to lead a team especially in the 4th quarter. I trust Durant can carry this team to a good amount of wins, but I don’t know if it will be enough. I still can’t figure out why Scott Brooks still has his job.
Cowan: Trust it. With the return of Durant and Westbrook, the Thunder can only go one direction from this point on, and that’s up. Currently 6 games behind the 8th place Suns, the Thunder have both the time and talent to go on a streak and enter the playoff picture come February.
4. Is Stephen Curry the best point guard in the NBA?
Soaries: Bust it. Might be the toughest question right now. Curry is in the lead for my MVP conversation at the moment, so with the mindset that he’s playing the best basketball of anyone at any position right now, I guess it would make sense to say he’s the best point guard. The question ultimately becomes has he surpassed Chris Paul to earn this title, and today, the best way to put it is that Curry is currently the best player at the position, but Paul still holds the best point guard title. Curry averages less assists and more turnovers, which doesn’t completely determine it, but it is where you’d like to start on the subject.
Boyer: Bust it. At the point guard position, nobody is better than Chris Paul. Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors may play the most exciting brand of basketball league-wide, but there is not a more effective or intimidating floor general than CP3.
Fischbein: Bust it. CP3 is still the best point guard in the league but it’s not by much. Chris Paul is like 1A and Steph is 1B. Curry is hands down the best shooter in the league, and he’s definitely one of the best pull-up shooters in a long time. As far as the total package for a point guard goes, Paul is still the prototype.
Cannuscio: Bust it. Not a chance and it’s not close right now. Chris Paul and Tony Parker are still head and shoulders above the rest of the competition. Chris Paul has a 6.45 assist to turnover ratio right now which is just insane while averaging a meager 1.5 turnovers per game. Many point guards would be putting up similar numbers to Curry if they had the options he had and some would be putting up better numbers. Chris Paul is still the best point guard in the NBA and Curry has still a lot of catching up to do.
Cowan: Trust it. An elite shooter and skilled playmaker, Steph Curry has performed his way to the top of the list this season. He’s currently in second place behind Marc Gasol in the MVP race, which only serves to help his credibility as the best PG. Curry may not have the all-around game of a Chris Paul, or the explosiveness of a Russell Westbrook, but he’s proved to the league that he’s a force to be reckoned with.
5. Are the Spurs still the best team in the West?
Soaries: Bust it. On any given night (and in games already this season) we’ve seen the Spurs go into best-team-in-the-West mode, but I’m only busting this one because of the four or five other teams that do the same exact thing. When it comes time to be the best in the West, the Spurs will be the most prepared to be that, but the Golden State Warriors are playing like the best team in the West as it stands right now, today.
Boyer: Trust it. The San Antonio Spurs got off to a rocky start due to injuries and faulty shooting, but they seem to be hitting their stride once again. They’ve been stomping inferior competition, but their schedule is slated to heat up at the end of this month. An impressive record during their tough stretch may solidify the Spurs as early season title favorites.
Fischbein: Trust it. The Spurs may have shown a little vulnerability in the beginning of the season, but now they’re already hitting a stride and they look like the same team that won the championship last season. Tim Duncan became the 2nd oldest player to earn a triple-double last week, Kawhi Leonard is enjoying his best season so far on both sides of the ball, and they’re still playing the best team basketball in the league. I said it before the season started and I’ll say it again, the Spurs are the best in the league until someone knocks them off as champions.
Cannuscio: Trust it. If this question were to be asked a couple weeks ago then I would have chosen Memphis, Houston, or Golden State to be the best in the West. But of course, San Antonio decides to come alive once again winning 11 of their last 12 including a big win over Memphis on Friday. They have a couple easy games in a row this week, but then we will be able to truly find out who is playing the best in the West when they start playing tougher teams, starting with Portland on the 15th. (Following @ Portland: Memphis, Portland, @ Dallas, LAC, OKC, @ NO, Houston, @ Memphis, NO.) You just can’t buy a break in the Western Conference.
Cowan: Trust it. In their last 10 games, the Spurs are surging and have a 9-1 record. It’s hard to say that any team is better than the defending champion Spurs based on record. It will be decided in the playoffs, and expect the Spurs to be as ready as anyone.