NBA Q&A (From stumped4aduck.com)

Binczyk: Let’s kick it off with the terrible start the New York Knicks have endured. Still early days but the loss of Tyson Chandler has left a defensive hole that is big enough to drive a Mack truck through. Is there any coming back for this Knicks team to be some sort of threat come playoff time? Personally, Woodson has to go first, his days of getting by on “lucky dip” coaching has come to an end for me. There are several quality coaches out there, GM Steve Mills should have his eye on the likes of S Van Gundy, J Sloan for example.

Lavalette: Is there a more overrated sports franchise than the Knicks? I know, I know, it’s due to the colossus that is New York– with the city now firmly entrenched as the chic capital of the world – but their beloved basketball team have been abominable for the past 40 years bar the halcyon Ewing years.

At the start of the season, I was convinced Melo wouldn’t bolt during free agency. How could he leave the bright lights of New York? How could he abandon the chance of being the saviour of Big Apple ball? Winning a drought-breaking ring in New York would propel Melo to an immortal.  He always seemed to embrace this pressure. He was confident in his ability to realise his destiny.

But why would he want to stay with an inept franchise, mired with incompetent management and a wooden coach (poor pun alert)?

Maybe teaming up with his boy Kobe and moving to LA with his Tinseltown craving wife could start tempting Melo.  Even an aging and crippled Kobe is more alluring than the insanity of his current abode.

The problem for the Knicks is that everyone is culpable. Even Melo. I’m probably one of the poor delusional souls still on the Melo bandwagon. I believe, if properly surrounded by suitable talent who can cover his deficiencies particularly defensively, Melo can replicate Dirk and win a championship as ‘The Man’.

Unfortunately, Melo hasn’t taken his game to the elite level. His defence is mediocre and he doesn’t have the innate ability to make his teammates better. Even his esteemed shooting is struggling at its lowest ebb since his rookie season. Hence, he has been overtaken by Paul George in the ‘third best forward alive’ debate, which seemed folly at the start of this season. Now, it’s not even a conservation, which is an indictment on Melo’s inability to improve his all-round game.

The point is, I don’t think New York’s woes are entirely lumped on Woodson. The coach is always the easy target. Remember Woodson was the coach who helped resurrect the Knicks following the dysfunctional Mike D’Antoni era.

But there’s no doubt Woodson will eventually be made scapegoat. It’s a star-driven league. Superstars rule. The Knicks will panic amid the pile of pressure from the press, which is unmerciful in New York. But I’m not sure it’s realistic any of the acclaimed coaches biding their time – Van Gundy, Hollins, Sloan,  Karl – can make much of a difference without an off-season to prepare.

Expect the Knicks to have a new coach by Christmas. And expect the Knicks to make panic trades soon too. Most likely, the team won’t improve much. Yet, they can still make the playoffs, testament to the atrocity that is the Leastern Conference.

Thorgesen: Knicks are matched for most overrated sports franchise only by the Dallas Cowboys and the LA Dodgers.  And they’ve both won multiple championships since 1973.  Though none since 1995.  I’m all for sacking Woodson.  Perhaps at the trade deadline if the downward spiral continues.  Let’s see what happens when Chandler returns.  Word is Allan Houston is waiting in the wings.  As an interim I could think of worse options (Kidd oy), but the Knicks better have an ace up their hole or as you guys mentioned – NY will turn on them.  Smith and Shumpert have been totally shithouse so far, Amare’s contract is a massive burden and I don’t even know what Felton does

As for that other Knick: I agree with the uncontroversial statement that Carmelo Anthony does not make his teammates better.  Hard to measure without using the eye test.  Or the ring test.  Plus/minus says Knicks are up 5.7 pts when he’s on court, up 3.4 pts when off.  A cynical a-hole might suggest Melo helps teammates to the tune of 2.3ppg.  Agree his defence is below average for his natural position (SF), while at PF it’s even worse.  He is worth a decent 3 wins a season on D though, and 6-7 wins on offence.  Most teams would take that.  My sources tell me Mr Anthony will stay in NY.  But the reasons for staying must be dwindling.

Lavalette: “My sources”…Love the Chris Broussard impression! I’m sure your sources are a lot more credible than Broussard’s, who embarrassingly still believes he is competition for ADRIAN WOJNAROWSKI. BOW DOWN TO THE JOURNALISM KING PEOPLE!!…Sorry, I’m getting excited. Woj, man crush.

I think, I have sabotaged your eloquent views BT. Continue…

ThorgesenMelo has played 75% of his minutes this season at PF/C compared to 26% last season.  Listed variously at 230, 235 and 240 – does Anthony have a future at PF?  What’s the more efficient setup: Bargnani at 3 and Melo at 4, or the reverse?  Bargs actually has the better true shooting % and effective FG%.  However, NBA Reference suggests Anthony is a 20% more efficient player than Bargnani in general.  Even with Melo shooting 3 pointers at his 2003-07 standard of sub 30%.  Good news is that lately he’s spreading the ball more enthusiastically and taking fewer desperate jump shots.  Miracle on 31st St.

CollinsAndrea Bargnani, BOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. Whenever anyone mentions the 2013-14 Knicks, I think of poor Il Mano – seriously, why blow $23 million on a stretch four who’s rebound rate only just shades Pablo freaking Prigioni’s?! Are we sure David Kahn isn’t the Knicks’ GM?

Last season New York was Dad’s Army and this season, the Knicks remain a poorly constructed team. Unfortunately for New York, its awful contracts make it difficult to render drastic change to the roster.

Poor Melo, he’s surrounded by four washed up teammates – Stoudemire, Bargnani, K-Mart and Metta – and CHRIS SMITH!! Despite his critics, Melo is still a top 10 player and the best scorer in the NBA. We all know he’s a notoriously lazy defender but so is Houston’s James Harden and even Kobe Bryant (Watch Kobe – he gambles on nearly every defensive possession). Melo needs to play with an elite point guard (Paging you, Rajon Rondo) who can run an efficient offense, which would then allow Melo to pick and choose his moments to take over offensively.

Can the Knicks make the playoffs? Sure. Heck, the Eastern Conference is so poor that the tanking Celtics find themselves in the fourth seed! Even if the Knicks get back a healthy Tyson Chandler to anchor its defence and JR Smith chooses abstinence from clubbing, they’ll ultimately be making up the numbers in the playoffs. You can book your flights now for Indy and Miami.

Please, no more talk about the Knicks. I refuse to waste any more ink on a perennially overrated and miserable team.

Binczyk: The Portland Trail Blazers on the other hand off to a fantastic start. I guess we all expected them to be around the 40-win mark due to their home court advantage, but they are on track to well surpass that. Is this team good enough to go all the way to the Western Conference Finals with the pieces they currently have?

Lavalette:Not in the powerhouse that is the West. The Blazers have a nice blend of talent, are well coached and managed – so basically they are the Anti-Knicks.

They’ve improved their bench considerably, and have two proven scorers in crunch time – Aldridge, one of the best post players in the league, and Lillard, who is fearless as a young point guard.

So, scoring is not an issue and should result in plenty of regular season wins – around the 55 range is absolutely feasible, considering their home strength.

But can they make multiple stops during crunch time in playoff games? Will they be able to stop the savvy Spurs, Durant/Westbrook, the eclectic Rockets, etc?  I don’t think so.

Scuttlebutt suggests Omer Asik will be traded by Houston. Portland would be an intriguing destination but Houston may not be willing to trade within their conference. Asik would immediately be their best defender as a rim protecting enforcer the Blazers desperately require.

Internally, the Blazers probably never expected to be this good. Making the playoffs was probably their goal for the season. But now they can sniff an opportunity. The West, while strong and deep, is open. Every team has questions – will the Spurs finally age? How do the Clippers improve their frontcourt? Is there too much pressure on Durant/Westbrook? You get the point.

The Blazers have to be ballsy. They must gamble if they truly have ambitions to be competing in June.

Thorgesen: I really like Portland.  A freaking fantastic city.  And the team is a hoot too.  The Blazers are pretty much the only team in Portland.  Memories of Bill W and Clyde and Cliff and yes, even the JailBlazers mean a lot to them.  And their visitors.  Maybe…after a game many years ago, a young fellow met up with a beautiful young lady/Bicycle store owner at a microbrewery and fell in love*.  *Possibly autobiographical. 

Portland are a team you want to show to new Basketball fans.  What’s that spiral thing on the court?  What the hell is Rip City, they’ll ask.  But they soon start enjoying the flow of the Blazer.  What a bunch of overachievers.  I might just start jogging again.

I love watching underrated guys like Mo, Batum and Wes do their thing.  Robin Lopez still has some residual appeal from the Suns days.  Lillard is a star.  His scoring style works in the scheme.  His defence needs a lot of work sure.  Aldridge is a beast.  Even Allen Crabbe is impressive.  100% 3pt shooter.  Their team defence is not totally decrepit – they’re a top 10 perimeter D team.

55 wins might get the Blazers 6th in the West!  I have them at 54 wins but let’s not squabble over details.  Trading for Asik (and by December 19th apparently) sounds incredible.  This must happen.  But for whom?  Let me consult the ESPN Trade Machine for spiritual guidance:

Wes Matthews for Asik: works, adding 3 wins for Houston and costing Portland 7 wins.  Which seems insane.

Or Lopez for Asik: gains Rockets 3, costs Blazers 3.  Still a royal rogering for the Blazers.  I’m sure they can find a way.

Anyway, is Portland really a city some tall sad sack named Omer would enjoy?  Chicago maybe.  Oh yeah.  Moving on, average punters like me might love the Blazers, but sadly they’ll struggle against the Clips/Thunder.  That’s counting on the Spurs aging out.  Portland will reach the West Semis.  And lose.  Classic May grey.  

Collins: As it stands, Portland is the third best team, behind San Antonio and Oklahoma, in the very competitive Western Conference. The Trail Blazers have the best power forward in basketball, an improved bench, a truly crazy fan base and Damian Lillard brings that Oakland swagger.

Can they come out of the West this year? It’s difficult to say. Portland’s athleticism on the wings could definitely give San Antonio some genuine problems in a seven game series – much like the Warriors did last post-season. Yet, could a team with minimal playoff experience get past the Spurs and Thunder in consecutive series? Don’t count on it.

Portland is exciting (particularly at the Rose Garden) and definitely rivalling the Warriors for League Pass Supremacy. Although, with plenty of panic trades and What-The-Hell-Are-We-Doing-We’re-Meant-To-Be-Tanking-For-Wiggins trades on the horizon, Portland might be able to obtain that one savvy veteran player who could take them over the hump in the West.

Despite, the preseason hype, the Clippers don’t play defence and with Blake Griffin’s enchantment with the midrange jumper, the Clips are the fourth best team in the West, at best. Houston plays fast-paced but is ultimately doomed in the clutch with Dwight Howard’s incompetence at the line (Safe to say Dwight’s miserable effort at the line rivals Shaq’s in Kazaam). If Golden State can get healthy and Bogut stops fouling, the Warriors might be the team to pass Portland as the third best team in the West.

It might only be December but Rip City is building some dangerous momentum.

Binczyk Thoughts on Jason Kidd’s Gatorade cup flop during the week? Personally it did crucify the integrity and spirit of the game a little bit. The association agreed on this as well handing Kidd a $50K fine.

Lavalette: I thought it was comical if anything. Yeah, it was bone-headed and he received his deserves. But I suppose one must delve into Kidd’s bleary brain for possible reasons why he resorted to such a stupid act.

A few months back, he seemed to be receiving the golden ticket. Here was a star-laden and experienced team delivered to him by one of the richest, albeit shadiest, owners in sport. Concerns over his inexperience as coach was allayed with the reassuring presence of Pierce and Garnett – two loyal players who would ensure the locker room was tight.

Unfortunately, it has been a spectacular disaster. Their two best players – Williams and Lopez – have struggled with injuries, and the seemingly formidable bench has been similarly scythed. Perhaps the saddest sight has been reserved for Garnett, who no longer has the mobility to be an elite defender and has basically been a liability on both ends. Sadly, he should have retired in his beloved green. Age always conquers.

To add insult to injury, Kidd recently reassigned right-hand man Lawrence Frank to a reduced role, meaning Frank no longer sits on the bench.

So, after reading the above doesn’t it not totally surprise that Kidd had a moment of madness? He imploded, embodying his sorry team in the process.

ThorgesenThe bleary brain of Kidd.  Great line.  I’ll get to him.  First off, Pierce and Kev should have retired in the Green, no argument.  We’ve talked previously about Deron being done as a top 5 PG.  Joe Johnson has always been underwhelming to me, a good scorer but little else.  When cold, he’s a major liability.  All round lots of fogeys and injuries.

Lawrence Frank (still owed money from Detroit and on $1 million a year) must have felt like Dirty Harry when he had to partner up with the rookie college grad cop.  “Former player..oh you’ll go far – that’s if you survive.’  Now relegated to the daily reports sin bin.  And Kidd played under Frank for years, which has to hurt Mr ‘real’ coach.  Lawrence will be fine by the way, he’ll get recycled.

I have it on good authority that Kidd’s drink was a Brass Monkey.  Ok the spill was a classic old school tactic – maybe even brilliantly devious.  He has a massive Basketball IQ.  But if you don’t have any time outs: stiff shit.  Own it.  Kidd, in that unfortunate incident, exposed himself as an ex player unable to manage players/assistants and call plays.  Kind of essential for an NBA coach.  Welch and Frank were calling the plays.  It could have worked.  Unfortunately a losing team is a blame-seeking team.  But hey, you never know – Kidd might turn it around for the Nets.  Well, I’m off to ask Jennifer Lawrence out.

CollinsJason Kidd pulled an old school coaching move – probably his only tactically sound coaching decision, yet. He won’t be the first or the last coach to cross the moral line. However, I’m more concerned about coaches interfering with the play on the court – talking trash to opposition players and standing in the way of inbound passes (Kevin McHale, anyone?). It’s an ugly part of the game that needs to be stamped out.

Like highly charged horny frat boys, father time eventually catches up to you. Unfortunately for Jason Kidd, father time has certainly set in at Brooklyn. Kevin Garnett has dropped off so drastically that even BARGNANI felt compelled to talk trash to the future hall of famer – a candlelight vigil for Garnett might be needed…  I’m not sure who’s the more clueless coach, Kidd or Dwayne Casey? (Surprise, surprise, both coach in in the Eastern Conference). I’m so disenchanted by Kidd that I would rather see Isaiah Thomas be the coach and GM of the Nets!

(Crap, I really need a drink now)

BinczykWhat has been the biggest surprise packet for you guys so far in the first month of basketball? For me it’s been the Cleveland Cavaliers. I thought the addition of Bynum, Jack, Clark and the number 1 pick Bennet would be valuable attributes to the formulation of a solid team built around Kyrie. However most of the time when I watch them there are serious chemistry issues on the court and it has been reported that there are issues behind closed doors as well, which has put Dion Waters on the trade table. Despite a few recent encouraging performances, the panic button is just a couple of losses away for me.

Lavalette: I wasn’t too enamoured with the Cavs coming into the season. Bynam is a knucklehead and injury-plagued. I don’t trust the dude. Bennett was a surprise number one in arguably the worst draft for years. In other words, he had BUST written on his forehead.

Mike Brown was rehired. Umm, why? Perhaps, BT can explain this to us, but why do coaches get recycled in the NBA? Aren’t team’s suspicious hiring discards? In the AFL, once you’ve been fired, even when dealt harshly, there’s no chance of redemption.

And Kyrie has been disappointing since last season’s All-Star break. He’s virtually invisible on the defensive end.

Is this really a credible destination for LeBron? I think the chances of LeBron returning home are now in single digits. Although, they every so often have the knack of pulling wins from the proverbial.

Anyway, the surprises for me have been the supposedly inept teams – Suns, Sixers, Magic, Bobcats, etc..

HOW DO YOU TIP THEM? I am finding it impossible to pick these teams because I keep expecting them to spiral yet they are still playing hard and smart. Who would have thought in the season of ‘Riggin for Wiggins’ and ‘Scandal for Randle’?

The Suns are the shock. I honestly did not project them to win more than 20 games amid the Wild West. Unlike other atrocities, Jeff Hornacek has impressed as a rookie coach. And Bledsoe and a rejuvenated Dragic have been a sneaky good backcourt combination.

They won’t make the playoffs in the loaded West, but they could win more than 30 games.  In the illustrious words of Clay Davis: SHEEEEEEEEEEEET!!!!!!!!!!

Thorgesen: The Grand NBA Coach Recycling Scheme. 

First off:  Mike Brown must interview well.  No idea why he was invited back.  Maybe the conspiracy theory is true – the problem lies with the lack of coaches ‘that fit.’  Bear with me!  While George Karl, Hollins, PJ, Jerry and Stan/Jeff Van sit on the couch, it’s a tough call to say there are no coaches out there.  But what’s the common factor with those coaches?  All old guys.  Often tagged regular season specialists.  Have run-ins with the talent.  No rings.  Head Offices are making younger hires like underdog Dave Joerger and worthy assistants like Brett Brown.  Or nerds like Brad Stevens.  Teams are looking at different angles, even analytics…Hey, it worked in Baseball, right?

Also important to consider the separation of duties that coaches have, ‘coaching/mentoring players’ v ‘haranguing players.’  Some coaches fit one job, some both, others neither.  Experienced coaches can be very demanding regarding team setup, aka non-pliable.  The ‘old guy’ and ‘analytics’ model might work for veteran teams, but a young team needs a social worker/teacher/father.  Lots of work.  Do any NBA teams have psychologists on the payroll?

Also, teams love to hire former players to coach.  Question is, are former NBA players more successful coaches than non players?  The NFL has few former players as head coaches.  MLB prides itself on turning mediocre players into very fine managers.  AFL coaches are all former players right?  Here are the current NBA Head coaches with NBA experience: Kidd, Carlisle, Shaw, Cheeks, Jackson, McHale, Rivers, D’Antoni, Drew, Adelman, Williams, Woodson, Brooks, Vaughn, Hornacek, Corbin, Wittman.  Now, some had better careers than others but it is what it is.

17 of the 30 teams have former players as Head coach.  In the current season, coaches with NBA playing experience have won 47% of their games, whilst coaches without playing experience have won 53%.  Incidentally, Woodson and Kidd are the difference.  In the negative.  Goodnight nurse then, former players are shit coaches!

I propose a 3 year purgatory for NBA coaches who get the arse.  Unless they’ve won a ring, are coming off a 50 win season or have never played in the NBA.  Great hair helps too.

In answer to your question: Yes, Mike Brown is a terrible coach and should be fired if the Cavs can find the right fit.  Counterpoint is Brown (no NBA experience!) has the highest winning percentage amongst current coaches (.685), a great effort even with LeBron being responsible for half his wins.  Give Brown a season and Cavs may just surprise.  Thompson and Varejao are quite impressive and probable trade bait.  Irving is struggling with T/Os and being an actual PG but what a talent.  Bennett may be a bust, but with development and the right setup….

Lebron will stay in Miami for the rest of his living days.  No playing in LA, NY or a return to CLE.  If the Heat wins this season, he keeps it going for a fourth.  If they lose, he returns to finish the job.  What a stubborn man.

Biggest Surprise

The Suns.  No doubt.  On evidence they’ll win 30 games minimum.  My prediction is 35.  It’s not that insane.  They’re entertaining and one Morris will deliver on any given night.  Plumlee and PJ have been solid finds.  I think Bledsoe is massively underrated.  He’s in the top 20-25 most efficient players in the NBA.  Coach Jeff has an accounting degree so he’s probably invented his own player evaluation system.

TeamRankings.com predicts Phoenix will win 38.5 games, and gives them a 13.1% chance of making the Playoffs.  Maybe pushing the bounds of reality there.  Incidentally they rate the Lakers’ playoffs chances at 13.4%.  Much like Kobe’s turnover ratio!  Stats joke there for coach Hornacek.

I honestly don’t see the point of a strategic tank for the 2014 Draft.  You draft any of Wiggins, Parker or Randle and things are good in your world.  Franchise players.

*Allow me a quick indulgence on the ’14 Draft*

For the record I think Randle is the most ready of the three.  In the (admittedly limited) games I’ve watched, Randle looked like a man amongst boys.  Ridiculous he’s just 19, but has an NBA frame (250lbs and counting) and knows how to use it.  He’s not necessarily brilliant at spacing, like most Freshman, yet he seems decent at creating his own shots.  This may seem a bit of an old fashioned notion, but these kids would really benefit from two years of College, a smart wardrobe and a part time job.

Embiid looked raw as shit from what I saw, U-17 errors and poor positioning..but he’s a genuine athletic 7 footer and that carries major sway on Draft day.  Smart is the highest projected PG and is built like a PF.  From what I’ve seen he’ll be a well-liked teammate – shows great hustle and is a reckless young man at both ends.  Not sure if Exum will declare for 2014, but he looks a bit skinny and his outside shot needs work according to scouts.  Labelled with the dreaded ‘combo guard’ tag too.  My initial thought is that his lack of a consistent jumper confines him to being a very skilled backup PG, with high Basketball IQ/Makeup and near-Rose speed (hurt just writing that).  Kind of guy you want on your team.  I wish all of them the best.

Clay Davis was asked to rig up the NBA Draft so that the Knicks get a first round pick in 2014.  Declined.  He may be corrupt, but he’s not an idiot!

Lavalette: I agree with you on Randle. He’s a beast. He’s already LeBron 2.0. There’s a chance, physically anyway, that he becomes a nastier and more destructive force than Bron. I can’t believe I just typed that. It sounds unfathomable, yet I don’t believe I’m stretching into hyperbole. AND HE MIGHT NOT EVEN BE THE NUMBER ONE PICK!

Speaking of the legendary Clay Davis, there’s a 6.75% chance Isiah Whitlock Jr – who portrayed Davis in The Wire – is reading this. Let me explain.

During the Adelaide Test match, I tweeted in the aftermath of an unfortunate George Bailey dismissal – “SHEEEEEEEEEEEEETTTT…… I’m still on-board the Bailey Bandwagon (I think)”… Whitlock Jr favourited the Tweet. He doesn’t follow me on Twitter. And I assume he doesn’t follow the cricket. Meaning, he must Twitter search ‘Clay Davis’ or ‘SHEEEEEEEEETTTT’. Whatever. JUST SUPPORT OUR CRACKPOT SCHEME OF A PLANNED SPORTS SITE (IDEALLY FINANCIALLY) WHITLOCK JR!! WE LOVE YOU!!

Anyway, I’m not sure if anyone is still reading at this point. Over to you Collo!!

CollinsCan we stop talking about Kyrie Irving as an elite point guard until his teams win at least 30 per cent of its games? Seriously, love his talent and, heck, I even love the fact that he was born in Australia, but right now his play stinks. In his defence, Kyrie is playing with a fat number one draft pick, a ticked off shooting guard and is attempting to run an offense that revolves around no backdoor cuts, solid screens or passing. The joys of Mike Brown’s coaching! Yay!

I tipped the Cavs to claim one of the bottom playoff seeds. I thought another summer of development from Waiters and Thompson, and the signing of Jack, would propel them into the playoffs. However, I should have known something was rotting in Cleveland when the Cavs selected Anthony Bennett with the number one overall pick. Why do NBA GMs make such monumental blunders? WHY would you gamble on someone who is too overweight to play small forward and undersized to man the power forward position? It’s like saying that Jessica Simpson would be a great conversationalist but an ordinary root! C’mon!

The surprise for me has been the Indiana Pacers. No, not that Indiana is arguably the best team in basketball but the fact that its regular season record is 18– 2 heading into the OKC game. I picked the Pacers to advance to the Finals this year but I thought Indiana would go through the emotions during the regular season and have its struggles on the offensive end for long stretches (characteristic of the Pacers last season).

Paul George’s rise as a clutch dominant scorer in the NBA has elevated the Pacers’ offense and allowed them to blowout teams instead of engaging in grinding low-scoring games. George can score anywhere on the court and in so many different ways.

Indiana is not just a post-season force but also now a regular season winning machine.

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