Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Who’s the best player you won’t see in the playoffs but wish you would? (And, please, let’s leave the injured stars off this list.)
Steve Aschburner: The “no injured stars” qualifier to this question, in my mind, applies to Derrick Rose, Amar’e Stoudemire or Andrew Bynum but not to Kyrie Irving, whose various absences have not been as debilitating. Nor have they been the reason why Cleveland floats near the bottom of the East river; the Cavs’ 17-32 pace (.347) with him wasn’t getting them to the postseason any more than their 22-47 mark (.319) overall. As it was, this was a breakthrough season for Irving, from his All-Star weekend highlights to all the pre-21-year-old history he has achieved. With Anderson Varejao healthy and a stiffer defense, Cleveland might have gotten in and put the point guard’s transcendent talents on display for a coming-out party much like Rose’s in 2009 against Boston, when he was about Irving’s age.
Fran Blinebury: Kobe Bryant. (I’ve always wanted to know how many expletives a Laker fan could type in 60 seconds.)
Jeff Caplan: I know my Eastern brethren will likely choose Jrue Holiday and that’s a wonderful choice. Another is John Wall, who is playing spectacularly. But, allow me to suggest Ricky Rubio. There are few magicians in this league and Rubio is one of them. He’s quietly put together a very nice second half to the season since regaining confidence in his surgically repaired left knee, and doing so with a decimated roster due to massive injury woe. Minnesota fans should again be excited for next season when we can only assume the Wolves will have a fully healthy roster and still have Rick Adelman as their coach. Rubio has improved each month and in March he is averaging 13.2 ppg and 7.8 apg. The playoffs were made for such a performer. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait for next season.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Based on the last few weeks, I am tempted to say John Wall. But let’s say LaMarcus Aldridge. A playoff series, or more, would be a deserved spotlight. If it’s any consolation, he will have a lot of them with the Blazers in the years ahead.
John Schuhmann: Well, either Kobe Bryant or Dirk Nowitzki is going to miss the playoffs, and I hear they’re both pretty good. But the one guy I can’t wait to see in the postseason is Kyrie Irving, so I’m kind of rooting for the Cavs to put some pieces around him this summer (and for him to stay healthy). Irving is a 21-year-old star who plays with an electricity and embraces the big moment. He’s made to star on the big stage, and hopefully that time comes soon.
Sekou Smith: There is still an outside chance we could see him in the playoffs, depending on what happens with that eighth and final spot in the Western Conference standings, but watching the bearded Dirk Nowitzki go to work against the Clippers Tuesday night on TNT is a reminder of just how wicked the big fella can be when he’s got it going. His season got off to a rugged start with the injury and the Mavericks struggling to find their way. But I keep having flashbacks to the 2011 playoffs, when Dirk made his case as one of the game’s truly great players. You know he’d go down in a blaze of glory in a first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder. Crazy as it sounds, John Wall of the Wizards would be No. 2 on my list. With the way he’s playing these days, you have to wonder what might have been for the Wizards in the East had he been healthy all season …