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 better at full strength, the Pacers or Knicks? Who do you see as the No. 2 seed in the East?
Steve Aschburner: It’s hard to say how good Indiana would be at full strength because we never saw Danny Granger back and carving out a role in the Pacers’ new Paul George-oriented pecking order. I still maintain that would have been mostly good. And the Pacers’ bench issues are going to recede now with the playoffs looming. Indiana has a more favorable schedule to the finish, in my view, so I’m liking them at No. 2 — and as one half of a solid Eastern Conference finals.
Fran Blinebury: We know already that the Pacers won’t be at full strength since Danny Granger is lost for the season. But I still give what’s left of the Indiana lineup an edge over the Knicks. You’ve always got to take good defense over good offense and the Pacers have the best defense in the league. Never mind the Heat and Spurs juggling their lineups to get rest for the playoffs. Pacers coach Frank Vogel says his team is driving for the No. 2 seed to get as much home-court advantage as possible.
Jeff Caplan: Maybe it’s just because I’ve seen the Pacers more recently and the Knicks have been banged up for a while, but I really like what Frank Vogel has got going with his bunch (yes, I saw the near-meltdown at the Clippers). Paul George is sensational and David West is playing at a high level. Their defense is smothering and now that Roy Hibbert is playing better, this team is multidimensional and dangerous. As for the Knicks, this nine-game win streak is nice, and needed, but there’s a lot of fluff in there. I just don’t see how the elder Knicks hold up in a seven-game series with either Indy or Miami, and frankly, I could see Chicago (with a healthy Joakim Noah and Marco Belinelli) pushing New York to the limit in a potential 3-6 first-round series. So mark me down as picking the Pacers to take the No. 2 seed.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Pacers and Pacers. While this is the perfect time to ask the question, with both teams playing well, Indiana is more dependable with its success based on defense and rebounding. New York needs to beat people with shooting, often 3-point shooting, and that is not as reliable.
John Schuhmann: Even if you take Danny Granger out of the equation, the answer has to be Indiana. The Pacers have been a much better defensive team all season, and they’ve been just a hair worse than the Knicks offensively since the All-Star break. They’ve got a guy — Paul George — who can take on the Melo assignment and, by far, the best 3-point defense in the league, which is obviously a huge factor against the 3-point-happy Knicks. The Pacers can certainly have some ugly stretches offensively, but New York hasn’t shown any kind of defensive consistency all season. I feel much better about this pick than my Spurs-over-Thunder pick.
Sekou Smith: The Pacers seem like the more stable pick, the more reliable group in terms of the consistency they bring on a nightly basis. But at full strength, I’m going with the Knicks. They have, in Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, two elite scorers capable of taking games over at any time. They also have a defensive anchor in Tyson Chandler as well. Much has been made this season, and rightfully so, about the job Frank Vogel has done with Indiana. But I’d argue that Mike Woodson has done as good a coaching job of anyone in the league when you factor in the games his players have missed to injury and the fact that he’s working with half a roster that could star in “Cocoon 3.” The Knicks are the No. 2 team in the East.