Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe 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.
VIDEO: Kevin Durant leads an OKC team that continues to intrigue
Which team do you consider the most intriguing in the league? Why?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Forcing us to choose, eh? That’s hard (and good, for an NBA scribe). I’m intrigued by a bunch of teams. Miami, for its curious new vulnerability. Portland, for its surprising prime-time readiness. Brooklyn, for how it might go about salvaging this season. Golden State, for its energy and ambition and connection with its crowds. Minnesota, for spotting the field a half season. San Antonio, for any flare-up of Game 6 PTSD. The Miss Congenialities of the East (Atlanta, Toronto, Washington, Chicago), for the chance that one or more might actually assert itself. Heck, even Milwaukee, for how – with so many legit NBA players – it has managed to crater its way into the lottery lead. But forced to choose one, I choose Indiana. The Pacers are intriguing because they have it all, certainly enough, but will have accomplished nothing new if they don’t reach The Finals. Following Indiana now feels like tracking the Titanic – and scouting for the icebergs.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: I’m still intrigued by the raw potential of the Rockets when they’re at the top of their game. They’re 4-1 against San Antonio and Portland, two of the top 3 seeds in the West. I’m also intrigued by the Rockets’ ability to often play like they don’t know which end of the ball to bounce. Witness their 1-5 record against the Sixers, Lakers, Jazz and Kings. My gut says that as a lower playoff seed, they’ll be a dangerous and tough out in the first round, but simply don’t have the poise or smarts to go deep in the playoffs.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Oklahoma City in a good way. They’re no longer the cute story about a bunch of young kids on the rise. This is about winning a championship with multiple story lines unfolding: Kevin Durant chasing his first MVP, Russell Westbrook overcoming three knee surgeries in eight months, a hand-built roster proving its deeper than any Thunder team before it, coach Scott Brooks proving he’s as good as his star players and general manager Sam Presti proving he can get it done by staying under the luxury tax and by being uncompromising in doing it his way.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The Clippers as they walk the tightrope. Maybe they get to June, maybe they lose in the first round again. Neither would be a surprise. And not just a team where anything is possible, but real personality and fun to watch. Blake Griffin’s improvement on offense, DeAndre Jordan’s resurgence on defense, soon the return of Chris Paul and gauging his health, will Doc Rivers deliver — one storyline after another, all wrapped into a team with everything to prove when it matters.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The Spurs. The way they lost The Finals still sticks in my head, so it must still stick in theirs. They’re back at the top of the Western Conference and are the only team in the league that ranks in the top five in offensive and defensive efficiency, even though they’re playing without two starters. Manu Ginobili has looked like a totally different player than he looked like in June. Kawhi Leonard has been a disappointment in his third season, but still has the potential to be a star. Oklahoma City is a tough matchup for them, but they can still get back to The Finals, and it would be fascinating to see if they can get over that hump this time.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I’m partial to the Portland Trail Blazers, considering that they weren’t on anyone’s radar outside of the Pacific Northwest in training camp. I find myself making sure to get a power nap sometime during my day so I can make sure to stay up late enough here at Headquarters. Seriously, I don’t like watching them after the fact because there is too much high-quality basketball being played to miss it live. LaMarcus Aldridge is playing at a legitimate MVP level and Damian Lillard isn’t far behind most nights. That supporting cast strikes a really nice balance and Terry Stotts, in my opinion, has to be the frontrunner for Coach of the Year (along with Indiana’s Frank Vogel). The surprise factor, though, is what sets the Trail Blazers apart for me on the intrigue meter. It’s like NBA reality TV … the good kind (the non-New York kind). Who doesn’t love a good Cinderella story? You want to see how far this team can go.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball blog: I’ve kept my critical eye trained on Portland all season, because the Blazers have put together such a surprising start to the season. (Actually, at this point I suppose it’s more than just a start to the season. First two-thirds? What do we call this?) Yet lately there have been two teams I’ve been glued to on League Pass: Atlanta and Oklahoma City. Even without Al Horford, the Hawks have managed home wins against teams like Houston, Miami and Indiana, and they’ve been competitive in almost every game. They share the ball, capitalize on open space, rotate on defense, and basically stay in games with hustle and tough play. The Thunder, of course, were supposed to be a contender, but with Westbrook out lately, Kevin Durant is playing some of the best and most complete basketball I’ve ever seen him play, which is saying something, when you consider what he’s already accomplished. By the way? He’s still just 25 years old. Talk about must-see TV.
Aldo Avinante, NBA Philippines: The resurgence of the Brooklyn Nets has intrigued me. After a dismal start to the season they are now firing on all cylinders. They were hyped up to be one of the contenders to Miami’s throne in the East, and such a poor start was a disappointment to the fans in general. Can they keep up their high level of play or is this streak of great games an aberration?
Simon Legg, NBA Australia: There’s a few but I’ll go with Phoenix. Ask me in a month and my mind might change. Will they make the playoffs without Eric Bledsoe? Do they even want to make the playoffs now? If they made one move and added a missing piece in the offseason, could they challenge? So many questions that need to be answered. They were viewed as intriguing-bad in the offseason but rookie coach Jeff Hornacek has turned them into intriguing-good.
Adriano Albuquerque, NBA Brasil: The Atlanta Hawks definitely look like they have the potential to derail Indiana’s or Miami’s postseason run, especially if Al Horford comes back for the playoffs. Mike Budenholzer is doing a fantastic job with a group of blue-collar, hustling players like the 2004 Pistons. They add a whole lot of intrigue to the Eastern Conference.