Blogtable: Contenders’ concerns

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.

BLOGTABLE: Contenders’ concerns | What can Phil do? | Which team is better?

VIDEO: The GameTime crew examines the Thunder’s defensive problems

> Rank by level of concern for their recent play (most to least): Heat, Pacers, Thunder. Why?

Steve Aschburner, Ranking those three, I go Pacers, Thunder, then Heat. Miami figured to fiddle around with the regular season regardless, relatively speaking, and might have been wishing Indiana hadn’t even come back to within striking distance, just so they wouldn’t have to bother chasing. The Heat have what’s left of the regular season and then the first round to ramp up toward another title defense. Oklahoma City has a good excuse for its churning – it is working back in an All-Star and one of the best athletes in the game. Russell Westbrook is an asset, not a liability, but he does require a period of adjustment for that team. The Pacers, meanwhile, put themselves in a potential psychological box by turning the No. 1 seed into the Grail – woe is them if it eludes them. As it is, they’ve got to find another mental and physical gear, with a couple of parts (Evan Turner, Andrew Bynum) entirely new to their attack and their chemistry. Seems like a lot.

Fran Blinebury, Oh boy, a 3-for-1 hit on the panic button! First, let’s stop and consider that when we get to the conference finals in a few months, these are three of the four teams that will be there.  So please, Blog Master, breathe into a paper bag and stop hyperventilating.  OK, now we’ll play the game: No. 1 on the list of worries is the Pacers.  I have always had a question about whether they can score enough points to win a championship, and the addition of Evan Turner to the rotation has so far not helped one bit.  If they can’t get back to being the tough, hard-nosed defensive team they were in the first half of the season, quite simply, no rings. No. 2 is the Thunder, but you have to factor into their recent slump the absence of Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins to injuries. We’ll assume they’ll be fit for the playoffs, so no worries. No. 3 are the Heat.  Because they are the Heat. Because LeBron is LeBron. Because the constant rush to push them over the edge is downright silly.

Paul George (Jordan Johnson/NBAE)

Paul George (Jordan Johnson/NBAE)

Jeff Caplan, NBA.comThe Pacers most concern me. Why? They can’t score. Their offense is painful at times. They play slow and spend a lot of time pounding the rock and often don’t get anything decent until late in the shot clock. And hey, I like Paul George, but he’s not LeBron or KD, two guys that can torch anybody, anytime at anywhere on the court with the ball in their hands. If Indiana’s defense is not locked in, which it has not been during this skid, they are susceptible to going down hard against high-octane, efficient offenses. Next, the Thunder. Their defensive issues are concerning, but they’re also missing their perimeter stopper, Thabo Sefolosaha, and their brutish center, the Rodney Dangerfield of the league, Kendrick Perkins. Even without those guys, OKC needs to take a hard look at its fourth-quarter defense. It’s been a joke and continues to cost them games. The Heat concern me least. My opinion is LeBron’s been flat-out exhausted coming off a long road trip interrupted by the business of the All-Star break followed by more road games. I don’t really worry about the Heat. They know what’s up.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comThunder, Pacers, Heat, with Indiana/Miami essentially a tie. And it doesn’t matter one bit. A month from now? Yes. Early March? Not so much. The only thing being proven now is that there is no perfect team, and that was already clear. The Thunder aren’t healthy, so this really isn’t the right time for snap judgements. And while the turnover problems are a concern, that has been an issue for years.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com1. Indiana.  2. Oklahoma City 3. Miami. Even with Paul George playing as well he was early in the season, the Pacers weren’t a very good offensive team. Now both George and Roy Hibbert are struggling, their defense hasn’t been as dominant as it was early on, and they’ve lost their grip on the top seed in the East. The Thunder should be concerned about their defense, especially since there’s no guarantee that Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins will return in a timely manner or at 100 percent. The Heat haven’t been consistent enough defensively either, but they’re the champs, they’ve been better on that end of the floor when Dwyane Wade has played, and they already have four wins against winning teams since the All-Star break, twice as many as the Thunder (two) and Pacers (zero) combined.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comFirst is the Pacers. They are the group with the most glaring wild cards (still developing superstars and stars, transition time for newcomers Evan Turner and Andrew Bynum and the most fragile championship construct). They are finding out the hard way just how difficult it is to be a championship-level team from start to finish, something very few teams can handle. The Heat didn’t even finish the deal the first time around. Second is the Thunder. With the Russell Westbrook factor and injuries to Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins, there is reason for pause, even if it’s just temporary. Third is the Heat. They’ve shown us the past two seasons that they are capable of rebounding from whatever adversity there is and handling it in their own way.

Lang Whitaker, All Ball blogI’ll go Pacers, then Thunder, then Heat. To work in reverse, as I’ve said before, the Heat strike me as the type of team that understands their limitations and are focused only on June and the NBA Finals. They may lose a game here and there, but as long as they’re ready this summer, that’s all that matters. To me the Thunder struggling of late isn’t as much about Westbrook assimilating but the loss of Perkins and Sefolosha. They already work with such a thin bench, to be without two starters is really tough. As for Indy, that’s the team I’m most concerned with. I know they’re trying to work in their own new guys (Turner, Bynum), and perhaps we’re just seeing a bit of boredom/insolence work its way out of their systems, but as a group that hasn’t been to The Finals, to me they’re the one team of these three with something to prove. They can’t afford to coast.

Iñako Díaz-Guerra, NBA EspañaIndiana, Oklahoma City, Miami. We all know that Miami in the regular season is like a clever but lazy student: he’s going to be fine when final exams arrive. And OKC, well, they have key injuries and Westbrook is still shaking off the rust, but he’s better every day. But the Pacers, well, that’s another story because taking the first seed in the East is crucial for them and, perhaps, we underestimated the importance of Danny Granger as a leader of such a young team. They need to wake up soon.

Philipp Dornhegge, NBA Deutschland: Pacers, Heat, Thunder. They all got back to their winning ways, but it’s Indiana that still seems to struggle. The Pacers’ offense looks shaky and they seem to can’t wait for the playoffs. The Heat have holes and I’ve stated numerous times that reaching four Finals in a row is a tough task. I’m not sure if LeBron will be able to save them this year. OKC has been my Finals pick all year and I’m sticking with them. The win against Houston was impressive and I see no reason to believe that they’re not the favorite to win the West.


  1. Hustle_Simmons says:

    Google: the “worst players to win an NBA championship” and then fill out your NCAA brackets

  2. Hustle_Simmons says:

    Kobe getting shipped off to Europe.?

  3. Hustle_Simmons says:


    Which point guard can last.?!?!?!?!?!?!

  4. Juan Murillo says:

    True the Rockets, Clippers, and spurs don’t get a mention……but those three teams did struggled at one point of the season just like the pacers, heat, and thunder are … Every team is going to struggle no team is perfect, no team is immune to fatigue, injuries, etc. The recent struggles of the pacers, heat, and thunder draw attention because they are the favorites out of the league to win it all.

  5. okc2014 says:

    I think a more interesting question would have been: who will make 7th and 8th seeds for each conference? I say Hawks don’t make it, and New York (and Charlotte) snags it. In the West, it will be Memphis (and Phoenix) over Dallas. Go Thunder!

  6. The Future says:

    Melo gonna join the Pacers…good bye David West

  7. Batman says:

    It’s early to tell which one is the best team. The level of playing changes when playoff comes..

  8. dustydreamnz says:

    The Spurs/Clippers/Rockets don’t get a mention because they haven’t been struggling.

  9. 3ptdagger says:

    The big concern should be for the Heat, really. When was the last time a team made it to the Finals four years in a row? Granted, they don’t have much competition in the East outside of also-struggling Indiana, but the role-players haven’t done a whole lot this season.

  10. guy says:

    so the team with the best record in the league not even an honorable mention?? GOSPURSGO!!!!

  11. Benjie says:

    The heat problem is lebron taking too many shot in 4th quarter ,I know his the best player in the world but if your struggling in 3 games to score give the ball to dwade and let him facilitate and score .I watched the bulls and miami over and over again .they are tie with 20 seconds left on the 4th quarter ,lebron dribbled the ball until 5 seconds when he intend to drive across the lane ended up ball being slap by butler.In the past they usually dribble the ball and make a fake penetration and dish it out to Allen or bosh to shoot the final shot.but that didn’t happen instead it went to overtime and again lebron taking to many low percentage shot that cost them the game.I hope lebron will wake up and realised it’s not every game that you take the last winning shot ,it’s always Ray Allen who bailed you out in the finals when you missed that 3 pointer on game six. Think about that.

    • Ryshawn says:

      too many shots what games you be watching if Wade’s not playing who will take the shots they move the ball as good as any team in the NBA. if I was you am going back and watching the 4th quarters again your wrong

  12. SM says:

    Heat can win the championship this year but the coaching staff led by Spo must be more careful with the players substitution and the starting line up.
    For instance, Heat piont guards have been struggling, specially Cole. Chalmers have been playing better only the last few games he did not play well. They can use Douglas. he is fast, hard working player with good defensive abilities.
    Also with teams like Pacers, Saint Antonio, Chicago etc.. it is better to start with 2 big men.

  13. JayTee says:

    so the Clippers and Spurs have nothing to worry about….. me likes!

  14. Brian says:

    and spurs are not in the conversation. nice.

  15. I thing the heats are going to pull it together and win everything (just wait and see my heats)

  16. Ryshawn says:

    All they do is count the Heat out I dont belive in the Pacers at all!!!! The Finals will be in South Beach again see you there

  17. TTKIN says:

    U know how u can tell this was a stupid question to ask everyone?

    Every single person had the same answer except the Germany guy who proly watches Dirk more than these teams (especially since Dirk is in a playoff race).