Blogtable

Blogtable: Thoughts on Cavs’ deal?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on Cavs’ deal? | Struggling marquee teams | Where will Dirk finish?



VIDEONBA TV’s crew discusses the three-team trade

> Cleveland’s deal for Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith was made, seemingly, to shore up some holes on defense. Mission accomplished? Or more to come?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comIf the Cavaliers are done sprucing up their roster defensively, then I think they’re done, period, as a serious contender this season. It’s not like I expect them to lure Dikembe Mutombo out of retirement and coax assistant coach James Posey back into uniform, but they’re going to have trouble coughing up from within the proper defensive intensity, on the fly, in what’s left of the season. Rim defense in particular is needed, and no one on the current roster (with Anderson Varejao out) is capable of filling that void. As for finding one of those much coveted 7-foot shot swatters walking around outside the arena, good luck with that. The Cavs need to make another deal.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comDefinitely not. From the beginning of the season the Cavs have been short on big men and the loss of Anderson Varejao for the season only exacerbated the problem. More than one hole in the hull of the S.S. LeBron. Still need bigs.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comMission accomplished to get away from Dion Waiters. Maybe Shumpert makes the Cavs better on defense, but the primary goal was addition by subtraction, not shoring up holes on defense. Although Waiters has talent, he obviously wasn’t a good fit there, and that’s not just with the new roster, either. More to come? I could see it. Cleveland doesn’t have many trade chips left, but any tinkering is possible after the way the season has started.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comI wouldn’t say mission accomplish or that there is more to come. Not sure if the Cavs, at this point, have any more disposable assets to swap that will fetch the shot-blocking rim protector they need. Shumpert is just a band-aid. The Cavs need more of a team effort defensively that will help hide the shortcomings of Kevin Love and, to an extent, Kyrie Irving, but I’m not so sure that mentality is there. LeBron can only do so much, and even he isn’t the defender he used to be.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThe mission certainly hasn’t been accomplished, because they still lack rim protection and both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love still need to show that they can play both ends of the floor. But the trade is definitely a step in the right direction. Trading Waiters is addition by subtraction, Shumpert gives them more perimeter defense than they had, and Smith is a good shooter if he can just play off LeBron James and Irving and limit the isolation, step-back nonsense. I’ll be curious to see how coach David Blatt finds playing time for all these guards, though.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comIt has to be a little of both. The Cavaliers certainly found a potential perimeter defensive stopper (no offense to Shawn Marion, who has performed those duties in the past) in Shumpert. So that part of the mission has been accomplished. But there has to be more to come in terms of shoring up the rim-protector/post-defense deficiency that was created when Anderson Varejao (Achilles) was lost for the season. The Cavaliers have plenty of time to continue exploring their options. And based on what we’ve seen from them so far, they need to turn over every rock in the basketball world in search of the idea fit.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comMuch more to come … and much of it must happen in-house. Shumpert is a good pickup because he join LeBron James in his commitment to defense. Will everyone else come around? The mentality in Cleveland needs to change in addition to the mandatory acquisition of an intimidating big man. If everybody isn’t paying attention at that end of the floor, then nobody in Cleveland is going to be winning the championship.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogThe more I think about this deal, the more I like the way it works out for Cleveland. First of all, Dion Waiters either wouldn’t or couldn’t fit into the sixth man role he’d been asked to occupy, so the Cavs went out and got a former sixth man of the year in Smith. On top of that, they added Shumpert, the Knicks’ most versatile player and a true a-level wing defender. I think this will really help Cleveland down the stretch in games, where they’ve tried auditioned various players, from Matthew Dellevadova to Mike Miller, as Irving’s backcourt mate. Doesn’t matter which one, Shumpert or Smith is an upgrade.

Morning shootaround — Jan. 7


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 6

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Anthony says he’s not shutting it down yet | Reports: Seattle investors eyeing Hawks | Young likes Lakers’ ‘atmosphere of winning’ | Bucks’ Sanders explains his recent absences | Trade winds start to pick up

No. 1: Anthony ‘not shutting it down for the season yet’ – Debate has raged over the last week or so about whether or not New York Knicks All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony should stop playing this season to rest his sore knee. While the team may want Anthony to think about such a move, he’s not interested in doing that. In a video posted on Bleacher Report, Anthony says he plans to keep chugging along this season:

“I’m all right, I’m not shutting it down for the season yet, just trying to take some time to get it right. I know there’s a lot of fans out there that are kinda upset, kinda down on the team, kinda down on the players right now, kinda down on the situation, but I will say it will be greater later. Just be patient with the team, with the organization, with the journey, with the plan, with what we’re trying to create, what we’re trying to accomplish. Greatness don’t happen overnight, but that’s what we’re trying to build here.

“As far as me, I’m rehabbing. I’m around the clock getting treatment, therapy, trying to do what I got to do so I can be at my greatest.”


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew discusses whether or not Carmelo Anthony should shut it down for the season

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Blogtable: Rondo or J-Smoove?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Person of the Year? | Rondo or J-Smoove? | Bulls bound for Finals?



VIDEOGameTime’s crew discusses how Josh Smith will help the Rockets

> Dallas trades for Rajon Rondo; Houston grabs Josh Smith. Who made the better move here and why?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comAny team that switches out its point guard on the fly is determined and committed to change, so Dallas acquiring Rondo is both the bigger and the better move. Smith to Houston is a nice bit of accessorizing, as I see it, but the Rockets’ fundamental approach doesn’t change. Plus, their investment in the Detroit discard isn’t so great that they wouldn’t cut him loose if the negatives start to outweigh the positives. Good for both clubs, escalating the arms race in the West, but the Dallas did the more-real deal.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: It’s far, far too early to tell.  The Rockets made the bigger gamble with a player in Smith who has more physical skills, but greater potential to blow up in their faces. Rondo upgrades Mavs offense at the point, but hasn’t helped plug a leaky defense

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comThe Mavericks. I get why a lot of teams were running at Smith — only because he was low-cost, low-risk. But I like a lot of the reasons of Dallas getting Rondo. He will move the ball, critical for a team that already has Monta Ellis in the backcourt and Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons needing/deserving the ball up front. He has playoff experience. He has a desire to stay after becoming a free agent. And the Mavericks didn’t have to give up much to get him.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comRondo gets the nod, only because there doesn’t appear to be any chance of a downside. He upgraded the point guard spot and does exactly what the Mavericks need him to do — find Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons, Monta Ellis or Tyson Chandler. Rondo can’t shoot but in this offense he can hide pretty well. Smith is being celebrated in Houston partly because he came cheaply. His bad habits can hurt Houston a lot more than Rondo’s can Dallas. For all of his skills, there’s a very high “heartbreak” quotient with Smith.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comHouston, because there was a lot less risk involved in waiving Tarik Black than in trading three rotation guys and two draft picks for an experiment that might not work. Rondo helps the Mavs a little bit defensively. But he isn’t a good offensive fit next to Monta Ellis because neither player is an off-the-ball floor spacer. Smith isn’t a great fit offensively in Houston, either, but Houston had more need for help at his position. And, as previously noted, the Rockets didn’t give up nearly as much to get him (though Black is young and serviceable).

Sekou Smith, NBA.comI honestly liked both moves for the teams and players involved. Rondo, however, gives the Mavericks a makeover at the most crucial position in the game. The Mavericks get a seasoned play-caller with not only a championship pedigree, but also an understanding of what it takes to work in an ensemble cast. The Mavericks are clearly all in for this season. You don’t trade for a player like Rondo unless you are serious about winning it all. And to get through the Western Conference playoff grinder, there is no doubt you have to be as aggressive as possible in searching out and securing the services of true difference makers — like both Rondo and Smith.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comGive Rondo some time to adapt and strengthen his confidence, and he will make a huge difference to the Mavericks. They will appreciate him in the most important games — and in the playoffs especially. His talent for raising his play on the biggest stage is exactly what is needed for a contender. Smith, by comparison, has shown no such big-game ability.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogHouston. I understand why Dallas felt like adding Rajon Rondo was a given — his resume and talent should be attractive to any NBA team. When you have the best offense in the NBA, like Dallas had at the time of the trade, changing your starting lineup and trading away your best backup big man (Brandan Wright) is the kind of move a fearless owner like Mark Cuban thrives on making. I’m just not sure it makes your team better. But for Houston, picking up Josh Smith — a very good forward who can help you on both sides of the ball when deployed correctly — without having to give up any pieces of your rotation is a no-brainer. Now we get to see if Kevin McHale is a Josh Whisperer and can carve out a role that fits Smith’s unique skill set.

Blogtable: Bulls bound for Finals?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Person of the Year? | Rondo or J-Smoove? | Bulls bound for Finals?



VIDEOJimmy Butler has emerged as a go-to scorer for Chicago this season

> Chicago is on a roll and appears to be making a beeline to the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Is this the season the Bulls return to the NBA Finals? If not, tell me who’s gonna stop them?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comThis is the best Bulls team since Michael Jordan retired for the second time, as far as depth and potential, so there’s no reason – on paper – that it shouldn’t get to The Finals. Cleveland, more than its general meshing, has a problem in Anderson Varejao‘s injury that might not get fixed until the offseason. Toronto, in postseason savvy, is a step behind Washington. And the Wizards, for all the confidence they gained last spring, would have trouble defending against this more-potent Chicago lineup. Atlanta? I respect the Hawks, but one-trick ponies have trouble in seven-game series. So the biggest question for Chicago remains Derrick Rose‘s long-term health and availability. Which means the “who” who might stop the Bulls must be … uh, trainer Jeff Tanaka? (Just kidding, Jeff)

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: With Jimmy Butler stepping up his game this season, the Bulls have an improved offense and appear to have the pieces. But their defense has lost some of its teeth and Derrick Rose’s continued health still nags. I’m not ready to make Chicago the favorite. Have to like what the Raptors have done with best record in the East even with DeMar DeRozan out. Most efficient offense in the league and no-nonsense bulldog point guard in Kyle Lowry, who won’t go down easy. And let’s not write off the Hawks as just being the same old Hawks.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comThey were my pick at the start of the season to come out of the East, and to win the whole thing, so I’m not going to change now. Certainly not with the big jump from Jimmy Butler and the rejuvenated Pau Gasol. Rose’s health history obviously makes it something of a risk pick, and it is tough to push all my chips in with that medical chart, but, yes, the Bulls are the team to beat.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comIf they stay healthy, the Bulls have pole position in the East. They’re not a perfect team, but they bring more size, experience, defense and coaching to the playoff table than anyone else. The Raptors and Wizards haven’t done anything yet, the Hawks are a few stars short of going deep into May, and let’s not get started about the Cavaliers. If Jimmy Butler we see now is the Jimmy Butler we’ll see in the spring, then the East is theirs to lose.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The top four teams in the East – Toronto, Atlanta, Washington and Chicago – all have the potential to be a top-10 team on both ends of the floor. Toronto’s depth gives them an edge in the regular season, but Chicago — with its combination of talent (especially on the frontline), system, experience and coaching — is best set up to win in the playoffs. Health and durability through heavy regular-season minutes will always be a concern and it would be tough to pick them against the field, but the Bulls should be the slight favorite to be representing the Eastern Conference in The Finals.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comAll of the components are there for the Bulls to finally make that long awaited return trip to The Finals. The Cavaliers were supposed to be the team that could roadblock the Bulls, but they aren’t that team in their current state. The Wizards have the talent to give Chicago a major test, yet they still cannot boast as deep or as balanced a roster as the Bulls can when fully healthy. The Raptors and Hawks would provide a stern playoff test, but both would come up short in three extremely important categories (size, seasoning and star power). The Bulls have everything you need, including Derrick Rose in uniform and not street clothes. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau knows that his team’s time is now. Chicago’s championship window is open now and it must take advantage of it.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comThe biggest concern for the Bulls is their own ligaments, tendons and muscles. Given the recent history of injuries among their best players, this is no small threat. If they are healthy, then they are it in the East. If they’re vulnerable physically, then the race becomes a scramble with anyone currently in the top five (plus Miami, which still has hope of pulling things together) having a shot at reaching the NBA Finals. Whereupon that team will be destroyed in five games or less.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I will recuse myself from answering the Atlanta Hawks because of inherent legacy fandom. (Even though I think the Hawks could knock off Chicago this season.) But I will say this: Why is everyone writing off the Cavaliers? I mean, I understand that it’s fun to watch a burgeoning empire stumble out of the gates, but the story this week about the team possibly not believing in Blatt reminded me so much of the first months of Erik Spoelstra’s tenure in Miami, when sources said the team may not have been buying into what he was selling. But the Heat stuck with it and I think we can all agree that things worked out pretty well there. The Cavs may have posted more misses than hits to start the season, but I think it’s short-sighted to write them off today. Cleveland still should be running with the Bulls by the end of the season.

Blogtable: NBA Person of the Year?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Person of the Year? | Rondo or J-Smoove? | Bulls bound for Finals?



VIDEORelive the best on-and off-court moments from 2014

> Time magazine editors choose a Person of the Year based on who they think most influenced the news — for better or worse — during that calendar year. Going by that criteria, who should be the NBA’s Person of the Year for 2014?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: We’re not as desperate as mainstream media to stay relevant, so I won’t suggest a “shock” pick – no Donald Sterling, thank you. And while new commissioner Adam Silver had a great “rookie” year, from his handling of the Clippers owner’s mess to his negotiation of the new TV rights mega-deal, I prefer my NBA Person of the Year to not be a “suit.” So I’m going with LeBron James. Maybe not the most creative pick, but his final days with Miami, his refreshing decision to return to Cleveland and the ongoing angst over the Cavaliers’ spotty start – despite all the talk of learning curves and (ahem) patience – have dominated the league’s storylines.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comGregg Popovich. He’s been at the top of the game for quite a while, but 2014 was the year when the entire world finally got validation that Popovich is more than just a grumpy face. He channeled the anger and disappointment from the 2013 Finals loss into a fire that drove the Spurs to redemption. He did it with a masterful use of his roster, conserving veterans Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker and at the same time forged a deep bench that would be critical in the playoffs. By the time he got the Spurs back to The Finals last June, Popovich practically had them playing to a musical score in an artistic display of basketball. In winning titles 15 years apart with only one common player — Duncan — Popovich chiseled himself a spot on the Mt. Rushmore of coaches.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comPersons — plural — of the Year. The San Antonio Spurs. I was going to go with Tim Duncan or Gregg Popovich or the Popovich/R.C. Buford combo vote, and then decided it was impossible and unnecessary to split them apart when the group win be so Spur-ish anyway. Did they influence the news the most? No. By that criteria alone, the one-man news cycle, LeBron James, is the winner. But San Antonio influenced the league the league the most. Another title, another calendar year of setting the standard for play and work off the court, another 12 months, into the start of the new season and the final weeks of 2014, of Duncan reaching new heights of impressive when it didn’t seem possible. I can’t wait to ride down the river after presenting the award.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comAdam Silver took over the commissioner’s job and found a live grenade on his desk in about 15 minutes. The way he handled the Donald Sterling situation — swiftly yet not recklessly, and definitely forcefully — gave him a higher profile and approval rating than his more famous NFL counterpart (Roger Goodell). For this particular designation, Silver has lapped the field.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comGregg Popovich. The Spurs were the story of the 2013-14 season, recovering from the ultimate heartbreak in the 2013 Finals, getting back there through a deep Western Conference, and then, eviscerating the two-time defending champs with five games of the best basketball we’ve ever seen. San Antonio’s sustained success over the course of 17 seasons, on both ends of the floor and from the top of their roster to the bottom, has a lot of the league trying to imitate them. Several teams were talking “more ball movement” in training camps and we’re seeing the Spurs’ maintenance program for their vets make its way around the league as well. Tim Duncan is the best player of his generation and there are a lot of reasons why the Spurs are what they are, but Popovich has his hand in everything and is the face of the franchise

Sekou Smith, NBA.comNBA Commissioner Adam Silver is the runaway winner. He wasted no time ridding the league of the Donald Sterling disaster and has shown an ability to lead in ways that his predecessor and current peers in the other major professional sports wish they could under extreme circumstances. We all wondered how things would be different during the Silver administration … and we found out immediately. Doc Rivers, for his leadership of the Los Angeles Clippers throughout the Sterling affair, and LeBron James, who kept us all guessing during the summer before shaking up the league once again by going home to Cleveland (close enough to Akron to qualify as home), round out the top three on my ballot.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comIt has to be LeBron ahead of Adam Silver, because this league – more than the NFL or the MLB – is about the players. LeBron was “person of the year” in 2010, and the decision he made back then was bookended by his return to Cleveland last summer.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: To me there are two obvious options, both involved in the same story but from different sides. Donald Sterling was probably the biggest NBA news story of 2014, after his now-infamous racist comments went public and stirred up controversy at the worst possible time for his basketball team. (Well, his former team.) But to me the NBA Person of the Year should be the guy who stepped up and took on Sterling, NBA commissioner Adam Silver. That press conference where Silver announced Sterling’s ban occurred just weeks into Silver’s new gig as commissioner. There were more eyeballs on him than he probably thought imaginable, and Silver handled the moment with aplomb. And actually, even with 20/20 hindsight, it’s hard to find any part of the Silver/Clippers saga that Silver didn’t tackle about as well as it could have been tackled. Factor in Silver inking bank-busting media rights deals this fall, and even though he’s only been on the job since February, Adam Silver has had quite a 2014.

Blogtable: Build with offense or defense?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Build with offense or defense? | Who will get traded? | Your All-Star starters



VIDEOGameTime’s crew breaks down the Sacramento Kings’ coaching situation

> Sacramento GM Pete D’Alessandro says he wants to see his team play at a faster pace. What’s a better foundation for a championship team — a high-scoring offense, or a stout defense?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comGive me a stout defense. So much of a team’s and an individual’s success in this league (anywhere, really) hinges on the honing of habits. Come playoff time, possessions become more precious, pace throttles down and defense becomes more important, and I don’t see a Paul Westhead approach suddenly downshifting to out-stingy teams that have been playing that way all year. You want to make the highlight reels and fill a new building? High-octane offense is great. You want to win titles? Defense is king (even if it’s not Kings).

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comThe truth, of course, is balance, but defense carries more weight. Say a top 10-ranked offense, but a defense in the top five. By the way, the past two years, the Spurs have been 7th and 3rd, respectively.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: High-scoring works, as the Spurs reminded last season, but defense has to be the foundation, as pretty much everyone reminds every season. A good defense leads to offense, as in easy transition baskets. Offenses will have bad nights, whether because of self-induced problems or the opponent, but a potent defense rarely breaks down.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: The obvious answer is that it takes some of both to have any shot at a title, but of course, a defensive team will always have a slight edge in the postseason, when the court shrinks and rotations tighten. Going back to what D’Alessandro said for a minute: Your offensive system must always cater to the talent on hand. In theory, everyone wants to run. In reality, not everyone is equipped to run. The Grizzlies, for example, don’t push the ball often because they lack the Ferraris. But last I looked, they’re sitting pretty in the West, looking down on Sacramento.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: More teams have reached The Finals with a top-10 defense than with a top-10 offense. You have to be great on both ends of the floor to win a title, but last season’s Heat and Spurs each showed us the importance of defense. Still, as the only team that has been below average on both ends of the floor for each of the last eight years, the Kings have to take what they can get. Find something that works and build on it. Fortunately for them, DeMarcus Cousins has developed into an anchor on both ends of the floor. But they need to surround him with a better supporting cast, the right coach, and some stability.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comA stout defense has to be the bedrock for a championship team. For teams that want to be exciting, draw eyeballs and get fans in the seats, a high-scoring offense is fine. The Phoenix Suns of the Mike D’Antoni era come to mind when I think of a team that could fill it up and had the appearance of a championship team, that is until they ran back to the other end of the court and couldn’t slow anyone down. I think a team that has to work overtime on offense to be legitimate can be a championship team with an elite defense. I have yet to see a team that can do the same on the flip side (an offensive juggernaut with defensive deficiencies). Ideally, it’s best to have the sort of balance the Texas teams (Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs) that have won championships recently possessed. As for the Kings, all the pace and points in the world won’t help you if you can’t lock down and get stops when you need them.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: You need both, and for a team like the Kings — who haven’t been in the playoffs since 2006 — it doesn’t matter whether the offense or defense is established first. Just be good at something. Establish a winning identity, and then fill in at the weak spots. The Mavericks did it that way: They learned how to win and then added the defensive mindset. The Kings have no business thinking about championships right now; their first job is to win more games than they lose, and to establish a defining strength — somewhere, anywhere.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogWhy does it have to be one or the other? A high-scoring attack is great — it’s fun to watch, it’s attractive to casual fans. But unless you have an above-average defense to go along with it, you don’t have much to fall back on when the offense inevitably slows. And for all the talk about wanting a more uptempo offense, the thing is the Kings weren’t a very good defensive team last season (they finished with a 109.5 defensive rating), and they haven’t been much better this year. (108.2). Bottom line, the Kings have a long way to go on both ends of the court before we start talking championships.

Blogtable: Your All-Star starters

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Build with offense or defense? | Who will get traded? | Your All-Star starters



VIDEO: The Starters reveal their early All-Star starter picks

> You’ll get a chance to you change your mind in about three weeks, but give me your starting five (East and West) for February’s All-Star Game, based ONLY on performance this season.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: The guys I think earned it in the West are names who might actually get enough votes in the real balloting: Stephen Curry and James Harden in the backcourt, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge in the frontcourt. Out East, I’m not sure my five all would prevail in the popularity contest but on merit, they should go: John Wall and Kyle Lowry at guard, with LeBron James, Pau Gasol and Kyle Korver up front. Korver, you ask? He’s having a season to make analytics fans swoon, someone from Atlanta deserves a spot and I like the idea of two Kyles in a five-man lineup.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comEast: Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol. West: Stephen Curry, James Harden, Anthony Davis, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol. Durability counts, that’s why Dwyane Wade loses out to Irving and DeMarcus Cousins to Marc Gasol.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comEast: LeBron James, Pau Gasol and Chris Bosh (forwards), Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry (guards). West: Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol and DeMarcus Cousins (forwards), Stephen Curry and James Harden (guards). The option to change my mind in three weeks comes in especially handy with Cousins. If he returns strong from the viral meningitis, he holds the spot. If he struggles physically for long, his place becomes more precarious. It gets even worse if the Kings continue to drop in the standings — which dooms Carmelo Anthony on the East front line –or Cousins has a choppy adjustment to the Kings’ coaching change increased emphasis on playing up-tempo. Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge are waiting.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comWest: James Harden, Steph Curry, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol. Pretty clear-cut there. They’ve been healthy and productive. East: Kyle Lowry, John Wall, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony. Yeah, folks will hold their nose about ‘Melo, but that’s more because of the Knicks. He’s No. 6 in scoring and the East is lacking in star power on the front line.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Going by the positions on the ballot (veiled shot at my colleagues who included Lowry, Wall and Butler) … East guards: Kyle Lowry and John Wall.  East frontcourt: LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Pau Gasol. West guards: Stephen Curry and James Harden. West frontcourt: Marc Gasol, Anthony Davis and Tim Duncan. Duncan gets my final spot in the crowded West frontcourt (for now), because he’s more of a two-way player than LaMarcus Aldridge and his minutes are over 30 per game this season.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Based only on performance, in the East it has to be Kyle Lowry, John Wall, Jimmy Butler, LeBron James and Pau Gasol. In the Western Conference, where a preposterous surplus of candidates for five spots, I’m going with Stephen Curry, James Harden, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin and Marc Gasol. I don’t think I’ll need that mulligan in three weeks either, even with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant coming on the way they are for Oklahoma City and Kobe Bryant playing the way he has all season. I want to reserve my injury replacement spot for Klay Thompson, too. He’s been that good this season and the Warriors are rocking. He belongs in New York for the festivities.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: In the East, I’ve got LeBron James, Pau Gasol and Chris Bosh in the frontcourt, with Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler in the backcourt. In the West, it’s Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Anthony Davis up front, with James Harden and Stephen Curry in the backcourt.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogEast: John Wall, Kyle Lowry, LeBron James, Jimmy Butler, Chris Bosh. If I could put Kobe at the 3, I would, because I think he deserves to make the starting five. But there are literally only two players in the West that I’d rate ahead of him, and they are both guards. Sorry, Mamba. West: Steph Curry, James Harden, Anthony Davis, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol

For more debates, go to #AmexNBA or www.nba.com/homecourtadvantage.

Blogtable: A looming trade?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Build with offense or defense? | Who will get traded? | Your All-Star starters



VIDEOShould the Warriors think about dealing David Lee?

> Give me a name or two, guys who you think almost certainly will be traded between now and the Feb. 19 trade deadline.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comLance Stephenson back to Indiana as a do-over of sorts would be interesting, because it’s not something we’ve seen often (ever?). David Lee done got “Wally Pipped” in Golden State – the team didn’t miss him and might be better without him – so he’d be a likely suspect to move, if someone were willing to swallow his contract. I would have said Ersan Ilyasova for sure until Jabari Parker went down, thinning the Bucks’ frontcourt.  If LeBron James wants Corey Brewer, then I’d imagine Brewer will be headed to Cleveland for something or other. Then there’s Greg Monroe, though any trade would hinge on his determination to leave Detroit (no more Bird rights) and the Pistons’ asking price for a half-season of his services.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comLance Stephenson and Dion Waiters. It seems there wasn’t a bigger mistake made during the offseason than the Hornets trying to add Stephenson as a pinch of spice. He’s been a bad fit since Day One and team owner Michael Jordan would most likely enjoy a shot at a do-over. The bad blood between Waiters and point guard Kyrie Irving might be in the past, but Waiters is still most often like a fifth wheel on the Cavs’ machine and is likely never going to stop being frustrating.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comIt’s tough not to think Lance Stephenson right away. The contract is very moveable — $27 million over three seasons, but the final campaign as a team option — and Stephenson can be a productive player, certainly more productive than he has shown so far in Charlotte. It’s early in the relationship, but the Hornets can’t wait much longer before deciding it’s a bad fit. Separately, the Pistons are a candidate to trade. Offloading Josh Smith would be an ideal scenario, but he won’t bring much in return. Greg Monroe is a possibility, before he becomes a free agent, but not at a fire-sale discount. He’ll still cost.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: There are dozens of players that teams want to dump, but for various reasons might be unable to do so. Case in point: Josh Smith, Pistons. Anyway, my candidates: Gerald Green, because the Suns may not want to pay him; Arron Afflalo, because his return to Denver has been largely a bust; Corey Brewer, because the Wolves will be crummy with or without him; and finally Lance Stephenson, just because.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: There are a lot of guys who teams don’t want anymore, and there are a lot of guys that other teams desire. But Draft pick compensation and the heftiness of certain contracts (hello, Joe Johnson) often get in the way of potential deal. Dion Waiters, in my opinion, should fall into the first category and is still on an easily-tradeable rookie contract. So I see him as the most likely to move. The Cavs need defense and have plenty of guards — Matthew Dellavedova, Joe Harris, James Jones and Mike Miller — who can absorb Waiters’ minutes.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comJosh Smith and Lance Stephenson serve as the easy picks and for good reason. I think one or both of them will certainly be on the move. There is no doubt they’re both being shopped by their respective teams. They are both talents with skills that will be coveted by teams convinced that they’ll be able to clean up whatever messes they’ve made in the past. Neither one of them is a great (or even good) fit in their current situations. The Pistons aren’t going anywhere this season, so they might as well start the rebuilding process at the deadline. The Hornets had high hopes and had them dashed early. They need to free themselves of Stephenson and allow him to start fresh elsewhere as well. My wild card at the deadline is the Phoenix Suns. They had a glut of point guards and should take a hard look at which one of them is expendable.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comI’m going to say Josh Smith and any other number of Pistons. The coach has the authority to make trades in Detroit, and after complaining steadily about the effort of his players, Stan Van Gundy isn’t going to allow the trade deadline to pass him by.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI wouldn’t be surprised to see the Knicks move Amar’e Stoudemire. He’s playing better basketball than he’s played in years, and could lend a hand on a contending team in need of frontcourt depth. Plus, with a $19 million expiring contract, maybe the Knicks can get something of value for him that will help with their rebuild going forward.

Blogtable: MJ vs. Kobe

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: MJ vs. Kobe | Golden in Golden State | Nets’ Trade Options



VIDEO: Fan Night crew on Kobe passing Jordan

> The Kobe Bryant-Michael Jordan comparisons have bubbled up again this week, and those two certainly share a lot of similarities. But what is the biggest difference in their games? In their careers?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Kobe Bryant is to Michael Jordan as Vic Damone was to Frank Sinatra. I know that reference is dated, like something left over from Larry King’s dot-dot-dot column for USA Today. But the comparison is apt. Jordan, like Sinatra, was the original, while Bryant, like Damone, was the copy. Skilled, technically proficient, maybe even superior in a talent or two. But not original. Heck, Bryant even mimicked Jordan’s mannerisms, way of speaking, etc., before developing a little more of his own voice and style in recent years. He was just too literal in the “next Michael” thing, meaning we’d been there, seen that with most of his exploits.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: After his high-flying younger days, Jordan developed a mid-range and post-up game that was dependable, deadly and virtually peerless and thrived on it down to that very last Bulls shot over Bryon Russell. Bryant has those same skills, but still tends to take more “hero ball” 3-point shots.  At the other end, Jordan was just a better shut-down defender, case closed.  You can probably sum up the difference in their careers with two words: Scottie Pippen.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: There are very few differences, one of the reasons it is such a debate. But there are two exceptions in the timeline department: Bryant went to the NBA from high school while Jordan arrived not only with three seasons of college ball, but three seasons at North Carolina with Dean Smith. MJ had the important head start of being more mature and the lessons from a structured program. (Although Bryant was mature far behind his 17 years at the time of the draft. He was focused and a worker.) And, Kobe has played straight through. He didn’t have retirements along the way. He kept stacking big minutes on top of big minutes until he was far ahead of Jordan in that category.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Jordan was an above-average defender almost until the end, before his knees were shot. He took pride in making stops and even guarding the other team’s best shooter (Reggie Miller, etc.). His strip of Karl Malone moments before sinking the game-winner for his sixth title remains the most underrated play in league history. Kobe, on the other hand, stopped giving effort on defense years ago. As for their careers, Jordan was much more of a cultural force than Kobe ever was, impacting fashion, endorsements, etc. And he has one more ring.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The biggest difference in their games was on defense, where Jordan was more consistent, especially in regard to off-the-ball focus. Jordan was also a better shooter and more efficient scorer. The biggest difference in their careers was that Jordan was the best player on six championship teams, while Bryant was the best player on two. With MJ, we’ll always wonder what would have happened if he didn’t retire the first time. With Kobe, we’ll wonder how good he could have been if he trusted his teammates a little more.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The biggest difference in their games to me has always come in the commitment on the defensive side of the ball. Jordan played defense the same way he played offense and every other part of the game, like his life depended on him being better at it than anyone else on the floor every night. Kobe has always struck me as a convenient defender, a guy who could go into lock down mode whenever he wanted and has done exactly that for the better part of the past two decades. As for their careers, Jordan was always the alpha dog in the locker room and on the court. Six championships. Six Finals MVPs. And no debate about it. Kobe, by virtue of when he entered the league, was stuck in little brother mode with Shaq and didn’t get his Finals MVP stripes until later.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Jordan was the more efficient scorer, which had something to do with the difference in eras. Bryant attempted threes twice as often as his idol, in part because the quality of defense had grown more sophisticated throughout the NBA. During Bryant’s more recent run of contention, the best teams were more talented than the opposition that Jordan faced in the 1990s. Each was a product of the time in which he played.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: To me the most obvious difference is Kobe’s longevity and his ability to play at a very high level even now, in his 19th season. I saw Jordan in 2003 when he was with the Wizards, and sure, he averaged 20 ppg, but he wasn’t as athletic as Kobe is today. Other than that, it’s hard for me to pinpoint differences. They are so similar that it can be uncanny, which isn’t a terrible thing. As my friend Russ Bengtson once wrote, Jordan may have created the blueprint, but Kobe, more than anyone else who was compared to MJ in some way or another, was able to ride the blueprint to the greatest degree of success.

Aldo Avinante, NBA.com/PhilippinesIn terms of their games, MJ was more of a slasher especially in his younger days and he goes for the most simplest moves to score although they have the same skill set and moves, Kobe opts for the more difficult shot most of the times but he is also the best at making the most impossible contested fade-away jumpers. Their careers follow almost the same arc in the sense of interchanging their timelines. Kobe was successful early on his career and got the rings and now he is a tireless scorer trying to lead his team into contention with his competitive drive, compared to MJ who was trying so hard to will his team to champion contention before getting all the accolades late in his career. You can mirror it upside down and it’s almost the same.

Guillermo Garcia, NBA.com/MexicoThe difference between the two, is that Jordan was better defensively, who took a team that hadn’t yet had much of a reputation — in Chicago — and made it a global name.

Simon Legg, NBA.com/AustraliaOne difference that stands out, and Phil Jackson has mentioned it before, is the way they both led their teams. Jordan was more charismatic and seemed to enjoy his one-on-one time with teammates. Kobe is a little different and has taken time to be more open with the guys around him. From a playing perspective, it’s hard to separate their styles but one thing that always stands out is their efficiency. Bryant simply hasn’t been able to match Jordan’s efficiency and the 10 scoring titles to two kind of proves that.

Akshay Manwani, NBA.com/IndiaIn terms of games, Jordan was definitely the more well-rounded player. His scoring, rebounding, assists and steals averages are all better than Bryant. That is why Jordan is considered the most fundamentally-sound basketball player ever. The one difference that works in Bryant’s favour is that he launched nearly three times as many 3-point attempts (5005) as Jordan’s (1778), with slightly better consistency (33.4 percent to 32.7 percent). In terms of their careers, the obvious difference is that Bryant came straight out of high school into the league, which probably explains the longer time he took to mature as a player. But the more important difference to me is the two-year hiatus that Jordan took, right when he was at the peak of his game, with the Bulls having won three in a row. Had Jordan played those years, would it be impossible to imagine Chicago winning eight straight titles? Also, unlike Bryant, who was Shaquille O’Neal’s lieutenant in the Lakers’ title winning years of 2000-2002, MJ was the undisputed numero uno star on the Bulls’ teams.

Stefan Petri, NBA.com/DeutschlandCan I opt for the different colors of their jerseys? No? I that case I would single out MJ’s superior defense: While Jordan was a lockdown defender for many years and still very good during his last run with the Bulls, Kobe has always relied more on his athleticism and gambled for steals – and nowadays it’s matador defense with him. Another aspect is Jordan’s jaw-dropping efficiency: Although the last two seasons in Washington weighed on his numbers, he nonetheless finished his career shooting almost 50 percent from the field. Bryant on the other hand never eclipsed 47 percent over the course of one season. For what it’s worth: In my eyes Kobe is the better shooter from downtown, though his shot selection leaves much to be desired.

Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA.com/GreeceRegarding their playing style their biggest difference was bulk. Michael Jordan as he grew older he started using his upper body strength more and more, dominating with his shoulders. He weighted 10 lbs more than Kobe and was a player that thrived after contact. As for their game approach the biggest difference comes around to their different aspect of leadership and they way the affect their team and their opponents. It’s not a matter of number-crunching, but more of a contrast of wins and rings.

For more debates, go to #AmexNBA or www.nba.com/homecourtadvantage.

Blogtable: Golden In Golden State

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: MJ vs. Kobe | Golden in Golden State | Nets’ Trade Options



VIDEO: Inside The NBA: How good are the Warriors?

> The Warriors are off to their best start ever. Did the coaching change make that much of a difference, or was this team destined for greatness, no matter the coaching staff?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: This is a players’ league, so the easy answer would be, this is Golden State’s next logical step. Klay Thompson has emerged as one of the league’s best shooting guards, Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut have been (mostly) healthy, Draymond Green has raised his game, Marreese Speights has been a nice surprise to ease David Lee’s absence, and so on. But there’s no denying credit to Steve Kerr and the staff he has put together, including Ron Adams and Alvin Gentry. Coaching does matter – and so do Kerr’s smarts and self-effacing manner, the latter a notable change from Mark Jackson’s demeanor.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Not to diminish anything that Steve Kerr has done, but the Warriors were on an upward flight and what’s allowed them to soar is the overall improvement by Klay Thompson and, most important, the health of Andrew Bogut.  The presence of Bogut in the lineup for a full season and the playoffs makes the Warriors a true title contender.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: We won’t know about “greatness” until June. This was going to be a good team no matter what — Mark Jackson proved he could deliver — but, yes, Steve Kerr and his staff deserve a lot of credit for the great start. They would have gotten the blame if things went south, so they get the praise as well. Better ball movement was a 2014-15 priority, and Kerr has made it happen. There are other factors, though. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have both improved from last season, as if they weren’t already good enough. Andrew Bogut has been a huge factor, especially on defense. Marreese Speights has been a big bench presence. Andre Iguodala did not pout when he was moved into a reserve role. They were all part of 50-win teams in Golden State before.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I wouldn’t demean Steve Kerr by saying anyone could coach this team, but the Warriors were ready to make the leap to serious contender before he blew into town. Mark Jackson made them a better defensive team and his biggest “crime” was an inability to reach the conference finals which, by the way, is how we’ll judge Kerr this season. Fair enough?

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The Warriors’ success is a mix of talent, Mark Jackson’s coaching and Steve Kerr’s coaching. There’s just a terrific mix of skills and size among the top seven guys (eight when David Lee’s healthy) in their rotation. Jackson guided them a top-five ranking on defense and Kerr has been smart not to mess with that side of the ball. But he deserves credit for bringing more ball movement to their offense, which also ranks in the top five this season, as well as making a lineup change (Harrison Barnes starting) that has worked out so well.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The Warriors are a beautiful mix of wicked talent at basically every position, an overall vision of how that group would play and the keen coaching eye of Steve Kerr and his predecessor, Mark Jackson, both of whom are smart enough to recognize what they’re working with and refraining from the urge to overcoach. Kerr could have come in and tried to reinvent the game for Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and the boys. Wisely, he tweaked some things and made some subtle moves (and had others made for him, namely Draymond Green ‘s emergence in place of an injured David Lee) while also allowing an already accomplished team continue its ascent. Sometimes the smartest thing a good new coach can do is curb his enthusiasm to fix what doesn’t need fixing.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Mark Jackson established their defensive-minded foundation, and Steve Kerr built up from that base by turning those defensive stops into more efficient possessions. So each coach deserves credit: the Warriors are cleaning up because Jackson and Kerr have turned out to be indispensable.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: It’s easy to credit all of Golden State’s success to Steve Kerr stepping onto the sideline. And Kerr definitely deserves a lot of credit — he’s putting players in the right positions to be ultra-successful and they have shown no signs of slowing down from their hot start. But I don’t think you can overlook the personal development shown by players like Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and even Stephen Curry, particularly Curry and Klay. As good as those two were a season ago, they put in work and showed up this season improved from where they ended last season.

Aldo Avinante, NBA.com/PhilippinesThey have the personnel to be great but the coaching change also helped a lot, they were predictable last year compared to their tempo this year with more passing and moving, also they are utilizing Andrew Bogut more, who is a great-passing big man. With everyone sharing the basketball it makes them more harder to stop while gives everyone the motivation to play harder on defense.

Guillermo Garcia, NBA.com/MexicoIf you’re looking for the one major difference, Steve Kerr has gotten this team to play even better defensively — a process that Jackson, no doubt, started.

Simon Legg, NBA.com/AustraliaI don’t think we can say this team was destined for greatness regardless of who was at the helm, they needed the right teacher to steer them in the right direction. Despite creating an elite defense, Mark Jackson was not the guy to make this happen. Think of all the scoring firepower and natural talent on this team, then look at their offensive rating last season. How can a team with the Splash Brothers, Andre Iguodala, David Lee and Andrew Bogut’s elite interior passing and the rest of the guys rank 12th in offensive efficiency? Steve Kerr has kept the fundamentals defensively, and then completely flipped the script on their offensive philosophy. It’s about passing and moving, not about Steph Curry or Klay Thompson chewing up the shot clock with isos. Kerr has also brought the best out of Bogut, a guy who has always been thought of as an elite passer, but he never had the chance to showcase this in Oakland. The locker room looks like a happier place, and the players enjoy the approach of their new coach.

Akshay Manwani, NBA.com/IndiaThe change in coaching staff has definitely made the greater impact on the Warriors’ fortunes this season.  The Warriors were always talented which is why they could make it to the playoffs in the past two seasons purely on Mark Jackson’s emotionally-charged coaching style. This season, though, the Warriors are much better on the offensive and the defensive ends. They have the best net rating of +12.8 in the league. That doesn’t happen just with talent. Steve Kerr has to be complimented for that. Bringing Andre Iguodala off the bench has been another one of his minor tweakings, which has paid off big time for the Warriors. Yes sir, the coaching change has made the bigger difference.

Stefan Petri, NBA.com/DeutschlandIt’s both. This is not meant to be a knock against Mark Jackson, who was a terrific motivator in his own right, but Steve Kerr learned from the very best in Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich. Plus, he profits from his time as President and GM in Phoenix. Still: Let’s judge him once he gets his feet wet in the playoffs. On the other hand Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were bound to improve, Andrew Bogut has stayed healthy and David Lee’s injury might have been a blessing in disguise. Let me go out on a limb and say: The team would have made another step with Jackson as well, but it wouldn’t have been this good.

Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA.com/GreeceMark Jackson is an unlucky man. He was the coach that worked hard to built the team that know is off to their best start ever. It’s the same core of players that grew up and stepped up this year. But, of course the new coach, Steve Kerr, has to be given credit, because he tried to put his coaching touch in the playing style of the Warriors, without messing up the chemistry that was already there.

For more debates, go to #AmexNBA or www.nba.com/homecourtadvantage.