Time marches on across the NBA. The WTLC crew discusses a few of the topics making noise around the league.
1) Portland has put up a fight, yet is on the verge of getting swept tonight. Can the Blazers extend the series? If so, how?
Dom Flaim: I picked Warriors in 5, and I’m sticking to it for now. I think they extend it but mainly because even a focused Warriors can have a lull at times and a little bit of off shooting and a home crowd can at times swing a playoff game. Portland’s got nothing to lose and knowing Lillard’s hurt, I’ll say his team picks him up for a game and the Blazers get hot, extending it to 5. That however, will be as far as it gets.
Reid Belew: I don’t think they can. They’ve squandered leads and haven’t inspired confidence. With Lillard’s injury, I think they get swept.
Jon Hamm: Good job, good effort, Blazers. You’ve proved a ton of people wrong this offseason. But the Warriors, fully loaded or not, are too much to handle.
2) The Pelicans are shaking up the organization, hiring elite front office talent and revamping the training staff. Is it enough to convince Anthony Davis to stay?
Dom: I don’t think so and to me that’s more a poor reflection on Davis than them. They’ve done absolutely everything right this offseason and even had a ton of lottery luck. They went from a team looking like it had very little hope to one adding a really good general manager, upgrading its medical staff, upgrading the GM’s staff, and getting Zion. If Davis really wants to win I struggle to see how he can look at the Lakers and think that crew is a better group to get him there than what New Orleans has hired and how in three years I’d be willing to go so far as to say a Zion/Holiday/Davis core with cap space they have is probably better than an aging Lebron with Davis. He’s still gone and to me it just looks worse on him.
Reid: I really hope so. Jrue, Zion, and AD is really, really intriguing to think about. Ultimately, I don’t think it will happen. His mind seems made up at this point. What I think is much more likely is NOP working some major magic and shelling out major dollars to not waste Zion’s prime like they might’ve done with AD.
Jon: Bringing in David Griffin and Trajan Langdon is big time. They are part of a bigger sales pitch to AD: sorry for what led to this, but we hope this fixers things. Also in the Pelicans’ back pocket: a potential 5-year, $230 million Designated Veteran Extension that only New Orleans can offer. If this isn’t enough to satisfy Davis, then what else could possibly be done?
3) Paul George, like Giannis Antentekounmpo, was named a finalist for both MVP and DPOY. Is this a sign of the continued evolution of PG? Or was last season an outlier?
Dom: PG’s always been an outstanding defender so I don’t see that as an outlier at all. The MVP likely is but MVP is an award dependent not entirely on level of play but also on the story of one’s season and the team’s performance. I think George is right around his peak form currently (assuming his shoulder isn’t completely going to fall off) and could see a similar quality season to last year without actually being in the running for the award.
Reid: Definitely. That’s no small feat, and it’s a product of being more comfortable with the team this year. We got the best PG anyone’s seen, and his finalist status shows that.
Jon: George just turned 29 years old so this is the prime of his career. So much depends on the state of his shoulders, to state the painfully obvious. Assuming the surgeries allow him to get back to 100%, last season feels like a building block. The Thunder flourished when George was OKC’s focal point, and it’s reasonable to think they’ll get back to that as soon as he’s ready.
4) Mike D’Antoni plans on coaching a few more years and Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta claims he’s willing to do “whatever it takes” to improve the Rockets. What do they need to add to get over the hump in the West?
Dom: A time machine? Chris Paul has arguably had one of the 5 best careers for a point guard in NBA history but he’s 34 and at times looked like he lost a step last season. He’s going to be coming into the playoffs next year a touch under 35 years old and I struggle to see him being suddenly healthier and better on court even if his game isn’t totally reliant on athleticism. Adding to that Fertitta was willing to buy a team and then dodge the luxury tax in his first season as owner (later claiming he didn’t even know...) I’m not seeing him doing whatever it takes to add the needed depth to this team. Harden probably will keep having fantastic regular seasons due to needing to perform at a higher level to keep Houston afloat and then die off in the playoffs and we’ll be doing the same show all over again with Houston looking at the 2018 season as it’s best shot.
Reid: Firstly, they need Harden, Paul, and Capela healthy all year, something that’s going to get harder the older Chris Paul gets. They’re a good team right now, but like the Spurs, I think player’s weaknesses are mitigated by playing in an extremely disciplined and consistent system. I think the team needs more depth. The fact they can grab guys out of the bottom of the barrel and be successful is a testament to the coaching staff and system’s ability to get their best. But they need a shooting big and more depth.
Jon: More depth would go a long way. But will D’Antoni actually use it if he had it? D’Antoni has never been a big fan of deep rotations. Injuries forced his hand as the front office had to keep cycling in new players during the season. Perhaps Houston can find a couple of good players via its Mid-Level Exception. Perhaps Eric Gordon can be moved in combination with picks in a larger trade. Fertitta claims he’ll spend next season. Time to show it while the window with Paul and Harden is still open.