Tuesday, October 11, 2016

AugBball NBA Preview Part 2 with special guest contributors

I described what I believe is the NBA’s most important “story line” in my first AugBball NBA preview. Now I call on two old friends and dedicated NBA fans, “Dr. Kirk” Munsayac and Glen Miller, to make sure we cover more of the most interesting topics before the official games tip off October 25.

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*No prizes for seeing the scorching hot matchup set for two weeks from today.

Here is our discussion, which covers the NBA topics that are top of our minds leading into the 2016-17 season:

Chad: Guys, I addressed this in my first NBA preview post, but I didn’t share the full extent of how wrong I think the NBA media guys have it by heaping all the attention on Golden State right after Lebron James and the Cavs accomplished something more impressive than just about anything we’ve seen (overcoming a 3-1 deficit to beat the Warriors in the Finals last summer).

I probably pay too much attention to ESPN. But because everybody else puts them first in line, I first want your opinion about the Warriors. Maybe I’m turning into a “hater,” but this kind of talk makes me cringe:

Glen: Yeah I agree with you. Golden State will NOT just walk their way into the Finals, nor will they sweep the Cavs. People just will not recognize how GREAT Lebron James is to the extent that he deserves!! He is the greatest, most dominant, well rounded player I have truly seen, Chad!! Jordan is the best maybe with the 6 rings argument... I'll give him that for now. But I don’t care how good the Warriors are or how many superstars they have... Lebron is the King and will not give up the throne to any army!!!

And Kyrie Irving is better than Steph Curry... he abused Curry in the finals... ABUSED!!! How can people forget that?

Pressure bust pipes... and the Warriors and Kevin Durant will be under tremendous pressure come playoff time! The Cavs have the advantage of being the underdogs.

Kirk: Like any super team, the fact remains, there's only ONE basketball out there at a time.
Kirk: Something I wonder is what a ring will do for Durant's legacy (if they win one, of course). Many, including myself, discredited LeBron for the Miami rings but gave him props for going home and winning one. Will KDs legacy require an OKC return and ring there?

Chad: Good question. I think in most people’s minds he’ll be a permanent “villain” in Golden State. I enjoy watching him maybe more than any other player, but I don’t like his move of going from an elite OKC team that was second to none to the 73-9 Warriors. It’s just no fun for me as a fan. And I have a right not to look at it like that, while still loving his game.

But back to the “permanent villain” thing. Being the world’s second best player and joining a 73-9 team means if he wins 1-2 titles in 4-5 years people will call that a failure. Heck, if he doesn’t win a title this year people will call that a failure. And as crazy as it sounds, if he wins 4-5 in 5 years, it will have been done in such a dominant way (in what other way can a team win ALL the titles) that it will look easy. And people will say that’s what he and the Warriors “were supposed to do.”

Glen: KD will never return to OKC... now maybe he will go to Washington (hometown), but I agree that if he wins one or two in golden state it's still not a legacy changer for me. Now if he goes to Washington and wins that would be similar to Lebron. But he isn't a franchise changer like Lebron.

Point is, he can't take the worst team in the NBA to the finals... he isn't at that level, and the only guy who is... is Lebron.

If he went to Washington with a team like they currently have there and they won a championship... I would be mind blown. I don't see it happening.

Chad: Glen, you put the NBA title contenders at three teams: The Cavs and Warriors, who we’ve talked about a little already, and the Spurs. (Full disclosure, Glen is a die-hard Spurs fan.) Why do you put them in that top category?

Glen: It’s the only team in the West that will challenge the Warriors in a 7 game series. They have one of the best coaches in NBA history and Kawhi Leonard will be my NBA MVP….he simply does it all. He will have a monster season and is arguably the 2nd best player in the NBA…yes, better than Curry!

They added David Lee, Dewayne Dedmon, rookie (future superstar) Dejounte Murray, and a few others. They will be the DEEPEST team in the NBA. They have strong Finals potential and if they develop like I think they will, my pick about the Warriors (representing the West in the Finals) might change!

Chad: Very interesting that you put “the claw” as the second best player in the world. We may need to have a “top 5 or top 10 players discussion” soon.

But first this. Are you sure the Spurs are particularly deep? If you look at who they were two years ago and compare it to now, they have lost three proven difference makers (Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw, and Tiago Splitter) and gained only one by my count in Pau Gasol. I love Gasol and I think the Spurs are a top tier team like you. But on the depth thing, do you think the new guys you listed will be Diaw/Splitter type contributors?

Glen: Yea I do. I expect a surprise year from those guys.

Chad: I may be hoping for a more wide open and deeper race because that will be more fun to follow when I say this. But I think in addition to the Cavs and Warriors - who I do believe will start at a level above all the other teams because of their talent and experience winning it all - the following teams can all challenge for a title under the right circumstances: The Spurs, Clippers, Thunder, Grizzlies, and Hawks. I admit those last three are stretches. But here is a quick telling of why I think if things break in their favor, all those teams can win it all.

The Spurs won every home game last season except the final one against Golden State. Had they won that game, they would have been the only team in history to be undefeated through the regular season. We found out in San Antonio’s second round loss to OKC that Duncan had officially gotten old and become ineffective. Well, from what I saw in the Olympics this summer, Pau Gasol is still an all star level player.

The Duncan for Gasol swap will help the Spurs take a significant leap forward from last season, when they were already a championship caliber team. And see the 2014 NBA Finals for an answer to any “but can they beat a ‘super team?’” type questions.

I put the Clippers in the mix because I can’t imagine being a coach and having their best five (Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Deandre Jordan, Jamal Crawford, and JJ Redick) and NOT believing we could beat any unit on earth. Also, the team has averaged 56 wins during the regular season the past 4 years. I think their lack of playoff advancement has been due more to injuries not giving them enough chances to figure it out as the teams that have done well have had.

Ditto about injuries in the postseason for the Thunder, which I believe was last year’s best team. (I regard Golden State’s 3-1 comeback as somewhat of a fluke because I have never seen, and I don’t think I will see again, something like Klay Thompson did in making 11 threes in an elimination game on the road). And I haven’t given up hope that the Thunder can be great even without Durant. I’m not alone, as you can see:

I really don’t understand why Durant left that team. Much of me really believes Russell Westbrook is as good as any player except Lebron James. And I can’t think of a big man any great player would do better playing alongside of for the next decade or so than 23 year old Steven Adams.

My belief in the Grizzlies and the Hawks should be qualified in that the only way I see them making a run is if injuries or things like that break against the top teams. I also have tremendous respect for what Marc Gasol can do, and for what Dwight Howard may still be able to do. Howard was the last player to eliminate Lebron James before the Finals. Think about who his teammates were at that time.

Oh yeah that’s right, we can’t because they were (by NBA standards) nobody’s.

Howard was the most dominant player in basketball when his Orlando Magic topped Lebron’s Cavs in 2009. That was the last season he played for a great coach (Stan Van Gundy). He now plays for a great coach again. (As you know, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer won NBA Coach of the Year honors two seasons ago.) So I won’t count out Superman from the possibility that he has rid himself of the kryptonite I believe James Harden strapped around his neck in Houston.

Chad: Kirk, you are as big a Hawks fan as Glen is of the Spurs. What’s your take on Howard’s coming home?

Kirk: Dwight’s welcome mat was not ordered at my house. But I’m warming up to him because of his work ethic. He's been at it. And on Twitter promoting, promoting, promoting; so HE's fired up. I suppose I should be.

Kirk: I can't tell if his previous injuries were actually injuries, or was it him being unmotivated in his previous awful surroundings? (I say awful, but essentially you can’t play with Kobe or James Harden and expect the ball much). BUT, if it was just his non-motivation because he hated his team, that actually adds to my original take on this guy being a petulant child. We are a totally different team though. Anyone with eyes can see that Al Horford at the five and Dwight at the five is like looking at two TOTALLY different players in every way!

Chad: OK, well I’ll count you as “cautiously optimistic” about our home team’s chances.

Glen and Kirk, as you know, we have much more to discuss. And hopefully more “NBA experts” will come forward to help us get it all covered. Here are two things I know I want to get into on another NBA preview before the season tips off:

  1. Which teams do we each pick to play in the Finals and which team will be the NBA champion?
  2. Who are the league’s top 5 or top 10 players?

Thanks to you two for participating. And thanks to the readers for checking our preview out.

I’ll see you in the gym!

In case you missed it:

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