With the insanity that was the trade deadline and the resumption of the games, there are lots of matters that are swirling around the NBA. Like most writers, I am full of takes and opinions that need to be spilled out on this page. I got some time away from my day job due to the ice and snow. I had inteded to write a full fledged breakdown of the basketball goings on. But the Mrs. and I made ribs for dinner, we played in the snow with my kid, and then I took a nap, so there was no time for this. Instead, I'd like to let the smartest staff on the internet write about it. Joining me today is GBB writers Adam Rubrum, Craig Fielder, Matt Hrdlicka, Kevin Yeung, Joe Mullinax, Grace Baker, and Jonah Jordan to kibbutz about the trade deadline and make some end of the year predictions.
1) Holy crap was the trade deadline crazy...At the end of the day, who won???
Adam Rubrum @arubrum- Most people will say the Thunder because upgrading Perkins for Kanter is an upgrade (hell upgrading to a cardboard cutout of Kanter is an upgrade over Perkins), but after the dust settled and everything became official, I'm going with the Miami Heat. Miami traded minimal pieces (Norris Cole, Shawne Williams,Justin Hamilton, Danny Granger, 1st rd pick) to get a quality stater in Goran Dragic who should be able to step in and help them immediately. Does it make them the top team in the East? No, but Dragic's slashing and shooting skills should be able to help provide some open looks for Wade and Bosh, and come playoff time, those looks will be vital in the first round where the Heat will probably not have home court. The risk with the trade of course comes with Dragic not re-signing and the loss of the 1st round pick. For that, I say there is risk in any trade, especially ones that are made for playoff stretch runs. Also, if I was a Heat fan, I would not be too concerned about the 1st round pick because of how terrible the Eastern Conference is. Every year experts say it will get better, yet it has been pretty awful for awhile, and I personally don't think it is getting better anytime soon. Even with the decaying shells of Wade and Bosh manning the team, the Heat should stay out of the lottery for awhile.
Craig Fielder @craig_fielder- OKC added some genuine depth to their bench, they definitely got stronger. I think they have a real chance in the play offs, providing the make it that is. Which they should now. I would say that the Suns roster became weaker and I can see them being quite a way back of the 8 seed come the end of the season.
Matt Hrdlicka @theRealHrdlicka- I called OKC the title favorite immediately after the trade, but I'm gonna walk that back a hair. The West is too brutal, and while OKC is very very likely to make the playoffs, they will still be the eight seed, and winning 4 straight playoff series on the road will be tough.
Kevin Yeung @KevinHFY- The Philadelphia 76ers, ironically, won. Some people don’t like that they traded Michael Carter-Williams, others don’t like that K.J. McDaniels was sent to the Houston Rockets as a buddy move by Sam Hinkie to mentor Daryl Morey. But the 76ers didn’t give up any essential pieces (sold high on MCW, which can offset shaving McDaniels in a situation where they might not have had much leverage), and they added more picks. Hinkie got JaVale McGee. They continue to follow the plan. What’s not to like?
Oklahoma City and Portland also won with the moves they made, but I wouldn't say either are title favorites now. OKC's defense is going to be baaaaaad by subtracting Kendrick Perkins and adding Enes Kanter, DJ Augustin and Kyle Singler. On the other side, that offense will be incredible to watch. I don't think anyone wants to see them in the first round. Portland made a good move even if they had to part ways with Will "The Thrill" Barton to add Arron Afflalo. He adds a piece to the Trailblazer bench that they haven't had before. Denver got The Thrill so they get an A++++++ just for that.
2) Oklahoma City made some big moves yesterday to make a push towards the post season. If they are in, who is out in the Western Conference?
Adam- Phoenix. I don't know what they were trying to achieve on the trade deadline but if it was to drop to the lottery, good job. Trading Dragic made sense because he wanted out and they wanted to get something for him. Trading Isiah Thomas along with him makes no sense to me. That leaves them with Eric Bledsoe and his fragile knees. Maybe losing out on Eric Gordon all three years ago made them really wish they had an injury prone point guard running the team. Well, they got it now, so I wish them and their fans good luck.
Craig- As I mentioned before the Suns lost some roster strength in my opinion. They've been struggling recently and their moves yesterday will see them fall away this season. It'll be tough for them after their near miss last year, but they should come back stronger next year.
Matt- The Suns are out. Swapping Dragic AND IT2 for Brandon Knight is a tough blow.
Kevin- Well, the Phoenix Suns are out right now after last night’s Thunder win. Even if Brandon Knight there is exciting, losing Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas (and even emergency depth guy, rookie Tyler Ennis) in one day is a dramatic change for that team in the present. They lost players that knew how to play there, practically swapping out their entire backcourt core, and suffered a talent drop-off. Getting Knight and the draft picks from the Miami Heat was a good haul to get out with from their situation, but that was a no-win situation to begin with.
Joe- It is going to be the Suns, who made the most of the mess they made for themselves for the future but are not going to be able to hang around in the loaded West, not with OKC back & healthy. Phoenix has extended their playoff contender window, but they need to make moves in the next year or so if they hope to keep rising out west.
3) Predict the NBA MVP
Adam- Steph Curry. I subscribe to the belief that best player on the best team should get MVP. The Warriors are the best team in the tougher conference so Curry gets my vote as of now.
Matt- James Harden (followed closely by Steph Curry). I have no idea how Houston is as good as they are. Actually, I do. His name is James Harden. Dwight and Terrance Jones have both missed huge chunks of the season.
Kevin- I’ve been saying Steph Curry all season, but I’m finally on the James Harden train. The Houston Rockets aren’t deep, and it’s to Harden’s credit that he can simultaneously be a one-man offense and still improve on defense. He’s only had like one bad defensive play go viral this year?
Joe- Has to be James Harden. Dwight Howard has been out & the Rockets continue chugging along, all on the back of the Beard. Steph Curry will likely win it, or even LeBron with a great post All-Star run, but James Harden has been damn impressive.
Grace- It has to be Stephen Curry, for me. He's on the best team in the league right now, and his numbers have been off the charts this season. He's become the face of their franchise and has really developed into his full potential.
Jonah- James Harden is without a doubt the MVP of the season thus far. He has carried that Houston team to where they are. I think Lebron James and Kevin Durant will both make a push to be there at the end of the season, but right now neither has been better than Harden.
4) How about Coach of the Year? Kerr or Buds?? Maybe a dark horse
Adam- Budenholzer. No one thought the Hawks would be as good as they are. Back in November one of my best friends told me that he thought the Hawks were real and I shrugged it off. He was right. They are playing great and both the coach and GM should be praised for their success.
Matt- Buds. He was my pick last year, and only the prospect of Stan Van Gundy coaching two really good big men changed my mind before this year.
Kevin- The super successful first-year coach narrative is a good one for Steve Kerr, and the Golden State Warriors are super fun these days in part because they don’t run Mark Jackson's backward offense anymore. But he adopted a good defense and some great talent. That’s not to detract from the obviously elite skill level of the Atlanta Hawks, but Mike Budenholzer has his crew outperforming its parts with machine-like efficiency. There’s no wasted movement on that team.
Joe- For me, it's Dave Joerger. All the names previously mentioned are deserving, and more likely to win this award than Joerger is. But Dave has been steady as she goes, showing great X's and O's acumen and the ability to manage personalities and egos. He has grown immensely from year one to year two, has found ways to compensate for poor three point shooting/the lack of Vince Carter whether healthy or not and is an underrated part of this (so-far) historic season. Maybe a Most Improved Coach award is needed...get on that Commissioner Silver.
Grace- Sticking with the Warriors, I'm saying Steve Kerr will be coach of the year. Mark Jackson had these same general pieces just a year ago but didn't do anything like what Kerr has done with Golden State. Kerr has taken the Warriors from an average playoff team to a legitimate title contender this season.
Jonah- Mike Budenholzer is the Coach of the Year. I think he was the dark horse candidate. Nobody thought the Hawks were going to be this good and it's mostly due to the system Buds has put into place.
5) As badly as I would like to ask you about how far the Grizzlies will go this season...for reasons of fate and luck I will not....but do make a prediction about something in the NBA as the season comes to a close.
Adam- Despite Cleveland finally clicking, I think Atlanta is going the the NBA finals. They have a really deep team and I think they could beat the Cav's in a 7 game series. Especially if they have home court.
Craig- The Grizzlies will win it all! That's it I'm done!
Matt- The team that gained the most value at the trade deadline was the 76'ers. They picked up two first round picks, and one that could conceivably be a top 5 pick next year, and is pretty likely to be a great lottery pick. There is no real evidence that Michael Carter-Williams is good, and top 5 picks are the best shot a franchise has at securing greatness. While the Lakers pick may not be a top 5 pick next year, there's a non-zero chance it will be. I'd rather have a 10% chance at a top 5 pick than a player that may only start to generate wins once he is off his rookie deal.
This is how the Western Conference will fall...
1. Golden State Warriors
2. Memphis Grizzlies
4. San Antonio Spurs
5. Dallas Mavericks
6. Houston Rockets
8. Oklahoma City Thunder
So one side of the bracket is the Warriors, Spurs, Mavericks & Thunder. Memphis will have to get through the hated Clippers and either Portland or Houston to get to the Western Conference Finals. Not only will they get there, but they will have to get through the Oklahoma City Thunder. And they will have home court advantage. They will get to a Game 7, and will win, at home, to get to the NBA Finals.
Thought Gasol vs. Gasol in the All-Star Game was cool? Wait until the Memphis Grizzlies host Game One of the NBA Finals against the Chicago Bulls.
Grace- Here's my prediction: The Cleveland Cavaliers will not make the NBA Finals. This team was so hyped up before the season even started, and many thought the path to the Finals would be relatively painless for Cleveland. But, no one was counting on the Hawks having the season they're having, and the Bulls at full strength are a scary opponent. The Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards are dark horses as well. Plus, the Cavaliers have shown their weaknesses on defense, and I'm still doubting the abilities of their new coach. They're going to have to go through the Hawks or Bulls, more than likely, in the playoffs. They're on a roll now, but come playoff time, I predict they won't make it past the East Finals.