Members of Stoop Sports’ NBA staff discuss relevant topics leading up to the start of the season. Enjoy.
What was your favorite unglamorous transaction?
A.J.Rose- The best under-the-radar move of the off-season was the 76ers getting Jason Richardson in their deal for Bynum. I feel like people think J-Rich is washed up, when really he was just on a bad Orlando team. He’s one of the most competitive players in the league, he’s only 31, and if Bynum can stay healthy and make the Sixers relevant, Richardson will have a great year and be in the running for sixth man of the year (assuming he doesn’t start).
Niko Regalbuto- I have a few. I really like Nick Young on the Sixers. He’s been somewhat of an enigma with his vast scoring ability and lack of discipline, but if there’s anyone that can change that it’s Doug Collins. I also like James Johnson to the Kings. He’s a versatile player who excels on the defensive end, which is pretty much the opposite of every other Kings player. I’m not sure how his playing time will look, but there’s no question he can be an asset to that team.
Jason Quint- For a couple of years now, David Kahn has been the laughing stock of the NBA. But the Minnesota GM had a terrific offseason, which included allowing Michael Beasley to leave in free agency and signing veteran forward Andrei Kirilenko, who spent last season in Russia after ten years with the Jazz. But the best move Kahn made was signing former Rookie of the Year and three time All-Star, Brandon Roy. Roy, still just 28 years old, retired after the 2010 season due to chronic knee troubles. He decided this offseason to give the NBA another shot, and the Wolves took a chance on him. I think it will pay off in a big way.
Tim Israel- With the addition of superstars Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, everyone is overlooking a guy who could be an x-factor in their title run. We expect Kobe, Pau, Dwight, and Nash to play a phenomenal brand of basketball, but their unreliable bench has made them underachievers the past few years. Adding a seasoned veteran in Antawn Jamison will give the bench a true leader and go-to-guy when the starters are on the bench. Jamison is getting old, but how can you hate a bench player who averaged 17 points and 6 rebounds last season?
What team do you have a weird interest in?
A.J.- I would say the Denver Nuggets here, but I’ve talked about them enough. Instead it’s the Minnesota Timberwolves. Kevin Love being out for 6-8 weeks will threaten their playoff chances, but the T-Wolves’ high risk, high-reward signings of Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko (plus their solid signing of Lou Amundson) could help hold the fort down until Love and Rubio come back. Once Minnesota is fully healthy, they’re going to be a ton of fun to watch (and they could end up as high as a 6 or 7 seed in the West).
Niko- I’m loving the Warriors right now. Stephen Curry is ridiculously good when his ankles aren’t collapsing. David Lee and Andrew Bogut have potential to be a very respectable front court duo. But my favorite player on the team is the traveling shooting show known as Klay Thompson. In his rookie season he shot 41% from three, with a shot that aesthetically resembles Kate Upton doing the cat daddy. If this team stays healthy, they could be extremely fun to watch. Unfortunately that’s a very big if.
Jason- T’Wolves! I’ve been a big Kevin Love fan since college, big Derrick Williams fan since high school, and avid supporter of the “Ricky Rubio will be a legitimate NBA player” movement for about four years now. Mix in the returns of Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko, the beautiful blonde mini-fro of Chase Budinger, the evil eyes of Nik Pekovic, and the fact that David Kahn actually had a productive offseason, Minnesota should be a team you keep an eye on all year long.
Tim- I absolutely love what the Mavericks did this offseason and can’t wait to see how they play together, but the most intriguing team in the league to me is the Portland Trailblazers. Led by All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, the rest of the depth chart is compiled of a very strange group of players. They’ve got a great defender and silky shooter in Wesley Matthews, but I think he’s reached the peak of his ability. Rookie Damian Lillard has a lot of potential, but will need to mature quickly and take control as the point guard of this team. And I don’t want to forget Nic Batum, who never lives up to his high expectations. The best part is after those four, it gets even weirder, with a bunch of unproven guys like Meyers Leonard, J.J Hickson, Sasha Pavlovic, Ronnie Price, and Jared Jeffries.
What player are you most looking forward to watching?
A.J.- This is a tough question because there are so many players I love to watch. But the answer is Dwyane Wade. He was clearly not 100% in the playoffs last season, which incidentally might’ve solved the Heat’s alpha dog issues and allowed them to officially become Lebron’s team. But if Wade’s surgically repaired knee recovers fully and he regains his old form, the chances of the Heat getting dethroned go from slim to almost none. And the last time Wade was recovering from a major injury (after the ’07-’08 season), he was an assassin in the Olympics and then had one of the best overall seasons ever by an NBA shooting guard in ’08-’09. In other words, for non-Heat fans, it could be a long season.
Niko- I really want to see if O.J. Mayo’s sky high offensive ability comes into light in his new scenery. He has an amazing ability to create his own shot, but in Memphis Lionel Hollins’ system didn’t compliment his talent. Now in Dallas, he comes in with more than enough opportunity to match his rookie year career high of 15.6 FGA per game, and could be a difference maker for a potentially playoff bound team. I also can’t wait to see Kyrie Irving. By the end of the year I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s considered a top 5 point guard, because his ability is absolutely uncanny.
Jason- I’m definitely excited to see a few second year players who I raved about pre-2011 draft, and those players are Kenneth Faried, Derrick Williams, Enes Kanter and Klay Thompson. But if there is one player in the NBA I am most excited to see play, it’s Andrew Bynum. Not only is Bynum 3000 miles away from Kobe Bryant and his massive shadow, but he has a supporting cast in Philly that is PERFECT for his skill set. Bynum has proven that he will score more times than not if he isn’t double-teamed. If teams double down on the big fella, Philly has terrific three-point shooters just waiting for the kick out. Bynum is the best offensive center in the NBA, and assuming he stays healthy, should be in the MVP discussion come April.
Tim Israel- This is a very simple question to answer. It has to be Jeremy Lin. Last season, Lin captivated the nation for two weeks in a way I’ve never seen before. Everybody knew who Jeremy Lin was, even kids who never had watched an NBA game in their life. Now, Lin finds himself being the centerpiece on a Houston Rockets team with a new identity, and if he can get his game to the level he was at for those two weeks last season, the Rockets could be a sleeper in the West.
What do you make of the new flopping rules?
A.J.- Obviously the flopping rules will take the players a while to get adjusted to. I can’t wait to see Shane Battier and Manu Ginobili get called for it. But more than anything else, the new flopping rules take away one of the few remaining weapons that defenses were able to use against Lebron. He was already the best player in the league, but with the new rules in place, Lebron will be able to take apart defenses the way Eddie Curry takes apart a meatball sub.
Niko- They’re a little too subjective for my liking. When I watched the videos of flopping do’s and don’ts, some of the acceptable flops looked pretty blatant to me. I agree that the crackdown of flopping needs to occur, but if I were a player, I would want a more defined example of what’s tolerable.
Jason- I think its somewhat of a joke that its gotten to this point, but I think the NBA is doing the right thing instituting the new flopping rules, which fines players for flops. Flopping in the NBA has gotten out of hand, and it makes the league look bad when talented players like Lebron James and Blake Griffin, who are already superior athletes, use flopping to gain even more of an advantage. I mean, is this basketball? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oafnB3RqO98.
Tim- The rule change is completely ridiculous. Determining what is a flop and what isn’t a flop is impossible. People are going to be fined for flops that others are getting away with. The flop is part of the game, as much as I hate to watch it, and you can’t start fining people for it.
Who’s your sleeper pick to win it all?
A.J.- Somewhat of an anti-climactic ending to my first appearance in a Stoop session, but here’s my article on why the Nuggets could be the biggest surprise.
Niko- I never doubt the point god known as Chris Paul. Yes I meant to say god. Their second unit is vastly improved, and this year they’ll presumably have Chauncey Billups for the playoffs. If DeAndre Jordan can actually sustain the success that his jump-hook is having this pre-season, he adds a huge threat to their game that they didn’t have last year. The only problem for them is to beat a top tier team in the playoffs you have to be well coached. Vinny Del Negro, I’m looking at you.
Jason- In my opinion, the Heat, Lakers and Thunder are the only three teams with a chance of winning the championship this season. So to constitute my pick being a ‘sleeper,’ I’d have to pick someone other than those three. The only team that comes to mind is the Boston Celtics. Many think they’re over the hill, but Doc Rivers does an incredible job taking care of his stars, giving them adequate rest throughout the season. They took Miami to seven games last year in the Eastern Conference Finals, and I believe with the acquisitions of Jason Terry, Jeff Green and Courtney Lee, along with rookie Jared Sullinger, they are better than last year. If any team has a chance of defeating Miami and come out of the East, it’s Boston.
Tim Israel- The Philadelphia 76ers made moves this offseason which give them an outside shot at a run at the title. Andrew Bynum is the second best center in the league and fills the missing piece to a Sixers team which was a few Rajon Rondo missed jump shots away from the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Also, the additions of Dorell Wright, Nick Young and Jason Richardson all were very intelligent pick ups. They all are wing players who can shoot the rock, another thing which the Sixers were lacking last year. I’m a big Jrue Holiday fan and this could be the year he puts it all together and if he does, the Sixers could be in business.
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