June 30, 2017

AKABAS | 10 NBA Offseason Questions, Asked and Answered

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For how many more finals do you anticipate the two teams will be the Warriors and Cavs (i.e. the next 3,4,5 years?)
– Kyrollos B.

Basically the Warriors’ entire roster is entering free-agency this offseason. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant are going to do what it takes to both re-sign, but what about the other guys?

Andre Iguodala seems to be seriously considering offers from other teams. In the 2015 Finals, his insertion into the starting lineup swung a series in which the Cavaliers were underratedly close to going up 3-0. In this year’s Finals, the Warriors were +60 with Iguodala on the court and, drumroll please… -26 with him on the bench!!! It’s surprising, but not unexplainable. Iguodala is a veteran leader, shoots threes better than people realize, and can defend anyone on the Cavaliers’ roster (including LeBron adequately).

But he’s not the only Warrior who can walk. Shaun Livingston, who’s missed a turnaround mid-range jumper fewer times in his career than I’ve missed peeing into a toilet, can command eight figures per year on the open market (he’s also sneakily taller than Andre Iguodala, one of my favorite NBA fun facts). JaVale McGee may also test the waters. You don’t think the Rockets could use an athletic seven-footer who averages 100 points, 75 rebounds, and 25 blocks per 36 minutes (all numbers approximate)? Even a guy like Ian Clark, who gave Golden State reliable minutes in the playoffs, will be pursued by other teams.  

As overpowering as Golden State’s stars are, their bench is historically dominant, and they’re in jeopardy of losing several pieces of it as early as tomorrow. A year down the road, they’ll have to worry about re-signing Klay Thompson when he becomes a free agent. All in all, I wouldn’t bet my life on them even making the next two Finals.

As for Cleveland…

Do you think LeBron James will ever get another ring, especially with the Boston Celtics potentially signing Gordon Hayward in free agency or trading for Paul George and the Warriors juggernaut on the west coast?
– Aydin K.

LeBron leaving next summer is looking increasingly likely. He has a shot of teaming up with Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade, who opted into one-year contracts for a reason, or Paul George, who’s leaving Indiana. Will he get another ring with them? Ultimately, an NBA season is a poker game. Only a select few can get a seat at the table, but once you’re there, you have a shot if you get some good hands (draft picks and opponents’ injuries). LeBron’s going to be at that table every year for the remainder of his prime (which could be like 20 more years for all we know).

Did KD ruin the NBA playoffs? Did we go from three entertaining and meaningful series, to maybe one? I’m in the “these NBA playoffs mostly sucked” camp, especially compared to last year’s Spurs-Thunder, Thunder-Warriors, and Warriors-Cavs series.
– Mike H.

Let’s make something clear. The same Finals matchup year after year is not bad for the NBA. I don’t know about you, but I like watching what is essentially an all-star game, except everyone is going 100%, the teams have beef with one another and there are at least four games instead of one.

What’s concerning is that we’re likely not getting another early round matchup on the level of 2015 Clippers-Spurs for the rest of the decade. There just aren’t enough championship contenders. The 2017 Finals wasn’t boring, but the road to the Finals certainly was, and it’ll be the same next year, just without the novelty of seeing this Warriors team in the playoffs together.

And yes, it is KD’s fault. His offseason move didn’t change the Clippers’ or Jazz’s personnel, but practically knowing that the winner of their series would get swept in the next round certainly lowered the stakes of an otherwise intriguing seven games. 

Would 16-0 have solidified the 2017 Dubs as the best team of all-time?
– Itai G.

Doubtful. For the pundits who really believe deep down in their hearts that the 80s Lakers and Celtics would have been able to defend the 2017 Warriors’ death lineup, one game wasn’t going to change that. People’s opinions, especially ones rooted in nostalgia and emotion, have a lot of inertia (we’re talking Mike Sweetney level of inertia).

Do any of the free agents this summer have the ability to shift the odds to a non-Warriors team’s favor?
– Muhamed R.

It’s a deep field. We have Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin, some recent all-stars nobody seems to be talking about (Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague, Kyle Lowry) and a number of other capable starters (J.J. Reddick, Nene, Serge Ibaka, George Hill, James Johnson).

Still, I think the Celtics need more than Hayward to move ahead of the Cavs, much less the Warriors, and their desire to build for 2018 and 2023 at the same time may inhibit their ability to land a blockbuster trade. San Antonio is closer to contention (when are they not?), but with Tony Parker’s contract clogging the payroll and Patty Mills, David Lee, Paul Gasol and Jonathan Simmons hitting free-agency, the Spurs aren’t just going to be able to run back last year’s roster and add a star.

The Warriors would literally have a chance of beating a team comprising the five best players in the NBA who are not on the Warriors, so the answer to the original question is certainly no. While we’re here…

Who is in your non-Warriors starting five of NBA players to beat the Warriors?
– Mike H.

Chris Paul (can guard Steph and control an offense with five superstars)
James Harden (always a great passer, was once a great supporting player)
Kawhi Leonard (to guard Durant and dunk on Zaza Pachulia so hard that the energy generated by the dunk causes Zaza’s ring to evaporate)
LeBron James (duh)
Anthony Davis (you bet I thought about Giannis at center… wait a minute…)

[record scratching sound effect]

Giannis Antetokoumpo
Paul George
Kawhi Leonard
LeBron James
Anthony Davis

Final answer. I mean, who the heck is Curry gonna guard?

What should the Cavs do? Or who should they try to trade Kevin Love for?
– Loren A.

Trade Kyrie Irving, or nah?
– Chris K.

Is it time for the Cavs to start building around Kyrie? Currently filled with role players who can’t create for themselves/are wildly inconsistent. The only way Korver gets an open shot is if LeBron bullies inside the paint and draws a double. Tristan Thompson is out of place on offense because the only thing he can do when out of the paint is pass. Shumpert can’t shoot. JR is streaky. Jefferson, nah. D-Will, are you kidding? Frye didn’t even play. Dahntay Jones was on the Cavs’ line-up as an intern. None of these guys are good enough to be a threat on the outside.
– Tony L.

Okay, so one of you wants to get rid of Love, one of you wants to get rid of Kyrie, and one of you wants to build around Kyrie. Got it.

We can eliminate the last one right off the bat. If you have 32-year-old LeBron on your team and you’re not trying to win a title, that’s like having a delicious Ben & Jerry’s chocolate cookie-dough ice-cream cake that’s not even melting yet sitting on your counter and being like, “F*** it, we’re not serving dessert tonight.”

Tony is right, though, that the Cavs’ supporting cast is their real area of concern. Cleveland’s starting five can go toe-to-toe with Golden State’s starting five (I wrote about this two weeks ago), but when your team badly misses Matthew Dellavedova, your team has a bench issue.

So Cleveland needs to trade for assets. It’s been three years now, and the Cavs still haven’t quite figured out how to utilize Love’s abilities. They basically already won a title without any contribution from him (Love put up a nice Amir Johnson stat-line of 8 points and 7 rebounds in the 2016 Finals), and Cleveland should be able to get a team to jump on a 28-year-old on a not-outrageous contract who proved his ability to lead an NBA offense in Minnesota (Fat Kevin Love was, and will always be, my favorite version of Kevin Love. I miss him dearly).

I don’t think a one-year Paul George rental is the move, but something like a package of Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, and Will Barton from the Nuggets? All of a sudden the Cavs become a deep team.

Whose approval rating is lower right now? Phil Jackson or Frank Underwood?
– Lev A.

I like to imagine the New York Knicks’ firing Phil going something like this: