Omar Bagnied: He exaggerates when he’s hit sometimes. The dunk-faces and stare-downs are piling up and it’s bad for his karma. It’s a combination of the two that cultivate the contempt. He seems to lack maturity and, eventually, something has to give. While I don’t want to see it happen, I do think someone is going to cheap shot the hell out of this guy if he doesn’t stop. The longevity of his career will probably depend on how he responds. He has All-Star talent.
Jacob Greenberg: Yeah, Blake’s stock has dropped this season. I’m not really sure why. I’m convinced it’s due to the fact that he became a darling of both the NBA and interested endorsers without having (1) proven anything except that he can jump really high and fill the stat sheet, (2) a likable or interesting personality, in general. I don’t buy “quirky Blake,” a creation of Kia and the NBA. He’s so corproratized and commercial-friendly that you can’t really get a read on the guy. Maybe it’ll change over time. And Omar, he’s already taken a few cheap shots this season.
John Reyes-Nguyen: He does flop a lot. For a guy who’s so aggressive offensively, he’s pretty damn passive defensively. DeAndre Jordan is the same way. Bynum always has monster games against those two. Also Griffin’s style of play isn’t sustainable. Those hops won’t last very long. Especially down low, it’s very important to have skills and fundamentals, i.e. Tim Duncan who’s still effective and he’s 45 years old.
John Heydinger: While it seems that the Haterade is less quenching than a few weeks ago, the general malaise over Griffin has been undeniable. I think Blake suffers from two comparisons. First, let’s remember that with the Chris Paul trade Blake immediately became the second fiddle on the Clippers. Even though Blake is still the “face” of the franchise – which just seems to be shorthand for an assumption about marketability – Chris Paul’s game has a resonance with the aesthetics of beauty. While power (Griffin) is initially enticing and spectacular, true aesthetic resonance keeps giving back, thus Blake suffers in comparison. Second, the emergence of Kevin Love makes Blake’s game feel a little tired and one-dimensional (see: power). Kevin Love is the best power forward in the game (LeBron and Durant, no matter how they are lined up, are not true 4s), a title that at this time last year seemed reserved for Griffin. With Paul in-town and Love making the leap, Blake’s game already feels a bit like old news. (Note: perception is forged in the playoffs, stay tuned.)
Over the last two weeks, Carmelo has been reborn in the absence of Lin and Ama’re. Was he unable to shine with those two around? Was he playing poorly earlier this season? Is he still not that great? Can he lead the Knicks to a playoff series win? Tell me how you really feel.
Omar Bagnied: Yes, the reason why Carmelo is scoring more is because Amare and Lin are injured. He gets the ball more and, as an All-Star that can create shots, will average ~30 pts so long as Amare and Lin are out. I don’t see what other analysts seem to see in him. He’s just a good scorer. He doesn’t do anything else exceptionally well. I don’t see leadership. If someone’s going to be the leader of this team it should be Tyson Chandler. He’s the only one with a championship ring and seems to be the most mature of the bunch. But New York won’t win a playoff series this year. I believe players need clearly defined roles to be successful. JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, Landry Field and Carmelo are four players that do the same thing, with varying degrees of success. The optimal Knicks line-up is Lin-Fields-Novak-Amare-Chandler; balance.
Jacob Greenberg: Institutionally, the Knicks have always positioned themselves as a defensive unit. Their offense typically came as a byproduct of their suffocating defense. According to Basketball-Reference, from 1996 to 2001, under Jeff Van Gundy, the Knicks had no worse than the fourth best defense in the NBA. That changed briefly under D’Antoni, who attempted to craft a version of SSOL around Melo and Stoudemire. But with D’Antoni (and STAT and Lin) out, and Woodson in, the Knicks have returned to their historical bread and butter. Woodson demands that his guys play hard on defense, runs iso plays for his guys who dominate the ball, and also creates ball movement to give threes to Steve Novack and JR Smith. It’s a system that works better for Melo. And, frankly, it’s a game plan that’s more emblematic of Knicks basketball.
John Reyes-Nguyen: Carmelo is great, kinda like a Kobe 2.0 because he ball hogs and can create his own shot any time especially when he gets it on the elbow. But the Knicks are like the Nuggets when Carmelo was there. They run down court, if nothings there right away, the ball goes to Melo and everyone just watches. Knicks won’t do anything in the playoffs IF they get there.
John Heydinger: Again, let’s start with comparison. Linsanity, as much fun as it was, lasted for just over 50 days before shutting down completely. I still think the jury is out on this kid. As for Stat? Stat has gotta show us something, anything, to prove is resembles the Amare for old. So we are comparing Melo’s effectiveness to these guys? Look, I think that a healthy Knicks team (with Melo, Tyson Chandler, Lin, Stat, Novak, Fields, Shumpert, JR Smith and the ghosts of point guards past) could definitely give teams some headaches and I think, if they can put all that together next year, they can make some noise. That being said, I have always been unconvinced that a team with Melo as their best player can even make it the Finals, and I have seen nothing to change my mind recently.
Chicago is 16-8 without Derrick Rose. I know this may seem like a ridiculous question, but really, how essential is he to their success?
Omar Bagnied: The question isn’t as foolish as you might think. When healthy and in rhythm, he’s the most important piece. Not only because of his scoring prowess, but because of his demeanor and leadership. With that being said, I’m of the opinion that Chicago can go the entire playoffs without Derrick Rose (all other players healthy) and win a title. To those who find this absurd: prove me wrong. Look at the numbers and make a case. Did you watch Thursday’s game against Miami? Chicago beat them by 10 with Rose playing less than half the game and scoring 2 points. I listen with incredulity as Skip Bayless, Jalen Rose, Tim Legler, Rob Parker, and all the basketball analysts on ESPN remain obstinate in their conviction that Miami’s going to the finals. What more does Chicago have to do?! Miami has lost to Chicago twice in a row; Rose scored 2 points in those two games combined! If any of you ESPN analysts find your way to this blog, know that we realize you aren’t doing your homework and cautiously going with the consensus pick because it’s safe.
Jacob Greenberg: D-Rose may not be essential to the Bulls’ regular season success, but he’s of the utmost importance to their playoff success. I know the numbers seem to imply that the Bulls will be fine in the playoffs without the reigning MVP. But simply put: if the Bulls don’t have their best player, they will have to count on Miami not playing up to their full potential in order to win a seven game series. LeBron will have to play poorly in the fourth quarters, and they’ll have to find a way to neutralize either Wade and/or Bosh. An on top of that, someone on the Bulls will have to step up in the fourth quarter to provide key buckets and carry team momentum. That’s a tall task for a star-less team. They’ll need D-Rose if they want to go to the finals. In the words of Omar, prove me wrong.
John Reyes-Nguyen: Apparently he’s not very essential at all. They should trade him for Pau and Sessions. Anyways, he’s super important. He puts so much pressure on the D and he can make big shots. They’ll need him in the playoffs at crunch time. His absence says more about their coaching and team play than anything else.
John Heydinger: Rose is THE guy in Chicago. Every team needs at least one to win the Finals (obligatory nod to 2004 Pistons) and that is really the point here. Good in the regular season is one thing, but the Playoffs are more a war of attrition and really about how the two teams match-up (see: 2007 Mavericks, 2011 Spurs, or on the flip-side 2008 Rockets). I happen to think the Bulls match-up well against the Heat, but, their recent victories notwithstanding, without Rose they have no shot at the Finals. With him, there’s a chance.
The Greg Stiemsma bandwagon is quickly filling up. Will he have a notable impact in the playoffs?
Omar Bagnied: I can’t say that I’m on the Greg Stiemsma bandwagon. He seems to be playing well against bottom-feeders. We’ll see what he’s made of in the playoffs.
Jacob Greenberg: Sure he will. The guy rebounds, blocks shots, draws charges, and has six fouls to give. Every contender needs that guy. He’s a great defensive center, and will match up well against other Eastern conference backup centers like Ronny Turiaf and Omer Asik.
John Reyes-Nguyen: I don’t know who Greg Stiemsma is.
John Heydinger: What does it say about the Celtics title chance that we are talking about Greg Stiemsma? Plenty. I don’t think Tyson Chandler is intimidated by Boston’s new great white hope. If the Celtics make a deep run (an outside possibility) all aspects of the team will be blown out of proportion and Stiemsma will join the pantheon of lovable white role players who we fixate upon because they seem so charmingly out of place (see: Brian Cardinal, Mark Madson and Kurt Rambis). But to join the pantheon requires your team win the title. I don’t see that from this Celtics team and Greg Stiemsma is not playing crunch time minutes.