Over the weekend, AWR Contributor Brad Fuson, and Brian Batty exchanged some casual e-mails about the NBA season so far. We covered the struggles in Chicago, Steph for MVP, and much much more. Enjoy!
Brian: Bradley, it’s been awhile since we’ve done one of these. How’s living the Iowa life? Is the winter as unbearable out there as it is in Chicago?
Brad: Quite a long while. It’s savagery out here man. Trudging through snow drifts is beyond old.
Brian: Speaking of biggest surprises…..wait a minute
Yeah, let’s go with it. Speaking of big surprises, hell of an NBA season we have going for us here, how about it? A skinny little goofball with a baby face is our MVP, The Atlanta Hawks are all of a sudden the ’86 Celtics, and a team with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook is struggling to even make the playoffs in a Western Conference more loaded than Seth Rogan’s bowl right now.
All that being said, what’s your biggest surprise so far of this season?
Brad: Yeah, I mean this whole season has been outstanding. Often times we fall prisoner to the moment, but it seems this season has been one of the more interesting in our lifetimes. The big moments (Klay torching nets in the 3rd against the Kings) the storylines (LeBron returning home) and the wide-open race for the Larry OB Trophy. There’s been so many fun teams and players making leaps and I think that’s just been the biggest thing so far this season – how fantastically wonderful the season has been. Not that it’s necessarily a surprise, but with Miami having the East locked down for the past four years it’s refreshing to have so much uncertainty about who’ll be playing in June.
Brian: Well let’s stick with the East a little bit.
I’m of the school of thought that the Hawks aren’t going to be able to keep it up in the playoffs. You need that guy, that “superstar” (I’m starting to hate the phrase, but there’s no simpler way to say it) to get them a bucket when things go wrong. Is Jeff Teague really who you’re going to count on to make that play? Al Horford maybe, but he’s susceptible to double teams, which leaves Paul Milsap to create something during the last three minutes of a close playoff game?
Count me out man
Brad: I’m with you there. What they’ve done is nothing short of spectacular, but I can’t see them coming out of the East. They play fantastic team-oriented basketball – some even labeling them Spurs East – but they lack a transcendent star like Tim Duncan. Horford is no slouch, but they don’t win four out of seven against a team like the Cavs.
Brian: It’s interesting how we do this though, right? We wax poetic about the Hawks’ team work and ball movement, and lament on the Cavs defensive struggles. But then both come to the similar conclusion of “the Cavs have Lebron, the Hawks don’t, ringz and stuff”
Following the NBA is strange
Brad: No doubt about it. Now that he’s playing like he has the past half decade it swings any series. Who knew that Timofey Mozgov would, potentially, be what swings the Cavs’ title chances from average to very good? Have you been surprised by the impact he, along with Earl Smith and Iman Shumpert, have made?
Brian: I think their impact is a little overstated. Listen, Lebron took two weeks off to do whatever it is that he did, and is now back to superhumanbestbasketballplayeriveeverseeninmylife level that he just clearly wasn’t at. Don’t let this teams defensive issues fool you, the path to an NBA championship still goes through Lebron James.
Brad: I wholeheartedly agree. They may even end up with the second seed with Chicago and Toronto hitting some bumps in the road. Are your hometown Bullies gonna get it figured out? Give me the Chitown perspective on everything that has gone on with that franchise – on and off the court – recently?
Brian: The waters on Lake Michigan are in a constant choppy state, similar to how the relationship between Thibs and GarPax has been since they became tied to one another. Thibs played his guys too many minutes, and GarPax have yet to land that second play maker to run with Derrick Rose.
It all comes back to Rose, it always has. His injuries basically hamstrung the whole organization for three years. For three years the entire Bulls brain trust was forced into “we can’t win until he gets his body in one piece mode”, and that’s led to a lot of built up animosity. Throw in the now we’re not even playing defense very well gasoline, and all of a sudden a nice fire in a fireplace is burning down the house.
Injuries, as freaking always, are the current issue. Joakim Noah hasn’t been himself all season, and because of Pau Gasol’s athletic liabilities, Noah is forced to play further away from the rim on defense every possession, and it’s hindering his effectiveness. Mike Dunleavy being out takes away 22% of the spacing they had before, and is forcing Jimmy Butler to do just that much more on offense, which is killing his efficiency.
When they’re clicking and healthy, they’re a monster. But right now, none of that is happening. I’m worried. I’m worried this whole thing is going to blow up in all of our faces and all of a sudden we’re in that flux/NBA hell/middle-of-the-pack team.
Talk me off the ledge…..please
Brad: I don’t know if I can. I certainly want to see everyone get healthy so that the best possible playoff matchups can be had. Another team struggling with injuries right now is the Houston Rockets. With Dwight set to miss extended time, can James Harden keep them afloat and a key cog in the Western Conference race?
Brian: I picture the Rockets and Thunder playing in the second round and while James Harden accepts his MVP award, Thunder GM Sam Presti instead watches Jeremy Lamb college highlight videos on his phone.
Because that would be perfect
Brad: Scott Brooks would have found ways to not win titles even if Presti didn’t make one of the worst trades of all time. As we know, you have Steph as your mid-season MVP. Who, if anybody, beats them in a seven game series? The Injury Bug? The NBA’s Patriots (seriously the parallels between Pop/Duncan and Belichick/Brady are incredible)?
Brian: The only thing that stops the acid trip we all succumb to when we watch Golden State play fluid basketball, is an Andrew Bogut injury. I know that sounds way too simplistic, but it’s that cut and dry. There’s just something special going on with this team. What do you think? Who looks like the team that can actually stop the Warriors?
Brad: I agree wholeheartedly. The anchor he provides defensively, along with low-post scoring and rebounding, cannot be understated. The roster is damn near perfectly constructed and Steve Kerr appears to be a master puppeteer. The West is so unbelievably stacked, but I really can’t fathom a healthy Warriors team going down at this point. They have two twine-torching perimeter players in Steph and Klay, tremendous athlete and slasher in Barnes, the do-it-all lockdown guy in Draymond Green, and an Australian gargantuan in Bogut. What about a potential OKC matchup in the first round? Can Russ and KD will them to four wins over this team?
Brian: I don’t want to think of a world where I have to choose between KD/Russ and Steph. I’m writing something about almost this exact topic at the end of the week, but to put it one way, if you’ve ever had a brother, whether it be blood or friendship, you should be rooting for the Thunder to snag that 8th seed.
I’m almost hoping they don’t so we don’t get that scenario. Although it doesn’t even matter. The West is insane. Nobody’s getting out alive anyways. Seriously. By the time whoever gets out of the East looks over the fence to see who they’re matched-up against, all they will see is very tall dead bodies scattered throughout a field of blood. By the time three rounds of playoffs are finished the Western Conference will look like the Rodney King riots.
Brad: CAN’T WAIT *Bart Scott voice*