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Chat: Kevin Pelton (Basketball)

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Wednesday April 30, 2008 1:00 PM ET chat session with Kevin Pelton (Basketball).

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Kevin Pelton has been covering the Western Conference playoffs for Basketball Prospectus.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Hello everyone, and thanks to the folks at Baseball Prospectus for allowing us to interrupt the regular season to talk NBA hoops. In addition to thrilling playoff action, we've also got a ton of action on the sidelines and now we get to talk about two potential rebuilds (or at least retools) in Dallas and Phoenix. So there's plenty to discuss. Let's get it going.

Or (Dallas): SJKEHIWUEUIY. With that out of the way, what in the name of Batman nouns happened to this thing? Up 2-0 on the Heat. Up double digits halfway through the fourth. And then the basketball gods slammed a gavel down on the Dallas Mavericks. I'd like to say we can tear it down and be good again soon, but we've dealt two first round picks to New Jersey in return for an old point guard who will have no part in our future!

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Well, it still looked pretty good after the 67-win regular season. It makes you wonder - if the Clippers had held off Golden State for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference, would we be having this conversation?

Based on his dismal series and the news about his birthday party after Game 4, Josh Howard seems headed for the trading block. That's interesting because you're probably looking at something like a challenge trade for another (disgruntled?) small forward. The big need for the Mavericks looks like a quick point guard who can match up with the Chris Pauls of the world off the bench. They need to get back to the kind of scouting that brought Howard in the late first round and Marquis Daniels as an undrafted free agent and get away from signing washed-up veterans.

I think the Mavericks can get going in a better direction with some tweaks, but good enough to compete with the West's elite? That's tough to say.

Will (New Orleans): With Dallas and Pheonix seemingly at the end of the line with their particular roster make-ups, do you see some potential for major overhaul? Might even Nowitzki/Stoudemire be available? God, I'd love to see one of them playing PF on the sixers...

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Already talked about Dallas, but Phoenix is equally interesting. Potential for major overhaul? Certainly, but I don't think either of those players will come available, at least not this off-season. They're surely the guys those two teams will want to build around.

As for the Sixers, I think they're going to be just fine with Thaddeus Young at power forward for the next decade or so. He's probably the rookie, outside of Carl Landry, who has surprised me the most this season. Maybe you think of him as a SF, but I think he causes more trouble for opponents in a small lineup at the four.

Ron (Seattle): Any thoughts on a potential replacement for D'Antoni?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Now that's a good question. The first question Steve Kerr and company would have to answer, assuming Jack McCallum of SI.com is accurate in his report that D'Antoni has coached his last game with the Suns, is whether they want a more conventional style. Given whispers that D'Antoni wasn't big enough on discipline, you have to figure the Suns will go more in that direction and toward someone with more of a defensive mindset. And it's hard to believe the job will go to a coaching neophyte.

So put that all together and ... no one really jumps out to me. Rick Adelman might have been a good fit, as a firmer hand than D'Antoni but not dramatically so, but obviously he's taken. Any other ideas?

Michael Jordan (Charlotte): Am I crazy to bring in a 67-year-old coach who hasn't stayed in one place for more than a few years ever in his career to coach my team?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): A little, but I think people may be putting too much weight on Larry Brown's last coaching job. The Knicks were way too big of a mess for one man to fix, and Brown only got (and could only stomach) one season on the job.

The parts are in place for the Bobcats to be competitive in the East -- how much better are, say, the Hawks on paper? And Brown should certainly be a major upgrade from an overmatched Sam Vincent. The key for Charlotte is for Jordan to retain control on the player personnel moves so Brown doesn't trade Raymond Felton for Derrick McKey or Mark Jackson or someone. (All kidding aside, they do face a key decision on Felton, who's been OK but hardly spectacular as the starter at the point.) It's early, but I can see the Bobcats making the playoffs next season.

Dale Hogg (Charlottetown): The Raptors did not take the next step towards the top tier of the East, and given expected improvement from Atlanta and Philly they may in fact never get there...obviously Bargnani's stagnation and the PG controversy had effects but how about the clutter at small forward? Sam never seemed to decide between Moon, kapono and Delfino, in fact going with a 27 year old rookie in Moon...what should Toronto do to rectify this situation?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I think things are better in Toronto than they seem right now. Obviously the Raptors ended the season on a sour note, but they did a pretty good job of bucking the plexiglass principle, which is a simple name for regression to the mean that holds that teams that improve as much as Toronto did last year tend to go backwards the next year. The Raptors didn't go back that much. I think everyone agrees they need to trade T.J. Ford and commit to Jose Calderon and that should help.

As for the small forwards, I like Moon quite a bit (as do the numbers) and Kapono was a bit of a disappointment to me this season. As John Hollinger has harped on, why does a guy who is so good at shooting threes shoot so few of them and so many long twos? Really, all three of these guys are better reserves than starters, so it's a position the Raptors should look at upgrading in a Ford trade and doing a little consolidation.

HeeSeop (Chicago): Carlisle or JVG in Phoenix?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): See, these are generally good candidates, especially Van Gundy (though I might rather have him calling games), but would they work in Phoenix? Can you see Van Gundy and Steve Nash coexisting well? Nash has gotten so much trust from D'Antoni that you can't go completely the other direction and have him walking the ball up and looking at the bench for every playcall.

Jim Clancy (Exhibition Stadium): Wouldn't Kerr and his disastrous trade be more worthy of dismissal than is D'Antoni? Would D'Antoni land in Toronto if he's let go? Why isn't Kidd's attack on Pargo a bigger deal? Dirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrty. Why wasn't Garnett suspended again? Huh?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Ooh, lightning round.

Yes. According to McCallum, who should know, apparently not. Because Pargo isn't as good as LeBron James. Because he shouldn't have been -- that was just the kind of posturing we've come to count on in the playoffs.

HeeSeop (Chicago): Does Philly's success show that just maybe a 30 ppg scorer who shoots 40% from the field with 4+ TO/g doesn't help his team that much, no matter how talented he is?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): It shows that defense matters. It's not like the Sixers have gotten better on offense. They were 13th in Offensive Rating in 2005-06, Iverson's last full year, dropped to 26th last year and improved slightly to 19th this year. Their Defensive Rating, meanwhile, has improved steadily from 24th to 15th to 11th this year -- and better than that in the second half of the season.

Philly had plenty of success with Iverson when they surrounded him with defensive-minded players, but they got away from that after Larry Brown's departure and that led to their downfall. Now the defense is very good again, and that's got only a limited amount to do with swapping Miller for Iverson.

The best thing trading Iverson did was force the Sixers to commit to their young guys and stop messing around with the Kevin Ollies of the world.

Roger (Denver): What can the Nuggets do to turn this thing around? Or are we stuck with a carnival for the next few years?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): The real problem for the Nuggets, I think, is timing. They've decided to go for it in the West at a time when the conference is loaded and they're not quite good enough to compete with the elite. Obviously, their lack of discipline doesn't help them - as was particularly on display in the series against the Lakers - but that only means so much.

A lot of their pieces just don't fit together well either. Iverson's teams have done best when they have a tall PG alongside him, but Denver's options have been either a tiny backcourt that creates matchup problems on defense or putting Smith or Kleiza at the two and making Iverson play distributor. I'd love to see Denver flip Chucky Atkins for someone bigger and get Anthony Carter out of the lineup. And the role players in the starting five have to be more efficient. Would someone please tell Marcus Camby that it's OK to step in the paint once in a while on offense?

Raul (Chicago): Wouldn't D'Antoni be a good choice for the Bulls, who obviously didn't like Skiles. Athletic players like Sefolosha & Thomas may really flourish under him.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): The Phoenix transition, in reverse. I think it might be a little difficult to make that dramatic a transition in mindset in Chicago, but it would certainly be interesting and fun to watch. What I think would be ideal for the Bulls is someone defensive-minded but more of a player's coach than Skiles and Jim Boylan, and someone who would be willing to turn the young guys (Thomas and Joakim Noah) loose.

You know who that sounds like to me? Dwane Casey. His first gig in Minnesota ended quickly, but Casey was a scapegoat for the front office's mistakes and did a pretty good job.

Dean (Philadelphia): What players have surprised you in these playoffs, either positively or negatively?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): One guy who has really stood out has been Rafer Alston in terms of his impact. Who knows where this series would be if he had been healthy the entire way. I knew his numbers were decent this year, but it's different to see that impact on the floor. He's come a long ways from fighting Sam Mitchell in the locker room. Julian Wright surprised me (and everyone else) with his great Game 4. Tony Parker played better than I imagined he could have. Rashard Lewis had his first good playoff series since his sophomore season.

On the surprisingly disappointing side, where was Leandro Barbosa during the first round? The difference between sixth men was pretty enormous in that series, no?

HeeSeop (Chicago): Everyone credits Detroit's struggles with them becoming bored, or not taking the other team seriously enough. While I don't deny that may play a factor, I'm more interested in how that actually plays out on the court. Is it a lack of "hustle" variables - rebounds, deflections, etc.? What do you think actually happens on the court that causes them to seemingly regress so greatly at times?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I think it's even simpler than that. You don't set a good pick or don't run your cut hard enough or don't bump guys coming through the lane. Those might seem like tiny things, but they're big enough that they'll cost you -- especially in the playoffs, when everyone else is taking only a few possessions if any off.

Chris (Davis): What's with all the flopping in the playoffs? Isn't there something we can do?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I love Van Gundy on ABC, but on Sunday he was talking about the difficulty of doing something to address flopping. We don't need it to be a foul or even a techincal. JUST DON'T CALL FLOPS! Apologies for the caps, but it's simple. If referees were to take a bit more conservative of a view on contact, players would respond to the incentives and you'd see fewer dives.

Kris (NYC): Picks for the next round?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): A little too early with only one series set, but right now I like New Orleans in 7, the Lakers in 6 or 7, Boston in 5 or 6 and Detroit in 7 ... which would be all favorites, yes. Assuming everything holds in this round, I think Orlando could be very dangerous and would be my most likely pick to change between now and when I have to submit them for TrueHoop's Stat Geek Smackdown.

Kris (NYC): Picks for the next round?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): A little too early with only one series set, but right now I like New Orleans in 7, the Lakers in 6 or 7, Boston in 5 or 6 and Detroit in 7 ... which would be all favorites, yes. Assuming everything holds in this round, I think Orlando could be very dangerous and would be my most likely pick to change between now and when I have to submit them for TrueHoop's Stat Geek Smackdown.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Alright, thanks to everybody for the questions and we covered a lot of different territory today. Keep reading our Playoff Prospectuses daily on BasketballProspectus.com and look out for future NBA Playoffs chats here on BaseballProspectus.


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