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Chat: Kevin Pelton (Basketball)

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday May 22, 2009 1:00 PM ET chat session with Kevin Pelton (Basketball).

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If there can be only one on the hardcourt, you'll want to talk to BasketballProspectus.com's Kevin Pelton to find out who it will be, and why.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Hello, everyone avoiding work on the start of Memorial Day Weekend. I have the day off, but I'm probably going to go in this afternoon because my home Internet has been spotty lately. I concede this is unusual. I've got the Roots playing (Phrenology), we've got two conference finals series that are off to fantastic starts and the draft lottery to discuss, so let's do it.

krissbeth (watertown, ma): Does Griffin have any options available to avoid indentured servitude to the Clippers? I can't really think of any other team which would be more detrimental to his pro career. If he signs in Europe now, before the Clips pick, when could he come back here and either get drafted or signed?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Well, it was a mere two decades ago that Danny Ferry found playing for the Clippers so distasteful that he decided to go to Italy for a year instead until the Clippers traded his rights to Cleveland. However, this was merely a negotiating ploy. Because teams want to maintain rights to actual international players, going overseas does not get you out of your draft obligation. I suppose Griffin could sit a season out or play in some quasi-pro league, but that seems drastic when he's going to get the same money either way.

Obviously the Clippers are badly mismanaged, but is this really such a terrible situation for Griffin? They have managed to develop talent under Dunleavy. The concern is that his fondness for no-D power forwards (read: Zach Randolph) will exacerbate Griffin's worst tendencies. But that could be a problem wherever he went. It's the draft; none of the top picks are going to successful teams.

Ben (Blazers Edge): Are you helping to line up financing to purchase the Bobcats and move them to Seattle?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): How did you know? BP pays well enough I only need to find a couple of minority investors. ...

Last night was the Storm's first preseason game, and it was profoundly sad to get back to KeyArena after an absence of nearly five months (the last game I attended there was UConn and Gonzaga in the Battle in Seattle in December). It still boggles my mind that I live in a city without NBA basketball. How did this happen? I know how, but I don't know.

Jivas (Oak Park, IL): Hello Kevin, Let's pretend for a second that the Bulls were able to re-sign Gordon and keep the rest of their core roster intact this offseason. How many games do you think that team wins next season?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I think their gain is more incremental than dramatic. Maybe somewhere in the neighborhood of 45-48 games? I find the newfound "Trade Tyrus Thomas" movement fascinating. I mean yeah, if you can legitimately add a standout power forward by dangling Thomas and Kirk Hinrich's pact, more power to them. Zach Randolph does not count. What most mystifies me is the newfound argument that Noah and Thomas are too similar. Thomas is a far better athlete and has more range, while Noah is taller and the superior post defender. I guess their weakness is neither of them is a "post scorer," but that didn't seem to hurt the Bulls' offense much against Chicago. Post scoring is so 2003.

Doc Rivers (Boston): I'm really not a very good coach. Is it time for me to be shown the door?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Really? I thought you coached a pretty masterful series against Orlando, all things considered. I'll be a little concerned if you lose Tom Thibodeau as your right-hand man and defensive guru, but any talk of a change is silly.

Casey (Portland): Is there any chance the Grizzlies do the right thing on draft night, regardless of what that may be? And why is it that Spaniards seem to hate Memphis?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): If all you knew of Memphis was that it was the resting place of Elvis, you'd be a little apprehensive too. The ideal scenario if the Grizzlies do take Rubio might be to create a Spanish Armada of their own by bringing back Juan Carlos Navarro and adding him to Rubio and Marc Gasol. You'd have to think that would help all of those guys feel at home.

Ricky Rubio (Your Dreams): So can the "The Thunder" seal the deal with me or am I staying in Europe?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Any talk by Rubio's agent about staying there is simply positioning. I don't think he really cares that much where he plays. Agents always want the big markets, and Memphis and OKC do not qualify.

Jon (DC): It is great to finally see MP play so well after getting teased so often when he was on the Warriors. Can he keep it up or will he always be up and down?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I think he can keep it up for the rest of this series, since it's a great matchup for him to use his size and strength against LeBron James. As for next year, don't get your hopes up. How many years have we been talking about him as a breakout player?

Ben (Blazers Edge): The WNBA: "Where Profoundly Sad Happens"

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): No, no, KeyArena from October through April: "Where roller derby happens." (Seriously. And I'm not knocking Roller Derby, but if that isn't sad, I don't know what is.)

Cole (Portland): I stole this answer from Simmons chat on Wednesday..regarding how he believes McMillian coached the Houston series. "He murdered them that series. Killed them. Played right into Houston's hands in every respect. Houston was terrified of Portland going small on them and Portland never did. They went into that series thinking, "Please, keep Oden or Pryzbilla in there at all times, and play Steve Blake as much as possible..." You agree?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): It was not Nate's finest hour. Still, Simmons is asking for some pretty dramatic moves. He did try going small, and my recollection was it was pretty much a disaster. I think the Rockets showed everyone against the Lakers that they can shut down pretty much any offense. The Lakers simply had the superior defense.

Jay (NY): If the Celtics are healthy next year, do they have as good a chance to win as anyone else in the Eastern Conference? Or is it time to trade Ray Allen, who is a good player not worth 18mm/year?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Cleveland has emerged as the clear favorites in the East going forward as long as they have LeBron James. That said, as tough as this playoff run was, it helped the emergence of Rajon Rondo and Glen Davis. The task for the Celtics now is to try to find a better option for going small than Brian Scalabrine. Even with a healthy Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins' development at the defensive end, there are still times you're going to have to put Garnett at five and match up small.

Wendy (Madrid): For the rest of us that know the players by their names, who's MP?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Sorry, that's Mickael Pietrus.

Jon (DC): Who do you like the best between Holiday, Jennings, Evans and Maynor?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Too early for me to say. Maynor's #s have not come out very well and Holiday looks like a role player at the NBA level right now. Evans and Jennings have the most star potential, but I want to take a look at the latter's numbers in Europe and a closer look at the former's college numbers before saying anything more. I've got a few weeks of work on NCAA statistics before I'm really qualified to speak on the draft.

Ben (Blazers Edge): Is Derek Fisher going to cause the Lakers' demise?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): If you're looking for a reason why they haven't played as well as expected in the postseason, Fisher is the right place to start.

Joel (GA): Jameer Nelson said he may be back if the Magic make the Finals. Do you see it happening and/or see him making an impact should it get to that point?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): No, I don't see that happening. There's few things the media loves more than speculating on these Willis Reed-style comebacks, but they rarely actually play out, and less than four months after labrum surgery would be largely unprecedented, I think. (I should check with Will Carroll before saying that, however.)

Jon (DC): As a follow up to Ben's question, why was Fisher on the court at the end? To me that was like having Carter on the floor in game 1. I know Fish was good in game 1 but beyond terrible last night.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Phil Jackson is, in my opinion, the greatest coach in modern NBA history. That said, he has weaknesses, and his fondness for the steady hand of his veterans is being exposed with Fisher right now. Maybe Fish should consider showing off some of that vaunted toughness and getting himself suspended for another game.

Mike (Utica,NY): From this season who do you see ending up being the best out of Mayo, Rose, Beasley, and Westbrook?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Rose > Westbrook > Beasley > Mayo

I know that's minority opinion on Mayo, but making a lot of contested jumpshots really did not impress me. That's not a recipe for long-term success, at least not as a star player. Beasley is someone I wanted to look at in an Every Play Counts column but never did. I am mystified by his transformation from a force in college to a jumpshooting tweener forward in the NBA. He can't be more undersized than guys like, say, Paul Millsap, can he? For a while I thought it was a Big 12 thing because Kevin Durant's had a similar transformation from historically great college freshmen to underwhelming rookie, but it turned out that was largely because of P.J. Carlesimo, so I need a new theory.

Cole (Portland): Is there any scenario where you could see Pritchard making a move to get Rubio, and what pieces would Portland have to give up to make that a reality?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I think somebody would have to be awfully desperate for financial relief, both in terms of cash and cap space/expiring contracts to make that happen. Would I put it past KP? Nope.

Joel (GA): Could this draft really end up being worse than the 2000 disaster? I didn't think that was possible.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I don't see that because there is elite talent in this draft that was not there in 2000. The best player in that draft has been Michael Redd, I suppose you'd have to conclude. If none of Griffin, Rubio and James Harden end up better than that, I will be ... well, profoundly sad.

Mike (Utica,NY): With Rose, do you see him getting to a Dwayne Wade level or will he become another Deron Williams?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Putting his floor at Deron Williams seems a tad optimistic. He's still got a lot of development to do to get that point. I think that's a pretty good comparison in terms of ability to score and distribute as well as the physical strength those two players share.

Jay (NY): Why isn't Dejaun Blair a top five pick? Isn't his downside 15/10? Can he play defense at the pro level? The whole "He can't guard Chris Bosh/Dirk excuse" seems a bit weak - there are few players that can.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I think the bigger issue for Blair might be getting his shot off in the paint. There are certainly times where height simply can't be overcome at the defensive end, but Blair's long arms and ability to get off the floor should help him in both regards. If I was drafting, I would probably have him somewhere from 5-10, but I wouldn't characterize him as a sure-thing star.

dianagramr (NYC): The current player whose ego / self-importance has undermined his own play the most is _____.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Wow, you could spend hours debating that question. I'm feeling Darius Miles right now. I might come up with someone else between now and the end of this chat.

Michale Heisley (Memphis): Kevin, I am pretty desperate.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): That is true, but I would think you could spell your own first name ...

Ben (Blazers Edge): Beasley > Mayo??????? pelton you will hate yourself for writing that in 3 years.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): And I'm sure you won't hesitate to point that out to me. By the way, how's the TrueHoop Smackdown coming for you?

Mike (Utica,NY): Well I think his floor is Steve Francis. The D-Will and D-Wade are his ceiling. Either Rose becomes an explosive scorer or a great assist man in the NBA. What outcome you see Rose becoming?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Gotcha. Like I said, I see Williams as his path more than Wade. I think he'll put up big scoring nights when the situation demands it, not every night along the lines of Wade.

dianagramr (NYC): 1) Were the Clippers run worse than the Knicks during the Isiah Thomas era? 2) Which draftee would help the Knicks the most? 2a) Which best draftee will most likely be available to them in the 1st round? 2b) Who will they end up taking?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): 1. No, because they've squandered fewer resources.
2. Right now, New York needs to be stockpiling Mike D'Antoni-friendly assets. What they're missing right now is the Shawn Marion type--obviously not at that level, but in that mold. I don't think Wilson Chandler can be that guy. Can Earl Clark or Chase Budinger pull it off? Probably not, but that's a question the Knicks have to be asking themselves.

Jon (DC): Biggest disaster of a franchise, considering both talent and front office: Clippers, Warriors, Twolves?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Hmm. Minnesota has the best (and least dysfunctional) talent of the three, but their GM search was a joke. I would still take the Clippers. Chris Cohan and Glen Taylor may not run tight ships for basketball teams, but at least ESPN the Magazine isn't printing exposes about them.

Ryan (Shelton, WA): So you have the whole Rose > Westbrook > Beasley > Mayo statement, where does Anthony Randolph and Kevin Love figure in there? I think Randolph has the potential to be the best player (short of maybe Rose) in the draft. Am I wrong?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Randolph still fascinates and confuses me. How can a player be so good at everything except making two-point shots? This isn't like Josh Smith, where his weakness (falling in love with threes and missing them constantly) is predictable. Athleticism should translate into two-point shooting, and it does for most everyone else, but not Randolph. I can't wait to see who SCHOENE picks out as comparables and what that says about his future.

I'll put Love between Westbrook and Beasley for now. Closer to Westbrook than Beasley.

Cole (Portland): Out of this list, and lets figure into the mid-long term, which PG would most benefit Portland? Kidd, Nash, Conley, Hinrich, or Sessions.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Nash would be a horrible fit in terms of the initiator concept I've talked about and having to share the ball with Roy. Neither he nor Kidd solves the Blazers' defensive issues at PG. I haven't watched enough of Sessions to speak extensively on his D, and I don't think Conley is going to figure it out. Hinrich remains a great fit for Portland's needs.

Steve (Cleveland): Maybe I somehow missed it, but are we going to talk about tonight's game at somepoint? Will 20 minutes a night (for the rest of the series) of Pavlovic, letting Lebron guard Lewis swing this back to the Cavs?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): No, you haven't missed it. People always seem more excited in these chats to talk about their own teams, who are already out of the playoffs. I can't stand Pavlovic, so as much of a defensive liability as he is, I'd rather see Wally Szczerbiak in that role. I think 20 minutes a night might be too much, but if Lewis has a game like he did Wednesday, you definitely want to see Cleveland finish with that lineup.

Robert (SF): Kevin, true about Sterling, but neither has let someone like Bobby Rowell run his franchise. The Warriors have talent, but I am just waiting for Nellie mess it up further. Nellie with the Warriors now would be like Isaiah getting hired by the Knicks in 2020. He ruined the franchise once and is back for more.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Oh, that would be so amazing if Isiah Thomas was back for more in 2020. The e-tabloids (or whatever we're reading by then) would have a field day with that. At least the Nellie regime has been entertaining, and it did produce one amazing playoff run.

Greg Oden (Indiana): How can Bill Simmons say I will end like Darko Milicic? Is he delusional? Can I volley-block a ball in his face and drop 40 on his Clippers next season?!

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I'd guess he's 40% serious, 10% joking and 50% messing with Blazers fans to get a reaction out of you guys. Patience is the order of the day. If Oden is still constantly in foul trouble and mechanical on offense next year, then it's time to worry.

Cole (Portland): Any other PG I didn't mention that you could see as a possibility?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Luke Ridnour could be in the mix at some point. Though I have a soft spot for Luke, he doesn't fit the Blazers' needs either.

Thabeet (STOORS): Will I be a bust?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I'd give you even odds right now.

Chad (NYC): What do you see my Hawks doing in the offseason? Bibby, Marvin, Flip, Zaza are FA. Johnson only signed through next year. No extension yet for Woodson. Can we get a real coach who will lock Josh Smith in a gym with a graying 4/5 who wants a cushy job a la Patrick Ewing? Even the Atlanta crowd turned against Smith in the final home games!

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Isn't Woodson trying to do that sort of thing the whole reason he and Josh Smith don't get along? Yeah, Atlanta is in a weird spot. The thing working in the Hawks' favor is that there are likely to be a lot of bargains out there this summer because of the cap situation and the economy. It's not a bad time to have a lot of free agents and bring them back, knowing that when things improve in a year or two, those deals will be highly tradeable.

Rock (North Haverbrook): Do you enjoy reading Chad Ford during this time of the year as I do? It's how I know summer is finally here. Birds chirping, bees buzzing and Ford flip-flopping on every draft prospect after watching a 30 minute workout session at Tim Grover's. It's like clockwork.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I wish I had time to follow it all. These are the things I give up in the name of the WNBA.

rdierkers ('nati): off the top of your head, break out 2009-2010 players?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Off the top of my head? Paul Millsap, if Carlos Boozer or Mehmet Okur leaves. Aaron Brooks should be able to build on his postseason. A healthy Danilo Gallinari could have a strong campaign.

Jon (DC): Kevin, what are the 76ers doing with their coaching search? They interview highly qualified guys like Casey and Jordan, and then look at Jay Wright. I know he isn't going there, but why even bother?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Probably a nod to the hometown fans. I am pulling for Casey, who is long overdue for a second chance, or Tom Thibodeau.

dianagramr (NYC): Thabeets upside: Mutumbo, Mourning, other?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Much more Mutombo than Mourning. I don't see him developing into that kind of offensive player.

Here's a thought I want to explore at some point during the offseason. Guys like Thabeet who pick up the game late, we always assume they are ultimately going to develop more quickly. Does the 10,000-hour theory, as popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers, serve to invalidate that line of thinking?

Steve (Cleveland): Wally Szczerbiak defends the Magic 2-guard then? You can't have him chasing Turkoglu through screens all night. And what's wrong with Pavlovic?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Yeah, if Pietrus is playing the two, Szczerbiak can guard him. West takes Turkoglu, which does mean giving up a ton of size in that matchup, but you're going to do that no matter what unless James is on him. As for Pavlovic, if you're shooting 51.2 percent in terms of True Shooting, you better do something else awfully well, and he doesn't.

Tom Saippe (CT): Thoughts on LeBron's dehydration? How's his playing time and resulting fatigue going to effort the results of this postseason?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I don't think it will be an issue tonight or going forward. The Cavaliers do have to get some other guys going to take the pressure off of him. He was simply doing too much, and it overwhelmed even the world's greatest basketball player.

Look for Cleveland to even the series tonight and everyone to freak out a little bit less about the likelihood of a Denver-Orlando NBA Finals.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I was a little worried I didn't get to promote this chat much ahead of time, but I think answering 39 questions is a new personal record. Thanks to everybody who asked questions, and see you again when we do this next, probably this same time a week from now. Between now and then, be sure to check out the Playoff Prospectus coverage only on BasketballProspectus.com.


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