Check in with Basketball Prospectus' Kevin Pelton to dish about pro hoops action.
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Apologies for the late start. Let's get right down to it. All-Star starters to be announced tonight before a double-header including an exciting matchup of the top two teams in the Western Conference, so plenty to discuss, as always.
Kevin (Chicago, IL): What might you suggest the NBA do to make its all-star event more appealing?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I tend to think the NBA has by far the most entertaining All-Star Weekend in sports, so I wouldn't change things dramatically. My biggest suggestion would be adding at least one round of the dunk contest with a defender. Wouldn't you love to see Timofey Mozgov come out to try to block Blake Griffin's dunk? Think of the best dunks of this season (most of them by Griffin). None of them, other than maybe the windmill the other day, has been in an empty-court situation. They're generally alley-oops and dunks on someone. We've seen basically every variant possible of someone standing alone and dunking. It's time to add the defensive element.
paulbellows (Calgary): Is Brook Lopez the worst rebounding 7 footer of all time?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I hate to excuse Lopez's poor rebounding this season, but I don't think he's the worst rebounding 7-footer in his own division.
NYYanks826 (Chicago, IL): A lot of analysts have bashed the Lakers for their losses to teams like the Celtics and Heat. Do you think that despite those losses, they are still a legitimate title contender?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I don't think there's any serious question whether the Lakers are a legit title contender. I think it's parsing out where they stand as favorite vs. underdog that is the issue. At worst, they're the second-best team in the Western Conference. I do think, as I wrote today (http://www.basketballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=1446), that the Lakers' losses against contenders means that the argument that they're just coasting until the playoffs doesn't hold up. They have legitimate issues in terms of the PG and SF positions. Might they overcome those to win the title? Sure. But right now there are other teams with fewer issues.
RMJ=H (Raleigh, NC): Would you pay to be dunked on by Blake Griffin?
My threshold just keeps going up. It's probably at $30-50 right now.
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Richard Deitsch brought this up in his podcast with Chris Ballard after Ballard's terrific article about Griffin dunking on people (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1181474/index.htm). The thing is, I bet most of us couldn't even get close enough to truly be "dunked on." We'd just be standing there while Griffin dunked, which isn't quite the same.
But yeah, I'd pay $50 nonetheless.
Kevin (Chicago, IL): If you had a choice of either the Spurs, Lakers, Heat and Celtics or the field to win the NBA championship, which would you choose?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): At this point, Boston. I find their success to date a little more sustainable than San Antonio's. As dangerous as the Heat may be, do you see them winning a seven-game series against the Celtics' defense?
paulbellows (Calgary): Is there anybody on the Cavs right now who will be on their next good team or is it all filler?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): If we were ranking odds of that, I'd go:
2. Hickson (what a disappointing season)
3. Eyenga (want to see him now that he's getting minutes)
4. Manny Harris
5. Samardo Samuels
Answering Mo Williams, as good as he is, requires you to be really optimistic about how quickly the Cavaliers are going to turn things around. I'm not.
Kraig (Portlandia): Is Bosh really All-Star worthy? I'm beginning to think he's just not very good, and had what I now call the Kevin Love factor going on in Toronto. LMA made him look broke a couple weeks ago in that OT game.
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I assume the "Kevin Love factor" is playing well on a bad team? We're not *that* far removed from Bosh being the leader and sole All-Star on a division champion. Bosh is a really good player who's not a very good post defender. Blazers fans are overrating the importance of this one aspect of the game because it's what shows up in head-to-head matchups. For example, Aldridge is probably the worst matchup in the league for Kevin Love. That's meaningful, but the other 29 matchups count just the same.
idothis (MA): He had a rough January, but any chance Stephen Jackson finally gets an All-Star nod? Was robbed last year, and could've made arguments in '07-08 and '08-09, too.
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I wouldn't watch the announcement tonight in eager anticipation. A 14.6 PER on a below-.500 team makes for a tough argument.
Beau (SF ): Is it wrong for me to start being really excited by UNC, or have they just been playing really poor opponents for the last month?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Probably somewhere in between. The most encouraging sign, I think, is that Harrison Barnes is starting to play like a McDonald's All-American.
RMJ=H (Raleigh, NC): I was told the other day that Supersonics jerseys are considered cool nowadays. What do you think is the coolest one you might see?
I'd have to high-five anyone rocking a Jim McIlvaine.
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): So that explains why there was a GP jersey at the BYU-San Diego State game! I think more time still needs to elapse for me to be able to accept a Jim McIlvaine jersey. There might never be enough time, actually.
Sob story to tell. When the Sonics were moving out of their practice facility, I had the chance to snag some old official jerseys from the locker room. None of the stars, really, but random favorites like Steve Scheffler and Eric Snow. Sadly, they ended up getting stolen from my house. Not sure who exactly would value those jerseys like I did, but they're out there somewhere.
Dennis Tarwood (Phoenix): Brook Lopez isn't even the worst rebounding seven-footer at his Thanksgiving dinner table.
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I will give him that honor. Robin is better than him on the glass; he just feels worse because he's not playing alongside Kris Humphries.
eo (pa): What would you do if you were running the 76ers? Thad Young is a free agent at the end of this year and the team is stuck 7-8sed purgatory.
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I would do anything I can to resuscitate Evan Turner's value. The problem is I'm not quite sure yet what that means. The No. 2 overall pick should be transformative, and right now Turner is a total non-factor. That he's a poor fit with Andre Iguodala and the Sixers' guards is part of it, but not all.
DocRostov (Durham): I'm still sort of shocked by Love's numbers. I think he's the most efficient stat-grabber in the league, and a pretty incredible player. His D is so bad, though. Do you see him having many avenues for improvement on the defensive end? His size disadvantage is a problem, but I feel like if he muscled up and got a good coach he might be able to turn his hustle into at least passable defense.
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I don't think he's *that* bad defensively. His individual defensive metrics have been decent for three years running. At some point, it's hard to believe that's a fluke. I think it's possible that Love might look work defensively than he really is and this is a case where watching the games actually is in fact misleading.
Kevin (Chicago, IL): How do you see the East's top 4 shaking out by the end of the year, record-wise?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Boston/Miami/Chicago/Orlando. Three-game leads are a decently big deal at this point.
paulbellows (Calgary): What was Denver thinking giving Harrington that contract? Hopefully somebody had to walk the plank for that one.
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I continue to be the only person outside the Nuggets front office who thinks it was a decent deal. He's shooting 40% from three, Denver is better with him on the court. The problem is almost entirely that the Nuggets aren't who they thought they were in July.
Niko (Lost City): Your lopez/humphries answer made no sense, wouldn't robin appear even worse if he was playing next to humprhies?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): His numbers would be lower, but I say look worse in the sense that the Suns' rebounding is such an obvious weakness that Robin gets blamed in a way Brook never would. Make sense?
Aaron (Phoenix): Do you think the Spurs can win a title this year as-is, or do they need to improve on D? Related Q: when rotations shorten in the playoffs, which of the top teams will look better and which will look worse?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I would say yes. We've seen plenty of teams win championships with a unit ranked somewhere between 10th and 15th. ... Nobody leaps to mind as particularly benefiting from or getting hurt by that. Maybe Orlando because the Magic has a pretty shallow drop from its second-best player to its ninth-best. Helps Miami a little, but the Heat will still have some weak guys in the rotation. And it's worth noting that last year's deepest playoff team was Phoenix, which thrived in the playoffs playing 10 guys.
RMJ=H (Raleigh, NC): Is this past month a fluke for DJ Augustin? I watched him when I was at grad school in Texas and was always surprised he wasn't better in the NBA.
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Nothing jumps out about it as particularly fluky. He's had a solid year. The difference between Raymond Felton and Augustin isn't as large as conventional wisdom would have you believe.
betapi1618 (St. Paul, MN): Is there anyone on the Wolves roster other than Love and Beasley that has a place on the roster if the team hopes to make the playoffs in the next 5 years?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): There are guys who could be on the roster, sure. I think those guys might be the only ones who could do so in their current roles. Maybe Martell Webster and Corey Brewer as backup wings.
elcubano (Moraga, CA): If your the Warriors, and your talking trades-Ellis has to be the guy you wanna move right? right??
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): If the choice is between him and Curry, definitely. I still don't think there's an urgency to do anything right now.
NYYanks826 (Chicago, IL): As it stands right now, it looks like the Knicks could wind up playing any one of Miami, Atlanta, Chicago or Orlando in the first round of the playoffs. Realistically, do you think they would have a shot against any of those teams in a best-of-seven series?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): If they get hot from the perimeter, crazier things have happened. A series with Orlando might devolve into a three-point shootout, which would be good news for New York.
WC (Queens NY): Just how good is Landry Fields?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): He's an excellent role player and a starter on a good team. Anything beyond that risks overstating his talent.
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Thanks everybody for all the questions. Apologies for being a bit rushed today. We'll do it again next month. Between now and then, keep reading BasketballProspectus.com and hit me up on Twitter (@kpelton) or via e-mail with any questions.