This season, I decided to do something a little different. I gathered the best writers around the web (9 to be exact, 10 including myself) to answer 9 interesting questions regarding the upcoming NBA season. Over the course of the next 3 days, I will be releasing the questions and our team of writers’ answers.
Featured Writers and Their Contributions
- Josh Eberley: Journalist at HOOPMag. TheBIG3 podcast host. Staff Writer at Real Ball Insiders.
- Kelly Scalleta: Journalist at FanRag. Staff Writer at Bleacher Report and Real Ball Insiders.
- Oliver Maroney: Staff Writer at Dime Uproxx, TheBIG3 podcast host.
- James Holas: Contributor to BasketballBreakdown. Administrator and Staff Writer at Real Ball Insiders.
- T.J. McBride: Nuggets’ Beat Writer at BSNNuggets. Co-host for the Walsh and McBride radio show.
- Duncan Smith: Site Expert for Fansided’s Pistons Powered and Redshirts Always Die. Contributor at The Athletic Detroit. Staff Writer at Real Ball Insiders.
- Adam Joseph: Editor in Chief at 16 Wins A Ring.
- Justin Rowan: Host of The Chase Down podcast. Staff Writer at Fear The Sword, PRESSBasketball and Real Ball Insiders.
- Josh Lloyd: Lead Basketball Analyst at Basketball Monster. Host of the Locked On Fantasy podcast. Contributor at Hashtag Footy and Real Ball Insiders.
- Rafael Torres: Nets Beat Writer for Real Ball Insiders. Site Manager of Dig In Denver.
On to the Questions (and Answers):
1. Do you realistically see any team forcing the Warriors to play 6 or more games in the postseason next year? If so, who and why?
- Kelly Scaletta: I think if there’s anyone that has a chance, it’s the Houston Rockets. The addition of Chris Paul has gone stupefyingly underrated, and the additions of P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute are massive. They allow Houston to run out different lineups–including a defensive lineups that could slow the Warriors down to a mere 155mhp. The Dubs are still the favorites, for sure. But Houston could present a challenge.
- T.J. McBride: I do not. Obviously, the Warriors casually meandered through the postseason last year to the tune of a 16-1 record. As if that level of dominance was not enough, Golden State proceeded to go into the offseason and replace Matt Barnes and Ian Clark with Omri Casspi and Nick Young. The Warriors, who waltzed through the postseason, effectively improved their roster and are entering the 2017-18 season more versatile on defense and with additional shooters. That is too much to bet against if it were my money.
- Duncan Smith: There’s no team that can force the Warriors to 6 or more games, barring injury. Last season the Warriors had growing pains, injury problems, fit issues and losing streaks and still only received about 20 minutes of a challenge before the Finals. The Warriors have bolstered their depth and have a year under their belts together and may have had the best offseason of any team this past summer. If everybody stays healthy, they should easily walk through the playoffs again.
- Josh Lloyd: At this point, it doesn’t appear likely, but if I strain really hard, I could see the Thunder perhaps doing it. In saying that, there is just too much talent on the Warriors team and they somehow managed to improve the depth of their squad from last season. I think a 16-0 playoffs is more likely than a team taking them to six games.
- Josh Eberley: I don’t, and anyone who says yes can’t be saying so with much confidence. The Warriors got better just by having a full year with Kevin Durant in uniform under their belt. But they also got better by bringing in Nick Young, Omri Casspi, and Jordan Bell. We as a collective NBA audience don’t truly appreciate just how special this team is. The firepower is off the charts and despite a flurry of player movement I see no threat to their dominance. For what it’s worth, I think Oklahoma City is the only team that matches up well with them defensively.
- Justin Rowan: I would say that it isn’t impossible. We saw that the Warriors had another gear reserved for the Finals and there usually is a championship hangover to some extent. That being said, they are a better team than last season and their chemistry should be improved. If they get banged up, it’s possible. But as things currently stand, nobody is going fare well against a healthy and motivated Warriors team.
- Adam Joseph: Barring injury – it doesn’t seem likely. But nothing is impossible, of course. They’re a better team than last season, have added to their depth, and another year together means an improved core group. Kevin Durant should be moving up another year, and that’s terrifying. So are the Warriors as a whole, and they might win 70 games without breaking much of a sweat. Good luck, league.
- Rafael Torres: I don’t see anyone putting a wrinkle in the Warriors plans to repeat as champions. I can see a couple of teams who can likely win a game in a best of 7 series, but that doesn’t mean much. Teams like Houston, Oklahoma City, Boston and Cleveland can compete, but it’s likely that they will all fall short.
- James Holas: If all parties are relatively healthy, no team is going to topple the Warriors as currently constructed. The Talent Math is too much to overcome (MVP KD + MVP Curry + All Star Dray + All Star Klay + former All Star Iggy = O’Brien Trophy). I get the Chris Paul to Houston love, but defensively, CP3’s relative lack of athleticism and diminutive stature won’t slow the Dubs rain of fire beyond the arc. Minnesota adding Jimmy Butler is cool, but Jeff Teague is probably a lateral move from Ricky Rubio (a downgrade defensively), and while I love Taj Gibson, the Wolves have a distinctly mid-2000s feel. The Thunder adding Paul George, Patrick Patterson, and Ray Felton (don’t laugh, Felton is a tremendous upgrade over Semaj Christon as a backup PG) means they can trot out switchy, long armed defensive units (Russ-Paul George-Roberson-Patterson-Jerami Grant?) that might make the mighty Warriors sweat a little bit.
- Oliver Maroney: Yeah, I think there’s still a chance a team like Houston becomes a threat to play six games against the Warriors. The Warriors were fairly healthy last year and if Houston added another piece like Melo, they could be a difficult matchup for just about anyone in the NBA. I think adding Chris Paul was a great addition to their core and someone who’s performed valiantly against the Warrior’s back court. Things would have to fall right for any team to beat the Warriors two or three times in a series, but if there’s anyone who could do it, I look at the Rockets as that team.
2. Who do you believe are the top 5 players in the NBA to start the 2017-18 season?
- Kelly Scaletta: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden
- T.J. McBride: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, and Draymond Green.
- Duncan Smith: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Steph Curry, James Harden
- Josh Lloyd: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Steph Curry, James Harden.
- Josh Eberley: LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, James Harden.
- Justin Rowan: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden.
- Adam Joseph: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry.
- Rafael Torres: LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leanard, Russell Westbrook.
- James Holas: Bron, KD, Kawhi, Steph, and the reigning Most Valuable Player, Russell Westbrook.
- Oliver Maroney: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Steph Curry, James Harden.
3. The Timberwolves made drastic changes during the offseason, do you see them as a top 4 seed in the West?
- Kelly Scaletta: Assume the top three teams are the Warriors, Rockets and Spurs. After that there is a group of teams that should be vying for that 4 seed, and the Wolves should certainly be one of them. I am picking them and the Thunder go 4 and 5. But I’m not confident who gets the home court of those two. It will be very close. One thing I think we need to bear in mind is that last year, the Timberwolves underperformed against their expected win total and the Thunder overperformed. So the gap is not as big as it looks like in the record.
- T.J. McBride: It would take a miracle for the Minnesota Timberwolves to jump up into a top-four seed in the Western Conference. Let’s not forget, Minnesota won just 31 games last season. I love Jimmy Butler as much as the next guy but is he really going to improve the team by 20, or more, wins? Even if Towns takes a big leap defensively and improves his three-point shooting numbers how realistic is it that the Timberwolves can add 20 wins more than they did last season? They would need to dethrone either the Spurs, Rockets or Thunder which sounds out of reach at this point. I just do not see a realistic outcome in which the Timberwolves end up as a top-four seed in a brutal Western Conference.
- Duncan Smith: I have them as my 4 seed in the West. The addition of Jimmy Butler alone is outstanding and could provide a boost of 10 wins itself. Another year under the belts of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins and more experience under Tom Thibodeau’s tutelage should help too, although the roster’s fit is a bit questionable at this point.
- Josh Lloyd: I do not. A lot of smart people had them pushing for a top six seed last season and that clearly did not happen. The addition of Jimmy Butler is huge, but we have to remember that the Western Conference has the Warriors, the Spurs, and the Rockets who seem like locks for the top three, and then Paul George joining up with Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City makes them the favorite to grab the fourth seed in my opinion.
- Josh Eberley: Put up or shut up time for Tom Thibodeau. Seriously, he’s supposed to be a top tier coach, he traded for a star, the talent when he got there was already substantial, and now he’s had two seasons of roster decisions. I think the Wolves are on the up and up but the playoffs should be the immediate goal. I don’t think it’s realistic to go from lottery team to contender in an off-season that didn’t net you LeBron James but this team has no excuses for missing the playoffs. I think they fall just shy of the suggested top four mark and slide into the six or seven seed.
- Justin Rowan: There is going to be an adjustment period for both the Timberwolves and the Thunder as they try to integrate their new pieces. To me, both teams have a realistic shot at the fourth seed after the Warriors, Rockets, and Spurs. But health and chemistry will determine which of the two teams gets homecourt.
- Adam Joseph: Nothing is impossible, but it’s worth remembering how hyped the Timberwolves were last season before winning just 31 games. Chemistry and spacing issues will take time to smooth out, and whether they have the shooters to make their offense work is still a question mark. That being said, the Oklahoma City Thunder will need to integrate Paul George and the rest of their new additions. With the Spurs, Warriors and Rockets almost certain to occupy three of the top four seeds, Minnesota have a shot–but a lot of things will need to go right.
- Rafael Torres: I love just about every single move that the Timberwolves have made. From trading for Jimmy Butler to signing Taj Gibson. The only issue I currently have with the team is that they traded away their best passer and perimeter defender in Ricky Rubio. I feel like he would have been a perfect point guard to initiate the offense when it comes to putting their star players in the best positions. Jeff Teague is a great point guard but I am not sure if he will help much. Rubio’s defense along with Jimmy Butler’s could have helped mask the defensive inabilities of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. However, I don’t see them being better than the Warriors, Rockets, Spurs, Thunder or Nuggets.
- James Holas: Eh. Like I said before, the Wolves are greatly improved, but their lack of shooting on the roster is concerning. The Warriors still rule the roost, and the Spurs are still the Spurs. Chris Paul being in Houston means they probably won’t drop from their number three spot they held last year, and Paul George in OKC should boost the Thunder to the fourth seed. There’s a chance, but I’d bet on those four teams over the Wolves.
- Oliver Maroney: No. A fourth seed is far too high in my opinion. It takes time to change a culture and a locker room. You’re talking about this team being better or on-par with great veteran-led teams like the Spurs, Rockets, Thunder and Warriors. I just don’t think that happens as much as people want it to.
The next 3 questions and answers will be up tomorrow around the same time so turn on your notifications. Feel free to @ us on Twitter @RealBallInsider or any one of us individually. You can @ the Real Ball Insiders twitter to have your questions featured in next week’s mailbag. Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.