Yesterday, at 4pm eastern, part 1 of our NBA Hot Take Roundtable went live and we got great feedback from it. Today, part 2 of the 3 part series is being released. To introduce the phenomenal writers participating in the roundtable, here is an excerpt from part 1.
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):
4. Which teams do you believe could be sleepers to make the playoffs next season?
- Kelly Scaletta: Let’s assume that neither Pacers or Bulls make it because they went into rebuild mode. That means two EC teams will get in who didn’t make it last year. Let’s also just assume the Heat make it because they barely missed and were so good the second half of last year. That means one team from the bottom of the barrel gets in, and the best pick there has to be the Sixers. They simply have the most talent of the remaining teams.
- T.J. McBride: They may not be sleepers, but climbing out of “The Process” and into playoff contention makes the Philadelphia 76ers sleepers in a way only they could be. Not only does Philly have the young core of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, and Robert Covington but they also went into free agency and added strong veteran presence with J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson in the fold. While the majority of the young focal points in Philadelphia are still unproven, there is too much depth and too much talent on the roster to not include the 76ers as a sleeper playoff pick.
- Duncan Smith: I think the New Orleans Pelicans might be a dark horse, in spite of their ongoing war with spacing. The trifecta of DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and Jrue Holiday were quite good together last season, and giving them a whole year to work together could be enough to power them through the stacked Western Conference.
- Josh Lloyd: I’m going to go with a deep sleeper and that’s the Dallas Mavericks. I could make arguments for the Pelicans or even the Pacers in the East, but no one is thinking the Mavs have a sliver of a chance. We know that Rick Carlisle teams have a tendency to outperform their talent level, and with a full season from Dirk Nowitzki and Nerlens Noel, plus another year of improvement from Seth Curry, the Mavs could push for the eighth seed. It will come down to whether Dennis Smith Jr. has a Rookie Of the Year type of season for them to realistically be in the conversation for playoff basketball.
- Josh Eberley: Yeah, I think the Pelicans are a fun choice. I don’t enjoy the alternative where Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, and Jrue Holiday are bashed savagely throughout the basketball watching universe. I’ll add the Portland Trail Blazers into this. There are a lot of people that have them falling out of the playoff picture and I just don’t see it. I don’t think Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum has peaked, and a full year of Jusuf Nurkic will be huge.
- Justin Rowan: I’ll go with the Knicks. It’s hard to list any team from the Western Conference because the depth from the playoff pool is just head and shoulders above the rest of the conference. The Carmelo Anthony situation complicates things and their point guard position is a disaster, but Kristaps Porzingis is poised to take the next step. A playoff appearance isn’t impossible.
- Adam Joseph: It feels as though the New Orleans Pelicans or Dallas Mavericks are the choices here. The Eastern Conference is a mess beyond the few truly good teams, and I really like the Pelicans to be a pain in the ass for their opponents if they can stay healthy. The dynamic of DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis can work with a full season and a training camp behind them, and I like Rajon Rondo to be able to find them the ball in the right places. Add in a hopefully healthy Jrue Holiday, and they might cause some trouble for somebody for seven games come May.
- Rafael Torres: The West will be a tough conference from top to bottom. I wouldn’t be surprised if a team like Portland makes it past the regular season. Damian Lillard never ceases to amaze me, he seems to pick up his game every single time he has to. I think the East is where most sleepers will reside. Teams like Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Indiana, and New York will likely be a couple of games away from bottom of the conference or the 8th spot in the East. It will be a fun battle for sure, but fighting it out to see who gets to play either the Celtics or Cavaliers doesn’t seem too attractive to me.
- James Holas: it’s tough prognosticating playoff spots- one key injury, one player making a jump from ok to “holy sh*t” can change everything. I’ll toss out Dallas; Dennis Smith Jr could potentially be the catalyst that sparks the franchise. With Nerlens Noel primed to show the world his worth, Wes Matthews a year healthier after that horrid Achilles injury, Harrison Barnes entering his prime, and Dirk with less pressure than ever, maybe everything breaks right and the Mavericks snag the eighth seed.
- Oliver Maroney: It’s hard to pick “sleepers” because we know all these teams. It’s not going to be a surprise if Brooklyn wins ten more games, it’s also not going to surprise me if the Spurs continue to win 50-plus. I guess if you’re talking to a general NBA fan, my pick would be Brooklyn because they’re going to be better than some expect. The coaching staff is brilliant and they’ve acquired some great pieces to go along with a young and improving roster. Another team I have to pick is the New Orleans Pelicans. I just think the combination of Boogie, Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday showed potential and with a full off-season together, they’ll get it right this year.
5. Would Carmelo Anthony change the Rockets chances to hold the Larry O’Brien trophy?
- Kelly Scaletta: It depends. Is he an addition or a trade? I like it a lot more if the Rockets can be patient and wait until he’s bought out. I know this is controversial, but if he’s being brought in to do what Ryan Anderson does, why not keep Anderson, who does what Anderson does better? Anderson made 140 threes from 25 feet out or further last year, almost twice as many as any power forward made from that distance. ‘Melo just doesn’t have the same range–the bulk of his threes come on the line. If he’s taking touches away from CP3 and Beard, I don’t get it. Why would you want more-efficient touches going to less-efficient touches? Why would you want the hands in ball-stopper instead of a ball-passer? So, very conditionally. Melo could make them better. But there are very real reasons to be skeptical, too.
- T.J. McBride: Nope. Carmelo Anthony, without a doubt, would improve the roster in Houston, especially if you can get him to buy in as a power forward. Playing him alongside Clint Capela creates an interesting dichotomy in the front court and would be explosive offensively, but Anthony does not bring enough to the table to dethrone the Warriors. Golden State is the greatest team ever assembled, and there is no way for Anthony, individually, to change that fact.
- Duncan Smith: Carmelo Anthony will improve the Rockets’ chances and make the Rockets better, but they’re still massive underdogs to come out of the West. I don’t believe there is any team that could simply add one more player and become a favorite against the Warriors, and the Rockets are no different.
- Josh Lloyd: Melo will make the Rockets better, I don’t think there is any doubt about that. Replacing Ryan Anderson with Anthony is a clear upgrade, so by that logic, yes it increases their chances. But in realistic terms, the chances of them being able to beat the Warriors goes from infinitesimally small to just above infinitesimally small .
- Josh Eberley: He makes them a tad bit better if he’s 100 percent focused and buys into being a third option in the offense. He makes them worse if he gets there, doesn’t adhere to the food chain, and takes the ball away from Chris Paul and James Harden. He’s worth the risk because he’s still a quality scorer and no more of a liability defensively than Ryan Anderson, but there’s risk here too. In a dream scenario where he was motivated and aware at both ends — I still don’t see them beating Golden State.
- Justin Rowan: Technically, yes. Almost any move changes the odds to some degree. But as I previously stated, the Warriors are likely going to be a better team this year than last and last year’s team was probably the most talented team ever assembled. So while Anthony helps, he isn’t going to make them a favorite.
- Adam Joseph: Well of course, Carmelo Anthony’s presence on the Rockets changes their chances against the Warriors. But does it make them better and improve their chances? No. Draymond Green and Kevin Durant would turn Anthony into mincemeat on either end of the floor, and while Anthony makes Houston more of an offensive threat, it’s still not enough. It’s also worth pointing out that 2017 Carmelo Anthony is not peak Melo anymore, he isn’t going to push the needle enough for it to matter.
- Rafael Torres: As much as it breaks my heart to say this, no. I have followed the Nuggets and watched Carmelo Anthony pick teams apart with his offense, but he doesn’t make the Rockets good enough to compete with the Warriors. If you would have told me this trio was being formed 2-3 years ago I would have said yes. This is a case of too little too late.
- James Holas: I mean, sure. For all the crap Carmelo gets, even with the Knicks being a pile of cow flop the last 3 seasons, Carmelo still is a premier scorer in the NBA. His size and speed at the power forward position with Harden and CP3 causing havoc would be an upgrade over Ryan Anderson, and Anderson off the bench with Eric Gordon means Houston would probably have one of the most potent reserve units in the league. A lineup like CP3-Harden-Gordon-Melo-Anderson is damn near unguardable….They’d still probably lose in 5 or 6 to the Warriors. Golden State is THAT good.
- Oliver Maroney: Yes. Harden, Paul and Melo are friends and have played with each other on USA Basketball. When you have a coach that coached USA Basketball, along with the three players, you’ve got a head start as to what that should look like on the floor. I also think if Melo is winning (like with USA basketball), he’s more likely to take a back seat as he’s shown growth, maturity, and ability to lead. in D’Antoni you have one of the most impressive basketball minds, a coach who has a found a way to succeed when many said he couldn’t. I think the addition of Melo would allow Harden and Paul some offensive breaks in the back-court while giving the Rockets another proven scorer. I love the fit and I think it would work flawlessly.
6. Karl-Anthony Towns or Nikola Jokic. No explanation just choose the player you’d prefer on your team.
- Kelly Scaletta: Yes.
- T.J. McBride: Karl-Anthony Towns.
- Duncan Smith: Karl-Anthony Towns.
- Josh Lloyd: Karl-Anthony Towns.
- Josh Eberley: Nik… Karl-Anthony… Jok… Towns. I’d take Towns but I would not be shocked if Jokic winds up being better.
- Justin Rowan: Karl-Anthony Towns.
- Adam Joseph: Karl-Anthony Towns.
- Rafael Torres: The inner biased journalist in me says Jokic but the the sane me says Karl-Anthony Towns. That hurt a bit.
- James Holas: (Embiid) – Karl Anthony-Towns. Jokic has been overrated by Them™ (Y’all™).
- Oliver Maroney: This is a real question? Karl-Anthony Towns. Stop it.
Keep an eye out for Part 3 tomorrow. 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.