Today, part 3 of the 3 part series is being released. To introduce the phenomenal NBA 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):
7. Who do you believe will come on top in the NBA’s Eastern Conference next season?
- Kelly Scaletta: I see the Celtics running away the 1 seed and then ultimately losing to LeBron and company in the Eastern Conference Finals…UNLESS…Isaiah Thomas is out for the whole season. I do not like the Rose-LeBron dynamic at all and feel the Cavs will struggle out of the gate. But playoff-LeBron gonna playoff-LeBron.
- T.J. McBride: LeBron James and the Cavaliers are the best team in the Eastern Conference until proven otherwise. They may not be the number one seed in the East this year but in terms of which squad will represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals I cannot find an argument that any of Milwaukee, Boston or Washington will be able to off the Cavaliers in a playoff series. Plus, Kyrie Irving requesting a trade to get out from under the shadow of James just throws more motivation to the King to harness and use. That should terrify any potential contenders in the Eastern Conference.
- Duncan Smith: Until proven otherwise, the Cleveland Cavaliers are the kings of the Eastern Conference. I’m not entirely convinced about the Boston Celtics, and I don’t think they’re getting past a healthy LeBron James, regardless of whether Kyrie Irving is with him or against him. The addition of Jae Crowder will help on the defensive side, and if Isaiah Thomas is able to return to anything close to full strength, that’s just the icing on the cake.
- Josh Lloyd: If we are talking about who will represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals, I think it’s the Cleveland Cavaliers. If it’s a discussion for who is the one seed when the playoffs begin, I believe Boston has the edge. Both teams will need an adjustment period, but if Isaiah Thomas misses significant time during the regular season, the Cavs may find it hard to be the one seed and they won’t push themselves to the extreme to get there. But once the games really start mattering, I think they’ll handle their business and make it four straight trips to the finals.
- Josh Eberley: I don’t care who finishes first in the regular season. Just like no one outside of Boston cared last year. The East runs through King James until he says otherwise and goes West. The X-factor is Isaiah Thomas’ hip and it’s hard to account for the end result without that information but I’d be shocked if the Cavaliers weren’t back in the Finals if Thomas is healthy prior to the playoffs.
- Justin Rowan: With or without Isaiah Thomas, I think the favorite still has to be the Cavaliers. While it’s unclear whether or not the team is better suited to face the Warriors, they are the deepest team in the East and still have a considerable size advantage over the Celtics. Boston does have a legitimate chance to make the Finals after being cannon fodder last season, however the most likely outcome still seems to be Cavs vs. Warriors 4.
- Adam Joseph: If you’ve got LeBron James and you’re in the Eastern Conference, I’m taking you every single time. The Boston Celtics have made impressive additions, but are you really going to back them in against LeBron and the Cavaliers as favorites? They definitely have a shot, but look at last year’s Eastern Finals – Cleveland sets the standard. When the chips are down and the games truly matter, bet on LeBron with every dollar you have.
- Rafael Torres: Over the years if there’s one thing I learned, it is to never doubt LeBron James. The king usually comes through and wills his teams to the top of the East, but if he plays conservatively in the regular season in order to conserve energy for the postseason, I can see the Celtics spearheading the East. It’s a toss up between the two. One thing I’ve seen lately is the Raptors grabbing the #1 seed in the East. That I do not agree with.
- James Holas: *sets down writer pen*
*Puts on fan “We’re #1” foam finger*
-Boston is returning only 4 of the players who made the conference finals last season.
-Boston added a bonafide all star in his prime in Gordon Hayward.
-Boston flipped it’s “weak link”, the defense of Isaiah Thomas, into a strength by adding the bigger, younger, equally explosive Kyrie Irving.
-Boston streamlined their glut of wings by moving Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley, opening more time for their young stud Jaylen Brown and defensive maestro Marcus Smart.
-Boston upped the versatility factor by bringing in Guerschon Yabusele and Semi Ojeleye, both power forwards who can play center and shoot threes.
-Brad Stevens now can go 10 deep and deploy amoebic, athletic lineups that can switch 1 through 5 or go jumbo with Al Horford and Aron Baynes down low.
Boston is coming. Boston is here.
- Oliver Maroney: LeBron. That’s it. It wouldn’t shock me if he coasts and allows a team like the Celtics to get the one seed, but I’m not hedging any bets on that happening with the roster changes that the Celtics went through. It also wouldn’t shock me if the Raptors were closer to that one seed than the Celtics. They kept continuity together and will have Serge Ibaka for a full season. I think they could be in for another successful season as well.
8. Who wins the NBA rookie of the year next season?
- Kelly Scaletta: Lonzo Ball hasn’t already won it? I don’t know if he’ll have the best season, but it sure looks like he has a giant lead, and the race hasn’t’ started. Lakers’ media carries a lot of weight. And I think both Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons could have huge years. But they have to be a LOT better to win the award, not just a little better.
- T.J. McBride: Dennis Smith Jr. I entirely understand the reluctance of picking a point guard playing for Rick Carlisle as Rookie of the Year but his fit is far too ideal with the Mavericks to overlook. Even if Carlisle and Smith Jr. end up trading punches mid-season, having a motivated and contract-gunning Nerlens Noel as the pick and roll partner for Smith Jr. whilst being surrounded by shooters makes too much sense for me not to pick Smith Jr. for Rookie of the Year.
- Duncan Smith: Lonzo Ball is going to have every opportunity in the world to go win Rookie of the Year. He’ll have true professionals starting alongside him in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Brook Lopez, and he’s going to have plenty of nights where he looks pretty darn good.
- Josh Lloyd: I love Dennis Smith Jr. for this. On draft night, the early Rookie of the Year market had Smith priced at 16-1, about sixth or seventh favourite. He has now come in to being in the top three and he has the type of game that is flashy enough, with a large enough opportunity to put up the counting stats. Tying this into one of my earlier answers, if the Mavs push for the eighth seed, Smith could get the nod.
- Josh Eberley: Dennis Smith Jr.. Opportunity plus a better supporting cast than Lonzo Ball. The combination of decent numbers, crazy highlights, and more wins in Dallas than in Los Angeles will win this sucker for DSJ!
- Justin Rowan: Cedi Osman. Finnnne I’ll give a real answer. While the Turkish Durant is tempting, I’ll go with Lonzo Ball. The Lakers are going to rely on him to generate the bulk of their offense and having Brook Lopez to work with should be a tremendous asset. I can see the Lakers being better than most expect and as a result, Ball will likely be credited with ROY.
- Adam Joseph: Lonzo Ball feels like the strongest pick. He’ll have every chance playing for the league’s most watched team under the lights of Los Angeles, and while my brain is telling me Dennis Smith Jr. will have his shot I just think Ball will have the market and basic numbers that’ll give him enough push to edge out the Mavs new man.
- Rafael Torres: Lonzo Ball. He’s going to have the ball in his hands the most and has already shown his tremendous passing ability. If his teammates could knock down some shots he could average upwards of 8 assists per game.
- James Holas: can I just say “I don’t care”? This is by far the least compelling award. It’ll be a rookie who 1) scores a ton 2) on a team that’s bad or 3) passes a lot on a team that’s bad. Lonzo Ball has the narrative/hype train already. Fultz will get minutes, but with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons jockeying for shots and touches (and Simmons also in the running for ROY), he might not get the volume, and he and Simmons will steal votes from each other. Dennis Smith Jr seems a good choice until you remember that Rick Carlisle is a bit of a control freak when it comes to his point guards. I’ll go with Utah’s Donovan Mitchell because that kid can flat out ball. He’s a great athlete with a high revving motor, and he arguably shoots the purest ball in the rookie class (him or Malik Monk). Gordon Hayward gone to Boston means there’ll be about 23ish points missing from the Jazz lineup, and Coach Quin Snyder hopes his high octane rookie can help fill the void.
I mean, look at this guy:
- Oliver Maroney: Being based on the west coast, I’ve seen Lonzo play on multiple occasions in college. This kid is special and I’ve been saying this for what feels like years. He commands attention, makes things happen on offense and possesses a very confident attitude on the floor. I talked to a player who played against Ball in college and he said he was the toughest player they’d ever faced because he “couldn’t read what he was going to do with the ball.” We saw this translate in Summer League and we will see if it translates to the full NBA stage, but I’m assuming it will. Aside from Ball being the obvious pick, I think Lauri Markkanen, John Collins and Justin Jackson could all be guys that have an outside shot at winning it.
9. Dark-horse for the NBA MVP honors?
- Kelly Scaletta: This is tricky. I think that Westbrook’s win last year was because he had the triple-double and that was easy to fixate on. But it’s exceedingly rare for a player to win on a team that isn’t in competition for the title. I don’t think that one win permanently changes that. So it has to be a player from a team that COULD compete, but isn’t being named a lot. My candidate, then, is Chris Paul. He has more MVP Award Shares than anyone in history to NOT win. If the Rockets are up there with the Warriors, CP3 has his typical gigantic RPM numbers and stays healthy, he could very well get the nod.
- T.J. McBride: While it is tempting to go with John Wall or Giannis Antetokounmpo, being that the Eastern Conference is mostly garbage, I am going to take the road less traveled. If the Thunder want a legitimate chance to compete for a title it will likely take a MVP-level season from Paul George. If George is able to build a cohesive relationship with Russell Westbrook on the court and be the two-way monster that Oklahoma City hopes for than the door creaks open for George to jump into the MVP voting. Playing alongside stat-stuffing Westbrook hurts but the national attention of competing with the Warriors changes the dynamic. Oklahoma City was able to win 47 games last year thanks to Westbrook putting together one of the most individually dominant seasons ever. If the Thunder is able to emerge as legitimate title contenders it will be because George was able to get back into the conversation for MVP.
- Duncan Smith: Giannis Antetokounmpo might be the next guy to threaten the triple-double average, and if the Milwaukee Bucks are going to make the big leap many expect of them, the only way forward is if Giannis himself takes one more big leap. The precedent has been set that a player doesn’t need to be on a top-2 seed to be a viable MVP, and the young Buck might have what it takes to make a run for it.
- Josh Lloyd: Let’s go with a less sexy underdog for the MVP. It’s entirely possible that Anthony Davis puts together a huge season and if he has the Pelicans challenging for the top six in Western Conference seeding, he is in with a chance. Given a lot of people’s disdain for DeMarcus Cousins, it feels like Davis would get the bulk of the credit, and given the rest of his roster, he would have to be putting in a superhuman effort to get there, and that could equal MVP numbers.
- Josh Eberley: A healthy Blake Griffin is worth a carefully placed wager but in reality I think Giannis Antetokounmpo is the answer here. He’s not on a super team and yet the team record could massively improve this season. His counting stats will be extremely attractive and the narrative for the 23 year old Greek Freak will be strong.
- Justin Rowan: I’ll go with John Wall. If it takes the Celtics time to figure out their new roster and the Cavs coast during the regular season, the Wizards will have a shot at the best record in the Eastern Conference. While the MVP probably is Durant’s to lose, Wall can provide the feelgood MVP alternative like Rose did in 2011.
- Adam Joseph: Giannis Antetokounmpo is the only dark horse I can pick that I don’t feel is unrealistic. Russell Westbrook broke the mold last season and showed that individual brilliance is enough to be Most Valuable Player, if the Greek Freak can do that while helping Milwaukee leap towards the 50 win mark… as the Brodie himself would say, why not!?
- Rafael Torres: Agh this is a tough one. So many great teams so many great players. I’ll go with Paul George. I may be the lone believer but I think the Thunder will be back at the top of the conference with George. If he can somehow, someway fill Durant’s shoes while playing top tier defense, they can surprise some of y’all. He may even be a better compliment to Russell Westbrook’s game as he isn’t afraid to be vocal and wants to be the guy. Time will tell, but I’m on the train.
- James Holas: I’m going to go deep into Crazyland and say, if somehow Denver sneaks into the top 4 out West and Paul Millsap does his Paul Millsap things, he’s a darkhorse candidate for MVP. I say this knowing that everyone will heap all credit and praise on Nikola Jokic; the kid is really good, but Millsap is that team’s best player. Even more realistic, if the Timberwolves finish top 4 or 5 and Jimmy Butler continues his top flight all around play, Butler has a shot.
- Oliver Maroney: To me, you can’t pick Giannis because everyone is saying he could be the MVP. Darkhorse, like sleeper, is one of those terms that makes it difficult because you know the guys that “could” win it. It wouldn’t surprise me if Chris Paul won it, it wouldn’t surprise me if Anthony Davis won. After last season, with Westbrook being named MVP after being a fifth seed. I think the voters will be more inclined to vote for a top-four or top-two finisher. I think with that in mind, Kawhi Leonard is the guy. If the Spurs can be in the top-two or three of the Western Conference, it’ll be because of him and he will most likely deserve the nod.
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