ROUNDABOUT is a new project we have on FOTB that answers some of the important questions by our writers as the NBA Playoffs tips off. Enjoy!
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Which player will you pick to start a team right now?
Lost in the triple doubles of Westbrook, the defensive intensity of Kawhi, the shooting cheat code of Curry, the unfair length of Durant, and the beard of Harden is the greatness of LeBron James.
This might very well be the last season that James could have won the MVP and yet we lost him during the discussion, no thanks to the Cavaliers’ sloppy finish in the regular season.
But at the end of the day, he still is LeBron James. This is the same LeBron that exceeded every imaginable expectation we’ve had since he entered the league. The same LeBron that could have averaged a triple double if he really wanted to. The same LeBron that brought Cleveland their first title after being down 3-1 to a team that lost 9 games in the regular season.
I wouldn’t pick anyone other than the King to start my Las Piñas Pineapples franchise.
Definitely Kawhi Leonard. Not only is he a good offensive player who improves every year but he is a freaking great defensive player.
He makes the lives of superstars difficult, whether you’re Lebron, Durant, Curry, Westbrook, or Harden. He can play multiple positions and can defend anyone in the league. Plus, he grew with Gregg Popovich and I believe he imbibes the share-the-ball, find-an-open-man, and look-for-higher-percentage-shot mentality.
He is a great team player during the Tim Duncan dynasty and now a great team leader as he leads the Spurs to the championship. It’s always an advantage to have a defensive-offensive team player in your team, so it’s Kawhi Leonard for me.
I would start with somebody who can elevate his game when the crucial time arises and can surround himself with other good players because of his charisma and pure knowledge of the game.
I choose the King, LeBron James, who in the most part of the decade has dominated the NBA in not just stats but winning in general. Yeah, people may hate him, but there is no denying his greatness.
Kyle Reiner Pineda
I took into account age, contract, skillset, potential, and wins. Nikola Jokic has all of that.
Only in his sophomore season, Jokic has proven he can be a major cornerstone for any franchise and can up triple-doubles whenever he wanted to. The kid is also level-headed which is a big plus and his play of being able to pass, shoot, and defend is second to none. Still, with lots of room for improvement, Jokic would be a perfect fit to start a franchise with.
Which player has the most riding on postseason success?
This might very well be the last chance for the Clippers core of CP3-Jordan-Griffin to accomplish something before Steve Ballmer and Doc Rivers pull the plug. If the Clippers fail to advance to the Western Conference (a tall task considering that they’ll probably face the Warriors in the semis), then a big change is coming.
Blake is the odd man out as he can opt out of his current contract after this season. Chris Paul has reportedly verbally agreed to a $200M extension while DeAndre Jordan is in the second year of his contract. It’ll be an interesting postseason for Griffin, who could be playing his last days as a member of the Clippers before moving on to another team this offseason.
I have three players in mind.
First is Kevin Durant. If he does not win this year’s title, he might opt out of his contract with GSW, especially with Steph Curry’s contract also expiring and he is the face of the Warriors. He chose the Golden State as he wanted to win that elusive NBA title. Any team will be more than willing to add one of the top 3 players in the league.
Second, CP3. He has been with the Clippers and has not won any championship, nor even get out of the West. It’s like there is a curse with CP3 in Los Angeles that it’s better for him to go out and choose younger teams who are in need of a solid point guard. Like the Milwaukee Bucks perhaps?
Last but certainly not the least, Lebron James. Although he may not have an expiring contract, he could opt out of Cleveland if he doesn’t win it all this year again. He has been given a great personnel but the team still struggled to end the regular season. Could that failure allow him to form another superteam with CP3 and Melo?
With all the drama surrounding the play-offs, one can imagine the stakes that lie ahead in these series of games. I feel that this is the year that CP3 should get over the hump and go as far as winning a championship for the LA Clippers.
If his team doesn’t win, the Lob City run might be over with Blake Griffin’s contact expiring by the end of the season. Time is dwindling on this Clippers squad and the time for action is now.
Kyle Reiner Pineda
Kevin Durant. This is the sole purpose he left the Oklahoma City Thunder: to win that coveted championship. If he doesn’t show up in the Playoffs, everyone will go hard on him as he is risking his legacy with this decision and who knows what the future holds with these Warriors and their cap situation?
Is there a team that could surprise us in the postseason?
I’m high on the Wizards right now. They managed to fix their chemistry issues early in the season and are now clicking on all cylinders. John Wall might very well be the best two-way point guard in the East while Beal is finding his range just in time for the postseason. Shaqtin’ MVP, Otto Porter Jr., could see a hefty raise in the offseason after developing as a stud this season while the acquisition of Bogdanovic helps the bench issues of the Wizards.
Houston has enough firepower to outscore Golden State, but can they defend them in a 7-game series? No.
San Antonio has enough firepower to outscore Golden State and defend them in a 7-game series. But can they realistically beat a team with 4 all-stars? Maybe.
I feel that the Milwaukee Bucks and the Utah Jazz could surprise us this postseason.
If Jason Kidd will utilize and be able to put the right pieces together, will make an impact. Though they may not win the eastern conference finals or may even reach it, but the way they’re playing is not only fun but really promising. Giannis is continuously growing and maturing as a player. With the right support and correct roles for each one, they can upset the Raptors. Not to mention that they have an underappreciated superstar in Khris Middleton. It just sucks that Jabari Parker will not make an impact this postseason due to injury.
The Jazz are a good offensive-defensive team, sometimes even liken to the Memphis Grizzlies. Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert are emerging superstars. And will likely be the anchor of Jazz’s offense and defense. While the presence of other players such as George Hill, Joe Johnson, Rodney Hood, and Boris Diaw give them depth and experience down the stretch.
The real strength of teams comes in the 2nd round of the playoffs. But upsets can still happen in the first round and here are my dark horses: Memphis from the West and Atlanta from the East.
Memphis can score the upset with good wins vs their playoff match-up the San Antonio Spurs. The grit and grind mentality of this team is still on-point despite their aging stars, a true testament to longevity which can make Memphis a force to be reckoned with.
Atlanta, on the other hand, is a defensive-minded team led by Paul Millsap and being coached by the phenomenal Mike Budenholzer took a great turn into making this team a legit contender. With their matchup against the Washington Wizards, they should find a way to crack this stingy defense of the Hawks or we have a serious problem in our hands.
Kyle Reiner Pineda
I’ve got the Chicago Bulls in this one. Yes, they are the #8 seed vs the #1 seeded Boston Celtics but we all know what levels Rajon Rondo and Dwayne Wade can reach come Playoff when the spotlight is on no matter what happened in the regular season.
They actually got a favorable matchup in the C’s than the Cavs since they won the season series and they do not strike the fear LeBron gives to teams in the postseason. We haven’t mentioned Jimmy G torching up the league yet.
Are there any teams that can spoil the Warriors – Cavaliers III party?
During the preseason, everyone thought that it will be a yearlong wait for the inevitable trilogy Finals between Golden State and Cleveland.
Then we saw Harden and Houston steal the 3rd spot in the West. Then we saw Kawhi become a potential MVP candidate. Then Isaiah Thomas went nuts in 4th quarters and led Boston to win the East. Then Serge Ibaka was traded to Toronto. Then John Wall reminded everyone that he’s a bad man.
But as much as I’d like to say that those teams could spoil the party, it’s hard to bet against the best player of this generation and the team that has last two MVPs. It still is a Warriors – Cavaliers finals matchup, but the teams I’ve written above could make it an interesting playoff before we get to June.
The West is always full of great teams that can surprise and upset the 1st seed team. I see Spurs as a team that could spoil the Warriors. They are good at adjusting and defending the Warriors, even with Kevin Durant healthy. With the leadership of Kawhi Leonard and the greatness of Gregg Popovich, they can upset any team in the league. They just have to have a steady LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol, a red-hot Danny Green, a solid performance from Manu and Tony, readiness of Patty Mills and the bench to contribute, they could be unstoppable.
Another team that surprises me this season is the Utah Jazz. Although the core is young and has a little experience in the playoff, they can be a strong force to reckon with if they play the way they play. The evolution of Gordon Hayward as a superstar and leader of the group is a big step-up to them. Plus the defensive prowess of Rudy Gobert and presence of Derrick Favors can heighten the tension on the paint.
Some teams in the east can take advantage of the struggles of Cavs as the season closes. If the Cavs will not find solutions to their problems or LBJ cannot gather his troops well, they will have a problem with the likes of Washington, Boston, and Toronto. They are playing great games. But I think the Milwaukee Bucks will create a force that we have not seen coming. If they play really well, they can make upsets. However, Giannis, Khris, and the rest should really contribute so that they can dethrone the Cavs.
Well, there are 3 teams in my mind can potentially spoil of any chance of the trilogy happening. One is the Boston Celtics in the East and San Antonio Spurs or Los Angeles Clippers in the West.
I have the Celtics as one of threat in the East rather than the Cavs because of the balanced offense led by Isiah Thomas and the brilliant mind of Brad Stevens in winning games. Add-in former all-star Al Horford and role players like Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley then you have a recipe for disaster that can tip the scales back to the most championship winning franchise in the league.
The Spurs, led by superstar Kahwi Leonard has been the kryptonite of the Warriors all season long. I also included the Clippers in this debate because in the past 5 or more years, the Clips and the Warriors rivalry is one for the ages and it can now be the Clippers’ time to shine with their star players (Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan) healthy.
Kyle Reiner Pineda
In the West, I can only see one legitimate threat in the San Antonio Spurs although the Houston Rockets are also in the mix but you really can’t beat the Warriors at their own game. Winning 2 games over the Warriors in the regular season is big for the Spurs. Their teamwork and discipline may stifle the Warriors with their tendency of coughing out the ball often not even mentioning yet Kawhi Leonard. It will come down to Teamwork vs. Starpower.
In the East, I see 2 teams that can dethrone the Cavs: the Wizards and Raptors. In the regular season, the Wizards had the Cavaliers’ number and they match up well versus them with John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Marcin Gortat playing at their best with Scott Brooks as their coach who has a Playoff experience during his time in OKC. For the Raptors, I see the key additions of Serge Ibaka and PJ Tucker key in matching up with the Cavs. While we haven’t seen a fully healthy Lowry and their new additions against a fully healthy Cavs, the Raptors are on a hot streak entering the postseason since Lowry came back from injury so we can’t count that out.
Betting wise, it’s the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are -160 to win the whole thing (bet Php 160 to win Php 100) while the Field, a selection that consists of the Cavaliers, Spurs, and Boston, is +230 (bet Php 100 to win Php 230). But as a fan, I’d like to see the Cavaliers win. Jordan never faced this kind of competition during his 6 Finals. Nor Kobe. If LeBron managed to beat the super duper superteam Warriors, I’m ready to crown him as the GOAT.
Golden State Warriors. With the addition of Kevin Durant, I firmly believe that this made the team better, stronger, more dangerous, and more intense. And with his injury, the players found their rhythm and win 14 straight games. They just have to play Warriors ball and all players do their share to this system, they can’t be stopped. No wonder why the Lebron and the Cavs are restless to improve their roster and make everyone on the same page because this will cause them the title. The Warriors are coming!
All of this fuzz about the playoffs gets me excited but still, I dream of the rubber match between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the finals. And as far as winning the championship is concerned, balance is the key. So I put Cleveland Cavaliers to win the 2017 NBA Finals. This is the time LeBron James will cement himself in the talks of being the greatest of all time if he wins another championship. You better watch out, the Cavs are on the hunt!
Kyle Reiner Pineda
I am sticking with my preseason prediction: the Golden State Warriors. It amazes me how they clicked so fast and meshed together as a team. It seems to me that they will know who takes the shots in crunch time now and are riding on a hot streak winning 14 of their last 15. Let’s be real, do you think any team will be able to beat them in 4 games. I’m confident they have learned their lesson in that 3-1 debacle and won’t make the same mistake again.