Welcome to “The Basketball Roundtable”! Every so often, we’ll be throwing a few questions to some of our contributors, relevant to trending topics of news within the current week. This is meant to be a casual conversation, similar to those that we all have while sitting around a table. With that being said, welcome to “The Basketball Roundtable.”
- Coming off the trade deadline and All-Star break, is there anything specific you are looking forward to seeing over the next few weeks?
Sam Johnson: Oh there is so much; but I will include something I didn’t already touch on. I want to see if Indiana rights the ship, and specifically if Victor Oladipo can find his groove. They just snapped a seven game losing streak and their schedule softens (CLE/NYK/POR/CHA in their next five) so they should really get back on the winning track. Oladipo logged seven games under his belt and then had a full week to rest up during the break, so I am expecting him to improve. If he can be even 85% of his peak self, I think Indiana will be a tough out come playoff time. I’m also curious to see them jockey with Philadelphia in the standings, especially when the #6 seed may be preferable to the #5 seed.
Sam Shin: The Houston Rockets have to be one of the more interesting case studies over the next few weeks. Adding on to their early success with the super small-ball lineups, they’ve now just added Jeff Green and DeMarre Carroll. How will these guys help – or will these guys help at all? Are the Rocket going to start to click on all cylinders and really worry teams heading into the playoffs? I have none of these answers (Chandler might), but keep an eye on the Rockets – it’s GO TIME.
Aram Hanessian: The obvious answer is the Rockets’ movement to small ball, but I don’t know if we’ll actually learn anything about them until the playoffs. Instead, I’m going to be focusing on the Bucks’ defense. Over the break, John Schuhmann of NBA.com tweeted out that the Bucks, who are #1 in overall defense by a mile, are only the league’s 8th best defense against the top 13 offenses (offenses ranked 9-13 are closely bunched, hence that cut-off). Milwaukee has also played a league-low 17 games versus those offenses, and have the 5th hardest schedule in the league the rest of the way. So, I’m interested in seeing if what has been a historically great Bucks’ defense can keep up the pace once the schedule toughens. If they can, I think they’re a pretty clear title favorite.
- Which buyout player that has already agreed to join a new team (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams, Jeff Green, DeMarre Carroll, and Reggie Jackson) will have the biggest impact on the playoffs?
Sam Johnson: I have to say either Reggie Jackson or Marvin Williams, partially because I expect the Clippers and Bucks to go the furthest. I understand the Clippers’ need for another playmaker, but with Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley already at the point (and Landry Shamet to some degree), it does seem like an imperfect fit. I suppose Beverley can guard 2s and 3s (if need be) when they play together at times. Jackson has clashed in the past (with OKC) when he didn’t get as many looks as he believed he deserved, so presumably they have worked out minutes and looks on that front. If not, I could see him becoming prickly when things get tense in the playoffs – if he remains the fourth guard in the rotation.
Ultimately, I like Williams the most, as he just is so versatile and can do a little bit of everything while not taking much, if anything, off the table. He can guard a variety of wings and knock down an open three (37%). He feels like a great Ersan Ilyasova replacement, and I could even see him playing in crunch time against a Boston or Philadelphia squad come playoff time.
Sam Shin: I agree with Johnson here, I think it’s Reggie Jackson and Marvin Williams – without a doubt. Jackson adds to an already deep and well-functioning Clippers squad, giving them additional playmaking and scoring off the bench. Williams brings a veteran presence and the ability to shoot from deep to a Bucks squad that really doesn’t even need more help, but he’ll certainly add a few components they could benefit from. To my earlier point, I don’t know what Jeff Green and DeMarre Carroll will bring to the table for the Rockets; to this point, we also don’t know if their super small-ball strategy will continue to work. With MKG in Dallas, I just don’t see much he’ll be adding, and eventually his lack of offensive contributions will take him off the floor more than the Mavs need him on the floor for his defensive prowess.
Aram Hanessian: My pick is Marvin Williams. There was some criticism of the Bucks for not using the Indiana first round pick they have coming this year to improve the wing rotation at the trade deadline. For Milwaukee, Giannis Antetokounmpo affords them so much flexibility in the lineups they can play, but prior to signing Williams, they were a little short on the wing (literally and metaphorically) to really unlock lineups with Giannis at center. Now, a front line of Giannis, Williams, and Khris Middleton can hold up defensively and on the boards, while unlocking some great things on offense if Brook Lopez isn’t hitting shots or Eric Bledsoe pulls his yearly disappearing act in the playoffs.
- Are there any other players that either have been or are rumored to be bought out (Tyler Johnson, Evan Turner, Dion Waiters, etc.) that you think could make an impact?
Sam Johnson: I think Dion Waiters could actually make an impact, (huge caveat incoming) if he can straighten up some of his behavioral issues and land on a veteran team that just needs some bench scoring for 10-20 minutes a night. How about Orlando? Could he be a better version of Terrence Ross (38% FG/32% 3PT) in a bench scorer role? Also, I know Tristan Thompson is a hot item, but being a Klutch client, he seems highly unlikely to be bought out. At the same time, why wouldn’t he want to escape center-purgatory in Cleveland and play meaningful minutes? Maybe the Cavs and Tristan can still find the right price to concede for it to make sense for both parties. If so, I could see him making a big impact for the Clippers or Celtics.
Sam Shin: Tyler Johnson or Dion Waiters would be huge for the Lakers. Considering how much Rajon Rondo’s been struggling and how much the team’s been struggling when LeBron James is off the floor, either of Tyler Johnson or Dion Waiters would bring more scoring and playmaking to the table. Sure, those guys were cut for several reasons, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that they have skill sets the Lakers could use – especially with Darren Collison and Reggie Jackson, two of their bigger targets, now off the table.
Aram Hanessian: Anybody that will get the Lakers to stop playing Rajon Rondo could make a huge impact. I think that the Clippers signing Reggie Jackson was more to keep him off the Lakers than it was to help them. More specifically, the Lakers need somebody to take some playmaking duty from LeBron James. They actually have a negative point differential with James off the floor; while his minutes will probably go up in the playoffs, the Sixers and Joel Embiid last year showed that you can lose a playoff series in the few minutes a star may be off the court. Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters, and even Matthew Dellavedova could help the Lakers stay afloat in the minutes James sits.