Part II of a series of exchanges between CtB writers: Nate Smith, Tom Pestak, and Patrick Redford.
Nate: can you remember a milder summer? I love it. And no fair! I drive the Danny Ferry bandwagon. Yes, I really like what the Hawks did. The setup is slightly similar to what befell the Nuggets a few years back – when Melo’s days were coming to an end (except he was a douche about it). Anyway I suspect the Hawks will end up surprising people much like the Nuggets did and will surpass the team that landed their “star” (The Pistons). Millsap is a baller and will be a Josh Smith foil. He lacks the elite athleticism and overwhelming moments – but he won’t shoot the Hawks out of games and is an underrated defender. And yes, the 2012-2013 RAPM (Regularized Adjusted Plus/Minus) ratings of Atlanta’s free agent acquisitions were very strong. I’m impressed that they were presented a big red button and decided not to scuttle the ship. They reloaded, on the verge of a loaded draft class. We should respect that.
The other team that surprised me was Golden State. They looked primed to be a flash in the pan similar to the 2007 team. Yet, as you pointed out, they managed to add an all-star (yes, Andre Iguodala is an all-star and a top 40 player in the NBA). As much as Jarrett Jack helped that team, he became slightly redundant with Steph Curry. How many sharp-shooting, score-first point guards does one team need? Maybe that’s the wrong question. How many defensive liabilities can you get away with in the backcourt? (Mike Brown is going to provide us the answer this season.) Adding AI2 makes the Warriors my Dark Horse candidate to upset one of the West’s big four (SA, OKC, LAC, HOU). They’ve got one of the most devastating snipers in the history of the league flanked by some serious athletes in Thompson, Barnes, and now AI2. Health/Depth will be their Achilles heel, but if they are firing on all cylinders come April – look out.
I honestly don’t know what to make of the Nets. If they limp to 40 wins and a 7 seed it will seem like that was an obvious outcome. If they win 60? Same thing. I think maybe I am underestimating them because the 2012-2013 LA Lakers are coloring my biases purple and gold. Seriously, there was “no way that team wouldn’t dominate on pure talent alone.” By January that narrative had been vanquished, and it’s almost hard to remember the fanfare with which the Dwight Howard and Steve Nash (and ‘TAWN!) signings were greeted. The Nets are much deeper, and I just have a feeling Pierce and KG are going to rub off on everyone. And it’s not like they don’t have Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. One thing I love about 2013-2014: Miami isn’t going to get the ridiculous path to the finals they had this past season. Assuming Derrick Rose returns, there are going to be three teams in the East that are devastatingly good at half-court defense. One may not be enough – but two or three could finally dismantle the axis of ego.
I’m not as down on OKC as you are. They led the NBA in point differential for a good portion of the season. With good health they can easily march back to the Finals, even without Harden or Martin. Although, if they never get back, it will be the second time in a decade a West team blew a sure fire chance to win a title by trying to avoid the luxury tax (Joe Johnson in Phoenix).
As far as losers? Wow – the coaching carousel is in full swing. George Karl? Really? And I wonder if Hollins sealed his fate when he took that passive aggressive dig at John Hollinger for trying to dump Rudy Gay (which he eventually did, of course). It’s funny how differently players and coaches are rewarded. Players like Al Jefferson, David West, and Paul Millsap got big money because of their history. They had accomplished something the past few years. They scored points, grabbed rebounds, required attention in the post, etc. Coaches get rewarded based on how their teams met expectations. Mike Brown won consistently and was canned twice because the expectations were no less than a championship (one could argue). Now the same fate has swallowed Vinny Del Negro and George Karl. I wonder if the next few Golden Boys looking for a job will be Scott Brooks and Frank Vogel. One thing is sure – Brad Steven’s job is safe for a few years.