Ben Galli Answers Yours (and ours) 2nd Round NBA Questions

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The first round is officially over and it’s starting to get serious.  With some teams’ seasons over and some teams’ championship aspirations just starting (so you’re saying there’s a chance!), there’s a lot of questions to ask and I’m here to try and answer them.  These are some real questions from some real people with some real concerns.

1. Russell Westbrook and his triple double stats seem to be a lock for the MVP. However a quick comparison of the first round of NBA playoffs is rather disturbing for fans of Russ and his gaudy numbers.

First round: LeBron was 50-92 from the floor. Russell was 59-152. It took him 60 extra shots to make 9 more buckets. It's even worse from beyond the arc where Westbrook needed 29 extra shots to get just 4 more triples than LeBron.

So my question is:
Does Russell Westbrook suck?
Should OKC be excited or terrified if Westbrook wants to sign a long term extension?
Would any top player want to be teamed with Westbrook?

- Colin G. (no relation to Ali G.)

Russell Westbrook does not suck.  For one, that's a comparison to the best player in the world who has a lot more help and two, who doesn't have to take very difficult shots (or a lot of them) to give his team a chance.  OKC should be super excited that they were able to extend Russ in the first place and should be so happy if he signs a longer term deal that they should look in the mirror and ask themselves if they really deserve it.  

There’s no indication that Russell’s not a team guy so I don’t think other stars will have a problem but there is the question of fit on the team.  Russell is going to control the ball.  If a star/superstar feels they need the ball in their hands to truly play their game, then playing with Westbrook will probably be a negative.  

2. Any hope the Cavs can play good enough defense going forward? It's been pretty ragged.
Don't those dopey OKC fans just want someone like Westbrook that they can see on Sportscenter?
Would the Sonics have won their second NBA title by now had those thieves not stolen my team and taken it to the middle of a God damned oil field?
When David Stern dies will he go to hell?

- Brian P. (allegedly no relation to Master P.)

I'm taking a wait and see approach on the Cavs improving their defense.  Facing the Raptors will be a nice test for that aspect of the Cavs that's been their biggest question mark going into the season. These teams know each other and we'll get a better idea of the Cavs chances during this series.

I think the Sonics would have a better ownership group (well, maybe not the one that sold the team from out under the fans and the city) which would have led to putting a bigger priority on winning chips as opposed to making money (hello Clay Bennett).  They would have done what they needed to do to re-sign James Harden.  Harden wouldn’t blossom into a top 5 player like he has now on his own team, but he would be the number 3 (arguably number 2) on one of the all time big 3’s in NBA history.  After David Stern super unfairly nixed the Chris Paul to the Lakers trade, I would simply wish him well wherever he ends up in the afterlife and just sip my cup of tea.

3. Are Cp3 , Deangelo, P. George, Ingram and t.moz good enough to bring a title back to the purple and gold?
Are the thunder a top 3 seed with Blake Griffin?
You get one of these 2 players moving forward: Devin Booker or Lonzo Ball, who's it gonna be?

- Big $, (larger cousin to small money)

To respond to the first 2, the West is loaded. In that Lakers lineup (which is very possible by the way), there are 2 superstars and 2 guys that have disappointed a little but still have very high ceilings.  If Russell and Ingram develop to 75% of their potential, these Lakers are going to be nasty.  But they won’t be nasty next season. It’s going to take a couple years with this lineup to really contend for a title.

It’ll matchup nicely with the Warriors not being able to afford their big 4 and LeBron getting older (possibly).  I don’t know about that guy, Poncé de LeBron.  Blake by himself doesn’t make the Thunder a top 3 seed but if they upgrade Roberson and either do the same with Oladipo or he takes the next step, then I can see it.  They'd be right up there right away though.

To answer the 3rd query, no one likes Lavar Ball and he’s hurting his son’s chances of a nice endorsement deal.  But Lonzo’s talent will overcome the sins of the father and he will be highly drafted.  And Devin Booker is quickly becoming one of the best scorers in the NBA and he’s only like 20.  But in the NBA nowadays, the faithful are flocking to the Point God and because of Lonzo’s very high ceiling in that area, I’d take him over Booker.  Is it greater to be able to create one’s own shot or create shots for others?

4. James Harden - basketball genius or a cheating punk that would get beat down if he tried all that drawing a foul crap in a pick-up game?

- James B. (no relation to Lil B who has placed a curse on Harden)

I prefer the term savant for Harden.  A basketball genius wouldn’t completely avoid the 2nd most important aspect of the game.  But Harden’s a savant because he has not really developed his defense but man, oh man has he developed everything in his offensive repertoire.  His shooting, ball handling, ball fakes, and passing are top notch as is his ability to draw a foul.  

And yes, he would be the most annoying player ever to play a pick up game with.  He’d hold on to the ball forever, making 15-20 head fakes and then shoot up a shot while flopping midway through and calling foul, whether touched or not.  Those guys are douches.  I played with one in junior high.  One day he wore a shirt with the confederate flag on it that said “You wear your X, I’ll wear mine.”  Nuff said.

5. Who’s most relieved Dion is not in the playoffs?

- Mike Y. (perhaps as a proxy for Dion W.)

I’m going to say the 2 most recent teams he’s been on since he got to the Heat.  That would be the Cavs and the Thunder.  Probably the Thunder more so because they did not re-sign him and the lack of scoring talent around Russ is glaring.  I put the Cavs here because I can see Dion really getting up for games against them and tipping the scales in a game or two in his team’s favor (although it’s just as likely to be the other way around).

6. What are the chances Blake Griffin ends up in OKC next year?
Where does Carmelo end up next year?
If the Cavs don’t win the finals, who do you see them trying to add?

- Kovic M. (because everyone has Russian connections)

I don’t think there’s a very good chance Griffin ends up in OKC next year.  All indications are that he likes the big city limelight and the draw of home doesn’t draw him.  OKC would also have to work wonders to get the necessary cap space. I think the Lakers, Knicks, and Heat will be bandied about as possible destinations but this early into it, I feel he will re-sign with the Clips because he likes L.A.

At this point, most of us would be shocked if Melo stayed in Phil Jackson’s doghouse.  The Lakers per usual will be brought up but I think their new front office will stay away from this aging superstar.  I see a battle between Miami, Chicago, and the L.A. Clippers for Melo’s still considerable services.

As far who the Cavs will add, it will be another round of: Who wants to chase a ring with LeBron?  The Cavs will want to get younger and more defensive while still retaining shooters.  Here’s a list of the impending free agents for this summer.  (look at that top 3!).  I can see the Cavs having an interest in some lower-tier vets like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Mason Plumlee, or James Johnson. If these players take pay cuts, I can see the Cavs going after Danilo Galinari and Wade or Vince Carter trying out a year here.  

And some final thoughts on the Conference Semi-Finals and the 1st Round:

I had Cavs over Pacers in 5 and they did better than that although too many of the games came down to the final seconds.  I hit on my Raptors over Bucks in 6 prediction but I hope you're as excited as I am for the Bucks next season.

I'd picked the Celtics to sweep the Bulls but you never know what Bulls team you're gonna get and they extended Boston to 6 after winning the first 2.  In my defense, Boston swept after that.  I picked Wizards in 5 but it was Wizards in 6 because you can never trust Atlanta.

Over in the best conference, I got 3 of the 4 series right.  I'd picked Clippers in 6 but Utah bebop skedaddled to a win in Game 7, granted Blake Griffin missed most of the series with an injured toe.  I'd picked the Warriors and Spurs in 5 but Golden State swept impressively while the Grizz grinded to 6 games before falling.  They weren't gonna get rooked. And in the most anticipated 1st round matchup, I'd picked Houston in 6 but they usually dominated and won in 5.

Raptors-Cavs:  I still don't think Cleveland is going to struggle much here and I see them winning in 5 or 6.  It went 6 last year in the Conference Finals but I'll say Cavs in 5 this time around.

Wizards-Celts:  In my preview, I said Washington would upset Boston in this round.  Boston had an impressive come from behind victory on Sunday to take game 1 of this series and the Wizards depth weaknesses were exploited especially after Markieff Morris went down.  I will say Wizards in 7 in what should be a very intense, back and forth series.

Warriors-Jazz - This Jazz team is well coached and on the up and up but they're not on G.S' level.  Warriors in 5.

Spurs-Rockets - This should be a fun series and Houston has a decent shot to upset.  But I pick Spurs in 6.

These playoffs have almost been overshadowed by the incredible post game pressers and this is the best one in years.  Because it worked! Coach David Fizdale of the Memphis Grizzlies: