Jeff Clark - CelticsBlog
Greg Wissinger - Sactown Royalty
Kevin Nesgoda - Sonics Rising
Michael Levin - Liberty Ballers
Amar A - SLC Dunk
Frank - BrewHoop
Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to join me here in Secaucus. We're just over halfway through the season and it has become clear that our teams are headed for the cellar in one way or another so I thought it would be a good idea to engage in some thoughtful discussion, commiseration, and hopefully encouragement.
As an ice breaker, I'd like everyone to go around and introduce themselves, tell us briefly how your team got here, and then (for fun) tell us what your team's Patronus is. (You know, like in Harry Potter). I'll start off to provide you an example.
My name is Jeff Clark and I run things at CelticsBlog. My Celtics had a crumbling foundation so our GM Danny Ainge took a sledge hammer to it and left it half broken and listing over. The prize was several future picks from the Nets and Clippers and in theory those will be added to a holdover building block in the person of Rajon Rondo. After a brief turn as the tallest hobbit (leading the Atlantic Division), the team remembered that they aren't very good and here we are.
At first I was going to say butterfly. It seems like we're a caterpillar right now, perhaps even approaching the cocoon phase, and will emerge on the other side as a beautiful butterfly. But I think I'm going to change it to chameleon, since we seem to change our colors (identity) every few weeks.
Hi guys, I'm Greg. I'm an editor at Sactown Royalty. As for the Kings, phew, man, we've been through a rough patch. Honestly we were pretty touch and go for a while, so I'm just happy to be here with you today.
The Kings are here as we rebuild from the rubble of a once-briefly-proud franchise that was ruined by some douchebags from Las Vegas. Much like other disasters, we're sifting through the rubble to see what can be salvaged, and what can be sold as scrap. It won't happen fast, but our lowly record and mediocre team is still a step in the right direction. Gotta walk before you run, right?
Patronus is butterfly. Seems accurate, given that the Kings have been reborn and are barely recognizable for what they were previously. Also, Sacramento is in the path of a regular Monarch butterfly migration. Monarchs, Kings (harkens back to the WNB franchise), it all works. We're butterflies.
Hi everyone, my name is Kevin and I am the managing editor of Sonics Rising, a blog about a team that doesn't exist anymore. How much lower can you get? The Sonics fan base is represented by the butterfly, full of powerful change. The reason I'm here is because I don't have a team to cover, news is slow on getting a team back and I watch a ton of basketball, so I'm here to offer outside analysis and whatever else might be asked of me.
Fellow horribles, I'm the representative from the Liberty Ballers contingent of Sixersing in the land of Tankadelphia.
We're easily the happiest team to be tanking, since we've had a decade of mediocrity in the post Iverson-Lakers NBA Finals where the frustrating anuses in charge chained us to the 38-42 win lamppost ne'er to return. Now that Sam Hinkie has swung his huge dong around town, we've got a plan and a goal and that's infinitely better than the floundering the previous regime was content with. We've still got a year or so left until the debris from Doug Collins's excrement washes away, but until then, we're thrilled to have a Rookie of the Year in MCW, the forgotten steal of the draft in Nerlens Noel, and two 2014 lottery picks in our pocket. Times are good, though the natives are getting restless -- Spencer/Evan/Thad need to be shipped out.
Our Patronus is Lucy, The Giant Tanking Octopus.
The trade winds, my friends, are a-blowin'.
Hello and greetings to all, I am known as Amar. I am the guy who writes all those articles about the Utah Jazz that no one reads, over at SLC Dunk. There I act as the Managing Editor; but in this season of unbridled Bedlam, I am becomming more and more the head administrator of an asylum. The main malady is a troubling case of Jazz fever -- which exhibits itself as a condition where you watch a team that was once on the trajectory for a Top 5 pick in the 2014 Draft start to play .500 ball over the last 30 games. The team that at one point in the season started John Lucas III and Richard Jefferson is winning now, when the fans want the opposite.
The reason for winning now is a consequence of actually playing all these former lottery picks; and Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, and Derrick Favors are really ruining things. By actually playing the youth we're an okay team, which is what Jazz fans were moaning and groaning about over the last three seasons as they were hardly used.
So as a collection of opposing feelings and desires, a grand dislike for playing the players that are responsible for losing games, but a fear of winning, makes it obvious that the 2013-2014 Utah Jazz' patronus is the most neurotic of animals: the marmosett. Nimble and furry in all the right places, but developmentally behind and with a lower maximum potential due to cerebral limitations, the Jazz will look for a good pick, but may end up watching other, more clever primates pick the ripest, most nutrient rich fruits from the top of the NBA Lottery tree.
I'm Frank, and I've been a Bucks fan since 1992. Sadly, this overlaps with one of the most stunning epochs of mediocrity in NBA history, as the Bucks have won more than 42 games games exactly twice (!) and advanced past the first round of the playoffs just once in the two decades I've followed them. It follows then that the few of us who still choose to describe ourselves as Bucks fans are either intensely self-loathing masochists or eternal optimists with short-term amnesia. I'm probably somewhere in between?
What makes the Bucks' league-leading inability to win basketball games this season problematic is not so much the losing itself--it's definitely not fun, but in the grand scheme of things it's a relief to see the team finally embrace a true rebuild after years of thrashing around in the middle of the standings. But here's the thing: owner Herb Kohl absolutely did not want this to happen, and given the team's inability to execute on their "be competitive" plan, you can also rightly wonder if they'll be able to pull off the whole rebuilding thing either.
In the meantime, I'm pinning my remaining sanity on the promise of a top-five pick and the possibility that the Bucks' current roster may yet produce some useful pieces going forward. Giannis Antetokounmpo might be the most talented player from the 2013 draft, John Henson looks like a starting-caliber NBA big man, and Larry Sanders shouldn't be written off quite yet. And while there's plenty of detritus on the roster, they figure to at least have some cap flexibility going forward. At least that's what I tell myself while watching a team that is terrible and yet somehow seems to be getting worse as the season goes on. Speaking of which, is it too late to have a lockout-shortened season? Who did I talk to about having a lockout-shortened season? I really want a lockout-shortened season.
Oh, and for my "patronus" I'll just take a pass since a) I have no interest in Harry Potter and b) my favorite team is already named after an animal whose primary societal function is to be hunted for sport. That pretty much sums it up, doesn't it?
Ok guys, I'm just gonna put this on the table right away. The "T" word. I've personally gone from defensive ("we're not tanking, we're rebuilding!") to justifying ("players don't tank, GMs tank") to open mocking ("Tank you very much Philly!"). I have yet to embrace tanking because I can't bring myself to root against my own team, but I'm content with the losses after the fact.
How are each of you dealing with it? What's your feel for the pulse of your fans?
Rooting against my own team is my very favorite thing to do. I've been doing it nearly consistently for four years.
The entire LB comment section erupted with fury when Evan Turner hit the game winner over Boston. Everybody's on board.
Having been friends with Frank for a few years, I can say that he's definitely a masochist and I love him.
Mike knows me well enough that I trust his judgment, though I would offer reassurance that I'm actually a pretty happy person in general. Cynical, jaded and morose, but in a super happy way.
As for what I root for...well, I've settled on a mindset of micro-wins, macro-rebuilding. I always root for the Bucks to win individual games, but in the grand scheme of things I accept and find solace in the importance of being bad enough to guarantee a high pick. This is the sort of double-thinking cognitive dissonance you master while trying to rationalize the huge amounts of time you spend watching, thinking and writing about the Milwaukee Bucks.
The funny (?) part is that the Bucks have gotten to the point of looking so incapable of winning games that I no longer have any fear of them winning their way out of the top five anyway. Back in November people understandably thought "Well, what happens when Sanders comes back, Knight isn't shooting 30% and Ilyasova starts to not be a dumpster fire on the court? Are they really going to be a bottom five team then?" Two months later the roster is finally healthy yet they look demonstrably worse and seem to have little interest in showing up most of the time, which makes rooting for them all the more hopeless. BUT GODDAMMIT I'M GOING TO DO IT ANYWAY.
As for tanking, I don't think the Kings are. The Kings want to take a step forward, as evidenced by swing-for-the-fences moves like trading for Rudy Gay. The team is still a year or two away from the playoffs, but they're trying to get their sooner rather than later. We have the centerpiece of DeMarcus Cousins, now it's time to put the pieces around him and make a leap. That being said, I think the organization has the long term vision to not freak out about a bad record. Coach Malone isn't on a hot seat. Pete D"Alessandro isn't going anywhere. This is a good year to be bad. If they can pick up some pieces along the way, all the better.
Good stuff guys. At this point I'd like to spitball questions at you. Answer as many or as few as you'd like.
1. Realistically, do you see your team finishing in the bottom 5 in the league or are they capable of a late season run that pushes them into the 6 - 10 range?
2. Are there any specific players in the draft that you think might be an ideal fit for your team? Or are you simply in a best-player-available mode?
3. Assuming your team gets the player of your dreams, what does your future core roster look like?
(Kevin, you are welcome to give us an outsider's objective take on any or all of these subjects.)
1. Sixers bottom 5 for sure. Trade winds blowing soon, so that'll help things. Realistically, I can't envision anybody but the Bucks out-sucking us. Orlando is too non-horrible with Vuce and Afflalo playing. Same goes for Boston once Rondo is back at full strength. The lottery balls will then fall where they may.
2. Man, everyone would be great. Embiid is the only player that has a questionable fit (with Nerlens) but he's so good and jolly that I'd take him and be thrilled about it and worry about fit later. Wiggins is #1 on LB's board though.
2. With the Bucks crawling along at 8-38, I don't think there's any compelling "fit" argument to be made from a Bucks perspective. Embiid would necessitate moving Larry Sanders, but that shouldn't be a deciding factor as dealing Sanders might well be a reasonable move down the road anyway. Wiggins and Parker both have some potential positional redundancy with Giannis Antetokounmpo (who ultimately projects as a small forward), but you can make a case that all of them are versatile enough to pair two together. I'm not sold on Brandon Knight as a long-term starter, but the nice part is that Exum and Smart both seem to have the size and versatility to play with combo guards like Knight. Julius Randle would add to the logjam up front, but his interior scoring ability would add some badly-needed punch to a Bucks team that desperately needs a first option.
Conveniently, I've now had enough time to talk myself into liking pretty much everyone in the top six, which has had the weird effect of actually making me nervous about getting the first overall pick; it just seems like there's a great chance that whoever goes first will be surpassed by two or three guys drafted after him. I think at this point Embiid's combination of skill, size and mobility probably make him too tantalizing to pass up, though I also don't think he's in the same class of prospect as a pre-injury Greg Oden. I like Wiggins but he just seems like a really good all-around player rather than someone who will ever be a superstar; Jabari seems more likely to become a dominant offensive player a la Melo, but I have no idea if he'll be able to defend anyone. I love the idea of Exum; a lightning quick big guard who can get to the rim and make other guys better might be the second-best thing after a two-way center. But I also feel silly acting like I can truly project a guy I've only seen play once (Hoops Summit). Randle and Smart make me a bit more nervous for varied reasons, but in the 5-7 range seem like they could be potential bargains.
And yes, I realize that at least 50% of what I think about these guys will be proven wrong within a year, so please burn all of these opinions as soon as the draft is over.
3. The Bucks don't have a surefire star to build around, so this summer they'll effectively be starting from scratch with whomever they draft and Giannis (who is younger than Embiid, Randle and Smart, by the way). Giannis could end up being as good as their 2014 pick, though it's still very difficult to tell just what kind of player he'll become. My guess is that his most likely outcome is a Nic Batum/prime AK-47 third banana-type, but I'd love (and wouldn't be shocked) if he ended up a fair bit better. Henson and Sanders can each make a case for being a part of the core as well, though Sanders has thus far disappointed following his $44 million extension and I'd like a bigger sample size on Henson before I anoint him a long-term core piece.
Answering my own questions here:
1. I think there's a pretty good chance that the Celtics are in the bottom 5. Yes, Rondo makes us a lot better, but I have a feeling that he's not going to be full-speed Rondo very often this year, and even if he is, I'm not sure that will be enough. Add in the fact that I'm convinced that Ainge will deal off some of our veterans (specifically Brandon Bass and Jeff Green). With that said, there's some talent on this roster and Stevens had them clicking early in the year, so there's a chance they could go on a run with a favorable schedule in February.
2. I think Embiid is at the top of most people's charts at this point, but it would be hard to go wrong with any of them. I think I like Jabari slightly better than Wiggins right now, but what do I know? We've got Rondo in place, so in theory another point guard wouldn't make a lot of sense, but it sounds like Exum could play off guard if need be.
3. I like the idea of starting with Rondo, Bradley and Sullinger and filling in the pieces around them. Either Parker or Wiggins could be the wing scorer that we need (with Jeff Green shipped off for future assets). Conversely, if we landed Embiid, then he would slot in nicely next to Sullinger on the post and we could either keep Green or figure out the small forward spot later. Of course, all this changes if we have to use any of those pieces to bring in a star player. In other words, Bradley and/or Sullinger could be the Al Jefferson in a Kevin Garnett like deal and I'd be fine with that.
It seems like this team could go in just about any direction in the next 6 months, and that's kind of exciting and nauseating at the same time.
1. The Kings could go either way. They sit at the 4th seed as of this writing. They could hold steady in the bottom five, but a late surge doesn't seem unlikely. The team was playing pretty well after the Rudy Gay acquisition, and stumbled recently mostly due to injuries to Gay and DeMarcus Cousins. With Gay and Cousins back, the Kings should play a little above their current win percentage.
2. Embiid would be a dream to pair with DeMarcus Cousins. An absolute dream. Aside from him, the team could be looking at a point guard, as rumors persist that the team might not be convinced that Isaiah Thomas is a long term answer. Ultimately, I think the organization will take the best player available and that they think pairs well with Cousins.
3. The Kings are building around Cousins. Embiid would pair him with the defensive, shot-blocking presence he needs. If the Kings can lock up Rudy Gay to a cheaper long term deal (a big if), we'd be looking at a long-term line-up of Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore, Gay, Embiid, and Cousins. I love it.
1. No, the Utah Jazz are on course for a head on collision with mediocrity, and a 6-10 draft pick in this year's draft. But that's okay, because for the Jazz the familiar bosom of mediocrity is ‘good enough'. After all, not every team can effectively build through the draft and become a contender. The franchise hasn't hosted a first round playoff series since 2001. And this team, build around five lottery picks within the last four seasons, is effectively a .500 team over the last 30 games. That does not appear to change, and the formerly 15th seed in the Western conference will only climb higher and higher up the ladder of mediocrity over the next few months.
2. Hmmmm. How about the Top 5 pick, highly talented, crazy potential holding, black Mormon dude with the Anglo last name? Yeah, Jabari Parker is like the unicorn of the Utah Jazz draft board. Parker looks like a good fit on paper, but I'm more of an Andrew Wiggins fan myself. Either or is fine, just as long as the Jazz could pick up a once in a generational talent at small forward. Utah endeavors to build like the Indiana Pacers. They have the small PG who can hit threes in Trey Burke. They have the swaggalicious shooting guard who can make his own shot and get to the line in Alec Burks. They have the fundamentally sound back to the basket power forward with a midrange shot in Enes Kanter. If they could somehow combine Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert they'd have that defensively sound center to anchor the defense. What they don't have is a good small forward. Gordon Hayward, love that kid, but he's just not at the elite level that today's NBA offenses seem to revolve around. In a league of LeBron James / Paul George / Kevin Durant types at small forward, Hayward isn't in that class.
Seeing how the Jazz aren't going to get who they want, they'll go best player available, and probably end up with another point guard (Marcus Smart) or perhaps another young, raw, bigman who needs minutes to develop.
3. Well, yeah. The core will be all of our first rounders who are still on their rookie (or extended deals): our rookie this season (either the SFs Wiggins or Paker), Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert - and possibly Gordon Hayward (whom I am high on, but I just don't see him being elite until his shot gets fixed). Hayward is going to be a RFA this off-season and I'd want the Jazz to bring him back. Supporting them would be Jeremy Evans (on contract), and Brazilian point guard Raul Neto (most likely bought out and to join the team). There are a ton of free agents and people on non-guaranteed contracts, but I don't see many of them returning save perhaps Diante Garrett, Ian Clark, and Marvin Williams. That's an interesting group of players who should be good enough to be threats to be a .500 team for many years. The capspace will come in handy when the team has to start paying for these guys when their rookie deals are up. Right now only Favors fits that bill. In three years the team may look completely different, but with the draft pick that we want this year, we have one of the best young cores in the league.
WOO! Let's aim for that #10th seed next year Jazz!
Kevin, feel free to wrap us up with some sage words of wisdom from an objective 3rd party perspective. How delusional are we?
Milwaukee looks to be on pace to be a run away for the worst record in the league. In the preseason I said they were the "pinnacle of mediocrity" and they've definitely slipped below that now. Milwaukee is definitely need of a point guard of the future. Giannis Antetokounmpo is their athletic wing player and though it makes more sense to take Andrew Wiggins with the first pick in the draft, I really like Dante Exum on this team a hell of a lot more. Call me insane, but you can build around Exum.
The 76ers are definitely a lock for a top five pick. This is where I prefer to Wiggins go. They don't have a wing, but they already have a great point guard in Michael Carter-Williams. The only question I have whether Nerlens Noel is going to be as good as advertised in the NBA. I've never been sold on him and taking a flyer on Embiid might be okay here. The 76ers could probably get a first rounder for Noel right now.
Utah definitely could stay in the bottom five and have a shot at their mormon wonder in Jabari Parker. His game reminds me a lot of Carmelo Anthony's, but not in a good way. He's a black hole on offense, doesn't try on defense and I'm not impressed with his rebounding prowess. If you can build a team around him that can hide his weaknesses then you have a winner of a pick. Parker cannot be the true focal point of a team like LeBron or a Durant.
Boston is tough to gauge. What type of moves do they make between now and the trade deadline? Do they move Rondo or is he the corner piece of the franchise going forward? I really can't guestimate of what Boston does or how they finish until after the deadline. If they do stay current course, I'd love for them to get Julius Randle, that kid could end up being the best player from this draft class when it's all over.
If the rumors are true and the Kings are looking for a permanent point guard solution over IT, then you have to get Marcus Smart. He was wise to stay in school the extra year and get that extra bit of experience playing for a high profile school in a pretty tough conference. It'll prep him more for the NBA, a lot like staying in school helped Isaiah Thomas. If the Magic take Smart for some reason, then Aaron Gordon would be a perfect fit next to DeMarcus Cousins. Gordon is a bit a ways away on offense, but he's going to be special defender at the four position. He'd definitely help protect Cousins.
Thank you everyone. This was fun. We'll have to do it again sometime. Like say, in the Spring.
To borrow a line from another movie...
"May the odds be ever in your favor."