I enjoy reading Matt's stuff and following his "Pick-n-Troll" podcast he does for CBSSports.com as well as interacting with him on twitter, so I was happy to secure him for this latest High Five. Enjoy.
1. You indicated on twitter that you were actually kind of excited about this year's Celtics team. Specifically the young backcourt talent. What specifically are you looking forward to seeing?
I'm on such a rollercoaster with Marcus Smart. I hated his game, and then I realized he could be a killer on defense and is underrated as a creator. Then I thought about attitude problems with thinking he's the guy, then I thought maybe that's what they need. I know this. The Celtics will have good defense on the floor in the backcourt almost all the time. Rondo-Smart, Rondo-Bradley, Smart-Bradley, they're going to be good defensively all the time. Bradley took such great strides last year, one of the few Celtics who did. They can run, they can shoot better than fans think, they can create, and they can attack and cover round. It's a pack of lions, hunting caribou on an open plain. Lots to be excited about there. Plus Pressey, who I wasn't big on until last year.
2. I get the feeling that you think our frontcourt duo of Sullinger and Olynyk are overrated by many Celtics fans. Please explain why and what you think their upside is.
This is one of those deals where fans think about where they could be in the future, and attach that to where they are now. I get this a lot. Rookies are bad, a lot of the time. And that's OK. But some rookies aren't, so I'll still say "This guy is not good." And then they say "He's better than people think." "Well, why do you think that is?" "Well, in a few years..." Well, that's in a few years. Not now. Right now, Olynyk looks lost. He doesn't have a great fit anywhere on the court. He's not a great rebounder, he's not a rim protector. He can hit from the outside, but not well, just better than he can score inside. He needs a lot of polish. Maybe that will come after summer work. But I'm skeptical.
Faverani is big, and he's shown a few things. But the mobility is really tough. I would put that frontcourt combo bottom five in the NBA. Can they improve and surprise? Absolutely. It's why you need to go in with an open mind every year. But for the things you need them to do, they're not good at it. Key stat? The Celtics had the fourth worst mark for allowing field goal percentage at the rim.
I'm warming up to Sully. He's not as good as Celtics fans think he is, but it's normal level of fan exaggeration, not Celtics-fan level of exaggeration. If he can just get healthy, he can be a decent to good fifth starter or quality reserve. I love his work ethic after everything that's gone against him.
But you need a rim protector. SO. BADLY.
3. I'd be interested in your perspective on the direction of NBA coverage. A few years back there was a push for user created content (FanPosts, Bleacher Report, etc.) but I think things are swinging back to paid journalism being emphasized. Podcasts are growing in popularity. Everyone is still trying to figure out the best way to tap into mobile readers. Where do you think we're headed in the coming few years?
I think video is big. It's the one content platform that ad salespeople still know how to sell. That's the dirty secret. The problem is always thought to be the content itself, and it's not, it's the inability, unwillingness, and overall laziness of the ad sales industry to establish and maintain sustainable profit models for good content. I think we're still going to see communities grow. Social media has taken some of that out, but I think we'll also see more people gravitate back towards the communities like SBNation has.
I think quick hit content will keep increasing, while longform grows as well. There's an appetite for both. I think the middle ground, the standard column length that editors, many of whom still have roots in the newspaper industry, wll start to fade out even more. And I think blogs will still be big, because people like diversity of voices. You go from person to person, and they'll have totally different ideas about what makes a writer "good." And I think mobile will get figured out. That's more a technology gap than anything. Oh, and I think, thankfully, we're going to see a lot more minority and women's voices in the media coverage, something all sports need.
4. If Adam Silver pulled you aside and asked for your advice on 2 or 3 things he needs to focus on and make as a priority, what would you say to him?
D-League. It's fine if he wants to increase the age minimum, he'll be a hit with casual fans and sports talk show hosts. But he's got to develop the D-League on top of it. The league misses out on so many talented guys, and it's largely because they're not developed. We need a one-to-one affiliation, we need stratified roster spots, we need more money for players and teams. It's time.
Second, I'd tell him to diversify the product as much as possible, in terms of medium. Sell the big TV package to FS1, but sell digital packages to Yahoo or another vendor, and let the teams sell their individual streaming concepts. It's going to hurt league pass, but you're going to expand the audience so much more. Third, I'd tell him to keep up the good work they've done on diversity and sensitivity training and do even more. This league can be such a great model in sports of diversity of opinion and background, but the environment has to be there. NBA players should be the most informed, mature, developed athletes in the United States. They've done a great job of getting them there already. But there's always more to do.
5. I'm obligated to ask you about Rondo even though I'm already sick of the topic. So let's take a slightly different angle on this. If you were starting a team from scratch and had Rajon as a starting point, how would you build around him? What kinds of talents or skillsets are you looking for?
Oohhhhh, I like this one. OK, so I want a pure shooter three. A Chandler Parsons/Klay Thompson type. At the two guard, I want afterburners. I want speed, athleticism, and great cutting ability. I want a stretch four, someone like Ryan Anderson, who's good on the boards can hit from range. And I want an athletic five. I want speed at all positions, and I want 2-3 smart, key veterans and I want opportunistic scorers.
Thanks Matt! You can find him on twitter pretty much around the clock at @HPBasketball.