Editor’s Note: We at LWOS are proud to present to you a new column – The “Buzz”: Basketball Roundtable. We pose several basketball related questions to our panel of life-long NBA fans for their candid opinions. We invite anyone to participate by answering the same questions in the “Comments” section at the bottom of this article. Our panel consists of Jordan Leung, Matt Fish (of “Fish on Sports”) and Kaine Elmy.
Of the 16 teams that made the playoffs, which team do you think will be the most improved next year?
Matt – Based on the fact that they should have Derrick Rose back in the lineup, I say the Bulls will vault themselves back into 60-win territory and be a more serious threat to the Heat next year in what will likely be the last stand of Miami’s Big Three. There’s no debating the fact that he’s healthy and, with a full season to integrate himself back into the rotation and offensive sets, Chicago could be downright scary in 2013-2014. A runner-up pick could be the Oklahoma City Thunder if they’re able to add the low-post threat they sorely lack during the offseason (David West’s potential free agent status could peak their interest).
Jordan – There are so many good answers, but the Houston Rockets will find a way into the second round next year. A little bit of roster retooling, a good free agent signing, and a good draft could really put the Rockets into the quasi-contender tier of NBA teams. Parsons is All-Star material.
Kaine – The Lakers were hugely disappointing, there’s no secret there. Injuries all around the aging roster affected them greatly. There is no denying they under performed, but under the circumstances, they still played relatively well. Expect to see the healed roster explode next season.
Of the 16 teams that made the playoffs, which team do you think will decline the most next year?
Matt – This question really depends on one player: Chris Paul. If he leaves the Clippers during the summer, I say Lob City will a) lose the nickname, and b) flirt with regressing back to non-playoff status. I know they’ve got a good top six right now, but the rest of their bench is older and I don’t think Eric Beldsoe is starting PG material just yet. However, if Paul stays, and fingers crossed that he does, I say Atlanta will go into full-on rebuild mode, lose out on the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, and sink into oblivion next year.
Jordan – We hear the same story every year, and every year the San Antonio Spurs prove us wrong. It’s very possible that San Antonio just picks it up and win the championship this year, but unless that happens, I am calling an end to the Duncan/Parker/Ginobili era on the Spurs. Last year’s whooping by the Thunder after having a 2-0 lead, and a closer than expected series against the Golden State Warriors are not coincidences. The Spurs are just getting old, and the league’s new crop of stars are ready to take over. It’ll be interesting to see if Popovich keeps his head coaching job if the Spurs Big 3 are broken up.
Kaine – Milwaukee. Let’s face it, they didn’t even really deserve to be there. Don’t expect to see them playing in the playoffs next years Bucks fans.
Which player who played in these playoffs do you think will improve the most by next year?
Matt – If he continues his current run of play (and assuming they move on to the next round), Klay Thompson has really impressed me. Everyone knows he can shoot, but he’s also shown flash of brilliance dishing to his teammates and picked up some slack on the defensive end. I think he could potentially make an All-Star team next year if he remains healthy. A more under-the-radar pick for all the stats hounds out there might be Kawhi Leonard, who’s been averaging a double-double in his last four games and has seen his minutes increased substantially.
Jordan – Again there are just so many good answers. My main answer will be Marc Gasol, who I fully expect to be a 20-10 guy and the best center in the NBA next year. I think some people already consider Marc the best center in the NBA, but that has more to do with Dwight Howard sucking a lot than it does Marc Gasol being really good. Honorable mentions go to Norris Cole (I expect him to start next year), Chandler Parsons and Harrison Barnes. Iman Shumpert has been pretty good in this postseason too.
Kaine – Steph Curry. That kid is amazing. The whole Golden State team amazes me to be quite honest, but Steph Curry has the potential to forge himself a place with the elite guards in the game.
Which player who played in these playoffs do you think will decline the most by next year?
Matt – I really hate to say it, but I’m going to dip into the Lakers reference well one more time. Basically, take your pick of an aging superstar off their roster: I don’t think Kobe will come back and be the same dominant force he was before his Achilles injury (he’ll also be 35 next season), Pau Gasol looked like a shell of his former self for 95% of the year, and Steve Nash seemed lost out there as he hobbled through his various injuries. All have seen better days, and things won’t get any rosier next year.
Jordan – Other than players who will decline due to age, my pick is Carmelo. Carmelo’s season was a fluke and I don’t see him playing at this high a level again.
Kaine – Nate Robinson. I hate to say it, because I like the guy. But he is incredibly inconsistent. For every good game he plays, he has a terrible game. And when Derrick Rose comes back to lead the team, Robinson will sit back to a minor role.
After everything we’ve seen after today, who is your pick to win the title?
Matt – With Oklahoma City and San Antonio being pushed closer to the edge in their respective series, nothing has swayed me from my pre-season pick of Miami to repeat as champions. If you’re looking for a dark horse, I think Memphis could sneak up on a lot of people. What’s more, if they were to match up against Miami in an NBA Finals tilt, their dominance down low and on the glass most nights won’t bode too well for a smaller Heat squad. Still, are you really going to bet against King James?
Jordan – Has to be Miami. The Heat have been really lucky because they’ve played probably the two least talented teams in the playoffs so far. LeBron James is still holding back… A lot back.
Kaine – Warriors. Hands down.
Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to follow the panel on Twitter – @giordun @aFishCalledMatt @KaineElmy. While you’re at it, give the site a follow too – @lastwordonsport.
Interested in writing for LastWordOnSports? If so, check out our “Join Our Team” page to find out how.
photo credit: article.wn.com