Welcome to the latest edition of 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. In this edition, our panel consists of Matt Fish (of “Fish on Sports”), Kaine Elmy and Jordan Leung.
1) What does Dwight Howard mean to the Houston Rockets? Are they now contenders in the NBA’s Western Conference?
Matt – At this point, Howard is going to mean a great deal to the Rockets and vault right into contention in the Western Conference. It will still be James Harden’s team, but imagine how much room he’ll have to move around now with Howard lurking in the paint on a nightly basis. The team that looks really bad now are the Thunder, who now seem like they handed a superstar player to the Rockets for nothing substantial in return. If Lin can limit his turnovers next year, the Rockets could be in for a deep playoff run.
Kaine – First off, as a Lakers fan, I’d like to say ‘goodbye dwightmare!’. Secondly, no, this does not make Houston contenders. Don’t get me wrong, any team that has Harden and Howard in it possesses the potential to be a incredibly dangerous team. But we all saw how Howard was in LA and how he tried to take over Kobe’s team, don’t expect Harden to let that happen either. And Howard will cry and whinge and sook until he get’s his way but unfourtunatly he’s stuck in Houston for four years now. Sorry Rockets, he’s your problem now.
Jordan – The difference between Dwight Howard joining the Rockets and Dwight Howard joining the Lakers is that the Rockets already have a well-established core, and they have a degree of team chemistry that the Lakers never had. Dwight Howard is essentially a supercharged Omer Asik and will do many of the same things Asik already does, but at a higher level.
Guys like Harden and Parsons have been on board with Dwight for a while, and if the Rockets keep Jeremy Lin, Lin and Howard would make a great pick-and-roll tandem, and Lin will utilize Dwight much like he did with Tyson Chandler, but at a much higher level. It’s premature, but I’m entitled to my premature opinion. The Rockets are making the Finals this year.
2) What is the most underrated individual signing of the free agent period? What move isn’t being talked about enough?
Matt – Watch out for Jarrett Jack to do some damage in Cleveland. The team is by no means a championship contender yet, but with a cool, collected veteran able to fill the floor general duties when Kyrie Irving isn’t on the floor, the Cavs could be in for some much-improved production in their lineup.
Kaine – I don’t think everybody fully comprehends how much the signing of Josh Smith is going to help the Detroit Pistons make the playoffs. Yeah, I said it. The team features talented players in Andre Drummond, Jose Calderon and Brandon Knight, but this is Smith’s team now. Number eight draft pick Caldwell-Pope makes it interesting as well. I’m excited to see Smith take over this team and take them to the playoffs.
Jordan – The homer in me is in love with what Golden State has done. I really like the Speights signing. He has good size and does eerything you want a big man to do on offense. I am also a huge fan of the Jermaine O’Neal signing, someone who I really think will come up huge several times this season, as well as during the playoffs.
Millsap to Atlanta is also a much better fit than Josh Smith next to Horford, but that would make Atlanta a middling team yet again.
People laugh at the Al Jefferson signing to the Bobcats, but I can see Jefferson having a monster season, even if the Bobcats will finish near the bottom of the standings.
3) What team has improved the most during the NBA’s free agent period? Where do you see them finishing?
Matt – Besides Houston, which is probably stating the obvious, I agree with Kaine, and look for the Pistons to be much improved. The draft was good to them and, by adding Josh Smith to an already powerful frontcourt, I look for them to be in the playoff picture next year in the Eastern Conference.
Kaine – I have to say the Clippers, as much as I hate it. The re-signing of Chris Paul makes them just as dangerous as they were last year, but with an extra year of experience behind them. Blake Griffin is no longer an option for a trade package with Dwight Howard, which means LOB CITY is back once again. Playoffs? Yes. Finals? No. The Lakers will have a hard time to take back their city this year.
Jordan – There’s no reason why the Rockets won’t finish in the top 2 of the West, along with San Antonio and OKC.
4) What team has to be disappointed with how things have worked out? Who has really lost ground from where they were?
Matt- Hard not to feel bad for the Mavericks. All that roster-gutting and and cap-clearing maneuvering for nothing. Not only that, their coveted big man will now play for a Texas rival. The once-proud franchise will probably sink into oblivion this year, quite possibly culminating in shipping Nowitzki’s expiring contract out of town at the trade deadline.
Kaine – You would have to say Lakers are disappointed to see the back off Dwight Howard. Fans, maybe not so much. But the players and management were visibly disappointed. I personally think this makes the team better but on paper, they become much much worse. And I’m incredibly disappointed in them amnestying Metta World Peace. However, let’s see what they can pull together.
Jordan – It’s a lot better to just throw in the towel and hope for Wiggins (see Boston and Philadelphia). Any team that has gotten significantly worse this offseason to a point where they are in the 2014 draft sweepstakes are actually in a pretty good situation.
Dallas are the big losers in my opinion. They picked up a lot of decently average free agents, but without a guy like Tyson Chandler manning the middle or the leadership of Kidd, the Mavericks are not returning to the finals. They aren’t going high in the lottery either.
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