Every Monday a group of writers on BADMENBLOG will discuss several topics regarding the NBA and basketball at large with quick, paragraph-long responses. This week, we’ll be discussing what we’re focused almost entirely on the impending trade deadline this Thursday, but we’re also going to discuss the second half of the NBA regular season. The panel for this initial edition of the Fastbreaks column are Jordan, Andrew G, John S from the Bad Men Podcast, and guest contributor and Boston Celtics fan Matt. (Photo attributed to Elise Amendola of the Associated Press.)
Question 1: Who is the biggest name to be traded at the deadline this year?
Jordan: Evan Turner. The 76ers and in full rebuilding mode, and with a core of Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel along with potentially two first round players from this year’s class, they seem to doing well. However, it is accepted that Turner will likely leave for greener pastures this offseason. GM Sam Hinkie could likely reel in a late first round pick for the Ohio State alum, potentially from the Charlotte Bobcats, who own the Detroit Pistons’ pick and have shown interest in him.
Andrew G: Pau Gasol will probably be gone from the Lakers by the end of the week, though I’m not sure he’ll be headed to the Phoenix Suns. Lakers fans have grown tired of Pau despite his history with the team, and Pau’s massive expiring contract as well as his talent have kept him as a potential valuable commodity. Plus, I’m not sure there’s anyway the Lakers can keep Pau without continuing to be massively over the luxury tax threshold.
John S: Arron Afflalo. Afflalo is having a career outing in an otherwise forgettable year for the youthful Orlando Magic. So far, he’s hitting his career marks in most raw and advanced statistics while playing dependably on the defensive end. With Afflalo’s trade value soaring and at such a thin position, his name has been linked to a few teams lately in the rumor mill (most notably the Oklahoma City Thunder). If a team can provide the Magic with valuable (first and foremost), youthful assets and/or picks that can continue to shape the core nucleus, I believe they will pull the trigger.
Matt: Omer Asik. He’s been talked about all season and clearly wants out of Houston now that they have Dwight. I think they’ll finally find a trade for him and find better pieces for the team in time for the playoffs. Asik will be a good piece for whichever team he lands on, but his time in Houston right now is becoming a waste.
Question 2: What will the Boston Celtics do at the trade deadline?
Jordan: Not much. The idea of Rajon Rondo being dealt was entertained for a while but it is believed he is sticking around Beantown for at least another year. Guys like Keith Bogans and Kris Humphries may be appealing to some teams because of their deals expiring this offseason, but overall I don’t see the C’s making much noise before Thursday.
Andrew G: Danny Ainge will be active at the trade deadline, but the Celtics just truly do not have the pieces that are intriguing enough to any team trying to make a push. Kris Humphries might be the most appealing trade bait that Ainge can dangle out there, but he’s also got Gerald Wallace’s massive contract to try to unload on someone else. Charlotte might be interested in Humphries’s services and at one time were interested in trading for him.
John S: Little to nothing, more than likely. The Celtics have been increasingly loyal to Rondo since the offseason where the Celtics front office reportedly pitched the idea to Rondo that this could be “his team” moving forward. Rondo has been largely off the table. Jeff Green is a viable piece, but the C’s may or may not place a tag that is too high for his services. Even more so for Avery Bradley. If there’s a move at all in Boston, I expect it to be fairly subtle.
Matt: It could go either way. Rondo won’t be traded. There’s been talks of Jeff Green being moved but I don’t see that happening either. If anything they’ll unload the contracts of Humphries and Bass. Bass has drawn interest from teams like the Warriors and Humphries is an expiring that could go to a contender and provide bench help. Best case scenario for me as a Celtics fan is to get rid of Gerald Wallace’s bum ass/contract for ANYTHING.
Question 3: What team is primed for a second-half run? Why?
Jordan: The Golden State Warriors. Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala are no joke; it’s weird that they are sitting in 8th place in the West. An explanation for this may lie in the hands of coach Mark Jackson. His offensive scheme seems to not be working. However, the Warriors are a very underappreciated defensive squad. Klay Thompson and Iguodala form one of the best perimeter lockdown duos in the league. If Jackson can make proper adjustments offensively, I can see the Warriors climbing to a top 5 seed in the West.
Andrew G: The Toronto Raptors. A month ago, Ed Kupfer, a Houston Rockets analyst, charted the remaining strengths of schedule versus the original strengths of schedule for each team. [Chart can be found here] Toronto, through January 15, had played the toughest schedule in the Eastern Conference and sixth toughest schedule overall. For the rest of the season, Toronto will have the easiest schedule in the league. The Raptors have already turned it around and have placed themselves solidly in the playoff race, but their remaining strength of schedule could allow them to clinch the third seed this season.
John S: Washington Wizards. This answer is mostly primed by their favorable Post All-Star break schedule. The Wizard are looking at matchups against Utah, Philadelphia, Sacramento, Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans, and Milwaukee and Boston twice among other winnable games. In a very fluid Eastern Conference. Look for Washington to make a late push for home court advantage in the first round.
Matt: East: Brooklyn Nets; West: Golden State Warriors. The Nets were a huge disappointment to start the season but they have enough talent to get it together and rebound for a better second half of the season. The East is terrible and I can see them still winning their division and getting the 3rd seed. As for the Warriors, they have a lot of talent to not have a good second half run. Their young backcourt of Klay Thompson and Steph Curry will be a force for years to come. They’re surprisingly the 8 seed but even in a far tougher Western Conference I can see them jumping to as high as the 5 seed.
Question 4: What team is primed for a second-half collapse? Why?
Jordan: The Portland Trail Blazers. This was a hard question to answer. Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge are a good combo, and their bench is nothing to laugh at. However, they are an unexperienced squad, and have not fared well lately against top tier teams. I still see the Blazers making the playoffs, but wouldn’t be surprised if they fell to 8th.
Andrew G: The Golden State Warriors. This team entered the All-Star break only having won five of their last ten games, and most of those wins were against some of the worst teams in the league. Injuries are starting to creep up on this squad, primarily amongst the big men. Plus, Mark Jackson’s offense simply isn’t diversified enough to provide easier scoring opportunities. Plus, on the same chart I mentioned earlier, Ed Kupfer charted that the Warriors would have the fifth most difficult schedule from here on out.
John S: Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks are currently in the midst of a 5-game losing streak and 9-13 overall since the loss of star big man Al Horford for the year due to injury. Their offense has taken an expected hit, dropping from 109.1 PPG in December to 101.5 in January. During their current losing streak, Atlanta is averaging a shade under 86 PPG offensively. While the Hawks final 31 games aren’t exceptionally hard, it isn’t necessary a breeze either. Most notably, Atlanta will face a 6-game road trip that sends the Hawks to Phoenix, Portland, Golden State, and Los Angeles. It’s very possible that the Hawks will looking on the outside looking in come playoff time.
Matt: East: Toronto Raptors; West: Phoenix Suns. The Raptors surprised me in the first half of the season and currently hold the 3 seed and an above .500 record. But it’ll be interesting to see if they can keep it up. They’re a young team on the up but I see a drop off in the second half of the season. I still see them getting in the playoffs as a lower seed though. As for the West, it was either the Suns or Blazers. The Blazers got off to an amazingly hot start but have been struggling as of late against top tier teams. The Suns were really impressive but in a tough Western Conference, I can see this young squad falling out of the playoff picture.