Welcome to Daily Discussions!
Q: Who will end the season as the No. 1 seed for both the Eastern and Western Conference?
Matthew: This question was intriguing when Kevin Durant went down with an injury and it is picking up steam because of how well the Spurs continue to play. The Warriors only have a 1.5 game lead in the West and they just aren’t the same team right now.
Then you have the Cavs, who haven’t really been fully healthy for long stretches at all this season, with a 2.5 game lead over the Celtics for the No. 1 seed. The Celtics, like the Spurs, are playing great basketball at the moment. They just beat the Warriors on the Warriors home court and they also beat the Cavs earlier this month. Now, both the Warriors and Cavs weren’t fully healthy in either of those games, but you can’t take the credit away from this scrappy Celtics’ team that always seems to fight behind Isaiah Thomas.
The Cavs expect to get JR Smith back and that will add to an already stacked Cavs’ team. Despite losing Bogut for the rest of the season in his debut game, the Cavs are looking just fine. As long as they have LeBron James they will be the No. 1 seed every season.
The Warriors on the other hand are going to lose that No. 1 seed by season’s end. The Spurs are right on their tail and they aren’t slowing down anytime soon. Without KD the Warriors just look lazy on both sides of the ball. I expect the Spurs’ to steal the No. 1 seed by a half a game.
Jacob: Right now you have the Warriors and the Cavs leading their respective conferences. I know what you are thinking, shocker, right? So, when I tell you that only one of them will be getting the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, you might think I am crazy.
Hang with me here while I explain.
The Warriors are currently 3-3 without Kevin Durant in the lineup and will not see him back until at least the first week of April. This is bad news but in the bigger picture, you now have the same team that dominated the NBA last regular season: Steph, Klay, Draymond and company. Last season Curry averaged 30.1 PPG and led the league in 40-point games, while sitting out the entire 4th quarter 14 times. That is the Steph Curry that the Warriors need right now, not the Steph Curry that is at 24.9 PPG on the season and has shot 17-68 since KD has been hurt. For a team that relies heavy on the deep ball, they are shooting 59-196 as a team, and the “Splash Brothers” are 32-126. They need to get back to their old ways, and fast.
The Spurs have won nine games in a row and are currently the hottest team in the NBA. They are just 1.5 games behind the Warriors and playing their best basketball. That spells nothing but trouble for Golden State and even as a fan I will say it does not look good right now. But, I say that this lead will change hands a few times over the last month of the season and the Golden State Warriors will eventually be on top by 1 game.
The East is a lot easier. The Cavs just have to want it. They have a roster that is so talented it really isn’t funny. The only reason they are in this situation is because they are resting their players and waiting for their championship run. Honestly, the Cavs could get the No. 8 seed and still win a championship so why should they care about regular season games? Just do enough to get in and then step it up.
It is this mentality that will open the door for the Celtics, Wizards, and Raptors in the next month. In my mind it will be the Celtics who eventually take the top seed in the East and for one reason only. The Celtics only have 5 games remaining on their schedule against teams who hold a playoff spot and two of them are 7 and 8 seeds. The Cavs on the other hand have 13 such games, and the majority are against top 5 teams in the East. Celtics by 2 games in the East.
Q: Who will raise the MVP trophy at season’s end?
Matthew: This is such a tough MVP race, but it’s so good for the league. We have a couple faces that are always in the talk; LeBron James and some will say Steph Curry. But, we also have some new faces and that is exactly what people are complaining about with the NBA, a lack of parity. Isaiah Thomas, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook have been thrown in the mix, with Harden and Westbrook leading the charge since the season started.
We have a little bit of the season left, around 10-15 games, but as much as I want to make my case for LeBron, it’s a two man race. If Russ averages a triple-double for the entire season, which he has a really good chance of doing, then I would give the MVP to him. But, Harden is making a really strong case too. He was converted to point guard at the beginning of the season, he doesn’t have the strongest supporting cast, and he has his team at the number 3 seed in the West.
As tough as a decision as it will be to choose an MVP at the end of the season, I’ll be happy with whoever they chose; LeBron, Russ, Harden, Kawhi. A lot of guys are making a strong case and it’s been great for the fans. I can’t remember the last time the MVP race was this heavily debated throughout the entire season.
Jacob: This discussion has always intrigued me because I never know what they base it off of. The term “Most Valuable Player” can be taken many different ways. Do you mean the player that contributes most to his team? Do you want the player that produces the best stats? In my mind it has always been the player who puts on a show. The player who no matter what team you root for, at some point in the season he has done something to make you say “wow!”
Last year that person was Steph Curry because he not only put up ridiculous number in limited playing time, but because night after night he was putting on a performance that was unmatched.
This year we have a few candidates who obviously are talented enough to receive the award, but one stands out.
If you do not vote for Russell Westbrook for MVP, you are just biased. The man has absolutely dominated every game he has played, and 64 games into the season, nobody has found a way to slow him down. He is destroying not only his personal records, but he’s a point guard who is averaging a triple-double.
LeBron James is an amazing player, but he has done nothing this season that is good for LeBron James. He is under almost all of his career bests, and while he has had a few stand out performances, nothing to write home about. Kawhi is having a great year but still hasn’t done anything to put himself up on that stage. Isaiah Thomas has had a great year and if you consider what the MVP has done for his team, he could steal a few votes from Westbrook, but still lose. James Harden is the only person that I might give you a chance to argue about because he has put up some video game numbers in a few games this year.
The thing that sets Russell apart is his consistency, and his overall freakish athleticism.
There are so many talented players in this league, but only one Russell Westbrook this year.
Q: Which team/teams will be the biggest surprise in the playoffs?
Matthew: I like the Wizards and Raptors as my dark horse teams. The Wizards, behind John Wall, have finally been able to show what they are capable of when they are healthy. The Raptors lost Kyle Lowry for the rest of the regular season, but if they can get him back for the playoffs then this Raptors’ team is one to look out for. They went out and made some good moves; picking up Serge Ibaka and PJ Tucker.
The only downside to these teams is the lack of support. In a long playoff series you need a deep team. The Wizards did add Brandon Jennings and Bojan Bogdanovic to their bench, but it’s still a weak team compared to the elite. The Raptors, even with the pieces they brought in, still lack depth. Nonetheless, both of these teams will be really fun to watch and hopefully they can give their matchups some tough games.
Jacob: The biggest surprise in this playoffs will be any matchup that doesn’t involve the Spurs, Warriors and Cavs. There might be a few teams that could steal a game or maybe even two from these guys, but in a 7 game series you are done.
I like the Jazz sitting at the No. 4 seed right now in the West. They could get a good matchup in the first round with the Clippers, Grizzlies and possibly even the Thunder falling into the No. 5 seed. That series could be fun to watch, but the winner will take on the No. 1 seed in the West, which has been certain elimination for as long as I can remember. I do like the Thunder climbing up one or two spots in the West if they can incorporate some of their new guys into that offense better.
In the East it is free game. With the Cavs being the only sure thing in the playoffs, there are a ton of teams who can make a solid run to the Eastern Conference Finals. I think the Celtics coming out of the No. 1 or No. 2 seed can be dangerous for anybody. They are young, hungry and picking up confidence. With the Hawks not playing well this season, I think there is a huge gap between the top four teams and the last four teams in the East. As it plays out now, I think all top four seed take their first round, so my surprise will be the Chicago Bulls. I think they hang on to a No. 7 or No. 8 seed and cause some trouble for whoever they matchup with. If you remember, the Bulls haven’t lost this year to the Cavs and last time they matched up in a playoff series, Chicago had a 2-1 lead and it took a buzzer beater by LeBron to win game 4. I think they take a top seed deep into the series and might even pull it off.