Pass the Pill Around the Association, April 9
1. The Grizzlies, Warriors, and Suns are in a dog fight for two playoff spots out West; who gets left out?
Mark Evans: Sadly, it looks like the Suns. It’s a shame that Eric Bledsoe missed significant time, or else they probably wouldn’t be in this position. Dragic and Bledsoe are a ton of fun, but it seems like they’re the odd man out.
Mark Pace: The Warriors won’t miss the playoffs. I guarantee it. The eighth seed is where the fight will occur. After their hot start the Suns cooled down. However, after watching them fight to pull out a win against the Thunder on Sunday, I don’t think they’ll let the Grizzlies catch them. Memphis gets left out.
Aras Bayram: Sadly, the Suns. Dragic and Bledsoe are easily the most entertaining backcourt in the NBA and Horny has been doing an admirable job all season coaching this team. But the Warriors are virtually in and the Grizzlies own the tiebreaker between the two teams. The Suns have a brutal back-to-back facing the Mavs and the scorching Spurs while Memphis plays the 76ers and the Lakers. The game on April 14th at Phoenix may be decisive, but the Grizzlies have had the Suns’ number all year. Sorry Suns fans.
Kristina Beltran: The Suns have been fun to watch and I commend them on pulling together after losing Bledsoe for a significant amount of time, but I think they are the ones left out in the playoffs. They have a tough schedule coming up and most of their games are away. The Warriors will not miss the playoffs and I believe in Memphis. Suns lose out.
Monique Beltran: The Suns will be the team to miss the playoffs. Although they have shown great effort, I don’t think they have enough to make the push. Injuries cursed them, with Bledsoe missing a significant amount of the season, and unfortunately I don’t think they will come out on top.
2. For much of the season, it seemed like a lock to see a Pacers/Heat Eastern Conference Finals. With the Pacers struggling, what are the chances that this still happens?
Mark Evans: For most of the season, I thought it was pretty much 100%, but the Pacers have more or less forgotten how to play basketball. Paul George isn’t exactly who we crowned him to be earlier in the season. Hibbert is still kind of clumsy and gets lost in the game fairly easily. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Pacers lose to the Nets or Bulls at some point. I’m going 50/50 for now, because the Pacers will still probably have the first round to figure things out. 50/50 is pretty bad considering a Heat/Pacers ECF was basically written in stone not too long ago.
Mark Pace: I still think these will be the two teams we see in the Eastern Conference Finals, but I am not as confident with that prediction as I was a month ago. I’d say the chance we see this matchup is about 70 percent. The biggest chance we see anyone else in the ECF is if Brooklyn loses their last few games and fall to the six seed. As of now, they would have a Conference Semifinal matchup with Miami, but if they fall to the six seed they wouldn’t face Miami until the Conference Final. I wrote about this topic last week, and I think the Pacers would have a serious problem if they were to face Brooklyn.
Aras Bayram: 95%. I am not worried about the Pacers at all. Sure, they are in a funk right now, but they are too good of a team to struggle in the playoffs, especially against their Leastern foes. They are still the best defensive team in the NBA, and we have statistical data proving defense-first teams excel in the playoffs. Sure the offense is a concern, but definitely not unresolvable. Even if they run into Nets or Bulls, they will find a way to grind out that series. Barring injury, the Heat and the Pacers will meet in the Eastern Finals.
Kristina Beltran: Pacers have been falling apart lately, and things have been looking bleak as of late. Paul George has been struggling, and does not seem to be the same player that we seen earlier this season. These guys have had on and off the court issues, and have literally been fading before our eyes. That being said, I still think they fight and make it to the finals. Now chances of a Heat/Pacers finals for me is 70 percent. Playoffs are a different game and I think they can get it together, although the Bulls or the Nets may give them a run.
Monique Beltran: The Pacers and Heat were almost a guarantee to play in the Eastern Conference Finals for most of the season for me. Pacers recent collapse has caused me to question this. I still think it is a possibility that these two teams could meet in the ECF, but chances have dropped to about 50 percent. The Bulls could pose a threat for the Pacers, and the Nets might be able to pull it off against them as well. The Pacers need to get it together quick if they want an appearance in the ECF.
3. Outside of KD/LeBron, who is your NBA MVP?
Mark Evans: There are a ton of guys that deserve credit this year besides the obvious top two. You could say Love, Griffin, Noah, Jefferson, Dragic, Harden, or Curry and I wouldn’t give you too much grief. I’ll go with Noah. When you consider that defense is half of the game, I think Joakim stands out of that list of mostly offense-only players. Not to mention, the Bulls have been running their offense through Noah for much of the year. The Bulls can play with anyone; is it that crazy to think that they could make a run at the NBA Finals? Wade’s knees cause him to miss a game or two in a series, the Pacers continue to stink…crazier things have happened.
Mark Pace: Kevin Love. He is third in efficiency, third in rebounding, fourth in scoring and first in double-doubles. A lot of people like Blake Griffin, but I think that’s just because he’s flashy and looks good on a highlight video. Kevin Love has been better across the board. I won’t penalize him for playing for a terrible team.
Aras Bayram: It is Blake Griffin and I don’t think it is all that close. Worst kept secret in the NBA: Blake isn’t “just a dunker” any more. He has legit post moves combined with a sick handle, his spin move is virtually unstoppable, has a respectable mid-range jumper, great court vision and as everyone knows unparalleled athleticism. He averages 24 points on 17 shots, 9.6 rebs, 3.8 assists and upped his FT% to 71. Also he is no longer a traffic cone on defense as opposed to his next challenger, Kevin Love. His teammate, CP3 is easily the 3rd best player in the NBA but the point God missed so many games to be in discussion. Blake it is.
Kristina Beltran: I’m going to go with Blake Griffin. I know many people say he is still all hype, but his numbers and play have proved that he has improved since last season. I have not always been a fan of Griffin but his plays and numbers are hard to ignore. Also, under Doc Rivers tutelage Griffin and the Clippers have improved on the defensive end as well. He is no longer just a dunking machine. He is a huge part of the Clippers offense, shown when he put up 27.5 points and 4.4 assists in the stretch without Chris Paul this season. Blake Griffin has improved immensely from last season, so I’m going with him as MVP.
Monique Beltran: I have to go with Kevin Love. He’s been very efficient and consistent this season. His stats speak for themselves. I think people overlook him because his team is terrible, but he puts up big numbers and has some of the top stats in the league. I almost picked Blake Griffin, but I still think he has a lot of hype that he hasn’t lived up to just yet.
4. With all of the weirdness of the Warriors suddenly getting rid of two assistants, should Mark Jackson be worried about his job?
Mark Evans: There’s reason to be a little worried, but I don’t see the Warriors letting go of Mark Jackson. This is a strange situation, but I don’t think Golden State management likes the idea of shaking up this group with a new coach. It’s not like it’s now or never for the Warriors. Still…I’d be sweating just a bit if I were Mark Jackson. What if they get embarrassed in the first round and maybe a few of the players seem unhappy? Just saying.
Mark Pace: Mark Jackson is one of the best coaches in the league. If the Warriors let him go (which they shouldn’t,) he will have numerous other offers by the time he cleans out his desk. He has nothing to worry about.
Aras Bayram: Absolutely, but not because of firing assistants. Power struggles happen in the NBA, but it usually ends with the coach being on top. After Kidd made the right roster changes no one even remotely remembered his demotion of Lawrence Frank. The Warriors’ problems are on the court. Although featuring one of the best shooting backcourts in the history of the NBA they are only 12th in offensive efficiency. David Lee disrupts their defense but Mark Jackson is hesitant to play Draymond Green more. If they bow out in the 1st round of the playoffs, look for a possible coach change in Golden State.
Monique Beltran: I seriously doubt the Warriors are getting rid of Mark Jackson. He’s one of the best coaches in the league, and the Warriors management would be making a mistake if they got rid of him. Even with everything going on, I don’t think he has anything to worry about.
5. Does Al Jefferson deserve to be First Team All-NBA?
Mark Evans: You have to root like a guy for Big Al. The East is weak, but the Bobcats are a nice story. It’s refreshing to see a team aggressively try to get better instead of trying to get worse. He’s deserving at the center position, but my vote is for Joakim Noah. That being said, I wouldn’t be outraged if Al got a First Team nod.
Mark Pace: Al Jefferson has been unbelievable. He’s having one of the best seasons of his career, but there are more than five players who deserve a First Team nod over Jefferson. You will more than likely see him as a Second Team All-NBA selection.
Aras Bayram: Over Joakim Noah and Dwight Howard? No way. Big Al may be the most underrated player in the NBA and he is having one of the best seasons of his career, but it is still not enough to overlook what Noah has been doing for the Bulls. He is easily the best Point Center of this decade, and while he dictates the Bulls’ offense from the high post he can still affect the game on the other side of the floor. Dwight is the most repulsive clown in the NBA but he has been having a rebound year although he missed a lot of games. Sure http://www.bigalspaint.com/ is brilliant but it is not enough to bump him to First Team All-NBA. He may need to be content with 3rd Team for this season.
Kristina Beltran: Al Jefferson has truly been something to watch this season and his numbers speak for themselves. However, I think there are at least five other players that deserve the spot before him. I’m going with Joakim Noah to get it before Jefferson.
Monique Beltran: As great as Al Jefferson has been, there are more deserving players that should get the honor over him. Joakim Noah has my vote on this one. That being said, I am a fan of Jefferson, and his season has been great to watch.