This is another edition in the Swarm and Sting round-table series. Here is a link to our last round-table, which was centered around Lance Stephenson. To view that article, click on this link
In this round-table, we will be discussing the Eastern Conference, and how it has changed over the off-season. Participating in this round-table is Swarm and Sting’s Adam Lutterloh, Andy Moore, Nathan Miller, Andrew Snyder, Daniel Zimmermann, and H.T. Wells.
Here are the questions that were asked to each of these writers, and their answer to each question:
1. If the trade goes through, are the Cleveland Cavaliers making the right move trading Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love?
Andrew Snyder - I think trading for Love is the right move. They need to capitalize on LeBron’s prime, and acquiring Love gives them the best chance to win right now. Wiggins is a great prospects, and could very well turn into a dynamic two-way player, but right now is an unknown commodity and Love has proven he is an elite player. If they acquire Love print their tickets to the NBA Finals NOW.
Nathan Miller - I think the Cavs are making the right decision trading Wiggins for Love. Although Wiggins has the potential to be the best player in the league some day there is no telling if or when that will happen. Love is a proven top 10 player in the league and in the NBA if you have a chance to put together a championship team, especially in a market like Cleveland, you take the opportunity.
Adam Lutterloh – Yes, the Cavs are making the right move trading Wiggins (and Anthony Bennett and a first round pick) for Kevin Love. The T-Wolves are making a good decision with the trade as well. If you are Cleveland, and you know your fan base is starved for a championship, you just about have to make this trade because it immediately makes your team one of the four or five that can actually win the championship next season. One thing to consider with Cleveland is that outside of LeBron, none of the key players on the Cavs next year, including Kevin Love, have any playoff experience.
Andy Moore - I am not sure. The rumored package of Wiggins, Bennett, and a future first is a high price to pay. Kevin Love is a very good player though his defense is lacking. The reality of it is Cleveland should be able to get out of the East, with or without this trade. The problem will come in the Finals, and dealing with a team like the Spurs. San Antonio exposed Miami’s lack of a rim protector last year and I think they would do the same to Cleveland. Love makes the team better, but what they need more than a stretch four on offense is an interior defender. Also, let’s not forget that less than a year ago Wiggins was considered the best high school prospect since LeBron James. Giving him up, along with the first pick from last year’s draft is a high price to pay considering it won’t fix the team’s biggest weakness.
Daniel Zimmermann - Honestly, yes. While Wiggins has monster potential and so does Anthony Bennett, his likely trade partner, the Cavs are in win now mode and cannot afford the waiting period for Andrew Wiggins. Pairing LeBron James with Kevin Love would be an amazing mix of unguardable guys on a young Cavs team that can really compete with anyone. Wiggins is likely going to be a great player who is a two way force and a monster in transition, but Kevin Love has proven himself to be the best power forward in the league today. So, pairing the best power forward and the best small forward on the same team just has to be considered by the Cavalier front office. This trade could put Cleveland over Chicago for most talented squad in the East, and for LeBron to return to the Finals, that will be a necessity.
H.T. Wells - No doubt. First off, LeBron wants him. Honestly, ’nuff said. Your championship window opens as soon as LeBron signs on. Why wait on Wiggins to develop? Even if the powers that be suggest that Andrew Wiggins is the next Jordan, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving make the Cavs an automatic Eastern Conference finals favorite. Not to mention, the positional fit of Love. Love provides a pick and pop partner for LeBron and Kyrie. He will never be confused for a rim protector, but he does provide positional balance that will allow LeBron to limit his power forward play.
2. Out of the teams in the East, who improved the most? (Except for the Cavaliers)
Andrew Snyder - I think the Hornets have improved the most. They improved a position of weakness, upgraded the bench, and return a coach that is proving to be one of the best in the East.
Nathan Miller - I would have to say the Bulls are the most improved team this offseason. With Derrick Rose coming back, and the addition of Gasol a previously top 5 team in the east just got a lot stronger. Without the departure of McRoberts it would have been the Hornets but I think the Hornets are going to miss Josh more than expected.
Adam Lutterloh - Well, I think the Hornets are the obvious answer here. Charlotte added one of the best two-way guards in the East in Lance Stephenson, upgraded at backup point guard with Brian Roberts and got about 80% of what Josh McRoberts offered with Marvin Williams. Throw in Noah Vonleh and P.J. Hairston, and you have a Charlotte team who can compete for a top-four seed in the East.
Andy Moore - Not to be a homer but I think it might be the Hornets. They signed a young playmaker in Lance Stephenson, and while they lost Josh McRoberts, the addition of Marvin Williams and development of Cody Zeller should minimize that. Vonleh was a great value at 9 and Hairston’s shooting can help this team. Chicago improved with signing Gasol and cutting Boozer, but the important question for them is what Rose will be able to give them this year.
H.T. Wells - Chicago, with an asterisk. I have to quantify this selection with the assumed continued health of Derrick Rose. The Bulls rid themselves of Carlos Boozer’s point and yell defense and non-fourth quarter participation. Added a still useful Pau Gasol. Signed Nikola Mirotic. The underrated drafting of Doug McDermott is a sneaky great upgrade for the Bulls. McDermott moves well without the ball and showed during summer league that he can get his shot off. The resigning of Kirk Hinrich and the addition of Aaron Brooks combine to give the backcourt added toughness and a little scoring punch. Being able to make all of these additions without losing the services of Taj Gibson puts the cherry on top for Bulls.
Daniel Zimmermann - I have to go with the Chicago Bulls. Bringing on supreme talent like Pau Gasol cannot be overstated as one of the best moves of the offseason. Also, bringing in Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott, and Aaron Brooks will not hurt a team that is probably among the deepest in the league. Bleacher Report’s Brian Mazique said the following on the Bulls depth:
While the Bulls don’t necessarily have a celebrated Big Three like other contenders, on paper they have more depth and versatility than any other squad. Not even the champion San Antonio Spurs will have a bench that goes as deep with productive players.
So, with that said, the additions made by the Bulls front office have placed them in a position for success and they are by far the most improved.
3. Is there a sleeper team in the East? If so, who?
Andrew Snyder - My sleeper in the East is the Washington Wizards. They shocked analysts this season by beating the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs, and I believe they will keep climbing up the conference standings. John Wall is coming into his own, Bradley Beal is a young rising star, they return Marcin Gortat and Nene while adding Paul Pierce to the mix. I could see them climbing as high as the 3 seed.
Nathan Miller - Detroit. With the amount of talent they have, and the addition of Stan Van Gundy there is no way this team can fail. Last year they had a hard time getting the pieces to fit but Van Gundy is a great coach who can turn this club around in a hurry.
Adam Lutterloh - In terms of teams who didn’t make the playoffs (Cleveland excluded) last year who could make it this year, I’ll go with Detroit. On the one hand, they have assembled a pretty random collection of parts up there, and signed a few guys to awful contracts, Jodie Meeks being the best example. However, Stan van Gundy is a really good coach and should be able to maximize his team’s potential. Andre Drummond is really good, and if they keep Greg Monroe, Detroit will have of the best front-courts in the East.
Andy Moore - I think Washington is the sleeper team. John Wall improved his game last year and his backcourt mate Beal can shoot the lights out. Resigning Gortat was huge as he played big minutes for them last year. They lost Ariza but replaced him with Paul Pierce who can make big shots for them. Keep an eye on Otto Porter; though he struggled last year he has a ton of talent and will be able to come off the bench without the pressure of being a high profile rookie. Another team to watch is Atlanta. They made the playoffs last year without Al Horford; with him healthy they should be even better.
Daniel Zimmermann - The Raptors. Those guys are not messing around. After getting Lowry back, the Raps swung John Salmons to Atlanta for Louis Williams, a great bench scorer, and Lucas Nogueira, a high upside high energy power forward. They went on to resign scorer Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson, part of their bench mob of last season. Finally, the addition of swingman DeAndre Daniels and James Johnson bolsters their second unit even more. This is the kind of team built to upset. Whether it be Cleveland, Chicago, Miami, Charlotte, or Washington, the team that plays these guys at any point in the playoffs need to watch out.
H.T. Wells – A New York team. I’m gonna cheat here. Brooklyn and/or New York. The East should be really competitive. The difference between teams will be slight. So, sleeper is a relative term. However, no one is talking about Brooklyn. They had some growing pains and old legs last season. No disrespect to Jason Kidd, but the Nets now have a strong veteran leader who will be focused solely on coaching. I expect Lionel Hollins to employ a version of the Grit and Grind style he used to terrorize Western Conference teams for years. A healthy Brook Lopez and anything resembling the Utah Jazz version of Deron Williams can be a great combo. Joe Johnson was good and clutch last year. Jarrett Jack comes in to replace Shaun Livingston off the bench and I fully expect more than the ghost of KG to show up this season. The Knicks have done some interesting things. Carmelo Anthony had a career year last year. Jose Calderon is a huge upgrade over Ray Felton. I think the triangle offense could play to Andrea Bargnani minimal strengths. Phil Jackson has a way of getting the most out of knuckleheads. Phil, meet J.R. Smith.
4. Which team in the East do you feel is overrated?
Andrew Snyder - The Nets are overrated. I’ve seen some projections having them as high as the 3 seed and that just seems unlikely. They are probably a playoff team, but not a real threat to contend for anything significant.
Nathan Miller - I think that the most overrated team in the East would have to be Cleveland. With the addition of Lebron James they will definitely finish in the top 3 in the east but they are a beatable team. If Kevin Love joins as expected they are going to be a tough team to beat but I don’t think they are a lock to win the east as most people are inferring.
Adam Lutterloh - Miami. They lost the best player in the world and replaced him with Josh McRoberts, Luol Deng and Danny Granger. Talk about a net loss. They still have huge holes on their roster. Who can be trusted at point guard? Who carries the burden when Bosh is having a bad game and Wade is taking the night off? Who is going to be their rim protector-enforcer down low? Several pundits think Miami can still win the Southeast Division. I think they could easily finish behind Washington, Charlotte and Atlanta.
Andy Moore - Brooklyn. They still have big names, but they are getting a little long in the tooth. Lopez coming back will help them, but it will also minimize Garnett who at this point in his career needs to play the 5. Losing Pierce hurts but the big loss will be Livingston, who played a key role in the backcourt for them last year. His ability to play both spots will be missed.
Daniel Zimermann - I honestly don’t think anyone is overrated. The East is still weak, but not nearly as weak as last season. They have 6 locks for playoffs and 2 wide open spots – plus, those 6 teams could fall in any order. Nobody strikes me as overrated. Maybe the Cavaliers just because we haven’t truly seen the new look team play yet, but I strongly doubt they are not an elite squad.
H.T. Wells - Toronto. Only because I have to choose. I think you have Chicago and Cleveland(assuming Kevin Love)then you have a bunch of teams. All of those teams are close together until the games actually start. Toronto has made great strides defensively and they work well to limit they’re self inflicted wounds with turnovers. But, they lack a guy that can get them baskets when the game is on the line. Kyle Lowry has the moxie although he lacks the ability to get a shot at his discretion. DeMar Derozan has the physical ability but he has no go to move and he struggles to get his shot in the halfcourt. Also, the improvement of last year’s Eastern Playoff teams as well as the assumed return of Knicks basketball suggests a role reversal for Toronto this season.
5. As of right now, who are your 8 playoff teams in the East? And in what order?
Andrew Snyder - 1. Cavs. 2. Bulls. 3. Heat. 4. Wizards. 5. Hornets 6. Hawks. 7. Raptors 8. Nets
Nathan Miller - 1. Chicago 2. Cleveland 3. Washington 4. Charlotte 5. Miami 6. Toronto 7. Atlanta 8. Brooklyn
Adam Luterloh - 1) Cleveland, 2) Chicago, 3) Toronto, 4) Charlotte, 5) Washington, 6) Brooklyn, 7) Miami, 8) Atlanta.
Andy Moore - Cleveland, Chicago, Washington, Toronto, Charlotte, Atlanta, New York, Miami
H.T. Wells - Chicago, Cleveland, Washington, Miami, Charlotte, New York, Indiana, Brooklyn
Daniel Zimmermann - 1. Chicago Bulls 2. Cleveland Cavaliers 3. Toronto Raptors 4. Washington Wizards 5. Charlotte Hornets 6. Miami Heat 7. Atlanta Hawks 8. Brooklyn Nets