Contributor, Steven LeBron, answers some of your questions, which have been accruing space in my mailbox for a while now. You should also follow his excellent tumblr and twitter if you aren’t already.
Q: Are you starting to like the Mavericks’ chances with Dirk playing the way he has? Also what do you think the chemistry will be like when West comes back?
Steven LeBron (SL): I have my doubts as to whether this team is ready to win four rounds in the playoffs. The classic Mavericks team in the Mark Cuban era always plays great during the regular season, than finds a way to throw it away in the post-season.
Last season changed that narrative, but the roster has turned over.
I don’t have doubts Dirk will continue along the elite level that he’s been at for the past decade, but the center position continues to concern me, and I’m not sure what I’m getting off the bench from Lamar Odom, Vince Carter and Delonte West when he comes back.
The Mavericks will win their share of regular season games, but right now, I see them in the middle of the pack. They’ve shown too many championship hangover moments for me to think there’s a commitment there to get it done for a repeat.
Q: Who would you rather trade: Melo or Amare, if you had to trade one?
SL: Amare for sure.
It’s been a tough season on the court and personally for Stoudemire. He was a consolation prize for the Knicks in the off-season last year, after they moved so many pieces to get a shot at Lebron.
Instead, he took the city by storm and energized New York for the first half of the season. He’s taken a step back this year, struggling to find a proper rhythm in the offense. But the more important thing is that he’s always one injury away.
For all the criticism about Carmelo’s ball-stopping offense (more on that in another question below), he’s 27 years old, a relatively clean bill of health, and one of the best pure scorers in the league.
You can build around Carmelo. He’s more of a sure bet than Amare to me, short-term and long-term.
Q: Who are the top tier teams in the West and the East. That is, who has a legitimate chance to go to the Finals this year?
SL: Assuming no significant injuries. In the East, I’m of the opinion that it’s the Heat and Bulls. The Pacers and Sixers are having surprise seasons, the Celtics and Magic are lurking on reputation alone, but there’s a clear separation and Miami and Chicago are way ahead of the class.
I’ve written about Derrick Rose and the Bulls, and I believe that they’re a clear second to Miami unless you believe that the tandem of Rose and Deng can create enough offense for the team to keep up in the post-season against the Heat. Their defense and style of play will keep them in games they have no business being in, but they still face an uphill climb come playoff time.
The wild card in the East are the Knicks. They’re a .500 team now, but with all the bodies coming back healthy, I’m very intrigued to see how their players fit in. If we are to believe that they’ve acquired a top point guard in Jeremy Lin, all the pieces start to fall into place. A match-up with Miami this Thursday before the all star break will be very telling.
In the West, it’s got to be the Thunder, Spurs, Mavs and Lakers. I would put the Nuggets and Clippers on the fringe. I don’t trust either team’s coaches. The Thunder are head of the class on record alone. The Spurs are quietly angling themselves for another title run. The Mavs are here on reputation alone. And I have so much respect for Kobe that I am looking past all their flaws (more on this below as well) and giving them a puncher’s chance in what I think is a wide open conference.
Q: Would you sign Gilbert Arenas if you were Mitch Kupchak?
SL: Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: Their point guards are Derek Fisher and Steve Blake right now. So yes. The Lakers have a lot of needs they need to fill. Why not take a chance on Gilbert Arenas and see what happens. Though, when you’re attached to every player that’s currently not in the league (Arenas, Iverson), it’s a sign your team is more than a few pieces away from contending. Kobe, out of anyone, should recognize that you don’t just piece together players and expect to create a contending team.
Q: Can Jeremy Lin play with Carmelo Anthony? Will his play fall off this year, and if yes, why?
SL: Yes, Jeremy Lin can play with Carmelo Anthony. Knicks fans should look at it this way: you’re pairing one of the top scorers in the league with one of the top emerging young point guards in the league. If anything, they should be excited.
You traded half of your team for Carmelo last year with the understanding that you’d have to build pieces around him. Amare was one. Chandler another. And now, they have a point guard in Lin. They’re going to make each other better, and make this team very dangerous down the stretch.
As for Lin’s play. He’s brought something new to the table every game. Whether it’s the early questions about his jump shooting. Or doubts about his toughness. Or the ability to not be a shoot first point guard and create for others. We’re not watching a one trick pony here. He’s shown a diverse enough set of skills over two weeks that it’s not inconceivable to think that this is a level of play he can sustain.
The best thing is that the Knicks don’t need Lin to be a superstar; to be their primary scorer and distributor at once. This team has weapons in the starting line-up and off the bench. If Lin just focuses on being a distributor alone, he can be very successful with this line-up. I think he will.
Do you have a question for Fuck Yeah NBA? This will probably become a regular feature. Make sure you follow Steven LeBron, and keep asking questions.
If you think you’ve written something interesting about the NBA both current and past, shoot me an email, and you can be a contributor too.