Welcome to another episode of S.U. Debates, today we will be discussing some of the best and worst teams in the Eastern Conference including their projected fates leading up to the 2014 NBA playoffs. Joining us on the debate panel today are NBA writers Arnold Glass and Jr. Williams. Without further ado, lets get it on!
Are the Indiana Pacers still the best team in the Eastern Conference? If not, which team has taken the crown?
Arnold Glass: The Pacers are still the best team in the Eastern Conference. I know they have been sporadic with the winning/losing streaks as of late, but head coach Frank Vogel will right the ship with the 13 games left in the regular season and the Pacers will have the momentum to make a solid run through the playoffs. The key for the Pacers is to secure home court advantage in the East. They have a four-game lead on the reigning champion Miami Heat and they know how vital home court would have been if they had it last year in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat.
Jr. Williams: I’d have to agree with you on this question but only to a certain extent. Yes, the Pacers are still the best team in the Eastern Conference from a regular season standpoint, unfortunately I don’t believe the Pacers are good enough to win a playoff series against a healthy Miami Heat team. As of late, I have noticed a Pacers team who have lost both their defensive intensity and their swagger. Paul George has not convinced me that he is a consistent player who can lead this team and at times he displays a tendency of playing like a “pretty boy” who seems more comfortable with perimeter shots rather than attacking the basket. The Pacers have the look of a team who have lost their hunger, but we could see them regain their edge during playoffs.
Will the New York Knicks make the 2014 NBA Playoffs?
Jr. Williams: If this were a month ago my answer would be hell no the Knicks will not make the playoffs, but as of late, the New York Knicks have been playing outstanding team basketball on both ends of the court and with Phil Jackson joining the organization, I only see the Knicks moving in a positive direction. The Knicks are four games behind the Atlanta Hawks in the battle for the 8th playoffs seed. Carmelo Anthony and company have a regular season schedule that looks to work in their favor. Of the 13 games remaining, the Knicks have the talent to win at least eight. To answer the question, yes the Knicks will make the post season.
Arnold Glass: It seems like a longshot, but they are on a eight-game win streak with the latest win being against the Philadelphia 76ers Firday night. The Knicks are playing their best basketball of the season and the ball movement is looking good. They are four games behind the Atlanta Hawks,a team which has a hold on the 8th playoff spot right now. The hiring Phil Jackson as team president might inspire them to make that playoff push.
Are the Chicago Bulls talented enough to advance beyond the 1st round of the NBA playoffs?
Arnold Glass: If the playoffs started today, the Bulls would be playing the Brooklyn Nets in the first round; just like the Knicks, the Nets have been winning a lot of games and they have a 11-game win streak at home. With that being said, the Bulls are 2-1 against Brooklyn this season and with the nucleus of DJ Augustine, Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah, the Bulls would come out of the first round in six games. Did I mention that Tom Thibodeau would out smart Nets’ rookie head coach Jason Kidd?
Jr. Williams: Defensively the Chicago Bulls are a good enough team to make the second round of the NBA playoffs but if you think the Bulls have enough offensive talent to outscore the Brooklyn Nets, you are WRONG brother. I think the Nets have a better team and a deeper bench than the Bulls. Jason Kidd is the only liability for the Nets, he has shown his inexperience to make good coaching decisions late in the 4th quarter. The Bulls will only advance pass the first round of the playoffs if they face the Charlotte Bobcats, Toronto Raptors, or Washington Wizards.
Miami Heat center Greg Oden is expected to play extended minutes, how effective can he be for the Heat?
Jr. WIlliams: If healthy, Greg Oden can be a huge factor in the Miami Heats’ chances of advancing past the Indiana Pacers en route to the NBA finals. Oden is the missing piece to the puzzle, he has the size and strength to battle the likes of Roy Hibbert and he has the ability to score if needed. During the playoffs I’d much rather see Oden coming off the bench because his game is best suited for a half-court offense, he’s not built to constantly run up and down the court during the regular season. The most important question is, can his body sustain the physicality and high tempo that occurs during the playoffs?
Arnold Glass: I’m impressed, Oden has exceeded my expectations this season. His rehab has gone so well that coach Erik Spoelstra has extended his playing time and even put him in the starting lineup as of late. That will be key during the playoffs. Oden will be very effective for Miami; he gives them that big inside presence and shot blocking ability that they have been lacking and this move also free up Chris Bosh to the do damage outside the paint with jump shots. The Heat are crossing their fingers hoping Oden can stay healthy throughout the playoffs.
Are the Philadelphia 76ers en route to becoming one of the worst teams in NBA history?
Arnold Glass: Wow, now that is a good question and you can easily become a “prisoner of the moment” with what you see going on with the Sixers. I can’t give them the title of the worst team in history because they are at least trying to win games, they just don’t have the star players and veterans to have more wins than losses. I can say otherwise for the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers team that holds the historic record with 26 straight losses and finished the season with a abysmal 19-63 season record. That team had veterans like Baron Davis, Mo Williams, Anderson Varejao and Antawn Jamison so there was no reason why they played so bad other than they just gave up on themselves and head coach Byron Scott.
Jr. Williams: The 76ers are definitely headed in the wrong direction but they are not one of the worst teams in NBA history. The 76ers have the talent to win basketball games, they proved that ability early in the season. The question is, are they actually trying to win games or are they purposely tanking the season in hopes of landing a top pick in the NBA draft? Conspiracy theories aside, from a winning perspective the 76ers are inching towards becoming one of the worst teams in the NBA as a result of their consecutive losing streak, however they will not be remembered as one of the worst teams in NBA history. In all actuality, the Milwaukee Bucks are a more abysmal team than the 76ers.