Welcome to the 2017 Rotoworld NBA Postseason Mailbag!
For anyone unfamiliar, the Rotoworld Mailbag is an in-season staple where readers submit their fantasy basketball questions and we dissect the waiver wire, weigh the pros and cons of the add/drop process, dive deep into potential trades—which is my favorite part—and anything in between as it relates to short and long-term strategy. We’re going to use that same idea in the playoffs, but open the floor up to questions about the action, offseason decisions and more with the summer fast approaching.
Question 1: Where can the Clippers possibly go from here?
That’s a question Doc Rivers is going to have to ask himself relentlessly for the next four-to-six weeks before the decision-making gets real.
Los Angeles appears to be stuck in this purgatory of being a really good but not great team, and the Clippers are constantly hamstrung by not having a full complement of health at just the right time. There are no easy answers when it comes to what LA’s future could look like because each come with its own set of unique consequences and offers very different paths to follow.
Ultimately the Clippers need to do whatever it takes to keep CP3 in tow and there is no player available in free agency that would make Los Angeles better than keeping Blake Griffin would. That means more of the same could be on tap, and we’ve seen how that’s worked out so far. There is no easy button fix here.
Question 2: Care to make some second-round playoff predictions?
Toronto Raptors (3) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (2): Cavs in five.
Every so often, LeBron James reminds the NBA why he’s still the best player in the league, and we saw that again in Cleveland’s first-round sweep of the Indiana Pacers. Toronto’s inability to consistently nor effectively close out games is of serious concern against a potent Cavaliers offense, and it’s hard to believe the Raptors can suddenly turn it on against the defending champs after struggling against a young Milwaukee team playing without Jabari Parker.
Washington Wizards (4) vs. Boston Celtics (1): Celtics in six.
John Wall has been a man on a mission this season after surgery on both knees last summer, but the same could be said of Isaiah Thomas and after initially struggling vs. Chicago in the first round, IT’s Celtics seem to be rallying around the little big man once again through very different and challenging circumstances following the tragic passing of Thomas’ younger sister, Chyna.
The Wizards have proven that they’ve got a good team that should be on the upswing—a healthy Bradley Beal will continue to make a major difference—but the Celtics didn’t wind up in the captain’s chair by accident. Al Horford has made a sizable difference in the ceiling of this team, and this is all about finding a realistic path to try and get by LeBron.
Houston Rockets (3) vs. San Antonio Spurs (2): Spurs in six.
In The Claw vs. The Beard, we’re getting two MVP candidates going head-to-head for a chance to influence the results and move one step closer to the NBA glory.
Houston can be absolutely relentless on the offensive end of the court, but this is a beatable team with its flaws and Gregg Popovich’s Spurs are notorious for exploiting any mistakes that the opposition makes. It’s awfully hard to go against the team with the best player on the floor, and Leonard has been transcendent on both offense and defense as the Spurs have moved through their first season without Tim Duncan.
Utah Jazz (5) vs. Golden State Warriors (1): Warriors in five.
The Jazz answered more questions about their potential future than the Clippers did regarding theirs in the Round 1 upset, but Gordon Hayward and Co. are about to run into a buzz saw that is the Golden State Warriors. A small part of me wants to believe that the Jazz can sneak out a couple of games, but the overwhelming majority of me believes this could easily be a four-game sweep. We’ll split the difference and say five games for this series.
Question 3: Assuming the Pacers decide to move in a different direction, give us some potential trade destinations for Paul George.
I love playing this game. Here we go.
Boston Celtics: Danny Ainge has plenty of assets to make a potential deal—including the Brooklyn pick that should be on the table—but it feels like the Celtics might be more active in the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes than any other.
Los Angeles Lakers: There has been far too much smoke for there not to be at least a small fire, and Magic Johnson has made no secret of the fact that the team is clearly interested in acquiring PG-13’s next feature film at the Hollywood box office.
Denver Nuggets: The Nuggets have been searching for their next star forever, and although the franchise has finally found one internally in the rapidly rising Nikola Jokic, this already interesting team could get fascinating with George also on the roster.
Philadelphia 76ers: It’s admittedly a long shot, but imagine a scenario where the Sixers have two top five picks, a desire to deal and can find a way to pair George alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Think that might ignite Philly’s crowd?
Wish List Teams: Memphis Grizzlies, Oklahoma City, Phoenix Suns
To say the Lakers are in a tough spot with Deng and Mozgov might be underselling the problem given the magnitude of the investments. The two 2016 signees are still owed a whopping $100-plus million combined, but even with that absurd figure in mind it’s impossible to justify minutes for either player ahead of the Lakers’ youth.
Luol Deng’s best position is power forward—a spot he’s been vocal about wanting to spend more time at next season if he remains in LA—but that seat is claimed with Julius Randle going nowhere and Larry Nance continuing to improve. Brandon Ingram’s presence combined with Deng’s dissatisfaction while playing the three makes that an unrealistic option as well, so there are more questions than answers when it comes to Deng’s future in the purple and gold. He’s got value in the locker room from a leadership standpoint, but you don’t pay approximately $18 million per season for that and that alone.
There’s no doubting that the Lakers bid against themselves in securing Mozgov’s services, but he’s not a purposeless player and should be able to carve out a role on this Lakers team. There are real improvements that the big man needs to make, most notably in his sustained engagement at both ends of the court, but neither he nor Ivica Zubac is a 30-plus minute per night player. Luke Walton does like to go small, but the Lakers can’t do that against every team and having two true seven-footers would be a nice weapon for Walton to have in his arsenal.
Question 5: Will the Chicago Bulls finally trade jimmy Butler and embrace the rebuild?
Dwyane Wade was the one to vocalize it, but every member of that Bulls organization—Butler included—undoubtedly wants a “defined direction” for the franchise. And if anyone from that front office is listening, allow me to voice my opinion: It’s time to start over, and that includes the front office makeup/structure.
This is a club that faces an uncertain future, and that’s with or without Butler in the fold. There’s nothing to suggest that this front office should be in charge of the rebuilding process, but there is also no evidence that replacements are being considered, either.
If the Bulls do move Butler, they have to get a package that yields multiple young players—at least one of which has to be a legitimate potential building block—as well as one first-round pick at minimum. Two-way superstars are the NBA’s rare fruit.