First and foremost, I want to start this mailbag by thanking those who have made it possible to roll out this year—that’s you, the readers. Without your regular Twitter participation, enjoyable questions and willingness to participate, this simply wouldn’t be possible. The feedback I’ve received from those who have been nice enough to support the cause has been (mostly) positive, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to be able to bend your ear about a topic I greatly enjoy discussing.
After the first 82 games saw Russell Westbrook defy reality, James Harden lead a revolution, Kawhi Leonard seamlessly take over for Tim Duncan and LeBron James remind everyone that he’s not ready to cede his kingdom just yet let’s have a dynamic, unpredictable postseason filled with drama, buzzer-beaters and upset specials.
And with that…the mail has arrived.
Question 1: Let’s start with what everyone probably wants to know—give us your first-round playoff picks.
Warriors vs. Blazers: Warriors in 5.
Spurs vs. Grizzlies: Spurs in 4.
Rockets vs. Thunder: Rockets in 7.
Clippers vs. Jazz: Clippers in 6.
Celtics vs. Bulls: Celtics in 5.
Raptors vs. Bucks: Raptors in 6.
Wizards vs. Hawks: Wizards in 5.
Cavs vs. Pacers: Cavs in 5.
Question 2: Who rises into and falls out of the first round of fantasy drafts next season in a 12-team, nine-category league?
There is nothing under-the-radar about IT’s game anymore, and Jokic isn’t even a debatable first-round talent at this point in the game. As for Wall, he’s clearly established himself as an elite point guard in a league that refused to hand him that title for an extended period of time.
Paul’s inclination to miss important time paired with the rise in first-round options may force the veteran to slide in drafts, while both George and Lillard entered the 2016-17 campaign as borderline (think back-end sandwich picks) first-round talents. As good as PG13 and Dame are, it’s awfully hard to justify taking either guy ahead of other names like Jokic, Hassan Whiteside or DeMarcus Cousins.
I am so glad someone asked this question because I’ve got a lot to say.
Where, exactly, is the accountability from Jackson for his undeniable failure in his current role? Where, exactly, is the willingness of Jackson to accept his role in the process—his substantial share of responsibility—for what has transpired with the Knicks under his watch? And when, exactly, are we going to see any evidence of this rebuilding project actually launch off the ground? Will Jackson even still be around?
There was not a mandate to re-sign Melo in 2014. There was nobody demanding that Anthony’s new deal included a no-trade clause. This is Jackson’s mess—that he willingly inherited for the tidy sum of $12 million annually—and it still looks like a disaster. The only long-term building blocks currently on the roster are Kristaps Porzingis and Willy Hernangomez, two players Jackson backed into almost by accident.
There is a disconnect between Jackson, his players, the fans and the media, and he cannot continue to get by on past accomplishments alone. There is no doubting his success as an NBA head coach, but that’s not the role he’s fulfilling and he hasn’t earned the right as a front office executive to simply scoff at those who do not share his vision.
So who is really to blame for the current state of the Knicks?
Melo’s most recent social media post says it all for most people—myself included. Jackson needs to look in the mirror.
Question 4: Who are some players that you expect to be shopped heavily this summer?
Jahlil Okafor: Sixers GM Bryan Colangelo confirmed that the team will continue to listen to offers for the big man. It will be hard to move him for cents on the dollar, but Richaun Holmes has earned the right to enter next year as the primary backup behind Joel Embiid while Okafor’s best chance at NBA success will come outside of Philly. Both parties would benefit from a fresh start.
Jimmy Butler: Just like we saw during the 2016 draft, the Bulls could (should?) opt to fully embrace the rebuild and deal Butler in an effort to expedite the process. It’s going to be awfully difficult to get anything close to equal value for a two-way player who does it all, but this franchise needs to start over and Butler may be ready for a new start himself.
Carmelo Anthony: See question three, specifically in regards to Jackson’s view on Melo’s future with the Knicks.
Reggie Jackson: Stan Van Gundy has no choice but to say that he’ll think Jackson will bounce back, but in reality, SVG and the rest of the NBA know that the Pistons cannot afford to make R-Jax and Andre Drummond their two highest paid players with the hope of winning anything substantial. And if one of the two needs to go, house money says it’s the point guard.
Brandon Knight: The Suns would have traded him for a bag of basketballs at the deadline if Phoenix could find a taker, but they instead shut him down after Knight’s refusal to play down the stretch. Good luck with this one, Mr. McDonough.
Question 5: What storyline(s) will you be watching with the most intrigue this offseason?
Where will the Lakers get their next franchise face? So much of this may depend on whether or not Los Angeles keeps its first-round pick, but the Lakers may already have their next superstar in the building in Brandon Ingram.
Where does Carmelo Anthony land & what can Phil Jackson get in return? A superstar who has started the journey of embracing his next destination, an executive who openly wants him to leave and a restless fan base that hasn’t seen a winner in New York since the Mike Woodson era. The script writes itself.
Will the Denver Nuggets go all in? The Nuggets have been sniffing around a blockbuster trade for a couple of seasons now, and this team certainly has some intriguing pieces in order to facilitate a deal.
What does the Los Angeles Clippers future look like? Blake Griffin and Chris Paul can both hit free agency, the club doesn’t really have any youth capable of growing into new and substantial roles if one of the big two depart and Doc Rivers doesn’t have much money to spend on external improvements in order to fill any other area(s) of need. For a team that has been really good but not quite good enough, how does L.A. get over the hump?
Do the Boston Celtics finally make the trade? Something has to give here, especially if Danny Ainge is gifted the first overall pick (thanks, Brooklyn).
Some other questions to consider:
How does LeBron James respond if the Cavs don’t win it all?
What will free agency look like for Jrue Holiday?
Where do the Knicks go from here?
How can the Thunder make meaningful improvements around Russell Westbrook?