B/R NBA Roundtable: The Scoring Title, Rookies of Interest, and the MVP
Welcome to the B/R NBA Round Table. Our four lead writers, Ethan Sherwood Strauss, Holly MacKenzie, Bethlehem Shoals and Rob Mahoney have answered three questions about the NBA. Read their responses to the questions below and chime in on the conversation.
Do we place too much value in the NBA Scoring Title? Or not enough?
Strauss: The value is waning, and I'm fine with that. It's a fairly arbitrary distinction, and basketball is better for people respecting say, PER. I just want the right incentives in place. If people feel compelled to score for its own sake, then people feel compelled to play a worse version of hoops.
MacKenzie: I don't think it's an issue of valuing the award too much. You don't win this award unless you're one of the best players in the game. Those players have to be valued. They're superstars. This award isn't as meaningful as an MVP or a DPOY award that has something to do with the wins and losses of a team, but averaging more points than any other player in the best league in the world definitely means something.
Shoals: When players are as close as they are this year, the actual winner doesn't matter. Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant both had totally awesome years and deserve huge kudos for scoring the living crap out of the basketball. I don't think we want to steer this into "are scorers overrated" territory, since if there's anywhere that debate shouldn't be taking place, it's at the top of the scoring rankings with dudes like Durant and Kobe. Elite scorers are among the league's best players. Are they overrated?
Mahoney: I suppose, like most things, that depends on who you ask. The race for the scoring title still manages to draw attention in some realms, but as Ethan mentioned, the glitz isn't quite what it used to be. That's probably for the best; honors like the scoring title are fun, but they really only create an artificial sense of drama. The league already has plenty of intrigue to go 'round, and rather than tabulate how many points a player would need to take the crown, we should surely point our interest elsewhere.
Do the Lakers make it out of the first round without Metta World Peace?
Strauss: They're still big, yes? The Lakers will not make the finals, but they should scramble out of the first round. Much as I love Kenneth, "the Manimal" Faried; Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol should be too much for Denver to handle down low.
MacKenzie: Yes. Metta World Peace shone in Kobe Bryant's absence and reminded everyone of his ability to score, but on the Lakers he is a role player. He understands this role and usually plays within it. In the first round of the playoffs, the Lakers should be able to take care of business with a role player missing. Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum…if one of L.A.'s "big three" had been suspended, this would be a different conversation.
Shoals: Sure. He's been playing well lately, and that's obviously been part of the Lakers' upswing. But even if he's been scoring, and on a good night, he's still a very strong defender, Artest is only like the fourth-or fifth-best player on that team. When they need every last bit of their assets—like when they face another contender—he will come into play. Kobe, Bynum and Gasol should be enough to take care of Round 1, even if they draw a strong opponent.
Mahoney: As fun as these Denver Nuggets are, I'm having a hard time piecing together how the Lakers would go about losing this series. Kenneth Faried's activity shouldn't be confused with good defense, and so long as L.A. works their easy mismatches, they shouldn't have too much of a problem.
That said, the Nuggets have enough firepower to turn this thing into a shootout, and the battle to control the game's pace should be pretty intriguing, even if the series itself doesn't stretch beyond five or six games.
Which rookies are you most excited to see develop over the next few seasons?
Strauss: Kyrie (Irving), Kawhi (Leonard) and Kenneth (Faried). All three are exciting for different reasons. Irving's an emerging superstar, Kevin Johnson with a crafty, change-of-speed handle. Leonard has suddenly sprouted a three-point shot and could be a defensive force for years to come. Faried is ferocious, an undersized rebounder who looks like an impressionist's blur out there. Love them all, let's see the story unfold.
MacKenzie: ISAIAH THOMAS.
And, everyone else, too. Seriously, though, Thomas was the last pick of the draft and has been the third-best rookie this season. Pretty awesome. Of course, watching Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson continue to grow and develop to lead Cleveland will be fun. Also: Kenneth Faried in Denver because he is everything that is awesome.
Shoals: I am most interested in seeing just how truly bad this class goes down as. It's almost mind-boggling.
Mahoney: Hard to argue with Irving, Faried, Leonard or Thomas, honestly. But to me, Ricky Rubio stands out as a player poised for exponential growth. He already has both incredible skill and a good grasp on the nuances of team defense, but will only grow into his game as he learns to pick his spots as a shooter and further discern the individual tendencies of his teammates. Rubio has the most difficult aspects of the game already figured out, and once he fine tunes the specifics, he could very well stand as one of the league's top playmakers.
Who is your 2012 MVP and why?
Strauss: LeBron James, for the same reason, every year: He's better than everyone else.
MacKenzie: LeBron James because he is the best player in the NBA.
Shoals: Kevin Durant. LeBron isn't going to get one until he has a ring, even if he is having one of the most statistically unstoppable seasons ever. Not to mention, the Heat have had their baffling dry spells. Durant keeps improving; the Thunder are more unified than ever, and dude won the scoring title. It just feels right. It's his time.
Mahoney: LeBron James. Let's not overthink things.
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