Last week, we brought you the return of one of my personal favorites, “Buy or Sell.” Why is it a favorite? Because it allows us to have a conversation on some of the biggest things happening in Sports.
This week, we take a look at the chances of seeing if there’s a real threat to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference, as the NBA returns from the All-Star break. Mickayeen, Joel and I talk about whether the Oklahoma City Thunder are that threat. We also talk about whether one of the best receivers in the NFL will help an NFC team be a favorite next season if they were to trade for him. And there’s also the talk about if a struggling Big East team could win the conference after going 3-1 against the top two teams.
Mickayeen: The Oklahoma City Thunder are the biggest threat to the Warriors this season.
Joel: I’ll buy OKC being the biggest threat to the Warriors in the Western Conference.
People thought OKC would be the biggest threat to the Warriors last season. The problem was, they didn’t meet in the playoffs to prove if that was the case. So first off, if OKC is their biggest threat, they have to make a run in the playoffs so they’ll actually meet.
If they do end up meeting, I think there’s a good chance OKC can win. So far this season, the Thunder and Warriors have split their two meetings 1-1. The Warriors came out victorious in the first game, but that was also the first game of the season, and the Thunder only lost by eight. About a month later, OKC destroyed the Warriors 123-95.
We all know that as the season has gone on, Paul George has only been getting better. He’s for sure going to be the key to OKC beating the Warriors if they do meet. He’s going to be matched up against Kevin Durant. As one of the best defenders in the league, he can help take Durant away, at least somewhat.
Then there’s the matchup of Westbrook vs. Curry. Curry is by far a better shooter, but Westbrook’s effort is unmatched by pretty much everyone. Curry can outshoot Westbrook, but I don’t think he can keep up with him.
DeMarcus Cousins may be a better center than Steven Adams, but I think that’s a matchup where Adams can do well at limiting the impact Cousins can make.
That leaves matchups against Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. I’m not worried about Green offensively. He’s averaging just 7.0 points per game. He’s a great defender, but nobody OKC has at that position is going to be highly used in the offense anyway.
Then there’s Klay Thompson on Jerami Grant. Grant is a good defender, and we all know Thompson has been known to have cold spells. If he’s bothered by a good defender, things will be tough on him.
That’s just the starting lineup. OKC has a starting caliber PG on the bench in Dennis Schroder. I think the bench is where OKC can get into trouble against the Warriors, but Schroder can keep them afloat.
Overall, the key, in my opinion, is Paul George. He’d have to continue his high-level play for OKC to really have a chance. With him playing like that, OKC is the biggest threat to the Warriors.
RahimAli: Entering the season, the Warriors went from being a great NBA team who won back-to-back titles to getting even better with the addition of dramatic big man, DeMarcus Cousins.
What you may have forgotten was that Warriors star Kevin Durant did the same thing three years ago and left the Oklahoma City furious, as he left Russell Westbrook high and dry.
It’s been a rough road for the Thunder, as they’ve struggled in the playoffs after Durant left. They haven’t been back to the NBA Finals since James Harden was a part of that team. If you wonder what could’ve come of that had those three stayed together, we do too.
We discussed it in last week’s article, so feel free to chime in on whether you buy or sell on that.
But since Durant left, the Thunder have been seeking revenge on him and the Warriors, and there’s no better way to do so than by beating them in the playoffs.
That’s why I buy that the Thunder are a significant threat for the Warriors this year. As Joel said, they were a threat last year too, but their chemistry wasn’t all there in the playoffs, as they had an early exit. And yes, the Warriors have the better team on paper, but Joel gave you a great break down by match up. It’s safe to say he may be right. While Westbrook continues to set records with all the triple-doubles, his team has gotten much better. George is shooting lights out from three and playing great defense, as he has put his name in the mix for MVP. Grant and Adams have gotten a lot better this season too. I thought Adams should’ve been in the All-Star game as well.
And while I’m giving my opinion, I think Westbrook is a far better point guard than Curry ever will be. Westbrook and George could do what everyone wants them to do, which is “beat the dubs.”
For all this to happen, the Thunder have to avoid the major setbacks in recent playoff history. Oh, and don’t forget that the bench roles of Nerlens Noel and Dennis Schroder will play a big factor in their threat to the Warriors.
Joel: If the Bears traded for Antonio Brown, they’d be the favorite in the NFC.
RahimAli: I buy the Bears as an NFC favorite with the trade for Antonio Brown, because they would have one of the best wide receivers in the game to play on the opposite side of one of the best defensive players in the game, Khalil Mack.
The Bears pulled out all the stops last season to make themselves a contender and won the division for the first time since 2010. They were looking like a real threat and didn’t necessarily need the receiver help as Taylor Gabriel, Allen Robinson, and rookie Anthony Miller all played their roles nicely. But they could use a big receiver like Brown, especially since Allen Robinson hasn’t been the same with his injury record from Jacksonville.
Let’s not forget to mention that QB Mitchell Trubisky had a Pro-Bowl year that included a game where he threw for six touchdowns. Trubisky had an excellent second year at QB under first-year head coach Matt Nagy, and we could expect them to be a contender for many years to come.
The addition of Brown will allow them to spread the offense more and come up with more exciting names for the simplest plays. However, Brown will be a bit pricey for the Bears to inquire, and I think it may come down to whether or not they are willing to trade away some of the younger defenders on the teams.
But you let us know what you think about Antonio Brown and if he would be a good fit with the Nagy Bears?
Mickayeen: Sell. This one is so interesting. As far as drama goes, the Bears stayed on the lower end of it last season. Their biggest drama (which was a HUGE headache for fantasy owners) was whether Cohen or Howard was going to carry the rock in any different game.
They remained relatively injury-free, with none of their big names missing a ton of time. Khalil Mack, Mitchell Trubisky, and Eddie Jackson all missed two games with injury, while Allen Robinson missed three. Other than that, Kyle Long was on IR for eight weeks. That’s not a lot of big injuries when putting in perspective on the rest of the NFL.
They also had LB Danny Trevathan, a crucial part of their defense, healthy all 16 games for the first time since he became a Bear in 2016. So just the chance factor says they probably won’t be as lucky in 2019, even with Antonio Brown (who has never had a significant injury and is on the wrong side of 30). Also, they have to play a first-place schedule this year.
Even though the Rams weren’t a problem for them last season, you can bet Sean McVay will have a counter for the defense used by both the Bears in week 14 and the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Speaking of defense, they lost what was one of the most important parts of the defense already: defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio. We don’t know what this defense looks like without Fangio, but I would argue my point by pointing to the Denver Broncos of 2016. The year after winning the Super Bowl, they went 9-7 and 2nd in the league in scoring defense. The next season, without Wade Phillips, but with pretty much the same team intact, they went 5-11 and were 15th in the league in scoring defense.
You can’t find a big difference, if any, in personnel on the field. They lost TJ Ward, who was injured all 2017, replaced him with Justin Simmons, and added Domata Peko, which were the only changes in starters. Coaching matters and if you hear the Bears players talk about it, losing Fangio hurt.
I still think the Saints are the team to beat. They are the most balanced team in the NFC, and at the end of the day, I trust Brees more than I trust Mitch.
RahimAli: After going 3-1 on the season against Villanova and Marquette, St John’s could win the Big East outright bid!
Joel: I believe St. John’s could win the Big East bid, but I’m going to sell on them doing it.
While going 3-1 against the top two teams in the Big East is impressive, we have to take a look at their record against other Big East opponents too.
Overall, St. John’s is 7-7 in conference play. That means they have a record of 4-6 against the teams who aren’t the top two teams in the conference. Outside of Villanova and Marquette, the only other Big East opponent St. John’s would have to play with a winning conference record is Seton Hall, who is currently 7-7. Everyone else in the conference has a losing conference record, so them going 4-6 against every other conference opponent isn’t so impressive.
If they make it to the conference championship game against either Villanova or Marquette, it looks like they’ll have a good chance to win the Big East bid. However, it’s making it there that could be the problem for them, as they haven’t played particularly well against the other Big East teams.
Mickayeen: Sell. Honestly, I don’t have anything to add over what Joel has already said on the subject. Like Kevin Garnett, the modern-day Confucius, said, “anything is possible.” But I don’t see it happening with their poor record against the worst teams in the conference. They are 7-7 in conference play, and .500 conference record just will not get the job done.
And there you have it! Now, what do you think?
- Could the Thunder actually be a real threat to the Warriors success?
- Should the Chicago Bears consider trading for WR Antonio Brown?
- Despite their conference record, can St John’s win the Big East outright?