Buy or Sell: NBA Playoffs, MLB Home Run Derby and Mike Conley
On this week’s edition of “Buy or Sell,” we’re changing things up a bit. Instead of your standard three people giving one question each and the other two answering, we’ll have all three answered by everyone.
So let’s jump right into it, as we have plenty to discuss that will give you a sneak peak of next season’s NBA standings. Dan, Mickayeen and I have plenty of thoughts about each of these topics. Whether or not we agree may surprise you.
The NBA will change the playoffs to the top 16 teams overall instead of the top eight from each conference?
Mickayeen: I buy this! I’m all for the best 16 teams going into the playoffs, regardless of conference. Here is my prediction for the top 16 teams in the NBA this upcoming season, in order (regular season):
1. Milwaukee Bucks – Greek Freak is only going to get better. They don’t have to worry about resting anyone during the regular season. They will be a force. Expect 60-plus wins again.
2. Denver Nuggets – They got 54 wins and the second seed in the west while losing the third-most players in the league due to injury, including three of their starters. Jokic and Murray will only get better, and Jerami Grant is an underrated addition.
3. Philadelphia 76ers – These guys arguably got better. Embiid and Simmons will have another year under their belt and should be even better than next year. With Jimmy Butler gone, who’ll take the big shot when they need it? That question is more important for the playoffs, though.
4. Utah Jazz – Read more detail about them in another question. If they stay healthy, they will be one of the toughest teams to beat in the league.
5. Los Angeles Clippers – Even though Kawhi and Paul George will potentially be injured/resting, they still have a great team around them to make the regular season work.
6. Houston Rockets – I’m taking the chance that the Harden/Westbrook combo will work out well, at least for this year. It’s tough to envision these two working initially, but I thought that same thing when CP3 went to Houston, and they were by far the closest team in the Western Conference to dethroning the dynastical Warriors.
7. Los Angeles Lakers – It’s tough because could LeBron take this regular season a bit more seriously from day one seeing what happened last year? If he does, he could get injured again—how many NBA minutes can one body take? If he doesn’t, he has AD to lean on now, and there is a world where AD just wrecks the league. He certainly has the talent to do so. But is the cast of role players minus LeBron as good as any team he had in New Orleans the last few years? Probably not.
8. Golden State Warriors – Let’s not fool ourselves—this version of the Warriors is not as good as the 73-win team pre-KD, even though the three main guys are still there. Klay is hurt, Draymond looked old last regular season. Steph is still great, but the supporting cast isn’t nearly as good as it has been in the last few years. I do think Steph can pull off an MVP-type season and they will ascend to this spot despite a poor cast around those three and D’Lo.
9. Portland Trailblazers – Dame and CJ are still great. I think overall they stayed stagnant with all the trades they made. Whiteside is a better defender than Kanter, so maybe they slightly improved if anything. But Dame and CJ are good enough to get them to this spot.
10. Boston Celtics – Finally, another team in the Eastern Conference. To be fair, I thought it was a toss-up between them and Portland. It’ll be interesting to see how Kemba does with an actual team around him. They also have the pieces to add another great player at the deadline, so it’ll be interesting to see how that goes.
11. Indiana Pacers – With Oladipo back, these guys will be really good. Losing Bogdanovic will sting a bit, but if Brogdon can stay healthy, they might even be higher up on this list.
12. San Antonio Spurs – Popp will have this team in the playoffs even in this format. He’s a genius and will probably make Trey Lyles an all-star caliber player.
13. Toronto Raptors – The Raptors lost their best player, obviously. They were 18-4 last year in games he sat out. They obviously won’t be that good, but they would be good enough with Siakam, Lowry and company to make the playoffs here.
14. Miami Heat – They would go up a bit on this list if they are able to acquire CP3 from the Thunder, but I really like Jimmy Butler as a player and think they have enough around him to be able to compete pretty well in the league.
15. Dallas Mavericks – Kristaps and Luka—a match made in foreign-player heaven. They will be really good next season, but their ascension is another year away. They squeak in with this format though.
16. New Orleans Pelicans – Not just because of Zion. These guys are deep, and that matters a lot. I do like Lonzo as a PG, Ingram can score, and the Redick and Favors additions make this a really fun team. If all these pieces work together well, they will probably be better than this and might actually push for a playoff spot the way it’s currently constructed.
Rahim: This has been a topic that has crossed my mind for several years now. Once LeBron James left the Eastern Conference last year, it became now clear. That’s why I buy this idea!
This has been something that should have changed years ago. Let’s go back to the 2014-15 playoffs. We saw a 45-37 Oklahoma City Thunder team finish 9th in the Western Conference, which would have earned them a playoff spot ahead of the Boston Celtics (40-42) and Brooklyn Nets (38-44).
The following season was the same, in favor of the Chicago Bulls (42-40), who missed out on the playoffs when a team like the Houston Rockets finished 41-41 in the Western Conference and still made it.
The 2016-17 playoffs would have been fine, as the Bulls, Portland Trail Blazers and Miami Heat all finished the season with a 41-41 record, which meant one team would’ve still missed the playoffs.
I think the 2017-2018 playoffs is what really got people thinking this needs to change. We saw a 46-36 Denver Nuggets team miss out on the playoffs in the Western Conference, but would’ve taken the spot of the Washington Wizards had it been the top 16 teams.
This past playoff was finished in terms of the right teams making it, but instead of seeing the Los Angeles Clippers face the Golden State Warriors in the first round, it would’ve been the Brooklyn Nets. After seeing what has happened in free agency, that would’ve been interesting to see. Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder would have had a first-round match with Joel Embiid’s Philadelphia 76ers. Now that would’ve been more fun to watch without LeBron James in the playoffs.
This upcoming season, the two best teams are likely to be both LA teams, and here is where I rank them in the top 16.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
2. Milwaukee Bucks
3. Los Angeles Clippers
4. Philadelphia 76ers
5. Denver Nuggets
6. Houston Rockets
7. Utah Jazz
8. Portland Trail Blazers
9. Indiana Pacers
10. Toronto Raptors
11. Golden State Warriors
12. Brooklyn Nets
13. Boston Celtics
14. San Antonio Spurs
15. Orlando Magic
16. Dallas Mavericks
Dan: I buy that the NBA should/will change the playoff format that makes it the 16 best teams in the league, rather than eight from each conference. This is really based on the fact that the Western Conference has so many good teams who could end up missing the conference playoffs while teams in the Eastern Conference, who have way worse records, are making the playoffs because the Eastern Conference is weaker.
It will only create better competition in the league, especially with how common super teams are now. I mean seriously, imagine LeBron James and Anthony Davis taking on Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in a seven game NBA Finals series in the Staples center.
Or one of the LA teams facing the Golden State Warriors in the finals. It would drastically change the game in such a huge way, and I truly think it needs to happen.
With that being said, here are my top 16 teams right now with the new format.
1. LA Clippers
2. Milwaukee Bucks
3. Philadelphia 76ers
4. LA Lakers
5. Golden State Warriors
6. Brooklyn Nets
7. Denver Nuggets
8. Portland Trail Blazers
9. Toronto Raptors
10. Houston Rockets
11. Utah Jazz
12. Indiana Pacers
13. Detroit Pistons
14. New Orleans Pelicans
15. Boston Celtics
16. San Antonio Spurs
After Monday night, the Home Run Derby SHOULD change its format?
Rahim: I will also be buying into this. With the way the MLB has formatted the Home Run Derby, it’s not as interesting anymore. I liked it better when it was no head-to-head. I get they want to have an American League versus National League Championship, but why take away from the potential slugfest.
This past Monday we saw Toronto Blue Jays’ rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. slug it out with Los Angeles Dodgers’ Joc Pederson in the AL finals. Guerrero totaled 91 homers in the derby and break records that Dan will tell you more about.
I would love to see it go back to the normal every batter against each other, and the players who have more homers at the end of each of round not only go onto the next round, but their home runs carry over with them.
Dan: I buy the Home Run Derby format needs to be changed after Monday night.
If we are being real here, Toronto Blue Jays’ rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit a total of 91 homers and set a new single-round record in each of the first two rounds (29 and 40). The 91 homers were also a new total record, but he still lost to New York Mets rookie Pete Alonso because of the head to head format.
Alonso had a total of 57 home runs. In what world should a guy who hits 34 more home runs than his competitor lose the competition? Yes, I realize it’s always been like that and the same case happened to Josh Hamilton in 2008. The total number of home runs hit Monday night was 312, and that shattered the old record, which was set within the last 2-3 years if I’m correct.
The game of Baseball is changing, especially when it comes to the Home Run Derby, and the format must change with it. There’s no other way to say this, but Vlad. Jr. should have easily won that Home Run Derby based off of his total amount of Home Runs throughout the night. It’s ridiculous to see a guy in the home run derby when his competitor had more home runs in the first two rounds than the winner had the entire derby. It must be changed.
Mickayeen: I sell this. Bracket style is everything we like about sports in America: March madness, playoffs, etc. are all great because of the bracket style. Everyone will remember Vlad more than Alonso when it’s all said and done anyway.
Will Mike Conley help the Utah Jazz propel in the West, or is he simply overrated?
Dan: I sell that Mike Conley will help the Utah Jazz propel in the West any more than they did last season. This team is Donovan Mitchell’s, and it’s going to stay that way. Simply put, Mike Conley may be one of the most over-hyped players in the league.
He has been in this league since the 2007-2008 season, so 12 seasons in total. He has never been an all-star, and his only accolade is being on the 2012-2013 All-Defensive Team. He’s never been on an All-NBA team either.
In 12 seasons as probably the Memphis Grizzlies top “go-to guy,” he’s averaged 14.9 points per game, 3.0 rebounds per game, 5.7 assists per game, with an average of two turnovers while shooting 44 percentage from the field, but yet he makes 33 million dollars a season and has one of the largest contracts in NBA history.
I’m not buying the Mike Conley hype simply off these facts. The 4th overall pick in the 2007 draft is one of the richest men in the NBA, and he has nothing to show for it other than the stats that a lot of bench players probably average and no All-Star or all-NBA appearances. This guy has no accolades and average stats. He gives me no reason to believe that he’s going to make any sort of monumental impact on this Jazz team.
Mickayeen: To answer the Conley question, you have to first look at the team he’s going to. It’s true that the Jazz were the fifth seed in the Western Conference by the end of last season, so it doesn’t really seem like one or two players will make a big difference, but let’s look at how they ended: Since January 5th, they were 32-12, which was the second-best record in the Western Conference; only the Warriors were better during that stretch, and only by one game.
It’s not completely out of the question that they could be up there again. The two LA teams definitely look good, but they will likely be resting a lot during the regular season, which will open a path to a team like the Jazz to pick up a top-three seed in the conference.
Now let’s look at who Conley will be replacing in Utah and compare the two: Rubio had an average of 12.7/3.6/6.1 last season. Conley had 21.1/3.4/6.4. Those are just surface numbers and already Conley is a huge improvement. Conley is more efficient, especially from three-point land. Not to mention, he has never been on a team nearly this talented, especially with someone as talented as Mitchell, who is able to create his own shot.
Mitchell will take some offensive pressure off of Conley. Not to mention their addition of Bojan Bogdanovic, who will space the floor and make the Jazz an extremely dangerous team adding to the likes of Joe Ingles, who is a career 40 percent three-point shooter.
To hedge my bet a bit, I will say that this team could run into a lot of injuries, but so could any team. All things being equal, I do think the Jazz are a top-three team in the Western Conference.
Rahim: I am going to sell this! It’s actually way easy if you ask me. I have be a fan of Mike Conley and I believe that he is a better player than he gets credit for. However, I don’t think the Utah Jazz or any Western Conference team will help that matter.
You see, the Western Conference is so stacked with a number of great point guards like Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, and maybe Chris Paul, that Conley is never the first choice at getting an All-Star spot. Don’t forget to add D’Angelo Russell in the mix of point guards now. So let’s not focus on him being an All-Star, but I don’t think he’s a bust either.
Conley had to battle through some devastating injuries and the decline of a once competitive Memphis Grizzlies team. The trade to the Utah Jazz gives the Jazz the point guard they have long been waiting for. I don’t see how Conley can help a team like the Jazz propel further, especially when it’s going to be tough to beat the Los Angeles teams in a seven game series anyways.
I do think the Jazz can compete for one of the top five spots in the Western Conference, but that’s all they are right now with the way the conference is looking.
- Should the NBA change the playoff system to the top 16 teams instead of best eight in a conference?
- Does the Home Run Derby format need to be changed?
- Can Mike Conley propel the Utah Jazz to the next level?