In this week's Three-Man Weave, Will Strickland and Duane Watson of TSN 1050's 1 On 1 With Will & Duane are joined by veteran NBA scribe Darren Andrade to discuss Kevin Durant's quandary, ponder what the "luckiest" team in The Association should do with the #1 pick in the Draft... again and test the temperature in hiring coaches for coachless teams.
With LeBron James and Dwyane Wade's 22 point performance in the fourth quarter of Game 2, are they the deadliest two-man tandem in the NBA Playoffs? What does that mean for the Pacers?
Strickland: Is this a rhetorical question? Two proven playoff commodities and two champions. Miami at home with The King and Three will offer little to no chance for the Pacers to win this pivotal game. And even with a concussion-less George, a healthy Wade and LeBron will be the ultimate x-factors against Indy and any team they may face next in the NBA Finals.
Andrade: By the force of nature that is LeBron James, yes, he and Dwyane Wade are the deadliest.With all due respect to Wade, there are lots of two guards LBJ could team with and instantly become the "deadliest duo in the NBA." He's that much better than the world. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook? Chris Paul and Blake Griffin? DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry? The numbers are there, but this is about timing and impact...and rings. Critics say LBJ has to do too much for the Heat, but the fact is that the longer he can do that, the longer Wade (and Ray Allen) can fill in the gaps so beautifully. Does that shorten his career while he extends Wade's? Maybe, but it's all for the cause in Miami. Game 2's comeback win was vintage LBJ/Wade wait-and-kill mode and it's about as deadly a thing that I've seen in the NBA in the last 10 years in this, their fourth straight Eastern Conference Final.
Watson: Indeed. LeBron James is always in the discussion when it comes to deadliest players in the league and DWade's 2013-14 NBA season, aka "The Rest & Recuperation Tour," did wonders for him. Only playing in 54 of the Heat's 82 games, this campaign was all about prepping him for the playoffs. In the Eastern Conference Finals, he's averaging 25 points a game and shooting 64.7 per cent from the field. What does this mean for the Pacers? Even if Paul George's concussion, knocked him into a Freaky Friday/Thunderstruck-like exchange with a playoff-primed Reggie Miller, it wouldn't be enough.
What, if anything, can Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder do to make this Western Conference Finals a series?
Strickland: Ummm... Compete? Pray? Ask his Mom, aka "The Real MVP," to suit up and fill the lanes with him? Really, the best Durant can do now, even with the "revelation" that PF Serge Ibaka is now miraculously listed as day-to-day, is to show and prove his MVP status by putting greater pressure on the Spurs by attacking the basket relentlessly. He'll craft more scoring and free throw opportunities for himself. Additionally, KD can create open shots for youngsters Perry Jones III and Jeremy Lamb, as well as the not-so-young Caron Butler and Derek Fisher. Despite his greatness, the jury is still out on Kevin Wayne Durant, fairly or unfairly so.
Andrade: More like, what, if anything, will the Spurs forget to do to ALLOW the Thunder back into the series? Without Serge Ibaka, there is less defence against a San Antonio team that can score with the best of them. The Spurs have averaged 117 points per game vs OKC in two games and held them to just 77 in the second. Tim Duncan is averaging 20, Kawhi Leonard keeps emerging and Gregg Popovich has still managed to keep everyone's minutes down in a Western Conference Final. The Durant/Westbrook tandem scored a 30 combined points on 13-40 shooting from the field in Game 2. What can the Thunder do? Durant's gotta bring out the cape! KD's gotta go 2K, other-worldly. That's it. Old samurai teaching: "Common sense will not accomplish great things. Simply become insane and desperate."
Watson: Focus on cracking the top 50 in NBA Career playoff points, as he currently sits at #53 with 1997 points, Jason Kidd is #50 with 2043. Even if Durant plays twice as good as his MVP campaign, it won't be enough. KD and Westbrook need the support of their teammates. The Spurs have made it abundantly clear that, even IF Serge Ibaka walks through that door, it won't be enough.
What will Cleveland do with the #1 pick in the NBA Draft for the second year in a row and third time in four years?
Strickland: Draft Andrew Wiggins to create Team Canada South along with fellow Canucks Tristan Thompson & Anthony Bennett... and that may be the wrong move for long term success for a franchise not synonymous with long term success. What they SHOULD do? Despite the red flags of back issues for a 19-year-old 7-footer who may still be growing, draft #TheColonelsSon and Wiggins's former teammate at Kansas, C Joel Embiid. The Cavs can't mess this up, too...can they?
Andrade: The Cavaliers will draft Andrew Wiggins. How could they not? They certainly can't get cute like they did with Anthony Bennett last year - a good gamble, but not for a first-overall pick. Wiggins, paired with a healthy Kyrie Irving, could make things go electric in a hurry quickly in Ohio and the Cavs have the front court assets to move should they wish to compliment that tag-team further. There's also Dion Waiters as an on-the-trading-block guy that could help return a much needed veteran. Joel Embiid is tempting, but the upside to Wiggins is just so much higher. He's the closest thing to replacing LeBron James via draft this franchise has had since The King's departure. Whatcha think all the picks is for?!? Wig-GINS by the door... no beef no more!
Watson: The Cavaliers have the most injury-prone All-Star in the league with Kyrie Irving, who missed fewer than 20 games for the first time in his three-career this season, (he missed 10). They can't afford to have Joel Embiid out, as well, with potential back issues. They will take Andrew Wiggins, who will slide right in at the three-spot as a proven commodity.
If you're Masai Ujiri, who do the Toronto Raptors select with the 20th pick of the 2014 NBA Draft?
Strickland: Front office wizard Ujiri will find a quality young replacement for the potential loss of free agent point guards Kyle Lowry and/or Greivis Vasquez. With the out-of-the-blue success of the long, rangy, athletic 2014 Rookie Of The Year Michael Carter-Williams, I'd look at UCLA's Kyle Anderson, the 6'8" point guard with a solid all-around skill set that can be enhanced with a professional setting, improved conditioning/strength training, diet and skill-enhancement repetition.
Andrade: With Tyler Ennis's stock wildly fluctuating from lottery pick to late first-rounder, the Raptors could realistically see him on the board with the 20th pick and would have a cheap star-potential steal and insurance at the PG for what looks to be an expensive Kyle Lowry situation. Do they have to keep the pick? Sure, the ill-fated Roy Hibbert for Nathan Jawai (and others) draft night swap with Indiana in 2008 haunted the Raps until Jonas Valanciunas showed up, but this time moving the pick, before or after it's made, makes more sense. The Raptors had eight players with three or fewer years NBA experience last season, including keepers Terrence Ross, Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez and Valanciunas. Do they really need to get younger? The Raptors are in a delicate place. Riding the Drake-era wave is essential for an organization with just one playoff series victory in its 20-year history. Packaging the pick with grease like Tyler Hansbrough, Landry Fields and/or Chuck Hayes might fetch a more dynamic piece that helps take better advantage of their window.
Watson: I do what I do best: fleece the other GMs in the league with it for a good trade. Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross are big parts of this ball club, but will only be entering their third seasons. The Raptors need a veteran who can contribute right away. They were one shot away from the second round of the playoffs. This team does not necessarily need to get younger. I only make the pick if Tyler Ennis or Nik Stauskas are still available, of course.
Steve Kerr has been the coveted new coach this off-season. Will he continue a current trend of new blood in the NBA coaching ranks, or will we see a number of recycled coaches get jobs this summer?
Strickland: Depends on situation and circumstance. Analytics rule the day for many teams and analysts like Kerr have gotten their coaching stripes without coaching experience (see: Jackson, Mark - Golden State). Young teams will need a veteran coach with a younger staff to relate to the ever changing National Basketball Association and its players while implementing structure, accountability and professionalism, as well as having the foresight to know when to let your horses be horses. Lionel Hollins, Nate McMillan, George Karl, Sam Mitchell and the aforementioned Jackson immediately come to mind. Older teams in soon-to-be rebuilding modes may need younger, less experienced coaches willing to take lumps while losing and learning on the job. Does that mean that Florida's Billy Donovan or UConn's Kevin Ollie are going to leave cushy college gigs for the bright lights and finely finished hardwood courts of the NBA? Stay tuned!
Andrade: It's always a mix. We've already seen recycled with good old Stan Van Gundy coming back with the Pistons to balance the Steve Kerr rookie hire in Oakland. Last season it was Jason Kidd, Steve Clifford and Jeff Hornecek among others getting first-time kicks at the can with Kidd and Clifford making the playoffs and all of them earning league-wide props. Trending? Perhaps, but everyone from the still-active-and-fighting-for-his-playoff-life OKC vet Derek Fisher to the tried and true Lionel Hollins and George Karl are being mentioned for gigs. Landscape is a factor. Much easier to sell a post-Kevin Love era rookie bench boss in Minnesota for the possible reboot. Ditto for the Cavaliers. Head coaching hires are as much about stop-gapping and finances as they are about optics and competing. If Mark Jackson has taught us anything at all, it's that the line between his first-stint firing from a 51-win playoff Warriors team and Karl's coach of the year winning fifth-stint firing from a 57-win Nuggets postseason squad a year ago, is severely blurred.
Watson: Enough already with retreads. Mike Dunleavy and George Karl haven't won anything. If you're a successful coach like the Van Gundy brothers fine, but don't hire by name alone. Newbies like Dave Joerger (Memphis), Mike Budenholzer (Atlanta) and Jeff Hornacek (Phoenix) all had great seasons in the big chair. There are enough basketball coaching minds who can get more out of your team with new approaches and strategies.
The Three-Man Weave contributors are co-hosts of TSN Radio 1050's 1-on-1 with Will and Duane , Will Strickland (@WallStrizzle1), Duane Watson (@byDuaneWatson) and guest holder of the best groomed beard on the team this week, Darren Andrade (@hoopdogz)