The weave expands from three to five this week as TSN.ca NBA blogger Tim Chisholm, TSN Radio 1050 Raptors reporter Josh Lewenberg and TSN.ca NBA editor Mitch Ward are joined by Duane Watson and Will Strickland from TSN 1050's 1-on-1 with Will and Duane to weigh in on questions from around the association. This week's topics include where Kobe Bryant fits among the all-time greats, LeBron vs Melo, who the best team in the West is and a new name in New Orleans.
Kobe hit the 30,000 point plateau this week - where does he rank among the All-time greats?
Chisholm: Top-ten, easily. The only thing really holding him back, in my opinion, is the fact that he never really transcended the game like Mike, Magic and Wilt - he was too derivative of Jordan for that. Of course, to the next person, that may not matter, it all depends on how you wanna rank 'em
Lewenberg: Always a subjective discussion and a tough case to make in just a few sentences (good thing I wasted one pointing that out!). Kobe's already impressive resume speaks for itself and adding "youngest to 30,000 points" should solidify his place among the top 10 players in NBA history. If Bryant can play 3-4 more years at a high-level it's conceivable he could retire atop the all-time scoring list at which point he should at least be in the conversation with the league's best. Jordan, Magic, Kareem, Wilt, Bird, Russell... Kobe is right on the cusp.
Strickland: Never been a fan of Kobe Bean Bryant, but I must give The Devil his Due. He's a Top 10 player all time... Many think he wants the NBA's All-Time scoring title, but that's a myth. There's only one person for him to "beat" in his mind on that list: Michael Jeffrey Jordan.
Ward: I love to hate Kobe Bryant. So many things about him just rub me the wrong way. That doesn't mean I don't recognize that he is one of the best to ever play the game. He's behind Jordan and Russell but he's pretty much right on par with Bird, Magic and Kareem for me. Give him another ring and he is top-3 for sure.
Watson: He's in exclusive company and leading the league in scoring in his 17th season, without showing any signs of slowing down. He's right there with Abdul-Jabbar behind Air Jordan, but if he wins another chip, or passes MJ, it's Jordan #1 and Bryant #1-A.
Whose start has been more impressive? Melo or LeBron?
Chisholm: Impressive? LeBron. Surprising? Carmelo. LeBron is a force of nature, an object of desire, whereas Melo is just doing the things he's always been capable of doing but has been reluctant to do consistently. He gets points for that, for sure, but what LeBron does on a nightly basis is awe-inspiring.
Lewenberg: Melo. I'm throwing away the stat sheets on this one. Both players are doing their thing, putting up big numbers, winning games for their respective clubs. I'm more impressed by the one who has carried an overachieving, prehistoric Knicks team to the top of the Eastern Conference sans Amar'e Stoudemire.
Strickland: Melo's, whose team may be the best in the East after pasting the Heat in Miami Thursday, 112-92... WITHOUT MELO! We're so spoiled by LBJ Metronomic Excellence because he's The Gold Standard by which to measure everyone else that his start is more expected than surprising.
Ward: LeBron James. Melo has been great. He is finally playing up to the level he is capable of on a consistent basis. He's not LeBron though. LeBron is the best player on the planet and is simply on a different level of greatness than Melo.
Watson: Melo's new skill set, leading by example, has been most impressive. Anthony's hustle play, ball movement and renewed defensive approach is why his team is leading the conference. The first two letters in "Melo" don't apply anymore and his ability to be a team player, has allowed his team to win even without him. Ask the Miami Heat.
Which team is most likely to spoil a Heat/Knicks Eastern Finals?
Chisholm: Can I say New York, because I don't see them staying at this level all season? If you want a real answer I would wager Boston does their usual late-season surge and wedges themselves into the conversation. Also, all bets are off if Derrick Rose comes back healthy and able.
Lewenberg: One month in, the Brooklyn Nets look like the Eastern Conference dark horse. Clearly this is a work in progress, as is the case with most newly assembled teams, but that's what the regular season is for. Their All-Star backcourt has struggled to find chemistry while losses to the Heat and Thunder suggest they're nothing more than a tier two squad. However, their talent is unquestionable, their depth and defensive competence have come as a surprise and I wouldn't be shocked to see the Nets become New York's last team standing in May.
Strickland: The Heat, if Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh & The Irrepressible Almario Chalmers play as poorly as they did vs the Knicks Thursday. But this is mostly in jest as I expect more consistency from Miami later in the season. Only realistic threats to this scenario playing out are the Hawks & Nets... Yeah, I said it!
Ward: The Celtics are always lurking in the Eastern Conference and could certianly get back to the Eastern Finals. More surprisingly, the Atlanta Hawks may also be capable of pulling an upset in the playoffs. The Hawks have exceeded expecations since the loss of iso-Joe and Marvin Williams. They have a balanced attack on offence, get after it on defence and are lights out on the break. If they get hot at the right time, who knows?
Watson: The Celtics. Every year I write them off as too old, but veterans like Garnett, Pierce and Terry coupled with a top-5 point guard in Rondo, know what it takes in the post-season. Avery Bradley has yet to play a game and Jeff Green is still looking to put it together, Doc Rivers can still make it work.
Memphis, OKC or San Antonio? Who's the best in the West?
Chisholm: I SOOOO badly want to say Memphis, because I love them and love watching them and love interior passing, but OKC is built to last and I give the nod to them. Having two top-ten players in one lineup, both of whom are growing tighter by the day, just pushes them ahead of the Team of the Moment and the Team of the 2000s.
Lewenberg: Right now, the Thunder are the best team in the West and in the NBA. The league's most potent offensive attack has scored 100+ in 10 straight games, averaging a ridiculous 111.9 points over that stretch. Their young core continues to evolve and Kevin Durant is looking like an early-season MVP favourite. Through 19 games, Durant is doing something that only the great Larry Bird has done for an entire season; averaging 26+ points while shooting at least 50 per cent from the field, 40 per cent from three-point range and 90 per cent from the line. Crazy.
Strickland: The Thunder are still the Western Conference Champs & still the team to beat in that conference. All respect due to Coach Gimme Some Nasty & His Renegades Of The Joey Crawford, as well as Memphis' Grindhouse Gang, but Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Martin & the ever evolving play of Serge Ibaka make them the Best In the West
Ward: San Antonio has beaten both Memphis and Oklahoma City this season. They also have the most road wins in the NBA with nine. How that makes them third best in this group I'm not really sure - it just does. Memphis has jumped into the NBA's upper echelon and is the biggest threat to the Thunder's crown in the West. It's still the Thunder's crown though. They were my pick to win it all last season and they're my pick again this year.
Watson: A tough one, but the Grizzlies have been silently lurking near the top of the conference for years, without a healthy roster. Every member of their starting line-up has the ability to change a game and their bench is deeper. Memphis gets the edge.
Where do the Lakers fit in?
Chisholm: The Cukoo's Nest? They are not clicking, their roster isn't tailored to D'Antoni ball, they aren't defending and Dwight Howard is being as unlikable as ever. I mean, they'll be fine, but with a payroll that large they have a reason to want to be A LOT better than 'fine'. We'll see how they fare with Andrea and Jose in purple and gold...(kidding)
Lewenberg: They're not in the conversation with those three teams, not right now. They're not even the best team in Los Angeles. This is the Lakers' nightmare. In both the figurative and literal sense of the word they're hurting. Their weaknesses in addition to their lack of depth and chemistry have been exposed and they can't accurately evaluate what they have until Nash and Gasol are able to join the party. They need to get healthy before anyone will truly know where they fit in.
Ward: The Lakers will be fine. They'll make the playoffs comfortably and, despite the poor start, could still grab a top-4 seed in the West. Their roster is simply too talented for them not to work things out as the season goes on. They really need Steve Nash to come back and stay healthy though.
Watson: They're the second-best team in their own building and the third-best team in the state. An old team, that can score, but doesn't defend well and lacks depth. Nash's absence, only proves they are one injury away from a crisis and need to figure it out.
The New Orleans Hornets changing their name to the Pelicans – Are you in or out?
Chisholm: In x1000. How could you not want a team named after a giant aquatic bird? Is there really another way to answer this question? This is a trick question, right? (Follow Tim on twitter @timpchisholm)
Lewenberg: I'm still waiting for Ashton Kutcher to jump out and inform us we're being "punk'd". Pelicans? Out. (Follow Josh on twitter @JLew1050)
Strickland: Even the Anaheim Mighty Ducks laugh at that name! But if the former Tity Boi can become 2Chainz, there may be hope for The New Orleans Peli.. you know what? Nevermind... (Follow Will on twitter @WallStrizzle1)
Watson: Out. Sure the pelican is the state bird, but jazz, mardi gras and the like are all synonymous with New Orleans. It's not often a team can shed it's adopted nickname for one of it's own, Tom Benson and ownership are dropping the ball on this one. (Follow Duane on twitter @sweetswatson)
You can also follow the guys on twitter:
Follow Tim Chisholm @timpchisholm
Follow Josh Lewenberg @JLew1050
Follow Will Strickland @WallStrizzle1
Follow Mitch Ward @jmitchw
Follow Duane Watson @sweetswatson