After a holiday hiatus, the five-man weave is back. This week the crew takes a look at the Raptors palyoff hopes, the Rudy Gay rumours, the Los Angeles Clippers and Steve Nash.
With the Raptors recent turnaround what are the odds they make the playoffs?
Duane Watson: Playoffs? Playoffs? While the Raptors solid play of late is reason for optimism, it's not reason for delusion. A number of questions have to be resolved before, the "P" word can be entertained. While it's arguable they are the ninth best team in the Eastern Conference, there is a gaping chasm between the eighth spot and the ninth.
Mitch Ward: At this point I'd say the Raptors have about a 15% chance at the playoffs. Of the teams ahead of them in the fight for a low seed, Philadelphia (9th) and Milwaukee (7th) are the most catchable with Boston (8th) and Brooklyn (6th) good bets to make the post-season. The Raptors can definitely pass the 76ers but Milwaukee will be much more difficult. Hello ninth place.
Will Strickland: Odds? Odd you ask that question... But in the East, where the Raptors are currently 5 games out of a playoff spot, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that they can squeek in & get bludgeoned in the Real Season by Miami or New York in the first round. It's a long way from 4-18, but RaptorsNation can dream, no?
Josh Lewenberg: I'll say slim, to be generous. Over the last decade, the average win total of the Eastern Conference's eighth seed is just under 40. To reach 40 wins – which may not even be enough – the Raptors would have to go 27-20 to finish the season. Tough, but not impossible. However, they would also need to leapfrog two of: Boston, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Brooklyn. Tall order.
Tim Chisholm: I'd still peg the odds of the Raptors making the postseason at about 40-60. They have to get their house in order with regards to trades (bye bye Bargnani) and prove that they can beat some middleweights and heavyweights before they're given closer to 50-50 odds to make the Playoffs. Still, they're better off than they were a month ago.
Would Rudy Gay be a good fit for the Raptors?
Watson: Rudy Gay would be a good fit on any 13-22 team, but at what cost? With Landry Fields looking better post-surgery, the Raptors have a solid three-man-committee of Alan Anderson, Mickael Pietrus and Fields at the three spot. The need for Gay's services aren't as vital as they were at the start of the season, but if he can be obtained for parts that won't affect the growth/momentum of this squad, it's worth a look.
Ward: With the way the Raptors roster is currently set up, Gay is not an ideal acquisition to maximize everyone's potential. That said, any time you can improve your talent it is a 'good fit'. A few other moves to eliminate some skill duplication would be needed to make it a better fit though.
Strickland: Anyone see DeMar DeRozan pouting yet? Who do the Raps give up to get Rudy Gay, who has underwhelmed on a very good Memphis team? Toronto's been clamoring for a dynamic wing who can create his own shot & Gay is fits that order (sorry DeMar & Terrence Ross). I'm just not sure how Rudy helps Toronto be a better, more competitive team. It would all be contingent on who had to go for Gay & the chemistry of that new look squad.
Lewenberg: An upgrade in talent at a position that's haunted the team for years, without a doubt. Good fit? Not exactly. Gay is a solid scorer that's being paid far more than what he is worth. He's not the shooter Dwane Casey needs and he's not the defender that Casey demands. On top of that, many of his strengths and weaknesses are similar to those of DeMar DeRozan, who has outplayed Gay this season at a fraction of the cost.
Chisholm: No. Rudy Gay duplicates too many of the weaknesses of DeMar DeRozan (lack of passing, efficient shooting, defence and shot creation) to account for the pummeling he'd give to Toronto's salary cap. He's a 'name' player more than a star, which is why Memphis is willing to part with him in the first place. Toronto can look, but they shouldn't buy.
Can the red-hot LA Clippers keep it up and win it all?
Watson: As "red-hot" as the Clippers are playing, they are only a half game and full game ahead of the Thunder and Spurs respectively. Both teams are legitimate contenders with more playoff experience, neither of which will succumb to the Clippers in seven games. In addition, L.A. will have some chemistry issues to address when Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups are back in the line-up. It's not their time yet.
Ward: The Thunder are still the favourites to come out of the west and win it all in my eyes but the Clippers certainly have a chance to knock them (or anyone else) off. In fact, if the standings hold (LAC 1, OKC 2, SA 3) and the Spurs and Thunder are forced to duke it out in a grueling semi I might just give the edge to the Clippers in the Western Finals.
Strickland: Anything's possible. Chris Paul is the MVP of the NBA right now, no debate! Biggest issues for Clips are minutes & chemistry change with eventual returns of Chauncey Billups & Grant Hill as well as trusting the equally abysmal DeAndre Jordan (42% FT) & Blake Griffin (63% FT) to help them close playoff games in the 4th quarter, when the lobs cease & halfcourt execution is key.
Lewenberg: This strikes me as a team that's built for the regular season more than anything else. They're deep and talented enough to rip through an 82-game schedule with relative ease but playoff basketball is about quality over quantity. I expect them to challenge the Thunder and/or Spurs but when it comes down to it I question whether they can outlast either in a seven-game series.
Chisholm: If Chris Paul can stay healthy then no goal is too lofty for them at this point. They have absurd depth, legit star-power and a top-five offence and defence. They only think keeping them from being favourites is the stigma that the name 'Clippers' carries with it. At this point, though, no team looks better poised to take the crown.
Steve Nash just reached 10,000 assists, where does he rank among the game's greatest ever passers?
Watson: An unselfish player and great passer, he's right behind Stockton, Magic, Cousy and Kidd. More importantly, he creates passes that create assists. I never heard the term, "hockey assist" in basketball until Nash... even though it makes me cringe like nails on a chalkboard, every time I hear it.
Ward: The true test for point guards is whether or not they make their teammates better. Nash does as well as anyone to ever play. Throughout his career he has made average players look like stars and stars look even better. As far as an all-time rank I'd say top-4 behind Magic, Cousy and Stockton in that order.
Strickland: Congrats to Victoria, B.C.s Best, Steve Nash, for doing what only 4 others (Stockton, Kidd, Magic & Mark Jackson) have been able to do in the NBA. Nash is definitely a Top 10 passer of all time since guys like Bird & Sabonis won't ever make this list... But LeBron (4,972 at 28) might!
Lewenberg: Magic and Stockton represent the gold standard at the point guard position but Nash is not far behind them as a passer and almost certainly cracks the top five in that category. For over a decade, Nash's masterful work has made rich men out of many ordinary players. He'll have his work cut out for him if he's to do the same with the cast of characters on that Laker bench.
Chisholm: Probably third, after Bob Cousy and Magic Johnson. Cousy basically invented the style of play that Nash has mastered at the NBA level, using what appears to be 'trick passing' to actually make the right pass, while Magic mastered the art of deception with the pass. Nash belongs in their company, though, after running the most oft-imitated offence in today's NBA to near perfection in Phoenix.
Did Carmelo Anthony deserve to be suspended for his confrontation with Kevin Garnett?
Watson: Yes, if Melo wanted to "talk" with Garnett he should have invited him to brunch and they could have discussed it over Honey Nut Cheerios. All jokes aside, even though everyone knew Anthony wasn't going to do a thing, he made a scene at every opportunity to warrant a suspension.
Ward: He deserved something. I would have been happy with a small fine since nothing actually happened, but a one-game suspension certainly didn't go too far overboard.
Strickland: His what? He stood next to a bus. In a loading dock. With 83 cops around him, poised to... do nothing. Only John Anderton can appreciate this pre-crime adjudication done by the NBA's Policing Arm. We know Melo can't fight but I guess a precedent was set this season with Boogie Cousins "confronting" Spurs color commentator Sean Elliott, though they were never face-to-face & he caught 2 games for his "transgressions".
Lewenberg: The league overreacted here. Unless I'm missing something, the only "confrontation" that actually took place was the on-court exchange. Essentially, Anthony was suspended for waiting in front of a bus (and the video evidence of it probably didn't help his cause). Melo claims he wasn't looking for a physical altercation and I'm not sure how Stu Jackson can prove otherwise.
Chisholm: What happens on the court, stays on the court. Garnett has made a career out of getting under people's skin and you have to be able to slough it off at the NBA level.