Pressing questions, hot topics, and collaboration amongst your favorite basketball minds—welcome to Around the Rim.
Think of Around the Rim as your local politicians would like for you to think of town hall, a safe forum for all voices in the basketball universe to be heard. A stable roundtable, fluctuating in both voices heard and trendy issues. This week I’m stoked to give you an entirely draft focused collaboration.
You can find the previous edition here. As promised, the roundtable will run every Tuesday, with new questions and new voices each week. If you have a question you’d like answered by the panel, tweet @JoshEberley or @HOOPmag and check back each week to see who hopped on for the current edition.
This week we are fortunate to have four dedicated and knowledgeable contributors pitching in. Make sure to give them a follow and check out their great contributions to the basketball community:
Bijan Bayne: Elgin Baylor; The Man Who Changed Basketball, author
Tommy Beer: Basketball Insiders, NBA analyst
Matthew Cardenas: Red Nation Hoops, contributor
Jake Chapman: Detroit Pistons, contributor
The Kyrie Irving saga drags on. If you were the Cavaliers, what would you want in a return for Irving?
Bayne: An All-Star player, or two established stars and a draft choice. I also wouldn’t trade him. The Warriors, Wizards, OKC, Boston, Houston, Portland, Toronto, and T-Wolves are all set at his position. They are the teams who have the players you would most want in exchange for Kyrie.
Beer: I think the Cavs are on the right track, reportedly asking for a young stud on a manageable contract, draft picks and a good rookie and his rookie-scale deal. The Suns’ purported package of Eric Bledsoe, Dragan Bender and a first-rounder is enticing. Ditto for Miami’s offer of Dragić and Winslow. One thing that the Cavs should keep in mind is that the offers may not get better as time drags on. In fact, they may get worse. Look at what the Bulls ended up accepting in exchange for Jimmy Butler (who also had two years left on his contract). Or what the Pacers settled for in return for Paul George. Indiana could have gotten far more had they acted sooner. Teams may shy away as we get closer to the season. For instance, as I wrote about for Basketball Insiders, the Knicks are one team that would be wise to avoid giving up too much for Irving. It would behoove the Cavs to make up their minds as quickly as possible. If they are in fact determined to trade Kyrie, then they should expedite the process.
Cardenas: The Cavs need to get players that can immediately produce at a high level. When LeBron James is on the roster, the mood is championship or bust every season. Their main goal should be to find someone to take over Irving’s spot at the point guard position. Having Derrick Rose as the starter all season would not be ideal. Eric Bledsoe makes the most sense due to his playmaking ability and defense, where he would be an upgrade over Irving. Bledsoe also averaged 21 PPG last season, which might surprise some. He might not be the finisher and overall scorer that Irving is, but he would fill in the gap. Bledsoe’s chronic knee issues are a red flag, though. Plus, it would be fun to see four-fifths of the Cavs starting lineup be signed with Klutch Sports.
Chapman: I do think Koby Altman’s likely move is to try and smooth things over between LeBron James and Irving, or possibly just force Irving to start the season as a Cavalier. Kyrie is too smart to be an obvious distraction and seriously tank his image, so Altman isn’t exactly risking a team chemistry catastrophe by going this route, more likely just some legendary November passive-aggression. Still, an Irving deal may actually be the only play for Altman that can appease LeBron now and simultaneously prepare the franchise for his eventual exit. Maybe you can grab Carmelo Anthony or Eric Bledsoe or both to make LeBron happy, but they must only be parts of a bigger package that features young talent or future picks, preferably both. If Altman can pull off Bledsoe and Josh Jackson from Phoenix or Jamal Murray and Gary Harris from Denver (with Wilson Chandler) then he should pull the trigger on either. If his options are considerably worse than those, he needs to sit tight.
Michael Jordan said Kobe Bryant was greater than LeBron James this week. DeMarcus Cousins put Bryant ahead of James in his personal basketball Mt. Rushmore. Who is on your basketball Mt. Rushmore?
Beer: First, I find it ridiculous for anyone to claim Kobe is better than LeBron. James is a far better passer and rebounder than Bryant. He’s a more versatile defender. Advanced metrics also prove LeBron is more effective and efficient in the clutch. Even in terms of scoring, James has a higher career average. In what phase of the game is Kobe better than LeBron? LeBron is clearly the better overall player; it’s not even close.
As far as my Mount Rushmore, I’d go with Jordan, Kareem, Russell and LeBron.
Cardenas: I am trying to figure out why so many players go with Kobe or LeBron. I think LeBron is the better player and thought the debate ended years ago. It is like they have an issue with LeBron or something. To be honest, they might be tired of watching him go the NBA Finals every season. I think one player dominating for a long period of time can annoy other players. My Mt. Rushmore would be Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. All of these players have changed the game in their own unique ways and have left a mark that will be left forever. James still has time to add more to his legacy.
Chapman: Ron Baker, Ron Baker, Ron Baker, Ron Baker. No, no. I’m kidding. My Mt. Rushmore is Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and LeBron James.
The Goat. The greatest winner. The greatest for the longest. The prototype.
Bayne: Kareem, Russell, Wilt and Oscar. Mount Rushmore implies revolutionaries—they altered the game, and in some instances, the rules. And they did so early enough to influence.
The Warriors remain in a class by themselves and the Cavaliers—in spite of the Kyrie drama—appear to be a strong No. 2. Who is the third best squad right now?
Cardenas: I think it is a tossup between the Spurs and Cavaliers. After adding Chris Paul and other prominent role players, I think the Rockets moved to the second best team. It really depends on what the Cavs do with Irving. Because in all honesty, the team does not have to trade him. He still has two years left on his contract. And even if he is traded, the Cavs are still a really good team. And of course, the Spurs are still the Spurs. I am not too impressed with their offseason, though. Giving Pau Gasol $16 million a year for three years while not paying Jonathon Simmons did not make sense to me. Simmons showed a lot of potential when filling in for Kawhi Leonard during the Conference Finals. They also lost Dewayne Dedmon, so there goes some more of the little athleticism and youth the Spurs had. While all of this is said, they are probably going to find a way to win 55 games. I would have to give the edge to them over the Cavs right now.
Chapman: I actually like Oklahoma City a bit better than Houston and San Antonio for third because I think watching Paul George play with another superstar is going to blow our minds. All credit due to CJ’s Miles and Watson, but George has been a one-man army since ascending to the League’s elite in Indy. I like adding Patrick Patterson, I like bringing back most of the vets, I like everything about Steven Adams, I like Billy Donovan and I’m going to like watching this team. Eyeing the developing chemistry between George and Russell Westbrook will be a treat, but I also think the amount of expectations heaped upon this one season in Oklahoma with George’s free agency looming will bring an unprecedented level of pressure to all 82 games. It’s going to be like a Westbrook fastbreak for seven months. Sign me up.
Bayne: I’m leaning toward healthy Houston, but Boston is also in the conversation. Boston did lose Bradley, which is obviously a playoff factor. Part of me wonders if Kyrie was a Spur, and they didn’t have to give up a star to get him, if they wouldn’t be third best.
Beer: I’ll go with the Boston Celtics. I think losing underrated Avery Bradley will hurt, but the additions of Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes makes this deep Celtics team even deeper. They are a well-coached and defensive-minded squad that competes on every possession. The Spurs are obviously in the conversation, but I thought they had a surprisingly poor offseason. They overpaid for Pau Gasol, lost Jonathon Simmons (Orlando got him at a discount), and are below-average at the point guard position. I’ve learned never to doubt Pop and Kawhi is a monster, but I’m not sold this season.
The best basketball movie of all-time is…
Bayne: The best doc is Hoop Dreams, but the best feature is Blue Chips.
Beer: Hmmm. Tough call. I’d say either Hoosiers or He Got Game. If we include documentaries, then it’s Hoop Dreams. Not even close.
Chapman: White Men Can’t Jump. I’m 33, which put me at 8 or 9 when I first saw it. My life at that time was Shaq, Shawn Kemp, Eastbay catalogs and the Fab Five. When I got my hands on the WMCJ VHS, it was over. I wanted to marry Gloria, shoot like Billy and trash-talk like Sidney. I couldn’t deal when Sidney and his boys hustled Billy. Matter of fact, I still can’t. You know what Sidney: Ya Momma’s an astronaut.
Cardenas: Honestly, I have never been much of a movie guy. I do not know what it is. The only basketball movie I have seen is Space Jam. For someone who loves basketball like me, I find it crazy myself. So I guess I have to go with Space Jam by default.
Who is the all-time best fictional character in a basketball movie?
Bayne: Henry Steele in One on One. He could really handle, he went through big campus changes, he had a love interest, and he had manic scenes. Not a celeb playing a blue chipper.
Cardenas: I have not seen the movie, but I know about Jesus Shuttlesworth in He Got Game. He has to be up there, right? Once again, I am weird for not seeing many basketball movies.
Chapman: Happy from Blue Chips, played by the late JT Walsh. Not only was Walsh a kick-ass character actor who played a crucial role in A Few Good Men among other classics, but his scummy sliminess in Blue Chips seems to ooze off the screen. He is the devil on Coach Pete Bell’s shoulder, a “friend of the program” that embodies all that is wrong in college athletics. For the same reasons WMCJ is my favorite hoops film, Blue Chips is my second favorite, and JT Walsh’s Happy is the most underrated part of the movie.