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Hornets Beat: Around the NBA
In this edition of Hornets Beat we’re going around the NBA to see where things stand, but first let’s start off with a quick shot of Hornets. We’re joined by Michael Pina (@MichaelVPina) from a place called the internet. Follow him and you will have a particularly fortunate new year.
1. What stands out in your mind most about Eric Gordon’s return?
Michael McNamara: That “basketball shape” is an actual thing. Gordon just seems so winded out there, even when he plays in short spurts. He went through hours of rehab for over a month and had been running heavily on most of those days, but running up and down with the best athletes in the world is kicking his butt so far in his return.
Jake Madison: How his return completely changes the team. It´s beyond a simple injection of talent; the whole (offensive, in particular) philosophy of the team changes. And then what Michael said about the conditioning thing because I just don’t understand that.
Michael Pina: Gordon’s shot hasn’t arrived yet, but his offensive mentality appears to be fresher than ever. He’s shooting 23% from behind the arc and 33% from the floor, but those eight free-throw attempts per game are a wonderful indication that Gordon’s knee issues are (for now) a thing of the past.
Mason Ginsberg: How much better he is at getting to the rim and either finishing or getting to the free throw line than anyone else on this team. Compared to the rest of the guards and wings of the group, he makes it look so effortless. He’s no Chris Paul, but he’s a real treat to watch with the ball in his hands.
Joe Gerrity: How much more competent Greivis Vasquez looks. Don’t get me wrong– he’s a fairly legitimate starter right now and in a few years I could see him being a top 20 PG, but with Gordon out there his limitations on both sides of the ball seem much less, well, limiting.
2. Are this year’s Clippers the best team Chris Paul has ever been on?
MM: I actually think a healthy ‘08-’09 Hornets team kicks their butt. People all fondly remember the ‘07-’08 team but with the addition of James Posey and a year of seasoning under their belts, the ‘08-’09 team was better but it simply could not stay healthy. Either of those teams beat this year’s Clippers, who I still believe will be one and done in the playoffs.
JM: Does the 2012 Olympic team count? If it does then the Clippers aren’t even close.
Michael Pina: It’s difficult to answer this question before the All-Star break, but this is definitely the most overall talent Paul’s had to play with. The 2008 Hornets won one playoff series, which is exactly what last year’s Clippers did. If this team goes further, you’d have to side with them.
MG: I still think it’s too early to tell, but at this point, the answer has to be yes. Their net rating so far this season is a crazy high +9.4; for comparison’s sake, the 2007-08 Hornets’ net rating was +6.2. Even assuming a healthy 2008-09 Hornets team would have been better than the year before, getting to +9.4 would have been highly unlikely. I don’t think the Clippers will sustain this rating, but for now, they certainly look better than any team CP3 has ever been a part of previously.
Joe: Tough call. That 07-08 team had similar spunk to this Clippers team, and even though the 08-09 team was arguably better on paper they never really showed it on the floor. In the end, CP3 was a superior player a few years back, so I’ll give it to the healthy Hornets from 07-08.
3. What’s your finals prediction?
MM: I said Miami over OKC at the beginning of the season and I am sticking to it. We get all excited about dark horses and surprise teams during this long and grueling NBA season, but most playoff series are won by the team with the best player on the court. Durant is the best player in the West, while Lebron is the best player in the East- and in the NBA.
JM: As much as I want to just type Lakers repeatedly for this answer, I’m going to be realistic. The Heat over the Thunder. They are the two best teams and I don’t see someone upsetting them in the playoffs.
MP: Last November my preseason prediction was Clippers vs. Heat; it appears I was one year too soon. Heat in 7.
MG: Before the season, I had a three-way triangle at the top of the league – Lakers>Heat, Heat>Thunder, Thunder>Lakers, leading to Heat>Thunder again in the finals. I am more confident now than I was in October of OKC’s ability to beat the Heat, but given Miami’s relative cakewalk to the finals compared to the gauntlet out west, the Heat are easily the safest pick. Gotta stick with Heat over Thunder, as much as it pains me to say it.
Joe: Heat over the Spurs. Tim Duncan has looked great, Pop is doing his thing just like he always has, and that will be just enough to get past Oklahoma in the WCF. It won’t be enough to get past LeBron.
4. Who wins regular season MVP?
MM: This is Kevin Durant’s year to take home the trophy, as he has done a great job of adding new dimensions to his game. The stats will be there, as will the wins, and people already seem tired of just handing it to LeBron year after year.
JM: I’m very tempted to pick Durant based off LeBron- fatigue, but I can’t. James is better on defense and at passing than Durant. He’s the best player in the world . The voters know that.
MP: LeBron James is the best player in the world. He leads the league in PER and is third in effective field goal percentage, all the while having the best rebounding season of his career and noticeably cutting down on his turnovers. (That defense too. Don’t forget about that defense.)
MG: In my opinion, this is a three-man race – LeBron, Durant, and Carmelo. Kobe should be in there, but the Lakers have just been too bad to this point. LeBron is the best all-around player of the three, and Durant will probably edge out Carmelo for the scoring title. LeBron should win it again, but Durant leading OKC to a #1 seed out west or Anthony leading the Knicks to an improbable #1 seed in the east would make for very compelling arguments.
Joe: LBJ will take it home yet again. For all the supposed hatred that everyone has for LeBron, he sure is making this MVP thing look easy. Jordan never got nearly this level of love from the voters.
5. Who has a better chance at winning the title– the Lakers or the Knicks?
MM: The NBA title? Uh, the Knicks I guess, only because the East isn’t nearly as deep as the West. If Durant goes down, there are still 3 or 4 teams that can beat the Lakers in the West. If LeBron goes down, then the East is wide open and it could be New York’s for the taking.
JM: Again, the kills me to not go all Lakers here, but if it’s just these two teams then I’m picking the Knicks hands down. I don’t think they will make the finals, but they are a great offensive team, Melo’ s playing better than ever, and the can run an awesome Felton/Kidd and Chandler pick and roll which they barely break out.
MP: The Knicks by a mile, for the sole reason that they play in a much weaker conference.
MG: McNamara and Pina have it nailed. While I still think the Lakers can turn it around, the difference in difficulty between the two conferences is so substantial that the Knicks are the only rational choice.
Joe: Lakers. There’s just too much talent there for me not to believe that at some point they could put it together. If the Knicks win the title I’ll eat this article (in print form of course). Not happening this year. No way, no how.
I bet the Hornets are gonna end up being the 3rd team in any Rudy Gay deal. We are the NBA's 3rd wheel
Jordan was the best player in the league every year after 90-91 and they still gave it to Barkley and Malone a couple of times prior to his retirement. In fact, he only won it in Back to Back years once and never won it 3 times or more in a row. The press likes to reward different guys. Who wins MVP and answering the question of who is the best player on the planet are often two different things. I mean, Steve Nash won 2 MVP's and I can argue he was never a top 10 overall NBA player at any point of his career