The second half stretch of the NBA season is kicking off tonight with a stacked slate of games. This week we have a long time friend joining us to talk about the second half of the season. Jeff Morton, a long time writer for Denver Stiffs and now working with Mile High Sports and The Colorado Sports Guys, also a long time support of getting the Sonics back to Seattle has decided to sit down with us.
If you all have some questions you would like to see answered or a guest columnist let us know. Enjoy the questions!
Does James Harden lock down the MVP or does a dark horse emerge?
Chris Meirose: I largely think Harden has it locked down already. And I won’t argue that it isn’t for deserved reasons. LeBron is certainly worthy, have just another insane Lebron kind of year. Giannis too has had a bonkers year doing everything impressively well. And KD has been stellar in GSW - particularly with his blocks - but suffers from so many good surrounding parts stealing some opportunity and spotlight.
Jeff Morton: I am of the same mind as Chris. The MVP seems to be largely James Harden’s to lose. Unless LeBron James has a post All-Star stretch of the gods, Harden has this on lock and everyone else is looking for second place.
Kevin Nesgoda: This is Harden’s to lose. The only other people that have an outside shot are Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Hell Harden could go down for the rest of the season and he could still win it. He’s that important to the Rockets. They’ll win a series with Chris Paul at the helm, but Harden is going to carry them into the Finals.
Miles: James Harden very much looks like the MVP. I went to a Rockets game this year where he was just coming back off an injury and he is very much their best player despite also having a top 5 PG of all time on their team. Houston will finish with close the best record in the league, KD and Steph split the GS MVP votes. LeBron will get consideration, but it seems like he gets some voter fatigue. As Kevin said, its Harden’s award to lose.
What stops the Warriors from reaching the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year?
Meirose: Short of a team plane crash, nothing. I think Houston can push them for a game or two, but they just don’t have the overall tools and talent to take down GSW.
Morton: Maybe the Houston Rockets. The big test for the Rockets will be to see if coach Mike D’Antoni’s three-heavy approach can translate in a seven game series. This isn’t the high pick and roll Suns of the mid-2000’s. This is something different. If the Rockets can prove that an offense constructed with that much extreme reliance on threes can win playoff series then a Houston vs. Golden State WCF will be epic. Otherwise it’s Golden State’s title to lose.
Nesgoda: The Houston Rockets. I think with adding “ISO” Joe Johnson to help carry the scoring burden of the second team you are going to be able to rest Harden and Paul more so down the stretch. Harden has been exhausted the last few years the Rockets have made the postseason and it showed. This year they have a chance to have a fresh lineup.
Miles: An injury to KD or Steph. Kawhi Leonard being healthy and some really lucky breaks for San Antonio, OKC or Houston. Other than a combination of those things, Golden State will be in the Finals again.
What stops the Cavaliers from reaching the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year?
Meirose: Talent. Depth. The Celtics. The moves Cleveland made did help the team, but they aren’t the solution to solving the problem of beating the Celtics in a 7 game series.
Morton: The Cavs seemed to right the ship with their wholesale changes during the trade deadline. It remains to be seen if it’s sustainable. Right now, you have the Celtics (who were playing well above their heads without Gordon Hayward) tailing off and the wild card being the Toronto Raptors. If this change of cast is legit … then the Cavs will be in their fourth straight finals.
Nesgoda: As Jeff said, the Cavs seemed to have righted the ship just as the Celtics seemed to fall off a bit. Cleveland had a little ground to make up to get home court throughout the playoffs, but I don’t think they’ll get past the Celtics in either home court or in the playoffs. The Raptors are such a wild card. I’m just not sure I’m willing to bet on Kyle Lowry in the playoffs yet.
Miles: LeBron getting injured. Other than that, this team will win 4 out of 7 games against anyone in the East.
What current playoff team falls to the back of the pack or out all together?
Meirose: I think New Orleans has to be the trendy pick here. Losing Boogie was a big blow, and it will really be seen over time as Brow continues to have to push that much harder on a nightly basis to drag this team into the playoffs.
Morton: Likely the New Orleans Pelicans. Without Demarcus Cousins they seemed to have lost much of their dynamic offense and they don’t have enough shooters to compliment the still tremendous offense of Anthony Davis.
Nesgoda: The Pelicans. If I were them I would look at tanking a little bit and getting down into the lottery. They currently hang around the 17th pick and that’s not going to get them anything to push them up to the next level. If they hang around where they are they are a team that will get swept by the Warriors or Rockets in the first round.
Miles: Miami will likely get overtaken by Detroit now that they have Blake Griffin. Spoelstra has done an incredible job this year, but they don’t have the players that Detroit has to finish the year. One injury to any of their guys and they’ll be in free fall.
What team might the scariest to play down the stretch?
Meirose: I might say Jeff’s Nuggets, but more so I think it is the Utah Jazz. They’re white hot having won their last 10 games, and as they adjust to their recent trade they will continue to improve. Donovan Mitchell is a superstar in the making and it’ll be a crime if he doesn’t win the rookie of the year. Jae Crowder was a solid addition. Gobert and Favors are a formidable front line. And this team has a handful of strong contributors that keep opponents from focusing too much on any given player. Mix that with the ability to at times play some great defense, and you have a very tough matchup for many teams. Much credit to Quinn Snyder for the job he’s doing there.
Morton: I may be a bit biased but, I’d say no one wants to play the Denver Nuggets - particularly when they get Paul Millsap back. They have shown the ability to score on anyone, and Nikola Jokic is finally playing like the Jokic of last season. I would watch out for the Nuggets coming down the stretch.
Nesgoda: As the other two guys have said the Jazz and the Nuggets are two young and hungry teams that are going to pose some problems for teams down the stretch. Utah has won 11 games in a row and hasn’t been healthy all year. The same can be said for the Nuggets. When Milsap comes back they are going to give a nice compliment to Jokic and Jamal Murray continues to grow and look like a star in this league. Donovan Mitchell is also the steal in the draft over the last decade. I feel sorry for whoever draws the Jazz and Nuggets in the playoffs.
Miles: As much as I hate to say it, the Zombie Sonics (OKC). With as much star power as they have in PG, Carmelo, Russ and Steven Adams, they have a shot against anyone including Golden State. They are a sleeper contender as each of their top 3 guys can win a playoff game on their own. Nobody will want to play them in the playoffs and they may just get to the Western Conference Finals for another showdown with the Warriors.