Stat Pad 11

Welcome to The Stat Pad, a weekly roundtable discussion about the storylines surrounding some of the week’s biggest games. Here is the roundtable discussion for March 9 – March 15.

 

1. The Spurs host the Mavs on Tuesday. Their playoff streak, which has lasted over two decades, is on the ropes. Gregg Popovich is 71. There’s no clear future star on the roster. How high should the panic meter be in San Antonio?

Michael Regan: Pretty high for the next season or so. I’d say a 9. The Spurs aren’t going to make the playoffs this year, and Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV, and Jakob Poeltl probably aren’t going to become stars in the next few years, if they ever do. The Spurs will also likely be drafting right outside the top ten in the first round this summer. There are players to be had there (Kawhi and Giannis come to mind), but, again, probably no one that is going to jumpstart the team next season. It’s going to take some time for that player to develop. The Spurs have the pieces to start forming a solid post DeRozan and Aldridge team, but that process is likely going to take a few years. There’s no clear path to getting noticeably better immediately without pulling off some sort of miracle haul this off-season in trading DeRozan and Aldridge. That said, there’s still plenty of reason to believe in the franchise infrastructure here. RC Buford is still leading the front office. The next coach, whether it be Becky Hammon or Tim Duncan, figures to have some lessons from Popovich up their sleeve. I’m not too worried about the culture in San Antonio, even if the sense of invincibility starts to waver.  The Spurs don’t look like a contender in the near future, but I don’t see a long playoff drought or bottom-feeding run coming either. I’d put the long-term panic meter down at maybe a 2 or a 3 overall. 

Colin Bradley: As far as the Spurs current season goes, it would be silly for the fans to hold onto hope of the playoff streak surviving with the team sitting at 12th place in a very competitive Western Conference, especially with recent losses to the Cavaliers and Nets and hardly escaping a close one against the Hornets. In regards to the future of the team, I don’t believe the panic button should be as high as other teams’. The culture in San Antonio of consistent improvement has proven to be one of the most successful mindsets in the league over the years and as long as Popovich is at the helm for a couple more years with a talented young core, I don’t expect that to change. As long as the team continues it’s trend of successful draft picks over the next couple years, assuming those picks will be relatively high in the lottery, the Spurs will not be out of the playoff equation for long.

 

2. The Celtics visit the Bucks on Thursday. Milwaukee will be a clear favorite if they meet in the postseason, but what would be the keys to the Celtics winning four out of seven?

 

Michael Regan: This is a tough question for me as an overly optimistic Bucks fan. It’s hard to see the Celtics winning in any way here outside of the obvious Celtics get red hot and Bucks go ice cold scenario, which is not very likely to occur four times out of seven. Any Celtics run to The Finals will depend on Jayson Tatum’s ability to continue his star-level play from February (nearly 31 points and 8 boards per game on 48% shooting from deep), so that would be a starting point. Boston no longer has a mobile center to potentially throw off Brook Lopez, so their chances will probably come down to hoping that Tatum and Theis/Kanter can come within striking distance of the production of Giannis and and the Lopez brothers while Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Gordon Hayward, Brad Wanamaker, and Semi Ojeleye noticeably outperform Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, Wesley Matthews, Donte DiVincenzo, Pat Connaughton, Marvin Williams, and Kyle Korver. I really like those odds for the Bucks. The Celtics are about as good as it gets in the league, but the Bucks are, quite simply, deeper and better right now. It’s hard to find the sort of matchup advantages that would take Boston from their current level to that of the fully operational Bucks. 

Colin Bradley: Though the Celtics sit in 3rd in the East as heavily predicted before the season, they have exceeded expectations throughout the year. Jayson Tatum has recently shown what everyone was hoping for on last year’s team, budding into an unstoppable scorer when it is needed most. I also like the switchability their defense brings in a matchup against the Bucks where you can expect a lot of double teams on Giannis. While the Bucks have made history this season on both ends of the court, one glooming hole they have had in many big games is allowing 3’s on defense and if the Celtics can stay hot for at least four out of seven games, they have a legitimate shot to pull off the upset in the playoffs.

 

3. The Grizzlies play the Trail Blazers on Thursday in what might be a final chance for Portland to keep the playoff chase alive. Memphis has solidified their lead after a rough post All-Star break stretch. Will anyone catch them for the 8 seed?

 

Michael Regan: If you had asked me this just last week, I would have had a really hard time saying no. That said, with only twenty or so games left, I have to take the Grizzlies as the 8 seed. After coughing up half of their four game All-Star break lead last week, they recovered with a big stabilizing week, which combined with poor weeks from the teams chasing them to push their lead over the bottom half of the West back to four games. That gives them a magic number (combined number of wins and opponent losses needed to clinch the playoff spot) of 15 with the Pelicans, Kings, and Spurs, 14 with the Trail Blazers, and 13 with the Suns. If you compare those with the magic numbers of the other contenders – 23 for the Pelicans, Kings, and Trail Blazers and 25 for the Suns and Spurs – it becomes pretty hard to choose anyone other than Memphis for that final spot. The Pelicans and Kings deserve a lot of credit for rebounding from tough starts. The Suns have had a really positive season considering where they’ve been in recent years. The Trail Blazers deserve credit for even sticking around with all of the injuries (and they do get Nurkic and Collins back soon). The Spurs have had one heck of a run over the last twenty plus years. Barring a catastrophic collapse, the Grizzlies are making the playoffs this season. 

Colin Bradley: The Grizzlies have a four-game lead on the next teams up in the Western Conference, being the Pelicans and the Kings. Both of those teams, however have been hotter as of late and looking at the remaining schedules, the Grizzlies should by no means be feeling comfortable. In the remaining 18 games left in the season, the Grizzlies have 11 against teams with a record above .500 while the Pelicans only have 3 such games. With such different schedules remaining, I think the playoff race will come down to the two matchups between those two teams themselves which occur only three days apart.

 

4. The Pacers and 76ers will do battle on Saturday. Will either team win a playoff series this season?

 

Michael Regan: The Pacers will not. They did just pick up a very nice win in Dallas without Malcolm Brogdon, but there are just too many issues here to pick them in a series against the Heat, Celtics, or Raptors, which are the only possible options unless both the Pacers and the Sixers somehow manage to finish ahead of the Heat. Jeremy Lamb is out for the year, Brogdon and Victor Oladipo have been in-and-out of the lineup with injuries, and Indiana is 2-8 against the Bucks, Raptors, and Heat with the wins coming with Pascal Siakam and Giannis Antetokounmpo on the sideline. They’re 1-0 against the Celtics, but that win came almost three months ago. We also saw a Celtics-Pacers playoff match-up last season, and there’s no reason to believe that the Pacers, even if they have improved, could close that gap given that the Celtics are noticeably better this season.

The Sixers, as things stand, won’t either. I would bet on them being competitive in a first round series if they have a healthy Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, but that duo’s injury issues, the road woes, and the overall lack of cohesion in Philly would push me towards the Raptors, Celtics, or Heat. With Simmons returning right before the playoffs at the earliest, I don’t see the Sixers having the time to change any of those concerns. It’s probably going to be a lost year in Philadelphia. That said, I would be worried as a Celtics fan if they drew the Sixers in the first round (assuming a healthy Embiid and Simmons). It’s just not a great match-up for Boston. 

Colin Bradley: The Pacers and 76ers currently sit at 5th and 6th in the East, respectively, with the 76ers fighting major injury concerns. Whichever of the teams that lands in the 6th seed will likely have to face either the Celtics or the Raptors, and I do not see either the Pacers nor the 76ers beating either of those teams in a seven game series, especially since they would not have home court advantage. Whoever finishes the season higher in the standings would have a chance to beat the streaky Heat, but I don’t find it likely that either team will make it out of the first round.

 

  1. Let’s play Quick Hitters. No analysis. Just predictions. Give me your predictions for…

 

Bucks @ Nuggets (Mon, 9:00 Eastern)

Michael Regan: Bucks

Matthew Johnson: Nuggets

Colin Bradley: Bucks

Final Votes: Bucks 2 – Nuggets 1

 

Raptors @ Jazz (Mon, 9:00 Eastern)

Michael Regan: Raptors

Matthew Johnson: Jazz

Colin Bradley: Raptors

Final Votes: Raptors 2 – Jazz 1

 

Celtics @ Pacers (Tue, 7:00 Eastern)

Michael Regan: Celtics

Matthew Johnson: Celtics

Colin Bradley: Celtics

Final Votes: Celtics 3 – Pacers 0 

 

Pelicans @ Kings (Wed, 10:30 Eastern)

Michael Regan: Pelicans

Matthew Johnson: Pelicans

Colin Bradley: Pelicans

Final Votes: Pelicans 3 – Kings 0

 

Celtics @ Bucks (Thur, 8:00 Eastern)

Michael Regan: Bucks

Matthew Johnson: Bucks

Colin Bradley: Celtics

Final Votes: Bucks 2 – Celtics 1

 

Grizzlies @ Trail Blazers (Thur, 10:00 Eastern)

Michael Regan: Grizzlies

Matthew Johnson: Trail Blazers

Colin Bradley: Grizzlies

Final Votes: Grizzlies 2 – Trail Blazers 1

 

Rockets @ Lakers (Thur, 10:30 Eastern)

Michael Regan: Rockets

Matthew Johnson: Lakers

Colin Bradley: Lakers

Final Votes: Lakers 2 – Rockets 1

 

Pelicans @ Jazz (Fri, 9:00 Eastern)

Michael Regan: Pelicans

Matthew Johnson: Pelicans

Colin Bradley: Pelicans

Final Votes: Pelicans 3 – Jazz 0 

 

Pacers @ 76ers (Sat, 7:30 Eastern)

Michael Regan: 76ers

Matthew Johnson: Pacers

Colin Bradley: Pacers

Final Votes: Pacers 2 – 76ers 1

 

Nuggets @ Lakers (Sun, 9:00 Eastern)

Michael Regan: Lakers

Matthew Johnson: Lakers

Colin Bradley: Lakers

Final Votes: Lakers 3 – Nuggets 0

 

Season Quick Hitters Standings:

1. Colin Bradley: 7-3 (70%)

T2. Michael Regan: 10-6 (63%)

T2. Ethan Jesselson: 10-6 (63%)

4. Nabil Chamra: 6-10 (38%)

 

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