1. Would you feel comfortable building around a core of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter?
Patrick James, (@patrickmjames): I like all three guys, but I’d rather think of it as building “with” them than building “around” them. You still need a fourth guy who is unquestionably the best of the group — though there’d be bonus points if you could get good things from Trey Burke on his rookie deal. Even then, are you building a title contender, or just a playoff appearer?
Luke Laubhan, (@lukelaubhan): Sure, why not? At 23, 22, and 21 years old, we’re still a few years away from seeing what these guys can really do, especially given the frontcourt logjam that’s inhibited Favors and Kanter over the past few years. They’ve each flashed potential, and if their development continues, they’ll be formidable. I’d feel better if Jerry Sloan was the developer, though.
Dylan Rice-Leary, (@dylearium): Even though Hayward, Favors, and Kanter make up a promising young core -“comfortable” isn’t the first thought that comes to mind. I would go with “reasonably hopeful,” regarding the trio and (ahem) “jazzed” about the upcoming season. Utah has a golden opportunity to develop and showcase its young talent, all while heading towards the lottery in a deep draft year, armed with multiple picks and a bevy of new trade chips.
2. Chris Paul dropped 40 in Vegas the other night. Over/under 16.9 points per game for him this year?
James: Over. Paul logged a mind-boggling 42 minutes in that aforementioned preseason game, so, health-willing, he should be on the floor plenty this year. His per-36 numbers last year were 18.3 points and 10.5 assists. I wouldn’t be shocked if those were his per-game averages this year.
Laubhan: Definitely over. Paul averaged 16.9 last season playing the fewest minutes per game in his career (33.4). The previous year, his first as a Clipper, he put up 19.8 per game in 36.4 minutes, a shade less than the minutes Rajon Rondo averaged under Doc Rivers the last four years (37). Something tells me Doc will lean on Paul even more than he did Rondo.
Rice-Leary: There is no way I could go under on this. Increased minutes, the team’s new spacing, the increased pace, Gentry’s assets, Doc’s inspiration, Doc’s productive out-of-timeout plays – Paul will have so many new offense-friendly assets this year. It’s over, all over.
3. Who is leading the position battle for the third big man spot?
James: We’ve been a little hard on Byron Mullens this preseason, but if Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are logging 36 and 32 minutes respectively (and if Barnes and Dudley can be serviceable as small-ball fours), then he should be fine. I bet we see a little more Ryan Hollins for match-ups against the league’s bruisers.
Laubhan: Well, I’m not sure 7.2 three-point attempts and 4.2 rebounds per game qualifies as “leading,” but Byron Mullens is at least getting the lion’s share of backup big man minutes. In the preseason, he’s averaging 21.8 minutes per game, as compared to Jamison’s 17.8, Amundson’s 11.2, and Hollins’ 9.7. That seems to be Doc’s intended order off the bench. Be forewarned.
Rice-Leary: We are winning. Bloggers, hoop-heads, Clipper fans and detractors. We all have something to gnaw on and poke at with this team. It is that tooth you can’t stop fiddling with. But to actually answer the question, I’d have to say that none is winning the battle as much as Mullens takes it by default, and ergo – “we” win again.