Los Angeles Clippers at Miami Heat
February 5, 2014
7:30 p.m. PST
1. True or false: The Clippers and the Heat have the two best frontcourts in the NBA.
Fred Katz, (@FredKatz): False. The Clippers and Heat both have tremendous, top-five frontcourts (and Miami is probably No. 1 purely because of LeBron’s presence), but leaving the Pacers off the list of top-two frontcourts would be wrong. Indiana has the favorite for Defensive Player of the Year (Hibbert), a top-four NBA player (George) and a bully for a power forward (West). That probably helps them pull away from the Clippers.
Andrew Han, (@andrewthehan): False…? In a vacuum, Miami sports two elite players as their hybrid power forward and center. The Clippers possibly have the two most athletic natural frontcourt players who have distinguished themselves nicely as a tandem this season. If we’re letting LeBron James and Chris Bosh masquerade as a frontcourt, though, it seems like Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka should also be allowed, bumping Griffin and Jordan out simply because of Durant.
Seerat Sohi, (@DamianTrillard): False. If we’re talking duos, LeBron is still LeBron and Chris Bosh is still one of the most under-appreciated players in the NBA. But Griffin and Jordan still need to clean up some fractures before they can enter the conversation with Roy Hibbert and David West, or even a healthy Grizzlies’ frontcourt.
2. True or false: As of Feb. 5, LeBron James is not the NBA’s MVP.
Katz: False. Kevin Durant has been tremendous, but we may be falling victim to recency bias when we say he’s the sure-fire MVP for this season. As wonderfully efficient as Durant has been since Westbrook went down, James still has the better true shooting percentage on the season. He’s still the superior defender. He’s still the more impressive play-maker and distributor. Durant has closed the gap this season, for sure, but he has a little more to go before he can pass James.
Han: True…? I suppose if the MVP voting ended today, Durant would win the award. Heck, he still may be the favorite at the end of the season. But it was not even 30 days ago when everyone was quite vocal in saying that LeBron was the de facto MVP until he exits his prime. And before that, there were murmurs that Paul George was MVP with his hot start. Sports is the greatest at “prisoner of the moment” situations. And everyone has Stockholm Syndrome.
Sohi: False. Kevin Durant would win the award if the season ended today but I, for one, could do without the premature anointment. There are still more than two months of basketball to be played! It seems like we always crown an MVP by mid-January and ride the wave until April, completely ignoring anything the other candidates might do. Forgetting LeBron for a second, what if Paul George goes on an MVP-esque tear? Objectively talking yourself down a Kevin Durant shaped cliff isn’t easy — often, that’s what shapes these awards.
3. True or false: The Miami Heat are still the favorites to win the NBA Finals.
Katz: True. If you have LeBron, you’re good to go. And if Wade can be healthy come playoff time, this team can be just as good as it’s been for the past three years.
Han: True…? Admittedly, I have no idea if they are coasting. It’s quite possible no one other than the players know. But with their Spursian handling of Dwyane Wade this season and distinct lack of interest to the non-playoffs, Miami has earned the benefit of the doubt. And from a logistical perspective, any favorite would have to reside in the East, because of the complete dearth of competition.
Sohi: This one is tough. How do we know if Miami’s having “championship” fatigue or literal, “Ray Allen and Shane Battier are breaking down and Dwyane Wade is on a season-long mend and it really, really, really might be over for him” fatigue? It’s easy to overlook Miami’s faults this year when the Pacers and Thunder look poised for victory but it’s even harder to overlook LeBron James and the team that made mincemeat of everyone for two years.