NBA Roundtable: Clippers poised to win Battle of L.A.
BetAmerica has teamed up with Covers and OddsChecker to break down the latest news and trends from around the Association. This week NBA columnists Jason Logan, Sam Farley and Ryan Murphy discuss the “Battle of L.A.”, Kyle Lowry’s Hall of Fame candidacy, and Steve Nash’s fit in Brooklyn.
The "Battle of L.A." dominated the headlines throughout much of the 2019-20 season. Now that we’re deep in the second round, which Los Angeles team has the best shot of winning the championship?
Jason: As a Lakers fan, it stings a bit to say the Clippers. The Clips have multiple ways to win basketball games – through offense or defense - and can survive an off night from some of their top talents. The more I see the Lakers play, the more I get worried. LeBron James and Anthony Davis have to bring it every game and role players make me cringe every time they attempt a shot – like my five-year-old pouring his own milk.
Sam: I’m still not totally convinced by the Lakers, and don’t think they’re a cohesive, functional team. Despite getting the No. 1 seed in the West, they haven’t become what we expected when the season began. I’d also assert that the Clippers aren’t quite as good as we thought they’d be this year either, but I’m ultimately leaning towards Doc Rivers & Co. because I feel they’re a better unit from top to bottom.
Ryan: I’m going all-in on the Clippers thanks to their enviable depth. L.A. led the NBA in bench production for the second straight season in 2019-20 and boasts a pair of Sixth Man of the Year recipients in Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell, as well as dependable role players in JaMychal Green, Marcus Morris, and Landry Shamet. Doc Rivers’ stacked squad comes at you in waves, which is more than can be said about the dangerously top-heavy Lakers, whose performance falls off a cliff whenever LeBron James takes a breather. The Lakers may have the better dynamic duo, but last time I checked basketball was still a team game.
Kyle Lowry has turned in some remarkably gutsy performances in the playoffs. Is he a first ballot Hall of Famer?
Jason: No. He’s not a first ballot selection. He’s taken a similar path as Chauncey Billups, who’s not in the Hall of Fame yet. Both led scrappy teams to championships and both played their best ball in the backend of their careers. Now, if we’re talking the "Drawing Charges" Hall of Fame, Lowry has his own wing named after him. I think he’ll get there, but not on his first try.
Sam: No but if the Raptors can turn it around against Boston and then reach the NBA Finals afterwards, then he will have boosted his chances considerably. If they went one further and Toronto managed to repeat, he'd be an absolute lock. What’s so impressive about Lowry is that he turns into this playoff monster when it really matters. If we castigate and argue great players out of the Hall of Fame because of their playoff performances, then we need to also let it work in people’s favor too. For me, it’s a no, but Lowry has a very strong chance of turning that around.
Ryan: I’ll be the first to admit that Lowry doesn’t fit the profile of a typical Hall of Famer. “The Bulldog” nearly fell out of the first round of the 2006 NBA Draft and didn’t become a full-time starter until his fifth season in the league. However, he’s more than made up for lost time since arriving in Toronto. Lowry has been an All-Star in each of the past six seasons and he led the Raptors to their first championship in franchise history in 2019. His counting stats aren’t half bad either. Lowry is Toronto’s all-time leader in assists, steals, and win shares and he could leapfrog his BFF DeMar DeRozan in games played if he remains in the Great White North for another two seasons. Another All-Star nod would certainly help his case, but he’s a proven winner whose spot in Springfield is all but assured.
The Nets shocked many observers by hiring Steve Nash to be their next head coach. How do you think he’ll fare during his first season on the sidelines?
Jason: Nash’s basketball IQ is off the charts and he will have the respect of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving from the second he steps into that locker room. That’s huge. Will he be out-coached by the likes of Nick Nurse and Brad Stevens in the Atlantic? Yep. Will he learn fast and adapt? Damn skippy. I’m going with playoff berth and conference final KO in his first season with the Nets. But the future is bright in Brooklyn.
Sam: It’s going to be hard work, that’s for sure. There are some big personalities in Brooklyn’s locker room, and it’s going to be a challenge for Nash to balance that dynamic, while implementing his own style. In truth I can’t see it going anything but horrifically, but it would be great to see Nash do well, so I’m hoping I’m wrong.
Ryan: I think he’ll be an outstanding fit. Few players in NBA history have been better at rallying their teammates than Steve Nash, who led the league in high fives and positive affirmations during his glory years in Dallas and Phoenix. Sure, he’s never coached before, but being an NBA head coach is as much about managing personalities as it is about running practices and drawing up plays. Jacque Vaughn will be tasked with overseeing the x’s and o’s, while Nash will be responsible for massaging egos and ensuring everyone is on the same page. I'm forecasting plenty of smiling faces and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.