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#BlogBoys Volume 3: DeAndre Ayton, Rockets vs Warriors, & the GOAT Debate

Another addition of the #BlogBoys! With the draft lottery next week, we discuss if DeAndre Ayton is the clear-cut favorite to be the first overall pick. Also, we debate if the Rockets have any shot to surpass the reigning champs and if LeBron has dethroned MJ as the GOAT. 

1. With the draft lottery next week, let’s have some draft fun. Is DeAndre Ayton the for sure bet as the #1 pick? Or do you prefer another prospect?

DuPont: Based on measurables and potential, Ayton is the top prospect. There are several names who might garner interest from lottery contenders due to projections of how they will mesh and fit with anticipated rosters. But if you’re a lottery team without a true identity, you’re salivating at the potential of Ayton landing on your roster as a defensive-oriented, rim-protecting staple for seasons to come. 

Konkle: Yes. Yes. 100% yes. Don’t overthink this people. Dudes who are that big and with that level of touch/skill rarely don’t succeed in the NBA. It’s Ayton and it’s an easy choice.

Mulford: It really seems like a no-brainer at this point. The kid is a stud. You don’t come across a physical specimen with this amount of skill very often. His post game is polished. He can rebound and defend at the rim. His shot is smooth and will be able to stretch his range out to the NBA three with some time. He really seems like the full package. Unless Phoenix goes with Luka Doncic because of his link to new head coach Igor Kokoskov, I don’t see a team passing on Ayton at the number one spot. Though, I will say, I have started to sip on the Mo Bamba koolaid just a tad. I think the kid has Joel Embiid like potential at his upmost ceiling. But back to Ayton, just imagine the pick-and-roll between DSJ and Ayton. One can dream…  

Rathbun: A seven-footer with a wingspan as long as his height plus some touch outside of the paint should be a surefire number one pick in today’s NBA. Ayton is also built like a brick house so he won’t get pushed around as easily by the stronger, veteran big men in the league.The only blemish on a stellar freshman season at Arizona was his first round beat down at the hands of Buffalo. Besides that, Ayton lead his squad to 1st in the Pac-12 by averaging 20 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game. Adding his smooth shooting touch, he is the number one pick and it isn’t even be close. He is the most NBA ready big in the draft.

2. The Rockets were seen as the top competition for the Warriors in the West. Though they finished off the Timberwolves and Jazz in 5 games each, they haven’t looked THAT impressive. Is it a lock that the Warriors make it back to the Finals?

DuPont: If health remains a non-factor, it is a lock that the Warriors will be in the Finals. They have a roster facing few, if any, injuries and multiple veterans with MVP and/or Finals MVP-caliber experience. Kevin Durant returns to yet another Conference Finals, his third in as many seasons, with a well-stocked arsenal of complimentary pieces highlighted by splash brothers, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. The Rockets seem fundamentally unbothered by the threat of losing a perimeter battle with the Warriors but this series will likely be determined by the efficiency or lack thereof from these two perimeter-driven offenses. 

Konkle: I’m starting to think so. My concerns going into the playoffs with the Rockets was their reliance on hero/ISO ball to generate shots. It lends itself too many contested shots and while they have the talent capable of making those shots, come playoff time, those tough ones seem to go in a little less. Just check James Harden’s postseason track record. It definitely has its share of blemishes. 

Defensively, they’re good. A lot better than what they get credit for. But their offense has stalled at times during the post season and when they run into a Warriors team with the greatest collection of fire power the league has ever seen, their defense alone won’t be able to carry them. I’ll take Golden State in 5 games. 

Mulford: I think it’s over. I think it’s been over since the season tipped off in October. That’s not to take anything away from what the Rockets have accomplished, but I just believe that Golden State is on another planet. Of course, they looked sluggish in the regular season while Steph dealt with his injuries, but when you’ve won two of the last three championships, you don’t get excited for the regular season anymore. The Rockets can score with the best of them but when that clock is winding down in the fourth quarter, I have much more faith in the Warriors than I do in Harden and Chris Paul, who have unproven track records in the postseason. If Houston can shoot lights out and I mean LIGHTS OUT, then maybe they have a chance. But, I believe Draymond Green will effectively hinder Clint Capela’s impact on the series while Steph does what he does best to CP3, and that’s embarrass him. Warriors in 5. 

Rathbun: I have money on the Rockets so I have to say no, it is not a lock that the Warriors make it back to the Finals. They should be the favorite though and deservedly so. But James Harden and Chris Paul are different animals than what the Warriors have seen so far. San Antonio and New Orleans are not bad teams by any stretch, but compared to the Rockets they are just average. Both teams have never been in a series with so much offensive fire power. The Warriors and Rockets offenses have scored 112.24 and 112.23 points per 100 possessions. According to ESPN Stats & Info, it is the first time a series featured two prolific offenses of this magnitude since 1974. We know the Warriors will kill anybody on the outside with Thompson, Curry, and Durant lighting it up. But I think Houston can match their outside shooting and have an edge in the paint with Clint Capela, if he can figure out how to maximize his effectiveness despite being guarded by Swiss army knife Draymond Green. Regardless, this series is what the NBA fans have been waiting for and deserve. The match up isn’t the Finals, but it may as well be.  

3. Two-part question: Three years in a row now that LeBron and the Cavs break the Raptors hearts. Should Toronto blow it up? And after what we’ve seen throughout the first two rounds, how close is LeBron to taking the torch from MJ? Or is he already the GOAT in your mind?

DuPont: I don’t think you overhaul the Raptors just yet, unless you’re OK with completely hitting reset on the coach and front office as well. Head coach Dwane Casey received the lone Coach of the Year nod from this panel from me, so it would be difficult for me to send him elsewhere. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry continue to amass All-Star bids and set franchise milestones but it hasn’t equated to postseason success for one very, very good reason: LeBron James. I think you have to explore moving Ibaka but aside from that, there aren’t many moves to make short of conceding the conference to James and overhauling the roster in a country where the NBA has already walked away from one franchise in Vancouver. Hitting reset on the Raptors could be a potential buzzsaw for fan attendance and local interest.  

Different players, different eras. This conversation will take place in many barbershops from now until the end of time and understandably so. It’s also worth noting the further we remove ourselves from Michael Jordan’s career, the more we find ourselves having conversations amongst people that weren’t old enough to understand the complexity or the degree of difficulty in his accomplishment. The man played in six finals and never lost, that’s worth something. LeBron has made more consecutive Finals appearances than anyone who did not play with Bill Russell, that’s also worth something. Where is the ultimate deciding factor? I think that depends on perspective. If rings are the ultimate measure of accomplishment, it’s Jordan and Jordan only. 


Konkle: I think it’s clear that Toronto isn’t a championship caliber team. But, they’re still a really good one and sometimes choosing to remain competitive with limitations is the healthy choice for a franchise. Especially when you consider that there is a chance LeBron makes a move out West during the Summer, potentially opening that door to the Finals. Obviously, Philly and Boston aren’t going anywhere, but neither of those teams have the same mental stranglehold over the entire country of Canada like LeBron does. And even if they managed to escape the East, they would likely be staring down the Warriors, Rockets, or whatever team LeBron decided to hypothetically join. But as I said, sometimes giving yourself the chance, albeit a slim one, is the right choice. So, I don’t think running it back would be the worst idea, but I could see it either way. 

What LeBron is doing on a nightly basis is just laughable, really. There is straight up no answer for him. And for me, he had been in the “GOAT” discussion for years. He’s probably the most talented basketball player we have ever seen. I’ve essentially settled on the fact that it’s him or Jordan. I don’t know that I have made my pick, but I respect anyone who shares either opinion. I guess I’d lean towards Jordan on the strength of his resume, because their dominance on the court almost cancels one another out, so that’s all that’s left to really go on. 

But Bron is still chugging away. Year 15, age 33 and all. So, my truthful answer is that I don’t know. I’m just trying to avoid being a prisoner of the moment and looking at this thing in its entirety, not in the vacuum of our instant gratification, Twitter laden society where MJ was apparently “trash.” Yes, I actually saw someone say that.

Mulford: It all depends on what truly matters to Masai Ujiri. Honestly, some franchises are content with making the playoffs every season and filling the arena. If that’s the case, then the Raptors are doing a fantastic job. If they truly want to contend, it’s time to make some changes. It’s clear that this nucleus of Casey-DeRozan-Lowry isn’t working out. Yes, they changed their playing style this season and added more three-point shooting, which I commend, but they ran into the same freight train as the past two seasons; LeBron Raymone James. No matter where LeBron chooses to play next year, the Celtics and Sixers are next in line to be crowned the champs in the East, not the Raptors. Over the next two seasons, Toronto will owe $198,871,819 to DeRozan, Lowry, Ibaka, and Valanciunas. Almost $200 million dollars to get swept in the second round. Give Casey another shot and shop a combination of those four guys. You gain crucial amounts of salary cap relief with plenty of flexibility in 2020 and offer more minutes to Delon Wright, OG Anunoby, and Pascal Siakam, who all showed promise.

Regarding who is the GOAT, it’s a battle of the generations. Old head’s will die on Jordan’s grave just as most of the millennial’s will for LeBron. Personally, when it’s all said and done, I’m riding with LeBron. This is year 15 for Bron at age 33. You could argue that he could play until he is 40. Now, at some point, he will regress and come back down to earth, right? But, at the rate he has stretched out his prime, you could also argue that this level of play could continue for years to come. The likelihood that LeBron catches Jordan in rings seems to be slim at this point, but that shouldn’t be the one thing that decides the debate. Going to seven, maybe eight straight Finals doesn’t mean anything? Never losing in the first round doesn’t mean anything? Jordan may have played against Bird’s Celtics, the Bad Boy Pistons, and Stockton and Malone, but you have to admit some of the dudes who guarded Jordan back in the 80’s wouldn’t have sniffed the league in today’s game. At this rate, LeBron will pass Jordan in arguably every statistical category, not to mention playing in the Social Media era where everything you do is looked at through a microscope. When it comes down to it, Jordan may be the superior winner or competitor, but the greatest overall player? There isn’t a correct answer, just who your personal preference is. Give me #23 from Akron. 

Rathbun: I don’t think Toronto should blow it up and I definitely don’t think they should fire Dwane Casey, especially after being named the NBCA Coach of the Year. Sadly, for other teams, this is the reality that is playing in the same conference (and league) as LeBron James. The Raptors won a franchise best 59 games and clinched the number 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Despite the playoff outcome, that is something that shouldn’t be ignored. However, regular season success doesn’t always translate to playoff wins. Remember the 1st seed Mavs epic collapse to the 8th seed Warriors in 2007? Dirk won MVP but there was still talk about blowing it all up despite how great he and the Mavs were. Instead, they stayed the course with their franchise star and eventually brought home a title. DeMar DeRozan will be 29 next season and Kyle Lowry will be 32 going on 33. These guys are in their prime and will be for a couple more years. LeBron is in his 15th season, how much longer can he keep doing what he is doing? I think the Raptors have a chance to eventually dethrone thing King, if they stay the course and make a few roster upgrades.

There are going to be some people who were born after me (1992) that are going to hate this opinion but LeBron James is the most talented basketball player the NBA has ever seen. For those of you in my generation disagreeing and going with Jordan, I ask why? How much Jordan tape have you watched? Is it the Finals record? Okay, I’ll give in on that argument. But LeBron has been to the playoffs 13 times in his NBA career and has NEVER lost in the first round. How many times did MJ lose in the first round? Three. He lost three times in the first round despite his greatness. Many people will use the 2011 Finals as the crutch to base their argument of Jordan’s superiority to James, and I hate that. Dirk and the Mavs went on a historic gauntlet run that had a bit of luck involved. LeBron and the Heat were in their first year trying to learn how to play with three superstars in their prime on the court, which to my knowledge had never been done before. This debate will rage on forever so there will never be a clear answer. But by the standards of sheer talent, ability to make your teammates better, ability to guard positions 1-5, court vision, and now the mid-range fade away – he is better than Jordan. LeBron has all the tools and still finds time to add more to his bag. To me, he is the greatest player of all-time and definitely my generation’s Michael Jordan, but better.

We are the #BlogBoys. Why the #BlogBoys? Well, you can thank Kevin Durant for that. Durant recently did his fair share of ranting about the supposed “blog boys” and how analysts/writers didn’t watch basketball nor know what they were talking about. Now, that may reign true other places but not here at Dallas Sports Fanatic. We’re pleased to bring you content and insight about your favorite local teams that we are proud of, whether Durant is a fan of us or not.  

The #BlogBoys will be a round table discussion between a few of our Mavericks staff: Mike DuPont,Reese KonkleMichael Mulford, and Trevor Rathbun. We will touch on Mavericks specific topics while also speaking on what’s going on league-wide around the NBA. A new edition will be posted every Friday so sit back, grab yourself a cupcake, and welcome to the #BlogBoys! 

Managing Editor for Dallas Sports Fanatic | Lead Editor covering the Dallas Mavericks | UNT Alum | Twitter: @TheMulf

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