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Chat: Kevin Pelton (Basketball)

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday June 12, 2008 1:00 PM ET chat session with Kevin Pelton (Basketball).


Kevin Pelton, who's covering the NBA Finals for Basketball Prospectus, stops by to talk about tonight's Game Four.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Three games into the NBA Finals we've yet to really see an impressive performance from the favorites, but the Lakers have a chance to tie the series tonight. We'll discuss that and all the other happenings in the NBA, so keep the questions coming. In the background today ... no music, but instead Euro 2008. Go Italy tomorrow. Let's get it started.

david (jp, ma): What's your take on the ref controversy?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Let's start here, since this has been the big source of discussion in the NBA over the last 48 hours or so. My take is I'm reminded of when Marv Albert was in legal trouble, accused of sexual assault. For some reason, I remember people saying then they believed his accuser's story because the woman described pulling off Albert's toupee, and we all knew he wore a toupee.

This is stupid.

It's not that I disbelieved Albert's accuser, or even that I necessarily disbelieve Donaghy (though he's got a lot bigger credibility problem). It's that if you were Tim Donaghy and you wanted to try to save yourself by telling stories about the game being fixed, of course you'd pick games everyone thought might have been questionable at the time. And that's what the 2002 Western Conference Finals and the 2005 Dallas-Houston series were. So I don't think Donaghy's accusations mean anything right now. We'll see what, if any, real proof emerges. I don't think we know any more about those series or NBA refereeing now than we did before. So far, all Tim Donaghy has done is tell conspiracy theorists what they already wanted to here.

e (villanova '95): I just read a mock draft that said the T-Wolves "may not be ready to give up on Randy Foye." What has Foye done to warrant giving up on?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Save missing the first half of last season due to injury, nothing really. However, he surely hasn't done anything to convince people that he is Minnesota's point guard of the future and as a shooting guard he's somewhat limited. He has plenty of time to develop beyond this, but right now it looks like he might be best as a sixth man. Nothing wrong with that, but that also shouldn't stop the Timberwolves from picking a guard if they think Mayo or someone else is the best player available.

Marcus (Silver Spring): Will the Wizards ever get tired of first round and out and fire Eddie Jordan?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I'm not sure Eddie Jordan is the reason the Wizards have been limited to the first round over the last three years. For one thing, this LeBron James guy has had a lot to do with it. Washington also has had bad luck with injuries -- multiple guys two years ago and Gilbert Arenas last year. Clearly they're a limited team, but that has more to do with the personnel (and the lack of defenders) than Jordan.

By the way, if anyone should be watching the Celtics this year and feeling down, it's Washington. The Wizards all but signed Tom Thibodeau to join their coaching staff, and if you don't think he would have helped their defense, you haven't been paying attention to what Boston has done defensively.

MA (Athens, GA): The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports this afternoon that Mike Woodson has been offered a two year extension to coach the Hawks. Why would the Hawks bring him back (and why would he want to stay)?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Well, why would he want to stay is pretty simple -- these NBA head-coaching jobs don't exactly come along every day. The Hawks have done a pretty good job of developing their young players and Woodson coached a very good series against Boston. Other than the quality of coaches on the market right now, I don't see a pressing reason to make a change on the sidelines. Continuity in coaching is often underrated.

S.K. (Toronto): Hi Kevin, thanks for the chat! What would be your strategy this summer if you were Bryan Colangelo? Committing to one PG and trading the other seems obvious (I'm a Calderon fan, personally)... Are there any realistic options out there that could net the Raps an impact player in return, or will we be stuck with "vet minimum" additions?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Depends how you define "impact player," but surely the Raptors should be able to get something pretty good in return for Ford. Unfortunately, the way Ford played after coming back this season -- not to mention his neck injury -- limits his value, but we're talking about a very talented player at a premium position in his prime in terms of age. Unfortunately, the best fit I can think of off the top of my head is New York, which wouldn't have much to offer the Raptors in return.

N/A (albany, ny): Sorry to troll, but all NBA games are implicitly fixed. It is completed accepted that "stars get calls". And the league selects which guys to market as stars.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Stars get the benefit of the doubt from officials in all sports; that just happens to play a larger role in the NBA. If you don't like it, oh well. The league will survive without you. *shurg*

HeeSeop (Chicago): If you're Joe Dumars and you want to break up the core, what kind of changes do you look to make? The usual caveat of it depends on who you can get back aside, what kind of changes do you think would most benefit the team?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I feel like the Detroit situation defies the usual kind of analysis, or at least my usual kind of analysis. People have written about this and I'm getting it second-hand myself, but the Pistons' locker room is unlike any in the league in terms of a swagger and attitude that is apparently palpable. And that means, combined with their talent, the Pistons can beat anyone in the league but also lose to anyone in the league. At this point, that doesn't seem to be working. Rasheed Wallace is the player that attitude really seems to flow from, and while it's hard to imagine the Pistons getting equal value in return, it's been Wallace who has often come up short in the postseason. So I think the theory that it is Wallace who has to be moved is sensible.

Croatia 2-nil over Germany. Very impressive.

Wendy (Madrid): There had been talk that the Bulls were waiting to talk to Tom Thibodeau. What did Del Negro say that made the Bulls change their mind? After they didn't get Collins or DAntoni, why didn't they wait an extra week and at least talk to the guy?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Seems like I field a question from Wendy in Madrid every chat about the Bulls' coaching search. I guess this is it. You've picked up what baffles me about the Del Negro decision. They've already waited this long; it's not like there is a risk of someone else hiring Del Negro away (especially given his own organization decided to pass), so what's the harm in waiting? This is the unfortunate side effect of the way coaching searches are done in professional sports (it's much more common in the NFL, I'd venture to say) in that the most successful assistant coaches have this huge factor of timing working against them. I'm not sure Thibodeau was the right fit for any of the open coaching jobs, but for him to not even get an interview is a shame.

From Chicago's perspective ... I don't see it. Experience is probably somewhat overrated for coaches and I'd rather have a question mark in Del Negro than someone like Doug Collins I'm pretty sure isn't the right fit, but this is surely a strange choice. What's funny is Chicago almost backed into my choice all along, Dwane Casey.

Jivas (Oak Park, IL): Kevin: if you were the GM of the Bulls, would you take Rose or Beasley, and why? Thanks!

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I would go with Rose. I think, given the way the NBA game has developed, Rose is more likely to become an elite player with his skillset than is Beasley. As I've said before, need should play very little role with the No. 1 overall pick. Rose and Beasley are close enough that if Beasley were clearly a better fit, I'd endorse him, but I don't think that is the case.

By the way, on the subject of the referees, the ever-brilliant Kelly Dwyer has a post taking the same thought as I have and expressing it much more eloquently.

HeeSeop (Chicago): Check out Chauncey's game logs for the last few postseasons. He to me exemplifies the cocky on again, off again effort that is so frustrating about the Pistons.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Fair point. Billups definitely wasn't very good against Cleveland in 2007. He had a pretty decent series against the Heat two years ago and was dealing with the injury this year. Billups might be a more valuable trade piece and in Rodney Stuckey the Pistons have a pretty good prospect coming up behind him. We shall see.

S.K. (Toronto): Does it make sense when conducting a coaching search to pick someone with charisma and leadership qualities, and address any strategic deficiencies through assistant coaches? It certainly seems to be working for Boston. That may be a function of just how good Thibodeau is, though.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I've had that thought before. When evaluating head coaches, we tend to give them way too much credit and too little to assisant coaches. The skills involved are very different. I think the biggest issue with that strategy is what happens when everyone realizes the assistant coach is responsible for your success and tries to hire him away to be a head coach?

John (Boston): What's been the biggest surprise of the Finals so far for you?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I would say that the Lakers' offense has yet to look right through three games. Even when the Lakers have put up points, it's been on the strength of hot shooting or individual excellence from Kobe Bryant, not on execution of the triangle offense. I have all the respect in the world for the Celtics' defense, but I did not see that coming.

I'm surprised there hasn't been more talk about how poorly Derek Fisher has played in this series. He's gotten to the free-throw line very well, but hasn't been knocking down open shots from the perimeter at all.

S.K. (Toronto): Bill Simmons has talked constantly about his theory that the qualities that make Kevin Garnett such a regular season force are the very same qualities which make him a playoff "choker". I'm not a proponent of 'clutch' and 'choke' in general, but he's been very persuasive and I find myself just about convinced. What are your thoughts?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I think the bigger issue is the implications of those terms than the discussion itself, at least in the NBA, where the game legitimately does change down the stretch. And yeah, I think Simmons' theory is completely reasonable. If you play your heart out all the time, like Garnett does, obviously it is more difficult to raise your level in the postseason.

I also think this is partially an issue of the nature of the game down the stretch, which makes it difficult for big man to control it the same way as guards can. That doesn't explain why Garnett's jumper has a tendency to become iffy down the stretch, but add it all up and I think it is understandable why Garnett isn't a better late-game player. That shouldn't be considered a major strike against everything he does so well, but I don't think it should be ignored either.

tfierst (MN): Tell me Miami is dumb enough to pass on Beasley. Please! The Twolves need some luck.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Miami is dumb enough to pass on Beasley. See, I can't be accused of not giving the readers what they want!

I think the more likely scenario is the two teams swap picks, and that probably would work pretty well for the Timberwolves too.

Eric (L.A.): What do the Lakers need to do to win the series?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Keep playing defense like they did in Game Three, give more playing time to The Machine and tweak the offense to get it going. As I wrote at Basketball Prospectus, I'm not as convinced as most people that the Lakers are in bad shape after the last game. Gasol will play better, and Odom can't possibly be as bad again. I see the Lakers putting together their best effort of the series and winning tonight, leaving Game Five as the turning point of the series. Should be fine. Like I also wrote in my column, let's hope these teams can both get going at a high level in addition to the competitive nature of the games so far.

Jivas (Oak Park, IL): Michael Beasley is an absolutely elite scorer/offensive player, but a front line of Beasley and Al Jefferson would rival the Knicks' line of Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry for putrid defense! There's going to be a lot of confused fans when they keep losing 118-110.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Touche. Still gotta go best player available and sort it out later in my opinion.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Thanks to everybody who joined us. Enjoy the Finals and we'll chat again before too long.

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