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April 14, 2011
Prospectus Roundtable
Regular Season in Review

Basketball Prospectus

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With the NBA's regular season in the books, Basketball Prospectus' NBA analysts--Bradford Doolittle, Kevin Pelton and Sebastian Pruiti--got together at our virtual headquarters for a roundtable to talk about everything that has transpired over the last six months and what still lies ahead. We've split the conversation into two parts. Today, we look at the best and worst of the regular season. Tomorrow, playoff picks and more.

What's your biggest takeaway from this year's regular season?

BD; The league has never been better. Exciting, likable young powers rising in Chicago and Oklahoma City. The veteran Lakers and Celtics hanging in for another run. The melodrama in Miami. John Wall. Blake Griffin. My gosh, they really need to avoid an extended lockout.
DF: Point guard has become the best position in the NBA. There are more good point guards in the league than ever before, and many of them are young. We've just entered the Point Guard Era
KP: That the "stars team up" model might be DOA. The Miami Heat finished second in the East, so I'm certainly not about to write off the team's chances of going deep in the playoffs or even winning a championship, but at the very least it's been nowhere near as easy as people suspected. Meanwhile, the way the Denver Nuggets took off after trading Carmelo Anthony and even the success of the Chicago Bulls restored faith that the NBA is still as much about teams as it is individuals.
SP: The number of teams that can win the title. Usually, after the regular season there are 2 or 3 teams that have a chance at winning the title. This year, I count 6. This made the regular season even more interesting and makes me look forward the playoffs even more.

What storyline hasn't gotten enough attention this season?

BD; It's kind of hard for me to say because I really don't pay any mind to the various pundits. I'll stay close to home and say that the Bulls' bench doesn't get as much credit as it should for how good Chicago's record turned out to be.
DF: Because Basketball Prospectus readers are so well-informed, I'm going with a story that has been totally off the radar. Chris Wilcox can pass extremely well for a big man. He's not at the Divac/Webber/Darko level, but I'm not sure there's a player in the NBA who performs a skill better without getting any recognition for it
KP: Prospectus readers should be familiar with it, but other than Bill Simmons I can't remember a lot of mainstream commentary on how many over-30 players have played key roles in the NBA this season. To me, that's potentially a revolutionary league-wide shift.
SP: The job Lionel Hollins did in Memphis. Early in the season, it looked like he was a lock for a midseason firing. Instead, he led the Grizzlies to the playoffs. This is made a little more impressive when you consider that the Grizzlies traded O.J. Mayo, just to have him return to the team. Instead of losing him, Hollins was able to maintain control of the locker room and keep winning.

What was the most overrated story this season?

BD: The Heat could have gone 82-0 and it would have been an overrated just by virtue of the amount of resources poured into covering every little facet of the team. It's just a basketball team.
DF: Carmelo Anthony saving the Knicks. 'Melo is a very good player. He's just not good enough to rescue a flawed Knicks team. And with his contract, New York will have trouble surrounding him and Amar'e Stoudemire with the right pieces.
KP: Carmelo Anthony to New York. By a mile.
SP: The Miami Heat. Every time Miami lost two games or more in a row, we were flooded with quotes, interviews, and features asking "What's wrong?" over and over.

Who was your favorite player to watch this season?

BD: Derrick Rose. I've never had the privilege of watching an elite NBA player up close on a daily basis before this year and it's been a thrilling ride, one that's hopefully just beginning.
DF: Joakim Noah. Nobody plays with as much passion, intensity and vigor. He's a true throwback.
KP: Blake Griffin. There was a great play in last night's season finale where Terry Gannon and Mark Jackson were talking about Griffin's highlight reel and wondering what he might have in store. As if on cue, Griffin hustled to track down a loose ball and start a fast break, which he finished by powerfully dunking a lob from Eric Bledsoe.
SP: Blake Griffin. I didn't know it was possible to watch the Clippers consistently over the course of the season, but that is what Blake Griffin does: he makes you want to watch the Clippers.

What was your favorite team to watch this season?

BD: Chicago Bulls, obviously. Second favorite, I'll say anyone playing the Lakers.
DF: Washington Wizards. Their collective talent battling their collective immaturity battling their opponent made for a compelling struggle.
KP: Oklahoma City Thunder. As much as it pains me to say this, Russell Westbrook's power, Kevin Durant's pure scoring, Serge Ibaka's athleticism and the hustle of Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins combined to make the Thunder especially entertaining after the trade deadline.
SP: Dallas Mavericks. I just love watching Dirk Nowitzki play and seeing the Mavs execute their zone was fun too. The new-look Nuggets and the Thunder were tied for a close second.

What was your favorite game you attended?

BD: Bulls over the Rockets in overtime on Dec. 4. Rose hit a three at the buzzer of regulation. That's the game that really launched Chicago's season and Rose's MVP ascendancy.
DF: The Detroit Pistons' Dennis Rodman night. It was a treat to see such one of my favorite players of all-time get his number retired, a much-deserved honor.
KP: The Heat's overtime win in Portland. For a period of about 10 minutes, we saw all the potential the combination of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade had to offer.
SP: The Wizards at Nets on Dec. 16. John Wall didn't play and it wasn't a very good game, but it was the only one I attended this year, therefore they win by default.

What was your favorite game you watched on TV?

BD: Dec. 29, Kings over Grizzlies. No, really. That was the game Tyreke Evans won with a shot from beyond half court, but it was a fun game even before that.
DF: Celtics 118, Knicks 116 on Dec. 15. Two iconic franchises battled their hearts out at Madison Square Garden, a recipe for an instant classic. A rising Knicks teams had a chance to prove it belonged, and may have done so despite losing, but Boston showed it was still the team to beat in the East.
KP: Warriors over Kings on Dec. 22 in OT. I explained at the time on Unfiltered just why a December game between two lottery teams was so randomly memorable.
SP: Nuggets-Spurs game that ended with Manu Ginobili's walkoff charge. The Spurs took the lead with a great play late, and after the Nuggets went with Carmelo, who got the basket but also got called for a charge.

What team was the most pleasant surprise?

BD: Chicago Bulls. I have to say Chicago. I mean, there was no way to know the Bulls would be this good.
DF: Philadelphia 76ers. I didn't expect much from the 76ers, especially after they traded Samuel Dalembert. But Doug Collins re-proved his coaching chops this year.
KP: New Orleans Hornets. They had all sorts of obstacles on and off the court, but a rookie head coach (Monty Williams) improved the Hornets' defense and rode the brilliance of Chris Paul to a playoff spot. If only David West was healthy, New Orleans would have a legitimate chance at a first-round upset.
SP: Denver Nuggets. How well the Nuggets played after the Melo trade. Everyone thought that they would be out of the playoffs, but they were able to move up and find themselves at the fifth seed. I don't think anyone saw that coming.

What team was the biggest disappointment?

BD: Utah Jazz. I wasn't especially high on the Jazz entering the season, but I did not expect the amazing stability that is the calling card of that franchise to be utterly destroyed.
DF: Milwaukee Bucks. I thought, with a couple offensive reinforcements and a still-stout defense, the Bucks would win about 50 games. Instead, they regressed right out of the playoffs.
KP: Utah Jazz. I know the Jazz had injuries, defections in free agency and the unexpected retirement of Jerry Sloan, but who expected Utah to be so uncompetitive down the stretch? The Jazz's defense collapsed during February and March.
SP: Milwaukee Bucks. After a great finish to the season last year, a lot was expected of them. Injuries and poor offensive execution kept that from happening.

What player was the most pleasant surprise?

BD: Landry Fields. Absolutely did not see him coming. I know he tailed off a bit towards the end of the year, but he's a heck of a player.
DF: Kyle Lowry. He cut down on his turnovers, defended better and improved his shooting at the rim and on three-pointers. I never thought he'd even approach this level.
KP: LaMarcus Aldridge. Blazers fans spent the last two years debating whether Aldridge was too soft, whether he could develop into an All-Star, whether he was worth his contract extension. Aldridge ended all those questions by emerging as Portland's consistent go-to scorer and a possible All-NBA pick.
SP: Kris Humphries. Humphries went from a bit player to a guy who can be an effective power forward off of the bench.

What player was the biggest disappointment?

BD: Tyreke Evans. Sure, you don't know how much of his struggles were due to physical issues, but I didn't see a player that put in the work to fill out the weaknesses in his game. Next year is pivotal for him.
DF: Brandon Jennings. I thought he was a talented and young player on the verge of taking the next step, but he didn't do that. Plus, I thought his maturity was underrated, but he publicly criticized his teammates and management. Maybe he'll put everything together next year.
KP: Aaron Brooks. Has anybody ever had a worse contract year? Unable to secure an extension from the lockout-wary Rockets, Brooks lost his starting job, played poorly, and let his frustration get the better of times both in Houston and after being dealt to Phoenix.
SP: Tyreke Evans. For whatever reason Evans couldn't build on his rookie of the year campaign and went from a lock to being a start in the future to being a question mark.

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