The Balk-Cooper NBA Offseason Conferences: Part One

Below, College Sports Town editors Tim Balk and Danny Cooper electronically conference to discuss the happenings of  two crazy weeks in the NBA. This is the first in what will be a series of back-and-forth conversations about the NBA.

Editor’s note: After this post was written, the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks agreed on a deal that sent Jason Kidd to Milwaukee in exchange for two second round draft picks. The Bucks fired coach Larry Drew.

Danny Cooper: The last few weeks have been a time of turmoil in the NBA. While the NBA Draft and impending free agency usually brings about radical changes, this offseason has been the craziest in recent memory. The draft had a fair amount of drama itself, with promising but injured prospect Joel Embiid falling to the Sixers at the third pick, after the Cavs and Bucks drafted the safer options of Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker with the first and second picks. The rumor mill has been churning at an alarming rate, with rampant speculation about the eventual destinations of superstars such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Love. Front office drama has been prevalent as well, with the impending exile of Jason Kidd from the Brooklyn Nets and the ongoing controversy of the Donald Sterling fiasco. Tim, have you ever seen a wilder offseason?

Flip Saunders is back in Minneapolis.

Flip Saunders is back in Minneapolis.

Tim Balk: They’re all pretty wild. I still haven’t gotten over the Timberwolves inexplicably ceding almost total control of their franchise to Flip Saunders. I mean, I love Flip. Remember when he spent like a month as an assistant on the C’s bench and came to every game looking bored and shabbily dressed? Seriously though, this is a guy with a long history of being a marginal coach–he never got over the hump the first time in Minnesota, he never got over the hump with some extremely talented teams in Detroit, and his time in Washington was a trainwreck. I’m not sure what qualifies a guy who lost in the first round SEVEN years in a row with Minny the first time (and we make fun of the Hawks now…) to now take over the team for a second time as coach/GM/part owner. Even funnier, the Flip deal seems to have Jason Kidd, who, honestly, did a terrible job with Brooklyn this year, thinking he should get a similar deal in Brooklyn.

DC: It’s despicable when Flip Saunders has a job coaching an NBA team and Lionel Hollins is waiting for a call back from the Rockets front office. Head coaching moves this offseason have been bizarre. Steve Kerr, Derek Fisher, and David Blatt have been handed the reigns of franchises at major turning points despite no previous NBA head coaching experience. On the bright side, Quin Snyder couldn’t possibly do a worse job than Tyrone Corbin in Utah, and Stan Van Gundy is a sight for sore eyes in Detroit, but there’s a limit to how much they can improve their poor teams. There’s a clear upper echelon of coaches, there’s a hundred yards of crap, then there’s the rest of them. Outside of Gregg Popovich, Rick Carlisle, Doc Rivers, Tom Thibodeau, and Frank Vogel, I’m not sure which coaches are worth the money blown on them each offseason.

TB: I’m not sure I totally agree with your stance on there not being a middle of the pack when it comes to coaching. I’d point to guys like Larry Drew (who may be out of a job quite soon)  and Kevin McHale as fairly average NBA coaches. And there are a lot of other guys I like outside of those four or five. I thought Terry Stotts did a fantastic job in Portland this year. Jeff Hornacek had a great first year in Phoenix. I think we both agree that Spoelstra is an extremely capable coach. Moving back to Kidd, news just broke that the Bucks and Nets are trying to hash out a trade to send him to Milwaukee. First there was the Doc Rivers trade last offseason and now…this? We might be taking the whole coaching carousel to a new level. The weirdest thing to me is that the Bucks are apparently only willing to part with a second round draft pick. If you have enough confidence in a coach to want him leading your team, you’d think you would be willing to give up more than a meager second round pick.  Personally, I’d give up a second round pick NOT to have Kidd coach my team.

DC: Your point is taken. There are some extremely talented coaches out there who performed fantastically last year but aren’t quite at the Poppovic- Rivers- Carlisle level yet. That is not meant as a slight to those coaches but as a testament to the skill of the elite coaches of the league. In any case, dealing coaches is certainly one of the weirder developments of the past few years. I’m not sure that I like it, especially when there is an incumbent in place already, as there is in Milwaukee with Larry Drew. It does make you wonder how much teams would be willing to give up for a great coach like Poppovic.

Where will Melo land?

Where will Melo land?

TB: Shifting the subject from coaches to the draft, I love what the Chicago did. The offensively starved Bulls got a legit offensive weapon in Doug McDermott. Anyone who reads the blog knows I love Dougie. The dude’s got a diverse offensive game and I think he’ll thrive in the Chi. Getting him at 11 smells like a steal, even if they had to flip the 16th and 19th picks to Denver in order to get him. Bringing this thing back to the subject of coaches, Thibodeau was apparently very happy about the acquisition. Given the guys he’s had on his roster the past few years, it isn’t hard to see why he’d be glad to pick up a guy who can put the biscuit in the basket.

DC: No wonder you love McBuckets, you look just like him! In all seriousness, the Bulls are primed to control the East for a long time if the front office can snag highly-sought after free agent Carmelo Anthony. Playing with DPOY Joakim Noah, excellent sixth man Taj Gibson, and perhaps a resurgent Derrick Rose, Melo would prosper, and the Bulls would certainly be perennial favorites in the weak Eastern Conference. Chicago has to sign Melo first, though, and it faces stiff competition to do so. The Rockets and Mavs both have meetings set up with Melo next week, along with the Bulls, and the Knicks won’t let him get away so easy. Tim, what do you think Melo should do? To be honest, I would probably leave New York to create a superteam in Chicago and try to finally get a ring, but as a Knicks fan, that scenario depresses me.

TB: From a purely basketball perspective, Chicago is the clear choice. The Bulls already have a superstar, a proven coach, and a solid supporting ensemble. However, there are other factors at play. New York can pay him more than anybody else. He’s also a New York guy and his family is in the city. Then there’s always the allure of playing in MSG. So I’m not sure what Melo should do. I’ll be going to college outside of Chicago next year, so I’d like to see him take his talents to the United Center for selfish reasons. Even without Anthony, the Bulls should be the class of the East next winter if Rose can stay healthy. By the way, I’m also happy with the draft moves of my hometown C’s; by drafting Marcus Smart and James Young they’ve added some great young talent. Smart’s presence could pave the way for the Celtics to deal Rondo.

We think the C's made a smart move in taking Marcus Smart. (The Smart puns never get old, do they?)

Marcus Smart will be suiting up in Celtic green next season.

DC: The Celtics ended up with two of the better prospects in the draft (thanks Billy King!) in Smart and Young. Smart can let his emotions get the best of him, but if that’s the worst thing there is to say about him, that’s a good sign. Young is a solid sharpshooter who should benefit from playing in a system with Smart and/or Rondo. My issue with the Smart pick is Rondo’s presence on the team. The Celtics need to decide whether they want to deal him to garner more picks in what should be another deep draft in 2015 or if they want to keep him in Beantown for a while. Knowing Rondo’s competitive nature, I’m not so sure he’ll be a great mentor to Smart. Would it be possible for Danny Ainge to finagle a deal with the Timberwolves to exchange Rondo and picks or an expiring contract for Kevin Love? That’s the dream, isn’t it?

TB: That’s the dream.


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