In this week’s Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” Mike Herold, asks our panel of experts three questions: what has been the most exciting game thus far in either the NBA or NHL, who should the Milwaukee Bucks look to pick up in the NBA draft, and what is the best day of the summer for which every sports fan should be excited?
1. The opening rounds of both the NBA and NHL playoffs are currently going on. Which game has been the most exciting so far?
Chris: The NBA and NHL playoffs are both incredibly exciting. However, the most exciting game was Game 1 of the Rockets-Blazers series. First off, you have an all-time performance by LaMarcus Aldridge, going for 46 and 18, and absolutely destroying Dwight Howard and company with his mid-range shot. I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite things to watch in basketball is a big man going to work, and Aldridge has done it all year. Then you had Damian Lillard’s first playoff game, dropping 31 points and being clutch as all hell. The Blazers also made two comebacks with the latter sending it to overtime. And did I mention that three Rockets’ players had 24 or more points? That showed us that, as expected, there wasn’t going to be a ton of defense played in this series.
Matt: In my (slightly) biased opinion, I think the Penguins-Blue Jackets Game 4 has been the most exciting game of either playoffs so far with the heavily-favored Penguins with superstars Crosby, Malkin and Neal vs. the average-Joe Blue Jackets, making their second-ever playoff appearance in their 14-year history. The Pens led late into the third, when former Stanley Cup winning goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made a terrible play and coughed up the puck behind his net. With the extra attacker on, the Blue Jackets stole the puck from Fleury and buried it, tying the game at three apiece. The Columbus crowd erupted after witnessing undoubtedly the best moment in franchise history. The Jackets carried their momentum into overtime, when Nick Foligno notched the game winner on what should’ve been a routine save for Fleury. This game had it all: the intensity of a divisional rivalry, with the thrill of overtime action. Columbus pulled off an upset for even an average Joe like Peter LaFleur to appreciate.
Peter: This has been an atypically awesome first round for the NBA, and it’s been highlighted by Game 3 of the wire-to-wire Oklahoma City-Memphis series. Kevin Durant has been characteristically defying the laws of physics, making for some highlight-reel basketball — his four-point play at the end of regulation in Game 2 was just jaw-dropping, and the Thunder got another game-tying, four-point play in Game 3. But the Grizzlies are proving, once again, that basketball is a team sport rather than a “who has the most stars?” contest. Memphis has been getting contributions from everyone, including from a smothering defensive effort or backup Beno Udrih pouring in double digits, and as a result it rattled off its second straight win against a title favorite. For those sick and tired of the stars-oriented culture and coverage of the NBA, nothing is more exciting than gritty Grizzlies wins in the postseason pioneered by teamwork.
Pete wins for mentioning the teamwork factor, Matt gets 2 points for his ‘Dodgeball’ reference and Chris gets 1 point because everyone fouled out of that game.
2. Who would you take with the first pick as the Milwaukee Bucks?
Chris: The Bucks need help pretty much anywhere they can get it, so I don’t think they’ll be making this pick by position if they get it. I’ll go with Andrew Wiggins. The fact of the matter is that Wiggins simply has the most potential, and his floor isn’t half bad either. Everyone can say he struggled at Kansas, but what some may not know is that Bill Self runs a very specific system — one that makes it difficult for guys to take over. While Jabari Parker was heaving threes and being fed the ball in the post, Wiggins was getting his, just less notably. Wiggins can shoot and attack like Parker, but his athleticism and defense separate him from Parker. Embiid has that once-in-a-lifetime potential, too, but his back issues are frightening. Building a team is what the Bucks need the most, and Wiggins is the man to do that. Let’s be honest — no free agent is picking Milwaukee over Los Angeles, New York or Miami. But if someone is there to give them a reason to come, that may be the most value that Wiggins can provide.
Matt: No player in this year’s draft will be able to save the Bucks all on their own, regardless of who they take with their possible No. 1 selection. The two likely candidates for the top pick are Kansas’s Andrew Wiggins and Duke’s Jabari Parker but even with them, the Bucks will still be the laughing stock of the league. This is why I believe the Bucks should select Kansas’s center Joel Embiid with their pick. The Bucks have serviceable scorers like Brandon Knight and OJ Mayo, but they will never be half the players Wiggins or Parker can be. If you look at the Bucks current roster, their centers are Zaza Pachulia, Miroslav Raduljica and Ekpe Udoh. These names sound more like they belong on a TSA no-fly list rather than the back of an NBA jersey. All three are awful and are on the team for the sole purpose of helping the Bucks lose games. Embiid is a player that comes along once in a decade and is capable of dominating the paint like Shaq used to. Players like Parker and Wiggins are easier to find than a truly dominant franchise center. The Bucks should put their faith in Joel Embiid to resurrect their franchise.
Peter: There’s no doubt Wiggins is the safest pick for Milwaukee. Duke small forward Jabari Parker might be more talented offensively and posted better numbers than Wiggins’s last season, but his limited athleticism worries NBA scouts. In a league full of physical freaks, having elite genetics plays a role in your ability to do your job. Wiggins’s size gives him a huge long-term advantage over Parker, especially on defense. Maybe Wiggins’s teammate Joel Embiid had an argument to be No. 1 before his back injury, but with how often injuries destroy the careers of top centers — see Greg Oden, Brook Lopez, etc. — it would be an unnecessary risk to waste a 15-win season on a player who might not play. Wiggins has tremendous upside as a pure scorer, doesn’t come with the injury baggage of Embiid and has the NBA-level athleticism Parker lacks, and he’s the best option at No. 1.
Chris wins for noting the limitations placed on Wiggins in college, Pete gets 2 points for his athleticism analysis and Matt gets 1 point for picking a center with back trouble.
3. Look ahead to this summer and pick one day to which every sports fan should be excited. Convince me that this will be the best day of summer.
Chris: Sunday, July 13. Why’s that? Because the World Cup final is that day. Sure, it’s going to be great watching USA play (and honestly all the other games — everyone is a soccer fan when it’s the World Cup), but we’re going to get the best two teams in the world squaring off in what arguably should be the best soccer game we’ll see for four years. In addition, it’s a Sunday in July, so you’ve got a full slate of baseball on all day, along with Sunday night baseball. There’s not a ton going on sports-wise during the summer, but this is a day you’ll want to sit back, grill some burgers and enjoy the sports.
Matt: The one event that true sports fans should be looking forward to over the summer is the Belmont Stakes. Horse racing is said to be “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” and I couldn’t agree more. Horse racing is like the final two minutes of a March Madness game, a Stanley Cup overtime game and a Hail Mary on the final play in the Super Bowl all mashed up into one moment. Nowhere else in sports does so much ride on two chaotic minutes. History can be made and fortunes can be lost in an instant. Two horses coming down the homestretch, neck and neck with each other, one in search of immortality and one trying to play the role of the spoiler, and it ends in a photo finish. You can’t tell me that isn’t something to look forward to.
Peter: The World Cup is the best event in sports every four years, and sports fans in this country should be amped up for the U.S.’s first game on Monday, June 16, in a must-win grudge match with Ghana. If the Americans can get revenge against their bogey team for losses in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups — with that last deflating defeat coming in extra time, after an inspired regulation comeback by the U.S. — they’ll be only one more result away from qualifying out of the most difficult group in the tournament. The Americans won’t be the only ones playing that day either: Germany, Portugal, Iran and Nigeria will be making their World Cup debuts. And sports fans who’ve decided they don’t like freedom have other options, too: MLB has a full slate of games and the NCAA World Series begins, making it a day everyone can enjoy.
Pete wins for picking more than one sport and the patriotic angle, Chris gets 2 points for his multi-sport angle and Matt gets 1 point because he didn’t give a specific date.
Peter wins Around the Dorm, 8-6-4