In this week’s Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” Kevin Luo, asks our panel of experts three questions: Who were the winners and losers of the NBA trade deadline, who is the best NBA draft prospect after Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and who is the NHL MVP at this point in the season?
1. Who were the biggest winners and losers of the NBA trade deadline?
Matt: No deal really stuck out as far as making a team a true contender, but the winner to me is the Minnesota Timberwolves for reacquiring Kevin Garnett. At his age, Garnett will not help the team on the court, but he can mentor the Wolves’ young nuclei, Andrew Wiggins and Ricky Rubio. The deal will almost certainly help the Wolves’ last-place attendance. As for the losers of the deadline, I still have no idea what Sam Hinkie plans to do with the 76ers. After trading Michael Carter-Williams, last year’s Rookie-of-the-Year, it appears the team has finally recommitted to rebuilding again. Currently sitting 14th in the East, it was clear this year’s team needed to be rebuilt in order to preserve their ongoing suckfest, especially if they want the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft.
Michael: The biggest winner would have to be the Oklahoma City Thunder, while the biggest loser would be the Phoenix Suns. Sam Presti helped fortify an aging Thunder roster without giving away too much. Joining the likes of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are D.J. Augustin, Kyle Singler and Enes Kanter, all players who, under the right coach, can perform and bring up a team. They got rid of Reggie Jackson, who made it obvious he didn’t want to play for the Thunder, and Kendrick Perkins, someone whose contract had been weighing the team down. Meanwhile in Phoenix, Robert Savar boasted he would never give in to Goran Dragic’s trade demands. Now here we are, with Dragic on the Heat and the Suns out of one of their best players. Savar continues to bad mouth Dragic, while his team continues to flounder in the West. It’s at times like this it’s better for an owner to keep quiet and rethink his strategy rather than run his mouth, making himself look even more pathetic.
Chris: My NBA trade deadline winner has to be the Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers are a talented team on the fringe of championship contention, and they made moves that made them legit contenders out west. The team shipped out some bench pieces and a draft pick for Aaron Afflalo, who will provide some big time scoring off the bench as well as a legit threat from 3-point range. Afflalo could be the extra boost of depth that Portland needs come playoff time. My trade deadline loser has to be the Philadelphia 76ers. No one really knows what Philly is doing. By dealing out Michael Carter-Williams and K.J. McDaniels, the 76ers are basically playing with a glorified D-League lineup. The 74 draft picks they have over the next four years will be great, though.
Michael gets 3 points for discussing OKC’s quality moves. Chris gets 2 points for discussing the Afflalo pickup, and Matt gets 1 point for saying the Sixers need to rebuild.
2. Who’s the best NBA draft prospect not named Jahlil Okafor?
Matt: I believe Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell may be the best prospect in the draft, including Okafor. The center position has become less important over the past decade. Except for Tim Duncan and the Spurs, teams do not need a good center to win in today’s NBA. However, teams do need a scorer and Russell fits that bill. He is a freshman point guard/shooting guard that can score at will in a tough conference, while still getting his teammates involved. Russell Westbrook of the Thunder has shown over the past month just how important it is to have a point guard that can score. In the end, Russell will probably be drafted by the 76ers, where he will inevitably be traded in two years for more first-round picks, launching the 76ers most recent rebuild.
Michael: The second-best NBA draft prospect is Karl-Anthony Towns. The New Jersey native has scored an impressive 269 points this year for the University of Kentucky and has averaged about nine points per game. Now, that may seem low, but ever since Kentucky implemented their “platoon system,” each player has been getting less time on the court. So, Towns’s performance this season shows he can do a lot in a very small amount of time. In his last five games alone, he’s scored 51 points and 33 rebounds, all in winning efforts against good schools such as the University of Arkansas and the University of Tennessee and also helped clinch the SEC title for the team. Towns is expected to go early in the draft, and it’s easy to see why, so the 76ers, Timberwolves or Lakers all have good reason to pick this kid up.
Chris: Karl-Anthony Towns might just be the best prospect in the whole draft, so he is the easy choice here. The Kentucky big man is an absolute freak of nature and is still an extremely raw product on both ends of the court. That being sad, Towns can still protect the rim and score the basketball just as well as any center in college basketball right now. Towns had an outstanding month of February and is currently challenging Jahlil Okafor for the No. 1 draft pick. A continue of this trend, as well as possibly a national championship, could put his draft stock at an all-time high. If I’m an NBA general manager, I know I want a big man who can pass, rebound, dribble, shoot, dunk and defend as well, if not better, than anyone at his position.
Matt gets 3 points for discussing the devaluing of centers. Chris gets 2 points for discussing Towns’s multitude of talents, and Michael gets 1 point for saying nine points is impressive.
3. Who is the NHL MVP at this point in the season?
Matt: This may be the first time in 13 years that a goalie wins the Hart Trophy. With nobody running away with the scoring title, it comes down to Nashville’s Pekka Rinne and Montreal’s Carey Price for MVP. Between the two, I would go with Rinne. The two have similar stats, but Price is playing with a much better team in front of him to boost his stats. Rinne has led the Predators to the best record in the NHL through three quarters of the season. Last season without Rinne, the Preds missed the playoffs entirely. Rinne has single-handedly lifted Nashville to the top of the NHL standings and looks unbeatable on most nights. Rinne truly exemplifies why he is the most valuable player to his team, more so than any other player in the league.
Michael: The NHL MVP right now is John Tavares of the New York Islanders. He has helped push that team far beyond where it has been over the past few seasons and is one of the key reasons why they are where they are right now. He has played in every game for the team so far this season and has an impressive set of 30 goals with 35 assists over that span. In the last 10 games Tavares has scored six times and assisted eight times in a stretch that included competition like the New York Rangers, Washington Capitals and the Vancouver Canucks. For his impressive work helping to keep his team on top, John Tavares is the NHL’s MVP, and coming from a Rangers fan, that’s a hard thing to say.
Chris: With Patrick Kane done for the season, my MVP is going to have to be Alex Ovechkin. The Washington Capitals franchise player has been a VIP member of the Red Light District, finding the back of the net 41 times so far this year, and has currently put the Washington Capitals in the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. Leading the league in goals is always a key part of any NHL MVP’s resume, and Ovechkin is most certainly on pace to do so. John Tavares of the New York Islanders also deserves some serious recognition, pacing the Isles with 30 goals and 35 assists and consistently battling all season long for the NHL points lead. These are my two contenders for the NHL MVP award, but ultimately, Ovi takes the cake.
Michael gets 3 points for discussing Tavares carrying the Islanders. Matt gets 2 points for mentioning Rinne’s season, and Chris gets 1 point for focusing on Ovechkin’s goals.
Michael wins Around the Dorm 7-6-5.