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Weekly NBA Content by Back of the Jersey

This week’s NBA Triple Threat Weekly post features a look ahead towards the NBA playoff race. Jim and Tyler provide insight into which teams and players are facing serious pressure to “win now” after years of being on the brink, and also their latest take on Derrick Rose’s future.

D-Rose injured again. Is this the end?

Despite being just 26 years of age, are Derrick Rose’s best years now behind him?
(Photo courtesy of Chicago Magazine)

Is Derrick Rose this generation’s Penny Hardaway or Grant Hill?

Tyler

The devastating injuries to the likes of Penny Hardaway and Grant Hill, who truly were once in a lifetime talents, robbed the NBA of potential rivals and successors to the great Michael Jordan.

When it comes to Derrick Rose and his latest injury, it is truly too early to say definitively that his spot as a top NBA point guard may already be over at the age of 26. I am actually in the “D-Rose will recover and come back to be great” camp. As FiveThirtyEight noted early in the week, Rose is literally in uncharted territory. How he responds to the latest knee injury, a torn meniscus, will certainly be of interest to all NBA fans. Bulls GM John Paxson said yesterday that he expects Rose to play again this season. Although I would say that is extremely unlikely, I think Rose will once again reach the mountaintop as one of the games best guards. Or, at least I hope.

Jim

My first thought when I saw the injury on Tuesday night was, ‘wow, not again.’ Soon after, I couldn’t help but feel terrible for Chicagoans. In the span of 24 hours, they literally lost their two title contenders – the Bulls with the Derrick Rose injury, and the Blackhawks (who have won 2 of the last 5 Stanley Cups – in ’10 & ’13), who lost their star wing, Patrick Kane for the remainder of the season.

I am in Tyler’s camp but am a bit more skeptical of just how much more wear and tear Derrick Rose’s battered knees can take. I love comeback stories. Remember Bill Walker (now goes by Henry)…yes, the standout who played two seasons at Kansas State, then was drafted by the Celtics and played major minutes for the Knicks two years ago? Well, he’s back in the league after two ACL tears (one in each knee) and two meniscus tears. Walker is a year old then Rose and has suffered through even more scar tissue. I hope for the best but the realist in me thinks that the Bulls need to move on. Rose will be back but we’ll most certainly never see the 2011 MVP Rose again.

Which team is on the hot seat to win multiple rounds, or even a championship, this post season?

Tyler

There are several teams, all of them out West, that have an incredible amount of pressure to win now. This is not the greatest conference or time to be facing a win now situation. Talent wise, so many teams are evenly matched, making this year arguably the most wide open playoff race we’ve ever witnessed.

I believe the Portland Trail Blazers face the most pressure to win this season. They had a surprising campaign last year, really developing as one of the most consistent teams out West. This year, expected to make the next leap with Damian Lillard in his sophomore season, the Blazers have the most to lose by not taking home the championship in 2015.

With 3/5’s of their starting lineup set to test free agency this summer, this may be their last realistic chance to make a run. LaMarcus Aldridge, Wes Matthews, and Brook Lopez are all slated to be free agents. Ideally, they would resign all three, keeping a core starting lineup that is as balanced as any in the league. But, ideals generally don’t work out in the NBA. Some NBA team will offer Aldridge the max, Matthews and Lopez will garner generous offers as well, and this team will be searching for that balance they’ve so delicately built. Make it happen, Portland. The clock is ticking.

Jim

The Clippers. They’re in Year 4 of the Chris Paul-Blake Griffin-DeAndre Jordan trio and currently sit in the #6 seed in the West. Chris Paul has won a grand total of three playoff series in his first 9 seasons and has never advanced to the Western Conference Finals. This team has glaring holes though and did not attend to them prior to the Trade Deadline.

Doc Rivers allowed Jared Dudley to walk to Milwaukee (after an injury plagued ’13-’14 campaign in LA) without filling him with a capable replacement on the wing. When 30-year old JJ Redick and soon to be 35-year old Matt Barnes are your starting wings you’re in a world of trouble against the likes of James Harden, Klay Thompson, Wes Matthews, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard on a nightly basis. You’re trotting out two 30 something’s who both should not be NBA starters at this point in their respective careers.

Doc Rivers the coach is one of the top 5 best in the game today. Doc the GM is one of the worst and it’s more than evident. Their best weapon off the bench is 34-year Jamal Crawford. No one else off the bench can create their own shot (I’m looking at you Big Baby Davis, Spencer Hawes and Austin Rivers). There’s just not enough depth here to make it past the second round in this brutal conference.

Chris Paul turns 30 in May and will have to wait another year to get his shot at playoff success.

Tony Parker, PG, Spurs, ponders what could be the end of a great run

Tony Parker is on the downside of his career. In order to save the Spurs, he must first find his own game.
(Photo courtesy of Alamo City Times)

Which player is the most critical to their team’s 2nd half playoff run?

Tyler

There are so many great players in the NBA playing at such a high level right now. What if I took a second to focus on a player who has had the worst season of his career?

Enter Tony Parker, point guard, San Antonio Spurs.

Parker has shown signs of age this season. He has not only been battling injuries but Parker has been so inconsistent it’s hard to be certain the Spurs will even make the playoffs. Although Parker is still shooting 46% and 49% from 3-pt range, he is averaging the lowest points per game total since his rookie season (2001-2002). More importantly, San Antonio seems to go as Parker goes. In wins, Parker averages 16 PPG, 5 APG, and shoots 50% from the field. In losses, however, his numbers are abysmal, averaging 9 PPG, 5 APG, and 39% from the field. If the Spurs have any chance of getting out of the first round, or even making the playoffs, the Frenchman will have to find a way to rejuvenate his game.

Jim

Kevin Durant. Kevin Durant. Oh, and Kevin Durant. That screw in his right foot is the most important piece of hardware in the league, as it relates to contenders. Now that the Thunder have a legitimate back-to-the basket threat in Enes Kanter and capable depth to back up Westbrook and Durant, in Waiters and DJ Augustin, they’re primed to make a run. They also have the requisite space-the-floor guys in Steve Novak and Kyle Singler. This is the most dangerous Thunder team we have seen since the ’11-’12 version with baby Harden.

With a healthy Durant (still an ‘if’ at this point) the Thunder make a deep run in the playoffs, despite their low seed.

About Tyler Michels

Tyler is an NC State alum living in Raleigh, NC. Growing up in Northwest New Jersey, Tyler developed a love for New York sports teams, driving his desire to become a writer. In his free time, Tyler can probably be found on a golf course.

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