San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat - Game 7

PBT Roundtable: Is NBA returning to 2-2-1-1-1 Finals format a good idea?

4 Comments

Welcome to PBT’s regular roundtable on issues around the NBA, where our writers weigh in on the topic of the day.

Today: Is the NBA’s likely return to a 2-2-1-1-1 format for the NBA Finals (instead of the 2-3-2 that has been in place since 1985) a good idea?

Kurt Helin: I like it, but I don’t think it’s that big a change on the court, ultimately. The rule was put in back in an era when virtually every newspaper in America was flying reporters back and forth between Boston and Los Angeles in the Finals every year and complaining. The players few commercial, everyone did, and it made some sense from a logistical standpoint to go 2-3-2. I don’t think it does anymore, they should go back to a format where the team with the better record gets Game 5 at home. That said, no team gets to say they lost because of the format. It’s not that big a deal. Not to go all coach Norman Dale, but the basket is still 10 feet from the ground and 15 feet from the free throw line. The better team wins in seven games.

D.J. Foster: Now this explains why Kurt was at Summer League just muttering “my team is on the floor” over and over again. I agree that the 2-2-1-1-1 format won’t change an awful lot from a competition standpoint, but I do think it’s more exciting and gives more of the back-and-forth vibe that basketball is all about. It might be easier for casual hometown fans to stay more involved the series as well, for whatever that’s worth. And sure, the extra travel is a little tougher on media, but it all evens out because we get free ice cream at games. So long as I can rake in the free treats and airline miles, I’ll make it.

Brett Pollakoff: While I agree that the 2-3-2 format has never been the cause of a team losing (except maybe the Lakers in the 2004 Finals to the Pistons, but that’s a longer conversation for another time), it does give the team with home court advantage an incredible leg up in a longer series. No team should have games 6 and 7 at home, because it’s too much for the visitors to overcome — the last two times the Finals went 7, the home team trailed 3-2 in the series before winning the last two games to secure the title.

Every champion wins on the road in the playoffs, so ultimately the advantage isn’t too great. But I do believe that in closeout games is where the home court advantage is truly a factor, so it’s good to see the format switched to make it more equitable for both teams.

Dan Feldman: In terms of which team wins the series, it doesn’t matter. Essentially, the NBA is changing the order the favorite and underdog get their third home game. I don’t see a reason that switch would affect the likelihood either team wins the game, and the numbers back me up.

2-3-2 Finals (1985-2013, 1953, 1949)

Underdog third home game: 15-12 (56 percent)

Favorite third home game: 13-6 (68 percent)

Other Finals (including 1956, when the teams switched cities after each game)

Underdog third home game: 15-9 (63 percent)

Favorite third home game: 21-11 (66 percent)

That’s practically the same and well within random variance. The road to determining the champion might wind a little differently, but the destination will be the same either way.

Rhett Anderson: Since statistically and historically the Finals’ format hasn’t really affected their outcomes, the main reason I see is to streamline them with the rest of the playoffs. 2-3-2 always seemed arbitrary to me anyways, similar to first-round 5-game series of the past: why not standardize it all?

With the change, all series are now 7 games and 2-2-1-1-1 and the playoffs as a whole are more cohesive. In the end it’s probably not going to affect much other than team travel schedules and player rest levels – and that’s a moot point since if you make the Finals you’ve been traveling the 2-2-1-1-1 schedule for three series already anyways.

Way too early look: Who could make up USA’s 2020 Tokyo Olympic basketball team?

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 21:  Jimmy Butler, Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan and Kyle Lowry #7 of United States stand on the podium after defeating Serbia in the Men's Gold medal game on Day 16 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Let’s start with the obvious: This is an exercise in futility. There is no way to predict accurately what the 2020 USA men’s basketball team headed to the Tokyo Olympics will look like. There will be injuries that sideline guys. There will be contract situations where key guys decide it’s in their best interest to sit out. Plus, there could be a guy just now entering his junior year of high school who we don’t know well yet but in four years will be a clear choice for the team.

Now that we’ve gotten through the tedious disclaimer, let’s have fun:

What will the 2020 USA Basketball team look like?

First, it will have a bit of a business attitude — Gregg Popovich is coaching now. Not that Mike Krzyzewski ran a college party Team USA, far from it, but with Popovich’s demeanor and the scare put into the 2016 team (and some improving world powers, such as Canada), expect the USA to be a little more focused next time around.

For the roster, who from the 2016 gold medal team in Rio returns for more gold? At the top of the list: A 31-year-old Kevin Durant will be back for one more run (and to climb on top of the USA Olympic scoring list). He will be the unquestioned team leader. The alpha. It will be his team.

After that? Young stars who want one more go at it such as Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, DeAndre Jordan, and Klay Thompson will seriously consider a return. Maybe Jimmy Butler. Those guys will have a leg up having Olympic experience and a commitment to the program.

After that, some big names that passed on Rio are going to suit up in Japan. There will be far less defection of top talent this time around — the fears around Brazil will be gone, and NBA players wanting to sell more shoes in Asia will be eager to sign up. I expect you will see Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, and maybe James Harden decide they are in for the next round. LeBron James said he felt left out and may consider a return, but he will be 35 years old with 17 NBA seasons on his body by that point, does he want to put his body through an international curtain call? Probably not.

Rounding out the roster, expect a few guys from this year’s USA Select Team — the team the Olympic squad practiced against in Las Vegas at the start of camp — to make the leap up (as Kyrie Irving and others did this year).

Who? That’s the hardest thing to predict, it depends on development. Guys to watch include Victor Olidipo, Justise Winslow, Devin Booker, Brandon Ingram, and Jabari Parker — some of them will be ready to make the leap.

One clue to the 2020 roster: Players that you see in China for the 2019 FIBA World Cup will be more likely to make the 2020 team. (Yes, the World Championships are now the year before the Olympics, welcome to more of FIBA’s wisdom, as is the fact the Cup qualifiers fall during the NBA/Euroleague seasons.) Guys from the select team now that head to China in three years and perform well in that setting will likely have the USA across their chest in Japan.

Whatever team we send will have the most talent in those games. The question is will that be enough?

Check out the Cleveland Cavaliers Top 10 plays from last season

AUBURN HILLS, MI - APRIL 24: Kyrie Irving #2 and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers prepare for tip off against the Detroit Pistons in game four of the NBA Eastern Conference quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Palace of Auburn Hills on April 24, 2016 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
2 Comments

With athletes such as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving on the team, you know the Cleveland Cavaliers Top 10 plays of last season were going to have some special moments.

Yes, the block by LeBron and the stepback three by Irving that sealed the first Cleveland title in 52 years are on top of the list.

But there are some other ridiculous Irving handles and even a Timofey Mozgov dunk in there (a $64 million dunk, apparently).

Watch Spurs’ Dejounte Murray throw off-the-backboard alley-oop to himself in pickup game

Washington guard Dejounte Murray, center, dribbles the ball past Mount St. Mary's center Taylor Danaher (50) as Washington forward Marquese Chriss, right, watches duirng the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Leave a comment

Just a suggestion for rookie Dejounte Murray: Don’t do this in front of Gregg Popovich. You may not like his reaction.

That said, the Spurs needed to get more athletic this off-season — landing Pau Gasol certainly didn’t help that cause — so enter first-round pick Murray, who pulled this off in a recent pickup game.

Murray is going to be brought along slowly in a backcourt where Tony Parker and Patty Mills will be splitting time at the point. Murray is more of a combo guard and is going to have to shoot a lot better than he did in college (28.8 percent from three) to get some run. But this is a situation where the Spurs can groom him, bring him along slowly, and see if they have another draft steal.

He’s certainly got the athleticism.

Corey Brewer: “James (Harden) is going to play defense this year”

HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 18:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets walks across the court during their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Toyota Center on March 18, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
2 Comments

James Harden‘s defense is not as bad as its reputation.

Well, at least it wasn’t two seasons ago — his near MVP season he was in good enough shape that he could put in a respectable effort on that end and still handle his massive offensive load. There were still some mental lapses, but his focus was better and his improvement lifted the team defense. Last season, he regressed back to youtube “highlight” defense Harden — his conditioning was not where it needed to be, he didn’t expend as much effort on that end, and it showed.

Harden got a massive contract extension this summer, and Dwight Howard is Atlanta’s problem — now Harden has to lead the Rockets. By example. Corey Brewer told ESPN you’re going to see that on defense.

“I think this year he’s going to play better defense, We’re going to let the past be in the past. It’s the future of the Rockets, man. James is going to play defense this year.”

We’re all Missourians on this one: Show me.

Remember that the Rockets will be out and running — Mike D’Antoni is the coach now, and Daryl Morey is going to get the up tempo ball he wants (which Kevin McHale had them doing, but Harden didn’t like him so…). D’Antoni’s teams in Phoenix played better defense than their reputation — points per possession they were middle of the pack — but that has never been his focus.

Will Harden be able to run like he needs to on offense and still defend at a reasonable level?

If he can, it’s a big step toward the Rockets being a dangerous team in the West because if he does it others will follow. Otherwise, every Rockets game will be a shootout, which is entertaining but not going to get a team deep into the playoffs.