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PBT Roundtable: Who’s third best in the East?


Each week the PBT writers sit at a virtual roundtable and discuss the NBA topic of the day. This week’s question: 

The Heat and the Pacers have been the clear class of the Eastern Conference so far, but who is the third best team there right now? Who will be at the end of the season?

Kurt Helin: Right now I have to say the Hawks are the third best as they are actually over .500. Which separates them from everyone else. Pomona College’s own Mike Budenholzer has helped build a Top 10 defense and they have a solid offense with Jeff Teague having his best season ever at the point. By the end of the season…. I think one of the New York teams is going to figure it out and get good (not as good as Miami or Indiana, but better than they are now). I think the Nets are the more likely candidates because if they can get Deron Williams and more importantly Brook Lopez (their best player — at both ends oddly) back on the court things will improve dramatically. The Knicks could get going as well, but I still don’t love their roster construction. But one of them has to figure it out… right? Don’t they?

Dan Feldman: Now: Toronto Raptors. The Raptors lost to my runner-up, the Atlanta Hawks, but the Hawks don’t have any wins more impressive than that and have actually been outscored this season. The Raptors have challenged some good teams thanks to their deep assortment of mid-level talent, and I believe close losses can be telling. Yup, that’s the East right now. The third best team has the best losses.

End of season: Chicago Bulls. Even though Derrick Rose isn’t returning this season, Jimmy Butler will, and he’ll definitely help. The Bulls have a +9.8 net rating when he’s on the court. and -4.9 when he’s not. That’s swayed by his absence overlapping with Rose’s, but Butler is an emerging force. Plus, I just trust Tom Thibodeau to build a quality defense with this group. Without Rose last season, Chicago still won a playoff series in a tougher Eastern Conference.

Brett Pollakoff: Right now, nobody can stake a legitimate claim to third. Atlanta, Toronto, and Chicago all have their merits and are close enough record-wise, but the hottest team has been the Wizards thanks to multiple 30-point performances from John Wall that have them currently riding a three-game winning streak.

As Dan mentioned, Chicago seems to be the obvious choice long-term to claim this crown, based on their success a season ago without Derrick Rose in getting to the second round of the playoffs — and that’s before we count on the improved game of Jimmy Butler to compliment the likes of All-Star talents in Luol Deng and Joakim Noah.

But because the conference is so mediocre overall, I’ll go with the Nets. Look, all they ned is to get Brook Lopez and Deron Williams healthy and they should show immediate improvement in a relatively short span once the team builds some chemistry around a consistent starting lineup and the rotations that follow. Brooklyn has a ways to go just to get back to .500, but given the huge dropoff in talent once you get past the Heat and the Pacers, it makes sense that the team most talented on paper would rise to the top of that group before the regular season is finished.

Patrick Patterson begs: “Please don’t make Space Jam 2”

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LeBron James‘ production company signed a development deal with Warner Bros. That would be the same Warner Bros. which extended its trademark on “Space Jam” recently. Rumors of LeBron starring in Space Jam 2 have been swirling for years. If they do it, Blake Griffin wants in.

Patrick Patterson wants the entire thing to stop.

Writing at The Players’ Tribune, the Raptors forward begs for there not to be a sequel to the Michael Jordan original.

I’m a huge movie fan. Movies are a big part of my life. This summer I even had the opportunity to help cover the Toronto International Film Festival for the CBC. So please know that I don’t say this lightly: The original Space Jam is the perfect movie. The. Perfect. Movie. It is a cinematic experience.

And that’s why, for the sake of preserving its greatness, we must never try to improve upon it.

To make a sequel to Space Jam would be like trying to paint the Mona Lisa again. Sure, you can probably do it, but why the hell would you want to?

First off, not sure the realism of Renaissance art is the best comparison for Space Jam. It was more cubist Picasso at best.

But I appreciate what Patterson is saying. If someone decided to remake “Godfather II” I’d march in protest. If they decided to remake “Network” I’d… actually, that’s pretty much what the news looks like now.

Patterson’s love of Space Jam exceeds mine (he calls Bill Murray the glue guy of the film), and I respect that. But this sequel is happening, and even Patterson knows why — money. A lot of people are going to make a lot of money on this movie, even if it gets a 28% at Rotten Tomatoes.  Warner Bros. is not in the business of making good movies, it’s in the business of making money through movies, and franchises go a long way down that road for studios.

Let’s just hope the take the time to get a decent script together for this. Nobody wants another Godfather III on our hands.

Atlanta Hawks waive Jarrett Jack

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 28: Jarrett Jack #2 of the Brooklyn Nets dribbles during a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on December 28, 2015 in Miami, Florida. 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. Mandatory copyright notice:  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Last summer, the Atlanta Hawks signed Jarrett Jack to provide a veteran backup for Dennis Schroder.

But Jack has not recovered from the major knee injury that ended his season after 32 games. He hadn’t played with the Hawks throughout the preseason.

Thursday, the Hawks waived Jack, the team announced. He had a guaranteed contract for the veteran minimum (just less than $1 million), and he will still get paid. The Hawks just wanted the roster space and didn’t see him returning soon enough to help them.

If he can get healthy and prove it, another team will likely grab him during the season (some team will suffer point guard injuries and be in the market). For now, he has a lot of rehab in his future.

Malcolm Delaney, the former Virginia Tech star who spent the last five seasons playing overseas, will not be the Hawks backup point.

Report: New CBA deal “within sight,” one-and-done rule remians

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 23:  Commissioner Adam Silver concludes the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 23, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. 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 Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Nobody likes the NBA’s one-and-done rule. Adam Silver and the owners want to extend that to two seasons out of high school, and they have colleges in their corner (while a couple of coaches know how to work the one-and-done system, none of them prefer it). The players want to be able to make the leap from high school straight to the NBA — if you’re 18 and good enough to play, you should be allowed to play.

The result of that will be the compromise nobody loves will stay in place.

The league and NBA’s players union met again on Thursday, and the two sides got close to a deal, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Also, the rookie and veteran minimum scale deals will increase, plus the “over 36 rule” (which prohibits a player from signing a five-year deal if he turns 36 during the deal, it can only be four years) will be changed to an “over 38 rule” according to Wojnarowski.

We knew before today was the revenue split between the owners and players would remain the roughly 50-50 split agreed to in the last CBA — and once the money is figured out everything else usually falls in line. The players are pushing or a fund to help retired players who need assistance with medical and other expenses, that seems to have traction with the league as well.

Adam Silver is meeting with the NBA owners the next couple of days and much of the discussion will certainly center around what is in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. However, with all the money flooding the system with the new television deal — it wasn’t just the players getting an infusion of cash into salaries, the other half of the money went straight to the owners’ bottom lines — it’s expected a deal gets done. Nobody wants to kill the golden goose.

NBA to broadcast one game a week in virtual reality

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 13:  Customers try the new PlayStation VR at Sony Square NYC on October 13, 2016 in New York City.  Sony launched its $399 PlayStation VR that links to PlayStation 4  to give gamers a virtual reality gaming experience.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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If you’re already playing “Sonar” or “Feral Rites” or just “The Lab” in virtual reality, why not get a closeup look at Stephen Curry draining a deep three, or Rudy Gobert rejecting a shot at the rim. And I don’t mean in a video game.

The NBA is going to start broadcasting one game a week in virtual reality, the league announced Thursday. It has partnered with NextVR to broadcast at least one League Pass game a week in VR — the NBA is the first major professional league to do it (although NextVR did already do the U.S. Open tennis tournament, The Masters, and other big events).

If you have an NBA League Pass and a Samsung Gear VR headset (or compatible smartphone) you can pay to watch the games — but the first one is free. On Oct. 27 the Spurs visiting the Sacramento Kings fans can watch Kawhi Leonard shut down Ben McLemore in virtual reality for free.

From the NBA’s press release:

Fans with a Samsung Gear VR headset and a compatible Samsung smartphone can experience the free preview by accessing the NBA Channel within the NextVR app. Later this season, the offering will be expanded to support additional VR headset options.

The weekly games will be available as part of the NBA LEAGUE PASS full season package. Whether purchased through a third party distributor or directly through the NBA, fans will be able to authenticate their accounts by inputting their NBA LEAGUE PASS login credentials (obtained at or the NBA App) within NextVR’s app.

The VR broadcasts will be fully produced with dedicated announcers, multiple unmanned camera angles and optimized graphics. Game breaks will be filled with in-venue entertainment, behind-the-scenes footage from the arena and VR-specific commentary.

Sounds promising.

I’m not about to speculate on the popularity of this, but smart move by the NBA to get out in front of this and try it. You have to love that the NBA is adventurous and will push the market, the NFL probably won’t try this until 2036.