In this week’s edition of Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” Matthew Ajaj, asks our panel of experts three questions: Who will leave the biggest impact in the NBA this year? Can the Patriots be perfect this season and will the Mets try to pick up Yoenis Cespedes and Daniel Murphy from free agency in the offseason?
1. After a transaction-packed NBA offseason, which player will leave the biggest impact on his new team?
Miguel: Although disappointing early on, the Knicks can utilize Derrick William’s offensive production for a small price. William’s transfer is a baby step for the Knicks as they recover from their worst record — 17-65 — in franchise history. Williams and rookie Kristaps Porzingis will replace the roles of departed players — J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Amar’e Stoudemire. The only major concern with Williams is his lazy defense and lack of rebounding, earning a low 7.7 percent rebounding rate and an average of 0.1 blocks per game last season. Also, I’m curious to see how Williams performs under the New York spotlight in comparison to quiet Minnesota and Sacramento. I do not expect Williams to average 20 points per game, but his presence will accelerate Phil Jackson’s gradual rebuilding of the team. Perhaps Jackson is formulating a triangular offense around Williams, Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony.
Connor: Although the Spurs adding LaMarcus Aldridge garnered most of the attention, Ty Lawson to the Houston Rockets may have the most impact on a team. It’s no secret that the Rockets relied on James Harden heavily last season. Lawson’s potential seemed to outweigh his off-the-court risks enough for General Manager Daryl Morey to pull the trigger. Combining Lawson with the man who finished second in the MVP voting should be great for him statistically, assuming the Rockets can work on some chemistry issues. They did keep the Warriors competitive in the Western Conference Finals, and I believe Lawson may have what it takes to bring the Rockets up a notch.
Otto: LaMarcus Aldridge was the biggest name in this year’s shallow free agent pool and his decision to go to San Antonio will have a huge impact on the Western Conference. He is a young player still, especially compared to a lot of the Spurs’ roster and will help in giving players like Tim Duncan some more rest. While Aldridge will often stop the ball movement of the Spurs, he will quickly assimilate into the system and have a huge impact. The team is now significantly better on offense and doesn’t lose a lot on defense. Aldridge is locked up for the future, meaning that coach Gregg Popovich is set for the foreseeable future after the reign of Duncan is over. Aldridge gives the Spurs more size and allows them to spread the court out more. Don’t be one bit surprised if the Spurs finish as the third seed or higher this year.
Connor and Otto get 3 points each for mentioning two standout players and Miguel gets 1 point because Williams will not be nearly as impactful.
2. The New England Patriots are now 7-0. Is a perfect season on the horizon?
Miguel: Yes, until the Super Bowl. This year’s Patriots team mimics the almost legendary 2007 squad: Coming off a scandal, offensive powerhouses, defensive standouts and most of all, Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick. Clearly, Brady is looking for vengeance after enduring numerous trials this past summer. He isn’t showing any sign of age with his current record of 20 touchdowns this season. Belichick will intimidate NFL commissioner Roger Goodell by letting the Patriots demolish their opponents. In addition, the Patriots’ remaining schedule isn’t too challenging, with some exceptions. I would not be surprised if the Patriots achieve an overall +315 point differential. Although, Brady should be worried if Eli and the Giants can mark off their losing column.
Connor: The New England Patriots have outscored their opponents by an average margin of 16.6 points per game. Tom Brady is slowly cementing his case as one of the greatest of all time, and it doesn’t appear that any team in the NFL can stand as tall. That being said, the New York Jets showed there are flaws that can be exposed. They held a lead into the fourth quarter before a series of touchdown drives put the Pats ahead in the end. One thing that stands out is that the Jets’ defense, ranked second overall, kept the game competitive despite an underwhelming offense. The Patriots must beat the No. 1 ranked defense, the Denver Broncos, if they want to end the season undefeated. The Broncos aren’t the only team that could stop the Patriots, but they are the best bet. They have the best pass defense and Peyton Manning can never be underestimated. A perfect season is a nearly impossible feat, and the Patriots will be learning that the hard way.
Otto: I don’t think so. There’s a reason that a perfect season has only happened once, and in my opinion, that 2007 Patriots team was a little more explosive on offense than this year’s team. Also, they will have clinched the division by the last couple of games and will rest their starters a bit. It’s very hard to stay consistently great and this year, with a record number of 6-0 teams, I think the Patriots will fall at some point. On defense they are not extraordinary, just good. While that is obviously above average, they will come across a good offensive team and they might slip. If they stay healthy, however, I see them getting all the way to the Super Bowl. If Gronk can stay on the field, this team is very dangerous. However, Brady is bound to look like a mortal at some point and the team might follow.
Miguel gets 3 points for discussing Brady’s vengeance tour. Otto gets 2 points for being realistic and Connor gets 1 point for thinking the Broncos have a chance against the Pats.
3. Will the Mets resign free agents Yoenis Cespedes and Daniel Murphy?
Miguel: It’s guaranteed that journeyman Yoenis Cespedes will depart from the Big Apple once the offseason begins. (unless the Yankees are interested). He will be too expensive for the Mets to maintain. They will have to worry about keeping their stellar pitching staff and cannot risk the money, especially if they want to continue competing in the future. On the other hand, Murphy has shown devoted loyalty to the fans of New York. Even though Cespedes is more consistent in the regular season than Murphy, I believe Murphy would be more than delighted to stay in the city that never sleeps. Maybe the Mets’ front office should have been a little more careful when they negotiated Bobby Bonilla’s contract.
Connor: Although Cespedes and Murphy have had massive impacts individually this offseason, it is very unlikely the team will be able to keep both. Murphy’s recent success was certainly helped by batting in front of Cespedes, but Cespedes cooling off right before the playoffs has not helped him. The Wilpons — the majority owners of the Mets — don’t like to spend money on big name players. Sandy Alderson has shown he would rather spend less money on upside acquisitions rather than dump money thanks to prior success, with David Wright being the exception. Murphy will likely be given a qualifying offer which means his future with the team hinges on how much he likes being with the Mets.
Otto: I think one of the two will be back, but not both. Murphy has had maybe the greatest postseason for any hitter, and so in the offseason he will be offered a lot more than he deserves. Whether the Mets decided to pay him will be dependent on where they place their priorities. Cespedes literally changed the entire National League, carrying probably the worst offense in August all the way to the World Series. He is very important for this team and should be the top priority. The Mets have to realize that as a franchise they have found gold in their starting pitchers and have to lock these guys down. If they spend all their money on an average second baseman who had an abnormal postseason, they’ll lose their young starters and will return to mediocrity.
Miguel gets 3 points for the Bonilla reference. Connor gets 2 points for noting the Wilpons’ stinginess and Otto receives 0 points for calling Murphy an average second baseman.
Miguel wins Around the Dorm 7-6-5.