In this week’s edition of Around the Dorm, “Ref” Michael Battista asked our panel of three experts — Mark Fitzpatrick, Malcolm Luck and Miguel Gonzalez — three questions: 1. With All-Star break passing by, which NBA teams are prepared to be the No. 1 conference seeds? 2. Who has been most impressive at the halfpipe in the Winter Olympics — Shaun White or Chloe Kim? 3. Who will be the NBA rookie of the year?
1. With All-Star break passing by, which NBA teams are prepared to be the No. 1 conference seeds?
Mark: Despite neither team currently possessing the top seed in their respective conference, I believe the Boston Celtics and the Golden State Warriors are the most prepared to be the top seed in their conferences. In the East, the Celtics are competing mostly against the Toronto Raptors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, but are in a better position than both teams to clinch home court advantage. While the Celtics struggled heading into All-Star break, that could be a result of tired legs due to their front-loaded schedule. A handful of young players who play major minutes for them may not have been fully acclimated to the long NBA season. This is a team that spent most of the first half as the number one seed and even went on a 16-game winning-streak earlier in the season when they were fresher. The rest they will get from the All-Star break could be exactly what they need to start another streak to capture the top seed. For the Warriors, there is no doubt that when they focus, they are the best team on the planet and clear favorites to win the title. The Houston Rockets, who have exceeded all expectations this season, are only slightly ahead of the Warriors in the standings. As a result, I see it much more likely that the Rockets hit a rough patch over the next two months as Golden State will become more focused and prepared to defend their title with home court advantage.
Malcolm: In the West, I have to go with Golden State. They’re so deep and they have way too many scorers to finish in any spot other than first. Houston is solid too but the team relies too heavily on Harden and while he is a legitimate MVP candidate, a team isn’t usually in a position to claim the top spot without depth. In the East, I think it’s the Celtics. Toronto is wildly inconsistent and is pretty weak on the road — it’s tough to sustain a great record with lopsided splits like that. The Cavaliers’ new lineup impressed in their few games together but it’s a small sample size. They are also 6.5 games behind in the conference which is a pretty significant deficit. The Celtics statistically have the best defense in the Eastern Conference and can still put up points when Kyrie is healthy and is getting 30 plus minutes a game. They’ll overtake the Raptors for the number one seed.
Miguel: It’s definitely going to be another Cavaliers-Warriors matchup in the finals. LeBron and the Cavaliers will be storming the Eastern Conference after a slow start to the season. While the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors are top contenders, they are no match against LeBron’s ambition to return to the NBA finals. Meanwhile, the Warriors will trudge through the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference.
Malcolm gets 3 points for mentioning Toronto’s inconsistency. Mark gets 2 points for talking about Boston’s early success and Miguel gets 1 point for not answering the question.
2. Who has been most impressive at the halfpipe in the Winter Olympics — Shaun White or Chloe Kim?
Mark: Although Shaun White has been exceptional at the 2018 Winter Olympics, Chloe Kim has been the more impressive of the two at the halfpipe during these games. Shaun White, a 31-year-old and three-time Olympic gold medalist, has set a certain standard of excellence that we can expect from him. However, Chloe Kim has come out of nowhere to shock the world as the youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding medal with her gold medal winning performance at just 17 years old. She also received attention for tweeting during the Olympics about how she was “hangry,” which shows that she was competing but also having fun during the most important week of her life. All the attention she received for her tweets came because of her outstanding performance, as she was the perfect modern day storm of athletic excellence and social media attention, making her the more impressive of the two.
Malcolm: I think Shaun White has been more impressive just because of his age. This guy is 31 years old and winning gold medals against guys half his age. Yes, composure and experience come with age, but so do back aches and sore legs. Don’t get me wrong, Kim is still impressive. With her gold medal, she became the youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding medal, but I think it’s less impressive solely because in general, athletes are obtaining success at earlier ages in seemingly all sports. It takes a lot of heart to do what she’s doing at such a young age, but White’s halfpipe accolades are more impressive.
Miguel: While I do admire Chloe Kim’s enthusiasm and natural talent, Shaun White is one of a kind. I thought White was coming into Pyeongchang, South Korea as a slow, aging snowboarder. Boy, I was wrong. White shredded the halfpipe like it was 2010, and claimed another gold medal for Uncle Sam. White is already a once-in-a-generation type of Olympian, but Kim will soon become one herself.
Mark gets 3 points for discussing Kim’s fun personality. Miguel gets 2 points for praising the legendary White and Malcolm gets 1 point for downplaying Kim’s success.
3. Who will be the NBA rookie of the year?
Mark: If he can successfully lead his underdog Utah Jazz into the Western Conference playoffs, the new NBA slam dunk champion Donovan Mitchell will take home the NBA rookie of the year award as well. Coming into this season, the Jazz had limited expectations after the departure of George Hill and Gordon Hayward in free agency, both crucial parts to the team in the past. To add insult to injury, the team’s next best player, Rudy Gobert, injured his knee in a game against the Boston Celtics, seemingly destroying any chance the team had to reach the postseason. However, Mitchell unexpectedly stepped up to average 19.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists this season to lead his team. This season, Mitchell already has more 20-plus point games than Hall of Famer Karl Malone had as a rookie and has two 40-plus point games, the most by a rookie since current NBA star Blake Griffin’s rookie of the year award winning season. Griffin also won the NBA slam dunk contest in his rookie year. Although Ben Simmons is a strong candidate for rookie of the year, he seems to have more help on his team in All-Star Joel Embiid and a supporting cast of other talented, young players. Mitchell, on the other hand, has fought and destroyed every low expectation we had for this seemingly decimated team and currently has them on an 11-game winning streak and in possession of the 10th seed in the Western Conference. Thanks to his hard and persistent work, the Jazz are now just 1.5 games behind a playoff spot.
Malcolm: I think it’s Ben Simmons — a lot of people forget he’s a rookie. Donovan Mitchell is an excellent athlete and scorer, but that’s it. His dunks are impressive and he’s fun to watch, but in terms of value, Ben Simmons means more to his team. Among rookies, Simmons is first in assists, rebounds and steals per game, second in points per game and third in blocks per game. Mitchell only edges out Simmons in scoring, considering Simmons is also a better defender. I’m also willing to bet that Simmons would be first in scoring if it weren’t for him playing next to Embiid, who is averaging over 17 shots a game. It’s a close race but Simmons deserves it more.
Miguel: Lonzo Ball without a doubt. The dude has the size, speed and strength to outlast the rest of the rookies in the NBA. Make no mistake: Ball will be future Lakers legend like Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Jerry West and Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
Miguel gets 3 points because the Big Baller Brand always comes out on top. Mark and Malcolm both get 2 points for praising the rookies.
Mark wins ATD 7-6-6
“I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious.”