Originally posted on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 7/17/12

Speyer: “I don’t think it’s going to take long for a reader to figure it out, so let’s just go on the record and say that we were ‘inspired’ to do something like this after reading the Simmons-Ford mock draft on Grantland. To complete our heist of ESPN segments, let’s start with a game from one of my favorite ra dio shows on the network. It’s called One Word. Summarize the off season up to this point…with one word.”

Ratner: “I’ll go with “Speculative. From Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum to Jeremy Lin to the numerous draft-night rumors, it seems like this summer has been filled with more rumors than actual substance. I have to think that this is another result of the new CBA – teams are exploring all of their options, options they themselves are still trying to figure out – which partly explains why Howard has been linked to half the professional sports teams on this continent.”

Ratner: This round of “Linsanity” is especially intriguing. Houston played the new CBA rules perfectly and now leave the Knicks in a really tough situation. Would you match if you were NY?

Speyer: “I would not. There’s not many people doing it, but those advocating for the Knicks to resign Lin make the argument that he will bring in more than he takes away from the luxury tax. While this may be true, it’s the cap hit that keeps me away from bringing the Linsation back to the Big Apple. I know he’s a fan favorite, but is he really anything more than a solid back-up point guard, or a borderline starter on an average team? I don’t think so. He reminds me of Tebow in many ways. Good personality, good story but overrated.”

Ratner: “I totally agree that Lin is overrated – a below average starter in my opinion – but a guy like him has insane off the court value. And that’s part of the reason I would match if I was New York. Lin will make the Knicks far more than the $5 million per season they’ll pay him the first 2 years, and if he proves to not be worth his contract (a virtual guarantee) that 3rd year, he becomes a very valuable trade chip – a big expiring contract.”

Speyer: “Sounds a lot like Tebow doesn’t it? Bringing in an overrated player to New York for headlines. Except the Knicks are not the Jets, they’re the fricken Knicks! They have Melo. They have Amar’e. They play at MSG. It doesn’t matter what the Nets do, they are and always will be THE team in New York. I’ll take the value I get with the Kidd/Felton tandem over stomaching that contract any day.”

Ratner: “Wow, hadn’t even thought that comparison through that far, they are very similar. With Tebow and Lin sharing the front page of the New York tabloids, we’ll all be ready for the world to end in December.”

Speyer: “Lets change it up and talk about a point guard that will actually matter come next postseason, Steve Nash. What does it all mean for the Lakers in a strong Western Conference?”

Ratner: “Well I think it’s a good start in terms of closing the gap on OKC and even San Antonio. Nash should take a majority of the pressure off of Kobe; the real question is if Kobe is willing to let Nash control the offensive flow. I think he will, but the Lakers still need to add a wing defender to really go toe to toe with the Thunder.. Andre Igoudala is the perfect fit, just not sure if LA can make that deal happen. Raja Bell has also been rumored, and would be a solid get. Lakers-Thunder 7 game series starting tomorrow, who ya got?”

Speyer: “I’ve got the Thunder. The Nash signing might make the Lakers a more talented team, but they are an older team too. Older teams tend to mail it in at times during the regular season. The great ones (like Boston the past few years) can then turn it back on in the playoffs. But that also means they have to play on the road in the key rounds and I don’t see them winning a Game 7 in OKC.”

Speyer: “The interesting thing about the Lakers is that they might be more equipped to beat the Heat in the finals than the Thunder in the conference finals. Last month we saw the Thunder struggle offensively when the Heat went small, because the Thunder couldn’t counter with scoring from their bigs. The Lakers can. In fact, it’s what they do best.”

Ratner: “I could see that. As long as Bynum and Gasol are in purple and gold, LA has a unique advantage over every other team in the league. The Thunder – with the veteran Perkins and hyper-athletic Ibaka – are probably most able to counter the Lakers’ bigs defensively. The Heat seem to be the clear choice moving forward in the East, but I don’t think they’ll want any part of LA in a finals matchup. Its almost shaping up to be a rock-paper-scissors situation; Heat’s athletes beat OKC’s athletes, OKC’s athletes beat Lakers’ bigs, Lakers’ bigs are too big for Heat’s interior.

Ratner: “Of course no disrespect here to the Spurs, Grizzlies, Clippers, Celtics, Bulls, Knicks, etc. Those three just seem to be the favorites at this point. A lot can change.”

Ratner: “And while we’re on the Lakers, would you trade Bynum for Howard? I don’t think it’s as simple as most do. Bynum is a premier offensive big man in the league and Dwight will be coming off of major back issues. Maturity is a wash, since neither has any. I’d still pull the trigger if I were Mitch Kupchak, but there would be some hesitation for sure.”

Speyer: “It would be hard for me to understand why the Lakers wouldn’t pull the trigger on a deal where they get Howard if they keep Kobe-Nash-Gasol. You bring up a good point with Howard’s back, but Bynum’s knees were just as large of an issue not long ago. It might not be the better move in the long run, but the Lakers are built to win now, hell they are built to win yesterday. Aside from Bynum, their Big Three are all in their thirties. Howard is the better all around player right now and that is what matters.”

Speyer: “It also shouldn’t be understated that Howard is an All-NBA defender and one of the best pick-and-roll bigs in the league. In other words, he is the perfect fit for a team coached by Mike Brown with Steve Nash at point guard.”

Ratner: “Yeah, my Bynum argument is more devil’s advocate than anything else. The Howard-Nash combo seems to maximize both players’ strengths. And Dwight’s back issues are probably just a result of having his foot squarely in his mouth for the past year. He makes LeBron look like a public relations genius. Does Howard for Bynum make the Lakers title favorites? I think it would give them a slight edge over OKC, assuming everyone stays healthy.”

Ratner: “Although with another year together, and few personnel changes, the Thunder may come out and overwhelm everyone.”

Speyer: “They would have the pieces in place to do it, but don’t put it past Mike Brown to move those pieces in the wrong direction. Who has a better chance of being in L.A. at the end of next season, Howard or Brown?”

Ratner: “Oh interesting, I’ll say Brown, but only because it is foolish to try and predict anything about Dwight these days. Calling Brown a defensive-minded coach is the understatement of our time, but with Nash and Kobe you have two coaches on the floor. They’re smart enough to make sure Brown is more of a “defensive coordinator.” Dwight could land almost anywhere; at least we know Brown is in LA right now.”

Speyer: “Let’s go back to Oklahoma City. I think that they are really the team to watch next season. Obviously they have all the talent in the world, but in the NBA there is a fine line between “a young team with potential to win a title” and “a team that never got over the hump”. You know that better than most as a Cavs fan. With luxury tax concerns rearing it’s head, next year is crucial for the Thunder.”

Ratner: “Certainly true, [thinking back to 2009 and resisting the urge to rip my own face off]. The Cavs had a finals run and finish in 2007 that was very similar to this Thunder team and were never the same again. These young teams sometimes underestimate how tough it is to get over that last hump, and then become frustrated once it’s not as easy as they may want it to be. Durant and co. seem to be tough enough to overcome that, but only time – and results – will tell. At this point the Thunder have a huge window, but it’s hard to imagine them being able to keep their Big 3 plus Ibaka and Perkins, Sefolosha, etc.”

Speyer: “And that is what would concern me as a Thunder fan. Their window is huge, but they share a lesser portion of that window with the Heat, presumably for the next three to four years. By then they will still have Durant and Westrbrook, but what will the rest of the team look like? Probably very different, if this year’s free agency was any indication. Much like with Hibbert, Batum, Fields and Lin this year, a team will be willing to vastly overpay for Harden and Ibaka next offseason.”

Ratner: “Seems like they’ll have to choose 2 of Harden, Westbrook and Ibaka, but that’s probably a debate for a different offseason. The Heat have their own window concerns since the Big 3 all have opt-outs in two more years and Allen can opt out next season. Combine this with the Lakers’ obviously small window and the Spurs’ age, the NBA 3-5 years from now seems more wide open then it has been in awhile.”

Speyer: “It does, and there a handful of young teams that could be contenders by 2016. Setting the Thunder aside, what team has the best young BIg 3?”

Ratner: “Assuming we’re only counting already assembled Big 3’s, still got to give some love to San Antonio; Parker just had a career year and Duncan has at least a couple years in him. There’s also some really intriguing young ones – New Orleans (Davis, Gordon, Rivers), Golden State (Curry, Barnes, Lee? Bogut?) and my personal favorite Detroit (Knight, Drummond, Monroe).”

Ratner: “There’s also some big 4’s emerging. I just mentioned Golden State, but I also like Indiana (Hill, George, West, Hibbert) a lot.”

Speyer: “We share a favorite with Detroit. For the third straight year they got lucky with an extremely talented player falling to them in the mid-late lottery. If Drummond even scratches the surface of his potential, and Monroe/Knight can continue to improve, that Big 3 will be able to compete with anybody. Indiana just strikes me as one of those teams that is destined to be very good but never good enough. Stuck at the top of the East in the 2-4 seed range but never able to get over the hump. A smarter version of the Hawks team that we just saw dismantled?”

Ratner: “The Hawks are a perfect example of how pointless it is to be mediocre to above average in the NBA. Some teams are finally figuring out the bottom-out strategy, but the biggest issue teams seem to have is waiting too long to blow up failed experiments. The Hawks needed a regime change to figure it out themselves, and we’ll see if the same problem rears its ugly head in Philly or Memphis, just to name a couple places.”

Speyer: “And some are not. I was shocked to see the ‘win now’ approaches that some teams took, even though they are not in a position to do so. I’m looking at you Toronto, Portland, Minnesota.”

Ratner: “I’d add Phoenix to that list, the Scola pickup seems weird, it’s not like they’re going anywhere in the West this year.”

Speyer: “As much as I love Grantland, I’m not sure if we want to flirt with Simmon’s word counts on our first column like this. I’ll leave you with one more question. Last night I made a bet with my friend that, between the Raptors and Wizards, the Raptors would make the playoffs. Quite frankly, I thought it was a no brainer.”

Ratner: “You know how much I like Terrence Ross, but I have to say the Wizards. Beal compliments Wall well and will hopefully be a good influence on the young point guard, and Seraphin, Nene, Vesley and Ariza are a solid supporting cast. Hopefully they amnesty Blatche for some addition by subtraction. I don’t think either of those teams are playoff teams this year, but Washington seems closer to me.”

Speyer: “I guess we will save my argument for some other time. That was fun though.”

Ratner: “Definitely. Looking forward to next time, when I’m sure the Knicks will have matched Lin’s offer sheet and Dwight Howard will be playing in France.”

-E.L Speyer/A. Ratner

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