NBA Roundtable: All-Star Picks, Best of 2018 + More
NBA Roundtable: All-Star Picks, Best of 2018 + More

This article is part of our NBA Roundtable series.

Welcome to the Week 11 edition of the RotoWire NBA Roundtable. Each week, our NBA staff gets together to answer questions about the biggest topics of the week, both in fantasy basketball and the league overall.

This week, we talk Christmas Day, All-Star picks, the surging Rockets, and more.

Did the Lakers blowing out Golden State in Oakland on Christmas Day tell us more about the Warriors or the Lakers?

James Anderson: Warriors. I just think there's this common misconception that the Warriors still have four of the 15-20 best players in the league. Not only is that not true anymore – they clearly have two of the top five, but Klay is probably more of a top-25 player and Draymond might not even be a top-40 player anymore – but their depth is non existent. The Warriors are still the favorite to win the title, but I wouldn't be surprised if they lost in the Finals to the Raptors or Celtics.

Nick Whalen: The Lakers. No one in that arena thought the Lakes were winning that game when LeBron went out. No chance last year's Cavs – or even the Cavs teams from two or three years ago – close the game like the Lakers did. It was strange to see the Warriors struggle on offense, but the way the Lakers played defensively won't work when it's DeMarcus Cousins at center instead of Kevon Looney or Draymond Green.

Ken Crites: It tells us more about the Warriors. I don't think they'll be motivated until late February. Events like "Christmas Day National Games" don't mean much and they know it. Let's hope LeBron is healthy.

Shannon McKeown: The Lakers. Beating the Warriors at Oracle Arena on Christmas solidified Los Angeles as a legitimate threat in the Western Conference. But don't be fooled - the Warriors are still an overwhelming favorite to win another championship. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 20 points, which won't happen on a regular basis, so there's nothing to worry about on the Warriors side. They will turn it on come the playoffs.

Mike Barner: I think it further illustrated that we shouldn't read too much into early season performances for the Lakers. They have struggled at times, but as long as LeBron James is healthy when the playoffs roll around, they are going to be a force to be reckoned with.

Alex Barutha: The Lakers. We know the Warriors have been struggling, especially due to the relatively poor three-point shooting of Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Los Angeles' victory proved the Lakers can win a close game without LeBron James, which is something we haven't necessarily seen in the past from LeBron-led squads.

Jeff Edgerton: It says more about the Lakers. Unlike the Cavs, who lived and died by LeBron, this was a statement game for his supporting cast. The difference between these two teams was significant. One of them actually played like a team.

Rikleen: The Lakers. Until the Warriors have lost four games in a playoff series, I'm going to still believe they are winning the championship. The Lakers showing they can pull through without LeBron, and that they are capable of surviving the notorious Warriors' 3rd quarter, however, is meaningful.

Zack Osell: I think it told us more about the Warriors and their inability to get up for a game against a team they know they're better than. They've been atop the basketball world for the past few years and are uninspired. Perhaps the return of Boogie Cousins is exactly what they need.

After beating the Thunder on Christmas Day, Houston has won 7 of 8 games. Have the Rockets re-asserted themselves as a top-three contender in the West?

Anderson: I would probably take the Nuggets and Lakers over the Rockets just because Houston's lack of depth will leave them vulnerable in the playoffs. It's kind of splitting hairs as to how teams 2-14 should be ranked in the West.

Whalen: Maybe it's because of how he gets his points, but Harden has somehow become underrated after winning an MVP. He's been the best player in the league for much of the last month. Houston is firmly in the discussion as the second or third-best team in the West, but that's due in large part to the fact that no other team has stepped up to definitively claim that title. Denver and the Lakers still have question marks, while OKC has done most of its damage against bad Eastern Conference teams. As of Thursday, the Thunder are 10-2 versus the East and 11-10 against the West.

Crites: Not quite. I'll feel better when Eric Gordon starts shooting better than 40%. The defense still worries me.

McKeown: The Rockets have reasserted themselves as a top-5 contender in the West, behind the Warriors, Nuggets, Thunder and Lakers. That said, I fully expect the Rockets to rise up to top-3 status by the All-Star break.

Barner: Yes. It was only a matter of time before they got things rolling. James Harden can carry this team a long way and the addition of Austin Rivers could prove crucial for their bench.

Barutha: I still worry about Chris Paul's health, but if he can stay on the floor, they remain in the conversation for the Conference Finals. Houston's Big Three is just as good as anyone in the West who isn't the Warriors.

Edgerton: When you consider that they've won a couple of these games without Paul, it certainly speaks to their competitiveness. They have the mettle to contend, but they need to pray for a healthy Harden down the stretch.

Rikleen: I still don't think they're a top-three Western Conference team, but that's because I didn't have them that high in the preseason so it will take more than an eight-game stretch for me to bump them up a rung. That said, even more impressive than the 7-1 record is the teams they've beaten: it's possible that all eight of those teams will qualify for the postseason.

Osell: I wouldn't exactly say that they've re-asserted themselves as one of the top teams in the conference, but I do believe they've built up a little confidence. The injury to Chris Paul may have been a blessing in disguise, and it didn't come during a crucial point of the season. They've proven to themselves that they can win against quality teams without one of their stars.

As of today, who would be your All-Star starters in each conference?

Anderson:
East – Kyrie Irving; Victor Oladipo; Giannis Antetokounmpo; Kawhi Leonard; Joel Embiid
West – Stephen Curry, James Harden, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis

Whalen:
East – Kyrie Irving; Ben Simmons; Kawhi Leonard; Giannis Antetokounmpo; Joel Embiid
West – James Harden; Paul George; LeBron James; Kevin Durant; Anthony Davis

Crites:
East – Kyrie Irving; Victor Oladipo; Kawhi Leonard; Giannis Antetokounmpo; Joel Embiid
West – James Harden; Russell Westbrook; Kevin Durant; LeBron James; Anthony Davis

McKeown:
East – Kemba Walker; Kyrie Irving; Kawhi Leonard; Giannis Antetokounmpo; Joel Embiid
West – Stephen Curry; James Harden; LeBron James; Nikola Jokic; Anthony Davis (apologies to Paul George, who probably deserves a spot)

Barner:
East – Kyrie Irving; Kemba Walker; Kawhi Leonard; Giannis Antetokounmpo; Joel Embiid
West – Stephen Curry; James Harden; LeBron James; Kevin Durant; Anthony Davis

Barutha:
East – Ben Simmons; Kyrie Irving; Giannis Antetokounmpo; Kawhi Leonard; Joel Embiid
West – Stephen Curry; James Harden; LeBron James; Kevin Durant; Anthony Davis

Edgerton:
East – Ben Simmons; Kemba Walker; Kyrie Irving; Giannis Antetokounmpo; Joel Embiid
West – Stephen Curry; James Harden; Jrue Holiday; LeBron James; Anthony Davis

Rikleen:
East – Victor Oladipo; Kawhi Leonard; Giannis Antetokounmpo; Blake Griffin; Joel Embiid
West – Steph Curry; Paul George; LeBron James; Anthony Davis; Nikola Jokic

Osell:
East – Kyrie Irving; Kemba Walker; Kawhi Leonard; Giannis Antetokounmpo; Joel Embiid
West – Damian Lillard; James Harden; LeBron James; Kevin Durant; Anthony Davis

What's more likely: the Kings make the playoffs, or the Jazz miss the playoffs?

Anderson: I'm very confident (~95%) that the Jazz will make the playoffs, so I'll say "the Kings make the playoffs" is the answer to this question, even though I don't think they have a great chance (~15%).

Whalen: Sacramento has been a fun story, but I'll be surprised if they can keep it up for 82 games. Utah hasn't looked great, but I trust that organization more than I do the one that signed Zach Randolph and George Hill last summer. The Kings have a few standout wins, but they're a sub-.500 team against the Western Conference and are a combined 1-11 against the Nuggets, Warriors, Rockets, Clippers, Lakers, Raptors, Bucks and Jazz.

Crites: The Kings making the playoffs would really shock me. They are a terribly run organization. Do you have any confidence they'll make a good trade deadline deal? I do not.

McKeown: Utah making the playoffs. The Jazz had one of the toughest schedules in the league through the first 30 games. Things get much easier from here for Utah. I don't expect Utah to finish as strongly as last year's unbelievable run, but the Jazz should easily be able to make up 1.5 games on the Kings and challenge the Clippers, Blazers and Spurs for one of the final two spots in the playoffs.

Barner: I can't see the Kings making the playoffs at all, so I'll go with the Jazz being more likely to miss the playoffs. Donovan Mitchell has struggled with his shot this year, which has further illustrated their lack of scoring options and overall depth on the roster.

Barutha: Kings make the playoffs. I like the Kings' young core, even though they're probably overperforming to a degree. I'd also be surprised if Utah fell out of the playoffs while teams like San Antonio, Memphis, Dallas and Minnesota got in.

Edgerton: Utah's core is just too strong to miss out this year. I'd have to go with the Kings missing the playoffs as the more likely scenario, but not with any confidence.

Rikleen: The Jazz are more likely to miss the playoffs. The West has more very-good-but-not-elite teams than playoff spots, so there is going to be at least one or two teams on the outside that are surprising. Meanwhile, the Kings are the kings of self-inflicted wounds. See: the whole silly drama earlier this month about whether they should have drafted Luka Doncic instead of Marvin Bagley - they had just won six of eight, and then twice over a two-day span made avoidable and radically stupid comments to distract and undermine their team. The Kings are a good team that is getting better, but they do not yet have the talent to stick with the rest of the Western Conference playoff teams over 82 games.

Osell: Given their young and blossoming talent, it's more likely that the Kings will make the playoffs. They play their tails off night in and night out, but even so they've remained in the playoff conversation as we near the halfway point.

As we near the end of 2018, what are the NBA moments from the past calendar year that you'll remember most?

Anderson: LeBron's Game 1 of the Finals; everything Doncic does; how bad Isaiah Thomas and Carmelo Anthony have been; this finally being the end of the Spurs' unprecedented run of competitiveness; Embiid shedding his injury-prone tag; Westbrook not being an elite player anymore; the Durant/Draymond mini-feud; the All-Star game completely sucking now; Ayton and Bagley going ahead of Doncic and Jackson in the draft.

Whalen: LeBron's entire 2017 playoff run, especially the sweep of Toronto; the day Cousins signed with Golden State; Evan Turner commenting on Instagram; the Hawks trading the Doncic pick; a certain shooting guard forgetting the score; Goran Dragic making the All-Star Game over Ben Simmons; Fultz; Enes Kanter vs. Hedo Turkoglu

Crites: My favorite memory is the Celtics amazing playoff run to end the 2017-18 season. Despite losing Kyrie, Hayward, Thies and others, they still finished one game away from The Finals. Winning with low expectations is so much fun. More generally, watching Giannis become a star has been awesome.

McKeown: The funniest moment goes to John Collins inadvertently slapping a ball boy; on the court, Luka Doncic Mania is the most memorable part of the 2018-19 season, to date. He surpasses expectations with each passing game.

Barner: I'll most remember how close the Rockets came to defeating the Warriors. If Chris Paul didn't get hurt, I think they would have won the series. I'm not sure they will come that close again this year, so they might have missed their golden opportunity.

Barutha: It was recent, but the trade mixup where nobody knew which Brooks (MarShon or Dillon) was being dealt. Somehow the trade still happened anyway between the Suns and the Wizards. I don't even think it was a good trade for either side

Edgerton: LeBron's first home game with the Lakers; Klay Thompson's record-setting three-point barrage; the entire Jimmy Butler situation

Rikleen: In my mind, this is the year Giannis transitioned from something I was looking forward to to something that is happening now; The Fultz Fiasco started in 2017, but most of the really wacko parts came in 2018; Bryan Colangelo's twitter-induced downfall ("find a new slant!"); the Celtics having a fourth quarter lead in Game 7 of the ECF over LeBron James' Cavaliers, even though they were without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward; Russell Westbrook's 38 rebounds over the last two games to end up averaging a triple double for the season; and any time LeBron James changes teams, it signifies an era-change that will be remembered for decades.

Osell: The fight during the Lakers and Rockets game between Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul; Giannis threatening to punch Mario Hezonja in a specific area

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick Whalen
RotoWire's NBA Editor and host of the RotoWire NBA Podcast. Nick was awarded the FSWA Best Podcast -- All Sports award in 2017 and 2018. Many years ago, Stromile Swift gave Nick his unbelievably sweaty headband after a preseason game. Despite its failure to match his school colors, Nick went on to wear that headband for the entirety of his sixth grade basketball season. Catch Nick on Twitter @wha1en.
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