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Free-For-All-Friday: BHGP NBA Edition

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The Bulls and Cavaliers and Jarrod Uthoff... OH MY!

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Hello Jerry: Welcome to Free-For-All-Friday, Matt. As JPinIC’s partner in crime for these mindless conversations, I want to thank you on his behalf for rescuing him this week as I’m sure he’s still trying to figure out how to balance having two small children in his arms while also balancing a computer on his lap.

I’m sure it’s much more difficult than any of us imagine. Just know, that you sir, are a blog hero. Don’t think that won’t go unnoticed in these parts.

Now, when you and I were chatting a little bit offline and throwing some crap at the wall about this weeks topic, I learned one very important fact about you… YOU’RE AN NBA GUY!

So as the two resident NBA junkies at The Pants, I think we should use our time wisely and take a dive into the current NBA Playoffs, Jarrod Uthoff’s actual potential to be the first multi-year rotation player that has come out of Iowa in a very, very long time and what current players on Fran McCaffery’s squad has the best chance at becoming an NBA starter down the line.

If you’re ready, I’m ready. Let’s ball.

Mattcabel: Hello Jerry!

That feels weird, but fun to say. Thanks for having me here, Jerry! Yes it’s true, I’m a self-proclaimed NBA junkie, so this time of year is like Christmas for me. I have to admit, this Bulls run has been, frankly, incredible, especially considering I don’t even think they should have made the playoffs. The fact that the tanking Nets rested their players on the last night of the season, with seeding and playoff eligibility on the line for THREE teams is preposterous. They gifted the Bulls a spot! But I have to admit, now that they’re here, they look like a completely different team.

I think the Celtics’ depth is actually hurting them so far. They like to go deep into the rotation, but that strategy doesn’t really work at this point of the season. They’ll definitely need to make some changes in these next two games: maybe a new starting lineup, or at least more minutes for guys like IT4, Avery Bradley, Al Horford and maybe even Kelly Olynyk. They’re getting destroyed on the offensive glass by Robin Lopez, and they’re letting Bobby Portis, Paul Zipser and Rajon Rondo have incredible performances.

Do you think the Bulls can actually pull off the 1-8 upset?

Hello Jerry: Do I think they can? I know they can. It’s inevitable at this point. Honest to God, there were Brad Stevens hot seat hot take posts flying around Twitter this morning. Last I checked, he wasn’t the one that didn’t up the ante of the Brooklyn picks to land Paul George or Jimmy Butler.

Here’s the thing with the Celtics and why I was ecstatic to play them after the reality of the Bulls making the playoffs dawned on me (I for one, was on team #TradeJimmy at the deadline and own that. Being in the middle is just not the place I want to ever be in the NBA. This isn’t the MLB where a team can get hot in October and make a run of a lifetime. You need unicorns. You need at least two Top-15 players to win. You just do.): they are the Derrick Rose Chicago Bulls that had to keep going up against LeBron James and the Heat.

For how fun Isaiah Thomas was during the regular season (sound familiar, D-Rose fans?), the game changes in the playoffs. You don’t get to just drive by careless point guards that are on the second game of a back-to-back. You get the best teams defender grinding you out all game long for however long that series lasts.

Just like LeBron used to switch onto Derrick Rose and make scoring seem impossible for those Bulls teams, Jimmy Butler is doing just that to Isaiah Thomas. And when he’s not able to get going (much like he wasn’t on Tuesday night), the Celtics don’t have the firepower around him. Avery Bradley is a slightly better Keith Bogans (defensive specialist that you hope hits a couple of three’s), Al Horford is the Joakim Noah and Jae Crowder is Luol Deng.

We’re some painted hair away from Kelly Olynyk sliding into the Carlos Boozer role just with more range.

I don’t think the Bulls match up well against the Wizards (Bully ball + consistent outside shooting + John Wall), but I’m going to enjoy the ride until it ends.

The real question Matt, is do the Bulls just sweep this sucker in Chicago?

Mattcabel: I was actually on team #WhyWouldYouTradeJimmy, so I think you make an interesting point. I’m usually of the mindset that it’s silly to trade your team’s best player (unless you know he wants to leave and has impending free agency), and that’s what Jimmy Butler is for the Bulls. Of course, an exception to that is Boogie Cousins and the Kings. I thought that was a smart trade -- they realized that despite his gaudy stats, they either had to trade him or owe him a BOATLOAD of money. That made sense.

But I think trading Jimmy would have been silly. There’s definitely a potential version of the Bulls stocked with 3-point specialists that could run Hoiberg’s preferred system of spacing and long range shots that works around Jimmy, so I was glad to see him stay put.

As for your other question, I think a sweep is probably out of the question. I mean, the Celtics are the one seed! Now, a Gentleman’s Sweep is definitely a possibility, because you’re completely right about Thomas: the Bulls have neutralized him. They’re doubling him and taking advantage of his small size. I do think the Celtics are missing a core piece to the puzzle. Horford was a good signing, but the Celtics missed out on a big opportunity to add a designated “superstar” to their core. You always run the risk when you have this many bargaining chips of holding out for better prospects, or a better trade, or something along those lines, and I think that may be what happened to the Celtics, at least this year.

Along those lines, let’s talk about the Cavaliers. There’s an example of a team who went all-in to win now, and it paid off in terms of last year’s championship. I don’t think the Pacers are going to end up being a problem for them in this round, but I’m not quite sure how sustainable their success is going to be.

The talk of their squad this year is whether or not they have a “gear” they can turn on or off and go into Winning Mode. I used to say that they did indeed have a gear they could turn on or off, as evidenced by that late season beatdown of the Celtics, but now that the Celtics are down 0-2 to the Bulls, maybe we were victims of the moment.

This year’s Cavaliers squad reminds me a lot of the 2014 Heat squad that got demolished by the Spurs in The Finals rematch. Lebron has gone to six straight Finals. He’s exhausted. His teammates that aren’t named Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are all old role players who can’t or won’t play defense.

Barring some unforeseen injury, that’s a recipe for disaster against the Warriors, Spurs, or maybe even the Wizards, right?

Hello Jerry: I promise we’ll get to the Hawkeyes here soon for those BHGP purists out there… just bare with us.

Before I jump into the Cavs, one last point about the Bulls: It will be interesting to see what this offseason brings. Gar Forman is the happiest person in every room right now (and rightfully so). But does this playoff success wipe away an entire season of chaos and controversy? We’ll see.

Regardless, the legion that is GarPax should want the two Nets picks for Jimmy now. I know Ainge doesn’t want to give up one for a star, and honestly, he shouldn’t want to. Run it back next year with Thomas, get their Top-3 pick some minutes, get another Top-3 pick the following year, supplement them with another Free Agent after Thomas walks for an obscene amount of money and hope one or both of those lottery picks peak by the time LeBron James is on the downswing.

It’s a long term plan, but one that I think is necessary for these Eastern conference teams because… THE EAST RUNS THROUGH CLEVELAND.

To your point, I do believe LeBron has that switch. I do believe Kyrie has that switch. I do believe Kevin Love has that switch. I do believe that whatever hodgepodge of Kyle Korver/J.R. Smith/Iman Shumpert/Tristan Thompson/Richard Jefferson/Deron Williams can find a switch every other game or two.

The defense is a hot button topic among the media right now and I could end up eating these words, but I think we’ve only seen “coasting LeBron” to this point. Whether it ends up being Toronto or Milwaukee, when it comes down to crunch time in those games, that’s when James locks down DeMar Derozan or The Greek Freak and shows why he’s still the best basketball players on the planet.

Against this iteration of the Pacers (who seem to be imploding with every minute they have to depend on Lance Stephenson for real minutes), LeBron knows he can coast. He can let Kyrie Irving feast on Jeff Teague (and grow that playoff confidence) and set up Love.

LeBron James is a mastermind. He knows what makes HIS guys tick. And until that fails, I refuse to pretend it’s anything different in the Eastern conference.

With that said, I have two final FINALS questions I want you to answer for me:

  1. What is your Finals prediction
  2. What is your Finals dream matchup

Mattcabel: You make some great points, Jerry. I’ll be very interested to see how the paradigms of the Eastern Conference shift in the next five years.

There’s still no doubt in my mind that the Cavs make it out of the East. Their Big 3 is just too talented to lose to any of these weak East teams. Beyond that, I’m not sure, which gets to my Finals prediction and dream matchup. Unfortunately, I have to go chalk here. My dream Finals matchup is the Cavs-Warriors rubber match!

Unfortunately, I also know that this year’s Warriors team (again, barring injury) will win. It’s a boring pick, it’s a pick that I absolutely hate (I’ve really grown to despise the Warriors after their initial title run. They got old, fast), but it’s clear to me that they’re the best team in the league. Maybe the Cavs will put it together defensively over the next few weeks, and dust off their game-plan for guarding Steph and KD and pull out the victory. I would love it. But I’ll never forget seeing the Heat lose in embarrassing fashion in 2014, and I just can’t shake the feeling it will happen again this year in similar fashion.

But that’s enough from me about the NBA playoffs. The people are here for the Hawkeyes. Jarrod Uthoff wrapped up his rookie NBA season last week, and the results were promising! When I saw the highlights from the D-League game that caused him to get that initial 10-day contract, it was like I was watching a different player. He was dunking with a ferocity I had never seen before. He was taking and making shots with an air of confidence he seemed to lack during his time in Iowa City. And he looked JACKED.

He bet on himself by not getting drafted in the last second round, and it paid off. He dominated the D-League, got a “multiyear” deal out of it, and also got to play some serious NBA minutes at the end of the season with an all-time great.

I think it’s safe to say that Jarrod has the potential to become a solid role player in the NBA. I’m not ready to proclaim him a superstar yet, but I like what I’m seeing. He’s got the body, and now it seems like he’s (finally) getting the strength, and also the confidence to take good shots.

So I don’t know about you Jerry, but I’m going to pencil Jarrod in as a solid rotation NBA player for at least the next 5-10 years. Do you think he’ll be joined by any other current Hawkeyes? Or even others, like Aaron White or Gabe Olaseni?

Hello Jerry: Matt... you saw this right?

When I saw these highlights I freaked out. I audibly gasped. That three point shot in the corner to start the video, it was heaven-like. He caught Dirk’s pass right in the pocket, cranked and held that picture perfect release point like he’s been banging home corner threes for years. He’s playing with confidence and a strength he never had at Iowa. I keep flashing back to how timid he was against Villanova and that kid is GONE.

He even threw down on a real NBA player.

Jarrod Uthoff… what?

I’m so happy for him. Like you said, he gambled on himself and put in the work. He’s always had the length and game to be a matchup nightmare, he just needed to put on the weight and find that consistent killer inside that would sometimes flee him during his college career.

And now he gets to spend time with Dirk? If a report comes out that he goes to Germany to meet with his shot doctor, I will buy his Mavs jersey for my summer at Cocoa Beach.

As far as current Hawkeyes that could become NBA rotation players (at worst), I have one player in mind that isn’t the obvious choice (Tyler Cook).

I’m planting my flag on Isaiah Moss. I believe in this kid so much that it’s probably becoming a little weird. With two more years of fine tuning a few of his skills (His handles and jump shot in particular), I think his herky-jerkyness (yeah, I made a word up) and ability to get hot and make plays with the ball in his hands will make a few NBA GM’s take long looks at him. Maybe I’m crazy, but if things break right for the kid, there’s a Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson potential in him.

He could easily be a difference maker for a playoff team’s bench mob.

What do you guys think? Is Fran McCaffery about to produce some quality NBA-level talent that he can then use on the recruiting trail? Am I crazy for thinking that Cordell Pemsl has a long shot to make a little noise in the NBA? Can Jordan Bohannon step in and become a J.J. Barea replica? What about the incoming kids?

Happy Friday and Go Bulls.