The Pulse: NBA Update
Welcome to The Pulse, the place to find out what the sports world is thinking. Every day on ESPN.com, SportsNation registers its opinion on a wide range of topics by casting votes and chatting with experts in The Show. We collect the daily highlights and put them in The Pulse.
The San Antonio Spurs are still the reigning NBA champs, but SportsNation overwhelmingly feels that San Antonio's loss to Detroit on Thursday is evidence that another team occupies the throne these days. In fact, the Pistons are picked by 64 percent of voters to win the title this season, owning nearly a two-to-one edge on the combined support of the Spurs, Mavericks, Suns and Heat.
And like the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL, the Pistons appear ready to challenge regular-season history after vanquishing the best the present has to offer. Thursday's win moved Flip Saunders' team to 28-5, keeping them on pace to win 69.5 games in an attempt to join the Chicago Bulls in the exclusive 70-win club. Will it happen? Much as like Detroit's title chances, 'Nation voters say not a chance.
|Are Chauncey Billups and the Pistons headed for a title?|
64.0% Detroit Pistons
16.7% San Antonio Spurs
10.5% Miami Heat
4.3% Dallas Mavericks
4.3% Phoenix Suns
Will the Pistons win 70 games this season? (30,194 votes)
Which Eastern Conference team matches up best with the Pistons? (22,872 votes)
57.7% Miami Heat
18.2% Cleveland Cavaliers
13.4% New Jersey Nets
10.5% Indiana Pacers
Which Western Conference team matches up best with the Spurs? (38,055 votes)
40.7% Phoenix Suns
35.7% Dallas Mavericks
15.2% Los Angeles Lakers
8.2% Memphis Grizzlies
The Pistons are at the top of SportsNation's class, but what about the rest of the league's elite? Check out the 'Nation's Power Rankings
1. Detroit Pistons
2. San Antonio Spurs
3. Phoenix Suns
4. Dallas Mavericks
5. New Jersey Nets
6. Cleveland Cavaliers
7. Miami Heat
8. Memphis Grizzlies
9. Indiana Pacers
10. Los Angeles Clippers
Detroit. The cohesion that comes from having essentially the same roster for three years running will go a long way in the playoffs.
I like the Pistons' "something to prove" angle without Larry Brown.
San Antonio has the depth. Once everybody finds their perfect role, they'll go on their usual end-of-the-season tear and rip through the playoffs.
Detroit. They thrive off disrespect. They want to prove to everyone that they can win without Larry Brown. They want to prove that they can beat San Antonio. Most importantly, they want to wear the championship belts again!
The Spurs are still the team to beat until anyone proves otherwise. Tim Duncan is still the best player in the NBA (and you want to talk about disrespect).
Tim (San Antonio): Please, everyone, go ahead and throw dirt on the Spurs. They love it. And in June, they'll suddenly reappear.
TJ (Portland, Maine)
Chris Sheridan: The Spurs never get too excited or too concerned about anything that happens before April. They're looking to tinker a little, perhaps by trading someone like Beno Udrih, but Nazr doesn't have much trade value in the final year of his contract, and they're probably going to end up keeping him.
Joe (Holland, Mich.): I keep hearing that even though the Pistons are the best in the league, they are still not favorites to win it all. What do you think?
John Hollinger: I picked the Spurs at the start of the season, but when I was recently asked by ESPN.com, I went with Detroit. My reasoning wasn't so much who was better -- as last year showed, they're pretty darn close -- but the path of least resistance. San Antonio would have to play Phoenix first, while it doesn't appear Detroit will play an opponent of that caliber until the Finals.
By the slimmest of margins, LeBron James earns top honors from SportsNation. But Cleveland's "King James" has far from a mandate, as Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson and Kevin Garnett all garner solid shares of the vote. In fact, when pitted one-on-one against Bryant, quite a duel emerges between the league's current leading scorers.
As a team player, LeBron James gets the nod from SportsNation as the guy they'd pick to help win a title and the guy they'd want to play pick-up ball with. But purely for putting points on the board? It's pretty clear that Bryant, fresh off his recent string of 45-point games, has the edge on the youngster.
|Is LeBron James already the best player in the NBA?|
30.4% LeBron James
28.3% Tim Duncan
19.2% Kobe Bryant
11.0% Allen Iverson
10.9% Kevin Garnett
If you needed one player to score 40 points in a game, who would you pick? (12,432 votes)
47.4% Kobe Bryant
25.9% Allen Iverson
14.0% LeBron James
6.7% Dwyane Wade
5.8% Tracy McGrady
Which player is the better pure shooter? (34,162 votes)
81.9% Kobe Bryant
18.1% LeBron James
Which player is the better pure scorer? (34,162 votes)
74.5% Kobe Bryant
25.5% LeBron James
If you had to win just one game, which player would you choose? (34,162 votes)
67.1% Kobe Bryant
32.9% LeBron James
Which player would you pick if you were in pursuit of a championship? (34,162 votes)
50.6% Kobe Bryant
49.4% LeBron James
Which player would you rather play with in a pickup game? (34,162 votes)
65.6% LeBron James
34.4% Kobe Bryant
Frankie (New York)
LeBron. Too young and too talented NOT to hitch your wagon to.
Jason (Scarsdale, N.Y.)
LeBron, because he's a team player. Kobe can drop 50 on anyone, but what's the point when he runs teammates and coaches out of town like it's his job?
Matt (Washington, D.C.)
I have to build around a scorer? Iverson, hands down. When Kobe goes off, he still seems like a one-man show. Iverson at least appears to put the team on his shoulders when he explodes.
Troy (Gainesville, Fla.)
I'll still take LeBron James. He is younger than Kobe Bryant, not nearly as selfish with shots, and tries to get his teammates involved in the game.
Rip Hamilton. I'll take my scorer without an attitude. He'll make the shot when he has the ball, but doesn't command it every time down the floor.
Scott (Watertown, Mass.)
I would build my team around Allen Iverson. He's a better leader than Kobe, and surprisingly, he can actually pass the ball to his teammates, something Kobe Bryant has never heard of before.
Michael (Marlton, N.J.)
Chris Sheridan: I'll reserve judgment until I see what they get for him, but right now I'm of the belief that they should have handled this much differently right from the get-go. If they had shrugged off Artest's trade demand as just another daily dose of Life With Ron-Ron, they could have worked behind the scenes to move him and gotten a better offer.
Rob (Minnesota): Please tell me Kevin McHale was telling you he finally was able to deal McCants and Olowokandi for Artest?!
Chris Sheridan: I just had an important call concerning Artest and what might happen now that the Maggette deal is dead. I think the Pacers are no closer to doing anything with the Nuggets, Warriors or Timberwolves than they were two weeks ago, but I'm hearing that the Rockets -- who don't have anything outside of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady that interests the Pacers -- are trying to find a player that Indiana does like. The end result would be a three- or four-way trade that would bring Artest to Houston.