Roundtable: All-Star Game, trade deadline pose tough questions
George Karl thinks All-Star rosters should be expanded from 12 players to 15
The Cavaliers could be poised to make a big trade before the Feb. 18 deadline
Who can top the Lakers in the West, and should the playoff system be altered?
SI.com's NBA writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the league each week. (All stats and records are through Feb. 8.)
1. Western Conference All-Star coach George Karl wants the NBA to expand All-Star rosters from 12 to 15 players. Good idea?
Ian Thomsen: I don't like it. What's so wrong with keeping high standards? If a few qualified players have to be left off the West's 12-man roster, then that gives more credibility to those who did make the All-Star team. The other conference hasn't produced enough star performances this year to produce a 15-man team. The All-Star Game isn't as important as it was a decade or two ago, and a plan like this would further diminish the achievement of those who earn the invitation.
Jack McCallum: Why not? If fans continue to make ridiculous choices, such as voting in Allen Iverson as a starter, the NBA might as well allow in three more worthy players. Plus, it would furnish some nice grist for reporters' NBA notebooks in the days following the All-Star Game: more players complaining about a lack of playing time.
Frank Hughes: While we're in the process of giving every kid in America a trophy for participating, why don't we add three head coaches to the All-Star team, as well? That way, each coach can be in charge of one quarter and everyone can sing Kumbaya in the locker room afterward. C'mon, there has to be some semblance of exclusivity to the All-Star team. One, maybe two, deserving players get left off each year, but they're usually included because of injuries to those voted in. Let's not dilute something that is meant to be a sign of excellence for the sake of somebody who is on the bubble. Frankly, most players would rather go on vacation anyway.
Chris Mannix: Sure. Come to think of it, let's expand the rosters to 17. No, 20. Really, no matter how deep you make the teams, there are always going to be snubs. Expanding the rosters isn't the answer. I prefer the system floated by Ray Allen recently: Let the coaches, players, media and fans have a say in the All-Star starters. There should also be a safeguard in place that prevents a player from being chosen if he doesn't meet a minimum-games-played requirement. It's not perfect, but it's a decent fix.
2. The Feb. 18 trade deadline is fast approaching. What do you see as the biggest storyline in this year's trading season?
Thomsen: Will Cleveland make a major trade? The Cavaliers are obvious favorites to win the East, and one more move could improve their chances in an anticipated Finals against the Lakers. At the same time, the wrong move could also set them back. So their actions over the next nine days will make all the difference to the title race, while possibly affecting LeBron James' decision in free agency this summer. There can be no bigger storyline than that.
McCallum: It has to be whether or not the Celtics will break up their Big Three and trade Ray Allen. Yes, Kevin Garnett has been injured and maybe he'll be healthy come playoff time, but the numbers don't lie: The Celtics look like they're dead meat against both Atlanta and Orlando, never mind what they might do in their final three regular-season games against Cleveland. The Garnett/Paul Pierce/Allen trio won one championship, but it won't win another. Allen, who has a $19.7 million expiring contract, is the likely one to go.
Hughes: I'm interested to see which team aligns itself for a championship and which team looks to the future (and thus plans to suffer losses the remainder of the season). There are a lot of difficult decisions to be made in the next 10 days and a lot of GMs have to go into them blindly. Does Steve Kerr deal Amar'e Stoudemire? Does Bryan Colangelo trade Chris Bosh? Do the Bulls break up what seems to be a pretty good thing based on the uncertainty of free agency? The true colors of a lot of organizations will be exposed as we head into an intriguing, scintillating offseason.
Mannix: This trade deadline is eerily similar to the one the Cavs experienced a year ago. Back then, the rolling Cavs elected to keep Wally Szczerbiak (and his expiring $13.8 million contract) so as not to disrupt team chemistry. Then Wally went out and shot 16.7 percent from three-point range in the playoffs. Cleveland is once again sitting pretty, riding an 11-game winning streak with a bevy of trade assets at its disposal. The difference is, with LeBron set to become a free agent, can the Cavs afford to let another deadline pass without making an upgrade?
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