Brother Banter Round 8 – NBA All-Star, the Maple Leafs, the St. Louis Blues and the Super Bowl

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Credit: USA Today Sports

By: Adam and Rossy Pasternak

Welcome back to another edition of “Brother Banter”, featuring the brothers behind SportsNak – Adam and Rossy Pasternak. In this edition, the brothers talk about the NBA All-Star selections, the Leafs, the St. Louis blues goalie problem and last but not least – the Super Bowl. 

Adam: So, the NBA All-Star starters were announced the other day. In my opinion, all the selections were as expected…except for  the exclusion of Russell Westbrook! I mean, was the league scared about what would happen if they put Russ and KD together again? The guy is a walking triple-double! He’s doing things that haven’t been done since Wilt. But, Steph Curry – who is averaging 24 ppg and has become the second fiddle to Durant – makes the starting lineup over him? It just doesn’t seem right to me. I don’t know what Russ did to piss off the NBA, but if anyone deserved to be snubbed/punished, it’s the Warriors. All Russ has done is stay loyal to the team that drafted him, kept his team in the Western Conference playoff hunt, and average a triple-double – all while most people wrote off the Thunder when KD left. Rossy, I know you’re a Warriors fan, but you have to agree with me…right?

Rossy: Let me clear this up to all the readers before I go into the All-Star selections: I am not a bandwagon. I have been a Warriors fan since they drafted Steph Curry, as I loved him at Davidson and he made me fall in love with the game of basketball. That being said, Westbrook should have been named a starter. As you said Adam, he is having a season for the history books, and should be recognized for doing so. I actually have a complaint about the All-Star selection format in general. I would like to bring back the traditional centre to the game, instead of having three “frontcourt” players. Who will protect the basket for the East, LeBron James? In the West, at least Anthony Davis is there. If there were the traditional centres in the game, you could possibly see a rematch of the two most entertaining stars in the league: Boogie and The Process, Joel Hans Embiid. Embiid has been lobbying to bring back the centre position to the All-Star game since being snubbed, and I agree with him. I also think that Kyle Lowry should have made it instead of Kyrie Irving. That could be a little bit of a hometown bias, but also, Lowry is having a ridiculous season, posting career highs in FG%, 3PT%, points, and rebounds, as well as averaging the second most assists in his career. It is almost certain Lowry will be joining his best friend DeMar DeRozan in the All-Star game as a reserve, but I really think he should be starting.

Adam: I’m not surprised about Kyrie over Kyle. I think the NBA is just making up for last year when many felt that Irving should have started over Lowry, but what really stands out is that Lowry is actually having an even better statistical season then he did last year, so in a way you’re right – he should be starting. But hear me out. While Lowry has had an exceptional year (scratch that- a career year), for some reason I’m not really mad about this. The Cavs are first in the East (Raps are second) and Kyrie and his Cavs are 3-0 against the Raps. While this shouldn’t really have an effect on the selection, it does. He’s the starting point guard on the defending champs, and he’s averaging 23.8 ppg and 5.6 assists while shooting 40% from deep..not too shabby. While Kyle’s stats are exceptional, Kyrie’s really aren’t that much worse. Kyle will all but likely make it as a reserve, and to me, as long as he and DeMar are both there (again), then I’m happy and I think the Raptors organization would be as well. Regarding the whole “frontcourt” ordeal, I definitely agree that the centre position should be back in the All-Star game as well. Although we now have freakish athletes/unicorns in the NBA, it just feels weird seeing LeBron covering Anthony Davis on defence down low (even though not much low post action happens during these games). While the game is changing for the better, we can’t just completely go away from the tradition and integrity of the game. There are still some true centre’s in the game, and they need to have an equal shot at being appreciated as such. But since we both agree, I don’t think we need to argue any farther.

Rossy: This has been a weird Brother Banter so far – we’ve basically agreed on everything. I’ll move on to something that we may not agree on, the Maple Leafs. I think the leafs should go all-in this year and trade for a star defenceman. Seeing the team without Morgan Rielly has made it abundantly clear that the Leafs are like the Houston Rockets on without him – a prolific offensive team that can’t play defence. Freddy Anderson has been playing near Vezina-calibre in net, saving the Leafs night after night, with a heavy workload. Acquiring another elite, or at least high-level, defenceman can vault the Leafs into the Eastern Conference elite. Looking at the Leafs’ farm system and prospects, they have an abundance of forwards, and some decent defenceman that could end up being second or third pairing guys in a couple of years, but no one who is going to be a shutdown defenceman. Trading for someone like Kevin Shattenkirk, who drives possession and plays well in all three zones, could be the piece the Leafs are missing. However, Shattenkirk is a UFA after this season, and with what it would cost the Leafs, he’ll likely have to commit to a new contract before the Leafs even consider trading for him – something he is rumoured to be open to. Something like JVR for Shattenkirk would work for both teams – the Blues get a big winger to help offensively, while getting something back for Shattenkirk before he walks. The Leafs get the defenceman they need to play alongside either Rielly or Gardiner, a shot from the point on the powerplay, and most importantly, keep all of their prime prospects.

Adam: While I agree the Leafs need a right handed defenceman, I don’t think they should rush to get him. Remember, this a process – a 3-4 year process. This rebuild wasn’t meant to be complete after two years. While we are poised to make a push for the playoffs, I don’t see us winning it all this year…so who cares? Everything the Leafs management does this year, is for the future. Not for this spring. If trading for a top end defencemen fits the overall plan, then sure why not. But they don’t need to feel like it is a must at this time in the rebuild. We’ve seen Toronto GM’s over spend before (Burke, Ferguson Jr., etc.), but I would hope the Leafs brass would have learned from the past. You mention JVR as a trade piece for that defencemen we so very much need. While it makes sense due to his contract expiring next year and a raise probably in order, he has been so important to the development of these kids, not to mention how damn good the guy is. Just give him the puck at the side of the net, and its a guaranteed goal for the Leafs. He’s got great size, speed and hands. It’s the perfect combination. He also brings some much needed leadership to a team that really doesn’t have too much of a veteran presence. I think we should keep JVR as long as possible, and if it makes sense to trade him and if its for a return we think can make an impact to our ultimate goal of winning the Cup, then sure. To tie it all up, my main point is the Leafs aren’t in any rush. They don’t need to pull the plug on a deal now, that may hurt the team later. Just my thoughts though.

Rossy: My argument centres around the fact that JVR, yes, is due for a raise. I would argue that the money he would get is better put to use in the form of a defenceman like Shattenkirk, while the Leafs could call up Kasperi Kapenen, who is tearing up the AHL right now. The trade would have a double whammy affect of better allocating resources, as well as opening up NHL playing time for a prospect who definitely deserves it. While we’re talking about NHL trades however, there are some juicy rumours coming out of St. Louis about Shattenkirk going elsewhere. The Tampa Bay Lightning need a defenceman – they need anything to help salvage this season – and have an extra goalie lying around. The Blues have a need for goaltending, as Jake Allen hasn’t gotten the job done in his first season as a full time starter, and have a defenceman to use as trade bait. It seems like a match made in heaven – Shattenkirk for Ben Bishop. Another trade I would like to see is one that gets Matt Duchene out of Colorado. I think the Avs’ have wasted one of the NHL’s premier talents, and that Duchene will break out wherever he ends up. I wonder if the New Jersey Devils would be interested in pairing him with Taylor Hall, or if the Chicago Blackhawks could fit him under the salary cap. Either of those teams acquiring a player of Duchene’s talent could shake up the league, and revive his career.

Adam: I don’t think Kasperi Kapenen will translate as well as you think to the NHL game. Big, powerful forwards who can finish at the net are a premium in this league and right now we are fortunate to have one of the few good ones in the league in JVR. You can’t replace him with Kapenen…or anyone really. But enough on that for now. Regarding Duchene, I couldn’t agree more that a trade could be of benefit to him. I’ve heard Montreal as a team that could be interested, but I don’t see them making the move during the season (if at all). New Jersey could be a great fit, I just don’t know if they can meet the Avs’ probably high asking price. The Washington Capitals could be another fit, and they do have pieces who could go the other way. The Caps could use a little help right now, and the speed and skill of Duchene would fit perfectly in their system. Ultimately though, I don’t see him getting dealt anywhere until the draft.

Regarding the St. Louis Blues, while theoretically Shattenkirk for Bishop sounds like a good trade on paper, you have to consider the logistics. Remember that Bishop started out in St. Louis and was ultimately traded to the Sens and then to Tampa. Of course, Bishop doesn’t have a no-trade and therefore can’t veto any trades, but you’d have to assume after how the whole situation went down when he was dealt from St. Louis that he isn’t exactly urging to go back there and I’m not too sure the Blues should either. Yes, St. Louis has a goaltending problem, but it seems as if they have one just about every year. Have they not learned from their past mistakes? What about when they traded for Ryan Miller? That didn’t turn out so great. Then they got Marty Brodeur in his last year. Elliot, Allen – it’s been a goalie carousel over the years. Jake Allen is a pretty good young goalie with tons of upside. In my opinion what they really need is a steady number two. I don’t think they need to go after someone as big as Bishop (popularity-wise as well as financially). They just need someone who can push Allen to play better, and if necessary, come in and hold the fort down. Maybe if Fleury gets bought out by the Penguins, like some have been speculating – he could be a low risk/high reward type guy. What do you think about that idea?

Rossy: I think Fleury stays in Pittsburgh for the rest of the season. The Penguins love having insurance in case Matt Murray gets injured, or vise versa, so a buyout is more likely to come in the summer.

Now, on to the Super Bowl. The NFL playoffs have mostly been a dud, other than for a minute during the Green Bay vs. Dallas game. I can’t pinpoint why the playoffs have been so bad, but it is something the NFL will have to look into – especially following one of the worst regular seasons in recent history. Nevertheless, this Super Bowl is going to be hyped up as one of the best ever – it actually already has been. I think it could be entertaining – Matt Ryan has been amazing, and Tom Brady is Tom Brady – but not a classic. I say Patriots take it home, 32-24.

Adam: I agree, this year’s playoffs has been really boring and just like you, I’m not too sure why. You’d think both the Steelers/Patriots and the Packers/Falcons matchup’s would be the best in a long time. All four quarterbacks are historic in some way, and the teams just matched up very well on paper. Well, we all know the results, but at the end of the day we have the Super Bowl matchup we’ve been dreaming of all year long. Two of the best teams in the league, meeting in the biggest game of the year – what could be better? Matt Ryan has been one of my favourite quarterbacks since he first entered the league, and he’s been putting up 4,000+ yard seasons for four straight years now. Then on the other side there’s obviously Tom Brady. Not much more has to be said about him – he’s a legend.

I’m not the best at predicting these games, but you have to think the Patriots are the favourites and have a slight edge right now, purely due to experience. It also helps that they have Tom Brady. But the Falcons have Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, Vic Beasley, etc. I think for the first time in a few weeks, we’ll have ourselves a close ball game. I want the Falcons to win, but as Joe Thomas said – it would be incredibly satisfying to see Roger Goodell have to hand the Lombardi trophy over to Brady and Belichick.

Rossy: Ok good, we’re done talking about the Patriots now. In fact, think we’re done here. Gotta get back to studying for midterms.

Adam: Gotta get back to the couch. Bye.

Agree or Disagree with Adam or Rossy? What are your thoughts on the NFL playoffs thus far, and the upcoming Super Bowl? Let us know in the comments section below!

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