In this week's edition of the Friday 5 with Ken Berger, the CBSSports.com senior NBA writer talks Cody Zeller as the No. 1 pick, Utah's disappointing trade deadline and if a sequester in the NBA could prevent the next lockout. You can follow Ken on Twitter at@KBergCBS.
1. Who will wind up regretting their inactivity at the deadline the most?
KB: At first glance, I would be tempted to say Utah. I was surprised Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap didn't get moved, and I'm wondering what the plan is if both want to leave as free agents. But Dennis Lindsey is sharp, and clearly he's thought this through. If one or the other desires to sign with a team that doesn't have cap room, the Jazz can get assets back in a sign-and-trade. Also, I do believe that under the new rules, in extreme cases it's better to have nothing to show for a free agent leaving than a handful of someone else's players with years left on their contracts. You'll see teams let free agents walk because the flexibility is so valuable now.
2. You wrote this week about the Sacramento ownership group putting in a bid (the "whales" announced at Thursday's press conference). Do you see this as a serious roadblock to the relocation? And even if the offer's great, can we count on the Maloofs not to massively screw this up somehow?
KB: After listening to the mayor's speech on Thursday night, I'm struck by the strong alternative he's put before the NBA owners. He has displayed the kind of tenacity and masterful political skills that were needed to give Sacramento a chance in this fight. Assuming the offer from Mark Mastrov and Ron Burkle is financially competitive -- and why wouldn't it be? -- Johnson has effectively made the case that if the owners turn their back on Sacramento, they will have blood on their hands. If there's a bias in the decision-making process now, Johnson has successfully spun that it should be in favor of the city that fought to keep its team and did everything that was asked of it and more. If KJ pulls this off, he can just about write his own ticket to the job of his choice in the political or sports arena.
3. Give me something interesting, basketball-wise, you've picked up from scouts this season.
KB: My man Cody Zeller, who came into the season as the consensus No. 1 pick, has dropped like a rock. He'll still be a top-10 pick in a weak draft, but the way he has struggled physically around the basket and looked disengaged at times has NBA scouts concerned.
4. I've taken heat for an article that I wrote about the ROY race being disappointing this year. I wanted to see if you thought Damian Lillard was having a phenomenal season on par with say, Derrick Rose or Blake Griffin.
KB: I don't think Lillard has generated the same kind of buzz as Rose or Griffin, but that doesn't detract from how he's dominated this rookie race. His production has been both historically significant and pleasing to the eye, and he's managed to turn a ROY race that was thought in preseason to be a no-brainer for Anthony Davis into a no-brainer for him. That's pretty impressive.
5. Let's say we put in a "Sequester" for 2014 to try to avoid a lockout. Automatic spending cuts on both sides of the "aisle" for players and owners. What are the things that would force movement immediately to avoid another CBA disaster like it feels we just got over?
KB: I appreciate your eternal optimism, Matt. I really do. But there's no amount of austerity or spending cuts on either side of the aisle that will avert at least the down-to-the-wire threat of one side opting out of the current CBA in 2017. I don't think another lockout is a foregone conclusion. In fact, depending on who is chosen to replace Billy Hunter as the NBPA's executive director, the players might choose to eschew the confrontational approach for one that is more like a partnership. But the reality is that, unless and until a sports union successfully sues a league on antitrust grounds, sees it through to the end and wins, then locking out players is going to continue to be used as a negotiating tactic by owners who have all the leverage. But who knows? The way the massive increase in luxury-tax rates is beginning to act like a true hard cap, it might be the players who opt out of the deal this time. For all he did wrong, let's give Hunter credit for this: He called the owners' draconian tax proposals for what they were. On Oct. 11, 2011, the night that David Stern canceled the first two weeks of the '11-'12 season on the sidewalk on 63rd Street in Manhattan, Hunter said: "If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck and looks like a duck, it's a duck. ... We said we do not want a hard cap. You can't say, 'OK, we agree we're going to move away from the hard cap,' but then do everything else that brings about the same result." So to paraphrase Kobe Bryant, sequester that.