Posted on: October 13, 2010 3:07 pm
2010-2011 NBA Atlantic Division Preview
As the phrase has long been applied to life is recited: for every action there is a reaction. Three teams in this division were greatly affected by free agency this summer, even though they all ended up empty handed when it came to their pursuit of any of the prized free agents this July. Two of the teams, though, plotted for two years with hopes of landing LeBron James, only to be spurned as he left for the Miami Heat. Another one of the teams had one of the prized free agents, and his leaving for the Miami Heat left them in freelance as well. Meanwhile, the three-time defending Atlantic Champions lost in the NBA Finals and had to react promptly. The loss of Kendrick Perkins did not help either in the NBA Finals or at the start of this season, and the Celtics looked to add to their list of established veterans for what feels like one last run at a championship. And then there’s the Philadelphia 76ers. After years of being an afterthought in the league, one of the league’s most prominent cities is taking huge steps towards relevance again. They reached back and hired Doug Collins to return to Philadelphia to help advance this process and it will be interesting to see how those new players mesh.
All in all, the Atlantic Division had a lot of turnover on most of the rosters and could see significantly new change among the production of three of the worst teams from last season in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia. With all three of those teams now positioning themselves for victory and with Boston continuing to add players primed for one last run, the change could be even more evident in the coming seasons. But even though there’s a reaction for every action, the Celtics reacted accordingly to last year’s NBA Finals loss to the Lakers, and are still the team to beat in the Atlantic Division.
1) Boston Celtics
Incoming Players: Avery Bradley, Luke Harangody, Semih Urden, Jermaine O’Neal, Shaquille O’Neal, Von Wafer, Delonte West
Outgoing Players: Rasheed Wallace, Tony Allen, Brian Scalabrine, Michael Finley, Shelden Williams
Team Report: The Celtics walk into this season as the clear favorites in the division and are among the favorites for an NBA Championship this season as well. The Celtics were up by 13 points in the 3rd quarter of last season’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals before conceding to the Lakers in a heartbreaking defeat. A lot has been made of their age in recent years, but they showed last postseason that they’re one of the few teams capable of flipping a switch on and off. Whether they would want to walk that tightrope again this season remains to be seen, but the players on the team don’t necessarily give any encouragement of a change of the times coming in Beantown.
Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal are the most high profile additions to the team. The two big men fit right into what the Celtics are looking for: smart, seasoned veterans willing to use what’s left of their ability to contribute to the ultimate goal of the team. Both come at an opportune time as well with the injury to Kendrick Perkins. Perkins injured his knee in Game 6 of last year’s NBA Finals and should be out until January. His loss will be greatly felt across the board in Boston, but the Celtics will hope it’s offset by the continued improvement from point guard Rajon Rondo. While it’s hard to argue that at least Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett aren’t more important to a championship for the Celtics, it’s also hard to argue that Rondo isn’t currently the team’s most talented player. Overall, the Celtics still enter this season with a chip on their shoulder and with a lot to prove. They also are the most stable of the rest of the teams in the division, and that’s why they’ll be winning the division title come next April.
2) New York Knicks
Incoming Players: Larry Fields, Andy Rautins, Jerome Jordan, Timofey Mozgov, Kelenna Azubuike, Patrick Ewing, Jr., Raymond Felton, Roger Mason, Jr., Anthony Randolph, Amar’e Stoudemire, Ronny Turiaf, Shawne Williams
Outgoing Players: Earl Barron, David Lee, Chris Duhon, Sergio Rodriguez, J.R. Giddens, Al Harrington, Jonathan Bender, Tracy McGrady, Eddie House
Team Analysis: The Knicks have been bad for years now, it seems. Since 2004, the Knicks have regularly been among the worst teams in the league. A fantastic city and fan base has really been negated by the lack of overall production on the court and the turmoil that occurred off of it. However, after Isaiah Thomas left New York, Donnie Walsh was hired to clean the mess. He hired Mike D’Antoni, rid himself of some of the ridiculous contracts on the team, and built towards the famed 2010 NBA Free Agent class. The Knicks have been telling their fans to accept defeat the last two seasons, a hard sell to New Yorkers, because a great star was on the horizon. After whiffing on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the team signed Amar’e Stoudemire to a big max contract this offseason instead. It still may be a hard sell to New Yorkers that he was worthy of being the light at the end of the tunnel.
But the Knicks made other moves this offseason to reshape the roster. They brought in the extremely promising Anthony Randolph over in a trade with Golden State and hope that he can partner up with Stoudemire to create the ideal frontcourt for head coach Mike D’Antoni. But, for the first time since D’Antoni was hired in 2008, the pressure is now on for him to win in New York. After being patient with a struggling team the last two seasons, the Knicks were told they would be much better in 2010. It’s fair to say they will be much better, but it’s debatable if they’re a lock to make the postseason. D’Antoni has h is work cut out for him, as do the rest of the Knicks franchise.
3) Philadelphia 76ers
Incoming Players: Evan Turner, Tony Battie, Craig Brackins, Spencer Hawes, Andres Nocioni, Darius Songaila
Outgoing Players: Samuel Dalembert, Rodney Carney, Willie Green, Jason Smith, Francisco Elson, Allen Iverson
Team Analysis: The Philadelphia 76ers traded Allen Iverson in 2006 and have been largely irrelevant since. Sure they’ve made the playoffs a couple times since that trade, but they’ve been no real threats among the NBA’s elite and the team really wasn’t in Iverson’s last years with the team either. So it seems a tad ironic now that the 76ers are building towards and selling hope; again at a time when Iverson is leaving. The 76ers brought Iverson back last season in an attempt to sell tickets and regain relevance, but it went for nothing as Iverson couldn’t stay on the court due to injuries and other factors and was a large non factor in the team’s horrendous 27-55 season. After only one season, Eddie Jordan was fired and the 76ers again went back to the drawing board.
The Sixers interviewed a lot of candidates and wound up with Doug Collins as the team’s new head coach coming into this season. Collins isn’t “new” by any means. He’s been a coach for three different franchises before and had mild success with all of them. His name is largely important because of his broadcasting gig with TNT moreso than what anyone remembers him doing as a coach. But Collins is a 76er at heart. He was drafted by Philadelphia and made an NBA Finals with the team in 1977. He wants, just as much as the rest of the city, for the 76ers to be relevant. How quickly that happens will largely land on the shoulders of second overall pick Evan Turner. Turner is a “do-it-all” type talent who led the Big 10 in scoring and rebounding last season. The Sixers will look to him to possibly spearhead a new era in Philadelphia. Andre Iguodala remains the man in Philadelphia, but for how long is anyone’s guess. How he and Turner mesh this season will go a long way towards determining how quickly Philadelphia can turn around in a shallow Eastern Conference. The 76ers are still a team with a lot of uncertainty, but they’ll take that as long as it can generate a lot of excitement.
4) New Jersey Nets
Incoming Players: Derrick Favors, Damion James, Jordan Farmar, Anthony Morrow, Troy Murphy, Travis Outlaw, Johan Petro, Joe Smith
Outgoing Players: Courtney Lee, Yi Jianlian, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Chris Quinn, Josh Boone, Trenton Hassell, Bobby Simmons, Keyon Dooling, Tony Battie, Jarvis Hayes
Team Analysis: The Nets were close to becoming, historically, the worst team in NBA history last season. A late season “surge” by the Nets helped them avoid the NBA’s futility mark and allowed the team to finish 12-70 last season. There wasn’t a lot to be happy about in Jersey last season, but at least there’s hope on the horizon for this upcoming season. The Nets have a new owner now in the hugely interesting and insanely rich Mikhail Prokhorov as their brand new owner, the impending move to Brooklyn (which seems like it’s been in the works forever) is finally going to happen by 2012, and they’ve introduced a new coach to the team in Avery Johnson. Johnson, who won an NBA Championship as a player with the Spurs and went to the NBA Finals as a coach for Dallas, will at least command the attention and respect of the young talent in New Jersey.
Speaking of that new talent, nobody is more promising on the team than the third overall pick in the draft: Georgia Tech PF Derrick Favors. Favors has drawn early comparisons to Dwight Howard in terms of body structure and athletic ability, but is still very raw and will be brought along slowly by the Nets. The team lacked a lot of fortitude last season, and it’s no guarantee that they’ll develop that toughness just from the presence of their new coach. But they will be better. Troy Murphy, Jordan Farmar, Travis Outlaw and Anthony Morrow all make great additions to the team. Will it be enough to make them a playoff team? Probably not. But after last season’s 12 win season, everything is looking up for New Jersey.
5) Toronto Raptors
Incoming Players: Ed Davis, Solomon Alabi, Leandro Barbosa, Linas Kleiza, Julian Wright
Outgoing Players: Chris Bosh, Hedo Turkoglu, Marco Belinelli, Rasho Nesterovic, Patrick O’Bryant, Antoine Wright
Play Analysis: Although the Knicks and Nets cut salary and lost games on purpose to be players this offseason, the Raptors signed and traded for talent to please one player who was going to be on the market: Chris Bosh. Bosh, however, never was going to stay in Toronto and he now resides in South Beach. The Raptors didn’t respond as harshly as Cleveland did with LeBron, but they’re going to move along with life after Bosh anyways. The talent that the team acquired last season did not gel at all, and with more turnover this season as well, chemistry will still be a huge problem with this Toronto team.
With the selection of Ed Davis in the first round, the Raptors hope to have found Bosh’s replacement immediately. Davis is a North Carolina product who is a very solid offensive talent. However, they can’t expect him to replace Bosh’s production right away. Andrea Bargnani should be primed for a huge break out year for Toronto, but I feel like that’s been said for about three straight seasons. But the talent gap between him and the next best player on the team is huge. The Raptors deserve credit for not going into complete firesale mode without Bosh and trying to still compete even though they lost their best player. But the moves they made this offseason won’t do much to help the team make the postseason. Coaching, chemistry and defense were the biggest problems last year; they’re still problems this season.
Tags: 76ers, Al Harrington, Andre Iguodala, Andrea Bargnani, Andres Nocioni, Andy Rautins, Anthony Morrow, Anthony Randolph, Antoine Wright, Avery Bradley, Bobby Simmons, Brian Scalabrine, Celtics, Chris Bosh, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Chris Duhon, Chris Quinn, Courtney Lee, Craig Brackins, Damion James, Darius Songaila, David Lee, Delonte West, Derrick Favors, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Ed Davis, Eddie House, Evan Turner, Francisco Elson, Heat, Hedo Turkoglu, J.R. Gidden, Jason Smith, Jerome Jordan, Joe Smith, Johan Petro, Jordan Farmar, Julian Wright, Kelenna Azubuike, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, Keyon Dooling, Knicks, Leandro Barbosa, LeBron James, Linas Kleiza, Luke Harangody, Marco Belinelli, Nets, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Raptors, Raymond Feleton, Rodney Carney, Ronny Turiaf, Samuel Dalembert, Shawne Williams, Shelden Williams, Solomon Alabi, Spencer Hawes, Spurs, Timofey Mozgov, Tony Allen, Tony Battie, Tracy McGrady, Travis Outlaw, Troy Murphy, Von Wafer, Willie Green, Yi Jianlian
Posted on: May 26, 2010 3:07 pm
I figured since I didn't do a playoff preview this season for each team as I did last year, I'll do a fun little countdown to this year's draft, since that's where my team is going to be instead of the postseason. Well we're getting down to the nitty gritty now in terms of the countdown. With only three drafts remaining, I went into a lot of due diligence to research and review each draft before putting in this submission. I feel as if I was wrong in a few of my early seedings in this draft and I wanted to really try as hard as possible to make the top five as acurate as I feel it could be. I think I've done that now. Coming in at number 3 in our countdown is the 2004 NBA Draft which actually featured a hot pre-draft debate on who would be drafted number one and a pretty good group of players in general. So here goes it loyal readers, number 3 on our countdown!
Tags: 76ers, Al Jefferson, Anderson Varejao, Andre Iguodala, Andris Biedrins, Ben Gordon, Beno Udrih, Bobcats, Bulls, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chris Duhon, Clippers, Damien Wilkins, Delonte West, Devin Harris, Dorell Wright, Dwight Howard, Emeka Okafor, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, J.R. Smith, Jameer Nelson, Jazz, Josh Smith, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Martin, Kings, Knicks, Kris Humphries, Lakers, LeBron James, Luol Deng, Magic, Mavericks, Nenad Krstic, Nets, Nuggets, Pacers, Pistons, Raptors, Rockets, Royal Ivey, Sasha Vujacic, Sebastian Telfair, Shaun Livingston, Spurs, Suns, Timberwolves, Tony Allen, Trail Blazers, Trevor Ariza, Tyson Chandler, Warriors, Wizards
Posted on: December 2, 2009 5:38 pm
Edited on: December 3, 2009 6:52 pm
0-17. That's right; 17 straight losses to begin an NBA Season. The New Jersey Nets have done the unthinkable and joined an elite list in the NBA's illustrious history. Three franchises, only three in the entire history of the NBA, have started off a season with 17 straight losses. No team has lost 18 straight. While the Nets record indicates they'd be among the worst this decade, it's hard to see where they fall with teams of the past few years. So I thought it'd be fun to do a little research and come up with my own list of the ten worst NBA teams of the last decade. Beginning in the 2000-2001 season and concluding last season (which technically only makes it 9 seasons), all teams were candidates for this list. The ten that made it had problems with youth, problems with injuries, problems with coaching, problems with talent, problems with attendance and, obviously, problems with winning. So without further adieu, here's the Ten Worst NBA Teams of the Last Decade.
Tags: Adonal Foyle, Al Harrington, Al Jefferson, Andray Blatche, Antawn Jamison, Baron Davis, Boris Diaw, Brendan Haywood, Carlos Boozer, Carmelo Anthony, Caron Butler, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chris Andersen, Chris Paul, Chris Quinn, Daequan Cook, Darius Songaila, David West, Dwyane Wade, Erick Dampier, Gilbert Arenas, Greg Oden, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, J.R. Smith, Jamaal Magloire, Jason Williams, JaVale McGee, Javaris Crittenton, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Juwan Howard, Kevin Garnett, Knicks, Larry Hughes, LeBron James, Marcus Camby, Mark Blount, Mike James, Nets, Nick Young, Nuggets, Paul Pierce, Quentin Richardson, Richard Hamilton, Ricky Davis, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Shaquille O'Neal, Shawn Marion, Theo Ratliff, Timberwolves, Tony Allen, Udonis Haslem, Warriors, Wizards, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Posted on: April 16, 2009 11:42 pm
Edited on: April 16, 2009 11:56 pm
1) Cleveland Cavaliers - The Cavaliers were the best team throughout the entire season, expressing dominance at home, boasting the greatest player in the game and a fantastic group of shooters that could really spread the floor. Their commitment to defense, though, is what's been the true reason for their elevation of play.
Tags: 76ers, Al Jefferson, Allen Iverson, Andrea Bargnani, Andrew Bynum, Andris Biedrins, Antawn Jamison, Bobcats, Brandon Roy, Brandon Rush, Brook Lopez, Bucks, Bulls, Carlos Boozer, Carmelo Anthony, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chauncey Billups, Chris Andersen, Chris Bosh, Clippers, Corey Maggette, Danny Granger, David Lee, Deron Williams, Devin Harris, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Elton Brand, Gilbert Arenas, Glen Davis, Grant Hill, Grizzlies, Hawks, Heat, Hedo Turkoglu, Hornets, Jameer Nelson, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Jazz, Jeff Green, Jermaine O'Neal, Jose Calderon, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Durant, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love, Kevin Martin, Kings, Knicks, Kobe Bryant, Lakers, LaMarcus Aldridge, Magic, Manu Ginobili, Marc Gasol, Mario Chalmers, Mavericks, Michael Beasley, Mike Conley, Mike Dunleavy, Mike Miller, Monta Ellis, Nate Robinson, Nets, Nuggets, O.J. Mayo, Pacers, Pau Gasol, Paul Millsap, Paul Pierce, Pistons, Rafer Alston, Rajon Rondo, Ramon Sessions, Randy Foye, Raptors, Richard Jefferson, Rockets, Roy Hibbert, Rudy Gay, Shaquille O'Neal, Spencer Hawes, Spurs, Stephen Jackson, Suns, Thunder, Timberwolves, Tony Allen, Tracy McGrady, Trail Blazers, Vince Carter, Warriors, Wilson Chandler, Wizards
Posted on: November 24, 2008 1:45 am
1. Los Angeles Lakers (1) - I really thought about dropping them behind Boston but I can't if they don't lose. They continue to get production out of a ton of players. Kobe Bryant may be having the quitest 20 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists start to any season.
5. Houston Rockets (8) - The Rockets turned out a solid week. Aaron Brooks continues to play amazing ball and Tracy McGrady just quietly hits big shots. In the regular season at least. Yao Ming missing a game is cause for concern and is something to keep an eye on.
6. Orlando Magic (5) - There's been a J.J. Reddick sighting. I don't know how this team wins but they do. Dwight Howard had a tough week and Rashard Lewis is struggling shooting the ball but they still churn out victories. That's impressive enough to keep them as high as they are.
8. Utah Jazz (9) - Andrei Kirilenko is playing some really good ball off the bench and C.J. Miles has looked great this week. They're going to get Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer back this week, and that alone keeps the team in the top ten. They need to get a solid, set rotation and start to gel and when they do they'll return to top Jazz form.
9. Portland Trail Blazers (12) - Portland is playing some great ball. Brandon Roy has picked up his all star form and even though Greg Oden's production has slipped the past couple of games, he's looked great off of the bench since returning from his injury. They're doing all this while LaMarcus Aldridge is in a shooting slump and when he returns to form it will only make them better.
11. Detroit Pistons (6) - That whoopin' they took at Boston ruined all momentum they had gained after the Allen Iverson trade. They followed that up by getting thrashed at home by Minnesota and the Pistons are back to square one. I don't doubt they'll climb out the hole, I just wish they wouldn't keep falling back in it. At least Rasheed Wallace has come to play, but Tayshaun Prince has cooled after his hot start and Richard Hamilton looks out of sync. It's still early, though, and this team is still the Pistons. You never can count them out.
15. Philadelphia 76ers (18) - Well Kareem Rush isn't going to single handedly make the Sixers a three point threat and they still can't shoot the long ball. There may not be a better rebounding team in the NBA, but with those jump shooters they get plent of opportunities. Elton Brand hasn't produced as he was expected to so far this season but he hit a big shot against his old team this week. He followed that up with a solid game today and we'll see if he builds off of that.
16. Milwaukee Bucks (19) - Andrew Bogut and Ramon Sessions are playing great basketball. They've played solid ball this season and all of it without Michael Redd for a majority of the season. Maybe he could be used as trade bait as I'm sure his value is still relatively high. They could get some nice building blocks for now and for the future in return for Redd, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (I spelled that without clarifying and I hope it's right) has been the most surprising rookie this season. What a find in the 2nd round!
17. New Jersey Nets (20) - Don't look now but Vince Carter is having a tremendous season so far. Devin Harris has been perfect in the sidekick role as well, and even though the rest of the team is so inconsistent, they find themselves at .500 for the season. Impressive job by Lawrence Frank.
18. Dallas Mavericks (25) - The Mavericks went undefeated this week so I probably should move them up higher, but I'm still relatively unimpressed after looking at their competition. Still, Dirk Nowitzki is playing tremendous basketball (what else is new) and Rick Carlisle finally has the team clicking on offense. They just are so bland as a franchise and organization, though. I doubt the Mark Cuban fiasco will be a distraction, but it has the potential to be.
22. Indiana Pacers (22) - They're losing tough games and they're missing Mike Dunleavy. Right now Danny Granger and Marquis Daniels are playing strong basketball but everyone else is a little inconsistent. Why is Jamaal Tinsley still on this payroll?
28. Los Angeles Clippers (28) - Chris Kaman has played just as strongly as he did last season but he and Zach Randolph have similar games. Both are good low post, back to the basket type players (although Kaman is much better) and I'm not sure how they'll fit together. I also don't know where this puts Marcus Camby in the rotation as well but I guess we'll have to watch it all unfold. I don't think there's any chance of Mike Dunleavy finishing this season.
29. Washington Wizards (27) - So irrelevant I almost forgot them. There's not much to be said about this team and there's not much of a chance Eddie Jordan sticks around. Not when Gilbert Arenas is already calling for a tank job and with the rest of the squad being worthy of a last place finish. They are awful to watch.
Tags: 76ers, Aaron Brooks, Acie Law, Al Harrington, Al Jefferson, Allen Iverson, Andrei Kirilenko, Andrew Bogut, Anthony Morrow, Anthony Parker, Ben Gordon, Bobcats, Brandon Roy, Brian Scalabrine, Bucks, Bulls, C.J. Miles, Carlos Boozer, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chauncey Billups, Chris Bosh, Chris Kaman, Chris Paul, Clippers, Corey Brewer, Cuttino Mobley, D.J. Augustin, Danny Granger, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Devin Brown, Devin Harris, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Eddie House, Elton Brand, George Hill, Gilbert Arenas, Grant Hill, Greg Oden, Grizzlies, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, J.R. Smith, Jamaal Tinsley, Jazz, Joe Johnson, John Salmons, Kareem Rush, Kenyon Martin, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Kevin Martin, Kings, Knicks, Kobe Bryant, Lakers, LaMarcus Aldridge, Larry Hughes, Leandro Barbosa, LeBron James, Leon Powe, Linas Kleiza, Lindsey Hunter, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Luol Deng, Magic, Manu Ginobili, Marc Gasol, Marcus Camby, Marquis Daniels, Marvin Williams, Mavericks, Michael Redd, Mike Dunleavy, Mo Williams, Morris Peterson, Nets, Nuggets, O.J. Mayo, Pacers, Peja Stojakovic, Pistons, Ramon Sessions, Randy Foye, Raptors, Rashard Lewis, Rasheed Wallace, Rasual Butler, Richard Hamilton, Rockets, Rudy Gay, Russell Westbrook, Shaquille O'Neal, Shawn Marion, Spurs, Suns, Tayshaun Prince, Thunder, Tim Thomas, Timberwolves, Tony Allen, Tracy McGrady, Trail Blazers, Tyson Chandler, Vince Carter, Warriors, Wizards, Yao Ming, Zach Randolph
Posted on: November 10, 2008 2:34 pm
Edited on: March 21, 2009 1:23 am
1) Los Angeles Lakers - The preseason favorites to win the championship look unstoppable through their first five games. That bench is about as deep as I've ever seen and Jordan Farmar has been hugh off of the bench for them. The only thing that could possibly stop this team is injury because as of right now they look great.
4) New Orleans Hornets - The Hornets have had a good start to their season with impressive victories over Phoenix and Cleveland but need to get up for games against the likes of Atlanta and Charlotte. Bringing it every night is a priority for this team since they have the bullseye on their backs this season.
Tags: 76ers, Aaron Brooks, Al Jefferson, Allen Iverson, Anderson Varejao, Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller, Andrei Kirilenko, Andrew Bogut, Andris Biedrins, Antawn Jamison, Bobcats, Brad Miller, Brandon Roy, Bucks, Bulls, Carlos Boozer, Caron Butler, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chauncey Billups, Chris Andersen, Chris Bosh, Clippers, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Devin Harris, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Elton Brand, Gerald Green, Gerald Wallace, Gilbert Arenas, Greg Oden, Grizzlies, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, J.R. Smith, Jason Kidd, Jason Richardson, Jazz, Joe Johnson, Joe Smith, Jordan Farmar, Jose Calderon, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Kings, Kirk Hinrich, Knicks, Lakers, LaMarcus Aldridge, Larry Hughes, LeBron James, Linas Kleiza, Magic, Manu Ginobili, Marquis Daniels, Matt Harpring, Mavericks, Michael Beasley, Mike Dunleavy, Nets, Nuggets, O.J. Mayo, Pacers, Pistons, Ramon Sessions, Raptors, Richard Jefferson, Rockets, Ron Artest, Rudy Fernandez, Rudy Gay, Sean May, Shane Battier, Shawn Marion, Spencer Hawes, Spurs, Steve Nash, Suns, T.J. Ford, Thaddeus Young, Thunder, Tim Duncan, Timberwolves, Tony Allen, Tony Parker, Tracy McGrady, Trail Blazers, Vince Carter, Warriors, Wizards, Yao Ming, Zach Randolph, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Posted on: October 10, 2008 7:05 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2008 1:33 pm
"Man I'm so hyped right now! Anything's possible!" Amidst the crying, yelling, and screaming that followed, we were able to distinguish Kevin Garnett above it all. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were not as overly jubulant and we may have been able to make out what they were saying, but let's not fool ourselves: after years of those three superstars wasting away in mediocrity they were able to come together and give one of the greatest single season performances in NBA history. The Boston Celtics were an extremely proud franchise but had not been able to recover from the retiring of Larry Bird. Many experiments followed. The Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker tandem created the most excitment, but who expected Kenny Anderson and Tony Delk to lead this team to the promised land? Soon Walker left and the Celtics relied on Ryan Gomes and Sebastian Telfair (amongst a strange assortment of other players) to be missing pieces alongside Paul Pierce. Needless to say, the losses piled and the Celtics continued to look at mediocrity as a haven for the current state of their franchise. But then the Celtics found a rebuilding Supersonics team and it all changed. What followed was something right out of a fantasy league. Nobody could have imagined a team pitting Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen on the same NBA squad and hardly anyone could have imagined the three being able to mesh so seamlessly and also be able to generate the most out of a questionable supporting cast. But the "Boston Three Party" quickly came together and created a euphoria in Boston that was unimaginable just one year prior.
It's amazing what a couple of deals can do to the face of a franchise: and all of the teams in the Atlantic division can attest to it. They all seemed to mirror the Celtics vision of changing your franchise's outlook and direction with a couple of transactions and an influx of new players. For better or for worse: the Atlantic division teams are all brand new: except for the Celtics. Nobody can blame the Celtics for staying put, especially since the assortment of players performed so well last season and with Kevin Garnett still serving as the anchor for this squad we have no reason to believe that motivation and hunger should be an issue. But all of the other teams made moves, maybe in a panic, to grab that trophy that's currently in the Celtics possession. From the 76ers acquisition of Elton Brand, to the Raptors rolling the dice on Jermaine O'Neal, followed by the "Firesale For LeBron" sweepstakes in New Jersey and the arrival of a new regime in New York.
Yes, change is abundant in the Atlantic but as the old saying goes, "the more things change the more they stay the same." Plenty of big name players and contracts have been added to the other four competitors, but none of the aforementioned squads will be able to test the Celtics on their quest for back to back championships. All of the other teams will prove to be more competition to the Celtics than they were last year, but at the end of the day the team with the experience, talent, coaching and love for defensive play will stand tall above the rest of the teams in the division. Here's the outlook on the Atlantic division.
1) Boston Celtics - After last offseason's wheeling and dealing, the Celtics won a championship and had the luxury of keeping the team intact for this season. Hunger will be the only obstacle facing this team in its quest to capture a second championship trophy. Kevin Garnett is still the MVP of this team and will handle the onseason leadership role while Paul Pierce continues to show that his spot on the Finals MVP trophy is completely deserved. Ray Allen's production will continue to decrease as he settles into the role of a spectacular spot up shooter (but not much else). Rajon Rondo is already the best defensive point guard in the league and the sky is still the limit for this young guard as he figures to be penciled in as a top ten point guard for the next few years. Kendrick Perkins isn't much more than a big body and bruiser but he isn't needed for much more than his presence. Obviously the departure of James Posey hurts this team (and definitely cripples the bench) and will lessen the Celtics chances at a repeat. His production just simply cannot be replaced by Tony Allen, Eddie House, or Darius Miles. Doc Rivers emerged as someone who looks like he can coach after his taking Phil Jackson to school in the NBA finals. Time will tell if this team is as motivated as it was last season. All signs point to yes.
2) Philadelphia 76ers - Trying to capture the Magic that the Celtics obtained last season, the Sixers set out to pick up an inside presence that would allow Reggie Evans to slide back into a better suited bench role. Elton Brand is just what the doctor ordered; or at least it looks like it on paper. Elton Brand is one of five current players to have career averages of 20 points and 10 rebounds a game. He's had a stellar career but has lacked success regardless of his location. Of course, playing with the Bulls post-Jordan and then suiting up for the Clippers for seven years doesn't give you many opportunities to be successful but now is his best opportunity to show that he's not just a player who puts up good numbers on bad teams. If he can't get it done this season, he's nothing more than Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Andre Iguodala had a solid season last year in response to the critics who bashed Iggy for turning down the contract extension he was offered the previous summer. Iguodala still got his big contract but his performance against the Pistons last postseason is enough to make people second guess his ability to lead and deliver in clutch, crucial situations. As far as point guards go in this league, there aren't many as effecient and effective as Andre Miller is. He never misses games, plays good defense and owns one of the best lob passes in the league. Samuel Dalembert continues to improve at the center position and players like Louis Williams, Thaddeus Young and Willie Green help form the identity of what looks like a promising team. As has been pointed out, their lack of three point shooting could hurt them when the playoffs come around but it won't prevent them from reaching the postseason.
3) Toronto Raptors - Last year was a setback in many ways for the Toronto Raptors players, franchise and fans. The arrival of Bryan Colangelo seemed like a match made in heaven and the 2006-2007 Raptors brought Chris Bosh to the spotlight, got Sam Mitchell a coach of the year award and gave big expectations to Andrea Bargnani entering his second year in the league. Sam Mitchell proceeded to mishandle (badly) the point guard situation with T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon. An injury to Chris Bosh midseason derailed the Raptors and they never recovered. And Andrea Bargnani? When he wasn't pulling down 3 rebounds a game he was shooting near 30 percent from the three point line. Because of his horrible sophomore slump last season, the Raptors looked for an inside presence that could put this team into contention for an Eastern Confrence crown. As far as big names are concerned, acquiring Jermaine O'Neal is a big deal (even if it would have looked much better a few years ago). The team had to part ways with T.J. Ford and Rasho Nesterovic but with Jose Calderon poised and ready to step into the starting point guard role and with Jermaine O'Neal replacing Rasho Nesterovic, this team should be better than what they were last season. Still, let's not fool ourselves. This is a team that was outsted from the playoffs in five games. Unless Jermaine O'Neal turns the clock back three years they will suffer, roughly, the same fate this season. O'Neal never lived up to that humongous contract that the Pacers gave him and it's hard to imagine that playing out of position alongside a player who is a better version of what O'Neal used to be is going to revive O'Neal's game and career. Jason Kapono is deadly from three point range but aside from that, the Raptors don't posses that type of wing player who's capable of taking over a game with his playmaking abilities. Anthony Parker is equally effecient from behind the arc but isn't as lethal a shooter or as much of a threat as Kapono is. Their lack of a true center and their lack of effective, effecient wing players will prevent the Raptors from making a huge splash in the postseason.
4) New Jersey Nets - If you entered last year expecting the Nets to make one last run at an Eastern Confrence crown with Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter then don't feel foolish. It seemed like a match made in heaven - Jason Kidd running the court with outstanding leapers Jefferson and Carter by his side. For whatever reason, that "big three" was never able to get past the semifinals and after watching last season's mediocre season unfold, the Nets went into firesale mode. But don't confuse this as rebuilding. This team has nothing to build around; except for the prospect of landing LeBron James in 2010. Gone are Kidd and Jefferson, in come the promising Yi Jianlian and the ever talented but annoyingly inconsistent Devin Harris to help reshape this Nets team. Jianlian faltered greatly down the stretch last year as he did not handle the 82 game season very well. It's hard to imagine playing for China in the Beijing Olympics helped matters but we'll see what steps he took to improve this season. Devin Harris has been on the cusp the past few years, people eager to see him take over and lead a team. He's yet to do so but posted solid numbers after leaving the Mavericks for Jersey last February. Vince Carter is there in contract and in scoring but not much else. He just seems to glide nowadays and is a shadow of the player that he was back in Toronto. Add that to the frontcourt by committee and it's hard to imagine this team being anything more than competitive this season. But look for them to make some progress this season, especially if Carter is traded by midseason.
5) New York Knicks - Oh, the New York Knicks. What's left to be said of this team that hasn't already been said? After five plus years of torture inflicted onto the fickle New York fanbase courtesy of Isiah Thomas, in comes Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni to save the day. Players love playing for D'Antoni's free spirit and light it up type of offense. Add that to the attractive market that is New York and the Knicks could be perceived as a team ready to turn the corner. Unfortunately, Isiah Thomas left this team stuck in the mud. With atrocious contracts being given to Eddy Curry, Jared Jeffries and Jerome James coupled with taking on ridiculous contracts of Stephon Marbury, Zach Randolph, Quentin Richardson, and Malik Rose, this team is in financial hell and God himself couldn't save them for this season or next. D'Antoni has his work cut out for him asking Curry and Randolph to leave the buffet table to run the floor and fit into his offense. If it looked awkward trying to incorporate Shaq into the Suns offense last season, one can imagine the fun of watching Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph running up and down the court and hustling. Good luck with that. Stephon Marbury seems like he would be a good fit for this offense, but didn't he look like a good fit alongside Kevin Garnett in Minnesota? Didn't he look like a good fit as the cornerstone in New Jersey? Didn't he look like a player who could bring the Suns what Jason Kidd couldn't? Looks can be deceiving. Stephon Marbury has underachieved on every team he's played for and aggrevated plenty of teammates and personnel over that period. The Knicks have players that fit the system in Richardson, Jamal Crawford, Nate Robinson and David Lee but the reigns of the D'Antoni offense will no longer be handled by Steve Nash, but instead should be headed by Chris Duhon. The only big time free agent acquisition for the Knicks is a low key guy who would be a solid backup on a really good team but hardly is a man to run a complex offense of overpaid crybabies nor is he a candidate to lead them anywhere. His "party boy" tendencies also could be further exposed with the New York media paying close attention to him. Look for New York fans to be extremely patient this year and with this roster as currently constructed, they'll need all that patience and then some.
Tags: 76ers, Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller, Andrea Bargnani, Anthony Parker, Antoine Walker, Bulls, Celtics, Chris Bosh, Chris Duhon, Clippers, Darius Miles, David Lee, Devin Harris, Eddie House, Eddy Curry, Elton Brand, Jamal Crawford, James Posey, Jarred Jeffries, Jason Kapono, Jason Kidd, Jerome James, Jose Calderon, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, Knicks, LeBron James, Magic, Malik Rose, Mavericks, Nate Robinson, Nets, Pacers, Paul Pierce, Pistons, Quentin Richardson, Rajon Rondo, Raptors, Rasho Nesterovic, Ray Allen, Reggie Evans, Richard Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Samuel Dalembert, Sebastian Telfair, Stephon Marbury, Steve Nash, Suns, T.J. Ford, Thaddeus Young, Tony Allen, Tony Delk, Vince Carter, Willie Green, Yi Jianlian, Zach Randolph