Friday, September 12, 2008

Atlantic Division (E) Breakdown - July 01, 2008

Boston Celtics

Now that the Celtic Veterans have earned their NBA Championship they cannot settle for anything less next season and must come prepared to defend their title. For the long haul it is quite obvious that the long term future is not in Danny Ainge's interest at the present. The team has a solid foundation with the beloved "Big Three." However, more important is that the team has other vets like P.J. Brown, Sam Cassell, James Posey, and Eddie House that play smart , play with experience, and play with the same intensity that the starters play with. Also Doc Rivers has assembled a solid coaching staff that should guarantee the success of the Celtics even after the "Big Three" is no longer existent; coach Tom Thibodeau is a defensive wise - it was apparent that Defense is the quarter stone for a successful team and with Thibodeau the team insures a top notch defense. Clifford Ray is also known as one of the best coaches for Big Men so with Clifford Ray along with Kevin Garnett and P.J. Brown, the young bigs of Glenn Davis, Kendrick Perkins, Leon Powe and Semih Erden should have no problem finding a mentor to help them out and redevelop into a dynasty. In addition, to the Superstars, the Veterans, and the young bigs, the Celtics have managed to find several underachieving guards that need some adjustments in their games which in turn may result in some successful players: Rajon Rando has been on the biggest stage through most of his basketball career (Oak Hill, Kentucky, now Boston) and he has proven to be quite successful on each level but never to the standards of the stages, this can soon change as we have seen Rando blossum toward the end of the regular season and then in the playoffs. Rando is quick, he has solid playmaking and passing abilities, and plays tough D. Also he is missing is a solid jumper and he can become one of the premier guards in the league - his jumper isn't bad it is just not on the level where it can cause concern for defenses however he is great moving toward the hoop and plays with a ton of heart. Then recently acquired JR Giddens who had some troubles in college until he ended up at New Mexico where he flourished as a senior under the radar. If Giddens can shake up and play with consistent focus and dedication to the game he can become a solid contributor in the future. Finally Bill Walker who has played along side OJ Mayo and Michael Beasley through out his career. His basketball skills still need some polishing but he has the basketball body to guard most 2's and 3's if he wants to put the effort in one defense. Gabe Pruitt may also come at as a solid pick from last year's draft with some seasoning. The Celtics do not need to pull any strings nor do anything drastic. The team is in a great position to repeat as Eastern Conference Champion and possibly reclaim the NBA Championship; most seem to be concerned with the Celtics future - it isn't as bright as others but it is full of potential if their picks work out and the youth stay committed to this winning style. It is also important to mention that KG is 32, Pierce is 30, and Allen is 32. So each has at least three more years before anything needs to be changed. In the mean time if the Celtics can continue to draft well they may be able to pull off a smooth transition into the next period of Celtic success.

New Jersey Nets

The Nets are headed in a different direction from the Celtics. They are definitely planning for the future with their latest acquisitions. The team is moving to Brooklyn with a new image along with partial owner Jay-Z opening a new market of disappointed Knick fans in the Metropolitan area. It is quite clear what the Nets seem to be doing as they have been trading away their best players for youth with small short term contracts. It looks like they hope to be signing some young free agent in a few years that is unhappy with the direction of his current team and wants to play on the stage in New York. I wounder which superstar has the opportunity to opt out of his contract after the 09-10 season and will be looking to bring his Nike, Coke, and Bubblicious sponsors to New York? I wonder if he wears the number 23 and is known for his habit for biting his finger nails? I wonder if he is a freakish athlete from St. Vincent's who is criticized for his shooting and poor performances at the end of games? I guess we won't find out until then. As for that, the Nets have gathered some nice young role players to surround this superstar and once Vince Carter and his salary are unloaded I am sure the Nets will go ahead and pursue the world renowned superstar in hopes of glory. Consider a roster composed of Devin Harris, Marcus Williams, Ryan Anderson, Maurice Ager, Bosty Nachbar, Nenad Krstic, Yi Jianlian, Sean Williams, Brook Lopez, Josh Boone, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and our mystery man. Even if most of these players don't develop into their full potential the Nets will still have a solid cast of players and then it most be considered that they will have approxiamtely 3 or 4 more draft picks which should definately contribute to future success. With a bunch of pretty prospects and current guard Vince Carter, the Nets aren't seeking NBA contention this year but in a sluggish Eastern Conference having a team composed of young role players who are willing to share the spotlight, bring immense energy, and play tough D, the Nets hold the ability to sneak into the playoffs.

New York Knicks

At least I can use something I learned in school to describe the Knicks. Entropy. So with High Entropy and Low Energy (do not recall the Knicks trying to hard recently) - they are due for some sort of chemical reaction. And maybe Mike D'Antoni (metaphorical enzyme since he runs a fast paced offense) can speed the process to allow this reaction to occur. Anyway the Knicks are due to hit rock bottom sooner then later so hopefully they can realize they need to change the mentality and how things are run before the Knick fans bail on the team and cause their NBA leading revenue to fall a bit so that the organization truly understands that how it is run must change.The Mess: Stephon Marbury who was considered a decent starting point guard before he arrived in New York has been asked not to attend games so I am not sure how he fells about playing for the team this in turn has lead other teams to question Marbury's will and ability resulting in the complete loss in any trade value that he had (also has the 2nd largest salary in the NBA - but it is his last season under the salary). Then there is Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph. The Knicks can't be disappointed about Curry because everyone knew this was coming but Randolph was extremely successful in Portland and once he came to New York it seems that his interior game and his mid range jumper disappeared. Then the draft picks by Isiah Thomas have been questionable leaving the organization with high energy players like David Lee, Nate Robinson, Renaldo Balkman, and Wilson Chandler but leaving them short of players with real NBA talent and high basketball IQ's. David Lee the best of the bunch and a fan favorite is also the only reasonable bit of trade bate that the Knicks have, yet they refuse to trade him in hope of opening up some windows for the team. Then there are the riduclous salaries of Q-Rich ($8.8 Million), Malik Rose ($7.6 Million), Jerome James and Jared Jefferies ($6 Million a piece - not together, a piece, as in 12 million total). The only thing not to frown upon for the Kincks is Jamal Crawford who is easily one of the most entertaining and underrated players in the league who makes about $8 Million with a million dollar increment for the next three years after a player option. And then there is the draft: with the 6th overall selection in the New York Knicks pick Danilo Gallinari. I guess I will use the same reasoning the every single NBA anaylist has used to describe the pick - "umm Darko cough, well I haven't seen much footage on this so I guess we're going to have to give him a chance first." - Great thinking Donnie Walsh and the rest of the staff, lets taking the European Rising Star of the Year instead of an american player who has been playing against the best youth players in the world ever since he was 10 (yes, the best young players are located in the US). The Knicks were sitting there with Jerryd Bayless, D.J. Augustin, Eric Gordon, Brook Lopez and Joe Alexander on the board and the Knicks take the Italian kid that has a 99.999% chance of ending of like Darko and then a 0.001% chance of being the next Dirk. Now the Solution: the good news is that the players' contracts expire so eventually the Knicks won't be tied up with all these players after 3 season, the unfortuante fact is that the Knicks organizatio will find a way to mess things up even worse in the mean time so good luck to Knick fans. The organization needs to admit that it messed up and is ready to start over even if this mean parting ways with studs like David Lee and Nate Robinson in order to get rid of some of those terrible contracts. It will be difficult to build for the future or contend for the present with the current roster and energy so shaking things up a bit and signing coach D'Antoni was a good decision since the fast paced offense doesn't require extremely skilled players but it does help as shown with the success in Phoenix. Worst come to worst the Nets and Knicks make a deal sending David Lee, Nate Robinson, and a 1st Round Pick to Jersey for Vince Carter thus achieving the ultimate video game team in New York and the ultimate set of potential in New Jersey. Teams know the Knicks are ready to panic so most of the Knick players are losing their trade values which ultimately hurts the team in every aspect. Starting over and unleashing a revolution as in Seattle, Minnesota, and Portland wouldn't be so bad. They should trade away what teams still have interest in for players with shortly terminating contracts so they can rebuild. Maybe they can clear enough cap room in the near future to sign Dwyane Wade as he may opt to become a free agent after the 09-10 season just as our mystery man may. Then again some magical change may occur in the organization and all of a sudden all the Knicks start playing as well as their salaries suggest and they win the NBA Championship - who am I kidding; Knick fans brace yourselves for another disappointing season, being a Knick fan I hope for the best but with the current mentality of playing poorly, without energy, and with the acceptance of losing it apprears that the only way to look is down.

Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers are starting to wreck the success of the rebuilding process that has begun since the trading of Allen Iverson. Andre Igudola has emerged as one of the true Superstars in the league today, leading the sixers into the seventh playoff seed last year. It is important to mention that solid defense is played and examplified by Igudola spreading to the rest of the team. Samuel Dalembert is a solid center known for his rebounding and shot blocking but lately he has been able to put some point on the board making him a serious weapon. The recent draft picks of Jason Smith, Herbert Hill, and Louis Williams still seem to be works in progress while Rodney Carney and Thaddeus Young are shining. Then there are veterans like Andre Miller and Reggie Evans (only 28) who are contributing in the ways asked of them which is prompting the success of the team. Now with pick Marreese Speights, the Sixers can become successful in the poor Eastern Conference, but still it may not be enough to carry them into the upper enchalant of teams. However, the Sixers have the lowest salary in the league and have some wiggle room in free agency allowing them to sign a block buster free agent like Gilbert Arenas, Baron Davis, or Elton Brand even though it is unlikely since each player is seems to be committed to his team. There seems to be some solid role players on the free agent market, but it is unknown which players will remain with their teams, but once it is public which players look to part with their current teams, the Sixers should look to acquire one or two of these players in order to make a legitamite run this year. The Sixers are headed in the right direction and with coach Maurice Cheeks they are one solid piece a way from serious contention.

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors had some solid draft day trade which may have propelled them to the elite status in the Eastern Conference. Chris Bosh and Jermaine O'Neal are the good edition of what was thought of Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph prior to the Knick failure. If everything goes good, they should combine to provide the most dominant offense and defensive interior duo. Teams will have difficulty with the two especially if they try to double team exposing the perimeter to one of the Raptor sharp shooters which inlcudes: Jason Kapono, Jose Calderon, Carlos Delfino, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, Joey Graham, and hopefully Andrea Bargnani. The team traded away TJ Ford making Jose Calderon the team's true leader which wasn't a poor decision considering the success Calderon had alongside and after Ford's injury last year. Not only is he a dominant passer and skillful playmaker but he was the ability to pull up from mid to long range and cause chaos there. With Calderon and the two big men, the Raptors should be able to spread the floor and create wide open opportunities for the other Raptors who were all threatening from the floor at one point last year. Toronto has really stirred up the recipe for consistent success. The team has the ability to stay focused and in tight ball games with solid interior play and solid defense from its European players, Moon and the Bigs, yet the team can also shoot away from long range and run a fast paced offense to put the game out of reach. What make the situation even more delighting is that most of their players are 28 or younger and they drafted Roy Hibbert who has the body and skill set to become a successful big man in the league and will be able to replace O'Neal when he is injured since Hibbert has the size and basketball IQ to contribute at this level. In college he worked on his rebounding, footwork, and hook-shot technique as opposed to physically dominating the other players which will contribute to success in the pros down the line. If O'Neal can remain healthy and if the Raptors can locate a reliable back up point guard in free agency, look for the Raptors to be around come next Spring.

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