Posts Tagged ‘New York Knicks’

All NBA fans everywhere are staring down the barrel of a self-destructive lockout these days.  Earlier, I wrote about why I think the NBA’s labor situation is much different from the NFL.  While it appears, at least somewhat, that their football bretheren have finally gotten their collective acts together, it took months of contentious negotiations and court preceedings to get here. 

Hopefully, the NBA won’t follow suit, but with the owners taking a severe hard line tack to this point, I’m pretty certain they’ll soon be playing in a coutroom near you.  Make no mistake, as much criticism as the NFL players took for turning litigious, that effort is precisely why the owners have found the will to compromise, and don’t think the NBA players aren’t paying attention.

But that isn’t the point of this piece.  Having had almost two weeks to digest all the goings on at the draft, I’m going to detail who I believe were the biggest winners and losers from draft night 2011.  This article is for the losers. 

For the sake of optimism and the purposes of this piece, I’m going to assume, rather naively,  that there will be a full season this year.  I’ll do this in reverse order of what I believe are the five biggest losers.

5. Boston Celtics

I like JaJuan Johnson, I really do.  Before the draft I had him pegged as a guy who is going to be a much better player than many anticipate.  It’s just that I liked Marshon Brooks a whole lot more.

When Boston selected Brooks, I immediately thought that was the best pick of the draft.  I had images of a slashing, high scoring guard who would start to transition Boston into a new era.  I was imagining Brooks, a guy who pulled down more than 7 boards a game as a guard in the Big East in the same backcourt with arguably the best rebounding guard in the NBA in Rajon Rondo.  Then they traded him.

Johnson is a nice player, but he’s not going to be a game-changer like I believe Brooks will be.  This move is obviously an effort to make one more run with the same old parts in Boston.  The Celtics faded hard last season, and its difficult for me to imagine them getting through another grueling season with these guys all healthy enough to make a legit run.  Of course, a shortened season may change that, but I doubt it.

With youthful teams like Miami and Chicago in the East, I really feel like Boston needed to start a transition.  Brooks at the two, move Ray Allen for some inside muscle and that would be a good start.  Johnson taking Glen Davis spot and little else, not so much.

4. San Antonio Spurs

Before the draft, I had Kawhi Leonard listed as one of the top possibilities to be an NBA wash out.  When the Spurs traded George Hill to move up and get him, I questioned myself.  The Spurs have a good reputation for being talent judges.  But then again, they did inexplicably give Richard Jefferson a nice contract last offseason coming off a miserable failure the year before.  So I went back to my original belief, Leonard will flop at this level, and not in the useful Ginobili way.

Then, they proceeded to reach for Texas point guard Corey Joseph at the end of the first round, ostensibly to take Hill’s, and possibly Tony Parker’s place. Don’t be surprised if neither of these guys are in the league very long after their rookie contracts are up.

The Spurs, like the Celtics, need to rebuild.  Tim Duncan’s closer to retirement than he is to being an All Star, Ginobili simply can’t stay healthy for a full season and through the playoffs and it kills them every year. Tony Parker took a lot of heat for saying the Spurs days of serious contention are over, but he’s absolutely right.  This draft did nothing but expedite that.

3. Charlotte Bobcats

Will someone please put Michael Jordan out of his misery?  As great a player as MJ was, he’s building an equally bad resume as an executive.  Bismack Biyombo, or as I like to call him, Haseem Thabeet 2.0, is destined for a future on all time NBA draft bust lists.  To make matters worse, they swapped the only useful player on their roster in Stephen Jackson to actually trade up to get him. Not that it really matters much, but he’s also got a contract issue with his current team that will likely keep him out of the league next year.

Of course, they also picked up Corey Maggette in the trade, so that’ll make it all work out, right?  Just look at the kind of difference maker he was for the Clippers, the Warriors and the Bucks.  Maggette hasn’t been a useful player since he suited up for Duke.

Charlotte then nabbed Kemba Walker at the number 9 slot.  I think Walker could be pretty good, but in the Chicago-era Ben Gordon, or Dallas-era Jason Terry mold.  The problem is that you actually need a team for that kind of guy to be useful.  Look how invisible Gordon has been in Detroit the past couple seasons.  Walker’s a future NBA sixth man award winner…for the team that trades for him in a few years.

Charlotte is my odds-on favorite to be the worst team in the league this season.  Of course, that will give them a chance to add to their roster of classic draft busts next year.

2. New York Knicks

We can count on several things every summer; hot weather, high gas prices and the Knicks over reaching on a first round pick.  Taking Iman Shumpert at 17 is probably the worst pick in the draft. Someone was going to pick Biyombo in the top 10 if Charlotte hadn’t, nobody was picking Shumpert anywhere near that point.

Of course, New York then proceeded to buy Kentucky center Josh Harrelson from New Orleans in the second round.  Failing that move by the Knicks, he might not have been drafted at all. 

Before anyone gets carried away about a New York superteam to rival Miami, maybe the Knicks need to learn what the draft is all about.

1. Sacramento Kings

The biggest loser of all on draft night was none other than Sacramento.  Not only did they trade their only point guard, Beno Udrih, in exchange for John Salmons and the right to drop down from 7 to 10, they drafted a player who’s a chucker that will have to play out of position on a team full of chuckers. 

The Kings have a roster that includes faux-point guard Jimmer Fredette, and consciousless shooters Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton and now Salmons.  I’d put the over-under on their team shooting percentage at about 38%.  Has an NBA team ever ended a season with more turnovers than assists?  The Kings might become trend setters in that regard. 

The pre-lockout fleecing of Cleveland for J.J. Hickson mitigates this a bit, but only if they are bad enough long enough for that protected first round pick to turn into a second rounder.  That’s what passes for optimism in Sacramento these days.  By the end of this season, the city might just be begging the Kings to move to Anaheim.

See this article on Bleacher Report

There are only a few days remaining until the NBA trade deadline and it seems as if Carmelo Anthony will be dealt to either the Nets or the Knicks.  Of course, things could always change dramatically between now and then, but let’s break this down in the simplest terms.   New Jersey has played this circumstance to perfection, and in doing so, have fired the first shot across the bow of the Knicks in the upcoming competition for the New York market.  Let me explain.

The Nets have nothing.  Their roster is a conglomeration of mediocre talents and so-so role players that contains nowhere near enough talent to even be a playoff contender in the sad Eastern Conference.  To be able to parlay any of that collection of junk into a player the caliber of Melo will represent a dramatic coup.  But even if it doesn’t happen, they have done something perhaps even more important; they will have forced the Knicks to gut their roster and exhaust their assets to land one player who doesn’t even fill a glaring need for them and, in fact, creates an even bigger need. (more…)

See this article with photos on Bleacher Report

Before the preseason, I ran down how I thought the season was going to go team by team.  I’m going to do the same every two weeks as the season goes along.  Here are my thoughts on what has happened so far, in reverse order of records.

15.  Charlotte Bobcats-  They are bad.  But at least they’re competitive.  Their only win was a two point squeaker over New Jersey, but other than opening night against Dallas, they haven’t been blown out.  New point guard D.J. Augustin is shooting a putrid 38% from the floor, but at least his assist to turnover ratio is in the top 5 in the league.  They still can’t score, they’re dead last in the league and the only team under 90 ppg.  Larry Brown is so gone. (more…)

So after free agency and more than a few trades, the NBA landscape has been reshaped dramatically.  Today, I’ll run down how the new-look Eastern Conference will play out, and tomorrow, it’s a look at the West.  There’s been much talk about the “improved” and “deeper” Eastern Conference since all of the transactions began.  Really?  Where, exactly, do you see that much improvement?  Sure Miami and Chicago will be better and Milwaukee might be better, but Orlando, Boston and Atlanta will stay about the same (or regress), with Cleveland totally falling apart and Charlotte likely following.  None of the non-playoff teams from last year improved significantly, either, with the possible exception of Indiana and maybe New York.  There are possibly 12 or 13 teams in the West who could be legitimate playoff-caliber clubs.  The East has 6, maybe 7.  That’s some improvement, all right.

15.  Toronto Raptors-  Worst team in the league.  They have absolutely nothing.  Not even worth talking about.  When Leandro Barbosa is your best player, get ready to start counting ping pong balls for the 2011 Harrison Barnes sweepstakes.  Twenty wins would be an accomplishment.

14.  Cleveland Cavaliers-  A lot of people are being very generous with their assessments of the Cavs post-Lebron, some even going so far as to suggest possible playoff basketball.  Sure, I feel for them, too, but let’s be real here.  Without James, this team flat sucks.  By the end of the season, they will have moved every tradeable piece on the roster (except J.J. Hickson) and will be praying for a dynamic high lottery pick.  If they reach half of their win total from last season, Byron Scott should be Coach of the Year.

13.  Charlotte Bobcats-  Hope you enjoyed the playoffs, guys, ’cause it’s back to the lottery.  Larry Brown will be out of town before mid-season, if not sooner.  The team, meanwhile, has no scorers (other than Stephen Jackson), limited depth, no point guard and, basically, no chance.

12.  Washington Wizards-  John Wall looks to be really good and all, but one player, unless his name is Jordan, can’t turn this train-wreck of a roster around.  Wait a minute, even Jordan couldn’t make the Wizards a winner.  Maybe Yi Jianlian, Al Thornton and Andray Blatche all reach their potential in unison, Wall runs away with rookie of the year, Arenas comes back as a superstar and Washington finds the playoffs.  Then again, maybe not.

11.  Philadelphia 76ers-  This is a mis-matched hodge-podge of a roster with borderline useless and virtually untradeble parts like Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand.  And in case no one noticed, Mr. Can’t Miss rookie Evan Turner stunk it up in the summer league.  I’d put the over-under at 30 wins.

10.  New Jersey Nets-  I actually considered making the Nets a playoff team, even though the 12-win franchise added little of consequence but a project power-forward in Derrick Favors and some actual good teams’ bench rejects like Jordan Farmar and Travis Outlaw.  That is how bad the bottom 2/3 of the East is these days, this kind of off-season passes for positive progress.  Still, they could win 15-20 more games than last season if for no other reason than a big chunk of the conference fell back to their sorry level.

9.  Detroit Pistons-  Fairly soon, Rip Hamilton and Tayshawn Prince will be goners, leaving Detroit bereft of anyone who even remotely knows about winning basketball games.  Even so, they’re better than most of the trash making up the bulk of the East.  35 wins would be a great season.  And it could net a playoff spot.  That’s pretty sad.

8.  New York Knicks-  So the Knicks executed their plan after all, and it may well get them back into playoff basketball.  With Amare Stoudemire, Anthony Randolph and Raymond Felton added to coach Mike D’antoni’s system, they will be exciting and score some points.  The added benefit of all three of those guys no longer having to worry about defense helps, too.  That, and the fact that not one of the teams below them look capable of even reaching 35 wins makes a playoff appearance not only possible, but even likely.  Maybe we should just give the top team in the East a bye this season.

7.  Indiana Pacers-   Here is a team that has actually improved enough to get to the playoffs and not be an embarrassment.  Indiana has the best player on any of the teams from 7-15 in Danny Granger.  They have a couple serviceable parts around him, and as good a shot as anyone.  Plus they dumped over rated Troy Murphy to land an actual first rate young point guard in Darren Collison.  Combine that with rookie Paul George, and the Pacers could climb higher if one or more of the top six falter.

6.  Boston Celtics-  Sure, they’ll win the Atlantic Division, probably by a wide margin, but this team, over a long season, is another year older and more like the one that played .500 ball for the last 50 games or so last year.  They may be able to upset someone when the playoffs roll around, if they have enough healthy pieces on the floor, but another title run?  I don’t think so.  Remember, they’ll have to play at least the first couple months with Jermaine O’Neal and geriatric Shaq at center instead of Kendrick Perkins.  That’ll work wonders for their toughness and heart that Celtics defense is based on.  Add in Delonte West, and Kevin Garnett will have to worry about his declining skills and what his mom’s doing on Saturday nights.

5.  Milwaukee Bucks-  The sexy pick for an under-the-radar, up and coming team in the East.  Why’s that?  Because they over-paid for journeymen John Salmons and Drew Gooden and traded for Corey Maggette.  Uh-huh.  If Andrew Bogut comes back as the same player as last season and Brandon Jennings continues to progress, the Bucks could get home court in the first round.  Otherwise, it’s likely a one-and-done playoff run.

4.  Chicago Bulls-  The Bulls have added Kyle Korver and Carlos Boozer.  And the Jazz, both of their former team, spent about 15 seconds weeping their loss and replacing them.  Joaquim Noah and Derrick Rose are both big stars, and that alone makes Chicago one of the better teams in the East and the likely replacement for Cleveland as Central Division Champion.  Taj Gibson has a nice upside, Luol Deng can score some when he’s actually healthy enough to play.  The Bulls will be much better than last year, but they’re still a second or third tier contender that can’t beat the big boys.  Yet.

3.  Atlanta Hawks-    Atlanta caught hell for massively over-paying for Joe Johnson.  But that kept a team together that won 53 games and a first round series last year.  Another season together could mean a few more wins before a second round stomping again.  This is the very image of a good to great regular season team that doesn’t have what it takes to win when it counts most.

2.  Miami Heat-  After The Decision by Lebron James and Chris Bosh to join Dwayne Wade and a crew of over-rated or has-been veterans on the Heat, many people have been anointing the team as the winner of the next 5 or 6 championships.  Well, the top-heavy talent notwithstanding, not so fast.  First off, this is the season where Chris Bosh gets exposed as a fraud.  He’s going to have to rely on the occasional scraps falling from ball-hogging Wade and James.  When mid-season rolls around and Bosh is averaging about 14 or 15 ppg, let’s see how happy he is to have taken less money to end up in Miami.  Bosh is a guy who has put up monster numbers for years on bad Toronto teams with no other viable scorers.  CB4’s contract will go down as one of the worst of this free-agent season.  Secondly, Mike Miller is nice and all but he really hasn’t been a relevant performer since winning sixth man for Memphis in 2006-07 season.  Udonis Haslem was a great role player when the Heat won the title five years ago.  Everyone else they’ve signed is a washed up vet.  Thirdly, with Lebron and Wade’s propensity to pound the ball looking for their own glory, is there any chance that Miami will be able to run even the slightest semblance of an offense?  They’ll win lots of games in the regular season on sheer talent, but when the playoffs roll around, that kind of basketball doesn’t win very often.  And that doesn’t even touch on the fact that there isn’t a quality big on the roster.  How do they plan to beat the Lakers, Celtics and Magic of the world without any kind of interior presence?  Plus, if they struggle at any point this season, how quickly will the inevitable “fire Erik Spoelstra, Pat Riley’s taking over” media circus become deafening?  By the end of this year, Riley could conceivably be saying about the “Miami Thrice” experiment, “well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

1.  Orlando Magic-  So does that mean that Orlando will get back to the Finals?  Well, no, not necessarily.  They still have the same problems as last year; Dwight Howard hasn’t matured or grown enough as a player, and they still have notorious shrinking violets Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter as key guys for a title run.  Still, they have continuity on their side, unlike anyone but Atlanta in the East, will probably get near or above 60 wins again and lose somewhere along the way.  Barring a major trade that reshapes these guys a bit, the Magic will disappear in the money season one more time.

So the East is pretty far from the beastly conference we’re being told it is.  Barring Miami really getting things together quickly, and/or Orlando and Chicago adding another genuine prime time player via trade at some point, whoever comes out of the East this year will get soundly whipped by the West champion.  The East is not, in fact, deeper or stronger than last season.  It’s just the opposite; weaker overall and a far more shallow pool of real championship-caliber teams.  Don’t buy into the hype.