Thursday, June 2, 2011

NBA Season Review Part I: The Atlantic Division

Hey everyone,

This is Part 1 of a six part series, looking at NBA season gone by. Yes, the finals are still underway. But now, is as good a time as any to write about the NBA. So read, enjoy and as always comment away.

Today, I will begin my analysis with the Atlantic division, the division comprising the Boston Celtics, the New York Knicks, the New Jersey Nets, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Toronto Raptors. The Celtics won the Division with New York and Philadelphia making it to the playoffs. They were the 3rd, 6th and 7th seeds respectively.

Boston Celtics
Regular Season Record: 56-26 (1st in the Atlantic Division, 3rd in the Eastern Conference)
1st Round – Beat the New York Knick 4 - 0
2nd Round – Lost to the Miami Heat 1 – 4
Major Personnel Moves:
Traded Kendrick Perkins & Nate Robinson to the OKC Thunder for Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and the LA Clippers’ 2012 first round draft pick
Traded Luke Harangody and Semih Erden for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ second round draft pick
My Take:
It’s been a mixed year for the veteran Celtics team as they desperately chased a championship. Things looked up early with Garnett having a real vintage year, displaying some great moves on defence as well as offence. Rondo do continued his development into one of the better passers in the game. Pierce and Allen saw their outputs drop a little but nothing to really alarm the fans.
The real “big moment” of the season for them though was the trade of Perkins for Jeff Green. Losing Perkins was a major blow to their structure, since Perkins was the anchor of their defence. The Celtics were banking on the fitness off both O’Neals, not the best idea considering their recent fitness woes. Shaq suffered injury after injury and never really got on the court, while Jermaine despite delivering throwback performances in the playoffs was never able to fill in Perkins shoes. Rondo dislocating his elbow in the Miami series didn’t help either as they crumbled against the Heat. Rondo has really established himself as the leader on the floor for the Celtics, and he playing one-handed did not help their cause.
Looking at next season, Boston will 1st have to decide where they are headed. The Jeff Green trade while wildly criticized for its’ timing, was probably one made with an eye on the future. With a number of college players pulling out of the draft with lockout worries, the Clippers’ 1st round pick of 2012 (which would probably be a top 20 pick) could bring in good young legs to this Boston team, not to mention Rondo and Green would be a solid Point Guard-Wing Player combo to build on. But, if the Celtics are to really rebuild, it would be best to break up their trio of KG, Pierce and Allen. Will they do it? That is the major question they will answer this off season.

New York Knicks
Regular Season Record: 42-40 (2nd in the Atlantic Division, 6th in the Eastern Conference)
Playoffs: 1st round: Lost to Boston 0-4
Major Personnel Moves:
Traded Danilo Galinari, Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, Knicks’ 2014 1st round pick & 2 Warriors’ 2nd round picks for Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Renaldo Balkman and Anthony Carter.
Sent Anthony Randolph and Eddy Curry (in a 3 way trade) to Minnesota and received Corey Brewer
My Take:
The Knicks were up and away, even before the season began with the free agent acquisition of Amare Stoudemire in the off-season. A great start to the season from Raymond Felton helped the Knicks capture the imagination of the loyal New Yorkers and bring hopes of reaching the playoffs and becoming relevant after years of looking forward to this free agent class. However, things began to go south, when Felton’s form began to dip. That’s when the Knicks (with a rumoured hand from Isiah Thomas) made a blockbuster trade that landed Carmelo Anthony and Billups.
Despite initial teething trouble, the Knicks began performing well and headed into the Celtics series with a little confidence. That confidence disappeared in a hurry as the Celtics swept them in a hurry.
So what do the Knicks have to learn from this season? Well, to be honest, I think the Knicks will be a lot better with an offseason where they practise a lot together behind them. But for me, the main problem the Knicks will have is figuring out how to combine Amare & Carmelo well. Both players are great scorers but also notoriously bad defenders. It will be interesting to see where the Knicks go from here.

Philadelphia 76ers
Regular Season Record: 41-41 (3rd in the Atlantic Divison, 7th in the Eastern Conference)
Playoffs: 1st Round: Lost to the Miami Heat 1-4
Major Personnel Moves: None that I can honestly remember.
My Take:
Philly once again had their usual there-in-the-playoffs-but-not-much-else kind of season. As a franchise, the 76ers seemed to have just stalled. The biggest problem with the Sixers for me is this stat line: 8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 0.8 assists. For a guy, who was picked second in a draft, in his second year, that it just not enough.
There were some positives. Elton Brand had a bit of a throwback year. Well, not entirely, but one could say that he wasn’t as bad as he’s been for the duration of his stay in Philly. Also to be considered is how the Sixers early in the season seemed to need time to settle into the Princeton Offense. They eventually got up to the playoffs, but if they intend progress anywhere they need to make some hard choices. Biggest of them all? What to do with Andre Iguodala.
I seem to remember rumours of an Iguodala trade even before a certain self-proclaimed King began his free-agent preening. Yet, somehow, Iguodala is still very much a Sixer. In my opinion, now is the time to hip him out. Iguodala is the kind of guy who would fit well in a run-and-gun offense. Someone like a Mike D’Antoni would suit him best. But, definitely the 76ers coached by Doug Collins just isn’t a right fit. Philly fans and management, it’s time to move on.

New Jersey Nets
Regular Season Record: 24-58 (4th in the Atlantic Division, 12th in the Eastern Conference)
Playoffs: NIL
Major Personnel Moves:
Traded Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, Nets’ First Round Draft Pick, Warriors’ protected First Round Pick for Deron Williams
Traded Troy Murphy for Dan Gadzuric and Brandan Wright
My Take:
Before I begin about the Nets, it must be said, that any season from this franchise would have been an improvement on their last. It’s not often that you can say a franchise has doubled their win tally when they’ve got just 24 wins, but there you have it. But this year, there was always an air of positivity around the Nets. What with Mikhail Prokhorov taking over ownership, with the Brooklyn move coming closer and the blockbuster (and to me, shocking) trade for Deron Williams, things are definitely looking up for the franchise.
One disappointment this season was Brook Lopez. After a promising season where a lot of analysts felt Brook Lopez wasn’t seeing enough of the ball, Brook Lopez did get a few more touches a game. But he stagnated a little in his development. Most concerning was his rebounding totals, which dropped considerably over this season. The Nets need him to pick up his game and cement himself alongside Williams as the cornerstone of the franchise.
Where do the Nets go from here? Well they’ve got a bunch of expiring contracts, a real franchise player in Deron Williams and decent support in Brook Lopez and Anthony Morrow. With an owner like Prokhorov (with a thirst for victory) and the thrill of the upcoming new Arena, the future looks bright for this franchise. Who knows, in a few years we might see the Nets return to the NBA Finals ala Kidd, Carter and Jefferson’s band.

Toronto Raptors
Regular Season Record: 22-60 (5th in the Atlantic division, 14th in the Eastern Conference)
Playoffs: NIL
Major Personnel Moves:
Traded Jarret Jack, David Anderson and Marcus Bank for Jerryd Bayless and Peja Stojakovic
My Take:
Look, it’s a fact that this franchise has struggled ever since Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter decided to take flight from Canada. Andrea Bargnani might be a good player but he is definitely not worth a number one pick, sorry. Considering the fact that LaMarcus Aldridge was picked next and Brandon Roy was in the same draft, this was a blunder. Not a huge Kwame-Brown-like bust but a mistake nonetheless.
But anyway, this team did reasonably with Chris Bosh the season before. Chris Bosh is also not “Franchise Player” material in my opinion, but we’ll skip that. The point is any team losing a player of Bosh’s talents was going to struggle. Struggle they did.
Where do the Raptors go from here?? They did a good job clearing out salaries. Now it’s time to fill them with a good young core group of players. Demar DeRozan, Bargnani, Linas Kleiza and Jerryd Bayless are a good set of young players. But, without a really good player, the Raptors is like a set of car spare parts without the engine. How do they improve? I feel they should trade Jose Calderon. He’s a very good Point Guard, but not worth the 10 million a year he commands to a rebuilding unit. The Raptors need to go young, as they look to the future.

Well that’s a wrap of the Atlantic Division, will write again in a while, covering the remaining 5 divisions of the NBA. Thanks for reading, comment away.

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