Eastern Conference, Atlantic Division: Season In Review
2011-12 Record: 39-27, 4th in Eastern Conference
2012 Draft Picks (Pre-Lottery): 21, 22 (from Los Angeles Clippers), 51
Needs: SG, SF, C
Players Selected in Past Two Drafts on Roster: JaJuan Johnson (2011 - 27th overall), E'Twaun Moore (2011 - 55th)
Overview: Boston has earned home court advantage for the first-round of the NBA playoffs each of the last five seasons, but the same question has surrounded them since winning the 2008 title- are the Celtics too old for another stretch run? Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are all over 34 years old and combine for 44 years of experience in the league, which is great for team leadership, bad for team production late in the season the last few years. Rajon Rondo has injected the team with his youth and energy with his dazzling point guard play.
Even though Boston has one of the lowest points per game averages in the league, they happen to play at one of the slowest paces and do indeed rank near the top of all team's in offensive efficiency and points per possession, thanks in large part to Rondo's ability to get into the lane while Garnett and Pierce serve as valuable kick-out options.
Needs: Although Garnett has excelled in his new role as the Celtics' center, Boston needs a true center or adequate starting forward as energy-filled 4-man Brandon Bass is better served coming off the bench. JaJuan Johnson, a first-year forward from Purdue, has his limitations given his lean frame, toughness and limited offensive post game. Look for Boston to also address their depth on the wing and backcourt as Kevin McHale hopes to get younger talent to fill out the rotation.
Garnett, Allen, Bass (player option) and nearly every rotational player are free agents after this season. Boston has just $34.5 million committed to its roster, mostly to Pierce, Rondo and Avery Bradley.
New York Knicks
2011-12 Record: 36-30, 7th in Eastern Conference
2012 Draft Picks (Pre-Lottery): 48
Needs: PG, SG, PF
Players Selected in Past Two Drafts on Roster: Iman Shumpert (2011 - 17th overall), Josh Harrellson (2011 - 45th), Landry Fields (2010 - 39th), Jeremy Lin (2010 - Undrafted)
Overview: Was there a team that was more up-and-down than the Knicks last season? At first the team was struggling to thrive under Mike D'Antoni's offense, then the explosion of Jeremy Lin, only to be followed by the decline and injury and the firing of D'Antoni. Mike Woodson took over, even with injuries to Amar'e Stoudemire and Lin, the Knicks looked to have turned the corner. The addition of Tyson Chandler in the offseason has turned the Knicks into a run-and-gun, up-tempo team into a legitimate threat in the East.
It's almost surprising that a team with Carmelo and Amar'e ranks in the middle-of-the-pack offensively, but just as surprising as the team's rise into the league's top-five defensive teams based on overall efficiency.
Needs: the takeover of Jeremy Lin was perhaps the national story of the year, but New York could certainly benefit with an upgrade at point guard. His turnover struggles are of note, especially when the team ranks in the bottom-five in turnover ratio and barely outside that in assist ratio. Iman Shumpert isn't the answer as the future point guard due to his propensity to turn the ball over and chuck up perimeter jumpers. Baron Davis and Mike Bibby are aging veterans and back-ups at best at this point in their career. Also in the backcourt, Landry Fields has given the team excellent value for the former second-round pick, but is a free agent after this season. Same with Bill Walker who has given the backcourt some scoring punch from time-to-time.
There isn't much cap room as the starting frontcourt of Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler combine for over $53 million in cap space next season (and are all on the books until 2014-15), but that's not necessarily a bad thing if they can continue their high-level of play and avoid injury (yes, I'm looking at you Mr. Stoudemire). Back-up Steve Novak has played some big minutes and hit some big shots for this team and should be re-signed to stretch the floor. But other than him, there isn't much depth, especially if injury should occur.
2011-12 Record: 35-31, 8th in the Eastern Conference
2011-12 Draft Picks (Pre-Lottery): 15, 45, 54 (from Memphis Grizzlies)
Needs: SF, PF, SG
Players Selected in Past Two Drafts on Roster: Nikola Vucevic (2011 - 16th overall), Lavoy Allen (2011 - 50th), Xavier Silas (2011 - Undrafted), Evan Turner (2010 - 2nd)
Overview: The Sixers have lacked a true star or even a go-to player since Allen Iverson departed the city and have been relying on several second-tier players as a result. But coach Doug Collins has Philadelphia playing some of, if not the best, defensive ball in the league, ranking third in overall efficiency. However, offensively, the team settles for too many jumpers by poor-jump shooting wings a la Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner. Reserve Lou Williams, an undersized, shoot-first guard, has been the 76ers' best player, utilizing his outstanding quickness to get in the lane and draw fouls. Power forward Elton Brand is nearing the end of his career, yet is still on the books for $18.1 million next season. If the versatile, young and athletic forward Thaddeus Young can develop a more consistent jump shot, he will excel in either a role as a starter or as a reserve off the bench.
After a hot start that featured 20 wins in the first 29 games, a drastic slump took over where the 76ers struggled to beat their top-notch competition, especially on the road. Even though nearly all of the same cast will return (free agents include Spencer Hawes, Sam Young and Jodie Meeks), coach Collins should see significant development from youngsters like Nikola Vucevic, Evan Turner and hopefully, Jrue Holiday.
Needs: The 76ers need to improve offensively- like aforementioned, they have too many poor-jump shooters settling for jump shots. Andre Iguodala likely cannot be moved due to his contract (over $30 million owed over next two seasons), and Elton Brand is making more money than he's worth by a large margin and won't be able to be moved either. With Vucevic in the middle, Evan Turner at the 2 and a better-than-average combination of power forwards Thaddeus Young and Lavoy Allen, 76ers management should look to upgrade the point guard and wing position with better talent and decision-makers and certainly a better perimeter shooter as well.
2011-12 Record: 23-43, 11th in Eastern Conference
2011-12 Draft Picks (Pre-Lottery): 8, 37, 56 (from Indiana Pacers)
Needs: SG, PG, SF
Players Selected in Past Two Drafts on Roster: Jonas Valanciunas (2011 - 5th overall), Ed Davis (2010 - 13th), Solomon Alabi (2010 - 50th)
Overview: Toronto has nearly every member of this year's young and developing team under contract and will add last year's top-pick Lithuanian forward Jonas Valanciunas to the mix. he should start from Day 1 at power forward despite turning 20 just before this year's Draft. Still, the cupboard is still bare of talent.
Pairing Valanciunas with Bargnani in the frontcourt will help address the previous lack of a paint presence and interior toughness that the Raptors faced. 22-year old forward Ed Davis played well down the stretch and in fact, he led the team in rebounding over the course of the season. If he can develop his offensive game and continue to add strength, Davis will complement the duo of international starters well.
DeMar DeRozan finished up his third-year in the league, finishing second on the team in scoring at 16.8 points per game, but does so extremely inefficiently with an unnatural high-usage rate combined with a low assist percentage; in short, he hogs the ball, passing as a last resort. Though he is still young (22 years old) and tremendous athlete, DeRozan looks to be a mainstay in the starting lineup in Toronto.
Jose Calderon has demonstrated that he is one of the most underrated offensive point guard talents in this league- continually posting one of the higher assist percentages paired with a low turnover number. He is a solid career outside shooter, effective finisher in the paint, but diminished this last season. However, his defensive inefficiencies cannot be overstated as his poor lateral quickness helps him very little in staying in front of opponents.
Needs: The chemistry should improve next season, health-pending, as nearly every player from the roster is still under contract, but that's not a blessing for this Raptors' team- they rank in the bottom-third of offensive efficiency and below-average on the defensive end. Their future frontcourt of Bargnani, Valanciunas Davis and even the rotational production of James Johnson is one of the team's only strengths. Their backcourt is a black hole defensively and desperately need to find their point guard of the future, and a shooting guard to pair with him. Calderon appears to be the only player on the team with a team-mentality that can create for others, but he is aging, constantly dealing with injuries and struggles mightily defensively.
New Jersey Nets
2011-12 Record: 22-44, 12th in Eastern Conference
2011-12 Draft Picks (Pre-Lottery): 57 (from Miami Heat)
Needs: PG, SF, PF
Players Selected in Past Two Drafts on Roster: Marshon Brooks (2011 - 25th overall), Jordan Williams (2011 - 36th), Damion James (2010 - 24th)
Overview: The Nets have been abysmal for quite a few years and finally make their much-anticipated move to Brooklyn next season. The question is who will be in uniform for the new Nets? Deron Williams has been long-rumored to want to play elsewhere, Gerald Wallace has a player option, Kris Humphries is a free-agent, Brook Lopez has been on the trade block. Can owner Mikhail Prokhorov build a champion from scratch?
The Nets have a long road ahead if the lottery balls don't fall their way on draft night and will be left without a pick until the late second-round if they don't secure a top-three pick (traded away to Portland). This roster has plenty of voids and not enough talent if Williams doesn't stay in town.
Needs: What don't the Nets need? Who know who will even be in roster at the end of the season and the worst part of this all is management traded their first-round pick to Portland, which looks to be a high-end lottery pick (pick is top-three protected). The Nets were only comfortable staying in the top- three to get the likes of potential franchise-changers like Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and
Thomas Robinson, but losing the asset of a top-ten pick is crucial in the Nets failure as a franchise. With a roster as a bare in talent as theirs, any one of the top players would help.