Coach: Doc Rivers
Key Additions: Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Jeff Green (basically a new signing)
Key Departures: Ray Allen
Star Player: Rajon Rondo
Player to Watch: Jeff Green
2011-2012 Record: 39-27 – Lost in Game 7 of Eastern Conference Finals
The Celtics roster avoided the wrath of Danny Ainge’s off season axe. It could have been a very long season if Danny had decided that it was rebuilding time all over again but instead he decided that the core of the team still represents a strong enough challenge and built on them. This has been the best off season for the Celtics since the initial formation of the
original Big Three. Ray Allen left and his replacements, to me anyway, are better. Having the defensive ability of Courtney Lee and the explosive way Jason Terry can put points on the board gives the Celtics a deeper roster that last year.
The rookies this year are similar to how the C’s have drafted before. Take a chance on an undersized big man. Glen Davis, Jared Sullinger, Leon Powe, they have always done this and it has usually worked. Jared Sullinger is a fantastic basketball player. If he was 3 inches taller and a tad bit more explosive he would be a world beater due to his basketball IQ (something the Celtics have always held as an attribute needed to pull on the green shirt). Fab Melo is a project. Defensively strong but has a the offensive range of about 2 feet. Garnett could turn him into a defensive leader if Fab takes his notes and shadows the Big Ticket.
This is the last year of the reign of the Big Three (Peirce,Rondo,Garnett). Even if they stay together after this year it is too late. Pierce is starting to break down (that happens when ever single drive to the basket involves smashing into someone). Garnett is being put in bubble wrap after every game and this is the last year of his defensive dominance. I can not see the Celtics being relavent next year but…
Predicition: I see the Celtics as the only team with the ability to push the Heat in the East. I have a Celtics Heat Eastern Finals.
Coach: Avery Johnson
Key Additions: Joe Johnson, Andray Blatche (maybe, if he stops being Andray Blatche)
Key Departures: Gerald Green (more the loss of youtube views than a great basketball player)
Star Player: Deron Williams
Player to Watch: Mirza Teletović
2011-2012 Record: 22-44
The brand spanking new Brooklyn Nets will be starting this brand new season in a brand new stadium. Everything is so new and fresh that a part of me hopes these Nets completely forget they are the New Jersey Nets. They were a team shrouded in losses and poor management. I would have loved if Mikhail Prokhorov renamed the team The Brooklyn Vodka Tonics and moved the entire organisation away from their past.
Moving forward it looks great, really great. When your owner will throw money at anything needed you can only
improve. Williams, who is probably the 3rd best point guard in the league, is the key. He is surrounded with talent, there is no doubt about that. Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks are a supporting cast worth of a deep playoff run. Wallace will be the defensive leader to me. He does everything and can mark anyone from 1-4. The Nets were not a great defensive team, in fact they were awful last season. Only the Bobcats and Kings allowed a higher field goal percentage. So realistically they were the worst because the Kings and Bobcats are barely basketball teams. Wallace will have to set the teams tempo from the start of the season and hope defense is contagious.
Teletovic is a very exciting prospect. He is a power forward in the Dirk mold. He can rain threes and do little else but in an offense run by Deron Williams you are going to get your shots and he will take them. He does not defend well or rebound well but either did Dirk until he had a few years under his belt. I would expect him and other rookie Tyshawn Taylor to get their minutes. Especially after the eruption of MarShon Brooks last year.
Prediction: Playoffs. If they don’t make the playoffs it is a catastrophic loss. They could make the second round but a first round exit is not off the cards.
New York Knicks:
Coach: Mike Woodson
Key Additions: Raymond Felton (not Jason Kidd)
Key Departures: Jeremy Lin
Star Player: Carmelo Anthony
Player to Watch: Amar’e Stoudimire
2011-2012 Record: 36-30
The Knicks are floating in obscurity. I hate it. They have Carmelo Anthony, one of the best scorers in the league. They have Amar’e Stoudimire, one of the best scorers from the power forward spot in the league. They broug
ht these two in to try build a league winning dynasty. Then the literally fell into a superstar in Lin last season and they let him go for a back loaded contract. That is the bit that annoys me. If you want to build a dynasty you put the money in. You can not half build a house, build it all or don’t build anything.
So the Knicks are stuck in a regular season limbo. They need a boost from somewhere. This is where the new recruits come in. Felton had his best season as a Knick and now he is back. Can he get back to that level? Statistically no, he was in a D’antoni offense then and he will be in a Woodson offense now. He can however make the impact he made before. As a point guard with the likes of Carmelo all you need to do is be a platform and set everything up. Amar’e is second fiddle and has yet to actually accept and embrace that role. He is a fantastic scorer and a pick and roll expert but with Carmelo on his team he is yet to figure it all out. Woodson has had an entire off season to try and find a way to make Amar’e the consistent 20 point player he is while also giving Carmelo his 25-30 points a game. It is a headache but it is a headache every coach would love to have.
Prediction: The Knicks will be a much better team after January when Iman Shumpert is back in the squad and no team will want to play them in the playoffs but a second round exit in the playoffs is the ceiling that the Knicks management has enforced on themselves.
Coach: Doug Collins
Key Additions: Andrew Bynum
Key Departures: Andre Igoudala
Star Player: Andrew Bynum
Player to Watch: Thaddeus Young
2011-2012 Record: 35-31. Lost in Eastern Semi Finals
Philly has a new brother to love, Andrew Bynum. He is the biggest signing Philly has made in….well forever. He is a superstar only hampered by injuries. He is going to transform this team from the plucky underdog to a team you do not want to see on your fixture list. Why? A superstar center is a rare commodity. So rare that the team that lost an Olympian is better now.
Doug Collins is an x-factor. He was my Coach of the Year last year by a country mile. He gives Philly an identity like few other coaches can do. I would worry about a team that lost its core in Igoudala and a seriously good back up point gaurd in Lou Williams but with Doug Collins I do not worry for this sixers team. The defense Collins instills in his team is a top 5 caliber defense. The only teams that held opponents to a lower points tally and field goal percentage were the Bulls and the Celtics. If you are second only to Kevin Garnett and Tom Thibodeau in a defensive ranking you are doing something very right.
The loss of Iggy and Lou Williams are big but it gives more of the reigns to 2 players I think are ready for the step up in minutes and the responsibility that comes with it. Thaddeus Young is ready, the left handed swingman was under the tutelage of Iguodala for 4-5 years and it should show in his stats this season as he has to pick up the slack left by Iguodala’s departure. That slack is in every stat category as Iggy was one of those guys that did everything. Lou Williams loss is easier to handle as he was backing up Jrue Holiday anyway. Jrue is a fantastic player who will have to play outragous minutes this year as his back up is Royal Ivey, a defensive journeyman that could never find a home.
Predicition: A regular season that will be a learning experience and 6-8 seed playoff birth.
Coach: Dwayne Casey
Key Additions: Landry Fields, Kyle Lowry
Key Departures: Jerryd Bayless
Star Player: DeMar DeRozan
Player to Watch: Jonas Valančiūnas
2011-2012 Record: 23-43
The Raptors are doing everything right. They are on the cusp of becoming relalvent again. DeRozan is a scorer that keeps growing, Kyle Lowry is a fantastic pick up as he provides competition for Jose Calderon (this was needed for the last 2 years). Jose Calderon is a very good point guard but he got lazy, no other guard was good enough to compete with him for his place and it showed as his stats declined along with his desire. Now Lowry is here and is already ahead of him on the depth charts.
Jonas Valanciunas is a mountain. A mountain with great hands and a serious leap. He could become a center that the Raptors can build around for the next few years. With Bargnani lurking outside and all that room inside for Jonas to make himself a presence it could be a great rookie season for the Lithuanian Helped of course by his compatriot Linas Klieza. Jonas should have very little problem holding the center position for the entire season.
Terrance Ross is the other rookie in Toronto and he is no second fiddle. He is a monster and will stuff stat sheets in the NBA for a long time. He will back up Landry Fields for the season. Landry having to play up to his contract. He was given a very big contract to come to Canada and I initially thought it was a crazy contract. I still think it is but he is such a well rounded player than on a team with no stars you need people to hold everything together. He plays both ends well and can hit a three when asked. Will he live up to that money? No, but he can give them what he has to give and that is a modern do everything swingman.
Predicition: The Raptors this year will be one of the teams chasing the playoffs at the end of the season but they are not ready. They will play well this year but not consistently enough to make the playoffs.