Sizing Up the 2014-15 Eastern Conference’s Potential
Who is the favourite to win the Eastern Conference next season? Many experts can’t answer this question. Where do the Toronto Raptors fit into everything? It’s hard to answer this question, too.
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Everybody has a chance. Well, mostly everyone does… perhaps omitting Milwaukee from the conversation, but even they must be more excited than last year (but everything is relative, right?). But “mostly everybody” has a strong case for their team. Maybe we should review every team starting with how they finished last year?
This column will be a regular feature, looking at the NBA’s Eastern Conference and projecting where each contending team will finish. It begins at the top of the standings from 2013-14 and looks at the conference from the perspective of the Raptors.
New York: Well, actually, it’s hard for me to include New York in this preview as I said I would project where all the contending teams would finish. But as I understand, New York has quite a following, even in these down years. So I digress and will get on with it.
The potential good: Well, Carmelo Anthony re-signed. I guess that is good news, despite the fact that Melo hasn’t won anything since being a freshman at Syracuse, where he won it all. But in the NBA, he’s been to the second round. Is he the new Tracy McGrady, since McGrady coat-tailed the Spurs out of the first round? I think the argument could be made.
Apr 6, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) takes a shot against the Miami Heat during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
The potential bad: Along with the potential good is the potential bad. Point is, I don’t think Carmelo is that good (and I was an Orange fan when they won). That doesn’t mean that Melo isn’t talented. Sometimes, he is a great player. One-on-one, he’s dynamite… and makes a ton of impossible-looking shots. But basketball is five-on-five, not one-on-one. Melo he is inconsistent. His 45% shooting can be deceiving. It seems that he misses many more shots than he makes. I’m not saying he gets his points in garbage-time – I’m not touching that one (isn’t most Knicks’ time garbage-time? I kinda touched it, didn’t I?). Melo may get 30 points, but he’ll take 25 shots to do it (Kobe comparisons? Except Kobe won, multiple times…). Not too efficient, regardless.
The main reason I don’t like the Knicks is I don’t think Melo makes people around him better, and they probably need that.
More potential good: Phil Jackson took over the realms as GM, and that’s gotta be a good thing with his pedigree for championships.
Mar 18, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks new president of basketball operations Phil Jackson at a press conference at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports
The potential bad: Again, the other side of the sword is sharp. Jackson isn’t playing for the team… Jackson isn’t even coaching the team (yet). Phil is just the GM, a position he’s never held before. He’s new, and that promises a learning curve. I don’t think that there’ll be much of a curve for Phil as he has virtually unlimited resources. But being a GM allows him to affect the game much less than he did as a coach. He won’t be on the sidelines… he’ll have to work his magic in other ways.
So let’s take a peek at the roster…
May 2, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Jose Calderon (8) reacts after hitting a three point shot during the game against the San Antonio Spurs in game six of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Well, they have a lot of ex-Raptors: Andrea Bargnani, newly added Jose Calderon and Quincy Acy. Also, at power forward (or center), Canadian Samuel Dalembert has signed on. Calderon figures to be a key in Phil’s restoration.
Newly drafted Shane Larkin out of Miami (also from the Mavericks, as is Dalembert and Calderon) could see some time along with Tim Hardaway Jr. in the mix. The Knicks are not deep though… and there 4 and 5 spots look like they’re gonna blend together. Currently, number two on the depth chart for center is Jason Smith. Right…
Jan 18, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks point guard Shane Larkin (3) during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the American Airlines Center. The Trail Blazers defeated the Mavericks 127-111. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Also, we have a player like Anthony in J.R. Smith. Another volume shooter. The old adage is that there’s only one ball… and for that reason, I don’t like volume shooters, especially when the team already has one. Another reason I think Smith is like Anthony, is that I don’t think that he makes his teammates better… probably more so than Anthony. Both average three assists per game… but last resort bail out passes when multiple help defenders confront the players count just the same.
May 2, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks center Samuel Dalembert (1) reacts to his team taking the lead over the San Antonio Spurs during first quarter in game six of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Dalembert is getting old though… actually many of these Knickerbockers are old by basketball standards. Dalembert is 33, Calderon is an old 32, Melo himself is an old 30, Kenyon Martin is 36, Amare Stoudemire, who may still start is a very old 31 (and when I say a year is old, I don’t mean they have a January birthday. I mean they have lots of miles on them). These players are just too old to steadily compete in the new NBA I’m afraid.
Last year’s Eastern Conference regular season rank: 9th place
This year’s potential pre-season FS rank: 10th place
I don’t believe in the Knicks… and I think the conference is much deeper this year. New York won’t be able to touch bottom (of the pool) and it will be very hard for them to tread water. Hopefully for them, Jackson can teach them (or give them the pieces) to be able to swim… they’re gonna need to learn. Their range is only about 7th to about last actually. Things could fall apart for the Knicks kinda easily. And it seems that they’re prone to have bad things happen to them. Phil Jackson best know CPR… and more than that, breathe life into this team.
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