Saturday, October 18, 2014

2014-14 Season Preview: New York Knicks

Atlantic Division
Coach: Derek Fisher
Power Ranking: 21

Doesn't really seem like much happened with the Knicks in the off-season.  All they did was sign Phil Jackson as their GM, pick Derek Fisher to be their head coach, re-sign Carmelo Anthony to a massive five-year, $124M contract and trade Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton for Jose Calderon
and other assets.  While the change has been immense in New York, they lack the pieces to make Phil Jackson's vision become reality, and 2014-15 could be another development year for the Knicks.  Still on the Knicks' "to-do list" is the acquisition of a passing PF who can facilitate the Triangle offense, and finding depth up and down the roster.  

With Jackson and Anthony in tow, the Knicks are, if nothing else, relevant again.  Signing Andrea Bargnani and Amar'e Stoudemire to massive contracts set the Knicks back a few years, as they failed to provide reliable help to Carmelo Anthony.  In New York since the 2010-11 season, Melo has only produced one playoff series win (2012-13, Boston) and his squad failed to make the post-season last year.  With so much money invested in the team, a squandered season like last year's was bound to bring some changes.  Most of those changes came in the form of a front office and coaching shake-up, with major roster changes expected following this season.  The Knicks could conceivably cut up to $50 million dollars off of their payroll before the summer of 2015, as the bloated deals to Bargnani and Stoudemire both expire.  With all of that money freeing up, the Knicks are in a good position to make a run at any of the big name free agents likely to be available in 2015.  Don't be surprised if they make a run at (and possibly sign) a guy or two from the group of elite free agents, such as Rajon Rondo and Marc Gasol.  They will also likely be contenders for second-tier helpers such as Brook Lopez, Greg Monroe, Arron Afflalo and Paul Millsap.  With the light at the end of the tunnel, the Knicks may just be hoping that this season moves quickly.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Pistons Trade Will Bynum to Boston

According to Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston (via Hoops Rumors), the Pistons traded Will Bynum to the Celtics for reserve C Joel Anthony on Friday.  The deal doesn't come as a huge surprise, as Bynum had found himself on the outside looking in after the Pistons signed D.J. Augustin and drafted Spencer Dinwiddie over the summer.  Bynum was never going to fit in Stan Van Gundy's designs due to his lack of shooting ability, something that SVG covets in his PGs.  Any minutes Bynum figured to receive this season should easily be absorbed by Brandon Jennings, Augustin and Dinwiddie.

The Pistons acquired Anthony in order to bolster a frontcourt short on size after it was announced that Aaron Gray was suffering from a heart condition that may prevent him from playing this season.  With Gray sidelined, the Pistons options at C were confined to Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe.  With Monroe also slated to play a good amount of minutes at PF, any instance of foul trouble or injury for Monroe or Drummond would leave the Pistons with no depth at C.  The Pistons had added Hasheem Thabeet to their camp roster, but he has only played five minutes this preseason, indicating that he hasn't given the coaching staff any reason to believe in him.  Detroit picked up Anthony to provide an insurance policy on Monroe and Drummond, something that they thought they had in Gray.

As far as what he brings on the court, Anthony doesn't have much to offer to the Pistons.  If you combine the best per-36 numbers Anthony has managed in his career into one stat line, you still only end up with a guy who's capable of 6.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.2 blocks.  As you can see, Anthony does little from a scoring standpoint and isn't much of a rebounder.  He may offer some form of rim protection, but Anthony's best years appear to be behind him in that regard.  Anthony's best years as a shot blocker came between 2008 and 2010.  Whatever he does or doesn't offer on the court shouldn't affect the Pistons season much; if they're counting on Anthony to produce, something has gone horribly wrong with Monroe and/or Drummond.  On a normal day, Anthony is six fouls and a guy holding down a spot at the end of the bench.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

2014-15 Season Preview: Indiana Pacers

Central Division
Coach: Frank Vogel
Power Ranking: 22

It's awfully tough to have an off-season much worse than the Pacers had in the summer of 2014.  First, they lost their crazy, do-it-all SG, Lance Stephenson.  Although Stephenson had become a lightning rod for criticism due to his antics, he was the clear cut second option on the offensive end.  He was also the best perimeter defender on the league's best defense, drawing assignments on the other team's best scorer night-in and night-out.  Despite a loyalty to the organization, Stephenson signed with the Charlotte Hornets, after the Pacers refused to meet the demands of the dynamic, short fused wing.  That was only the start of the bad news for the Pacers this summer.

The Pacers off-season got worse with an injury to their bona fide superstar.  At a televised, late Friday night, pre-FIBA World Cup U.S. Men's National Team scrimmage in early August , Paul George suffered a gruesome leg injury after colliding with the stanchion attempting to block a shot.  Now George will likely miss the entire 2014-15 season with an open fracture of the tibia and fibula.  While Stephenson was important to the team's offense, George was the lifeblood that made it run.  Without Stephenson, a poor Pacers offense figured to get worse.  Without Stephenson AND George, the Pacers offense will likely be the worst in the league (unless Philly has something to say about that). 

Now the Pacers turn to off-season acquisition Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles to fill in on an offense suddenly without its two best options.  Stuckey never established himself as a go-to player with the Pistons, and that's not likely to change with Indiana, and Miles isn't exactly the kind of player you can run an offense through.  With Roy Hibbert attempting to rebound from a horrific second half of the season and playoff run, the Pacers offense likely falls on the broad shoulders of David West.  The 34 year-old West was reliable yet again last season, but with no threats on the perimeter this season, defenses may be able to key in on the only player on the roster who can score off of his own efforts.  The Pacers will need to band together to keep an already sinking offense afloat in 2014-15, a task that may be well out of their reach.

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