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Thursday, April 17, 2014

2008 Dog Days of Summer – The Rise of the East?

So it appears the dog days of the offseason are upon us. While there’s a possibility of some roster movement before the Knicks preseason starts, it’s likely that on most days there will be no changes. So until there’s serious NBA news, each week I’d like to come up with a topic for everyone to discuss. This week I’ll stick with the NBA, but as the summer moves on, I promise nothing.

The rise of the East?

It seems that since Jordan’s second retirement, the NBA has been dominated by the West. For years the NBA’s biggest matchups involved the Lakers, Spurs, Kings, Mavs, or Suns depending on the year. Although the two conferences have split the last 6 championships, it’s generally thought that the West has more teams of championship caliber. For instance if the West’s 6th best team by record, the Utah Jazz, won the title it would be more plausible than the East’s 6th best team (Toronto).

Eventually imbalances like this even out. For most of the 80s & early 90s, the NFL was dominated by the NFC as the AFC would go 14 years without winning a Super Bowl. But since then an NFC team has been crowned champion only 3 times in an 11 year span. So it’s not a question of if the East will catch up, it’s a question of when.

This NBA offseason seems to have benefited the East. Lost in the Baron Davis/Elton Brand/Clippers story was that the Sixers were the big winners. Between Dalembert, Iguodala, and Brand Philadelphia might have one of the league’s best defenses. If Brand is healthy, the Sixers go from a middle of the road team to an Eastern powerhouse. The Chicago Bulls were a 49 win team two seasons ago and ended up with the #1 overall pick this year. Derrick Rose should give them production at the point guard position where Kirk Hinrich regressed heavily. Similarly the Miami Heat added the #2 pick, and Michael Beasley combined with a full season from All Stars Dwayne Wade and Shawn Marion could make them a strong rebound candidate in 2009. Meanwhile there are a few Eastern teams led by young stars that could take a step forward next year, like Orlando, Cleveland, and Toronto.

Last year the league’s two best teams were in the East. The Celtics won 66 games and the Pistons won 59. Although Boston has already lost a key role player (Posey), Detroit’s roster remains largely unchanged. If one or two of the other Eastern teams can break the 55 win barrier, then it’s likely that the gap between conferences may no longer exist.

28 comments on “2008 Dog Days of Summer – The Rise of the East?

  1. bud

    strong offseason for the east for sure, though i don’t see the bulls being particularly competitive. the sixers will be very dangerous.

    why are the knicks looking to move balkman (apparently for nothing)?

  2. Jose B

    My Eastern predictions:

    1) Pistons 60-22 – Return a 59 win team with continuing developments coming from Stuckey, Johnson, Maxiell with perhaps slight declines from Sheed, Dice. Michael Curry should also give the team a new focus it was missing with Flip Saunders.

    2) Celtics 57-25 – No way they win 66 again, with improved competition in the East as well as the loss of Posey and the continued aging of the Big Three. I would bank on at least one of them missing extended time to injury.

    3) Sixers 55-27 – Assuming Louis Williams re-signs, this will be a very good team all-around with a potential 3 All-Stars in the lineup with Brand, Igoudala, and Miller, not to mention what should be a monster jump from Thaddeus Young, and a deep bench.

    4) Cavs 50-32 – This remains the LeBron Show featuring either old, marginally useful players or inexperienced players not ready/able to contribute enough to deter defenses from keying on LeBron all game. JJ Hickson should improve the roster somewhat, as well as having the revamped mid-season roster together for a eyar.

    5) Magic 49-33 – Can’t imagine Dwight Howard getting much better at this point, already the league’s best rebounder and most unstoppable force inside, unless he can add a consistent mid-range jumper to his game. Outside of him however, the roster is still sorely lacking a great outside shooter, unless Courtney Lee can contribute 30 solid minutes/game this season.

    6) Wizards 46-36 – Arenas, Butler, Jamison is not quite as “Big” as the Celtics “Three”, but with Haywood, Blatche, Stevenson they have rebounding and defense.

    7) Raptors 45-37 – If this was 2002, adding Jermaine O’Neal next to Chris Bosh would be a serious power move, but it is 2008 therefore I think we can hope for mixed results at best. Calderon is a stud, and Parker and Kapono (outstanding in the playoffs) can shoot lights out from 3.

    8) Hawks/Bulls/Bucks – 42-40 – Cannot decide between these two teams as to who will eventually step up and take the last spot and the playoffs. If Horford’s development can offset Childress’s departure, Smith can keep his head on straight, and Marvin Williams can somehow be the player he was drafted to be, it should be the Hawks. If not, look for either how quickly Rose, Noah, and Thomas are able to deliver on their potential, or how well Jefferson, Redd, and Mo Williams (or Ramon Sessions) can mesh, as the deciding factors for this last playoff spot.

  3. some guy

    the west added

    a. bynum to the lakers
    fernandez/greg oden/jerrd bayless to the blazers
    names like mayo, westbrook, love to western teams

    rose is overrated.

  4. Caleb

    “names like mayo, westbrook, love to western teams”

    The new “Iron Triangle”: Memphis, Oklahoma City and Minnesota.

  5. villainx

    Based on championship and top 3 teams or so, the East has held its own for most of the decade.

  6. Ben R

    After missing out on moving Randolph and looking to trade Lee if we trade Balkman for garbage I will completely write off Walsh and company.

    Here is my prediction for next year, Lee and Balkman will both be gone and Crawford and Curry will be the featured players that we build around. I would not be surprised if Randolph and Q are both back playing major minutes as well.

    Balkman in his limited time in Vegas was the Knicks best or second best player. We were a much better team when he was on the floor. How Walsh and D’Antoni cannot see that really makes me worry.

    Sorry to hijack the thread I am just deeply saddened by the Balkman rumor.

  7. Owen

    “Here is my prediction for next year, Lee and Balkman will both be gone and Crawford and Curry will be the featured players that we build around. I would not be surprised if Randolph and Q are both back playing major minutes as well.”

    If this happens, I probably will be done with the Knicks for a few years….

  8. Thomas B.

    Well Portland added Oden. Who would have been the top pick this year as well.

    I’m not sure if the balance has shifted to the East just yet. I do think that the top 8 in the East is much closer than in once was. I do not think an Eastern Conference team will make the playoffs with a record under .500. Order in the East by record:

    1. Celts 2. 76ers 3. Pistons 4. Magic 5. Cavs 6. Wizards 7. Pacers 8. Bulls 9. Knicks 10. Raptors 11. Heat 12. Hawks 13. Cats 14. Bucks 15. Nets.

    The top five teams can all win 50 games and the next three should all win 44 or better. I have the hawks taking a drop because they have not done much to improve this year. Losing ahem Afro Samurai wont help much because I just dont see Williams filling the gap. The Hawks are due to suffer from what generally happens to teams marginal teams that have multiple poor drafts in a 3 year span, they drop. The Hawks just let their 2004 lottery pick (JC) walk across the sea without anything in return. They took the wrong player in 2005 (M. Williams). The REALLY wrong player in 2006 (S. Williams), and no player in 2008 to get Bibby. Add the fact that the made the playoffs by default, you could reasonably conclude that the Hawks will take a step back. Yeah, I know they pushed Boston to 7 games. Hey GS took out Dallas two years ago, then missed the playoffs the next year. Do you know why? They got little to no production out of their top pick Brandon Wright. The Hawks will be in the same boat with Childress gone and M. Williams trying to find himself. Plus the teams the Hawks beat out for that spot are much better.

    I think the Knicks will do much better because they will be much better coached. D’antoni is under no pressure to play vets over the young guys and he is under no pressure to play “his guys” like IT did. You can bet that if Q is starting he wont do it for very long if he plays like he did last year. You can also bet the Coach D will glue Randolph to the bench if he pulls some of the garbage he did last year. Chandler looks like he could thrive in Coach D’s style of play, ditto Robinson. I would also say that Balkman would do well in this system because he is much better on the break than he is in the half court set offense. We are deeper at point this year. We are very deep at the 3 spot. We added an efficient shooter. But we have not done anything to upgrade the defense. The only real way to improve the defense of the current Knicks is to give more time to the willing defenders such as Collins, Balkman, Duhon, and Chandler.

    I cant wait to see how it all turns out.

    P.S. Please let the Blakman trade rumor be BS. Oh please, Oh please. If you want to save 1.2 million just offer James, Rose, or Marbury a buyout for 1.2 million less than the make. Or offer it to James and Rose and split the 1.2 million between them. They might welcome giving back 600K to be free. That is only about a %10 pay cut.

  9. Z

    “I think the Knicks will do much better because they will be much better coached. D’antoni is under no pressure to play vets over the young guys and he is under no pressure to play “his guys” like IT did.”

    IT didn’t really feel obligated to play “his guys” at all. The two guys his legacy was most tied to were Marbury and Curry. He benched both those guys, basically kicking one of them off the team. D’Antoni looks set to inherit the same roster, with the same ego problems, and the same culture of losing. That, coupled with the fact that he will probably be under MORE pressure to play the vets than Isiah was (if Walsh partly hired D’Antoni to amp up trade values). From the way it looks so far (like Brian said earlier, it would be nice to have at least something by which to judge the Walsh era on) I see no reason to think the Knicks will improve their record next season simply due to the new management. The Knicks will be victimized by the changes to the east. They’ll get their wins against the Nets and Bucks and the three games a year they get to play Memphis, Sacramento, and Seattle at the Garden.

  10. brian quinnett's left nipple

    the balkman trade is official:

    The Denver Nuggets have traded Taurean Green, Dahntay Jones and a 2010 second-round draft pick to the Knicks for Renaldo Balkman and cash considerations, an NBA front-office source tells ESPN.com’s John Hollinger.

    Green and Jones, who signed with the Nuggets last week, are likely to be cut because they have non-guaranteed deals, the source told Hollinger. Their acquisitions would increase the Knicks’ roster to 17 players.

    at least we still have zach randolph.

  11. retropkid

    East improved alot last year with so many talented free agents shifting to the conference…west teams still lag in tough half-court D…league looks to be more mediocre than ever next year, with Lakers maybe breaking away with Bynum back, but teams like Celts, Pistons, Spurs, Suns probably heading back towards the pack…

    As to Balkman — I doubt he gets moved, but c’mon fellas, the guys was a bencher on a horrible team…he’ll never be an all-star, he’s no Paul Pressey, so don’t over-rate his point forward play…let’s see what gets added before we bemoan subtraction of current pieces.

    I choose to be optimistic about D’Antoni and Walsh moves….I never was when Zeke was pulling his rusty trigger finger…hopefully Zeke has stuck that finger back in his pocket, or somewhere deeper, and we never have to see it again…

  12. Caleb

    I’d like to say, “You have got to be fucking kidding me!”

    But here’s the story:

    “The Denver Nuggets have traded Taurean Green, Dahntay Jones and a 2010 second-round draft pick to the Knicks for Renaldo Balkman and cash considerations, an NBA front-office source tells ESPN.com’s John Hollinger.

    Green and Jones, who signed with the Nuggets last week, are likely to be cut because they have non-guaranteed deals, the source told Hollinger. Their acquisitions would increase the Knicks’ roster to 17 players.”

    I suppose there might be some valid reason, some off-the-court problem that undercuts Balkman’s potential, but I’m grasping at straws. This move is probably just as idiotic as it looks. It’s extremely discouraging. Even if Chandler and Gallinari turn out to be excellent players, we’ve just given away a good player with upside, for absolutely nothing. Even the money savings are negligible. I’m about to throw up.

    Balkman is perfect for George Karl’s wide-open system and trapping defense. Assuming he’s healthy, I predict he gets a lot of minutes and makes a dramatic impact for the Nugs.

  13. Caleb

    Who was it who bemoaned the tumbling tumbleweeds of summer, and pleaded with thy Gods for a trade? (Capt Merlin) — Oh, I curse ye, I curse ye!

    had to get that out of my system.

  14. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    Oh wow I can’t believe I forgot about Jermaine O’Neal to the Raps. At this time my top 5 Eastern teams would be: Boston, Detroit, Orlando, Philly, and Toronto, but not necessarily in that order.

    The more I think about the Sixers, the more I think they could easily be a 55+ win team this upcoming year. Replacing Reggie Evans with Elton Brand is easily worth a few wins, but getting Brand could make them a very good defensive team. The Sixers were 8th last year in defensive efficiency, and I could easily see them in the top 5 – maybe even better. I feel like this is one of those deals where the sum is greater than the individual parts. (Think of it as the anti-Zach Randolph trade).

    You could almost make the same point for Toronto. Jermaine O’Neal is a big improvement over Bargnani/Nesterovic. Hibbert should help pick up the slack for Rasho as well. The Raps will be better defensively no doubt.

    Boy there are going to be some low scoring Atlantic games this year…

  15. Thomas B.

    The Balkman trade deserves its own post for reactions and general WTFs. This is an example of being careful what you wish for. I asked Donnie to make a trade and he moves my favorite player. God, I feel sick.

  16. Frank

    I’d like to say, “You have got to be fucking kidding me!”
    But here’s the story:

    “The Denver Nuggets have traded Taurean Green, Dahntay Jones and a 2010 second-round draft pick to the Knicks for Renaldo Balkman and cash considerations, an NBA front-office source tells ESPN.com’s John Hollinger.
    Green and Jones, who signed with the Nuggets last week, are likely to be cut because they have non-guaranteed deals, the source told Hollinger. Their acquisitions would increase the Knicks’ roster to 17 players.”

    I suppose there might be some valid reason, some off-the-court problem that undercuts Balkman’s potential, but I’m grasping at straws. This move is probably just as idiotic as it looks. It’s extremely discouraging. Even if Chandler and Gallinari turn out to be excellent players, we’ve just given away a good player with upside, for absolutely nothing. Even the money savings are negligible. I’m about to throw up.
    Balkman is perfect for George Karl’s wide-open system and trapping defense. Assuming he’s healthy, I predict he gets a lot of minutes and makes a dramatic impact for the Nugs.

    He makes sense for the Nuggets but what it really tells me is that a player with no improvement in 2 years and without any semblance of any offensive game other than hustle just has no place in a D’Antoni system. If you look back at all the Phoenix years, has he played any player that has Balkman’s skill set (other than filler at center etc. like Brian Skinner). I think D’Antoni and Walsh basically thought there was no room for Balkman with Q, Chandler, Gallinari all vying for minutes at the 3, and Lee/Randolph hogging all the minutes at the 4. D’Antoni likes players that are versatile and who can shoot which are the 2 characteristics that Balkman definitely does not have.

    It’s too bad because I really liked watching Balkman hustle even if he average 6 fouls per 40 = never going to get more than 20 minutes/game until he learns not to do that.

    And man, how brutal does not taking Rondo at #20 look now?

  17. Caleb

    “a player with no improvement in 2 years and without any semblance of any offensive game
    other than hustle”

    This is missing the forest for the trees. Both points are true but even with these flaws he was our best small forward and potentially one of the best defensive players in the league, as we will see this year.

  18. Thomas B.

    Oh wow I can’t believe I forgot about Jermaine O’Neal to the Raps. At this time my top 5 Eastern teams would be: Boston, Detroit, Orlando, Philly, and Toronto, but not necessarily in that order. …. Jermaine O’Neal is a big improvement over Bargnani/Nesterovic. Hibbert should help pick up the slack for Rasho as well. The Raps will be better defensively no doubt.
    Boy there are going to be some low scoring Atlantic games this year…

    You know, I went back and forth on what the O’neal trade would do for the Raptors. I took the glass half empty approach by placing them out of the playoffs. First, O’neal’s health is a big ? Second, I wonder how O’Neal will get along with Sam Mitchell. Sam could take a certain tone with the younger guys but when a player has been around a while, that hard line my way stuff tends to rub them the wrong way. We will see. Third, the raps still have a hole at the 2. Fourth, they are not very deep. Finally, I have to see if JO and Bosh can be complimentary pieces. It should work if JO just plays D, rebounds, and blocks shots. But you never know until its on the floor.

  19. Caleb

    ” D’Antoni likes players that are versatile and who can shoot.”

    Based on… ummm…. Steve Nash was his PG? Mike D. had below-average shooters at 2 or 3 positions, every year except the first one, in Phoenix. And his offense there was exactly the opposite of an offense that requires good outside shooters.

    My best analysis is that Balkman seems to have a knack for unsettling management. And for getting hurt.

  20. Ted Nelson

    The East has been as strong up top, but come on… there’s no gap? 8 Western teams won 50 games last year compared to 3 Eastern teams. The gap is huge, what western teams sturggled against tough half-court D? The Grizz?

    I’m not much for predictions, but I’ll take a stab rather than just commenting on the previous predictions:

    1. Boston
    2. Detroit
    3. Orlando
    4. Philly
    5. Toronto
    6. Washington
    7. Cleveland
    8. Bulls
    9. Heat
    10. Atlanta
    11. Indy
    12. NY
    13. Milwaukee
    14. NJ
    15. Charlotte

    “I think D’Antoni and Walsh basically thought there was no room for Balkman with Q, Chandler, Gallinari all vying for minutes at the 3, and Lee/Randolph hogging all the minutes at the 4. D’Antoni likes players that are versatile and who can shoot which are the 2 characteristics that Balkman definitely does not have.”

    So you give him away for 3 2nd round picks (2 of which will apparently be cut) rather than keep him on the bench and see if he develops?

  21. Matthew

    I’m not getting on the Philly bandwagon. This is basically a team with 3 good players (Brand, Iguodala, Miller), a couple of good prospects, and little else. Terrible bench. We’re talking about a .500 team that probably overachieved to get that far.

  22. Ted Nelson

    “I’m not getting on the Philly bandwagon. This is basically a team with 3 good players (Brand, Iguodala, Miller), a couple of good prospects, and little else. Terrible bench. We’re talking about a .500 team that probably overachieved to get that far.”

    (Assuming Igoudala and Louis Williams are resigned.)

    Overacheived? They were 40 win team because they had the 11th best defense in the NBA last season (that’s what appears on the stats page, am I crazy? were’d you see 8th Mike?). They just added one of the best defensive PFs in the NBA and possibly the biggest steal outside the lottery. Their offense was only 20th last season, but Brand and Speights (Dalembert was their best inside scorer last season, now he’s #3) plus the continued development of AI II, Young, and Williams should help out in that area as well. I could legitametely see them as a top 5 defense and the #12-15 or so offense (although Willie Green still being their best natural SG has got to hurt them offensively).

    Terrible bench? Young had a very strong rookie year and Speights looks like a very good prospect. Louis Williams is a pretty decent third guard already, and will only be 22 next season. Reggie Evans is what he is, but what he is isn’t terrible. Adding some crafty vets rather than Kareem Rush and Royal Ivey (great guy and provides the intangilbles, but a vet who’s been there probably would have been nice) to fill out their roster might have been wise.

    Your comments are very similar to what was said about the Celts last season. Now, the Sixers don’t have KG and Paul Pierce, but just as people overlooked Rondo, Perkins, Posey, House… and the Celtics incredibly good team D, you seem to be overlooking Dalembert, Young, Speights, Williams, Reggie Evans… and a pretty good D that just got a huge shot in the arm in Elton Brand. The Sixers probably aren’t a real championship contender, but a 47-50 win team? Very possible.
    Not only should they be good this season, they’ll only get better as Igoudala, Young, Speights, and Williams develop (assuming they don’t screw it up).

    Here’s a possible rotation:

    Starters:
    4. C Samuel Dalembert
    1. PF Elton Brand
    2. SF Andre Igoudala
    8. SG Willie Green
    3. PG Andre Miller

    Bench:

    5. Thaddeus Young, 6. Louis Williams, 7. Marreese Speights, 9. Reggie Evans, 10. Rodney Carney……… Kareem Rush, Jason Smith, Royal Ivey, …

    The only hole is Willie Green, who makes Jamal Crawford look like Reggie Miller. You have to hope Cheeks has enough sense to play a lot of Young and Williams (maybe even Kareem Rush or Royal Ivey) even if Green is starting.

  23. Erick

    Magic 49-33 – Can’t imagine Dwight Howard getting much better at this point, already the league’s best rebounder and most unstoppable force inside, unless he can add a consistent mid-range jumper to his game. Outside of him however, the roster is still sorely lacking a great outside shooter, unless Courtney Lee can contribute 30 solid minutes/game this season.

    You can’t see a 22 year getting any better? Players peak around 27-28, not 22. Scary, I know. As for the Magic lacking a great outside-shooter, do you even watch basketball? They shot and made the most in the game last year and have 5 guys that I know can drill them; Lewis, Turk, Nelson, Cook and Redick. Pietrus shoots the 3 ball as does C. Lee. Saying that the Magic lack outside shooting might just be the dumbest possible criticism one could come up with.

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