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Friday, October 24, 2014

2014 Preseason Roundtable: What’s Changed, Really?

The upper echelon of the Eastern Conference has improved itself over the summer, making for a tougher task for the Knicks to snag that ever-elusive NBA title. Could the now super top-heavy conference keep them from even winning 54 games as they did last season? The gang weighs in.

McElroy: I take it that the teams you’re referring to when you say that “the upper echelon… has improved” are Chicago, Brooklyn, and Indiana. Your premise is reasonable on face but it misses one important point: the Knicks went 3-8 against those three teams last year (Research FTW!). Even if they go 0-11 against that trio, they’ll still win 51 games if they play the rest of the league the same as they did in ‘12-’13.

The Knicks were a sensational 31-12 in games decided by 10 points or more last season and just 7-5 in games decided by 3 or less, indicating that they may have actually played a bit better than their overall record suggests. They did this despite being devastated by injuries; if they run a bit luckier this time around and the old guys don’t look too much older, they could end up at or around 54 wins again. Or maybe everything goes wrong and they bottom out — it wouldn’t be unheard of for a team whose average age is in the thirties.

The Knicks may well win fewer games this season but if they do it will be because of age, injuries, and/or outside shooting that regresses to the mean (last year Shumpert and Prigs shot 40% from deep, Melo 38%, Felton and JR 36%), not because of improvements made by teams that generally beat the crap out of them last season anyway. For what it’s worth, put me down for 52-30 with a margin of error of 4 wins either way.

Cronin: I definitely do not think that the Knicks stood still. They’ve made some major shake-ups to their roster (adding World Peace alone would have been a major change). I would just like to have a better idea of how the pieces will fit together before I make a confident pick either way. I think that the Knicks have improved, but I will have to see how Woodson plays everyone together to know for sure (plus see how much World Peace has left in the tank). While the top teams in the East have improved, there have also been some teams that have gotten worse, like the Sixers and the Celtics. I think that on the balance, the Eastern Conference’s competitiveness has not dramatically changed (although yes, it is a bit tougher this year than it was last year) so I think that the Knicks’ improvement will translate to roughly the same regular season results this year as last year. So I guess put me down for 54 wins again. Hopefully that will be at least one more win than the Brooklyn Nets.

Fisher-Cohen: Fair statement. Some bottom of the barrel teams will be tougher too. Cleveland, Washington and Charlotte are all young teams that added pieces through the draft and free agency.

As far as the Knicks standing still goes, Kevin’s point about the anomalous three point shooting is a good one especially given how badly the Knicks struggled when their shooting was off. Carmelo especially has been a seesaw three point shooter throughout his career, breaking 36% three times in his career but never in consecutive seasons, and with two great three point shooters in Copeland and Novak replaced by two below average ones in Peace and Bargnani, the spacing will be worse, allowing defenses to more comfortably pack the paint. Add in Smith’s surgery, and overall, I expect the offense to decline a good bit this coming season.

In regards to the defense, Shumpert and Peace should make for an improvement, but I wouldn’t count on Martin or Chandler contributing much more than they did last season due to their advanced ages and histories of injury problems. Overall though, I expect modest gains on the defensive end. Perhaps the biggest improvement I expect though is from the coach, who hopefully after a season and a half of ups and downs, won’t be making any James White level mistakes this season. Put all that together, and fifty wins sounds right to me. That said, I see home court in the first round as within reach with Chicago being the team most likely to disappoint, not just because of Rose’s health but Noah and Deng’s as well.

David Vertsberger: Kevin McElroy said it best. Only reasonable arguments for the Knicks losing significantly more games than they did last season? Injury proneness and regression in shooting. Seems like a load of bull to me. Other teams won’t have to deal with injuries? No other team relies on older players? The Knicks will just magically drop off their sensational three-point shooting from last year? Why? Has their system changed? Are their core players completely different? Why can’t I stop asking questions? Somebody help me? Please?

Silverman: So many things went right for the ‘Bockers last season in the Eastern Conference — Rose sitting out the year, Hibbert starting off atrociously/Indiana taking half the year to gel, the Celtics succumbing to injuries and age, that it’s hard to see a repeat of the circumstances that got them the 2nd seed. Then there’s the team itself — I could probably cull through the archives, but I don’t think any of us predicted the rise of a smallball unit that would shatter the NBA record for threes attempted and lead the league in fewest turnovers. I think we were all fretting and moaning about the possibility of an AARP-eligible Kidd starting at two guard next to Ronnie Brewer’s Rube Goldberg device shooting stroke at SF. Of course, that turned out just dandy (well, dandy to start and dandy to close with an utterly mediocre center, like an Oreo stuffed with room-temperature, unseasoned oatmeal in lieu of that sweet, creamy preservative-laden goodness that one normally finds between two delicious cookies).

So here we are, faced once again with an offseason that caused many to start buying lozenges in bulk at BJ’s Price Club, what with all the blood-curdling screams of rage at Jim Dolan and his ever-changing crew of backup dancers/blues session musicians.  They might just be a ‘better’ team than last year — improved defensively with a healthy Shump/Metta/Prigs soaking up a ton of the minutes that were alloted to Kidd/Novak/Cope, and slightly worse offensively — and yet finish with a lower seed and fewer wins. I’ll say 49-33 , with the caveat that monkeys throwing darts at a board generally do better than the best forecasters of the NASDAQ.

55 comments on “2014 Preseason Roundtable: What’s Changed, Really?

  1. Owen

    I think the Knicks actually outperformed their pythag by 1 game last year. So I don’t know if I see that much upside in that respect. Although how much it translates season to season is unclear to me.

    I have been penciling the Knicks in for 51 wins all summer but I am feeling a wave of doom and gloom so I am going 47.

    Injury is the biggest reason. Chandler is injury prone and aging (though younger than me). Melo is also injury prone and often hurts us even more playing hurt, though I applaud him for it. Amare is Amare. K-Mart, Prigs, and Metta hardly strike me as dependable. Shump has dealt with a lot of injury issues. I also think we are going to miss Kidd (pre AS break) and Novak more than we expect. And I expect Bargnani to hurt us a lot if he plays a lot. That trade alone might swing a game or two in the Raptors season series.

    But really the Knicks need Chandler to be great on both ends again. If he isn’t, a lot could go wrong. And it’s very reasonable to see him missing half the season or wearing down to ineffectiveness. I could see them locking down a 4-5 playoff spot and shutting down Melo and Tyson down the stretch too, costing a bunch of wins.

    It’s going to be an interesting season filled with high highs and low lows. That I think is a very solid bet.

  2. ephus

    Five thoughts.

    1. The tanking teams will be much worse than the worst teams last year. No team finished with fewer than 20 wins last season. I think five teams may finish below that number this year: (1) Boston, (2) Philadelphia, (3) Phoenix, (4) Utah and (5) Orlando.

    2. Those extra losses will mean that the rest of the league will have inflated records. I do not think a team makes the playoffs below .500 this year.

    3. My guess is that the Knicks win between 46 – 56 games, depending on injuries. If ‘Melo stays healthy and the Knicks get 50+ games from MWP, STAT and KMart, I think they are really tough.

    4. Tyson Chandler needs to bounce back from the second half of last year. I am ridiculously optimistic that he is going to return to DPOY-caliber and add a 10′ jumper. That guy would be a deserved All-Star.

    5. This is the big year for Shump to step forward. Rookie year, he showed flashes of brilliance, particularly once they took him off of the ball. He also stepped on some of his best moments – like the T that followed his dunk over Garnett in Boston. Last year, he got a pass for coming back from surgery. At his best, I see him as Sane Spreewell.

    Bottom line – 51 wins. 4th seed in the East (1st in the Atlantic)

  3. Frank O.

    The Knicks are a veteran team with proven winners, with just enough young talent that could make this a special season.
    Their success will turn on a healthy Shumpert, Chandler, JR, and Amare. The addition of MWP will make this one of the most stout Knicks defenses we’ve seen since the Ewing days. The Knicks will match up far better against the Pacers and the Bulls.
    I’m inclined to believe this is the year Shumpert becomes and elite 2. We saw flashes of his ability to affect games last year on offense. Coupled with his tenacious D, we could see the emergence of a star.
    Chandler will be rested and healthy. One of his problems last year was weight, due largely to illness. He also will be a more diverse offensive player.
    I think a mollified JR could be a more focused JR. If he plays hard at both ends, we could have the best one two punch at the 2 in the NBA.
    The Knicks will manage Amare well and he will be productive this year at the 4 and 5. Most teams would die for a guy that productive off the bench. He also is managing his body better, taking much needed rest in the off season. Expect high efficiency numbers, and we’ll just have to suck up his TOs.
    Melo will be Melo. We know what we get from him and we know he is formidable. I think his body will be better served playing the 3, rather than the four, particularly now that his shoulder is a question.
    Our guard rotation is going to be very solid, although with probably a few more turnovers. Felton, Prigs and Beno, and JR and Hardaway will work nicely.
    MWP is a gritty addition, a glue player, who still is a top tier defender. He will give the Knicks a touch of the focused crazy they lacked.
    AB will be a solid addition. Being a role player will suit him and the Knicks will push him to be better on defense and the boards. In general, the Knicks have a deep and promising bench. 55 wins.

  4. thenamestsam

    Relevant to this post Granger is now out 3 weeks with a calf strain.

    Even prior to that I think the issue with the relative strength of the East has been overblown in terms of the Knicks win total. As others have pointed out that was only 4 wins out of 54 last year, and easier games against Philly and Boston should balance that out somewhat. It matters for seeding as I’m not sure 54 wins will be enough for the 2 seed again, but I don’t think the Knicks are going to fall from 54 to 44 (or whatever) based on what other teams are doing. If they have a disappointing year it will be because of their own issues all of which we know about. Basketball starts tomorrow!

  5. ephus

    One reason that I see the Knicks as a four seed is that I expect the Pacers to turn Granger’s expiring contract into a valuable rotation piece.

    My thought today is that Granger/Hill could go to the Celtics for Rondo/Wallace. Indiana is one of the few places (along with Chicago) that I could imagine Wallace making a positive contribution. Rondo would be a big improvement from George Hill. Boston would bottom out this year and have a basically clean salary sheet for next year.

  6. johnno

    thenamestsam: Relevant to this post Granger is now out 3 weeks with a calf strain.

    This is exactly the kind of thing that demonstrates that it is silly to predict with any kind of precision how many games a team will win. Yes, older teams tend to get hurt more, but sometimes guys who are usually very durable do things like break their hand like Felton did last year. What happens if George, Hibbert, Rose, Noah, LeBron, Bosh, Garnett, Pierce, Williams, etc. get hurt? By the way, McElroy is not correct — the Knicks’ average age is not in their thirties. Their starting lineup averages 28 years old (same as the Pacers) and their top 12 average 29. The Nets’ starting lineup averages 32 and they have 9 guys over 30 on their roster. The Heat have 9 guys over 30 on their roster (and Bosh is 29). Will those teams be hit by a rash of injuries?

  7. d-mar

    I think it’s important to note that last year we were counting on Camby, Sheed and to a lesser degree, Kurt Thomas, to round out our bench, and we know how that turned out. We’re not a young team this year by any stretch, but we also don’t have players who are an injury away from retirement either.

    On the other hand, any injury to our front line, particularly Chandler, would be a big setback and could make the difference between a 3 seed and a 5 or 6 seed.

  8. Frank

    d-mar: On the other hand, any injury to our front line, particularly Chandler, would be a big setback and could make the difference between a 3 seed and a 5 or 6 seed.

    We should remember that we played one of our best stretches of basketball in April (meaningful games, mostly) against a difficult schedule without Chandler – using KMart and Copeland at center for the most part. 2011-2012 Chandler makes us a title contender IMHO. 2012-13 Chandler was not a particularly good player for much of the year, TS% notwithstanding.

    The first step to getting back to 2011-12 Chandler is limiting his minutes to <30/game. Hopefully we can steal 18 minutes/game at center with Bargnani, Aldrich, K-Mart, and STAT (without giving up 36 points in those 18 minutes!).

    Re: wins predictions – I'll go with 50 if we have stubborn traditionalist Woodson, and 54 if we have flexible Woodson. I have been positive about Bargnani for the most part, but watching him this preseason has been reasonably ugly — and not even on the defensive end so much – I think he's been ok there. But on offense, he just has a low offensive IQ. He loves to pump fake when open from 3 to take a contested runner in the lane. He loves to pump fake when open from 3 to take an off the dribble 18 footer. He loves to wander in from behind the corner 3 point line for no apparent reason so that he's neither in good position to take a high-efficiency shot (corner 3) off the pace, nor "spacing" the floor since his defender can still help off him when he's at 18 rather than 22 feet. He loves to try and post up the best interior defender on in the NBA on consecutive possessions rather than dragging him away from the hoop like he’s supposed to do.

    Small sample, but what I come away with is that he just loses focus and is not being coached hard enough. Hopefully Woodson can fix that.

  9. Frank

    I’d give the Felton/Shump/Melo/Bargnani/Chandler starting lineup 10 games to show what it can do. But if I were Woodson, I’d have a very quick hook to put MWP or Pablo in for Bargnani. If Woodson is flexible like that, I think we could approach last year’s win total.

  10. mokers

    I am hoping that with an offseason that doesn’t include the Olympics, Chandler’s energy levels will be closer to where he was in the 2011-2012 season. Part of this is with the coaching staff. The team has played chandler about 33 minutes a game when he was averaging 28 in Dallas. We shouldn’t expect him to play the same minutes at 31 as we did when he was 26. Keeping Chandler healthy, even if it results in fewer regular season wins, should be a big priority. Hopefully he is playing 27-28 minutes again this year.

  11. Keniman Shumpwalker

    ephus:

    Bottom line – 51 wins. 4th seed in the East (1st in the Atlantic)

    This may be nitpicking so I apologize in advance…but isn’t that sort of not possible? If the Knicks win the Atlantic, they’d have to be a top 3 seed, right? Let’s say the Heat win the Southeast with 60 wins. The Bulls win the Central with 58 wins…then, even if the Pacers win 10 more games then we do, if we win the Atlantic we’re guaranteed the 3 spot.

  12. ephus

    Keniman Shumpwalker: This may be nitpicking so I apologize in advance…but isn’t that sort of not possible? If the Knicks win the Atlantic, they’d have to be a top 3 seed, right?

    No. As of the 2006 season, each division winner is guaranteed to be in the top 4, but not the top 3.

    In addition, homecourt for any series is determined by record, not seeding. So if the #4 seed has a worse record than the #5 seed, the #5 seed gets homecourt advantage.

    http://www.nba.com/features/seedingprimer07.html

  13. Keniman Shumpwalker

    ephus: No.As of the 2006 season, each division winner is guaranteed to be in the top 4, but not the top 3.

    In addition, homecourt for any series is determined by record, not seeding.So if the #4 seed has a worse record than the #5 seed, the #5 seed gets homecourt advantage.

    http://www.nba.com/features/seedingprimer07.html

    Got it. I didn’t realize that a non-divison winner could leapfrog a division winner in seeding. Consider me edified.

  14. stratomatic

    I agree with everything Owen said.

    The only thing I can add is that I think Shumpert is a legitimate threat to break out. He may not yet, but if he does, all bets are off. The Knicks could be better than I expect now.

    I should add that if Bargnani gets hurt, that automatically makes the Knicks better than I think now.

  15. JK47

    I think there’s a decent team in here but I question whether Woody is the guy to put the puzzle pieces together.

    This could be a good defensive team with the right personnel and strategy. If you ran out a core group of Felton-Shumpert-MWP-Melo-Chandler and then used Smith-Prigioni-Martin as the main bench pieces with Stat and Bargnani chipping in here and there with additional scoring, and then drastically cut back on the “switch everything” style on defense, you could probably have a pretty decent two-way team. But I’m guessing we’ll see Bargnani in the top 5 on the team in minutes, and switching galore, and a below-average defense.

    I guess what I’m saying is that it would take a really savvy coach with a great ability to thread the needle to get this group of guys to the mid-50’s in wins. I don’t see Woodson as being that guy. I’ll be rooting as hard as ever, but my expectations are muted. I’ll say somewhere from 45-49 wins.

  16. Nick C.

    I’ll throw my hat in and say 51 wins. I too am a bit skeptical about Woody. I think Bargs will be given a long leash, Amare a short one, Tyson overplayed, Prigioni underplayed and Shump take a backseat to JR once JR is back. I can’t fathom below 47 wins barring Carmelo getting injured. Carmelo, Tyson and/or Felton (not that he is great but it is a domino effect, see: Kidd and the effect of the increased minutes) miss long stretches and .500 is a goal. If all breaks properly (I still don’t see how the 3 point % holds out when Copeland and Novak were the two best 3poitn shooters but whatever), 57 wins. Breaking properly for me means, Tyson is 2011-2012 @25-29 mpg, Carmelo plays at the same level as last year, Prigs and Shumperts 3 point shooting was not a fluke and Prigs does not get exposed by greater minutes, Amare’s low post game looks as good as it did when he played last year and he can hold down the offense for the bench rather than just letting JR freelance, JR plays as well as he did last year or better with Amare relieving him of the burden of being the offense, at times, off the bench. Woodson cannot play pets and needs to play who is playing best and think long term with minutes, meaning Aldrich needs a few filler minutes per half.

  17. massive

    Put me down for 55 wins and the 3rd seed in the conference. Ephus, please don’t ever scare me with the Rondo/Wallace for George Hill and Granger deal ever again. That makes the Pacers arguably the best defensive team of the past 10-15 years and wins them a championship. There would be no scoring on Rondo/George/Wallace/West/JumpStraightUp. But yeah, I think we win 55 because we have 2 starter-level players at every position except center and that Iman Shumpert becomes a more athletic version of last year’s Jason Kidd. He’s not going to have that same sky high efficiency, but Shumpert allows us to shut a team’s offense down by placing him on a team’s point guard. That’s going to get us maybe one or two wins against Chicago alone. That, and a healthy Carmelo Anthony is about as unstoppable on offense as they come. That guy scores 35 points without missing 7 shots. I’m expecting a lot of focus from guys this year because our core players all have played with each other for a season. Chemistry usually means nothing in terms of statistical improvements, but I expect to see better execution on offense and a more willing passer out of Carmelo Anthony because he’ll know who is where and who can score from those spots.

    And don’t look too much into some of the pre season losses. The Knicks were winning for 3 quarters and let teams in because they probably didn’t care anymore. It’s pre season for crying out loud.

  18. BigBlueAL

    Woodson hasnt committed to a starting lineup for Wed yet. Gonna be interesting to see if he benches Bargs especially since he started every pre-season game he played in. Maybe Woodson isnt as dumb and hard-headed as we feared lol.

  19. Brian Cronin

    We should remember that we played one of our best stretches of basketball in April (meaningful games, mostly) against a difficult schedule without Chandler – using KMart and Copeland at center for the most part.

    They played one of their best stretches of the previous season without Melo and STAT, it doesn’t mean that they would be better off if they didn’t have Melo or STAT (well, Melo at least).

    2011-2012 Chandler makes us a title contender IMHO. 2012-13 Chandler was not a particularly good player for much of the year, TS% notwithstanding.

    Post-injury sure, but pre-injury he was great. Remember, he deservedly made the All-Star Team, which is no easy feat. I think people made way too much of his defensive problems earlier in the season (post-injury, of course, he was a shell of a player, so yeah, he was terrible then). Zach Lowe talked about it last year, that he didn’t see much of a difference in Chandler’s defense but rather he saw that his supporting defenders were such a drop-off. There was no Shump cutting off penetrating guards since Shump was missing half the season and playing small forward the rest of the season. Similarly, Shump on small forwards was a drop-off from Fields on small forwards. Similarly, anyone not named Jeffries was a drop-off from Jeffries. So essentially, in 2010-11, the Knicks surrounded Chandler with good defensive players (playing their best suited defensive positions, Fields on 3s and Shump on guards) and in 2012-13 they, well, did not. It is hard to be an effective rim defender when the guards are constantly playing matador d on the perimeter.

    That said, I have no idea what Chandler will look like this season coming off of the injury and about 46 NBA seasons. He might very well be bad on defense this year. They really need him to not be be bad on defense.

  20. BigBlueAL

    In terms of the Knicks win total, I see no reason why they cant win 54 games again. But with all the negativity Ive read from the national media and even on this site it wears you down a bit and gets me thinking negatively lol.

    I dont care what the final win total is as long as they can finish in the Top 3. If 50-52 wins is enough for the 3rd seed Ill gladly take it.

  21. Brian Cronin

    Woodson hasnt committed to a starting lineup for Wed yet. Gonna be interesting to see if he benches Bargs especially since he started every pre-season game he played in. Maybe Woodson isnt as dumb and hard-headed as we feared lol.

    Even that would be kind of weird. Playing the same lineup the entire preseason and then switching things up for the first game? That sounds like something D’Antoni would do.

  22. thenamestsam

    Am I the only idiot who thinks George Hill is pretty much just as good as Rondo, especially on that Pacers team?

    Rondo’s big advantage is in the assist column, but that’s at least partially because the Celtics run (or at least ran) an offense that had the ball in his hands the whole time. The Pacers run a lot more post ups + have a secondary ball handler in Paul George who has a lot of the ball. That’s way less assist opportunities for the point guard and way more spotting up off the ball, an area where Hill obviously owns Rondo. Rondo’s D is really good, but so is Hill’s. Maybe Rondo’s best is better than Hill’s but Hill brings it on a night to night basis more consistently from what I’ve seen.

    Plus every time Rondo gets brought up I feel the need to remind everyone that he piloted a team with pretty darn good offensive talent to ORatings of 15th, 18th, 28th and 24th the last 4 years, and that that progressive slide from mediocre to horrible directly coincided with all the talk about how it was “Rondo’s team now” and the Celtics making the offense more Rondo-centric.

  23. BigBlueAL

    Brian Cronin: Even that would be kind of weird. Playing the same lineup the entire preseason and then switching things up for the first game? That sounds like something D’Antoni would do.

    If he changes the starting lineup I would think its because the one he uses on Wed is the one he had in mind all the time and he was just experimenting with Bargs starting during pre-season. He did say early in the pre-season that the 2 pg lineups and small ball in general is something he knows is successful and he can go back to it at any time.

    I still have some faith in Woodson.

  24. johnno

    Nick C.: (I still don’t see how the 3 point % holds out when Copeland and Novak were the two best 3poitn shooters but whatever

    One thing that helps is Kidd’s retirement. Over the last 41 regular season games, he took almost 4 three pointers a game and hit a whopping 27% of them. Why does everyone forget that it wasn’t just during the playoffs that Kidd was terrible (and he was historically terrible in the playoffs); he was pretty bad for the entire second half of the season. (I know, I know, he did the things that “don’t show up in the box score. Good thing because what showed up in the box score was pretty bad…)

  25. Frank

    Agree with JK47 — my favorite starting lineup is Felton/Shump/Melo/MWP/Chandler. With that lineup you’ve got size, defense, pretty good passing (MWP is an underrated passer), and 3 acceptable 3 point shooters to put around Melo.

    I don’t think Woodson should overthink this. That lineup has synergy to it, and has more versatility to it in terms of matchups than the Bargnani one.

    My big worry is that somehow Pablo’s minutes will get stolen by someone. I never thought that Pablo would play more than 20 min/game, but if he plays <20 min/game and Bargnani somehow ends up with 28-30 minutes, that'll be a bad sign.

    I still have hope for Bargnani, but I really haven't liked what I've seen from him offensively this preseason. He needs to find his 3 point stroke and SHOOT THE BALL when you're open. It'll be very rare that he will get a more efficient shot than an open 3 pointer, so pump faking from above the break is usually not going to be a good outcome IMO. From the corners, against an overaggressive closeout? Sure.

  26. Brian Cronin

    Yeah, back when we were discussing our favorite starting lineups in the Round Table, I was all over the Felton/Shump/Melo/MVP/Chandler lineup. That’d be a great defensive lineup and it would have enough offense to not get lost in that regard. It’ll be fascinating to see if Woody actually goes through with the threat of starting JR. Such a dumb idea if he does it.

  27. KnickfaninNJ

    Keniman Shumpwalker: Got it. I didn’t realize that a non-divison winner could leapfrog a division winner in seeding. Consider me edified.

    Me too, but I have to also add that the biggest benefit of the three seed is not the home court advantage but the fact that you get to play the sixth seed in the first round instead of the 5th seed.

  28. KnickfaninNJ

    Brian Cronin: Yeah, back when we were discussing our favorite starting lineups in the Round Table, I was all over the Felton/Shump/Melo/MVP/Chandler lineup. That’d be a great defensive lineup and it would have enough offense to not get lost in that regard. It’ll be fascinating to see if Woody actually goes through with the threat of starting JR. Such a dumb idea if he does it.

    I don’t think JR’s defense was that bad. He was always asked to guard the toughest guard assignment when on the court. But I like the idea of “MVP” very much :-)

  29. Frank

    Brian Cronin:
    Yeah, back when we were discussing our favorite starting lineups in the Round Table, I was all over the Felton/Shump/Melo/MVP/Chandler lineup. That’d be a great defensive lineup and it would have enough offense to not get lost in that regard. It’ll be fascinating to see if Woody actually goes through with the threat of starting JR. Such a dumb idea if he does it.

    I totally agree – but it would be semi-interesting to see a 2nd unit with Prigioni, Shump, and MWP. You would get a ton of turnovers-created with that group. And an Amare/Bargnani frontcourt, while horribly scary on defense, would be an interesting offensive frontcourt at least — Amare would finally have the lane all to himself on PNR and posts — sort of what they were planning with Rasheed before he broke.

  30. steveoh

    46 wins.

    Just because I don’t believe Woodson is the guy to figure out who to play, with what combination and why it works or doesn’t. He had his hand luckily dealt to him last year with Melo at the 4 and I’m not confident that magic will happen again.

  31. johnno

    steveoh: He had his hand luckily dealt to him last year with Melo at the 4

    And he “lucked into” being able to juggle a roster with hardly any continuity from the year before and that was gutted by injuries to numerous key players and getting them to the #2 seed. I wish people would stop acting like he’s an idiot. He did a great job last year.

  32. Nick C.

    johnno: One thing that helps is Kidd’s retirement.Over the last 41 regular season games, he took almost 4 three pointers a game and hit a whopping 27% of them.Why does everyone forget that it wasn’t just during the playoffs that Kidd was terrible (and he was historically terrible in the playoffs); he was pretty bad for the entire second half of the season.(I know, I know, he did the things that “don’t show up in the box score.Good thing because what showed up in the box score was pretty bad…)

    True. No Kidd, no Brewer both @ .350 and .310 which dragged down the average, and Sheed @ .310 as well. Who knows Beno might be able to duplicate that? I don’t see Bargs going .400 from three. My point was just a limited one on the 3 point team percentage.

  33. stratomatic

    Felton is over rated. I think Prigioni is a more productive player than Felton. I would rather see him start (even though I know that will never happen due to conventional wisdom).

    The problem is you can’t really do that anyway with Chandler at C because Prigs is not a scorer. That would be 2 non scorers and no real solid 2nd scoring option after Melo.

    I’d love to see Shumpert break out. If he does, it changes everything. The Knicks need a reliable, efficient, 2nd option.

    Felton is not it and JR is too crazy.

  34. Brian Cronin

    And an Amare/Bargnani frontcourt, while horribly scary on defense, would be an interesting offensive frontcourt at least — Amare would finally have the lane all to himself on PNR and posts Amare would finally have the lane all to himself on PNR and posts

    That reminds me of the game the other day when Bargs went to the post when Chandler and Melo were both already in the area.

  35. stratomatic

    I like Prigioni, Shumpert, MWP, Melo, Chandler if Shumpert develops into a more efficient and solid 2nd scoring option.

  36. cgreene

    Why would the Celtics make a trade that gets them no young assets back? Rondo gets you a lottery level 1st rounder.

    I am going to say 50 wins even and be happy with that. I think Woodson will manage minutes well causing end of reg season losses if we are not competing for the 3 seed. 4-5 is Knicks Nets most likely and you’d rather rest than press for homecourt against in City team. I think his lineups will be ok. I do not think he will over ride Barfs. I think he will use 2 PGs. The ONE thing that scares me about Woody is messing with Shumpert’s head and playing time. The ONE thing that scares me about Dolan/Mills this year is trading Shump for another low efficiency volume scorer.

    Would we trade Chandler/Shump for Gasol since we are rich at 2 guard? Does that make us a contender?

  37. custer

    cgreene:

    Would we trade Chandler/Shump for Gasol since we are rich at 2 guard?Does that make us a contender?

    Depends on which Gasol you’re referring to haha

  38. flossy

    thenamestsam:
    Am I the only idiot who thinks George Hill is pretty much just as good as Rondo, especially on that Pacers team?

    Rondo’s big advantage is in the assist column, but that’s at least partially because the Celtics run (or at least ran) an offense that had the ball in his hands the whole time. The Pacers run a lot more post ups + have a secondary ball handler in Paul George who has a lot of the ball. That’s way less assist opportunities for the point guard and way more spotting up off the ball, an area where Hill obviously owns Rondo. Rondo’s D is really good, but so is Hill’s. Maybe Rondo’s best is better than Hill’s but Hill brings it on a night to night basis more consistently from what I’ve seen.

    Plus every time Rondo gets brought up I feel the need to remind everyone that he piloted a team with pretty darn good offensive talent to ORatings of 15th, 18th, 28th and 24th the last 4 years, and that that progressive slide from mediocre to horrible directly coincided with all the talk about how it was “Rondo’s team now” and the Celtics making the offense more Rondo-centric.

    Wake me up when George Hill can go for 44 points (16-24 shooting), 10 assists and 8 rebounds against Miami in the playoffs…

  39. flossy

    steveoh:
    46 wins.

    Just because I don’t believe Woodson is the guy to figure out who to play, with what combination and why it works or doesn’t. He had his hand luckily dealt to him last year with Melo at the 4 and I’m not confident that magic will happen again.

    Come on now, dude did get 53 wins with the Joe Johnson/Josh Smith/Horford Hawks teams. He’s not completely clueless, and I think there’s much higher ceiling on a Knicks team built around Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Iman Shumpert and JR Smith, with solid contributions from Felton, Prigioni, and Artest, and hopefully productive cameos from STAT, Kenyon Martin and Andrea Barngani to add injections of offense, defense, and offense (?) respectively off the bench.

  40. ephus

    Getting out from under the Wallace contract has huge value for the Celtics. If they can also get out of Green, and I could see him going to San Antonio for Diaw and Bonner, they would have room for two max free agents and the inside track on Wiggins.

  41. Brian Cronin

    I think Boston would prefer a pick (once Phoenix got a first round pick for freakin’ Gortat, I think the Celtics sort of have to get one for Rondo), but there’s nothing to say that they couldn’t make it a three-way deal with a team giving up a pick for Granger and the Pacers ending up with Rondo.

  42. Z-man

    Looking through the schedule methodically and trying to predict W’s and L’s, I kept hovering around a 2:1 ratio, maybe slightly less, so 53-29 seems like a fair number. I’ll admit that my tendency to be optimistic makes Vegas’s 49 1/2 number pretty reasonable, as any significant injury to Melo, Chandler, or a couple of rotation players could set us back. To hit the higher end of expectations would require Bargnani to be a significant positive factor, or some other nice surprise (STAT staying healthy and averaging 20+ mpg, Shump playing like an all-star on offense, going .500+ vs.Heat, Bulls, Nets and Pacers, etc.) I’ll stick with 53 wins, Atlantic Division champs and #3 seed.

  43. Z-man

    I could also see Cleveland, Detroit, Washington and Toronto being in the tough to beat on any given night category.

  44. The Honorable Cock Jowles

    Final prediction: 42-40.

    The Knicks will not be good, and there will be a lot of explanations: injuries, “gel,” chemistry, coaching, Spike Lee.

    Most of the correct ones will include Bargnani being bad, Carmelo being overrated, Amar’e being overpaid, Chandler being unappreciated, and Iman being overburdened by the jheri curls he grows midseason.

    Andre Drummond will be considered for third-team All-NBA (barring injuries) and James Harden will be 2nd in MVP voting after LeBron James, who notches a season-long quadruple-double. After the season he will join the Bobcats “just because it feels like a challenge.”

  45. Brian Cronin

    As I said in the piece, I don’t think 54 wins is unreasonable, but if I were to bet, I guess I’d go for 51 wins. I just hope that the Nets win 50 or less. ;)

  46. er

    The Honorable Cock Jowles:
    Final prediction: 42-40.

    The Knicks will not be good, and there will be a lot of explanations: injuries, “gel,” chemistry, coaching, Spike Lee.

    Most of the correct ones will include Bargnani being bad, Carmelo being overrated, Amar’e being overpaid, Chandler being unappreciated, and Iman being overburdened by the jheri curls he grows midseason.

    Andre Drummond will be considered for third-team All-NBA (barring injuries) and James Harden will be 2nd in MVP voting after LeBron James, who notches a season-long quadruple-double. After the season he will join the Bobcats “just because it feels like a challenge.”

    I sometimes wonder if you just troll this site for shits and giggles. This post confirms it for some reason lol

  47. Frank

    The Honorable Cock Jowles:
    Final prediction: 42-40.

    The Knicks will not be good, and there will be a lot of explanations: injuries, “gel,” chemistry, coaching, Spike Lee.

    Most of the correct ones will include Bargnani being bad, Carmelo being overrated, Amar’e being overpaid, Chandler being unappreciated, and Iman being overburdened by the jheri curls he grows midseason.

    Andre Drummond will be considered for third-team All-NBA (barring injuries) and James Harden will be 2nd in MVP voting after LeBron James, who notches a season-long quadruple-double. After the season he will join the Bobcats “just because it feels like a challenge.”

    I think you’re a little low on the wins, especially considering how many teams will be actively tanking this year. But I hear your concerns with just about everything else. Like I’ve written in previous posts, I was optimistic about Bargnani before the preseason, but from what I did see during the preseason — I’m concerned. His shot looks semi-broken (missing by a foot or more on a lot of his 3PA), he looks unfocused on offense, and has no defensive awareness (although his on-ball defense looked pretty good to my eyes).

    In terms of Chandler being unappreciated — I think it’d be fair to say that he and JR Smith cost us an ECF birth by playing absolutely terribly during the Pacers series. I get that he was injured, etc., but staying healthy is part of being a great player. I’ll appreciate Chandler plenty if he gives us an effort like he did in 11-12.

    In terms of Drummond– what does “will be considered” mean? Barring a major dropoff from last year, Duncan, Gasol, and Howard will be 1st/2nd/3rd team in some order. Hibbert will be there. One hopes that Chandler will be there. But I do like Drummond – I think he’s a year or two and 35 FT% points away.

  48. Frank

    And re: Harden and Melo — I think Harden will be up there for MVP but Howard will get a lot of the media love if the Rockets step up big. If the Rockets are smart, they will keep both Asik and Howard so that they always have someone on the floor to hide how absolutely miserable he is on defense. Remember – for a guy who played with the starters and who is supposedly the greatest player in the efficiency loving world — he was a net -3 points/100 poss last year. As opposed to Asik’s +7.8. On a team that was overall net +3.2 points/100 poss.

    It’s literally scary to look at the numbers for how awful the Rockets defense was with Harden on the floor. With Harden + Asik on the floor, the Rockets gave up 1.054 PPP on D. With Harden and NO Asik on the floor, the Rockets gave up 1.15 PPP on D. With Asik on the floor and Harden off, the Rockets gave up 0.968 PPP. No wonder Asik was so pissed when they brought Howard on board. The problem for the Rockets is that Asik can’t play 48 minutes every night.

    One could reasonably make the claim that the Rockets improved last year in spite of Harden, not because of Harden.

    I’m trolling here a little bit, but I think another argument could be made that Harden is the new Marbury. He knows how to game the system so that everyone loves him (he really has mastered flop-errific drives to the basket), all while not really doing so many of the things that help you win. Like play at all on defense. Or trying not to have 44% more turnovers/36 than Carmelo Anthony. And that’s factorial.

    (OK, I’m trolling a lot now).

  49. Owen

    That’s an interesting take on Harden. All I can say is that the metrics like him a ton more than they ever did Marbury. Which is unsurprising given the 60% ts% and 30% usage.

    He did seem to effectively quiet all those critics who said he was just a product of playing off Westbrook and Durant.

    That said, I do think his defense is suspect. And the turnover rate is stratospheric. Very interested to see how things turn out in Houston. I suspect pretty well but we shall see….

  50. thenamestsam

    The thing is I thought his D was actually okay for the most part in OKC. He wasn’t a stopper or anything like that, but they never tried to hide him on D and, for example, they tried him on Lebron in the finals. I really think his increased role took a toll on his defense last year. He bumped his minutes up by about 7 a game and that doesn’t even take into account how much more he had the ball in his hands and was asked to be the main focal point as opposed to the secondary creator. With a year to adapt to the heavier load + Howard coming in to take the lead on offense some of the time he should be a lot better this year. If he isn’t then I would really start to worry.

  51. Owen

    I think that’s exactly right. Harden is really talented. I expect him to make an adjustment. Definitely a storyline to watch.

  52. Frank

    I think Harden is just like so many other players in that they expend so much energy on one side of the floor that they have nothing left for the other side. That’s why guys like LBJ, Jordan, etc. were so amazing – they give full effort on both sides and are true game changers on both sides. It’s HARD to have a usage of 30+.

    What I will say about Harden and his old running mate Durant – they have perfected drawing fouls on guys despite at times minimal contact. It’s like some Jedi mind trick they have on the refs. As a basketball fan I hate it, but of course, if Melo learned how to do that, I’d love it.

  53. lavor postell

    Frank:

    What I will say about Harden and his old running mate Durant – they have perfected drawing fouls on guys despite at times minimal contact. It’s like some Jedi mind trick they have on the refs.As a basketball fan I hate it, but of course, if Melo learned how to do that, I’d love it.

    Idk about that because that’s one of the things I do respect about Melo’s game. Very rarely will you see him flop or exacerbate contact and for the most part he tries to play through it and finish the play which I think he gets penalized for often by the refs. KD, Harden, Lebron, Wade, Paul etc. act like little bitches as soon as they feel contact. Kobe like Melo also often plays through contact to their own detriment.

    thenamestsam:
    The thing is I thought his D was actually okay for the most part in OKC. He wasn’t a stopper or anything like that, but they never tried to hide him on D and, for example, they tried him on Lebron in the finals. I really think his increased role took a toll on his defense last year. He bumped his minutes up by about 7 a game and that doesn’t even take into account how much more he had the ball in his hands and was asked to be the main focal point as opposed to the secondary creator. With a year to adapt to the heavier load + Howard coming in to take the lead on offense some of the time he should be a lot better this year. If he isn’t then I would really start to worry.

    Great point and I felt the exact same way. He wasn’t Bruce Bowen, but he was a passable team defender. I think he’s going to benefit a lot from having Howard in that he will not have to be the center of the offense at all times and can focus more of his energy on the defensive end. He’ll probably be able to strike an effective balance as he did in OKC.

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