Continuing our look at how the teams are benefiting from Acquisition Summer 08, here’s a look at the East. From top to bottom, the conference is getting stronger; while there won’t be as many over .500 teams as the West, I think the top eight from top to bottom in the conference should have less disparity than last year’s best (Boston – 66 wins) and worst (Atlanta – 37 wins). Plus, there could be significant churn at the 6, 7, and 8 seeds, given the players the Bucks, Pacers, Heat, Bulls and Nets have picked up. Here’s the rundown.
Playoff bound (not necessarily in order):
The Celtics sign Patrick O’Bryant, and keep James Posey –one of the major playoff stars last year—considering an exodus from the club. Remember before the Iron Ranger handed Danny Ainge the gift of KG, how reviled Ainge was in Boston? This is another of those head scratcher moves. I understand Posey is getting on in years, but given all the money you’ve spent on the Tri-Core, NOT offering a fourth year at the mid-level for a guy who was second to Pierce as the clutch player in the Finals seems stupid to me. Then again, I love to spend other people’s money.
The big free agency winner to date with the Elton Brand deal. It makes the drafting of Marreese Speights redundant, but if Brand is healthy, they move up as a potential headache for Boston.
A solid playoff team, but the talent is aging, Rasheed Wallace is still a head case, and if they don’t get someone on the par of McGrady, they don’t get out of the East.
Another team with a decent young core, but with a mediocre point guard in Jameer Nelson. They also overpaid for Rashard Lewis last year, which will continue to haunt them.
Another playoff team with one player I really like—Caron Butler. Otherwise, a lot of flash, but no substance.
On paper, they could have improved with the solidifying of Calderon at the point and Jermaine O’Neal along side of Bosh in the front court. But J.O. hasn’t been truly healthy in awhile, and my gut says Bryan Colangelo would rather have someone else than Sam Mitchell as his head coach. There may be a ticket in Club Taylor available for Sam here in Minnesota in a year or two for his services.
LeBron himself can probably push a team two playoff rounds deep, but he needs serious help to compete for a ring. What they have now doesn't get it done.
Another intriguing team, that has acquired solid role players (Najera, Hayes) alongside one overrated star (Carter) and their young talent (Harris, Lopez, Yi Jianlian). Could still be a year or so away from making the playoffs, but if Lopez is better than advertised, and Carter is not totally slothful they could surprise, so I’ve got them tucked in the 8th slot right now.
I’m conflicted over whether to place them or the Nets at the 8th playoff spot. A great playoff story last year, but Bibby’s skills are declining, and if they lose Smith, it’s back to scratch. We’ll have to see how events play out.
Richard Jefferson is a good player, and Alexander may eventually be a solid pro, but they play mostly the same position, unless Alexander can play a small power forward. They also invested a lot of money in Mo Williams last year, and didn’t seem terribly overjoyed at the result. Tough guy coach Scott Skiles will probably produce a spike in wins, but if they were to sneak into the playoffs, they wouldn’t get past the first round.
Still a mess, even with an upgrade at coach. Gallinari does nothing for me; another soft, tall European player who will fit in well with D’Antoni’s all offense, little defense style of play. They will be more entertaining to watch, but they’re not Phoenix.
How long will Larry Brown stay? It could be longer than Okafor. I would love for the Wolves to attempt to pry Felton away if they eventually don’t want him. Not a top point guard, but better than what we have.
Another rebuilding team with a lot of size and point guards, but no real star to build around. Danny Granger has proven once again what a joke it was to draft Rashad McCants instead of him, but he hasn’t established core stud credentials yet. Another team to watch and see if Coach O’Brien can arrange the pieces properly.
Even with a healthy Wade and new stud Beasley, they need a lot of help, starting at point guard. Once again, our man McHale is trying his best to help, dealing Mario Chalmers to Miami on draft day. James Jones is another decent pickup, but as long as Mark Blount is in your playing rotation, there’s trouble on the Beach. They also have to figure out how Shawn Marion fits into their plans.
I love Rose, but after having such a potentially great young core a couple of years ago, it looks like the team is fighting their way up again, especially with virgin head coach My Cousin Vinny at the helm.