Tag Archives: Tom Thibodeau

Eastern Conference Central Division Preview

By: Evan

The Central division is one of the strongest divisions in the NBA this year and has the potential to have four playoff teams. Last year, the central division had four all-stars so the division has clear individual talent as well as team talent. The Bulls, Pacers, and Bucks all made the playoffs last year and will look to maintain similar records. The two other teams, the Pistons and Cavaliers both made significant offseason acquisitions that will revamp their rosters. Lets look at how the division will play out. (*denotes projected playoff team)

1.) *Chicago Bulls

Derrick Rose looks to continue his MVP ways this season and lead chicago to a title.                                                                                                                          Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune

The Bulls are arguably one of the top 3 teams in the entire NBA, and with their MVP back at the helm, the Bulls are looking to make a championship run and end the Heat’s reign as Eastern Conference Champions.  The Bulls had a successful season last year without Derrick Rose and despite being plagued with injuries to key players all season. The Bulls won 45 games, advancing to the Eastern Conference semi-finals and ranking 3rd in points allowed on average with 92.9.  The defense has always been a mainstay with wizard head coach Tom Thibodeau and strong interior and wing defenders such as Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler. The only problem for the Bulls last year was scoring, as they averaged only 93.2 points per game, tied for 28th in league, and clearly correlated to Derrick’s absence.  Financially, the Bulls are in a slight bind with the increase on Taj Gibson’s contract starting this year as well as the last two years of Carlos Boozer’s 5 year 80 million dollar deal, but Luol Deng’s expiring contract could be used in a trade piece and free up cap room. The Bulls could make a blockbuster deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves shipping their first round pick, Charlotte’s 2016 protected pick, Luol Deng or Jimmy Butler for Kevin Love, a deal that would benefit both teams. The Bulls will clearly be one of the most interesting teams to watch this year, and they could bring the Larry O’Brien trophy back to the Windy City.

2.) *Indiana Pacers

Will Danny Granger and Paul George mesh? This is the crucial question for the Pacers. Courtesy of SBNation

The Indiana Pacers showed their potential last year, giving the Miami Heat a run for their money during the Eastern Conference finals, and this year should be more of the same. The Pacers are young, talented and play hard.  They gave up only 90.7 points per game, and held opponents to 42% shooting per game, 2nd and 1st in the league, respectively. This intense team defense stems from coach Frank Vogel as well as elite defenders such as Roy Hibbert and Paul George, both of whom can seriously impact an offensive game plan.  Danny Granger, a former all star, missed much of the season, and he will take on scoring responsibilities,  taking some of the pressure off  Paul George and David West who combined for 35 points per game for the Pacers.  Granger and George are similar players as they both create off the dribble and like to attack the basket,  although George is the younger and better player, Granger provides valuable experience the Pacers need.  If the two can mesh and play well together, the Pacers should be formidable this season.  If not,  the front office might look to trade Granger who is on the last year of his contract and is injury prone. The other problem is the Pacers bench as they don’t have a bench scorer that can come in and immediately contribute.  The bench becomes a pivotal factor in the playoffs as teams must rest the starting unit. Regardless of the bench,  the Pacers will probably win 45-50 games this year and be a top four seed in the Eastern Conference.

3.) *Detroit Pistons

With the addition of Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, Pistons are a clear playoff team and a potential sleeper in the Eastern Conference.                                                          Courtesy of NBA.SI.com

The Pistons were probably the 2nd biggest mover in the offseason behind the Houston Rockets, trading Brandon Knight, Kris Middleton and Viacheslav Kravtsov for Brandon Jennings and then signing him to a 3 year 25 million dollar deal.   Detroit also signed Josh Smith, an underrated all around player for 4 years $54 million. The Pistons are clearly trying to turn around their moribund franchise; these are solid moves for two players who needed a change of scenery. The Pistons have an established core with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, one of the youngest and best frontcourts in league.   And now with a point guard and a dynamic small/power forward, the Pistons are relevant again. They also hired Mo Cheeks, a champion as a player and an assistant on a Thunder team that went to the NBA finals in 2012.  The team will have to learn how to balance the ball and spread it out among the big men, but this team will be a terror for opposing big men, as the three man rotation of Smith, Drummond and Monroe will be difficult to deal with. Look for the Pistons to win about 40-45 games this year and earn around a 5-7 seed and potential upset one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference.

4.) *Cleveland Cavaliers

Kyrie Irving has a chance to be the MVP this year, but will he lead the Cavs to the playoffs?                         Courtesy of ESPN

The Cavs also made some significant offseason moves, including the signings of the oft injured Andrew Bynum and dynamic back-up point guard Jarrett Jack. Both are wildcards that could potentially vault the Cavs into playoff contention for the first time since LeBron left, or they could stay the same course of futility of the last couple of years. The team also drafted Anthony Bennett a big man with enormous potential if he can lose the his excess weight and get into basketball shape. All these pieces are shaped around the man with the ball, Kyrie Irving, a 21 year point guard who might just be the best in the league. He can create for himself, score at will and is tremendous in late game situations. He dazzled during all-star weekend (watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mr_WjR6iaj4) and clearly emerged on the national stage. The Cavs also have some bright young talent in Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters, both showed growth throughout last season and they should continue to grow into better core players. Although the Cavs will make the playoffs as a 8 seed, there is little chance that they will advance. The Cavs are on the rise, and who knows what can happen if LeBron decides to go home in free agency.  He’d have a good nucleus awaiting.

5.) Milwaukee Bucks

Bucks fans don’t worry, you still have emerging center Larry Sanders on your squad. Courtesy of ESPN.com

After refusing to sign Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis to extensions, it became clear that the Bucks want to use this season to develop players and cement their place in the lottery. Now it isn’t all bad for Bucks fans as they did resign Larry Sanders, a young, elite defender who has improved his game. They also signed O.J Mayo, a solid scorer but not a game changing type player. The Bucks clearly need a face of the franchise that can provide hope in the coming years. There is some uncertainty about whether the Bucks will be able to stay in Milwaukee becomes Seattle clamors for a team with Paul Allen providing deep, deep pockets.  The Bucks should have more clarity next season about the future of this franchise, and hopefully they land a star player to lead them.

How many teams do you think will make the playoffs from the Central? Let us know by voting below.

Stats from ESPN

The Brooklyn Hype?

By: Evan

The Nets have made some big offseason moves including trading for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce as well as hiring a new coach in Jason Kidd. Will these moves add up? Or will the Nets be a middle of the pack team in the Eastern Conference? Here are a couple of reasons why I think the Nets will falter despite expectations.

1.) They are old.

Oldies aren’t always Goodies

On paper sure the Nets have talent, but in reality they are old and slow. Just look at the SG,SF, and PF positions. Joe Johnson is a weak defender in his 30s with a mere 1.2 defensive win share rating and won’t be able to compete for much longer. Even worse is Johnson’s contract, which runs until 2015-2016 with almost $70 million dollars guaranteed. Johnson is a one-dimensional player with one of the worst contracts in the NBA.  The newly acquired Paul Pierce, will play the SF position at the age of 36 with declining skills and ability. He will be forced to guard the elite wings in the Eastern Conference including LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Luol Deng and Rudy Gay. There is no way Pierce will be able to handle these SF’s on a nightly basis. Just another undeniable fact that Net fans will try to refute with misleading stats about All-Star appearances. Kevin Garnett is another overrated piece of this newly formed squad that won’t contribute on the level expected. Garnett was once one of my favorite players, but at  37 years old, he is a big man with deteriorating health and cannot be expected to produce near his glory years.  Garnett will provide leadership in the locker room, but no significant gains will be made next year for this overpaid squad of veterans.

2.) The Heat, Bulls and Pacers are better

The Bulls will be back and better than ever

The Miami Heat are the defending champions and have the best player in the world in LeBron James. They have attained the championship pedigree and know what it takes to win in consecutive years. The Nets do not have any solid wing defenders to stop  LeBron James from scoring at will. I would pick the Heat in an easy series of maybe 5 games. The Chicago Bulls are another team that I would pick over the Nets because of team defense, youth, and the return of Derrick Rose. The Bulls are arguably the best defensive team in the NBA, led by outstanding coach Tom Thibodeau and his stout defensive tactics. The Bulls can guard wing players with the emerging Jimmy Butler and the consistent Luol Deng, both are crucial to the Bulls’ success. They can also guard inside with the  Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, two vastly underrated players who provide high energy and tenacity. The Bulls are also very young with only one starter over the age of 30, meaning the Bulls are capable of performing on a high level in back-to-back games. The last and most important reason why I would choose the Bulls over the Nets is Derrick Rose. Rose will still be quicker than most every guard in the NBA and there is nobody on the Nets that can stop him. In late playoff games, every team needs its leader to step up and lead and that is exactly what Derrick Rose will do next season. The final team that would beat the Nets in a playoff series would be the Indiana Pacers, an extremely dangerous squad that had a real chance to upset the Heat last year. Paul George is a superstar in the making with an improving offensive game, tremendous defensive ability and off the charts athleticism. Similarly to the Bulls, the Pacers have two great post defenders in David West and Roy Hibbert who intimidated the Heat from driving to the basket for easy points. The Pacers also have a great young coach in Frank Vogel, who will be COY in the next few years. The Pacers would also beat the Nets in a playoff series.

3.) Can Kidd coach?

Already criticized for answering his phone during a game, will Jason Kidd really help the Nets?

The Brooklyn Nets owner, Mikhail Prokhorov likes to make big media moves and create buzz around the team. But all these moves are not smart basketball decisions. Just like taking older veterans like Pierce and Garnett, hiring Kidd was a risky move. Kidd has no prior coaching experience and despite his coach-like demeanor on the court, Kidd will now have to balance the egos of Deron Williams and Kevin Garnett, two players with reputations for being recalcitrant towards new ideas. Thibodeau, Vogel and 2-time champion Erik Spoelstra are experienced coaches, coaching established and elite teams who command respect. Kidd’s selection is questionable, and   the basketball acumen of the front office is not sound.

4.) Will Deron Williams finally take the next step?

Can Jason Kidd help Deron Williams become a leader?

Deron Williams has talent —  he can score from inside and out, he can dish and he can defend but his problems are his motor and drive. Deron was frequently out of shape, only to recover in the second half  to play to his All-Star potential. Time is running out for Deron as younger players like Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry are leading their teams to new heights while Deron struggles to get out of the first round. He will have no better opportunity than this year when the talent surrounding him is at its highest. Maybe KG and Paul Pierce can convince Deron to pick up his game and take control on a consistent basis. Maybe not. A leader needs to lead and Deron Williams has been complacent, a talented player with limited intensity. On paper, the Nets look good, but they are not contenders for an NBA championship.  The Heat, Bulls, and Pacers have both talent,  heart and effective coaching.  Remember how the Bulls, without Rose and Deng beat the Nets in game 7 in Brooklyn?  KG and Pierce can instill some intensity but their best playing days are behind them.  Will they be able to light a fire under the younger Nets?   The NBA is rich with talent, but it takes much more than talent to win a NBA Championship.  And with a rookie coach at the helm, I don’t see the Nets as a threat to win the Eastern Conference.