By Jonathan Diego
2013-14 Record: 25-57, 4th in the Atlantic Division
Coach: Brad Stevens
Returning Players: Chris Babb (G), Keith Bogans (G), Jeff Green (F), Chris Johnson (F/G), Phil Pressey (G), Rajon Rondo (G), Avery Bradley (G) (Re-signed), Jared Sullinger (F), Gerald Wallace (F), Brandon Bass (F), Vitor Faverani (C), Kelly Olynyk (C).
Players Acquired: Marcus Smart (G), James Young (G/F), Marcus Thornton (G), Tyler Zeller (F/C), Joel Anthony (opt-in) (C).
Players Lost: Jerryd Bayless (G), Kris Humphries (sign-and-trade) (F/C)
In season 2 of Brad Stevens’ tenure as head coach, the Celtics have plenty of different pieces that will definitely take some time to develop. With the selections of Marcus Smart and James Young in the 2014 NBA draft, the end of Rajon Rondo’s time in a Celtics jersey appears to be looming on the horizon.
Re-signing Avery Bradley solidified the Boston backcourt for now, and it will be interesting to see how Stevens continues to lead the Celtics through a rebuilding period.
Prediction: If Rondo stays for now, this team wins 30 games. If he leaves before the season starts, 28 wins and another 4th place finish in the Atlantic. This season also produces another Jeff Green buzzer-beater, and a Phil Pressey to James Young alley-oop that lands in the top 10 ESPN plays for one day.
2013-14 Record: 44-38, 2nd in the Atlantic Division
Coach: Lionel Hollins
Returning Players: Deron Williams (G), Joe Johnson (G), Jorge Guiterrez (G), Marquis Teague (G), Mirza Teletovic (F), Mason Plumlee (F), Andrei Kirilenko (opt-in) (F), Alan Anderson (re-signed) (F/G). Brook Lopez (C).
Players Acquired: Jarrett Jack (G), Sergey Karasev (G/F), Markel Brown (G), Cory Jefferson (F), Xavier Thames (G), Bojan Bogdanovic (F).
Players Lost: Shaun Livingston (G), Paul Pierce (G/F), Marcus Thornton (G), Ilkan Karaman (F), Christian Drejer (F), Edin Bavcic (F).
Hiring Lionel Hollins could turn out to be the biggest offseason addition for this team. After the whole Jason Kidd debacle, Hollins’ defensive mentality will certainly bring a refreshing look for this Brooklyn team.
In his last season as the Grizzlies Head Coach, they ranked in the top three in points allowed per 100 possessions, opponent field goal percentage, and rebound percentage, according to ESPN Stats & Information. And the fact that Hollins’ Grizzlies teams improved every year he was there is a promising sign as well.
The losses of Shaun Livingston, Pierce, and the sporadic scoring of Marcus Thornton will affect this team’s offensive production, but hopefully with the addition of Jarrett Jack, consistent play from Brook Lopez and Deron Williams, along with the continued development of Mason Plumlee, this team could make some noise in the Eastern Conference.
Prediction: If Hollins gets this team to cooperate and adapt to his defensive philosophies, this team wins 45 games, finishes second in the division, and is a 6 or 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. If injuries strike and luck favors their neighbors in orange and blue, the Nets could find themselves awkwardly in the middle of the pack.
New York Knicks
2013-14 Record: 37-45, 3rd in the Atlantic Division
Coach: Derek Fisher
Returning Players: Tim Hardaway Jr. (G), Pablo Prigioni (G), J.R. Smith (G), Carmelo Anthony (F) (re-signed), Andre Bargnani (F/C) (opt-in), Amar’e Stoudemire (F/C) (opt-in), Cole Aldrich (C) (re-signed).
Players Acquired: Jason Smith (F), Jose Calderon (G), Samuel Dalembert (C), Shane Larkin (G), Quincy Acy (F/C), Travis Outlaw (F), Thanasis Antetokounmpo (F), Cleanthony Early (F), Louis Labeyrie (F).
Players Lost: Toure’ Murry (G), Raymond Felton (G), Wayne Ellington (G), Shannon Brown (G), Lamar Odom (F), Jeremy Tyler (F), Tyson Chandler (C).
Since Phil Jackson was introduced as the president of the Knicks in March, Derek Fisher has been hired as the new head coach, Carmelo Anthony was re-signed, the team has traded pieces with the Dallas Mavericks, and drafted Cleanthony Early, who could turn out to be the steal of this year’s stacked draft. Things are looking up in The Big Apple.
That being said, these moves could turn out poorly for a team that was ranked in the middle of the pack offensively (11th out of 30), and near the bottom defensively (24th out of 30), according to basketball-reference.com. A new offensive system, a logjam in the backcourt, and a rookie head coach will provide plenty of potential drama in The City That Never Sleeps.
Prediction: If Carmelo fits into the triangle, and the others around him follow suit and gel into their respective roles, this team could be bound for a 43 to 45 win season, and a trip to the playoffs.
If locker room issues arise, and the bad chemistry bug bites this team hard, then it’s another year of Knicks fans ranting on YouTube.
2013-14 Record: 19-63, 5th in the Atlantic Division
Coach: Brett Brown
Returning Players: Michael Carter-Williams, (G) Brandon Davies (F), Arnett Moultrie (F), Nerlens Noel (F/C), Henry Sims (C), Hollis Thompson (G/F), Jarvis Varnado (F/C), Casper Ware (G), Elliot Williams (G), Tony Wroten (G).
Players Acquired: Joel Embiid (C), Jerami Grant (F), K.J. McDaniels (F), Vasilije Micic (G), Dario Saric (F)
Players Lost: Thaddeus Young (F), James Anderson (G/F)
When you look at this roster, names like Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, and Dario Saric stand out. And that’s pretty much it for this year’s edition of the 76ers.
Although Williams started to pick up some poor shooting habits last year, he still shows promise as a playmaker. Noel had a nice Summer League campaign as he returns from an ACL injury, and with the selection of an injured Embiid, the Sixers should be hoping that history repeats itself in that regard.
Saric is staying in Europe for at least one more year, but the former Croatian League Finals MVP could make a big impact on a team that is struggling to find an identity at the moment.
And with coach Brett Brown looking to emulate the Spurs system, it will be interesting how Noel and Embiid will eventually factor into the rotation.
Prediction: With the potential to land a lottery pick in next year’s draft, it’s safe to say that the Sixers aren’t going anywhere in the Eastern Conference. This team will most likely match it’s record from last year, while Noel makes his case to win Rookie of the Year.
2013-14 Record: 48-34, 1st in the Atlantic Division
Coach: Dwane Casey
Returning Players: Kyle Lowry (G) (re-signed), Patrick Patterson (F) (re-signed), Greivis Vasquez (G) (re-signed), Dwight Buycks (G), DeMar DeRozan (G), Landry Fields (F), Tyler Hansbrough (F), Chuck Hayes (F), Amir Johnson (F/C), Terrence Ross (G), Julyan Stone (G), Jonas Valanciunas (C).
Players Acquired: Bruno Caboclo (F), DeAndre Daniels (F), Lucas Nogueira (C), Will Cherry (C), Jordan Hamilton (F/G), Greg Stiemsma (C), Diante Garrett (G), Lou Williams (G).
Players Lost: Nando De Colo (G), Steve Novak (F), John Salmons (G/F).
The Raptors had a low-key offseason, as they managed to retain Kyle Lowry, Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez, as well as turn John Salmons into Lou Williams and the 16th overall pick, Lucas Nogueira, from the Hawks.
The addition of Bruno “The Brazilian Kevin Durant” Caboclo was certainly a perplexing one, but it’s one that could turn out to be a pleasant surprise.
Other than these additions, this team looks pretty much the same, but with another year to play together, this team could remain the third-best team in the Eastern Conference. If the returners can continue to improve their skill sets and team chemistry, then this team will make another exciting playoff run.
Prediction: 50 wins and a first place finish in the Atlantic Division is their realistic ceiling this season, barring any hiccups. I also expect Drake to hold an impromptu concert in the Air Canada Centre if the Raptors stumble into the Eastern Conference Finals, or—at the very least—attempt to do the Shmoney Dance on live TV after a vicious DeMar DeRozan game-winning dunk.
Jonathan Diego is a staff writer for Scouts Alley.