Atlantic Division Roundup: Celtics Turning it Around and Trade Ideas

ATLANTIC W L PCT GB HOME ROAD DIV CONF PF PA DIFF STRK L10
New York 23 10 .697 13-3 10-7 4-1 14-3 102.5 97.1 +5.4 Won 2 5-5
Brooklyn 19 15 .559 4 ½ 12-7 7-8 6-3 14-8 95.8 94.9 +0.9 Won 3 6-4
Boston 16 17 .485 7 10-6 6-11 3-4 11-10 95.2 96.7 -1.5 Won 2 4-6
Philadelphia 15 20 .429 9 9-7 6-13 4-4 8-10 92.9 96.6 -3.7 Lost 3 3-7
Toronto 12 22 .353 11 ½ 8-7 4-15 0-5 6-8 96.7 99.5 -2.8 Lost 2 7-3


As the Knicks continue to pace this division, both the Nets and Celtics look to be turning their seasons around.  Since the coaching change in Brooklyn, PJ Carlesimo has had this team rolling to a 5-1 record, finally showing the offensive balance that this team anticipated after landing star Joe Johnson to pair with the trio of Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and Gerald Wallace. Deron Williams looks to be playing more comfortably and seems to have found his confidence that was lost somewhere in Avery Johnson’s duffel bag. Then there is the Celtics, who had lost their patented style in the KG era of lock down defense and half court offensive execution.  It just wasn’t there this season as Doc Rivers searched to find a lineup that would mesh like teams of the past.  Finally, Boston got back it’s defensive bulldog in Avery Bradley, a player that not only will harass the opposing teams’ best wing player, but also allows Rajon Rondo to play off the ball and save some of his energy for the offensive end.  

For this divisional roundup, I’ll switch up the style a bit and while each team will still be evaluated on current play, I’d like to start the NBA rumor season with kicking up some dust on a few rumors of my own and working the NBA Trade Machine.



New York Knicks:

The Knicks continue to struggle with injuries, as Rasheed Wallace will miss his 12th straight game tonight when the Celtics visit MSG and they continue to be without Raymond Felton who will miss another 4 weeks or so nursing a broken pinkie finger. Thankfully for the Knicks they have the depth and talent to withstand this mid-season doldrums period.  While Carmelo Anthony is still the offensive force on this team scoring over 29 a game on 48% shooting (nearly 44% from downtown too) another player has emerged as a true offensive weapon for the Knicks. JR Smith has been absolutely on fire the past couple weeks.  In his last 5 games he is averaging 24 points, 7 rebound, and 4 assists all while providing incredible energy and highlights like this one:

  
While gushing over Smith’s talent has been something that NBA scouts have been doing for years, I recognize that he has a propensity for inconsistent stretches of play, hitting numerous lows and highs throughout an NBA season.  The Knicks also celebrated the return of Amar’e back to the lineup, though he has been on a serious minute limit, averaging just a shade over 18 mins a game in the three games he has played in so far.  While his shot has not fallen consistently in those three games, Amar’e still has a bunch left to give to the Knicks. As long as he recognizes that he is no longer a focal point of the team’s offensive strategy, he could be a big piece for them as they head toward the second half and an eventual playoff run (or they could trade him-see below).

Now Lets Look at a Trade:
Team Need: Depth in frontcourt

This is a tough team to trade with since they have huge salaries and few tradeable pieces. Here’s one scenario I came up with for them in which they trade one of their “untradeable” pieces.:
The Knicks get more size up front that they can pair with Tyson Chandler at what would be an excellent center rotation. The Wiz would rid themselves of one year of Nene’s contract by taking on a 3yr contract in Amar’e rather than the 4 owed to Nene.  John Wall will also get that all important pick and roll partner he will need to succeed in this league. The Knick would also have to throw in a future first or a couple second round picks to get this done.


Brooklyn Nets:

What a turnaround for the Nets! After getting out of the gates hot and then struggling mightily in December, they made the decision to change coaches and go with NBA veteran PJ Carlesimo.  So far the results have been quite satisfactory for owner Mikhail Prokhorov.  As mentioned above, the team is 5-1 in the Carlesimo reign, showing a much improved offensive balance as well as renewed confidence from franchise player Deron Williams.  While Williams stats don’t jump out as much improved, he is getting his teammates involved in better positions for them to score or to make an extra pass.  Proof of this is that in the last 5 games Brook Lopez is averaging 23 points on 57% shooting, while Joe Johnson has been scoring 19 a game and shooting 49% in that same stretch.

This team is pretty much impossible to do a trade for, I’ve tried to make something fair on the trade machine for an hour and just can’t come up with something that’s not one sided. If the Nets are really going all in this year they could trade Mashon Brooks, Keith Bogan, and another minimum salary for Jermaine O’Neal and Sebastain Telfair from Phoneix.   I wouldn’t do it as a Nets fan since the team won’t win it all this year anyways.

Boston Celtics:

This team has turned in back to back performances that brought to mind the 2007-2008 club.  They dominated defensively allowing only 75 and 81 points respectively against Indiana and Atlanta.  In fact, after being down 15 at halftime against Atlanta, the team allowed only 28 total second half points from the Hawks, while scoring 51 themselves including 33 in the third quarter.  Avery Bradley’s defense makes this team look younger and much more aggressive on both ends, as it allows Rondo to expend his energy getting to the cup and providing for his teammates instead of having the greater responsibilities on the defensive end.  The speed of the Celtics backcourt is a difficult matchup for any opponent and remain their biggest strength on both ends of the floor.  As has been the case for the past few years, the Celtics biggest weakness is the lack of a legitimate center to pair with the ever springy Kevin Garnett. The Celtics have the second worst rebounding differential in the NBA, trailing only the struggling veteran group in Dallas.  Rumors have been swirling about adding DeMarcus Cousins, but I didn’t want to limit it to just him, so here are a couple potential trades for the Celtics:

1. For Cousins-Can we acquire him without giving up Rondo or Bradley? Not in this scenario…

2.  For Gortat-we also include a draft pick…I don’t give up Bradley in a deal for Gortat.

3. Varejao-Do you trade Bradley and Sullinger for Varejao, a legit center w/ 3 more years on his contract?


Either way it would seem unrealistic to acquire any player without giving up our two best tradeable assets in Bradley and Sullinger.  Do any of these sound like something you’d be willing to do? Sound off in the comments

Philadelphia 76ers:

Losers of 5 of their last 6 and 11 of their last 14 games, this team is reeling right now. Teams seem to have figured out how to limit the backcourt combo of Turner and Holiday.  While Holiday leads the team in scoring at 18.4 per game as well as dishing out 8.9 assists per, Evan Turner has been struggling recently, shooting under 40% and scoring only 11 a game in his last 5. This team gets very little from its frontcourt outside of Thaddeus Young. We are supposed to get an Andrew Bynum update this week, which we will bring once Phili holds a press conference  but in the meantime this team is left as a bottom feeder in the league.  My trade idea for this team: Go get DeMarcus Cousins.  he could be paired with Andrew Bynum in the future creating the best twin tower combo since Duncan and Robinson.

Phili would get it’s big fella, but would also take on all of Sacramento’s poor contracts, but i think it’s a sacrifice they would be willing to make.  Sacramento would get a nice building block in Evan Turner as well as ridding itself of some terrible contracts.  They would also require a first round pick from Phili. If i was Sacramento I would not do this, but it would save the Maloofs money and that’s the only point of interest for the worst owners in basketball.

Toronto Raptors:

Despite losing back to back games to Sacramento and OKC, this team continues to play really well.  Demar Derozan, Kyle Lowry, Jose Calderon, and a seemingly-out-of-nowhere Alan Anderson have been playing well of last for the Raptors.  PF Ed Davis continues to play well scoring 13 and grabbing 7 boards over his last 5.  Andrea Bargnani will likely be returning at the end of the month, but that shouldn’t stop the progress Ed Davis has made.  Coach Dwayne Casey has indicated that Davis will remain in the starting lineup when Bargnani returns.  This team is still no where near ready to compete for the playoffs, but they have some solid trade chips that could help them there rebuilding process moving forward.

LA gets much better for this season, surrounding Kobe and Howard with a very good backup PG and a PF/C that could excel in the pick and pop with Nash when Howard is out of the game.  Both Gasol and Bargnani have has injuries this season, but the star power of Pau Gasol in Canada could help Toronto become more relevant.  They would also acquire an expiring contract for next season which they could use to acquire players for the future if things aren’t working out.  This is the most far fetched idea I have come up with, but i’ve been on the trade machine for hours and starting to put together more rediculous packages by the minute.

Sound off on these trades in the comments!

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