By hammering out the framework of a deal that will bring Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn, it was the Nets who stole the show on the night of the NBA Draft. Adding these two veterans to the pieces already in place in Brooklyn should make Mikhail Prokhorov’s squad formidable for at least a year or two and add even more depth to a top-heavy Eastern Conference.
It is quickly becoming an arms race in the East with a host of teams making moves in an attempt to take down the Miami Heat. Aside from Brooklyn, Larry Bird has returned to the Indiana Pacers in the role of team president after a year sabbatical. Indiana has one of the youngest and most physically imposing rosters in the entire NBA, and after missing out on the finals by one game Bird is looking to re-sign David West and improve the depth of his team . “The moves (this off-season) will be to strengthen our bench,” Bird said. “We’ve got to get those players to play better or bring in some guys that we think are going to help us.”
The Bulls will be better this upcoming season by virtue of getting a number of their players back from injuries and other health related scares. The highly anticipated return of Derrick Rose should immediately catapult this squad of grinders back into contention and allow the complementary pieces on that team to slide back into their natural roles. It still remains to be seen whether or not Luol Deng will be back in a Bulls uniform or traded for new parts, but either way Chicago will be a force to be reckoned with and the primary obstacle in Miami’s way as they go for the three-peat.
The already forgotten team in the East is the one that finished 2 nd in the Conference standings in the 2012-2013 season, the New York Knicks. After the Knicks flamed out in the Conference Semifinals against Indiana, a host of fans and folks in the media proclaimed their past season to be one of “fools good”. With a roster full of aging veterans, it would be impossible to keep these plastic figures from breaking down and replicate this type of success going forward. And even more to the point, who would want to? Miami, Chicago, and Indiana aren’t going away anytime soon, and the Pacers made it abundantly clear that New York didn’t have enough secondary scoring options to consistently win in the postseason when the pace of games slowed down.
However, in the blink of an eye the Knicks are close to a move that would put them right back in the mix. While rebounding and interior defense remains a concern (especially after seeing Tyson Chandler getting owned by Roy Hibbert), New York is close to a deal with the Toronto Raptors for Andrea Bargnani , a talented scorer who would provide immediate assistance for a team in desperate need for a player to supplement the skills of Carmelo Anthony. In theory, the addition of Bargnani, a versatile 27 year-old 7-footer, will give the team a proven power forward who can score from anywhere on the floor and provide a level of insurance in case Amar’e Stoudemire continues to suffer through injuries.
While Bargnani has also missed a boatload of games the last two seasons due to various ailments, New York is banking on a change of scenery, the chance to play for a contender, and his current contract status (he will have an expiring contract heading into the 2014-2015 season) to be motivation enough for him to live up to his full potential in the Big Apple. This move also makes the J.R. Smith situation less dicey – while it would be great if Smith returned to shore up the bench, the Knicks now doesn’t have to feel obligated to overspend for a player who can be inconsistent at times and disappear in big spots.
New York will continue to make moves in the weeks ahead to improve their backcourt and frontcourt rotations in order to construct a team that can get them in position to go deeper next spring. While they might not finish 2 nd in the East again, they should (health permitting) go into the playoffs next year with Bargnani and Stoudemire as team’s second and third scoring options. This would be a vast improvement over this past year, where J.R. found himself in that position and had a horrendous time of it versus Boston and Indiana.
The Brooklyn Nets opened the NBA’s off-season with a bang last week and the Knicks have answered in in short order. Which team will make the next big splash?
And for Steve Novak, you will be missed – in memoriam .