NBA Draft Reaction – The New Look Eastern Conference

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Whoa. Last night’s NBA Draft was eventful, no? Joe Caporoso and Chris Celletti decided to talk out their thoughts on the new look Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division. Brooklyn, Boston and Philadelphia all made major, major changes to their future while the New York Knicks had a relatively quiet but productive night by drafting Tim Hardaway Jr and signing undrafted free agent CJ Leslie. Let’s get into it…

Joe Caporoso - Let’s start with our team. What did you think of the Tim Hardaway Jr. selection? Personally, I think it was sensible value at 24 and he has a relatively NBA-ready game as a wing player in the Knicks small-ball system. The big assumption seems to be that JR Smith is now on his way out, although I think that could be a leap. I haven’t written off the chance of seeing Smith AND Hardaway Jr as key components of the Knicks second line.

Chris Celletti – I agree that this doesn’t make Smith’s departure a fait accompli. He certainly may still leave, but that’s not what the Hardaway pick is about, in my opinion. I agree with you that this is simply good value at the bottom end of the first round in a weak draft. You can make a case that there’s as much star potential in Hardaway than there is for anyone drafted last night, since there were simply no home-run prospects.  I watched a lot of Michigan hoops this year, and there’s no question that Hardaway was one of college basketball’s most talented players. The knocks on him aren’t ability, they’re about consistency. With the Knicks, though, he’s going to play a much different role than he did in college. Hardaway can shoot, and in the modern NBA you simply can’t have too many perimeter, catch-and-shoot players. Michigan coach John Beilein compared him to Danny Green. If that’s accurate, sign me up.

Along with the low-risk signing of Leslie, I think the Knicks had a pretty good night (as much as we can tell less than 24 hours after a draft, which is like, zero). What we do know is that the Knicks-Nets rivalry just got infinitely more interesting. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry are now hipsters. I have some pretty strong feelings on the trade, but let’s hear what you think about it first.

Joe Caporoso - Honestly, I’m still a bit shellshocked by it. What a bizarre, interesting move. My initial thoughts were that I disliked the moves for both sides. The Nets are going all in for a 1-2 year window with a core that isn’t good enough to win it all and have lost flexibility for the future. Meanwhile the Celtics gutted their team but are still stuck with Gerald Wallace’s awful contract and have limited cap space because of a certainly miserable Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green. Yet, when thinking it about it longer, if you are the Nets why not make this move? You are stuck in 2nd tier purgatory in the Eastern Conference. This trade brings more excitement to a dull roster and gives you a puncher’s chance to knock off Miami, Indiana or Chicago in a playoff series, who I still believe are the top three teams in the Conference. Many will say the Nets are now better than the Knicks and you can make a fair argument for that. However, I’m betting on a very tight race for the Atlantic Division title between the two New York teams while Boston toils in awfulness so hooray for that!

When looking at the Celtics, I think a Rondo trade becomes inevitable at this point. There is no way he is content on that roster. The Celtics might as well move him now before the inevitable clash with the coach or locker room meltdown. As for the Nets, MORE BANDWAGON FANS COME ON DOWN! Chris, are you buying a BROOKLYN KNIGHT shield and proclaiming them a legit contender in the East?

Chris Celletti – I’m taking a wait and see approach with the Nets. I don’t think it was a bad move for them. They were essentially capped out as it is, they got out of Gerald Wallace’s horrific contract and they’re better today than they were yesterday. But by how much? Did they make themselves good enough over the next two seasons to win a title? Are they really going to challenge Miami? I think, pretty strongly, that the answer is no. Firstly, quite frankly, the team is old. They have two legitimate players in their prime, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. There is zero debate that Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Joe Johnson are declining. Their best bench player is…Jason Terry?

The NBA has moved steadily more towards small ball. The Heat are back-to-back champs because they do it better than anyone else. The Knicks embraced it last season and finished second in the East. The Spurs adapted towards the trend and should have been champions. How are the Nets going to keep up? They’re starting a team with two centers and two (aging, slowing) small forwards. When the Nets face our Knicks next season, who is guarding Carmelo Anthony? KG? (Understandably, Melo would have to guard KG too, but it’s worth pointing out.) When they play Miami, who’s guarding LeBron James?

You know how it could work, though? With a really great coach. WHOOPS.

At this point, I think it’s honestly fair to believe that Jason Kidd is going to be a figurehead and that Lawrence Frank will be running the show. I mean, Jason Kidd hasn’t coached a day in his life, and now he’s going to manage the egos and playing time of Garnett and Pierce? He’s going to make crucial adjustments that will be NEEDED with a roster that might create more negative mismatches than positive ones? If you’re Billy King, aren’t you thinking to yourself “Oh crap, we hired J-Kidd too quickly”, considering that PHIL JACKSON IS UNEMPLOYED???

To reiterate, I don’t think this was a TERRIBLE deal for the Nets. I’m making that trade every single day if I’m them. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t questions about how good they are going to be. There are a lot, in fact, and the answers will be fascinating. I think if there’s a winner in the trade, it’s the NBA.

Joe Caporoso - It is also worth noting the quick and successful embrace of the rebuild that Philadelphia executed by giving up Jrue Holiday (who routinely torched the Knicks) and ending up with Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams, along with another 1st round pick (likely in the top ten) in a loaded draft next season. The Sixers won’t be a factor this season but a couple of years from now, watch out. As for now, the Atlantic Division is a showdown between the Nets and Knicks. Brooklyn is going to be BORING to watch and play an ugly brand of basketball but they should be 50 win type team. The Knicks will be exciting to watch but have their usual maddening flashes of inconsistency. Can either of them actually get over the 2nd round hump? I’m not sold yet.

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