A not-so-serious attempt at finding the third best team in the East

Who is the best team in the East not named the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers? Does it even matter? (No.) Won’t the Heat and Pacers just end up playing each other in the Eastern Conference Finals? (Yes… Most likely). Could the third best team end up finishing below .500? (Let’s just stop asking questions before this gets depressing). In a landscape no longer featuring relevant Bulls or Celtics teams, the Heat only have one real challenger to the throne in the East: the Pacers. To make matters worse, no team has stepped up to the plate either as a worthy challenger. Most experts saw the Nets as a legitimate title contender this year with the arrival of KG and Paul Pierce. Or they saw the return of Derrick Rose as the return of the Bulls. Perhaps the last possible contender in the East coming into the year was the Knicks, fresh off a 54 win campaign. But quite a lot can happen in just a few months. Derrick Rose tears his meniscus, and suddenly we can forget about the Bulls. Tyson Chandler fractures his fibula, general J.R. Smith-ery takes place at an unimaginably high rate, and the Knicks stop raining 3’s every night, and suddenly we can forget about the Knicks. And in Brooklyn, Deron Williams struggles with ankle injuries, KG falls off a cliff, and Jason Kidd tries his best to coach, and suddenly we can forget about Brooklyn too–I think. Yet, they have shown brief signs of life in recent weeks. But to keep things simple, the Bulls, Knicks, Nets, and Celtics (who previously had been one of the Heat’s rivals, before entering tank mode) are irrelevant in the East. That leaves us with a hodgepodge of teams in the East that, many of whom came into the season in tank-mode. Teams like the Bucks, Sixers, Magic, and Bobcats (wait, they’d actually be the eight seed if the playoffs started today…), coupled with teams trying not to be in tank-mode, but suck enough to still be in tank-mode (see: Cavs and Pistons) are afterthoughts this year. So who is even left in the East? That leaves with three teams: the Raptors, Hawks, and Wizards.

The Suspects Continue reading

The Curious Case of J.R. Smith

Last night the Knicks benched their controversial clown of a sidekick J.R. Smith in a win over the title favorite Heat. Just one year ago, Smith took home the Sixth Man of the Year award, helping lead the Knicks to the second best record in the East. With an expiring contract though, just about every common fan could foresee the Knicks overpaying Smith. To the Knicks’ credit, they did not award him the type of 5 yr/$50 million type deal that many expected. They kept him in a Knick uniform for a price of $18 million over three years. By all statistical measures though, Smith is still one of the most overpaid players in the league. He’s followed up his career year in true J.R. fashion, shooting 42% from the field and 35% from behind the arc. Statistically speaking, Smith is one of the worst players in the league this year. His PER is below 10 at the moment (9.91 to be exact), when around 13 is average for the league.  Continue reading

Cavs Officially End the Andrew Bynum Experiment

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At least the Cavs were smart enough to deal Bynum before having to pay him $14 million this year.

Sixty-nine days. That is how long it took the Cavs to cut ties with Andrew Bynum. Talk about poetic justice. The Cavs dealt Bynum to the Bulls for Luol Deng and three future draft picks. Coming into the year, the Cavs were a trendy playoff pick in the East. In retrospect, it’s easy to laugh at the sentiment for a variety of reasons. Perhaps, because the Cavs’ #1 pick Anthony Bennett looks like the worst top pick of all time. Or maybe it’s because Andrew Bynum contemplated retiring a month into the season. Or maybe it’s because Kyrie Irving is having his worst season as a pro. What do you get when you mix that all together, plus giving Matthew Dellavedova major minutes? A pitiful squad currently 13th in the standings in the East, ahead only of the Milwaukee Bucks, who arguably aren’t an NBA franchise and the Sixers, who decided to trade their franchise 23 year old All Star point guard for an 18 year old with a torn ACL. To make it even more clear just how bad Bynum has been so far, numerous NBA teams had recently expressed interest in trading for Bynum–so that they could cut him! It’s not clear exactly what the Cavs are looking to do from here. Building around Irving, Waiters, Bennett, and Tristan Thompson has been a futile, if at least amusing, attempt at winning games. It’s doubtful that Deng changes much this year. At the very least, Deng pushes Bennett closer to working at McDonalds, but beyond that, it is more about cap flexibility. Deng is in the final year of his contract, and it was no secret that Chicago had been trying to deal him before the deadline. On paper, a Kyrie-Waiters-Deng-Thompson-Varejao starting five doesn’t sound that bad–especially when there are only three teams in the East sitting above .500 (and one of them is Atlanta, at 18-17). But what are the Cavs trying to accomplish at this point? They are so far down the standings, doesn’t it make more sense to complete the art of tanking that they seem to have perfected ever since LeBron left? At this point, not even the most delusional Cleveland fans could envision LeBron returning home, so they can finally forget about that. Teaming up Kyrie with Jabari Parker would at least give the Cavs some reason for hope. Or if the Cavs are sick of having to wait for young players to develop, they could package their first rounder this year with Varejao and try to acquire a star. Continue reading