Training camp for NBA teams are going to begin very soon. With teams trying to welcome back returning players and integrate new players for the 2018/2019 season, it is interesting to take a second look at the reformatted teams and their potential.
With all the free agency moves, trades and signings being pretty much over, it is time to take stock and take a look at how much better some of the lower bracket teams have improved. It is time again to place our chips on the teams that we see most potential to make a leap into the postseason after missing it last season.
The fall from grace was so rapid since the top-seeded 2015 Hawks dismantled their All-Star team for succession planning.
It has been a haphazard rebuild but alas, the wait seems to be over soon.
Kent Bazemore has flourished as a starter and becoming the shooting guard that can hang with the best. The trade that brought Jeremy Lin from the Nets is a good relief for Bazemore because the Hawks could use some of the "Linsanity" from the bench to counter opponents guards. Recovering from his recent injury, Jeremy Lin will be looking to prove his worth for a longer term with the Hawks, which bodes well for the team with his added firepower and drives.
Justin Anderson brings dependable offense and switching ability that he has shown to possess in Philadelphia. The Atlant Hawks have to count their blessings for pulling off the trade with Dallas to land Trae Young, the nations top college shooter and playmaker. This Oklahoma product shows flashes of Stephen Curry in his game. He has a long way to go in terms of NBA size and athleticism but the potential is bright for the young point guard and the Hawks. A 20-year veteran, Vince Carter, is the dark horse signing that would give the young guard unit a much-needed mentor to show them the ropes of preparation to be a professional. Work ethics, discipline, development are some key areas that this former All-Star can share his wisdom in.
At the center position, Miles Plumlee and Dewayne Dedmon form the second tier big men rotation. Not fantastic but expect the Hawks to make some maneuvers to land one more dependable big man to bolster this mix.
Taurean Prince is the rising young star who has shown that he can hold his own in this league. His dependable offense and growing ability to space the floor would come in handy to aid his teammates to elevate their games too. Thomas Robinson is a solid contributor in short spurts of bench minutes, giving a stack of quick rebounds and defense while letting starters have some rest. A good piece to support this young team.
Looking at the above roster, the Hawks are better than last season by a notch. Barring injuries or trades, this team would see a good number of extra wins and, in the weaker East, might rise enough to squeeze into an eighth or seventh seed.
One's poison is another's elixir. At the prime of the team's win percentage, the Toronto Raptors owners decided to part ways with a coach of the year, Dwane Casey. This meant that the Detroit Pistons had the good fortune of finding a proven developmental coach who knows how to get wins consistently, a trait that the Piston so very miss for the past season.
Big is the theme for the Pistons at the moment, with two of their pillar stars being centers. Blake Griffin, a veteran All-Star, and Andre Drummond, a first-time All-Star. Both big men are known for good numbers and good post plays. The team is unique is going against the tide of "small ball" and investing heavily in these two "big ball" men.
There is also the notorious Champion, Zaza Pachulia, to add to the mix of big men rotation. A pretty unconventional concentration of post forces. It would be interesting if coach Casey weaves them appropriately to good effect.
Ish Smith, Glen Robinson III, Jameer Nelson, Kay Felder form the long string of guards that the team can call upon. Pretty deep bench for this department should the playbook require. The unit is headlined by starting point guard Reggie Jackson and the veteran Jose Calderon, who can both provide the leadership and mentorship to gel the wingmen together.
Given the hands-on and personable leadership of Dwane Casey, the hungry team and slew of varied players, it is in the coaching staff's favor to whip up a storm during this training camp to formulate the character of this team to win. Known for his knack for putting diverse players in positions to succeed back in University of Kentucky and Toronto Raptors, we can only expect to be surprised by the outcome by coach Casey.
New York Knicks
The hire of coach David Fizdale is one bright spot for the Knicks. Tarnished by the scandals over Phil Jackson, Charles Oakley as well as the management, the Knicks fans have had enough of the tabloid limelight. A proven playoff coach like Fizdale will bring a much-needed stability and leadership to the Knicks team that beamed in potential but had been let down largely by misfortune the past few years.
The star in Kristaps Porzingis gives the Knicks a centerpiece with which to build around. Outstanding in offense and rising ineffectiveness, Porzingis looks ready to take a step forward to assume a leadership role for this team. With his recovery from injury, expect to see the Latvian Unicorn shine again with his smooth post game and outside shooting. His time spent at the weight room and growing bulk will also make him more formidable than his former lanky frame.
Tim Hardaway Jr. made his best season in five years after landing to play for the Knicks. A steady wingman, he basically claimed career highs for almost all categories, including starting in 54 out of 82 games and clocking 33 minutes per game with relative health. Hardaway Jr was instrumental in the Knicks progression with a stat line of 17.5 points per game, 2.8 rebounds per game and 2.7 assists per game. Not bad beginning for the former Atlanta Hawk player who played in a different system.
Noah Vonleh and Enes Kanter give the team an added security for cleaning the glass and delivering high percentage buckets through put-back dunks. Protection of the glass will give the young Knicks a chance to stay relevant on defense.
Frank Ntilikina, Emmanuel Mudiay and Jarrett Jack give the stable guard rotation that Fizdale will appreciate for his playbook. Mario Hezonja and Kevin Knox are likely the X-factors due to their unique combo-guard size, ball handling ability and shooting prowess.
It would be exciting to see the coaching staff put all these good potential pieces into a decent team. With enough time, the trajectory of this team is pretty high.