Season Preview: Boston and New York

It's time to start the BlazersEdge Season Preview!  But before we start, a confession:  I absolutely HATE predictions.  Every schmuck and their poodle--from the guy with the 2-hit blog (Hi mom!) to the on-set stars at ESPN and TNT--is going to come up with a list of brilliant prognostications between now and October.  Being right is nearly as random as winning the lottery, but everyone will crow about their six correct picks and ignore the twenty-four others just the same.  Welcome to modern-day sports coverage: 80% about the sportscaster/writer, 20% about the sport.

In order to sidestep the madness a little, we're going to use a different format here.  I'm going to do some legwork for you, listing a couple of teams each day, their statistical comparisons from last season, their summer moves, and their lineup.  Then I'm going to leave it to YOU to do most of the weighing in.  You can use the information provided, you can dig deeper into the statistical world, or you can just use gut instinct...whatever, just tell us whether this team is heading up or down and why.  Post in the comments section or by e-mail.  At the end of the day I will add a few of my thoughts and I will pick a post of the day from the person I think makes most sense. (That may or may not be the person whose views I most agree with.  It could be just someone who made me consider things in a new way.)

We'll start in the Atlantic Division with a couple of struggling teams looking for improvement:  Boston and New York.

BOSTON CELTICS

Record:  33-49, 3rd in Atlantic Division, 11th in Eastern Conference

Statistical Comparison:
Noteable:
5th in the league in field goal %
26th in rebounding
29th in turnovers

Others:
12th in the league in scoring (98ppg)
20th in opponent scoring (99.5ppg)
-1.5 ppg differential
19th in opponent field goal %
13th in three-point %
12th in assists
17th in steals
11th in blocks
13th in opponent turnovers

Additions:  
Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair, Rajon Rondo (R), Leon Powe (R), Kevin Pittsnogle (R), Allan Ray (R)
Subtractions:  
Raef LaFrentz, Orien Greene

Key Players
PG:  Delonte West, Sebastian Telfair, Rajon Rondo
SG:  Paul Pierce, Tony Allen
SF:  Wally Szczerbiak, Gerald Green
PF:  Ryan Gomes, Al Jefferson, Brian Scalabrine, Kevin Pittsnogle
C:  Theo Ratliff, Kendrick Perkins

Update [2006-9-18 18:12:30 by Dave]: Paul Pierce is definitely a superstar, and underrated at that. That's one thing the Celtics can depend on. Other than that, I see a lot of young and/or mismatched talent. I like Delonte West at point and I think he'll be an asset as long as he keeps developing, but Ainge seems to be once again taking the "spaghetti on the wall" approach to the position. I'm not sure how Wally fits. I'm not sure either Gomes or Jefferson is good enough yet to take the starting PF spot definitively. I think they'll be playing power forwards at center a bit too because I don't think Theo holds up a whole season as the starter. Rebounding was a huge issue and remains unaddressed. They want to run but they need the ball first. Turnovers were another problem and Bassy won't help with that. I don't see Boston falling in the standings but I don't see major improvement either.

NEW YORK KNICKS

Record:  23-59, Last in Atlantic Division, Last in Eastern Conference

Statistical Comparisons:
Noteable:
-6.4 ppg differential (2nd worst in league)
27th in opponent scoring (102ppg)
30th in assists
30th in turnovers
29th in blocks

Others:
20th in the league in scoring (95.6ppg)
13th in field goal %
25th in opponent field goal %
14th in three-point %
13th in rebounding
21st in steals
18th in opponent turnovers

Additions:  
Jarred Jeffries, Renaldo Balkman (R), Mardy Collins (R)
Subtractions:  
Jackie Butler

Key Players
PG:  Stephon Marbury, Nate Robinson
SG:  Steve Francis, Jamaal Crawford
SF:  Jared Jeffries, Quentin Richardson, Jalen Rose, Renaldo Balkman
PF:  Channing Frye, David Lee, Malik Rose, Maurice Taylor
C:  Eddie Curry, Jerome James

Update [2006-9-18 18:12:30 by Dave]: You already knew that New York would have to improve with the players it already had or not at all. I don't see Balkman or Collins filling any of the massive gaps in the franchise, at least not immediately. I do, however, foresee a slightly more motivated Marbury under Isiah. I think Frye, Lee, and Robinson all have a chance to get better. I also think Isiah will end up trading some of those expiring contracts. They're still going to be ugly for a long time, but I think there's a *slight* upward trend coming for New York this year.

Thumbs up or thumbs down, how far, and why?  You are officially invited to fire away!

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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