Preseason is when teams want to work through mistakes and identify the most pressing issues. Camps have now given way to games, which offer a different level of looking at a team’s identity. It would be asking for the impossible to have every problem identified, let alone remedied, by the end of October; the best-case scenario is to simply not carry too many from the start into the season. What should every team be asking itself during the preseason? We’ve got you covered. Today, we look at the Eastern Conference.
NEW YORK: The age-old question about the Knicks roster won’t be a question readily answered this preseason, for one large reason: The Knicks are holding out their oldest players from practicing daily (Rasheed Wallace has only been doing conditioning work, with boxing or bike drills). It’s very hard to develop continuity that way, but there are larger questions about those who can play right now, and they center on Carmelo Anthony. Will he see time at power forward, against his wishes? Anthony had a PER of 29.5 at power forward (where he played 19 percent of his minutes), compared with 17.4 at small forward. He averaged 39 points there per 48 minutes, compared with 29 at the three, and shot better, too. He says he doesn’t want to do it, though. Mike Woodson should show him those stats this preseason to persuade his star he’s better off with more minutes as the four man.
BROOKLYN: There are nine new players on this roster, from Joe Johnson to Andray Blatche. It’s simple, yet prudent, to wonder how quickly this team will find itself in synch rather than a nice group of individuals bundled together by GM Billy King. There is so much hype around the guards of MarShon Brooks, Deron Williams and Johnson (even Gerald Wallace, to an extent) it’s easy to forget that the Nets’ depth down low is limited to reclamation project Blatche, good rebounder but middling defender Kris Humphries, untested Mirza Teletovic, and Brook Lopez. None jump out as terribly stable (Lopez has foot concerns) with post defense.
BOSTON: Does Jason Terry play at shooting guard in the role Ray Allen created, like a stand-in actor, or will he turn the two into a more dynamic role for the Celtics? His history would suggest more of the former. Last season in Dallas, 90 percent of Terry’s shots were on jumpers — an even more uneven percentage than Allen, whose shot selection was 85 percent jumpers. There are players who can be more dynamic at the two than Terry in Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee, to be sure, but if Terry sticks to his game defenses can use their game plans against Allen as their de facto plans for Terry by just cut-and-pasting. Maybe Doc Rivers will employ other players to create to-the-hoop scoring and leave Terry to his time-tested jump shot, but the Celtics will be better off if the old-dog shooting guard can add a few new tricks.
TORONTO: We’ve all heard the grief given to David Kahn for taking point guards Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn in the same draft, but don’t forget that the Raptors drafted the same exact player just three years apart. Terrence Ross and DeMar DeRozan are the same exact guy, comfortable to pull-up with a jumper or cut to the rim anytime, while less dependable to guard and even worse if asked to rebound. (And this came after a period where they drafted exclusively forwards in Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani, Rafael Araujo, Charlie Villanueva and Ed Davis, to name a few) So the obvious goal for Dwane Casey should be to find a way to have DeRozan and Ross co-exist on the court together and keep them both productive.
PHILADELPHIA: The leadership void hasn’t been filled in Philly, not that the departures of Lou Williams to Atlanta and Andre Iguodala to Denver helped. A team lauded nationally and vilified locally last season for its democratic approach to sharing the load — the benefits of a “different leading scorer every night” mentality fall short of the negatives of not having a clear player to turn to in the stretch — has the same existential problem. Andrew Bynum should fill that role in time because of his temperament and talent but who takes the reins before he comes back healthy?