2012 NBA Playoffs logo2012 NBA Playoffs

5 Fixes for Every Team Bounced from the First Round of NBA Playoffs

Rich KurtzmanSenior Analyst IMay 14, 2012

5 Fixes for Every Team Bounced from the First Round of NBA Playoffs

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    The NBA playoffs have come, and for eight teams, they've already gone.

     

    For two teams, Dallas and Utah, the first round brought opponents that thoroughly outmatched them, as they were swept out of the postseason with quickness.

     

    Others, namely Denver and Memphis, pushed their series to the seven-game limit, only to eventually be bested by better squads.

     

    Now those eight teams have lots of time on their hands to go fishing, golfing or even work on their basketball game in preparation for next season.

     

    And if those eight teams want to make sure they're still competing this time next year, they'll have to fix numerous issues.

New York Knicks

2 of 9

    1. Hire a new coach


    Carmelo Anthony already got one to resign this year in Mike D'Antoni, and while he hopes the Knicks re-sign Mike Woodson, there could be better options. Like Phil Jackson, as some speculate he may want to go to the Big Apple to coach.

     

    If they can't land Jackson, it sounds like Woodson will be the man in Madison Square Garden for years to come.

     

    2. Pass the ball, Melo


    So, if New York has found their new coach in Woodson, he's got a ton of work to do.

     

    First, he's got to get Melo to pass the rock to his teammates. While Anthony is undoubtedly one of the best scorers in the NBA, he not only takes too many shots, he stops the offense dead with his consistently slow isolation play.

     

    3. More offensive balance


    When (if) Melo decides he has to spread the love around a bit more, the team will benefit because they'll become more multidimensional compared to the seemingly simple-to-defend offense they run currently.

     

    Anthony scored an astounding 139 points in the 4-1 losing effort to the Miami Heat, more than double any other player (Amar'e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith tied with 61 in the series).

     

    4. Backup point guard


    When Baron Davis went down, it was not only a horrific looking injury, it really hurt the Knicks chances of winning the series. Why? They had no backup point guard after that.

     

    They must go find someone to back up Jeremy Lin—if they intend on making Lin the starter—and a veteran leader is just the kind of player New York needs.

     

    Maybe Andre Miller is interested? Or they could go after Steve Nash, and let him start.

     

    5. Hire a team therapist


    The Knicks are about as dysfunctional as an NBA team can be. Melo sandbagged and got D'Antoni fired, Linsanity came and went, people wanted Anthony traded and Amar'e nearly sliced his hand in half when he pounded on a fire extinguisher door after Game 2.

     

    Hiring a therapist could not only possibly remedy Melo's apparent sharing problem, but also help with anger management for Amar'e and at least diagnose what's going on in the head of J.R. Smith. (Hey, that sounds like a catchy reality TV show title...)

Utah Jazz

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    1. Scoring

    The Jazz averaged a lowly 86.2 points per game as they were swept by San Antonio, as Al Jefferson led the team in scoring with 18.3 per.

     

    Utah's got to get some much-improved scoring from their backcourt if they want to be a threat in 2013.

     

    2. Sign a three-point shooter


    Something that will help with that scoring deficiency is a legitimate three-point threat. Utah's 20 percent from behind the arc was the lowest mark of any team in the playoffs, a glaring weak point as they move forward.

     

    3. Sign an explosive 2-guard


    So, what will aid the team's improvement in both areas? Signing a 2-guard that loves to score.

     

    Think Ray Allen is interested in playing in Utah?

     

    4. Bench depth


    Along with signing a starting shooting guard, Utah would benefit from adding depth to their bench. There will be an astronomical amount of free agents available, and the Jazz need to be players to make the playoffs again next season.

     

     

    5. Time to develop youth


    Of course, they've got a ton of youth on the team and what they really need is time. Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors and Alec Burks could be the foundation for a strong future, but only time will tell how great each of them can be.

Atlanta Hawks

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    1. Hire a new coach


    Like New York, Atlanta is in need of a new head man in charge of the players. Larry Drew's done so-so with the Hawks, at 84-64 over the last two years, but they can do better.

     

    2. Joe Johnson must step up


    Yes, Johnson led the team in scoring, but he's got to prove he's an actual leader on the hardwood.

     

    Passive pushing of his teammates will not fly any longer, as the highest paid—and best—player on the team, Johnson must step into that role if Atlanta hopes to contend.

     

    3. Secondary scoring


    Beyond Johnson, the Hawks have nearly nobody to score, leading to their playoffs-worst 82.2 points per game against Boston.

     

    The Celtics are a disciplined defensive team, but they're also ancient and Atlanta should have put more points on the board.

     

    4. Defense


    Despite holding the C's to only 92 points per, they finished the postseason second worst in blocks (3.3) and steals (5.5) per game. The Hawks could learn a thing or two from Boston, who won championships by dedicating themselves on the defensive end.

     

    5. Michael Gearon, shut up


    Gearon, the Hawks' owner, was fined $35,000 last week after publicly criticizing officials following their Game 5 loss to Boston.

     

    Gearon said:

    We don't get any calls, which I know everybody always hears. But I'll give you a stat. Last night, we are playing this old physical team. They are old. I know what happens when you play basketball: Old guys foul. (Kevin) Garnett is the dirtiest guy in the league. We are playing Boston last night and they had two fouls the whole first half. We had five times that and we're athletic.

     

    Not only did he possibly hurt the team on the floor with the referees in the next game, but Garnett said Gearon's comments gave him “some extra gas,” for Game 6, in which he put up 28 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks.

Dallas Mavericks

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    1. A youth movement


    Dallas has all the experience, but what they need is youth and athleticism. The Mavs, with Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and the rest of their aging '90s All-Star squad may have won the title last year, but they've fallen far and need to rejuvenate their roster with young, athletically gifted players.

     

    A guy like Ramon Sessions would be perfect for them, but he's got a player option with L.A. and it seems unlikely he'll opt out after this year.

     

    2. Young backup point guard


    That athleticism was noticeably lacking after both Caron Butler and J.J. Barea left the team following the title win.

     

    Dallas has to find a younger and more athletic point guard to backup Jason Kidd if they want to seriously contend for another title before the end of Kidd's career.

     

    3. Center


    After letting Tyson Chandler walk in the offseason, Dallas' glaring weakness was their center position and they were fifth worst in rebounds (40.5) and averaged the third-fewest blocks (3.5) per game in the playoffs.

     

    4. Share the rock


    While Dallas was great in the regular season at dropping dimes (20.9), they fell far in the postseason to only 15.5 assists per contest. Ball movement and player movement lead to easier buckets and Dallas tends to stand and shoot too often.

     

    5. Run more


    Something that will improve those team assist numbers is getting out in transition for run-out buckets, which Dallas did 10th worst this season.

     

    They've got to learn to push the pace at times to keep teams off balance and not easily contend their jump shooting.

Orlando Magic

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    1. Fire Stan Van Gundy


    The writing is on the wall and Van Gundy's got to go. When it came out earlier in the year that Dwight Howard wanted Van Gundy fired, it created some extremely awkward situations on camera and the locker room must have been even worse.

     

    Orlando got Howard, now they've got to keep him happy with a new coach.

     

    2. Hire a new coach


    Once they fire Stan, think his brother Jeff will be interested in the position? Serious candidates would almost certainly include Nate McMillan and Flip Saunders, and there are other qualified replacements available as well, especially if Woodson or Drew are indeed let go by their teams.

     

    3. Utilize Dwight more on offense


    One of the most frustrating parts of Van Gundy's offense is his inability to fully utilize Howard on the offensive end. Too many times the Magic offense has lacked that mystique, as four players stand around the arc with only Howard down low.

     

    They need to play more two- and three-man games with Dwight and let him go to work on offense much more often.

     

    4. New point guard?


    Jameer Nelson is a free agent, and it may be time for Orlando to part ways with him. The seven-year point is still solid, but his numbers have steadily declined as of late, as have his athletic abilities to quickly get to the hoop.

     

    Of course, he has a player option, so it's up to Nelson whether he'll be back with the Magic or not.

     

    5. Get Howard healthy


    The Magic were outrebounded by a margin of 8.6 per game, outscored by 10.8 per and thoroughly dismantled by the Pacers.

     

    Dwight Howard is the key to the team's success and his health is paramount.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    1. Trade O.J. Mayo


    To say Mayo underwhelmed in the postseason would be an understatement, as he shot a disastrous 27 percent from the field against the Clippers.

     

    Now some are saying Mayo may be traded, and it would make sense for the team because he and Rudy Gay are too similar of players.

     

    2. Find a backup point guard


    When Mike Conley was off the floor, they used Gay as the backup point guard, which didn't work well because he needs to be able to come off screens and make plays rather than setting up teammates.

     

    It's a huge void that was clear as day in against L.A., and it's a piece Memphis has to find before competing.

     

    3. Marc Gasol must step up


    Gasol played well against the Clippers, but not nearly as superbly as he did last postseason when he carried Memphis past San Antonio in the first round. Gasol averaged 20 points and 12.4 boards last year versus the Spurs, and while his scoring was still solid (15), the center's rebounding dropped to a dreadful 6.7 against L.A.

     

    He knows he has got to lead his team for them to be victorious in the postseason; let's see how he reacts.

     

    4. Grab some three-point shooters


    While Conley knocked down 50 percent of his three-point attempts against the Clippers (11-for-22), Memphis only had three other players make a shot from behind the arc in the series.

     

    Free agency will have shooters, and they could possibly trade Mayo for one as well.

     

    5. More offense


    At 94.6 points per game, the Grizz were 20th in the league this year. Simply stated, they need more punch on the offensive end to truly contend for championship.

Chicago Bulls

8 of 9

    1. Get Derrick Rose back


    For Chicago, losing Derrick Rose to a torn ACL was the demise of their season.

     

    Rose is a spectacular player, able to dominate on the offensive end with speed, quickness and an explosive ability that only few other players in the NBA possess today. Getting him back will remedy much of what ails the Bulls, but that's not all.

     

    2. Better balance


    When Rose returns, the Bulls have to become more balanced. Rose is a beast, yes, but the scoring load should be distributed more evenly if Chicago wants to become a complete team.

     

    3. Luol Deng's improvement


    One of those men could be Luol Deng, who put together a good series and has steadily improved as a player each year. Deng scored 20.5 PPG in Bulls wins, compared to only eight per in losses, meaning he's got to become more consistent for Chi-town.

     

    4. More scoring overall


    While the Bulls are a stifling defensive team, their scoring leaves something to be desired. Their 84.3 PPG came on 42 percent shooting in the postseason and Chicago has to focus on their efficiency on the offensive end in the future.

     

    5. Free throws


    For a team as physical as the Bulls, knocking down free throws is key because other teams will foul them back.

     

    Chicago made an appallingly low 64.9 percent of their shots from the charity stripe in the first round, a number that must improve if they want to make a deep run soon.

Denver Nuggets

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    1. Find a backup point guard


    Andre Miller played valiantly for the Nuggets this postseason, but he's made it clear he doesn't want to be a backup unless it's on a championship-caliber team.

     

    While Denver has rookie Julyan Stone on the bench, they'll likely have to go find a free-agent point guard to develop behind the blossoming Ty Lawson.

     

    2. Defense


    Denver was the most deadly offense this season—No. 1 in scoring, assists and fast-break points—but their defense has been lacking for years. The Nuggets must commit to dedicated defense, not only frustrating teams but shutting them down completely and walking to easy wins.

     

    If Denver could have limited the Lakers to a few less points per game, they would have won the series and still been competing this year.

     

    3. Develop JaVale McGee


    The Nuggets have said they want to bring back McGee, who played well for them to finish the regular season and even better in his first playoff series against L.A. If they do, they know he's an extremely raw talent that will have to be worked with for countless hours in the gym.

     

    His offensive game leaves a lot to be desired, though he seems confident enough in himself to utilize post moves. If Denver can teach him more of those moves, as well as proper positioning on box-outs, McGee could be an All-Star center with the Nuggets in the future.

     

    4. Confidence in Danilo Gallinari


    While Lawson certainly stepped up for Denver in the series, Danilo Gallinari shrunk under the pressure. Gallo's got to understand he's the team's No. 1 offensive threat outside of Lawson and his size and athleticism gives him a great deal of versatility to do so many things on the court.

     

    If Gallinari can do some growing up, the Nuggets offense will be even more potent once the postseason comes.

     

    5. Learn better half-court offense


    Speaking of improving their offense, Denver must learn how to operate in the half court with precision. George Karl's offense is all about run-and-gun fun, but playoff-winning O depends on running set plays to perfection and capitalizing on every possession.

     

    Yes, the Nuggets will always win in transition with Karl as coach, but if they want to move past the first round again, he'll teach them the half-court game.

     

    Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist and aspiring professional sportswriter. Follow Rich on facebook and/or twitter for links to interesting articles, great retweets from your favorite athletes and need-to-know info on everything Colorado sports related.

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