2013 NBA Playoffs: Predicting Deron Williams' Impact on the East Playoff Picture
Deron Williams is easily the Napoleon of this summer’s free agency. Where he signs will have a huge ripple effect on the Eastern Conference as we know it.
Excepting this season's result, the Eastern Conference has lately stood as a dwarf in the face of the Western Conference. Williams will have an instantaneous impact on how the East is run. Do not expect him to be the sole beneficiary of some key free-agency moves and an elongated season.
The 2013 NBA playoffs will be a doozy, and if Deron Williams stays with the Brooklyn Nets, he may be settling down in the most unpredictable conference the league has to offer.
No. 8 Seed: Orlando Magic
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Oh, Dwight. How the cards have crumbled and fallen right before your eyes.
It’s amazing how Howard’s plan has backfired, as the Nets have come upon a deal with the Atlanta Hawks for Joe Johnson, leaving him on the outside looking in.
If Howard’s true desire is to play in Brooklyn, then he may just have to wait until this season is up to become a free agent and go through this circus all over again. That would leave the Orlando Magic with a chance in next year's playoffs, but how much he'll be assisting his franchise towards a common goal is a huge question mark.
Without Howard, the Magic seemed much more focused, but if Howard doesn’t get what he wants, Orlando could be in for many more distractions.
No. 7 Seed: Philadelphia 76ers
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The Philadelphia 76ers did not make any huge moves in the offseason, thus far. So far they have re-signed Lavoy Allen and traded the Miami Heat for Arnett Moultrie, a big man who separated himself from the bunch in front of coach Doug Collins before the 2012 NBA draft.
The Sixers are going to use Moultrie as an athletic big man who can get up and down the floor quickly and fit perfectly into their transition game, which has grown vital in exposing older, more experienced franchises in the East.
Moultrie is a project, but he can make a quick impact on the Sixers in the upcoming season. What has yet to come is what will ultimately decipher the Sixers’ direction when the season starts back up. They could amnesty Elton Brand, which would free up cap space but also toss Moultrie into the spotlight quicker than expected.
Another big consideration that Philadelphia needs to make is whether or not they are willing to keep Andre Iguodala on board. He’s proven that, under his command, Philly is not going to get too far into the playoffs.
It’s a sign of growth and success when a team makes it to the postseason, but it becomes a sign of complacency and neutralism when a team gets no further than the first round (they'd never have made it out if Derrick Rose were healthy). Sorry, Iggy. Your time may be up.
Still, the Sixers have a few young players, who, with more time in the league, can influence a franchise collectively. Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams (if he returns) and Evan Turner are all bright spots in Philadelphia’s lineup that will keep them above water.
No. 6 Seed: Chicago Bulls
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To recover from losing Derrick Rose for a large chunk of the 2012-13 season, the Bulls have been scouting for a veteran guard, someone with the capabilities to lead a little more and not simply score.
According to ESPN, both Brandon Roy and Derek Fisher are on the Bulls’ radar. Roy, despite the knee injury, seems like the far better candidate, as he would hit the league with a lot to prove coming out of retirement. During his last installment with the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2011 NBA playoffs, he proved that he still has some juice by leading a 24-point comeback against the Dallas Mavericks.
Roy would not have to shoulder a lot of the weight of the squad, but with Richard Hamilton, an aging veteran with injury issues himself, and Luol Deng at the position, he would create offensive production off the bench.
The Bulls have a lot to take care of this offseason to make themselves not only one of the top defensive teams in the Eastern Conference, but to score enough points to win. Without Rose, finding solidarity in their offense is going to be a challenge; the Bulls are stacked with role players while he’s out.
Omer Asik may no longer be with the team, which snatches depth from the low post, but the Bulls still have enough to retain some form of elite basketball until Rose returns.
They won’t make ripples, so it would be foolish to expect them to land in the top tier of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
No. 5 Seed: Brooklyn Nets
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According to Sports Illustrated, the Atlanta Hawks have agreed to deal Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets for Anthony Morrow, Jordan Farmar, Deshawn Stevenson, Jordan Williams and Johan Petro, along with a draft pick Brooklyn received from Houston.
Is it a fan’s place to say whether or not a deal should have been done?
Yes! That is the job of any fanbase of any sport in America. Remember when the New York Knicks sent everyone with the exception of Amar'e Stoudemire and Mike D’Antoni (exaggeration) to the Denver Nuggets for the services of Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups?
Who are we kidding? They did it all for ‘Melo; Billups was just along for the ride.
The Nets gave up a lot of role players for Joe Johnson, who is one of the most overrated, overpaid basketball players in the history of the NBA.
I guess he’s not quite up there with Rashard Lewis, though.
Thinking about how disheartening, unemotional and stale Johnson has been in his time with the Atlanta Hawks does not make me overly ambitious about how strong the Nets will be once they enter the 2013 NBA playoffs.
Being alongside Deron Williams—if the point guard chooses to stay—will not alter his mentality. Johnson will be the same straight-faced perimeter shooter that he was with the Hawks. Yet, he could add the offense that the Nets need to take the primary scoring abilities off of Williams’ shoulders.
Williams could return to his traditional point guard duties, and Johnson could be that perimeter threat drawing defenses out of the low post for players like Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace to go to work.
No Dwight Howard necessary. The Nets could hit the playoffs almost instantly.
Will they get far? That’s another story.
No. 4 Seed: New York Knicks
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It’s undeniable that without the offensive guidance/defensive ignorance of Mike D’Antoni and more time with Mike Woodson, the New York Knicks would have been seeded higher than they were when they met the Miami Heat in the first round.
Despite Amar'e Stoudemire’s struggles to find his place with the Knicks after Carmelo Anthony’s arrival, both Tyson Chandler and ‘Melo took it upon themselves to become leaders by example. Anthony became more of a defensive-minded player, while Chandler took his position under the rim.
Woodson brought rookie Iman Shumpert deeper into the fold as his athleticism and attention on the defensive end became a strong catalyst for New York’s victories.
Bringing Jeremy Lin back would keep a point guard around that has the potential to be a great scorer as well as facilitator. A full season beside ‘Melo could expose that.
If the Knicks could get a full season together—they haven't done that for the last two seasons—with a full head of steam in the roster and coaching staff, they could be a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference.
However, earning a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference requires a designated leader, someone who can direct all ends of the floor precisely and with elite ability. Or they'll need an incredibly balanced team—something that the Knicks are not, at least without a few more roster moves.
No. 3 Seed: Indiana Pacers
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The Indiana Pacers are in a not-so-tough spot when it comes to deciding whether or not to match or heighten the offer to Roy Hibbert that was proposed by the Portland Trail Blazers.
It’s a no-brainer. The first-year All-Star contributed heavily to one of the Pacers’ most devastating punches against the Miami Heat, but the fear lies in whether or not his inactivity rings more true to the franchise than his involvement.
The Pacers will only retain the No. 3 seed if Donnie Walsh can see the big picture and how strong Hibbert could be in a league craving big men with fundamentals. If Indiana allowed Hibbert to walk away, they would be making a grave mistake that would affect the present and future of the organization.
Letting go of that big-body presence would force Indiana to plummet in the power rankings, as they would return to a team that relied squarely on the jump shot. We all saw how that worked out for the New York Knicks before Tyson Chandler became their man in the low post...
Indiana is looking to bring back George Hill and the rest of their core group, which only furthers their experience and maturity in the Eastern Conference. They learned what makes them fall; now it’s time for them to figure out what makes them thrive.
No. 2 Seed: Boston Celtics
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The Boston Celtics ended up with Jared Sullinger, Kris Joseph and Fab Melo on draft night. None of these men will grace the starting lineup in place of either Brandon Bass or Kevin Garnett this season.
Signing Garnett to a three-year, $34 million extension to keep him on board as the starting center guarantees his position on the floor when games begin for Boston. Paul Pierce is not going to be traded or amnestied, despite how obvious it was that his defense against arguably the best player in the league was largely ineffective.
You have Rajon Rondo, one of the top-five best point guards in the league right now, and only a fool—which Danny Ainge has proven to be from time to time—would let him be any less influential than he has been.
There is Avery Bradley, a promising defensive presence at the shooting guard position, and Brandon Bass, a power forward who can be flawlessly efficient, at least sometimes.
The Boston Celtics work frighteningly well off of chemistry and cohesiveness.
With their previous unit intact—excepting Ray Allen, most likely—depending on the direction of this summer’s free agency, the only team primed to beat out Boston is Miami.
No. 1 Seed: Miami Heat
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LeBron James has become the Miami Heat organization's face after leading the team to a 2011-12 NBA championship. The Heat are firmly planted atop of the Eastern Conference.
The starting lineup will not change much due to the fact that the Heat dealt their draft pick, Arnett Moultrie, to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Justin Hamilton from LSU.
Hamilton doesn’t fit Miami’s game plan athletically, but he does provide the franchise with depth because the Heat are weak in the low post. Hamilton will not get much time during his rookie season, unless Miami absolutely requires his assistance.
Hamilton will play the Norris Cole role with the Heat, subbing when the coach is looking to shake things up. Therefore, the same Heat that figured everything out throughout the 2012 NBA playoffs will be the primary rotation audiences are exposed to in the 2012-13 NBA season.
That lineup did wonders against a potent Oklahoma City Thunder offense. Miami will fare pretty well in the regular season.