Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Atlantic Division Noteworthies: Knicks, Sixers

For most of the season the Atlantic Division has displayed some fairly bad basketball.  If it weren't for the Brooklyn Nets seriously turning their season around, and the Toronto Raptors surge following the trade of Rudy Gay, the Atlantic Division might have boasted five sub .500 teams. There are only five teams in the division. As it stands three teams, Philadelphia, Boston and New York will be finishing well below that mark. While unlikely the wheels could still fall off for the Nets.  Toronto looks safe, as they lead the division with a 37-28 record.  However, as the proverbial stretch-run to the playoffs begins in the NBA, it may come as a surprise that two of the below .500 teams from this very division have recently commanded NBA headlines. 

Thus far the New York Knicks have turned in a mightily disappointing season.  Coming off a 54 win season, not many expected the Knicks to be where they are at this year at 27-40.  On top of all that their best player, Carmelo Anthony can opt out and leave NY if he so chose to do.  This year's pitfalls have brought great scrutiny to the New York Knick franchise and how they operated.  A quick look at New York's future reveals that they are with out a first round draft pick this year, and if Melo stays they owe roughly 91 million dollars to largely the same roster as this year.  Four players make up over 62 million of that prior figure, leaving little room to address roster needs via free agency.  Realizing current Knicks personnel might not be competent enough to restore the franchise the team set out to find someone who could help them in that department.

Enter hall of fame coach, preacher of triangular offenses, Zen Master Phil Jackson. Last week Jackson emerged from retirement as somewhat of a surprise candidate to fill the Knicks front office need.  People (mainly Lakers people) were up in arms that Jackson, the one time Knick as a player, was back, but in blue and orange rather than purple and gold.  Most notably of those upset with the Lakers reluctance to pay Jackson to be a part of the organization again were Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson.  Unfortunately, for them, Jackson won't be re-joining the Lakers anytime soon as his contract with the Knicks reportedly pays him 12 million per season

Just over 90 miles south from the Big Apple, a team very near and dear to my heart is also capturing headlines.  The Philadelphia 76ers are currently in the midst of a Franchise worst 21 game loosing streak.  Before the season started it was clear, the Sixers were not going to be a good basketball team.  What wasn't clear was how bad they were going to be, and since the trade deadline on February 20 they've often been abysmal.

Following All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday's trade last summer on draft day in 2013, it became clear to some Sixers fans that new GM Sam Hinkie had intentions of being being bad this year in order to obtain a high draft pick in a semi-loaded 2014 draft. Otherwise known as tanking. With the top draft pick as the carrot at the end of the stick for this season, the Sixer's front office assembled a team that would hopefully pile up the losses.  Those losses have piled up, and they continue to, and right now no one knows when they will stop.

Rookie Michael Carter-Williams left, Thaddeus Young right
While watching the Sixers can be like waking up on a Monday morning at this point. There is potentially more light at the end of the tunnel than our fellow Atlantic Division dwellers the New York Knicks. The 76ers checkbook for the 2014-2015 season pales in comparison to that of the Knicks.  Amazingly, the team is only the hook for roughly 26.8 million dollars leaving the door wide open for the front office to spend in free agency. In addition to the most amount of cap space in the league, the Sixers are currently in position for two top 15 first round picks.

Sitting with the second worst record in the league and the losses coming effortlessly, the Sixers are in prime position to be the proud owner of a top five draft pick. The positioning of other first round pick owed by the Sixers will be determined by how the New Orleans Pelicans finish.  As part of the Jrue Holiday trade, the Sixers netted a top 5 protected first round pick.  In other words, as long as New Orleans doesn't luck out in the lottery ball drawing the Sixers will be looking at potentially two top 10 or 11 first round picks given the Pelicans current record.

Both the Knicks and Sixers have a lot of work to do to improve as basketball teams.  A lot of that work for both franchises now has been entrusted to front office members.  The onus was once mainly on the players and coaches to succeed.  Now, more and more scrutiny has been placed on talent decision makers.  Fans and players across all sports are far more statistically versed, and generally informed today, thus increasing the demand for smarter decision makers.  Jackson and Hinkie are both fresh in their new positions, but the pressure is on in both NY and Philly due to each city's lust for a winning sport organization.


Cole Miller, from Haddonfield, NJ, is currently a sophomore Sport Management major at Drexel. Over the summer, Cole volunteered for the 43rd SABR convention, a large convention with many speakers and other events for baseball fans who enjoy the new age statistics being brought to baseball such as WAR (wins above replacement ).   Cole is a huge fan of baseball, specifically the Phillies.

You can connect on Cole on LinkedIn here. 

No comments:

Post a Comment