Frontcourt: Carmelo Anthony & Andrea Bargnani -vs- Gay & Johnson
On paper Gay looks like a player on the cusp of stardom. However, online, Gay is one of the bloggershere’s favorite punching bags. The analytic movement that has dramatically changed the way we view the value of athletes has not been kind to Gay and his 18.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.7 assists each game. The stat nerds focus more on his 42.5 field goal percentage, 2.8 turnovers, and his pedestrian mid-range shooting. Despite which lens you view Gay through, what can’t be missed is the nearly $40M left on his contract. Very few players are worth that kind of investment and certainly no one is more aware of it than last year’s Executive of the Year, GM Masai Ujiri.
I don’t know too many teams willing to take on that contract, but I doubt Gay is going to be a part of Toronto’s long term plans.
Johnson is more likely part of those plans and its well deserved for young player on the verge of becoming a David Lee-like double double machine. Johnson’s always had a very high field goal percentage and is learning more and more how to fill the stat sheet in other ways. While he’s been in the league for eight years, he is just entering his mid-20s and is a sure bet to continue developing. The jury is still out on Valanciunas but it’s important to remember his improved play towards the end of the year when he was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month. Increased play might yield even better results for Valanciunas but he still is a long way away from reaching his actual potential.
The Knicks frontcourt is looking more and more likely to consist of Melo and Bargs, but despite who is paired with Melo, its still going to be better than Toronto’s. Bargs may be Toronto’s left over trash, but in New York he doesn’t have to do much but spread the floor. Basically he’s finally found his life calling to stand outside arch and drain open jumpers. While that’s not something a former number one draft pick should feel particularly good about amounting to, for the Knicks, it’s still wildly helpful.
Tyson Chandler is years away from Valanciunas defensively, who is a fouling machine (4.6 per 36 mins). Offensively, though, Valanciunas has looked great in preseason play and could be on track to be one the better centers in the East in near future.
Benches: Metta World Peace, J.R. Smith, Beno Udrih, Amar’e Stoudemire, Pablo Prigioni, Kenyon Martin, Tim Hardaway Jr., Cole Aldrch -vs- D.J. Augustin, Quincy Acy, Austin Daye, Landry Fields, Terrence Ross, Tyler Hansbrough, Steve Novak, Julliane Stone
Toronto’s bench doesn’t have many big names but it’s still filled with a number of serviceable players. Ross’s impressive preseason play may catapult him into being a starter at some point during the year but until then he is their most potent threat off the bench.
Hansbrough never quite met his expectations on the Pacers, but perhaps he’s found his niche on the Raptors. Fields is arguably one of the worst contracts in the leagues, but Acy and Augustin are still hungry players who are looking to find their roles in the league.
New York’s bench is one the deeper ones in the league and there is not much of a comparison here. What it comes down to is New York’s bench being built for contention while Toronto’s is comprised of young players just trying to fit in on a team.
Coaches: Woodson -vs- Casey
I’m not a big fan of Woodson, especially after his latest concession to J.R. Smith, publicly supporting him as a started in the wake of his bad summer and Shumpert’s terrific preseason.
I still would rather have Woodson over Casey though, who has never had a winning season during his entire coaching career. With a new GM and Casey’s clear lack of progression, its only natural he is on a very hot seat entering this season. I don’t see him lasting through the winter to be honest.