<
>

Burning Q's: Where will NYK finish in East?

8/14/2014

With training camp less than two months away, we’re examining the burning questions facing the New York Knicks.

Today's question: Where will the Knicks finish in the East?

I think the they will make the playoffs. But it will not be easy. The Knicks have a first-time head coach in Derek Fisher. They will be learning a new system with Phil Jackson and Fisher installing the triangle. And we’ll have to see if they have enough bigs inside.

But let’s look at the rest of the East.

No. 1: With Kevin Love expected to join LeBron James in Cleveland, the Cavs look likely to be the top seed in the East. With that being said, the Cavs may have some growing pains, as young players like Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters still have to learn how to win. But LeBron and Love make that learning curve a bit easier.

No. 2: With the addition of Pau Gasol, the Bulls are my pick to finish No. 2 in the East. Derrick Rose still has to prove that he can stay healthy. If Rose returns to his old form, the Bulls will be challenging the Cavs for that top seed and the Central Division crown.

No. 3: Washington is my pick to win the Southeast Division. As somebody who grew up in the D.C. area, I have seen the Bullets/Wizards fail to meet high expectations in the past. The Southeast will be an improved league despite LeBron’s departure as Charlotte and Atlanta are expected to keep progressing. But I think Washington has the potential to finish with the third-best record.

No. 4: Toronto is the favorite to win the Atlantic Division. A young core is back, and the Raptors should learn from last year’s painful Game 7 loss to the Nets in the first round. Will Kyle Lowry be as motivated as he was last season now that he has his new contract? Dwane Casey should keep the Raptors in the top four in the East.

No. 5: The Charlotte Hornets have a good chance to finish fifth. Steve Clifford is an excellent coach and the Hornets acquired Lance Stephenson in free agency. Al Jefferson should only get better.

No. 6: This is where the Knicks, Nets, Heat and Hawks come in. Atlanta made the playoffs last year and should be right there again. But I think the Knicks will be the sixth seed in the East despite what could be a slow start as they get acclimated to the triangle offense.

They have some questions at center, and I’d like to see Samuel Dalembert stay healthy the entire season. Also, defensively, can Jose Calderon hold his own at point guard? J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert need to bounce back this season, and Amar'e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani have to stay healthy.

That said, expect Carmelo Anthony to get comfortable enough with the triangle to lead the Knicks to the playoffs and for Fisher to have the team more motivated than it was last season.

No. 7: Brooklyn can be higher than the seventh seed, but it might take a quarter, maybe half, of the season for Deron Williams and Brook Lopez to return to form. So I think the Nets will finish seventh.

No. 8: Even without Paul George, the Pacers will be in the mix for a playoff spot as well. But the Heat will make the playoffs with all their experience despite James’ departure.

Obviously, we're making all these predictions in the middle of August. Much can change in the next few months. But the Knicks appear to be headed to the sixth seed in the East.

Let me know what you guys think below.