The match ups in the east have been set for the past few days. In that time, my opinion of the series has not changed: I don’t think the bottom four teams will win much. Were I a betting man (and despite my fantasy indulgence, I am not), I’d guess that the Hawks, Knicks, 76ers, and Pacers will win less than four games combined. Based on that, it might be a wise strategy in your drafts to just to ignore these four teams. However, if you want to take a flyer on some of the players on the lesser teams in the east, I’ll provide some details and opinions about each one. One caveat: I wish my team, the Milwaukee Bucks, were among the top eight, but they were stymied by injuries. Maybe next year.
5. Atlanta Hawks (vs. 4. Orlando Magic)
The Hawks actually won the season series against the Magic. They won three of the four meetings, including a Mar. 30 win in which Josh Smith had 26 points, six boards, and four assists. Smith played well in all of the games against Orlando. He averaged 17.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 2.3 blocks. He has been somewhat limited by a knee injury as the season closed, but he may have been just resting up for the playoffs. Joe Johnson averaged 19.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.0 assists against the Magic. He averaged 17.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 5.0 assists in 11 games in the playoffs last year. The last of the fantasy worthy Hawks is Al Horford who provided 16.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 4.0 assists against Orlando. Jamal Crawford averaged 12.0 points on 38.1% shooting from the field against the Magic. Even if he won’t, I’ll pass.
6. New York Knicks (vs. 3. Boston Celtics)
The Knicks face the Celtics in the season finale tonight, but you shouldn’t expect to learn anything of consequence in this glorified preseason game. Well, it is not even that, so let’s see some ticket refunds! The Celtics gave Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo off in their last game, and Amare Stoudemire did not play in the Knicks’ last game. Will Carmelo Anthony play tonight? The Celtics have won the first three games of the series, but only the third game on Mar. 21 featured Anthony in a Knick uni. He scored 22 points in the loss. Stoudemire has averaged 27.3 points and 9.7 rebounds against Boston. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Celtic fringe players (such as Glen Davis) outscore Anthony and Stoudemire for the playoffs. Caveat emptor.
7. Philadelphia 76ers (vs. 2. Miami Heat)
If the 76ers win tonight against the Pistons, they will have had their first winning season since 2002-03, which was Larry Brown’s last season patrolling the Philadelphia bench. Allen Iverson led the squad with 27.6 points. In other words, the 76ers should be satisfied with their season because I don’t think they match up very well against the Heat. Miami swept all three games in the season series. A few years ago, Elton Brand may have been able to put up some numbers against Miami, but age and injuries have robbed him of some of his skills. He provided just 10.7 points and 8.3 rebounds against the Heat. Miami also troubled Andre Iguodala, who averaged 13.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.7 assists. Iguodala will be asked to concentrate on defense. Jodie Meeks led the 76ers with 17.5 points in two games against Miami. Jrue Holiday shot just 34.4% from the field against Miami.
8. Indiana Pacers (vs. 1. Chicago Bulls)
Although the Pacers were able to win an overtime thriller against the Bulls on Mar. 18 in the teams’ last meeting, the Bulls should be able to roll through Indiana. A couple of Bulls did suffer a couple of minor injuries in the Bulls’ win over Nets. Joakim Noah sprained his ankle and Ronnie Brewer sprained his thumb. Nevertheless, the Pacers are going to need to play very well to win a game in the series. Danny Granger is the fantasy star and he averaged 20.0 points in three games against Chicago. Tyler Hansbrough had 29 points in the overtime win and also averaged 20.0 points in two games against the Bulls. Darren Collison will be tasked with slowing down Derrick Rose. I don’t like his chances. Rose had 42 points in the overtime loss, but managed just 27.0 points and 6.5 assists in the regular season series against the Pacers.