Eastern Conference
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Eastern Conference Teams: Three Questions That Need To Be Answered

The NBA is entering the Second half of the season with the trade deadline of March 25th fast approaching. Many teams are now evaluating their rosters and their goals they set during the beginning of the season. These goals may be out of reach and teams will act accordingly trading veteran players or looking to release them for salary relief. While other teams are in reach of their goals being active buyers looking to strengthen their roster for a post-season run. For these three Eastern Conference Teams, there is one burning question as they enter the second half of the season that needs to be answered.

Will The Knicks Be A serious Threat in the Post-season?

The New York Knicks were off to one of the best starts in recent franchise history by the beginning of All-Star Break. In fact, This is only the third time in the past 20 years that the Knicks have a winning record 35 games into the season. It’s obvious now that this Knicks team is different from those in year’s past that were playing for ping pong balls at this point in the season. Even guard Austin Rivers said during the beginning of the season” ‘I’ve been on bad teams before, this is not one‘.

Tom Thibodeau signed a 5-year deal to be the Knicks head coach this past offseason. Historically Thibodeau isn’t a coach that is hired to oversee a team that is rebuilding instead he is often brought in to produce winning basketball teams. The Knicks are currently 19-18, 5th in the Eastern Conference standings, and have the 2nd best defense in the league. They have an All-Star in Julius Randle who is averaging career-best in every major statistical category. Randle is also third in minutes played across the entire NBA, a trademark for a star on a Thibodeau-coached team.

The Knicks are getting contributions from young players like R.J Barrett the second-year forward making steady improvements. Also, Immanuel Quickley the rookie guard that has impressed fans and coaches alike. The Knicks are totally invested in winning this season as they even brought Derick Rose back to give the team another veteran scorer. They are virtually a lock for the playoffs unless there are some unforeseen circumstances or major injuries to the roster. Depending on how other teams play down the stretch they may even find themselves hosting a first-round series. The question remains however how serious of a threat are they in a playoff series.

What Will It Take For the Boston Celtics to get back on track?

I don’t want to say that the Boston Celtics have been a complete disappointment so far into the season. However, they are currently 19-17, 4th in the Eastern Conference with two All-Stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. With these two there’s no reason this team should be playing close to an even record. The Celtics have some serious question marks on the roster surrounding their star wings like is Kemba Walker official washed and what will Marcus Smart look like when he returns from his injury. Smart was averaging a career-high in points, assists, and steals this season before his injury and is reported as being available for their first game of the second half versus the nets.

General Manager Danny Ainge doesn’t believe that the Celtics are championship contenders this season citing injuries and a lack of cohesion for the roster as a big reason. But the Celtics also did themselves no favors basically letting Gordon Hayward leave this past offseason for virtually nothing besides a trade exception. This is obviously a transitioning year for the team in Ainge’s eyes as he evaluates the young players on the roster surrounding his two stars like Payton Pritchard, Robert Williams, Aaron Nesmith, and Grant Williams.

That doesn’t mean the Celtics shouldn’t be aggressive around the trade deadline. While the Celtics are hard-capped due to signing Tristan Thompson with the Non-Taxpayer midlevel exception they still have the trade exception from the Gordon Hayward deal worth 28.5 million. It may be wise for them to make a push to trade for another player to complement their young wings. Some new talent may be exactly what this Celtics team needs to get back on track.

Is Nate McMillan the right coach for Trae Young?

I wrote recently about how I believed that Trae Young being an All-Star Snub due to the fact that he does not contribute to wins was not a surprise. The Hawks have honestly been one of the most disappointing teams this season based on the expectations set for them and Young is a big reason why. Since then the Atlanta Hawks have fired their head coach Lloyd Pierce in only his second season with the team and replaced him with Nate McMillan. The Hawks knew what they were doing bringing coaching veteran McMillan into the fold this past offseason. It was reported that Young and Pierce never had the strongest connection and with the team failing to meet expectations. It was an obvious move for the Hawks to stick with their star guard and fire the coach replacing him with someone with years of experience.

So far in Nate McMillan’s tenure as head coach of the Atlanta Hawks have won two straight games as they headed into the All-Star break. We were also able to see McMillan as the acting head coach for two games when Pierce attended the birth of his child, McMillan split the games with one win and one loss. Heading into the second half the expectations from management remain the same, the Hawks need to return to the playoffs. McMillan historically is accomplished in doing that making the post-season four straight times with the Indiana Pacers. But once McMillan makes the post-season he also has historically fallen short every year of making it past the first round. Now with a new team, we will see how if McMillan is able to deliver on the expectations set for the roster and the relationship he forms with the franchise player Trae Young.