Who will be better next season, the Knicks or Nets?

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With rosters pretty much getting set except for a few final pieces around the NBA — save for one big shakeup still to come out of Orlando… eventually — we can start to get a serious look at how rosters are shaking out.

And after all the moves the Nets made so they could open the new Barclays center — re-signing Deron Williams, trading for Joe Johnson, bringing back Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries and Gerald Henderson — you can start to ask a question:

Who will be better, the Knicks or the Nets?

The fantastic Tom Haberstroh at ESPN ran some advanced stats projections and the stats liked Brooklyn.

The Nets might have wished for a bigger splash to open their Brooklyn office, but there’s a fair chance that they’ll be the top dogs in New York in 2012-13. The Nets have the best player in Williams, a sneaky deep roster and considerably higher upside next season with Teletovic and Lopez. New York was a No. 7-seed last season, but now that Jeremy Lin is in Houston, there’s not much youth on the Knicks to help propel them to the next step.

Haberstroh is right, Williams is the best player on either team — before you start saying Carmelo Anthony know the Knicks are not playing Nigeria this season. In the NBA Carmelo scores a lot of points but takes a lot of shots to do it, he takes a lot of contested jumpers.

The stats don’t love Amare Stoudemire, they like Humphries better. And the Knicks bench additions of Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas and Jason Kidd are not game changers.

I think the two teams will be close in record. The Nets are going to score a lot of points but it is going to take years off Avery Johnson’s life as he tries to get them to defend. Mike Woodson did get the Knicks to defend but unless they find a way to get ‘Melo and Stoudemire to play together seamlessly they have a ceiling. One that isn’t dramatically better than the seventh seed they were last year, maybe a four or five seed.

And it is possible that the first round four/five matchup in the Eastern Conference playoffs next year would be Brooklyn and New York. And then the battle for New York would really be on.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.

John Wall returns for Wizards-Grizzlies

AP Photo/Nick Wass
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.

Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.

The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.

“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”

Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.

Pacers president Kevin Pritchard likes tweets critical of Paul George trade

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Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard was widely panned – including by me – for trading Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

Oops.

Oladipo and Sabonis are killing it while George has underwhelmed.

Upon George’s return to Indiana, Pritchard took the opportunity to gloat. The Pacers general manager recently liked these tweets (hat tip: Matt Ellentuck of SB Nation):

This is petty – and I love it. Pritchard earned the victory lap.

Report: Rival executives still expect Paul George to leave Thunder for Lakers

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Paul George has been pretty open about his plans.

He told plenty of people – including the Pacers – he planned to leave for the Lakers in the summer of 2018. Even after the Thunder traded for him, George spoke of the lure of playing for his hometown team.

Of course, George also left the door open to re-signing with Oklahoma City. He proclaimed he’d be dumb to leave if the Thunder reached the conference finals or upset the Warriors.

So far, Oklahoma City (12-14) doesn’t even look like a playoff lock, let alone a team capable of knocking off Golden State or reaching the conference finals. So, cue the inevitable speculation.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

Rival execs still expect Paul to head for the Lakers in free agency

Do these executives have inside information into George’s thinking, or are they just speculating based on already-available information? Some executives are incentivized to drum up the Lakers threat, because they want to trade for George themselves now. If these executives insist George will leave for Los Angeles regardless, they might pry him from Oklahoma City for less.

There’s also a theory George is hyping his desire to sign with the Lakers so a team would have to trade less for him. That got him to the Thunder for what looked like a meager return (but hasn’t been). It might get him to a more favorable situation before the trade deadline without hampering his next team long-term. Of course, this theory isn’t mutually exclusive with George actually signing in Los Angeles. It could just get him better options to choose from this summer.

Surely, the Thunder are trying to parse all this noise. If their season doesn’t turn around, they should explore flipping George rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer. But they should also be wary that he’ll bolt for Los Angeles at first opportunity just because rival executives predict it.