NBA Offseason Grades – Atlantic Division

This week, we are taking a look at the winners and losers of the NBA offseason.  We start with Atlantic Division teams.  The Knicks and Raptors retained their important free agents in Carmelo Anthony and Kyle Lowry.  The Celtics and 76ers are in full-fledged rebuilding mode.  Meanwhile, the Nets had to retool after suffering the loss of two starters who left in free agency.

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This week, we are taking a look at the winners and losers of the NBA offseason.  We start with Atlantic Division teams.  The Knicks and Raptors retained their important free agents in Carmelo Anthony and Kyle Lowry.  The Celtics and 76ers are in full-fledged rebuilding mode.  Meanwhile, the Nets had to retool after suffering the loss of two starters who left in free agency.  Here’s the rundown:

 

 

Boston Celtics

Boston absolutely aced the draft, picking up guards Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State) and James Young (Kentucky).  If Rajon Rondo ends up elsewhere, Smart and Young will be the Celtics’ backcourt of the future.  Both players are big-time competitors who show up in big games.  The Celtics netted a future first-round draft pick from Cleveland in a three-team trade, which also brought them Tyler Zeller and Marcus Thornton.  Finally, Boston re-signed Avery Bradley and signed Evan Turner.  Bradley is one of the league’s best defenders and will likely continue starting this year.  But the free agency moves have created a logjam at the guard and wing positions, which means less minutes for Smart and Young on a team that’s already rebuilding.

Grade: B

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets didn’t own any 2014 draft picks but still found a way to trade into three second-rounders, picking up Markele Brown (Oklahoma State), Cory Jefferson (Baylor) and Xavier Thames (San Diego State).  All three could become future rotation players, so the Nets created something from nothing.  Newly acquired Jarrett Jack will provide a spark off the bench.  Alan Anderson and Andrei Kirilenko return.  And the Nets are bringing in Bojan Bogdanovic from Europe.  This team will be less talented than last year’s squad, though.  Two starters, Shaun Livingston and future hall of famer Paul Pierce, are gone.  Pierce’s experience and leadership is irreplaceable, and Livingston just had the best year of his career.  With that said, All-Star Brook Lopez will be back from injury, and Brooklyn did sign coach Lionel Hollins after losing Jason Kidd to Milwaukee.  Hollins is among the most underrated coaches in the league.

Grade: C

New York Knicks

New York’s offseason revolved around re-signing Carmelo Anthony, and the Knicks did just that.  Anthony’s decision to stay in New York will keep the team relevant as Phil Jackson builds around him.  Jackson spent the summer wheeling and dealing, flipping Tyson Chandler, Raymond Felton and Jeremy Tyler for Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin, Quincy Acy and Travis Outlaw in two separate trades with the Mavs and Kings.  The Jose Calderon acquisition helped entice Carmelo to re-sign, as Calderon is a notoriously well-liked teammate.  The Knicks also signed power forward Jason Smith.  Like the cross-town Nets, the Knicks had no picks going into draft night, but still found their way to three second-rounders.  The most notable pick was Cleanthony Early (Wichita State).  Early was thought by some to be a lottery talent.  All in all, not a bad offseason for Jackson and new head coach Derek Fisher.

Grade: B+

Philadelphia 76ers

The rebuilding process continues in Philadelphia.  Philadelphia will probably be the third team in the Kevin Love-to-Cleveland trade, giving up veteran forward Thaddeus Young to get back 2013 number one overall pick Anthony Bennett.  Bennett disappointed in his rookie season but has shown signs of improvement this summer.  Philadelphia’s biggest offseason pick-up was potential superstar center Joel Embiid (Kansas) with the third pick in the draft.  Embiid will be sidelined for much of this season, but he could be the team’s franchise player moving forward.  If Embiid and Nerlens Noel can stay healthy long-term, opponents will have a difficult time scoring in the paint.  Both players are elite rim protectors.  Along with Embiid, Philadelphia drafted Dario Saric (a draft-and-stash lottery talent), K.J. McDaniels (Clemson), Jerami Grant (Syracuse) and Vasilije Micic.  McDaniels and Grant could become valuable role players.  All-out tanking is a controversial and often ill-advised strategy, but the 76ers will stick to it.

Grade: B

Toronto Raptors

Like the Knicks, the Raptors’ offseason revolved around re-signing one of their best players.  The Raptors quickly got that out of the way, giving point guard Kyle Lowry a four-year, $48 million deal.  Additionally, they re-signed Greivis Vasquez and picked up James Johnson, both underrated moves that fortify the bench.  Toronto also traded for Lou Williams and relinquished John Salmons (and his contract) and Steve Novak.  Nando De Colo left as well and will be playing overseas next season.  It was widely known that GM Masai Ujiri wanted to draft Tyler Ennis, a Canadian, with the 20th pick.  But when neither Ennis nor Gary Harris dropped that far, Ujiri went with Bruno Caboclo, a raw young forward out of Brazil.  Caboclo is not a draft-and-stash player, meaning he immediately joins the roster.  Toronto also drafted DeAndre Daniels (UConn), who will begin the season overseas and return in a few months.  The Raptors are likely a playoff team next season.

Grade: B