I'm starting a new 6 part series, that goes over each NBA Division's off season grades. Starting with the Atlantic Division that contains the Celtics, Nets, Knicks, 76ers, and Raptors. Let's get into it.
Grade : C+
First up, the Boston Celtics. The Boston Celtics, for the past few seasons have had so much value in draft picks, and young assets to flip into a star, but haven't pulled the trigger on bringing in that last piece they needed for a championship run. This off season, there were a lot of rumors surrounding a potential Gordon Hayward trade that would involve Myles Turner. However, reports came out that Danny Ainge had wanted Victor Oladipo or TJ Warren along with Turner, and the talks ceased. It then came out that Gordon Hayward signed a 4 year 120 million dollar deal with the Hornets, and looked to be leaving for nothing before Danny managed to get a compensational 2nd in return. So the Celtics lost Hayward, who averaged 17/7/4 on 50/38/85 shooting, for practically nothing.
The Celtics did manage to upgrade the bench unit, significantly by bringing in Jeff Teague, who was a former All Star with the Hawks, and Tristan Thompson, who was one of the few bright spots on the Cavaliers team from last season. Teague will replace Brad Wanamaker, who was not resigned to the team and Thompson will compete for back up C minutes with Robert Williams. Teague will likely see an influx in minutes with Kemba Walker being out until early January with a left knee injury. 2 signings I really like for the Celtics, who had the lowest scoring bench in the league last season with just 26.5 points coming from the bench unit.
In the draft the Celtics had 3 first round picks at picks 14, 26, and 30, and there were again, lots of trade rumors. Rumors to move up to 6 with the Hawks, giving up Hayward and 1 or 2 of their firsts in order to select Onyeka Okongwu. Instead, Ainge held pat at 14, selecting Aaron Nesmith, a 6'6 F out of Vanderbilt. Nesmith is arguably the best shooter in the class, shooting 52% from 3 in 14 games before losing his season to a foot injury. Nesmith also did average 23 PPG before his injury. At 26 the Celtics took PG Payton Pritchard from Oregon, a 4 year college player that averaged 20.5 points while shooting 42% from 3. The Celtics then traded pick 30 (Desmond Bane G TCU) to the Grizzlies for 2 future seconds. In the second round they selected Yam Madar, G from Israel who is going to be a draft and stash player that likely won't see the NBA court.
Overall, the handling of the Gordon Hayward situation was poor, especially when having Myles Turner and more on the table, but instead getting nothing. Not making a move up in the draft surprised me and I think that they should've made a move for a Center. The players they did get, I don't like besides Nesmith who's role might by limited to just a spot up shooter. I've been seeing reports that the coaching staff and players have really liked what Pritchard has done in training camp. Not impressed by what they did this off season, but they did upgrade the bench with a couple vets which is what they needed.
Grade : B+
The Brooklyn Nets knew coming into the season that they would be without former MVP Kevin Durant for the entire season, but what they didn't know was that Kyrie Irving would play in just 20 of the teams 72 games, and not a single playoff game. Without those 2, the team was left with Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris Levert to carry the team to the playoffs. The Nets were the 7th seed in the East, and going into the bubble they were without KD, Kyrie, Dinwiddie, and DeAndre Jordan, which left Caris Levert all by himself. The Nets got swept by the Raptors, and starting preparing for next season in which they would get their 2 stars back.
The Nets added Jeff Green in free agency. Green averaged just 9.4 points last season, but stepped up and was occasionally the 2nd option to James Harden when Russell Westbrook was out. Green is 34, and is primarily a 3&D wing at this point in his career, which the Nets need. Brooklyn also brought back sharpshooter Joe Harris, but in doing so significantly overpaid for Harris, giving up 75 million over 4 years, coming out to about 18 million a year. 18. million dollars for a guy who offers nothing but shooting, no defense, no playmaking, and is unathletic, is simply too much.
On Draft Day, the Nets had 2 picks, 19 and 55 which were both traded in part of a 3 team deal including the Pistons and the Clippers. Both picks were shipped off, and in return they brought in Landry Shamet and pick 57 which turned into Reggie Perry F from Mississippi State. Shamet, who has had his fair share of injury issues does exactly what the Nets want and need, which is shoot the 3 ball well. The Nets also made a trade for defensive minded guard Bruce Brown from the Pistons, giving up F Dzanan Musa and a 2021 second round pick. Brown, who hasn't quite figured out his offensive game, is a very talented defender and should impact the Nets positively.
The Nets will be a top 2 team in the East, provided there are no injuries and KD returns the same as he did before his injury. They brought back/in shooting to help space the floor for their 2 stars. The only thing that concerns me is the lack of young talent on the team. Most of the young players I don't see becoming much more than rotational players, or end of the bench guys. But, they are in "win now mode" which makes it more okay that they don't have young talent.
Grade : C
The Knicks haven't made the playoffs, or been competitive since the 2012-13 season, a team the included Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Amar'e Stoudimare, Tyson Chandler, and Raymond Felton. The team has eclipsed 30 wins just twice in the last 6 seasons, and you would think with the consistent terribleness from the team, they would finally get a young star to turn them around. No, hasn't happened. Oh wait, they had Kristaps Porzingis before trading him for Dennis Smith Jr., a bust, DeAndre Jordan, an expiring deal, Wesley Matthews, another expiring deal, and 2 future firsts in 2021 and 2023. In 2017 they draft French PG Frank Ntilikina, who has being nothing short of a disappointment, as well as 2018 lottery pick F Kevin Knox. The Knicks finally seemed to have made a good pick in RJ Barrett, who looks to be a big part of the team's future success. Let's hope for Knicks fan's that they don't trade him too, but for RJ let's hope they do.
This season, the Knicks took F Obi Toppin from Dayton. Toppin is very explosive, but lacks the jump shot for a typical NBA wing. Toppin will likely start at the 3, as the Knicks big signing from last season Julius Randle will take up the majority of the PF minutes.
The free agency period was once again, uneventful for the Knicks. Their big signing was... Austin Rivers. To a 3 year 9 million dollar deal. How exciting. They also brought in Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel to provide depth.
The Knicks did nothing to make themselves a playoff team, but also nothing to make them worse to get a lower pick, which sucks. They are stuck in a very difficult spot right now and I didn't like anything they did this off season in order to get better.
Grade : A
The Sixers were a team that had high expectations going into last season, but didn't nearly reach their max potential finishing 6th in the East, and get swept by the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. Everyone knew what they needed ; shooting. That and a new head coach, which they got by bringing in Doc Rivers who won and NBA Championship coaching the Boston Celtics.
So the Sixers knew they needed shooting, and went out and got it on draft night trading Josh Richardson and the rights to Tyler Bey for Seth Curry. A phenomenal move by the Sixers, adding floor spacing for Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to be able to move around and kick it out if need be. In addition to Curry, they went out and traded for Danny Green, while moving on from Al Horford's MASSIVE contract. As well as Green, the Sixers got Terrance Ferguson and Vincent Porier while giving up Horford, Theo Maledon, the rights to Vasilije Micic, and a 2025 protected first. A big trade, and a great trade for the Sixers, adding a veteran that not only has a knack for winning, but also shoots the ball extremely well, besides in the bubble.
The Sixers free agency was relatively quiet, losing their end of the bench guys but did steal another part of the Lakers championship team in Dwight Howard. Howard, another veteran that should fit right in with the Sixers and how they like to play.
The Sixers knew what they needed, and succeeded in getting that. Not only that, they added a veteran big to back up and mentor Embiid, and try to keep him under control. A very great off season for the 76ers, as they look to bounce back from a rather disappointing 2019-2020 season.
Grade : C
The Raptors who were coming off of an NBA Championship, lost their best player in Kawhi Leonard to the Clippers in free agency, but the team didn't seem to skip a beat as they won 53 games before the season was put on hold, and earned the 2nd seed in the East. The Raptors easily slid by their round 1 matchup against the Nets, and then went 7 games with the Celtics, eventually losing the series. The team wanted to prove they could win without Kawhi, but instead proved the doubters right in the playoffs.
The Raptors lost their 2 main bigs to each LA team, Marc Gasol to the Lakers, and Serge Ibaka to the Clippers. That left a major gap at the teams center position and they replaced their 2 big men with Aron Baynes, and Alex Len. 2 rather underrated guys, with Baynes having the ability to shoot the 3 ball. Who am I kidding, neither of these guys will do anything near what Ibaka and Gasol provided the team. The Raptors clearly got worse, and it might be the start of a Raptors re-tool. Something good the Raptors did, was bring back Fred VanVleet, to a 4 year 85 million dollar contract. If the Raptors lost Ibaka, Gasol, and VanVleet, that might've been the end of the Raptors playoff runs, but they kept VanVleet, keeping them as a playoff lock.
However, the Raptors talent pool is all already in their prime, or past in, with no real young talent that's going to be able to help Pascal Siakam in the future. That worries me, because as the older Kyle Lowry gets, the worse the Raptors get. Once Kyle leaves or retires, that team will take a big fall if they don't try to bring in young guys to help the future.
The Raptors got worse this off season, added no promising young talent, as the other contenders in the East; Bucks, Celtics, 76ers, all added to their roster and got better. The Raptors will probably be around the 4-6 seed range, depending on how teams like the Heat and the Sixers perform, they could be anywhere within that range.
That'll do it for part 1 of my NBA Off Season Grades. Next up will be the Central Division. If you enjoyed my article, follow! Comment down your thoughts and if you have a differing opinion, and I'll respond in the comment section!