Offseason Team Grades: Celtics, Nets, Knicks, Sixers, Raptors

NBA training camps started on Tuesday, and after a fairly turbulent and rumor-filled summer, many squads are looking different or wishing they did. Here’s a breakdown of the offseason each Atlantic Division franchise had and how good it was with consideration for what could be expected and how it sets up the future success of the team.

Divisions previously covered:

Boston Celtics

They overspent on the re-signings of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, but that’s what you gotta do to ensure they stick around through the one or two more years of championship window that’s slowly closing. Irish brothers Jermaine O’Neal and Shaquille O’Neal definitely help improve the inside, which is the nemesis Lakers’ major area of strength. It should be mentioned that the Celtics are one of only two teams (Spurs) that can pick up Shaq and not be distracted by his idiocy and self-promotion. I still think PG Avery Bradley is a bad first round draft selection, although second rounder PF Luke Harangody looks like he could be a great role player for a champ. The rest of their acquisitions go as follows: signed G Delonte West = OK, signed G Von Wafer = great, re-signed SG Marquis Daniels = good, re-signed G Nate Robinson at $8.7 million over 2 years = bad deal, signing Turkish C Semih Erden = fine. They’re definitely still right in the championship mix, with the O’Neal pick-ups providing that inside insurance for still-hurt C Kendrick Perkins. Grade: A-

New Jersey Nets

The Nets did quite well for themselves in their first offseason with new owner Mikhail Prokhorov. They didn’t land LeBron James, but they stayed cool and didn’t overreach to try to make up for it, generally making good decisions, even with new GM Billy King on board. The draft netted them PF Derrick Favors, who might be the most likely top-end talent to reach his full potential (Dwight-Amar’e hybrid), and F Damion James, the consummate hustle role player who can do a bit of everything.They brought on best-deep-shooter-in-the-league Anthony Morrow, and quick and intelligent PG Jordon Farmar through free agency for reasonable contracts, plus they brought on out-to-prove-he’s-a-starter SF Travis Outlaw, whose 4-year, $28 million contract is the only questionable one of the summer. The Nets parted with Courtney Lee to get PF Troy Murphy, who has obvious worth and will start for a year while Favors gets his feet wet. They also signed veteran PF Joe Smith, actively improving C Johan Petro, and has-his-moments Sean May, all of whom are good locker room guys. As long as they don’t screw up this very delicately put together puzzle made up of useful pieces and positive influences by ripping it apart to bring on Carmelo Anthony, it was a good summer in Jersey. Grade: A-

New York Knicks

The Knicks were trying to do what Miami did, so I can’t bash them for letting everyone go, especially since that group wasn’t working out anyway. After a bummer of a second-round draft (that’s all they had) with Andy Rautins (less athletic, less skilled JJ Reddick – you want that?) and Landry Fields, they then signed Amar’e Stoudemire for a zillion years at a zillion dollars. For starters, a large part of what he does is Steve Nash finding him at just the right time, and he’s also regularly hurt. Plus he’s not a particularly good rebounder or defender, so this deal has overreached written all over it. That’s where the Isiah Thomas-esque part of the summer ended (remember when he was a consultant for two seconds?). They turned the a leaving David Lee into Anthony Randolph, Kelenna Azubuike, and Ronny Turiaf, none of whom costs much. That particular move was great. The 3-year, $25 million contract for PG Raymond Felton seems a bit rich, but he should be a good fit for Mike D’Antoni. In a little talked about signing that could pay great dividends, New York added 24-year-old Russian big man Timofey Mozgov, who plays with a strength and athleticism that will suit him fine in the NBA. (It just occurred to me that he looks like a cross between Aaron Gray and comedian/actor Andy Richter.) Shooter Roger Mason was a decent signing. I liked everything after July 8 but have some issues with everything that happened before then, so an overall grade for them is tough before we see how Stoudemire’s injuries play out for the next 5 years. Grade: B-

Philadelphia 76ers

Samuel Dalembert was itching for a change of scenery, so the Sixers turned him into Andres Nocioni and Spencer Hawes, which isn’t as bad as it looks. They acquired first round draft pick Craig Brackins and Darius Songaila in a trade, but that’s neither here nor there. Philly selected Evan Turner second overall in the draft, which could really work out if they ever figure out what the plan is for Andre Iguodala’s future. Probably the best thing they did for the immediate future was fire coach Eddie Jordan and hire Doug Collins to replace him. This club shot themselves in the foot financially a few years ago and are still trying to figure out how to move forward, and this summer didn’t do much to help outside of firing Jordan, especially since their big draft pick plays the same position as their unquestioned leader. Grade: B-

Toronto Raptors

They had done nothing forever with Chris Bosh, so I don’t see his loss as any sort of backbreaker. Hedo Turkoglu definitely wasn’t working out for them, so trading him for speedster Leandro Barbosa makes sense (although waiving the attached piece, Dwayne Jones, was a bad decision). Re-signing PF Amir Johnson at $7 million per for five years seems crazy, but I think he’ll surprise people. Don’t take that as my ringing endorsement of its length and worth because a) it’s too much of both, and b) I’m still curious how many minutes everyone in the frontcourt is getting. Draftees Ed Davis and Soloman Alabi should both help the interior defense eventually, which was sorely lacking last year. Signing versatile F Linas Kleiza away from the Greek league was a great move, although it’s gotten so much praise, he’s almost become overrated before even showing up. Toronto also traded for F Julian Wright and C David Andersen to help fortify the paint a little, although keeping Jones definitely should have been a part of that. All in all, not too bad if the Johnson and Kleiza contracts don’t muck things up in the future and they figure out how to play all these big men, which will be tough to do. Grade: B-


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