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Atlantic Division Off-Season Grades 2010

Rob October 12, 2010 Blogs, R.S. De France 4 Comments

October 12, 2010 – R.S. De France

Summer’s over.  School has started.  And, grades are already in.

Over the next few weeks, follow De France, English Professor and Hoop Doctors’ Professor of Hoop, as he grades the off-season moves for each team in the NBA.  First, let’s start off with the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference.

1.  Boston Celtics

Key Acquisitions: Other Additions: Players Lost:
Shaquille O’Neal—2 years Von Wafer Brian Scalabrine
Jermaine O’Neal—2 years Avery Bradley Michael Finley
Delonte West Luke Harangody Shelden Williams
Re-signed Marquis Daniels—1 year Semih Erden Tony Allen
Re-signed Nate Robinson—2 years Tony Gaffney (waived) Rasheed Wallace (retired)
Re-signed Paul Pierce—4 years at $61 million Stephane Lasme  
Re-signed Ray Allen—2 years at $20 million Mario West  

Projected Starters:

Shaq O’Neal 12 ppg 6.7 rpg 1.2 bpg
Kevin Garnett  14.3 ppg 7.3 rpg  
Paul Pierce 18.3 ppg 4.4 rpg  
Ray Allen 16.3 ppg    
Rajon Rondo 13.7 ppg 9.8 apg  2.3 spg

Personnel Changes:

Lost Assistant Coach Tom Tibbido

Hired Assistant Coach Lawerence Frank

After Doc Rivers agreed to continue coaching, not much else was up in the air for the Celtics in the summer of 2010.  One key loss was the departure of Defensive-guru and assistant, Tom Tibbido, who signed on to coach the Chicago Bulls.  By now, Rivers probably knows Tibbido’s strategies for slowing down Kobe Bryant, and other top scorers, so the Celtics should not lose too much in that respect.  In addition, Lawrence Frank, who will likely be a great assistant, replaced Tibbido.

The Past

These Celtics have established themselves as a tough-minded, defensive team.  In the 2008 Finals, the defense of the Celtics shut down the brilliant offensive of Kobe Bryant in a 6-game series.  2009 was lost mainly due to KG’s injury.  In 2010, the Celtics lost to the Lakers in the NBA Finals in a tough, seven-game series.  Down the stretch of game seven, the Lakers dominated in rebounds, foul shots, and sheer hustle.

The Moves

The Celtics were already a great team, and these additions only make them stronger, tougher, and more experienced.

The Celtics, however, made a minor mistake in cutting the relatively unknown Tony Gaffney, who played pre-season with the Lakers in ’09.  One thing from watching Gaffney, he’s like a big ball of energy.  He’ll rebound, defend physically, and he’ll do the little things, like diving for loose balls.  At 6’8, Gaffney would have been a good pick-up for the Celtics, who were looking for size and rebounding.

After passing on Gaffney, the Celtics seem to have set their sights on signing former Lakers guard Von Wafer.  Wafer is a good, young scorer who plays well against Bryant and the Lakers.  After two less-than-productive seasons in the Euro League, Wafer made a brief return to the Dallas Mavericks last season, but did not play.

After the departure of LeBron James, Delonte West was easy to poach from the Cleveland Cavaliers.  A former Celtic (’05-’07), West returns to a much-improved Celtics team, but he also sees some familiar faces.  West’s experience playing alongside Pierce, Rondo, and Perkins should make his transition back into the Celtics’ lineup a smooth one.  West’s ability to drive and score off the bench—8.8 ppg last season—should benefit this team.

The Celtics also re-signed point guard Oliver Lafayette, who played well in 1 game for the C’s last season.

From the draft, the Celtics picked Bradley and Harangody.  The Celtics seem pleased that these players can develop into solid NBA players, but they will not be expected to come right into the league and be productive.  A former Big-East Player of the Year, Harangody was a steal in the second round, considering he was also a 20-10 PF/C in college.

These off-season losses are not too significant for the Celtics, although they may miss the defense of Tony Allen and the occasional hot shooting of Wallace.  Since J.O. can also step out and shoot the outside jumper, he should help to offset that, but J.O. doesn’t have the 3-point range that Wallace does.

Perhaps, the Celtics could utilize Von Wafer for defense, but he’s more of a shooter than a defender.  But, Wafer has played against Bryant and the Lakers in practice, so that gives him some advantage over other players.

Still, defending shooting guards, like Kobe Bryant, or wing players, like LeBron James, will be an issue for this Celtics team.  It is such a compelling issue for this team that Coach Doc Rivers has even suggested that rookie Avery Bradley may have to come in and play some defense in small stretches.

Overall, it was another successful off-season for the Celtics, whose frontcourt additions will help in rebounds and free throw attempts.

Up-coming Season

After two finals appearances and one championship in three years, the Celtics enter the 2010 season with much optimism for another deep playoff run.

If this team can stay healthy, they have a very good chance at making another appearance in the Eastern Conference or NBA Finals.

The Future

Sadly, there is no real future for this team, which happens sometimes when you chose to try and ‘win now.’  While Garnett, Pierce, and Allen are healthy, they will be fine.  After those players retire or leave, there will be only a shell of a team left.  Hopefully, they can develop Bradley and Harangody, so they have something they can work with down the road.

Training Day 1:

Overall Celtics’ Grade

A-

For a relatively unchanged team that made it to game 7 of the NBA Finals last season, the Celtics clearly did not need to do much to improve their team.  Mainly, their additions address their needs for rebounding and free throw attempts.  Although they have picked up 2 solid frontcourt players, the health of both O’Neal’s has been questionable over the last few seasons.


 

2.  Toronto Raptors

Key Acquisitions: Other Additions: Players Lost:
Linas Kleiza—4 years Ronald Dupree Hedo Turkoglu
Leandro Barbosa Julian Wright Marco Belinelli
Re-signed Amir Johnson—5 years David Anderson Chris Bosh
  Solomon Alabi Patrick O’Bryant
  Ed Davis Pops Mensah-Bonsu
  Joey Dorsey Rasho Nesterovic
    Antoine Wright

Projected Starters:

Bargnani 17 ppg   1.3 bpg
Johnson 6.2 ppg    
Kleiza 17.1 ppg    
Barbosa 9.5 ppg    
Jose Calderon 10.3 ppg 5.9 apg   

Personnel Changes

N/A

The Past

Since drafting Chris Bosh, the Raptors had the hope that one day this big man would lead them into the playoffs and beyond the 1st round.  Unlike Vince Carter before him, Bosh was unable to guide the Raptors past even a single 1st round series.  In the two playoff series’ Bosh led them to, the Raptors lost 4-2 to the New Jersey Nets in ’07 and 4-1 to the Orlando Magic in ’08, making Bosh 3-8 all-time in the playoffs.  Last season, the Raptors were second place in an abysmal Atlantic division.

The Moves

In addition to Bosh, the Raptors lost a young shooter in Bellineli and a closer and playmaker in Turkoglu, who never found his way in Coach Jay Triano’s system in Toronto.

In return for Turkoglu, the Raptors gained Barbosa, who has struggled over the last couple seasons.  In addition, the Raptors signed former Denver Nuggets’ forward Linas Kleiza, who looked superb in the Euro league last season.

The franchise big-man and two scorers the Raptors lost in the off-season will be difficult to replace.  So far, they have filled in at least one of those scorer spots with Kleiza.

Considering they just lost their franchise player, Bosh, over the summer, Toronto has not faired too terribly.  Basically, they went from 3 legit scorers down to 1 or 2, depending on how well Barbosa plays.  With the departure of Bosh, the Raptors lost his inside presence, rebounding, and his scoring.  On the other hand, Bosh is not known as a tremendous one-on-one defender.  In his young career, Bosh has never averaged even 1.0 steals per game.  And, in the last three years, he has not averaged over 1.0 blocks per game.  Now that Bosh has left, we can say definitively that the Bosh experiment—with him leading a team—was a failure to begin with due to his defensive shortcomings.

Up-coming Season

After struggling to make the playoffs over the last few seasons, the Toronto Raptors have finally reached a point where they will not have to worry about that for a while.  They will not make the playoffs without Bosh, not that Bosh was that amazing, but he’s a consistent 20-10 guy that went un-replaced.

Specifically, these Raptors will have serious problems with rebounding and defense.  They also suffer from another common Atlantic Division theme this year—they have no true center!  Bargnani is tall enough, but not strong enough, nor is he a good enough defender.  In addition to Bargnani, they have Solomon Alabi who is 7’1 and 251 but also a rookie; David Andersen, 1-year pro; and Joey Dorsey, 2-year pro.

Hopefully, the nice additions of Barbosa and Kleiza will help lighten the landing as this team sinks to near the bottom of the division.

The Future

The future does not look particularly bright for this organization—although I respect their general manager and the people in the organization.  But, I’m gonna hold my breath with this lineup and wait until the Raptors can land another great draft pick or trade before I see them in the playoffs again.

Summer league action, Knicks v. Raptors:

Things might go so bad this season, that Coach Jay Triano might want to sub himself into the lineup.  See what game Triano has left:

Overall Raptors’ Grade

D+

The Raptors took some serious steps back, losing all-star center Chris Bosh—not to mention Turkoglu and Bellineli.  Kleiza and Barbosa were interesting pickups, but not “game changers.”  This team has, for now, dropped out of playoff contention.


 

3.  New York Knicks

Key Acquisitions: Other Additions: Players Lost:
Amar’e Stoudemire—5 years at $100 million Roger Mason David Lee
Raymond Felton—2 years Ronny Turiaf Al Harrington
Anthony Randolph Shawne Williams Chris Duhon
  Patrick Ewing, Jr. Tracy McGrady
  Landry Fields Sergio Rodriguez
  Jerome Jordan Earl Barron
  Timofey Mozgov Eddie House
  Andy Rautins Jonathon Bender
    J.R. Giddens

Projected Starters:

Stoudemire 23 ppg 8.9 rpg  
Danilo Galinari 15.1 ppg    
Anthony Randolph  11.2 ppg   1.6 bpg
Wilson Chandler  15.3 ppg    
Felton 12.1 ppg 5.6 apg  

Personnel Changes:

N/A

Issues:

Weak at Center—Stoudemire, Mozgov (rookie), Turiaf, Curry

Rebounding

The Past

Since their one trip to the NBA Finals in recent history (1999) and losing Patrick Ewing to age, the Knicks have been stuck in a dreadful cycle of over-paying mediocre players.  Hopefully, dumping Tracy McGrady this off-season, and Eddie Curry next off-season will help the Knicks gain ground financially.

Like their finances, the Knicks’ play has been tumultuous, having slipped to near the bottom of the division a few seasons ago.  The Knicks are now on a small up swing, so if the trend continues, the Knicks will play their way back into a playoff spot within the next few seasons.

The Moves

Adding Stoudemire was a tremendous move for the Knicks, especially in terms of marketing.  But, losing David Lee at the same time hurts them almost as much as Stoudemire helps them.  They almost cancel each other out, except that Stoudemire makes more money, draws a bigger audience, grabs fewer rebounds, but also draws more double-teams.  I would have been much happier if the Knicks had found a way to get Stoudemire and retain Lee at the same time; they could have let Stoudemire play center, and Lee power forward.  Lee is a rebounding machine, and that is one area where Stoudemire is particularly weak for a power forward/center; thus, I believe they would have worked well together.  Instead, only having Stoudemire and Turiaf leaves the Knicks a little weak in the frontcourt.

The rest of the roster has a little potential.  Mason can fill in as resident three-point shooter.  Turiaf is a good energy and rebounding guy; good for 10-15 minutes a game.  Both Randolph and Azubuike can put up some points.  So far, D’Antoni has been impressed by 7’1 center Mozgov in camp.  Maybe, he can develop quickly, and help to bolster the Knicks’ frontcourt.

Stoudemire joins the Knicks:

Up-coming Season

While the New York Knicks will hold out for the hope of trading for Carmelo Anthony—even though that does not seem likely—the team enters the 2010 season much like last season.  They have a solid coach in place in Mike D’Antoni.  They have a great power-forward and a serviceable point-guard.  Unfortunately, if anything, the Knicks took a step back, losing shooters House and Rodriguez and Harrington’s almost 20 ppg.  Also, we cannot forget that that essentially swapping Lee for Stoudemire weakens the Knicks’ rebounding, so other players will have to step up and help out on the boards.

Hopefully, Mike D’Antoni can get Felton to over-achieve the way he got Chris Duhon to over-achieve, before he fell out of favor with Coach D’Antoni.  If the coach can help Felton average around 7-10 points a game and 7-10 assists per game, Felton will be of tremendous help to these Knicks.

Overall, if you are a Knick fan, I’d enter the season with guarded optimism about a slight improvement.  The addition of Stoudemire does make me hopeful that the Knicks will continue to attract better talent and rebuild a solid team.

The Future

Currently, the roster has some future promise, but it is minimal.  The development of Galinari and Chandler may dictate how far the Knicks go.  In that case, I’m glad I’m hoping for some other big changes in the Knicks’ team.

I’m still hoping that Stoudemire attracts more talent, someone like Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, or Tony Parker.

Although I have not heard or read their names in connection with the Knicks, even a combo of players like Danny Granger and Deron Williams could solidify this team enough to, at least, make the playoffs.

Overall Knicks Grade

B

The Knicks had one big loss (Lee) and one big score (Stoudemire).  The other losses and gains almost even each other out.  This current team is constructed not to really be a playoff contender, but I have a new hope about what future changes could be on the way for the Knicks over the next season or two.


 

4.  Philadelphia 76ers

Key Acquisitions: Other Additions: Players Lost:
Evan Turner (Rookie) Tony Battie Allen Iverson
Spencer Hawes James Florence Willie Green
Andres Nocioni Trent Plaisted Jason Smith
  Chris Quinn Rodney Carney
  Darius Songaila Samuel Dalembert
  Craig Brackins  

Projected Starters:

Hawes 10 ppg 6.1 rpg 1.3 bpg
Brand 13.1 ppg 6.1 rpg 1.1 bpg
Young 13.8 ppg 1.2 spg  
Iguodala 17.1 ppg 5.8 apg  1.7 spg
Williams 14 ppg 4.2 apg  1.2 spg

Personnel Changes:

Fired Head Coach Eddie Jordan

Hired Head Coach Doug Collins

Hired Assistant Coaches Michael Curry, Brian James, and Quin Snyder

Hired Team President Rod Thorn

The Past

If you crunch the numbers, the Sixers are an odd case.  The season before last, they challenged the Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic in a first round playoff series, which the Magic eventually won 4-2.  Last season, the Sixers seemed to free-fall.  What is odd is that statistically, they were a decent team—even last year.  Their rebounding, assists, and turnovers were all about the same as their opponents.  They turned it over too much, 14.5 tpg, so they could take better care of the ball.  They shot a little worse than their opponents, but they did nothing this off-season to improve that, aside from adding draft picks.

In the last two seasons, this team has regressed from being a playoff team to not even being close to a playoff spot.

The Moves

In replacing Dalembert with Hawes, the Sixers hold on to a solid center while, simultaneously, getting younger.  That’s an undeniable positive.

Adding Nocioni probably means that he will not start anymore, but his trickery and intensity will be a nice asset off the bench.

Up-coming Season

Some of their largest issues seem to be that the 76ers have trouble staying close in tight games and finishing teams off in the second half and fourth quarters of games.  So far, I’d have to agree with Collins, that the Sixers should rely on Iguodala less as their main offensive option.  They should develop Young, Williams, and Speights—and make them into their clutch point men.  Clearly, Young has already proven himself worthy, scoring a game-winner on Dwight Howard in the closing seconds of game 3 of a 2008 Eastern Conference first-round series.

While it looks improbable for the Sixers to have a great season in ‘11, I always hold out hope for the Philly teams—I have lots of family out there.  Taking out personal bias, I doubt this team will do much better than last season.  They will be better, but not significantly, so I would, expect another non-playoff season although they may be in the race for the eighth spot.

The Future

Losing Iverson will allow Williams to grow into the point guard, his natural position, but this team does not look to have added much in the off-season.

With the Iverson era clearly behind them, the 76ers enter another season without a number-one scoring option/superstar.  I like Iguodala, but he has maxed out at 20 ppg, so he’s not “the one.”  Looking into this season and beyond, the future is very uncertain for this team.

I still like their young core of Williams, Young, Jrue Holiday, Marreese Speights, and rookie Evan Turner.  But, other than maybe Turner, I’m not convinced anymore that they have a future number-one option or superstar in this group.

Young’s game winner:

Overall 76ers’ Grade

C-

The Sixers stayed about the same as last year—swapping comparable big men—, so that was good enough for a “C.”  However, after the terrible season they had, the Sixers should have done more in the off-season, hence the minus.  Besides, how could I grade them any higher when their starting lineup is even worse than the Nets’ starting lineup—on paper?


 

5.  New Jersey Nets

Key Acquisitions: Other Additions: Players Lost:
Jordan Farmar—3 years Sean May (later waived) Yi Jianlian
Anthony Morrow—3 years Johan Petro Chris Douglas-Roberts (CDR)
Travis Outlaw—5 years Joe Smith Jarvis Hayes
Troy Murphy Quinton Ross Keyon Dooling
Derrick Favors (Rookie) Eddie Gill Bobby Simmons
  Andre Brown Trenton Hassell
  Stephen Graham Josh Boone
  Ben Uzoh Sean Williams
  Brian Zoubek Tony Battie
  Damion James (Rookie) Chris Quinn

Projected Starters:

Brook Lopez  18.8 ppg 8.6 rpg 1.7 bpg
Troy Murphy 14.6 ppg  10.2 rpg 1.1 bpg
Outlaw 9.1 ppg  38% 3’s  
Morrow 13 ppg 45.6% 3’s 1.7 spg
Devon Harris 16.9 ppg 6.6 apg  1.2 spg

Personnel Changes:

Hired Head Coach Avery Johnson

Hired Player Development Coach Doug Overton

The Nets also added a new Assistant Trainer, Director of Sports Rehabilitation, Scouting, and General Manager.

The Past

Early in the 2000’s, this team made back-to-back trips to the NBA Finals, but of course that was a team led by Jason Kidd.

Now firmly in the post-Kidd and post-Vince Carter years, the Nets are struggling.  Last season, the 12-70 season, this team had too many weaknesses, especially rebounding, turnovers, and scoring.

The Moves

Considering the Nets swung and missed on big-name free agents like LeBron James, they could have done worse overall.

Instead of losing ground or standing pat, the Nets added a nice, young core of role players.  Sure, they still lack a superstar or two to lead them, but their additions were useful and efficient.  Instead of losing a big piece like Lopez or Harris to a trade, the Nets only lost Jianlian, who by all estimations never reached his full potential.  Coming into camp are some solid, new pieces players like Murphy, Morrow, Outlaw, and Farmar.

By replacing Yi Jianlian with Murphy, and Courtney Lee with Anthony Morrow, the Nets have increased their rebounding and scoring.  Still, they have not addressed turnovers.  Turnovers were an infectious problem that seeped into the entire team last season.  Even Sean Williams, who played all of 11 minutes a game in ’10, averaged 1.0 turnover per game.

I also like the small addition of the aging Joe Smith, a serviceable, veteran power-forward.

One small problem I had with the Nets off-season was the Yi Jianlian trade.  The Nets traded Jianlian and cash to the Washington Wizards for Quinton Ross.

I understand trying to dump salary to make a run at free agents—of course we know how that worked out—; I understand dumping a guy who missed 30 games last season; I even understand matching up the salaries, thereby, adding cash into the deal.  What I don’t get is how this was a fair trade for the Nets.

The Nets traded a starting forward and cash for a washed up defender who played 10 minutes a game last season—and scored a whole 1.8 ppg.  The trade also weakens the Nets at the small forward spot.  They now have rookie Favors and Outlaw at the 3.  They will probably end up missing CRD more than they might think, despite his erratic shooting at times, because at 6’7 he could have moved over to play a little at the small forward spot.

Overall, I like the additions, but it was nothing earth shattering.

Up-coming Season

After a historically dismal season in ’09-’10, the Nets have made some good changes to their organization and some minor changes to their team.

Head Coach Avery Johnson holds a 0.753 win percentage—1st in NBA history, for now as PJ is right behind him.  What is interesting about Johnson as the hire is that this reunites Devon Harris with the coach that led his team to the 2006 NBA Finals.

However, now their relationship seems a little tenuous due to Harris’ perception that Johnson wanted to ship him off on the next flight if it meant getting Carmelo Anthony in return.  But, c’mon, can Harris really blame him?  Harris and pieces for Carmelo sounded like a good trade for the Nets.  Unless that deal gets resuscitated, it is considered dead, meaning Johnson will have try make the most out of the talent he currently has.

Hopefully, Johnson can get the team to focus and concentrate more on taking care of the ball, and as a former point guard, Johnson will likely make that one of his main missions this season.

Besides Harris and rookie Favors, another bright spot is the solid play of center Brook Lopez.  He is the best and most efficient scorer on the team at 18.8 ppg and 49.9% (‘10).  The Nets would improve their offense by forcing the ball into him more down on the post, maybe giving him 5-6 more scoring opportunities per game.

Last year was almost a record-breaking year for losses, so this season cannot possibly be as bad.  Even so, I do not think they have done enough to produce any kind of meaningful turnaround.  They might produce another season like ’08 or ’09, winning about 34 games.

The Future

The Nets’ new owner Mikhal Procorof swung and missed big time when it came to landing LeBron James in the off-season, but he’s nothing if not persistent as he has also gone after Carmelo Anthony.  The future seems brighter than usual due to the new ownership, so let’s hope that the Nets keep making positive changes.

In terms of players, Terrance Williams—2nd year—is a developing talent.  In the draft, they have also added the highly touted and exciting rookie Derrick Favors.

In Morrow, they have one of the best, young 3-point shooters in the game.

And, in Outlaw they have a nice, young wing player who is capable of taking and making big shots.

Terrance Williams’ 1st season:

Overall Nets’ Grade

B-

Although the Nets were incapable of landing a dominant player in the off-season, they became a more well-rounded team and made some small improvements.


 

Notes

  • Teams are ranked in the order they finished in 2010
  • Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are from the 2010 NBA season
  • Rubric
    • A—major improvements
    • B—minor improvements
    • C—few, if any, improvements
    • D—minor losses
    • F—major losses

Bonus Vintage Rewind

In this 2001 pre-season New Jersey Nets’ game, Washington Wizard forward Michael Jordan lights up a Nets team only months away from a Finals’ appearance.  It’s rare you can find an interesting pre-season game, but Jordan’s 41 points made it exciting.

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