Breaking down NBA Eastern Conference moves
Breaking down NBA Eastern Conference moves
By Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
SALT LAKE CITY – As of 12:01 a.m. Thursday morning, all those handshake deals teams and players agreed to after July 1 could become official.
The Celtics signed a pair of their free agent targets in Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko.
In the coming days they will add the re-signing of Jae Crowder and a trade of Gerald Wallace and another player (Chris Babb or Phil Pressey) for Golden State’s David Lee to the team’s transaction list as well.
Other newcomers to the roster this season include first-round picks Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter selected with the 16th and 28th overall picks in June’s NBA draft, respectively.
Once those deals are complete, the Celtics roster should stand at 14 and likely move to the league-maximum of 15 if the Celtics sign second-round pick Jordan Mickey.
Boston didn’t have the kind of fireworks this summer they were hoping for as they fell short of landing the high-impact, difference-making franchise player they coveted.
Still, the players they have acquired coupled with the ones that are still under contract, have made the Celtics a better team (on paper at least) than the one that finished seventh in the East last season with a 40-42 record.
But will that be enough to improve their lot among their Eastern Conference brethren, many of whom have been active this summer as well?
Here’s a breakdown of the offseason moves made by the other 14 teams in the Eastern Conference:
VIA DRAFT: SG Marcus Eriksson (Round 2, 50th overall); PF Dimitrius Agravanis (Round 2, 59th overall); Walter Tavares (Round 2, 43rd overall in 2014).
VIA FREE AGENCY/TRADE: Tim Hardaway Jr. (from New York); Paul Millsap (re-signed); Justin Holiday (free agency).
SUMMARY: The addition of Hardaway Jr. will certainly soften the blow of losing DeMarre Carroll to Toronto. But so much of Atlanta’s success had to do with great team chemistry and team defense. Hardaway should have no problem filling the offensive void left by Carroll’s departure. But the Hawks’ defense will take a slight step back this season even with the addition of 7-foot-3 center Walter Tavares.
VIA DRAFT: Chris McCullough (Round 1, 29th overall).
VIA FREE AGENCY/TRADE: Brook Lopez (re-signed); Thaddeus Young (re-signed); Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (trade); Juan Valet (trade); Shane Larkin (free agency); Thomas Robinson (free agency); Wayne Ellington (free agency); Steve Blake (trade).
SUMMARY: The Nets didn’t make any moves that significantly move the needle one way or the other this offseason, but they did add some much-needed athleticism on the perimeter with the addition of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and depth in the frontcourt with Thomas Robinson. Getting Lopez and Young re-signed keeps the Nets in the playoff chase for sure. But beyond that, this offseason was one where Brooklyn’s moves were solid ones but far from spectacular.
VIA DRAFT: Frank Kaminsky (Round 1, 9th overall).
VIA FREE AGENCY/TRADE: Jeremy Lin (free agency); Nicolas Batum (trade); Jeremy Lamb (trade); Spencer Hawes (trade).
SUMMARY: Charlotte added some quality depth at just about every position this offseason. Nicolas Batum should provide them what they were hoping to get from Lance Stephenson, and they added a couple of decent complimentary players to Al Jefferson with Frank Kaminsky and Spencer Hawes, a pair of bigs who should be able to stretch the floor. Look for the Hornets to once again be in the thick of the playoff chase.
VIA DRAFT: Bobby Portis (Round 1, 22nd overall).
VIA FREE AGENCY/TRADE: Jimmy Butler (re-signed); Mike Dunleavy (re-signed); Aaron Brooks (re-signed).
SUMMARY: Getting Jimmy Butler re-signed was Chicago’s top priority, so this was a successful offseason in the Windy City. They are easily one of the most talented teams in the Eastern Conference if they can stay healthy – and that has been a huge ‘IF’ with this team. Portis should provide a spark off the bench for an aging frontcourt. Look for the Bulls to once again be among the top three or four teams in the East.
VIA DRAFT: Sir’ Dominic Pointer (Round 2, 53rd overall)
VIA FREE AGENCY/TRADE: LeBron James (re-signed); Kevin Love (re-signed); Rakeem Christmas (trade); Mo Williams (free agency).
SUMMARY: The only significant business left for Cleveland this offseason is getting Tristan Thompson re-signed, a process that has taken longer than most anticipated. The return of Thompson to Cleveland all but assures the Cavaliers as being the overwhelming favorite as the team to beat in the East. But if he somehow winds up with another team (DeAndre Jordan has taught us all that anything can happen during free agency this summer), the gap between the Cavs and the rest of the East is still sizable but not quite as wide.
VIA DRAFT: Stanley Johnson (Round 1, 8th overall); Darrun Hilliard (Round 2, 38th overall).
VIA FREE AGENCY/TRADE: Ersan Ilyasova (trade); Reggie Jackson (re-signed); Aron Baynes (free agency); Marcus Morris (trade); Reggie Bullock (trade); Danny Granger (trade); Joel Anthony (re-signed).
SUMMARY: Detroit was yet another team with substantial salary cap space that wasn’t able to land one of the upper tier free agents. Getting Reggie Jackson back was a solid move, although his contract (five years, $80 million) was a bit much considering Detroit had no competition for his services. Ilyasova gives them some versatility at the power forward position and the potential to go in many different directions (Stanley Johnson, Marcus Morris, Danny Granger) at small forward. It’s hard to say if the Pistons are better because while there’s more talent on the roster now, figuring out roles will be one of this group’s biggest challenges. Best-case scenario is they’re fighting for one of the last playoff slots.
VIA DRAFT: Myles Turner (Round 1, 11th overall); Joseph Young (Round 2, 43rd overall)
VIA FREE AGENCY/TRADE: Monta Ellis (free agency); Rodney Stuckey (re-signed); Jordan Hill (free agency); Lavoy Allen (re-signed).
SUMMARY: Indiana needed a jolt to its laboring, slow-footed offense and got it by signing Ellis. But his defense, while improving, isn’t anywhere close to what the Pacers have come to expect from its perimeter players. Keeping Stuckey was a solid decision, but you have to wonder how much will Ellis and Stuckey play together and maybe most important, how will they mesh with All-Star Paul George? Indiana has better positioned itself as a playoff team, but they have some work ahead of them if they are going to be anything more than a first-round exit victim.
VIA DRAFT: Justise Winslow (Round 1, 10th overall); Josh Richardson (Round 2, 40th overall).
VIA FREE AGENCY/TRADE: Goran Dragic (re-signed); Dwyane Wade (re-signed); Gerald Green (free agency).
SUMMARY: The consensus throughout the NBA is the Heat landed the steal of the draft in Justise Winslow. Beyond that, the Heat didn’t accomplish anything extraordinary or unexpected. They have a solid core of Wade, Chris Bosh and Dragic but depth concerns remain. Miami is a playoff-caliber team for sure. But beyond that, the Heat aren’t going to make much postseason noise this season.
VIA DRAFT: Rashad Vaughn (Round 1, 17th overall)
VIA FREE AGENCY/TRADE: Khris Middleton (re-signed); Greg Monroe (free agency); Greivis Vasquez (trade).
SUMMARY: Milwaukee looks like the next mid-major team to make a big splash in the NBA. They have a young, talented core group and just added Greg Monroe who was one of the top free agent big men available. Talent isn’t an issue now. It’s blending it all together, and being able to withstand the increased attention teams will pay to them now because the Bucks are no longer sneaking up on anyone. Look for them to be among the top three or four teams in the Eastern Conference this season.
NEW YORK KNICKS
VIA DRAFT: Kristaps Porzingis (Round 1, 4th overall)
VIA FREE AGENCY/TRADE: Jerian Grant (trade); Guillermo Hernangomez (trade); Robin Lopez (free agency); Arron Afflalo (free agency); Derrick Williams (free agency); Kyle O’Quinn (sign-and-trade).
SUMMARY: The Knicks will be noticeably better with the additions, especially on the defensive end with Lopez in the middle and Afflalo on the perimeter. But this team will only go as far as Carmelo Anthony can take them. And unless some of their young guys exceed early expectations, look for the Knicks to be more competitive but still fall short of making the playoffs.
VIA DRAFT: Mario Hezonja (Round 1, 5th overall); Tyler Harvey (Round 2, 51st overall)
VIA FREE AGENCY/TRADE: Tobias Harris (re-signed); Jason Smith (free agent); C. J. Watson (free agent).
SUMMARY: Not a lot of sizzle to their offseason pick-ups other than the re-signing of Tobias Harris. Orlando has lots of ways to score the ball now, but they need to get Nikola Vucevic some help around the basket defensively to help make up for the void left by Kyle O’Quinn’s departure. No playoffs this year for the Magic, but definitely taking strides in the right direction.
VIA DRAFT: Jahlil Okafor (Round 1, 3rd overall); Richaun Holmes (Round 2, 37th overall); Arturas Gudaitis (Round 2, 47th overall); J.P. Tokoto (Round 2, 58th overall); Luka Mitrovic (Round 2, 60th overall).
VIA FREE AGENCY/TRADE: None
SUMMARY: The Sixers have been one of the league’s worst teams for the past couple of years and there’s nothing they did this summer that will change that. Landing Okafor in the draft gives them a talented rookie that can play which comes on the heels of most of their rookies falling under one but not both of those categories. Another trip to the NBA lottery (top-14) is in store for the Sixers.
VIA DRAFT: Delon Wright (Round 1, 20th overall);
VIA FREE AGENCY/TRADE: DeMarre Carroll (free agency); Norman Powell (trade); Luis Scola (free agency); Bismack Biyombo (free agency); Cory Joseph (free agency).
SUMMARY: The Raptors have the look of a team trending in the wrong direction with key players to their success in recent years leaving via free agency. Toronto added a talented two-way player in DeMarre Carroll and addressed their lack of frontcourt muscle by coming to terms with Luis Scola. They will once again be in the playoffs, but they still seem to be a player or two away from breaking through to be one of the East’s top four teams.
VIA DRAFT: Aaron White (Round 2, 49th overall).
VIA FREE AGENCY/TRADE: Kelly Oubre (trade); Alan Anderson (free agency); Gary Neal (free agency); Jared Dudley (trade);
SUMMARY: They had a major hole at the small forward position coming into the summer and filled with admirably through the draft and trades. With their core intact, the Wizards are still one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference. If they can get solid play at both ends of the floor from the small forward position, the Wizards could take the next step in their growth which would be getting to the Eastern Conference finals.