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Celtics primed and ready for another run

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Celtics primed and ready for another run

TheBoston Celtics saw sharpshooting guard Ray Allen take his talents to South Beach but future Hall-of-Famer Kevin Garnett returns as theCeltics believe they can make a few more runs at an NBA title. After a renaissance toGarnett's game, especially in the second-half of last season, the 37-year old power forward signed a 3-year, 34 million deal this summer to likely close out his illustrious career in Boston. The 6'11'' Garnett averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds last seasonbut the Celtics bowed out in the Eastern Conference finals to Miami in a tough7-game series.

Garnett and Boston have a long off-season to think about what could have been after not being able to close out Miami in Game 6 at homewith a 3-2 lead. The Heat would win the next two games and go on to win the NBA title.

Garnett enters his 18th NBA season but the most important player for the Celtics now ispoint guard Rajon Rondo. The 6'1'' Rondoaveraged 12 points and a staggering 12 assists a game last year as the Celtics went 39-27, good enough for the 4th seed in the playoffs.Rondo makes the offense in Boston go with his uncanny ability to find the open man, but with Allen not in the fold Rondo may have to put more on himself to score the ball next season. All-Star Paul Pierce is back and so is hisincredible knack to find ways to score as the veteran small forward averaged 19 points a game last season.

The Celtics were very active this summer in free-agency, adding guardJason Terry who is expected to helpBoston replace Allen and provide scoring for the Celtics. Terry helped Dallas win the NBA title two seasons ago and last year the former Sixth Man of the Yearaveraged 15 points off the bench for the Mavericks.

In another effort to make up for the potential lack of scoring, Boston doled out a 4-year, 20 million contract toguard Courtney Lee who only scored 11 points a game for the Rockets last season. Lee is still young, entering just his fifth NBA season.

After missing all of last season with an irregular heartbeat, Boston is also reportedly bringing small forward Jeff Green back on a 4-year 36 million deal. With Brandon Bass and Pierce holding down the forward spots, Green would likely come off the bench.

In June's NBA draft, Boston went after a few seasoned college players and one project.

Ohio State's bulky Jared Sullinger was taken by Boston with the 21st overall pick. Sullinger, once a top 10 prospect, slipped dramatically when he was red-flagged for a bad back. In summer league play, Sullinger was solid, withdouble-digit rebounds in three of his five games in LasVegas and an 11-point average. Sullinger could fill the role Glen Davis had a few years ago with the Celtics as a banger off the bench who could also provide a spark with his scoring.

The Celtics also took center Fab Melo out of Syracuse with the 22 pick. Melo is very raw but at 7''' and 250 pounds, Boston has the organization in which a player like Melo can learn under the likes of Garnett and Pierce about what it takes to be real professional.

In the second round, the Celtics took another player out of Syracuse in small forwardKris Joseph, who played four years in college. Joseph has a shot at making the team if he can step up his defensive play because Boston knows the 6'7'' swing man can score the ball.

Boston is reloading for another titlerun with coach Doc Rivers backand with the returning big three ofGarnett, Rondo and Pierce,the Celticscertainly have a good shot.

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NBA offseason grades: With Kawhi Leonard, Raptors shined most in Atlantic Division

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NBA offseason grades: With Kawhi Leonard, Raptors shined most in Atlantic Division

Here is a look at how the 2018 NBA offseason went for teams in the Atlantic Division...

Toronto Raptors, B+

2017-18 finish: 59-23, 2nd round of playoffs
In: F Kawhi Leonard, G Danny Green, C Greg Monroe
Out: G DeMar DeRozan, C Jakub Poeltl, C Lucas Nogueira

The Raptors had one of the more consequential offseasons of any NBA team this year. First, they fired Dwane Casey, the 2017-18 NBA Coach of the Year, following a season in which they won 59 games. Then, they pulled off the biggest trade of the summer, a deal that featured two perennial All-NBA players. They let go of DeRozan and brought in Leonard in return. If they hadn't parted with DeRozan and Casey, they may have gotten an A. But it's hard to tell how much better they will be following the deal and Leonard does bring with him some concerns based on his quadriceps injury and the fact he has only one year left on his contract. The Raptors do, however, also get points for re-signing point guard Fred VanVleet.

Boston Celtics, C

2017-18 finish: 55-27, conference finals
In: C Robert Williams, G Brad Wanamaker
Out: C Greg Monroe

One year ago, the Celtics flipped nearly their entire roster and brought in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. This year, they mostly stood pat and didn't add much of anything in free agency or trades. Their biggest acquisition was Williams, who they took 27th overall in the first round of the draft. The Celtics will hope they improve from within. They re-signed Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes, and should get Irving and Hayward back from injuries. They should have plenty of talent to compete for an NBA Finals berth, but as far as this offseason goes, they didn't do much.

Philadelphia 76ers, D+

2017-18 finish: 52-30, 2nd round of playoffs
In: F Wilson Chandler, C Mike Muscala, G Zhaire Smith, G Landry Shamet
Out: G Marco Belinelli, F Ersan Ilyasova

Where do we begin? This summer was about as dramatic and bad as it could get for the Sixers. First, they had to fire their general manager because of a burner Twitter account scandal. Then, they struck out miserably in free agency with LeBron James and Paul George, and in trade talks for Leonard. After that, Smith - their first round pick - hurt his foot. And along the way, Ben Simmons has been dating a Kardashian, flirting with the curse that has claimed many pro athletes before him. Philly did re-sign J.J. Redick and Johnson, and the Chandler trade was nice, but all in all it was an offseason that fell way short of the Sixers' expectations. That said, they can still get way better next season based solely on their young players taking another step.

New York Knicks, B

2017-18 finish: 29-53, missed playoffs
In: F Mario Hezonja, F Kevin Knox, F Noah Vonleh, C Mitchell Robinson
Out: F Michael Beasley, G Jarrett Jack, F Kyle O'Quinn

It's been a while since the Knicks had an offseason to write home about and this one is no exception. There was nothing they did that would flirt with an A-grade. However, the early returns on their draft are excellent. Knox and Robinson were both standouts in the Summer League and offer fans a little bit more hope about the team's future. As long as Kristaps Porzingis can return this season safe and sound from his ACL tear, the Knicks could take a step forward in 2018-19.

Brooklyn Nets, C+

2017-18 finish: 28-54, missed playoffs
In: F Ed Davis, F Kenneth Faried, F Jared Dudley
Out: F Dante Cunningham, G Nik Stauskas, C Jahlil Okafor

The best news about the Nets' offseason is that their trade with the Celtics, the one that stripped them of years of first round picks, is finally over. Next year, the Nets will have a first round pick. This summer, they once again didn't add any major pieces in the draft, but seemed to make some smart moves in free agency. The Davis deal is solid and Faried may benefit from a change of scenery. More baby steps for Brooklyn.

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NBA offseason grades: Wizards, Magic highlight Southeast Division

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USA TODAY Sports

NBA offseason grades: Wizards, Magic highlight Southeast Division

Here is a look at how the 2018 NBA offseason went for teams in the Southeast Division...

Washington Wizards, B+

2017-18 finish: 43-39, 1st round of playoffs
In: C Dwight Howard, G Austin Rivers, G Troy Brown, Jr., F Jeff Green, C Thomas Bryant
Out: C Marcin Gortat, F Mike Scott, G Ty Lawson, G Tim Frazier, G Ramon Sessions, F Chris McCullough

Given the circumstances of their salary cap situation, the Wizards did quite well for themselves this summer. They shook things up by trading Gortat and actually got something solid back for him in Rivers. They then filled Gortat's spot with an eight-time All-Star in Howard and did so at a bargain price, the taxpayer mid-level exception. They also added Green at a nice price and Brown, who acquitted himself nicely in the Summer League. Whether the Wizards made a major leap forward is debatable, but the potential is there for them to re-install themselves as contenders in the East. The possibility things go wrong is also there, but all in all, a strong summer for the Wizards.

Atlanta Hawks, B

2017-18 finish: 24-58, missed playoffs
In: G Jeremy Lin, C Alex Len, G Trae Young, G Vince Carter, G Kevin Huerter, F Justin Anderson, F Omari Spellman
Out: G Dennis Schroeder, C Mike Muscala, C Dewayne Dedmon, G Malcolm Delaney, G Isaiah Tayor

The Hawks did a nice job with the draft by picking up an extra first round pick just to move back two spots (from third to fifth) in their trade with the Mavericks. They added Young with the fifth pick and then got Huerter later on at No. 18. The Len signing at two years and $8.5 million looks like a bargain and they added a nice mix of veteran free agents and young players to develop. It will probably be a few years before the Hawks are back in the playoffs, but they seemed to take a step forward this summer.

Miami Heat, D

2017-18 finish: 44-38, 1st round of playoffs
In: F Duncan Robinson
Out: G Dwyane Wade, G Wayne Ellington, F Luke Babbitt

The Heat had one of the least impactful summers of any team in the NBA. The biggest addition they have so far, and this is true, is Robinson. They didn't make any draft picks and struck out in free agency. What they did do is let go of Wade, Ellington and others. The only way the Heat improve year-over-year is if their young guys like Bam Adebayo or Justise Winslow take a big step forward. 

Charlotte Hornets, C+

2017-18 finish: 36-46, missed playoffs
In: C Bismack Biyombo, F Miles Bridges, G Devonte' Graham
Out: C Dwight Howard, G Michael Carter-Williams, G Treveon Graham

New Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak quickly turned the franchise into a different direction this offseason by trading Howard to the Nets. They then added Biyombo in a deal with the Magic and acquired Bridges through the draft. There isn't a lot to love or hate about the Hornets' offseason, so they fall in the middle of the grading scale. The real question now is what they do with Kemba Walker, who has just one year left on his contract.

Orlando Magic, B+

2017-18 finish: 25-57, missed playoffs
In: C Mohamed Bamba, C Timofey Mozgov, F Justin Jackson, F Jarell Martin, G Jerian Grant
Out: G Mario Hezonja, C Marreese Speights, G Arron Aflalo

The Magic had a strong summer. The re-signed forward Aaron Gordon, a rising young player, and drafted Bamba, who has the tools to become an All-Star and a dominant defensive force. They had some questionable moves, like trading for Mozgov, but the future looks a lot brighter for the Magic than it did just a few months ago.

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