NBA Summer Preview: Atlantic Division

Have a guest writer in today to dust off the ol’ NBA team summer previews just for fun here.  I have no inside knowledge whatsoever and these are just meant to give an idea of where teams are at as a whole as we head into draft and free agency season.

Atlantic Division

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Toronto Raptors

  • 2015-16 record: 56-26
  • Finish: 2nd place, made Eastern Conference Finals
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: DeMar DeRozan (23.5)
    • Rebounds: Jonas Valanciunas (9.1)
    • Assists: Kyle Lowry (6.4)
    • Blocks: Bismack Biyombo (1.6)
  • Restricted free agents: Terence Ross
  • Unrestricted free agents: Bismack Biyombo, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Luis Scola, Jason Thompson
  • Draft picks: 9th Pick, 27th Pick

Last season overview: Coming off their best season in franchise history, the Raptors have some work to do. After a strong regular season led by All-Stars Lowry and DeRozan, the Raptors had an up and down playoff run, looking bad at times and good at times as they struggled to get past two overmatched opponents in a pair of 7 game series wins against the Pacers and Heat in the first two rounds. In the conference finals they found themselves unable to hang with LeBron James’ Cavs, getting escorted out in six games, though they left their home floor to a standing ovation from their adoring and passionate crowd.

Summer outlook: This is a franchise on the up and up, but they have some big decisions to make, primarily with center Biyombo and All-Star DeRozan. DeRozan had a big season, but struggled in the playoffs with ineffective shooting as a low-percentage volume scorer. He might command the max, but is he worth it? Biyombo is an interesting case as well, a raw but athletic 23-year old center who stepped up bigtime in the playoffs. He may have earned himself some big money.

 

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Boston Celtics

  • 2015-16 record: 48-34
  • Finish: 5th seed, lost in first round
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: Isaiah Thomas (22.2)
    • Rebounds: Jared Sullinger (8.3)
    • Assists: Isaiah Thomas (6.2)
    • Blocks: Amir Johnson (1.1)
  • Restricted free agents: Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller
  • Unrestricted free agents: Evan Turner
  • Draft picks: 3rd, 16th, 23rd, 31st, 35th, 45th, 51st, 58th

Last season overview: The Celtics overachieved last year with a hard-playing roster of role players under coach Brad Stevens, scrapping their way to a solid record and a four-way tie for third place. Tiebreakers saw them lose homecourt advantage in the playoffs and they were outplayed by Atlanta, eventually losing in six games in the first round. Still, the emergence of Isaiah Thomas as a team leader, Jae Crowder as a top-tier glue guy and their other players made this last season a success, and for a team that’s building assets they have positioned themselves very well moving forward.

Summer outlook: The Celtics are in a great position and will be expected to be active this summer. Their stockpiling of draft picks is paying off this year, but a team can only bring in so many rookies, so look for them to dangle some of their picks in trying to pry talent off of other teams – particularly with that 3rd pick they got from Brooklyn.

 

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New York Knicks

  • 2015-16 record: 32-50
  • Finish: 13th place, missed playoffs
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: Carmelo Anthony (21.8)
    • Rebounds: Carmelo Anthony (7.7)
    • Assists: Carmelo Anthony (4.2)
    • Blocks: Kristaps Porzingis (1.9)
  • Restricted free agents: Cleanthony Early, Langston Galloway
  • Unrestricted free agents: Arron Afflalo, Lou Amundson, Kevin Seraphin, Lance Thomas, Sasha Vujacic, Derrick Williams
  • Draft picks: None

Last season overview: The Knicks were up and down last year (mostly down), with a few bright spots here and there, most notably the play of Latvian rookie Kristaps Porzingis, who showed a nice offensive game, hustle and the possibility of becoming a franchise cornerstone down the road.

Summer outlook: Having no draft picks hurts pretty bad, as the Knicks had to give up their #7 selection to Denver. But with Porzingis in the mix, there is hope, as the Knicks need to hope their big market status and Phil Jackson running the show starts making them an attractive destination for free agents again. Anthony isn’t getting any younger, so look for them to make some moves to try to get better quickly.

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Brooklyn Nets

  • 2015-16 record:  21-61
  • Finish: 14th place, missed playoffs
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: Brook Lopez (20.6)
    • Rebounds: Thaddeus Young (9.0)
    • Assists: Jarrett Jack (7.4)
    • Blocks: Brook Lopez (1.7)
  • Restricted free agents: Markel Brown, Willie Reed
  • Unrestricted free agents: Wayne Ellington, Sergey Karasev, Shane Larkin, Thomas Robinson, Harry Sims, Donald Sloan
  • Draft picks: 55th

Last season overview: Woof. The Nets suffered though a rough season with a banged-up roster of journeymen and fringe NBA players, never having either hope to be competitive this year or much to look forward to for the summer with them owing their pick to Boston. The worst and lowest point is probably over for them, but it will take them years to rebuild. They’ve started their changes by bringing in first-year head coach Kenny Atkinson and former Spurs assistant GM Sean Marks to turn this ship around, but it’s going to take some time to get back to respectability.

Summer outlook: This is a team without a ton of options at the moment – they don’t have a team quite ready to compete to land the big free agents, and they don’t have a significant draft pick to bring in a rookie. You wonder if they look to trade some of their veterans – Lopez, Young, Jack – for young talent as they look to rebuild.

 

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Philadelphia 76ers

Philadelphia 76ers

  • 2015-16 record: 10-72
  • Finish: 15th place, missed playoffs
  • Team Leaders
    • Scoring: Jahlil Okafor (17.5)
    • Rebounds: Nerlens Noel (8.1)
    • Assists: Ish Smith (7.0)
    • Blocks: Jerami Grant (1.6)
  • Restricted free agents: Isaiah Canaan, Christian Wood
  • Unrestricted free agents: Elton Brand, Ish Smith
  • Draft picks: 1st, 24th, 26th

Last season overview: After a third straight year of tanking to play the lottery odds and attempt to rebuild through high picks by not even attempting to win, the ownership in Philly finally got sick of losing and parted ways with GM Sam Presti, whose rebuilding plan was taking hits due to bad luck, injuries to young players and just a general ugliness feeling to a franchise that wasn’t even trying. Okafor and Noel looked like capable players, if immature, and Ish Smith provided a spark plug once he came onboard midseason. But overall, this is a team that will likely look much different in a couple years than it did last season.

Summer outlook: The Sixers finally saw some dividends out of losing as they landed the first pick in the draft lottery a few weeks ago, giving them that coveted first pick they’ve been targeting for years. With the Colangelos on board now running the team, expect the team to make a push at getting much better very quickly. The team has a lot of young talent and assets – now it needs to convert that into wins.

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