How the Atlantic Division Has Fared This Offseason

The New York Knicks have gone through wholesale changes this offseason looking to alter the outlook of a franchise coming off a 17-65 season.

Phil Jackson has had a busy free agency, signing free agents Arron Afflalo, Robin Lopez, Derrick Williams, and Kyle O’Quinn. The Knicks drafted Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis fourth overall, and traded Tim Hardaway Jr. to the Hawks for the 19th overall selection, point guard Jerian Grant out of Notre Dame.

Jason Smith is moving on to the Orlando Magic, and Shane Larkin is heading to the Brooklyn Nets. The Knicks still have some spots to fill on their roster, and they could look to bring back free agents from their team last year such as Lance Thomas, Lou Amundson, Cole Aldrich, and/or Alexay Shved.

The Atlantic Division has seen the Toronto Raptors win the past two division titles. Let’s take a look at how the Knicks division rivals have fared so far this offseason.

Toronto Raptors

Jason DeCrow/AP
Jason DeCrow/AP

Last Season’s Record: 49-33
Newcomers: DeMarre Carroll (Four-year/$60 mil), Cory Joseph (Four-year/$30 mil), Bismack Biyombo (Two-year/$6 mil), Luke Ridnour (trade), Delon Wright (20th overall pick), Norman Powell (46th overall pick)
Lost: Greivis Vasquez (traded to Milwaukee Bucks), Lou Williams (signed with Los Angeles Lakers), Amir Johnson (signed with Boston Celtics)
Key Unsigned Free Agents: Tyler Hansbrough

While the Raptors have enjoyed regular season success in winning the last two Atlantic Division titles, they have been bounced in the first round both times, including an embarrassing sweep last postseason to the Washington Wizards.

Free agent pickup DeMarre Carroll will immediately become the Raptors new starting small forward, which was previously held mostly by the inconsistent Terrence Ross. Carroll got his first chance to start in his two seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, providing strong wing defense and becoming a trustworthy 3-point shooter, making 37.9% of his threes on four attempts a game as a Hawk.

Bill Streicher - USA TODAY Sports
Bill Streicher – USA TODAY Sports

Cory Joseph proved himself to be one of the better backup point guards in the NBA last season, as he played a career high 18.3 minutes per game last season, occasionally suiting up as the starter when Tony Parker was out. Joseph nearly had a 3:1 assist to turnover ratio, and will have no problem stepping in the starting lineup if Kyle Lowry is forced to miss any games.

Bismack Biyombo has shown very little offensive game after his four seasons with the Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets, but he has averaged 10.4 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per 36 minutes in his career.

Delon Wright, the 20th overall selection out of Utah, will need to help fill the bench scoring void left behind by Lou Williams, last season’s 6th Man of the Year, leaving for the Lakers. Wright averaged 15.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 5.2 assists in his two seasons at Utah. He needs to put on weight (listed at 6-5 178 lbs.), and may want to expand his shooting range if he wants to get backup minutes behind DeMar DeRozan (career 29.9% 3-point shooter in college).

The Raptors starting power forward position is open because last season’s starter, Amir Johnson, is leaving for the Celtics. James Johnson and Patrick Patterson seem to be the first two in line to take it, with Johnson possibly having the slight edge due to Toronto’s defensive struggles last season when Patterson and Jonas Valanciunas shared the court.

Projected Rotation (as of now):
Point Guard- Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, Luke Ridnour
Shooting Guard- DeMar DeRozan, Delon Wright, Norman Powell
Small Forward- DeMarre Carroll, Terrence Ross, Bruno Caboclo
Power Forward- James Johnson, Patrick Patterson
Center- Jonas Valanciunas, Patrick Patterson, Lucas Nogueira

Boston Celtics

Noah Graham
Noah Graham

Last Season’s Record: 40-42
Newcomers: Amir Johnson (Two-year/$24 mil), David Lee (trade), Terry Rozier (16th overall pick), R.J. Hunter (28th overall pick), Jordan Mackey (33rd overall pick), Marcus Thornton (45th overall pick)
Re-signed: Jae Crowder (Five-year/$35 mil), Jonas Jerebko (Two-years/$10 mil)
Lost: Brandon Bass (signed with Lakers), Gerald Wallace (traded to Golden State Warriors)

After trading Rajon Rondo last season, it seemed like the Celtics were entering rebuilding mode. Instead, head coach Brad Stevens had his team playing hard each and every game, earning a surprise playoff berth as the seventh seed in the East.

This offseason has seen the Celtics add some new pieces, but it also seems as if the Celtics have too many players at certain positions.

Power forward is one of those positions. The Celtics signed Amir Johnson, who averaged 9.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, and shot 57.4% from the field as a starter for the Raptors last season. They also acquired David Lee, who was an All-Star as recently as 2013, and has averaged double-digit rebounds in four different seasons, but saw his minutes decrease immensely on a stacked Warriors team this past season. They also still have Jared Sullinger, who averaged 13.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game for the Celtics last season.

The simple thing to do would be to move one of these guys to center, except the Celtics have two recent 7-0 first round picks manning the middle, who both averaged double-digit scoring last season in Tyler Zeller and Kelly Olynyk. Sullinger has been linked to trade rumors, and trading him could help to relieve the logjam at the power forward position. For now, after signing for $12 million a season for two years, Johnson seems most likely to begin as the starting power forward.

Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

Point guard is another position that can potentially have too many players, as the Celtics drafted 6-1 guard, Terry Rozier, with the 16th overall selection. The Celtics traded for last year’s runner-up for Sixth Man of the Year, Isaiah Thomas at the trade deadline last season. Thomas averaged 19.0 points and 5.4 assists in his 21 games with the team. Marcus Smart, the team’s sixth overall selection last season, started 38 games as a rookie, proving himself to be a potential future NBA All-Defensive player, while earning a spot on the NBA All-Rookie Second Team.

The Celtics have last year’s starter Avery Bradley, last year’s first-round selection James Young, and this year’s other first-round selection R.J. Hunter, all playing shooting guard. Evan Turner started 57 games last season, picking up a few triple-doubles along the way, and is capable of playing shooting guard, small forward, while even starting at point guard at times last season. Jae Crowder, who re-signed for five seasons, also plays small forward. Jonas Jerebko, re-signed for two years, can play both forward positions, although he may be better suited at power forward.

Too much depth isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What the Celtics don’t have is that one reliable scorer that they can go to each and every game. That makes it seem as if a trade needs to be in the works, and Celtics general manager, Danny Ainge, has never had problems working the phones.

Projected Lineup (as of now):
Point Guard- Marcus Smart, Isaiah Thomas, Terry Rozier
Shooting Guard- Avery Bradley, James Young, R.J. Hunter
Small Forward- Evan Turner, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko
Power Forward- Amir Johnson, Jared Sullinger, David Lee
Center- Tyler Zeller, Kelly Olynyk

Brooklyn Nets

Last Season’s Record: 38-44
Newcomers: Shane Larkin (Two-year/$3 mil), Thomas Robinson (Two-year/$3 mil), Ryan Boatright (Two-year, $1.75mil), Steve Blake (trade), Rondae-Hollis Jefferson (23rd overall pick, acquired from Portland Trail Blazers), Chris McCullough (29th overall pick)
Re-signed: Brook Lopez (Three-year/$60 mil), Thaddeus Young (Three-year/$50 mil)
Lost: Alan Anderson (signed with Wizards), Mason Plumlee (traded to Trail Blazers)
Key Unsigned Free Agents: Mirza Teletovic

Being over the salary cap, the Nets have very little room to make player acquisitions, and their only free agent acquisitions are Shane Larkin and Thomas Robinson on low-end deals. Robinson could see playing time backing up Thaddeus Young at power forward, especially if Mirza Teletovic does not re-sign. Shane Larkin’s role is unknown with Deron Williams, Jarrett Jack, Ryan Boatright, and Steve Blake already on the roster.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Johnson has one season left on his mega-deal, and has been linked as a potential trade candidate. The Cavaliers are the main team that has been said to possibly acquiring him, giving up the non-guaranteed contract of Brendan Haywood and Anderson Varejao.

For now, the Nets will return the same starting lineup that ended last season in Williams, Johnson, Young, and Lopez. The Nets saw a few players start at shooting guard last year, including Bojan Bogdanovic, Sergey Karasev, Markel Brown, and the recently departed Alan Anderson. Bogdanovic is coming off a season in which he was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team, so he may be the early favorite to garnering the starting position.

Projected Rotation (as of now):
Point Guard- Deron Williams, Jarrett Jack, Steve Blake, Shane Larkin, Ryan Boatright
Shooting Guard- Bojan Bogdanovic, Markel Brown, Sergey Karasev
Small Forward- Joe Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Sergey Karasev
Power Forward- Thaddeus Young, Mirza Teletovic (?)
Center- Brook Lopez, Chris McCullough

Philadelphia 76ers

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Last Season’s Record: 18-64
Newcomers: Nik Stauskas (trade), Jason Thompson (trade), Carl Landry (trade), Jahlil Okafor (3rd overall pick), Richaun Holmes (37th overall pick)
Lost: Thomas Robinson (Nets)
Key Unsigned Free Agents: Henry Sims, Luc Mbah a Moute, Jason Richardson, Ish Smith

So begins the third year of 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie’s rebuilding project, where the playoffs are not even a consideration. Stockpiling draft picks in hopes of finding stars by means of the draft is currently the 76ers mindset.

The 76ers took advantage of the Sacramento Kings wanting to dump salary, acquiring Nik Stauskas, Jason Thompson, and Carl Landry while also receiving a protected first-round pick, and the option to swap first round picks with the Kings in two future drafts. The 76ers had no problem receiving Thompson and Landry, who have been told they will not be waived, in order to acquire Stauskas, who was the eighth overall selection in the 2014 NBA Draft.

NBC Sports
NBC Sports

While Stauskas was a disappointment in his rookie season with the Kings, shooting only 36.5% from the field and 32.2% from 3-point range, he is still only 21-years-old. The 76ers may have received a long-range shooter who can be part of their future for a long time coming, if he pans out.

Other than that trade, the 76ers were not looking to do much via free agency as they have not signed a single player. They did draft Jahlil Okafor with the third overall pick, the third straight year they have used a high lottery pick on a big man. Okafor was a First Team All-American in his only season at Duke, averaging 17.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, while shooting 66.4% from the field for the national champion Duke Blue Devils.

Last year’s third overall pick, 7-2 Joel Embiid, missed the entire season due to a foot injury. A recent CT scan has shown less healing than expected in his foot, which again puts in question whether he will play this upcoming season.

Nerlens Noel took the court for the first time last season, after missing the entire 2013-14 season due to injury. Noel averaged 9.9 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, and 1.8 steals per game, while being named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. Noel, the sixth overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft who is currently only 21-years-old, showed signs that he could be a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate in the future.

The 76ers have a plethora of young talent with Okafor, Embiid, Noel, Stauskas, as well as Tony Wroten and Robert Covington. The NBA has never quite seen a rebuilding project like the one Sam Hinkie is constructing, so nobody can be sure how it will exactly turn out.

Projected Rotation (as of now):
Point Guard- Isaiah Canaan, Tony Wroten
Shooting Guard- Tony Wroten, Nik Stauskas, JaKarr Sampson
Small Forward- Robert Covington, Hollis Thompson, Jerami Grant
Power Forward- Nerlens Noel, Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, Furkan Aldemir
Center- Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid (?)

The Atlantic Division collectively was the worst division in the NBA last season, with an overall record of 162-248, for a ghastly 39.5% winning percentage. The Raptors had the worst record at 49-33 of any division winner last season, and the division also had the teams with the second and third worst records in the NBA, the Knicks and 76ers respectively.

Once again, there seems to be no elite team in the Atlantic Division. It at least gives Knicks fans some hope that if all their roster retooling works out in their favor, that they can stay in contention for the division crown.


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