Offseason Lookback: Atlantic Division

This summer, I spent a lot of time breaking down each team and their offseason moves. Wanting to keep some track of a hectic offseason, I decided to use this as a way to look back and see how I felt (as well as seeing how others may have seen) about the summer of 2019. For this piece, I want to see how my points look a few months into the season, and if there are trends that I, or others, may have overlooked. No one is perfect when evaluating other teams and their moves, so a retrospective is needed.

Boston Celtics

When looking at the Celtics’ offseason, I think with their current circumstances, they did fairly well. Overall, they consolidated their roster and focused upon their young stars as well as swapping Kyrier Irving for Kemba Walker. At the time, I thought this was fine, but by losing so many starters and rotation players, I did have do discredit them. Kyrie’s loss was actually good, as Kemba seems a better fit both on and off the court, and the losses of Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier were dampened by their other players stepping up. However, I was the most critical on them losing their centers and drafting Romeo Langford and Grant Williams in the first round. And at least for now, this seems to stand. Baynes is having a career year and Horford is helping the 76ers be a top team in the East. While the center by committee is going alright for Boston, having Horford or Baynes manning the middle would help them become a much better team. While Boston needed the cap space, the Baynes salary dump to Phoenix already looks terrible. The 2nd-round picks look fine, but both first rounders look rough. I still cannot fathom both selections as they could have selected either (or both!) of Matisse Thybulle and Brandon Clarke. Both guys look like studs already and would certainly bolster the Celtics’ rotation. The questionable draft and poor center situation stands today and I will see this summer as a good one, but clearly missing on easy moves.

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets had a massive offseason, completely revamping their roster and building around two new stars in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. I was very high on their moves as when you get two superstars, you really cannot do much wrong. I cannot say a ton as nearly all of their moves turned out to be smart or defensible, besides the draft. I was fairly critical on the selection of Nick Claxton and Jaylen Hands, as neither seemed to truly fit into the rotation, since the play Point Guard and Center, the deepest and strongest positions on the Nets’ roster. Claxton feels like a worse pick as at #31, there were other guys who would fit their needs more or are just better players. Daniel Gafford and Eric Paschall both look like better players, and Bol Bol was the perfect project for the Nets, and each were pushed to the side for Claxton. I do think Claxton will be a solid NBA player, but I believe those three guys will all have better careers. Jaylen Hands seems like a better pick now as basically no player was left. I also did mention that I was curious how they would look chemistry wise, and this does seem worse than last year. It does seem their team functions best without Kyrie Irving, so maybe I was right about that, but when you can get a top-five point guard in free agency, you take that.

New York Knicks

The Knicks had a horrible offseason, and to be honest, I do not think I was critical enough. RJ Barrett is having a decent rookie year, but besides that, all their moves seem pretty atrocious. At the time, I tried to give New York the benefit of the doubt, as their main plan was to grab stars, and it is up to those players to choose the Knicks. I still discredited them as they were not an attractive destination due to their lack of young talent, constantly changing front offense and completely incompetent ownership, so maybe this could have factored into stars choosing elsewhere. All that aside, I still saw their following moves as flawed, as they opted to sign veterans who did not fit the timeline of their younger players who are worth developing. Marcus Morris is their only signing who is having a good season, but he is only under contract for this season, so it seems unlikely he will be with New York when they are having a competent season. At this point, I feel no different from the summer, as I thought the Knicks could have benefitted from signing under the radar prospects and try to find a diamond in the rough, rather than sign a ton of power forwards who have bounced from team to team for each of their respective careers.

Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers also experienced a ton of moves this past summer, but I thought highly of their big moves, but their smaller moves seemed pretty terrible at the time. I thought they did overpay Tobias Harris and paid Ben Simmons too early, but considering their likely alternatives, both were needed. I also believed swapping Jimmy Butler and J.J. Redick for Al Horford and Josh Richardson was a good move, even though some may believe they were downgrading talent-wise. Horford and Richardson are the best defenders of the four names mentioned and have contributed to great team success in their careers. I thought this would translate to Philly, and it really did. Now some of those moves may not look so pretty in a few years where I can see Al Horford falling off, but at least for now I do think they did do a good job. I was also high on one of their draft moves, that be trading for Matisse Thybulle. The versatile wing has been a phenom defensively, and his offense looks much better than his college days, making him a top prospect in this year’s rookie class. I will admit I was lower on Thybulle going into the draft as I thought his defense was inflated by the Washington zone-defense and his offense was really bad for a senior in a conference not known for being filled with defensive stalwarts. But you know what? Thybulle has been better than advertised as he does not stretch himself on offense, and has free reign on defense. I also liked the signings of Raul Neto, Kyle O’Quinn and Trey Burke as they all seemed to fill the wholes on the bench that the starters may not be able to fill. However, I was also wrong about a few of their wings they resigned in James Ennis and Furkan Korkmaz. Both guys I thought were not really NBA-level as Korkmaz was far too inefficient for my liking and Ennis felt like a guy who was marketed as 3-and-D but was not spectacular at either. Both have been solid role players this year, hitting their shots and helping the Philly offense move when their stars are not playing. Overall, Philadelphia has been very successful and this might play into their offseason looking really good, but at least for now, there are no real complaints.

Toronto Raptors

After winning the 2019 title, some thought that Kawhi might stay in Toronto to run it back, but instead, he decided to go play in LA. I do think it would be pretty interesting to see Kawhi in the East again, but him leaving has nothing to do with the Raptors or their franchise, so no matter what, this cannot discredit what they did. It seemed that Danny Green was in a similar boat, that Toronto was a stopping point, rather than a true home to him, so this was also considered when looking at this summer. Removing these two, I do think Toronto had a solid offseason where they found specialists and decided to give them small contracts to see if any could stick. While I liked this idea, they did waste not only their time, but also their money on guys who I do not think even have NBA potential. These guys I had issues with were Pat McCaw and Cam Payne. Both have never proved to be passable in the NBA, but they spent a good bit of money and roster spots on both. This looked terrible at the time, and possibly even worse now. The rest of their signings I did like, and for the most part, they did hit. Matt Thomas and Terence Davis were brought in to be wing scorers while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson were brought in to be defensive menaces. Thomas, Davis and RHJ all have seemed to be great pickups as they each bring a unique skillset that helps the Raptors’ bench. I was nervous about their lack of a traditional small forward, but OG Anunoby has stepped up, and these signings have been able to help off the pine. However, the Stanley Johnson experiment looks like it is all but complete. And boy oh boy, the results are not good. Johnson has had effort issues that pushed him out of the rotation, and even in his limited minutes, he has been rough. I did think he was worth a flier, so Toronto really cannot be discredited too much for this move, but I do think they would like to choose someone else. Overall, I think Toronto’s offseason should be a more common model (*cough cough* Knicks) as when you have no other options, why not try to find a piece for cheap? Sometimes it pays out and you can have a new rotation piece.

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