NBA Summer Moves: Atlantic Division
Boston gets deeper and Toronto adds firepower…
The summer months have come to an end and NBA training camps are swiftly approaching, if you can believe it. This offseason has seen a lot movement in the League between trades and free agent signing (of course it’s all a warm up for next summer) and several of the top franchises have either reloaded or made improvements that will ensure another deep playoff run. Other teams have taken the necessary steps to ensuring that they will start to content in their respective conferences. Over the upcoming couple of weeks SLAM will be taking a look at the slew of offseason moves that have taken place, the trades, the free agent signings and everything in between.
We’ll start with the Atlantic Division where the Boston Celtics will again be top dog, especially given the moves they made in the recent months. Don’t sleep on Toronto though as the Raptors made a few splashes of their own by adding some new faces. It’s likely going to be a two team race at the top with the Knicks and Nets struggling at the bottom with the 76ers somewhere in the middle, but one of these teams has made a move that could pay off nicely in the future.
Best Move: Toronto trading for Hedo Turkoglu
This one is going to pay dividends for the Raptors both during and after the ’09-10 season. In acquiring another marquee player Toronto is making its big push to keep Chris Bosh in uniform after next summer’s free agency buffet. If the all-star bolts, the team still has a viable scoring option, albeit not at the same level. If Bosh decides to resign, he and Turkoglu will create a very solid offensive duo, one that is capable of carrying the team fairly deep into the Eastern Conference playoffs in the future. Even if it is just for this season alone, the Raptors are suddenly looking like a team that can do some damage, not necessarily eclipse Boston, Cleveland or even Orlando, but certainly solid enough to earn a four seed come playoff time.
In the immediate future, Turkoglu’s signing will finally give the Raptors a big time scoring presence on the wing – something they have been in need of for quite a few years. Jose Calderon and Anthony Parker have been adequate role players on the outside, but now Chris Bosh has a substantial offensive weapon he can kick out to and have help carry some of the scoring pressure. There are some who will say the Raptors overpaid for the forward in agreeing to a five-year $53 million deal, especially for a player who had a slight down season in 2009, but there’s no question he’ll bring a much needed scoring punch to his new team.
Potential Over-the-Top Move: Boston signing Rasheed Wallace
In signing the veteran for two years at the mid-level exception the Celtics potentially have moved themselves back to the top of the food chain in the Eastern Conference — IF Wallace is at his best. There many who will likely argue this was the best move in the division in the offseason, and it has the potential to be, but there are a lot of question marks surrounding this deal. For starters there’s the chemistry issue, will Wallace keep the on and off the court drama to a minimum and fit in well with the Celtics roster? There’s a good chance the answer that question is yes.
Of course, winning generally proves to be the great appeaser and Wallace gives Boston a chance to return to the Finals. Given that he will be 35 this season chances are ‘Sheed won’t see more than 20-25 most nights, but that should be plenty to make his presence felt. Not only will the Celtics have KG, Glen Davis and Kendrick Perkins rotating in the frontcourt already but the veteran big man will more than likely play better in short bursts anyway, rather than trying to ride him out for the entire game. The possibility for mismatches will be ripe in Boston this season, especially when Doc Rivers opts to go with Garnett and Wallace as his bigs – setting up a situation where the Celtics can spread the floor with five players who can shoot from beyond 18 feet and put the ball on the floor. Also of importance will be the pressure that Wallace can take off KG, allowing the future Hall of Famer the opportunity to rest for a handful of extra minutes throughout the season.
Being back in an environment where a ring is a very real possibility might be exactly what ‘Sheed needs to reinvigorate his game and potentially prove to be one of the most valuable bench players in the League this year.
Best Long-Term Move: Nets trading for Courtney Lee
This one is going to hurt New Jersey fans for at least this season. The loss of Vince Carter means the Nets will be without a dynamic scoring wing and certainly the explosion of second-year player Ryan Anderson (who was also dealt) probably didn’t leave anyone around the organization smiling either. Still, New Jersey has their backcourt duo for the future now with Lee joining electric point guard Devin Harris. The youngster out of Western Kentucky showed tremendous potential with the significant playing time he saw with the Magic last season and for the majority of the season was the team’s top perimeter defender. It might be a year or two at least before we even start talking about Lee as a potential All-Star, if ever, but he will be a great compliment to Harris. The shooting guard moves very well without the basketball, is a solid perimeter shooter and can attack the basket effectively off the dribble. There are going to be some growing pains for sure, but Lee looks like he can grow into a very solid starter in the NBA and form a very strong tandem with Harris for the next several years.
Most Overpriced Signing: Toronto re-signs Andrea Bargnani
Maybe the former number one pick showed signs of potential last season with career bests across the board, but not enough to warrant a five-year $50 million contract. Maybe this is part of Toronto’s win now approach to the upcoming year, maybe this is to ensure the Raptors will have a capable power forward in the future if Chris Bosh should leave – either way, this was too high of a price tag. Here’s the problem with shelling out this much money for Bargnani this particular season — he doesn’t provide a strong interior presence on the glass and the Raptors just added a big time scoring wing in Turkoglu. If anything, the big man’s numbers are likely to go down this season and there are still questions if he is tough enough to be a strong rebounder. If the 23-year-old can improve on his 5.3 rebounds from a year ago, then this deal looks more sensible, but otherwise this is overpaying just to keep a former top draft pick.
Best Offseason: Celtics
Not only did Boston have one of the more marquee signings of the entire offseason in Rasheed Wallace, but they addressed their needs better than any other team in the division. Doc Rivers needed a deeper bench and that’s exactly what the front office got him in the previous several months, signing Wallace, Shelden Williams, Marquis Daniels and resigning Glen Davis.
Wallace’s impact has already been discussed (see above) and adding Williams as well gives Boston a tremendous amount of size and toughness inside. These additions certainly have a lot to do with the injuries that KG and Leon Powe suffered last year, so Danny Ainge has made sure he will have plenty of able bodies to fill his frontcourt just in case the injury bug should strike again. The signing of Daniels provides a bigger scoring option on the perimeter and will be a great option off the bench for when Ray Allen or Paul Pierce need a break. The 6-6 guard is coming off of a career year even though he was limited to just 54 games with the Pacers. He’ll provide energy and versatility to the floor, able to score effectively in transition and in isolation situations. Daniels is certainly a better option off the bench than Tony Allen or Eddie House, at least in terms of scoring ability. Boston finally has a viable option to insert into the starting lineup in the backcourt if one of their star guards should face injury and a bench that will allow them to handle a longer grueling playoff series in the future.