NBA Team Needs: Atlantic Division

NBA Team Needs: Atlantic Division
Jun 15, 2008, 12:18 am
An in-depth look at the roster situations of Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York --what they have, where they are going and who are the players that may be targeted in this upcoming draft.

Boston Celtics (66-16 in 2007-08)

Draft picks: No. 30, No. 60

Depth Chart

PG: Rajon Rondo / Sam Cassell* / Gabe Pruitt
SG: Ray Allen / Eddie House* / Tony Allen*
SF: Paul Pierce / James Posey*
PF: Kevin Garnett / Leon Powe / Glen Davis / Brian Scalabrine
C: Kendrick Perkins / PJ Brown* / Scot Pollard*

*Potential free agent

Could use help at: Center, Depth

Bottom line: Danny Ainge orchestrated what may go down as one of the most impressive off-seasons in NBA history in the summer of 2007. Just one season ago, the Celtics were neck-deep in a seemingly hopeless youth movement, until Ainge decided to unload many of the draft picks and young talent he had been stockpiling. In acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, Ainge may have depleted his depth chart and gotten rid of much of the potential on his roster, but he also spurred the team to a 42 game improvement, and a likely NBA championship. At this juncture, Boston will take anything they can get in free agency or the draft, since they have the luxury of being able to compete for a Championship with what they have, and plan for a future beyond their ‘Big Three.’

Draft outlook: Coming into this season, both Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins had a lot to prove playing in their audition next to the franchise’s three All-Stars. While Rondo flourished and proved to be an ideal distributor, Perkins proved to be only an adequate option, something that became especially clear in the playoffs. With their first round selection, Danny Ainge will either look to acquire someone to push Perkins for minutes at center, pick whoever happens to fall out of the top-20, or try and acquire a young role player who can come in an contribute off the bench. At center, Devon Hardin and Jason Thompson could both step in and offer a change of pace. Hardin’s quickness and explosiveness would compliment Perkins’ strength and size, though neither will impress with their skill-level. Thompson would be a logical selection for the same reasons, but possesses the soft touch to be a factor as a midrange shooter when Kevin Garnett gets double-teamed. Boston may be tempted to take a flyer on an international player such as Omer Asik, but the chances he will ever join the Celtics on a four-year contract at the incredibly low rookie scale at that slot are slim to none.

Should Ainge opt for the best player available, Courtney Lee, Bill Walker, and Ryan Anderson could all get consideration if available. In the second round, look for Ainge to keep the selection only if there is a player on the board that he thinks can make the team, such as a Sasha Kaun or Bryce Taylor. The chances are regardless extremely low of acquiring any type of contributor here. Regardless of whether or not Ainge keeps either pick, his motivation going into the draft is to acquire a young player that can come off the bench and add something to his already spectacular roster.

New Jersey Nets (34-48 in 2007-08)

Draft picks: No. 10, No. 21, No. 40

Depth Chart

PG: Devin Harris / Marcus Williams / Darrell Armstrong*
SG: Vince Carter / Trenton Hassell / Maurice Ager
SF: Richard Jefferson / Bostjan Nachbar*
PF: Josh Boone/ Sean Williams / Stromile Swift* / Keith Van Horn*
C: Nenad Krstic* / DeSagana Diop*

*Potential free agent

Could use help at: Forward / Center, Guard / Forward, Depth

Bottom line: Trading Jason Kidd was a major step for this franchise, regardless of its short-term outcome. Though Devin Harris had his ups and downs late in the season, he has the unique ability to lock down defensively, spark the fast break, and beat everyone to the rim. While he isn’t going to be putting up any Jason Kidd like stat lines any time soon, he still has potential and could be a great fit given time to gel with Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson. With two first-round selections, and needs that match up extremely well with the players that will be available to them at their picks, President Rod Thorn and General Manager Kiki Vandeweghe’s strategy of taking the best player available should give this team a chance to grow considerably next season.

Draft outlook: With their lottery pick, the Nets will be presented with an array of players that fit their needs. The Nets would love for Brook Lopez to slip to them, although the chances of that happening look fairly low at the moment. If the Nets don’t like the big men that are on the board here (Thorn notoriously hates to reach for a player that doesn’t appear to have value at that spot), Danilo Gallinari could be swooped right up if he is somehow still available here. He is reported to have some ties here. Having a player like Devin Harris who can defend either guard position gives the Nets some versatility in the backcourt, meaning that Eric Gordon and Russell Westbrook could both be intriguing options if they somehow slip to here. DeAndre Jordan would be an interesting backup plan if nothing great shakes loose out of the top 9, and though he doesn’t fit in with what Lawrence Frank implements defensively, his potential may be too good for Thorn and Vandeweghe to pass up at 10, particularly if he works out well. Anthony Randolph offers similar potential at the power forward spot, as do Kosta Koufos and JaVale McGee. Both Koufos and Speights will have to show well in workouts to get considered at 10, but neither is out of the question.

At 21, the Nets will likely target the best player available (preferably with upside) who for whatever reason fell out of the top 20. If he has some size, then all the better. Marreese Speights would likely get heavy consideration here, as would Robin Lopez and Roy Hibbert if still available at this slot. Chase Budinger would all bring a nice mix of potential and perimeter skills to the table at that spot if he’s around, but the Nets have been keeping close tabs on Nicolas Batum for some time now, and know that he has a great deal of value as a high-level role player if he makes it to here.

At 40, the Nets will obviously take the top player on their board, possibly an athlete who can provide Lawrence Frank with a spark off the bench. Thorn and Vandeweghe are never shy on draft day, and may look to move around to get the players they want.

New York Knicks (23-59 in 2007-08)

Draft picks: No. 6

Depth chart

PG: Stephon Marbury / Nate Robinson
SG: Jamal Crawford / Fred Jones* / Mardy Collins
SF: Quentin Richardson / Wilson Chandler / Jared Jeffries / Renaldo Balkman
PF: Zach Randolph / David Lee / Malik Rose
C: Eddy Curry / Randolph Morris* / Jerome James

*Potential free agent

Could use help at: Point Guard, Shooting Guard, Small Forward, Center

Bottom line: The Isaiah Thomas era is over in the New York, and Mike D’Antoni’s introduction as Head Coach has brought a renewed sense of cautious long-term optimism to a desperate Knicks franchise. With a glut of ugly contracts that they’d love to get rid of, Donnie Walsh has a lot of trade scenarios to explore. With that in mind, this should be one of the most positive off-seasons in the franchise’s recent history, culminating with a mid-lottery selection that could add an impact player to a roster in need of numerous upgrades.

Draft outlook: The Knicks have three directions they can go with their pick. First, they can select whichever marquee player falls out of the top five. They would love to have the chance to grab up a potential franchise player like O.J. Mayo or Jerryd Bayless should either still be available. Second, they could reach out to Mike D’Antoni and select the young superstar from his home nation of Italy, Danilo Galinari. Third, the Knicks could pick up a player that fits in Mike D’Antoni’s offense, such as D.J. Augustin or Anthony Randolph. Augustin is just about the closest thing this draft has to Steve Nash, and although he’s very far from that type of consideration still, his ability to push the tempo, shoot the ball and distribute unselfishly could have a lot of appeal to New York. Randolph could theoretically fill a role similar to the one played by Shawn Marion in Phoenix, although he seems to lack the same type of hustle Marion possesses. Eric Gordon and Russell Westbrook are also being mentioned as potential candidates. Regardless of which direction the Knicks choose, they’ll be selecting a player to act as the foundation for their rebuilding effort that will come to an apex two summers from now.

Philadelphia 76ers (40-42 in 2007-08)

Draft picks: No. 16

Depth chart

PG: Andre Miller / Kevin Ollie*
SG: Willie Green / Louis Williams*
SF: Andre Iguodala* / Rodney Carney
PF: Reggie Evans / Thaddeus Young / Jason Smith / Louis Amundson*
C: Samuel Dalembert / Calvin Booth* / Shavlik Randolph*/ Herbert Hill*

*Potential free agent

Could use help at: Power Forward , Shooting Guard, Center, Point Guard, Depth

Bottom line: Despite the fact that they are in something of a rebuilding phase, the 76ers still managed to earn a playoff berth. Much of the credit for that goes to Andre Iguodala, who will be a restricted free agent this offseason. With a ton of cap space available, Ed Stefanski will get the chance to not only retain his franchise player, but also add another. Unfortunately, the pool of talent in free agency doesn’t feature an ideal fit for the team outside of Elton Brand, whose recent injuries and age don’t fit with where the team is in their rebuilding process. Ben Gordon could fill a void at the shooting guard position and would be interchangeable defensively with Andre Miller, but his restricted status will likely scare the Sixers off. Taking that into consideration, Stefanski may be looking to move the team’s only draft selection along with any number of players to acquire a power forward and an impact young talent. There is plenty of talk that Stefanski might try to leverage his cap space and move into the top 5-6 even.

Draft outlook: Should the 76ers choose to keep the pick, they will likely look to use it on a quality big man with the potential to contribute immediately. Though DeAndre Jordan and Marreese Speights are raw, both of them would fit in nicely in Philadelphia. Darrell Arthur may be the best true fit, and is a slightly less risky investment than either Jordan or Speights. Kosta Koufos may come into play here, but only if the 76ers are confident that can acquire a quality low post option to allow Koufos to play in the high post, where he can be most effective early in his career. The Sixers need an athletic shooting guard who can put the ball on the floor and make things happen offensively, but would probably need to move up towards Eric Gordon’s range to find that. It is almost guaranteed that Stefanski will come into the draft with his eyes on free agency, and the selection he makes should say something about what direction the team will take once that time comes.

Toronto Raptors (41-41 in 2007-08)

Draft picks: No. 17

Depth Chart

PG: Jose Calderon* / T.J. Ford
SG: Anthony Parker / Carlos Delfino*
SF: Jamario Moon / Jason Kapono / Joey Graham
PF: Chris Bosh / Andrea Bargnani / Kris Humphries / Jorge Garbajosa
C: Radoslav Nesterovic / Primoz Brezec*/ Maceo Baston

*Potential free agent

Could use help at: Small Forward, Shooting Guard, Center

Bottom line: The Raptors took a step back this season, proving that they are not yet ready to compete for a spot in the top tier of the Eastern Conference. Bryan Colangelo has proven capable of turning a team around in a hurry, and he has the flexibility to do that once again this summer. With Jose Calderon looking for a new deal, he may feel compelled to deal T.J. Ford, along with any number of other players in an attempt to add a legitimate scorer on the wing and a physical post player to complement Chris Bosh.

Draft outlook: Brandon Rush is probably the perfect fit here as a big wing player who can play the 2 or the 3, space the floor and lock down defensively on the perimeter. Donte Greene has been widely linked to the Raptors early on, and makes sense here considering his overall upside at the small forward position and ability to shoot from behind the arc. Robin Lopez is another excellent fit as far as need goes, as his size, mobility and all-around hustle should at the very least make Chris Bosh happy. Given Colangelo’s propensity to look overseas for talent, Nicholas Batum seems like a very logical selection at 17. His mixture of athleticism and skill will likely land him in the middle of round one, but at age 19, he has a chance to become a special player as he grows in the NBA game. Regardless of what direction Colangelo chooses to go on draft day, there will be changes on the way in Toronto.

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