Team Needs (Atlantic Division)
We will start our installment of off-season Team Needs with probably the sorriest division in the NBA, the Atlantic (or the Sh-Atlantic if you prefer). I expect this division to be better than it was last season with the emergence of the Raps & hopefully an improved Boston & NY. The Nets still look to be pretty solid next year, but their prospects hinge heavily on the re-signing of Carter. The Raps were arguably the most overachieving team in the NBA this past season, and the future looks bright with GM Bryan Colangelo pulling the strings. I think the Celts could challenge for a playoff spot in '07/'08 if they could just stay healthy and make some tweaks. Ainge does have some tools to make changes with a #5 pick & the hefty expiring contract of Theo Ratliff. Philly looks like they will be in for a rough ride next year with only a MLE at their disposal to pick up some much needed immediate help. But they do have 4 draft picks right now, and Billy King desperately needs to be on the mark draft night if he wants to keep his job.
*--You will notice the two parentheses next to the team name. The first one will either have "MLE" or a dollar amount in it. This just states if the team has the Mid-Level Exception (which is roughly $5 mil this year) that is awarded to every team that is over the salary cap. If a dollar amount is shown that means the team is under the salary cap. There are only a handful of teams under the salary cap (which has yet to be finalized, but should be around $53-55 million). The dollar amount is a rough estimation at this point, and can change to a degree for a myriad of technical things like cap holds, renounced rights, player options and the yet undetermined exact amount of this year's salary cap. The second parentheses just states the draft picks that each team presently owns.
BOSTON--(MLE) (#5th, #32): Center
Draft targets: Noah; Hawes; Jianlian
This team is filled with wings and have a promising player at point in Rondo. Where the Celts are a little thin is on the frontline. K. Perkins has shown some rare glimpses of being a capable center, but no way should he make Ainge feel comfortable that the center spot is secure. If the Celts hold onto their #5 pick (some rumors they might deal), I think they should scoop up Noah, if still there, which he should be. Think he fits nicely alongside Al Jefferson, where Al can carry the offensive load & Joakim can bring the defense. At #32, Celts should just go with the best guy available. Ainge does have one of the better bargaining chips this summer with Theo Ratliff's $11 mil expiring deal. Ratliff's contract can be used as a base to add some of the smaller contracts (for example, Green's) to create a package that brings back a major player, like KG (a heavy rumor currently floating around).
NEW JERSEY--(MLE) (#17, #46): athletic 4/5; Shooting guard
Draft targets: McRoberts; Splitter; Smith
The biggest question confronting Rod Thorn this summer is the status of Vince Carter. It seems like the Nets want Vince back in the fold, and it's probably the right call since the Nets' window is right now with JKidd. They will have to possibly fend off either Charlotte or Orlando for Vince's services. Charlotte has loads of money to entice Vince and have a dire need for a dynamic wing scorer. I'm just curious how interested MJ is in Vince, since I thought they had a rocky relationship in the past. The Magic are a distinct possibility because of their crushing need for a dynamic wing scorer and the fact that Vince is from the area. Though the Magic might not have enough scratch to pry Vince away because they could be retaining Darko, which would eat up a significant amount of cap space. So the Nets might have to keep their eyes on guys like Morris Almond, Stuckey, R. Fernandez, or Belinelli with their #17. Went with Boone last year, who could still turn out to be a solid pro but the Nets could use more depth upfront, especially since Mikki Moore is a free agent. Not really sure they can get anyone who will have that much more of an impact next year than what Boone could give you. They could also use a big with some athleticism to offset the plodding nature of Collins & Krstic. Guys like McRoberts, J. Smith, Splitter, & Sean Williams should all be in their wheelhouse.
NEW YORK--(MLE) (#23): Defensive 4/5; Shot-blocking; Shooter
Draft targets: Splitter; J. Smith: S. Williams
With a pretty crowded roster with 12-13 players already under contract, wouldn't be surprised if the Knicks just dealt this pick. It's always hard to gauge what the Knicks will do in these next 2 weeks because they're always in middle of multiple trade scenarios. Right now their biggest need is for a back-up 4/5 who can hopefully provide some defense & shot-blocking (the Knicks were 2nd worst in shot-blocking). Brazilian Tiago Splitter would be the ideal fit to fill the void of a defensive-minded 4/5, which is much needed since Curry...well, we know Curry's never played a lick of defense before. But the sticking point with Splitter is dealing with a nasty buyout clause with his Spanish club, TAU Ceramica. Right now, it looks like next summer is the earliest that Tiago could realistically come to the states. So Boston College's Sean Williams might be a target of Isiah's at #23, as long as Isiah's is not worried about making a safe pick, since Williams comes with tons of baggage (or baggies). He would definitely fill the need of a shot-blocker. If the Knicks can't find their big in the draft, they could try to make a play for Varejao, who would fill their need perfectly. Though he is a restricted F.A., and I would assume the Cavs would be willing to match the MLE to keep him. Can look at a guy like Matt Carroll, Kapono or Mo Peterson in free agency to tighten up their outside marksmanship.
PHILADELPHIA--(MLE) (#12, #21, #30, #38): PF; PG; Shooter
Draft targets: Law; Splitter; McRoberts; Thornton
With 4 picks in the Top 40, wouldn't be surprised to see some type of package deal trade coming from Billy King. Though the Sixers direly need a starting PF, at #12 all of the Top PFs should be gone, and #12 is probably a little too high for McRoberts or Smith (But wouldn't be stunned if Billy King takes a fellow Dukie at this pick). I think Acie Law could make sense at 12 because the Sixers do need a back-up PG, and also Law could possibly allow them to dangle Miller if necessary. If they pass on taking Law in favor of a wing like Thornton or J. Wright, they could always could target a guy like Gabe Pruitt at the #21 to fill their back-up PG role. This team could always use some more shooting since Korver is really the only deep threat they have. Demetris Nichols of Syracuse should still be on the board at #30, possibly even #38, and he's probably the best sharpshooter in the draft.
TORONTO--(MLE) (None): Rebounding; Center
Colangelo is going to have to do most of his transactional damage with the MLE since he has no draft picks at the present time. Maybe he can unearth another Euro veteran free agent--someone like Maccabi's bigman N. Vujcic could do the trick. Need to improve their rebounding, specifically to find someone adept at offensive rebounding since their def. rebounding wasn't half-bad. Wonder if they will turn their sights toward Toronto native J. Magloire to strengthen their center spot. There are rumors he's interested going home, but not sure if the Raps feel the same way. Would have said that the Raps needed a wing who could slash to basket, but Colangelo made another superb move by scooping up Delfino for basically nothing. I'm a big Delfino fan: great athlete who can finish strong and is a capable defender, rebounds well from the wing spot. And what's really underrated about Carlos is his ball-handling & passing ability. I think you can run offense thru him, he's a great passer off the dribble, and did an all-around great job in the Worlds last summer. Colangelo will have to make a tough call in the near future on who he wants running the team long-term since Calderon is heading into the last year of his deal, and he has proven he can start in this league.