The bad jokes about the top two teams in the Atlantic Division are not going away after last night’s big Draft Day announcement. The division champion will be reliant on “Depends” to win and both the Knicks and the Nets could be sponsored by AARP next season. Bad jokes aside, the Nets and Knicks have the most talent in the Atlantic. All they have to do is avoid wearing their older rosters out during the regular season and hope none of the key pieces are on the shelf come playoff time.
The Nets acquired the heart and soul of the Celtics. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, three future first round draft picks and enough salary ballast to make the trade work under the CBA is a massive theft if your time horizon is next season. Jason Terry’s contract was just part of the price extracted by Boston, but Brooklyn will benefit from having him come off the bench. The extra players from the Nets are rumored to be some combination of Reggie Evans, Keith Bogans, Kris Joseph, MarShon Brooks, and/or Mirza Teletovic, but don’t get too hung up about which ones. This part of the deal is more about math than talent.
In the span of just under twelve months, the Celtics have lost Ray Allen, Head Coach Doc Rivers, Pierce and Garnett. Rajon Rondo is rehabbing a torn ACL and a very old team has suddenly become very young. The Celtics were barely a playoff team with their stars. They aren’t now and the next logical step in their rebuild is to ensure their own 2014 draft pick nets them a future franchise player.
Not quite lost in the news of the blockbuster trade was the 76ers tacitly admitting Andrew Bynum won’t be back and they are also entering full rebuild mode. The 76ers sent All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to the Pelicans for sixth overall pick Nerlens Noel and a lightly protected 2014 first round draft pick. The 76ers started blowing up (by accident?) this roster last season when they took on the oft-injured Bynum for the reliable Andre Iguodala. The Sixers appear to have their sights set on rebuilding through the 2014 Draft as well. Future trades supporting that strategy are inevitable.
New York Knicks
The Knicks don’t have a lot of options heading into this summer and could have the most stable roster in the division after all is said and done. The team is built to win now and their biggest concerns revolve around hanging onto what they have and hopefully adding a couple of inexpensive younger pieces. Hanging onto free agents J.R. Smith, Chris Copeland and Pablo Prigioni could prove challenging, but the Knicks should be able to finagle something to keep them in New York. With Carmelo Anthony leading the team and possibly the league in scoring next season, nothing has really changed.
Toronto didn’t have a draft pick and was very quiet last night. However, new MLSE President and CEO Tim Leiweke was brought in to change things on the Raptors and with last season’s Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri on board as team President and General Manager, this lack of movement in Toronto isn’t going to last long. It has to be hard not to notice that two of your division rivals are planning to tank next season and the other two are relying on somewhat old and brittle rosters. Opportunity may be knocking north of the border. All that came of last night, however, was Canadian point guard Myck Kabongo wasn’t drafted and should get an invite to the Raptors Summer League team. The Raptors have also passed on picking up backup point guard John Lucas’ contract option for next season. Maybe there could even be a roster spot for Kabongo?
Stephen Brotherston has covered the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Center since 2009. A member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association, Stephen is the editor and publisher of Pro Bball Report.