NBA Off-Season Report Card: Eastern Conference
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NBA Off-Season Report Card: Eastern Conference

NBA Off-Season Report Card: Eastern Conference

The NBA Finals concluded just a couple weeks ago, but the basketball conversation has continued to permeate the sports world. On June 25, the youngest and most talented collegiate and European basketball players were selected to hopefully fulfill their dreams of becoming the next big stars in the NBA. And just recently, teams have begun the annual bidding wars that exist due to the beginning of free agency.

It’s kind of sad that I’ve followed NBA free agency and the NBA in general more than I have say the news the past couple of months, but the past is the past and in reality this NBA free agency is news in and of itself. Every minute of every day something is being discussed and the balances of power are being shifted from one team to the next with the movement of one player. If you don’t think free agency is important, look to Cleveland. It has both destroyed and remade its franchise, turning them from a powerhouse, to a laughing stock, back to a powerhouse via the movement of Lebron James. Free agency and offseason acquisitions are, for many NBA fans, the most interesting part of the year. It’s a time filled with speculation and false hope that leaves you believing that a 17 win roster that added players such as Aaron Afflalo, Robin Lopez, Derrick Williams, and Kyle O’Quinn can now possibly contend for a playoff spot in the weak Eastern Conference. How could one not love this?

To keep this manageable, this week we will look at the offseason acquisitions of only teams from the NBA’s Eastern Conference, with the Western Conference to come out next week, and will grade each team based on what they have done to bolster their lineup for the 2015-2016 NBA season either through the draft, or via NBA free agency.

Boston Celtics (C+/B-)

It’s not like the Celtics didn’t do anything this summer, it’s that they haven’t done as much as you would expect a young and promising team to do. They resigned role players Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerekbo to monetarily reasonable deals. They also snagged the former Toronto power forward Amir Johnson for two years and 24 million to help bolster their front line and add some much needed depth. Their draft was fairly successful as well, as they took Louisville combo guard Terry Rozier 16th overall and then added Georgia State’s R.J. Hunter with fantastic value right before the end of the first round. The Celtics weren’t able to make the Demarcus Cousins or Deandre Jordan moves come to fruition, but they improved slightly and retained important pieces that played solid roles in last year’s campaign.

Brooklyn Nets (C-/C)

The Nets are not in a very good position right now. Their starting point guard has regressed significantly, and they traded away all of their draft picks a couple years ago to get a bunch of aging superstars that never panned out. All of this considered, the Nets didn’t have a bad offseason so far at all. They resigned one of the low key best centers in the NBA in Brook Lopez to a manageable contract, and retained the versatile small forward/ stretch power forward Thad Young. They also added some cheap depth in Shane Larkin and Thomas Robinson, and even signed UConn’s Ryan Boatright to a two year deal! Overall they didn’t make themselves a contender, but they did what they really had to do and that gives the Nets a serviceable grade. The Nets will slide out of the playoffs next year, as they look to rebuild themselves with some of the solid pieces they retained.

New York Knicks (C+/B-)

Deandre Jordan told them “No.” Lamarcus Aldridge cancelled the meeting altogether. And Kevin Love resigned with the Cavaliers before the Knicks could even say something. All things considered, the Knick’s offseason actually wasn’t too bad though. At about five positions the Knicks immediately upgraded. Aaron Afflalo is a decent two guard who can space the floor. Robin Lopez is a solid defensive big man who can be used to solidify what has been one of the most atrocious defenses in the league the past two years. And Derrick Williams and Kyle O’Quinn are young bodies who can defend and rebound. The draft is a different animal. With the 4th overall pick, Phil Jackson and the Knicks did what only the Knicks could and drafted a 7ft Latvian center who weighs 220 pounds soaking wet. In terms of next year, Kristaps Porzingis is not the answer. In a couple years down the line he could be the steal of the draft. He could also be Andrea Bargnani 2.0, with the latter seeming to be a lot more likely. This pre-draft video gives hope, but he is still playing against the air and pretty much anyone can be good playing against the air.

Snagging former four year Notre Dame point guard Jerian Grant via a draft day trade gives the Knicks a lengthy 6ft 5 potential starting point guard for next season, and was one of the better lower level moves of this year’s NBA draft. So okay, the Knicks aren’t making the playoffs this year. But they did get marginally better, and for that they should be applauded (I guess).

Philadelphia 76ers ( C )

It’s safe to say that the 76ers are one of the most bizarre franchises in all of sports. It seems as if they will continue to be in a rebuilding period for the next 20 years. Even though the 76ers have been pretty quiet during free agency, they acquired former Sacramento Kings shooting guard Nik Stauskas via a trade. Stauskas was underwhelming last year, but is still young and has time to grow. He also compliments this year’s draft selection Jahlil Okafor very well. Okafor spent most of his time this year being the perennial number one selection in the draft, only to see his stock drop because of his supposed lack of defensive skill. Sure, Okafor might not be a great defender, but his offensive game is potent and NBA ready. The addition of Stauskas on the perimeter gives Jahlil an outlet on the wing to find if/when he is double teamed. The biggest question for Philly is what they are going to do with Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, and Jahlil Okafor. All three are young and promising big men, and trying to find time to fit them all into the rotation will be tough. Look for one to be traded eventually, or look for Philly to continue to not do what they are doing. Either way, Jahlil was a great pick and Stauskas was a good pick up, but the fact that they did nothing else means that players such as Robert Covington and Jakarr Sampson will have to play major minutes which just isn’t a recipe for success in the most competitive league in the world.

Toronto Raptors (B-)

The Raptors have become the best team in the Atlantic division over the past couple of years, and should continue that reign this year after the offseason moves they have made. Although they didn’t resign and don’t seem likely to resign 6th man of the year Lou Williams, the Raptors added athletic swing man Demarre Carroll to an already extremely athletic group of wing players. Carroll immediately improves this team with solid three-point shooting and even better perimeter defense. However, the Raptors lost big man Amir Johnson to the Celtics, which will be a decent blow to a thin front line. In the draft, the Raptors snagged Utah combo guard Delon Wright, who’s brother Dorell has been a solid role player in the NBA for many years. If Delon can capitalize on his size and length, and improve his shooting touch he can be a steal for the Raptors. If not, the Raptors have done enough solely signing Demarre to solidify themselves as the class of the Atlantic division.

Chicago Bulls (B)

The Bulls didn’t make a big splash or anything in the free agent market. Instead they retained valuable pieces to an already quality array of players who will most certainly look to contend in the Eastern Conference next year. Jimmy Butler is now locked up for five years on a max contract that will look extremely reasonable once the cap goes up due to the NBA TV contracts. Mike Dunleavy is back to space to floor for just 5 million a year. They kept what was necessary, and did it fairly cost effectively. In the draft that got Arkansas’ Bobby Portis, who was definitely a beast in the SWC last year. At the very least he is a big body who can come off the bench and defend and rebound. Don’t forget that their head coach is now the offensive minded Fred Hoiberg, who turned Iowa State into an extremely relevant team in collegiate hoops in a fairly short amount of time. All in all a good offseason for the Bulls.

Cleveland Cavaliers (TBD)

In the case of the Cavaliers their grade is to be determined, barring what happens in free agency. In an article by SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell says “Lebron will not begin contract discussions with Cleveland until the Cavaliers lock up Tristan Thompson, according to ESPN’s Brian Windohorst.” When it comes to anything Lebron James and Cleveland Brian Windhorst cannot be beat. Lebron is 99 percent returning to Cleveland next year, and will once the Cavs lock up Tristan Thompson. If you have to pay Thompson more than he’s worth to keep Lebron, you do it, and the Cavaliers know this better than anyone. At the end of the day the two will be resigned. The Cavs also got back Iman Shumpert for a reasonable price, and secured K-Love long-term for a decently expensive but not unworthy contract. This team is built to win sooner rather than later, and retaining a big man who can space the floor and rebound with the best of them to compliment Kyrie and Lebron will show much more dividends in the second year of this Cleveland big three. In the draft the Cavs made a move by selecting Duke’s Tyus Jones, only to flip him to the T-Wolves for Cedi Esman and Rakeem Christmas. Assuming the Cavs do what they must to keep Lebron their offseason will be at the A range. Resigning the league’s best player will do that. But getting K-Love committed for the long term was huge as well.

Detroit Pistons (C)

The Pistons. What can you say? They let Greg Monroe go division foe and in return signed Aaron Baynes from the Spurs. Not only that, but they previously they had accepted Ersan Ilyasova in a trade that gave the Bucks enough cap space to go out and sign said big man. Not all was lost though. The Pistons drafted extremely well, getting the freakishly athletic Stanley Johnson from the University of Arizona. They also traded for the smooth shooting Marcus Morris, a career .363 percent three point shooter according to, to hold the spot until Stanley Johnson is ready to start. The Monroe fiasco was tough, but they are moving in another direction, and added some key pieces that could help to do that.

Indiana Pacers (A)

The Pacers have had one of the best off seasons in the entire NBA. First, the Pacers selected Myles Turned in the Draft, a pick many expected them to make and a smart move nonetheless. Turner is a little bit of a project but can come in right away and provide some rim protection. Next, they signed Monta Ellis for a decent price and for an extended length and for four years now the Pacers have a solid shooting guard to accompany and help with the playmaking alongside Paul George and George Hill with ball handling like this..

Potentially, Roy Hibbert and his contract are getting shipped to the good ole Los Angeles Lakers, and now they Pacers are keeping solid backup two guard Rodney Stuckey for three more years at a cheap price. The Pacers improved both by addition and by subtraction and for that they get a straight A for their offseason.

Milwaukee Bucks (A-)

Lock the Milwaukee Bucks up as the three seed in the Eastern Conference next year if they stay relatively healthy. With the moves this team has made, and the young talent more than likely progressing, these Bucks will be dangerous in years to come. In the draft they obtained the very well liked Rashad Vaughn. But free agency has defined Milwaukee’s offseason, which is a bizarre phrase considering it’s the city of Milwaukee. However, the Bucks retained young and developing two guard Khris Middleton to help to continue to space the floor and then landed one of the best free agents available in Greg Monroe. Monroe is an offensive minded player who will help a Bucks team that at points struggled to score the basketball. Also, Jabari Parker is going to come back and the Greek Freak is just hitting the weight room and these Bucks are going to be really, really good. And the offseason only made them better.

Hawks (C+)

The Hawks were the surprise of the entire NBA last season, winning the East rather convincingly with a moving style of basketball that got everyone involved. They were so good, four of their starters made the All-Star team. The Hawks traded around and got Tim Hardaway Jr. from the Knicks. Hardaway Jr. can shoot but that’s about all they should expect to get out of him. Knowing the Knicks luck though, he could turn into a fifteen point per game scorer. This isn’t likely, however. The Hawks also retained Paul Millsap, which was a necessity, and let the one starter who didn’t make the All-Star team walk away and sign with the Toronto Raptors for a pretty large amount of money. The Hawks are going to regress from last season, but they won’t be bad. However, they didn’t do much in the offseason to establish themselves as a legitimate threat to the Cavaliers, or even the Bulls and Bucks.

Charlotte Hornets (C/C+)

Before the draft even happened the Hornets made a solid move, getting Nic Batum from the Portland Trailblazers. Giving up Gerald Henderson was necessary, as he never paired well with Kemba Walker, but also releasing Noah Vonleh was a little premature. Last year’s first round pick was young and developing, and the Hornets dumped him. Batum is solid, and alongside MKG will give the Hornets one of the best wing defenses in the Eastern Conference. The Hornets then traded for Jeremy Lamb, who the Hornets hope can reach his potential playing alongside his former NCAA teammate and fellow National Champion from the University of Connecticut and return to a similar spot up shooting role that he had in one of his more successful seasons. At draft night the Hornets passed on Duke’s Justise Winslow and added the NCAA player of the year Frank Kaminsky in Charlotte’s newest attempt at developing a stretch four who can accompany Al Jefferson down on the low block. Kaminsky has a low ceiling, but can come in right away and shoot, which is an area where Charlotte struggled. All in all, the Hornets got a lot better, but they will still find themselves near or below the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference.

Miami Heat (A-)

The Miami Heat did exactly what they had to do, and drafted well this offseason. For some strange reason Duke’s Justise Winslow was literally handed to them with the tenth pick in the NBA draft, and Miami of course snagged him. Winslow gives depth to the only position the Heat really desperately needed it, besides maybe center. The Heat also resigned Goran Dragic, and D-Wade and now have a starting five that looks pretty menacing in the Eastern Conference. Dragic, Wade, Deng, Bosh, and the significantly improved Whiteside round out a five that can both score and defend with newly signed J.J. Barea, draft steal Justise Winslow, and solidified role players like Mario Chalmers and the Birdman doing playing their roles. Miami looks deeper now and it would be the surprise of the season in the East for them to miss out on the playoffs if they can remain as healthy as they can ( D-Wade will probably sit out 20 plus games because of knees in all reality), their offseason moves should make them anywhere between the four or five seed in the conference.

Orlando Magic (C+)

As the draft was approaching, much attention was being paid towards Mario Hezonja. He was a long athletic two guard who was displaying a winner’s like attitude and playing decently minutes for on the best teams in Spain in a league that values seniority in regards to playing time much more than the modern NBA does. Apparently the Magic were paying attention, and snagged Mario with the 5th overall pick to accompany Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton. What they weren’t sure of was whether or not Hezonja would be playing alongside Tobias Harris as well. However, Harris just signed with Orlando, supposedly turning down more money offered by the Sacramento Kings to stay in Orlando instead. The Magic probably won’t be very good next year, and they didn’t do anything to vastly improve their roster in anyway. Picking Hezonja was risky, but he has the size and supposedly the skill to become possibly one of the better players in this draft class. Here’s a video of him hitting a game-winning three in his first ever summer league basketball game. This kid might be something.

Washington Wizards (D+)

Coming off a decent playoff run that ended when Paul Pierce was less than a second away from extending the series, only to have his shot waved off due to that precious second, the Wizards didn’t do much to make themselves any better. In fact they lost Pierce, a go to scorer for the Wizards throughout last years playoff run, and didn’t bring in anyone that can immediately contribute. Kelly Oubre enters as the team’s draft night player, as he was traded to them from Atlanta, and he also brings a lot of raw ability. Oubre is going to take some time to develop, meaning Otto Porter will have to improve for this team to not take a huge step back. If Oubre develops though, he has the length and the three point shooting touch to compliment John Wall and Bradley Beal in the backcourt. The Wizards have been linked to David West, and he would provide a decent impact, but all in all the loss of Pierce both on the court and in the locker room is going to hurt this young Wizards team.

Eastern Conference wrapped up. Next week the Western Conference.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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