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Diesel Fuel: Would Shaq Work in Boston?

It’s the end of July, and the league’s oldest player, Shaquille O’Neal remains unsigned. Teams like Atlanta, San Antonio, and Miami have all been mentioned as potential suitors, but there’s still no offer on the table. Now, coming toward the end of the offseason, rumors are now starting to pick up that the Diesel might make his way to Beantown for one more ride with the Boston Celtics.

The first obstacle to signing Shaq, of course, is overcoming his demand for a high salary. After signing Jermaine O’Neal and others, the Celtics don’t have the cap room to offer him anything more than the veteran’s minimum in a straight-up deal. So either Ainge needs to work his magic to convince Shaq to take the money in exchange for a very good shot at another championship or he needs to devise a sign-and-trade deal with Cleveland. The issue with that? Any player signed and traded must have a contract of three or more years, which is a very long commitment to make to O’Neal. That said, the team has the cooperation of the retiring Rasheed Wallace to use his midlevel deal as a trade chip if they so choose.

Let’s say they overcome the issues and the Big Cactus joins the Green for one more campaign. Would the experiment work? Despite Shaq’s dwindling numbers compared to those of his prime, he has still been very effective on the court over the past few seasons in limited minutes. In fact, last year in Cleveland, Shaq’s per-40-minute averages were: 20.5 points, 11.3 boards, 2 blocks — and he still shot 57 percent. Furthermore, he’s still a force on defense who can match up with the Dwight Howards of the league. And his deficiencies guarding the pick and roll can be covered up by Jermaine, Kevin Garnett, and, when he comes back, Kendrick Perkins.

And Perk’s injury is another key factor for the Shaq signing. In Games 6 and 7 of the NBA Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers showed how crucial Perkins is to the Celtics, and he’ll still be out for quite some time. They did bring on Jermaine O’Neal, but after his addition (which effectively fills ‘Sheed’s void), they’re still down one rotation big man from the four they had last year so long as Perkins is out. Shaq completes that frontcourt with a skillset that’s pretty similar to Perkins, but Shaq is better on offense.

What about when Perkins comes back, though? Will Doc Rivers be able to get all of these guys minutes with Glen Davis in the picture, too? That remains to be seen. You know Garnett won’t mind giving up a few minutes here or there if it means the team will win, but the same can’t necessarily be said for the O’Neal pair. Shaq comes with plenty of baggage on the side, and his ego could be a problem. Even in Cleveland he started, so he’ll have to learn to give that up if he wants to play in Boston. Also, he likely won’t get as many touches as he did with LeBron — which was probably too many anyway. But considering the age of KG and the O’Neals, having an insurance policy in case of injury isn’t a bad idea.

This signing could be a difference-maker for the Celtics. They’ve just got to get the money straightened out with the Diesel, and he might be playing ball in New England come October.

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Chris Paul Says He Wants to Stay? Don’t Buy It

January 20, 2010: Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets celebrates with Bobby Brown against the Memphis Grizzlies during an NBA game in the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, LA. Tyler Kaufman/CSM.

Source: Yardbarker.com

The most recent word out of the New Orleans Hornets management camp is that Chris Paul never wanted a trade from a team. And Paul said himself that he’s satisfied with the direction of the franchise. Don’t buy it for a second.

Why? Because the only direction this franchise is headed is down. The Hornets have NOTHING.

Any expression of pleasure with the team’s future on Paul’s part is merely a smokescreen to avoid bringing his itch to get out of town to the public and maintain the reputations of both him and the team — in the shadow of the LeBronathon.

Let’s examine what the Hornets don’t have. They don’t have a solid option to complement Paul on either end of the floor. David West might have looked like that companion a couple seasons ago, but he’s 31 now, and injury concerns make him unreliable. As for Emeka Okafor, he’s a markedly underachieving No. 2 overall pick getting paid way too much money. The fact that he hasn’t been dealt yet shows that he can’t make the franchise into a winner. And all but two of the other roster spots are occupied by mediocre bench players (by bench players’ standards) or has-beens. The two others? Darren Collison, who’s buried behind Paul at point guard, and Marcus Thornton, who can score but is hardly a franchise player.

What’s worse, they didn’t retain a single draft pick this summer after dealing Cole Aldrich away. It’s quite clear that the Hornets are not going to be competitive for a few years.

And there sure are a lot of trade rumors swirling around a team that doesn’t want to trade a player that doesn’t want to be traded. There are still those suggestions that he might go to the Orlando Magic, New York Knicks, or Los Angeles Lakers, and now, according to CBS’s Ken Berger, the Charlotte Bobcats and New Jersey Nets (notorious losers of Free Agency 2010) are reportedly getting in on the action.

Then there’s the memo that the league sent out to remind teams about tampering — a memo that specifically mentioned Chris Paul. Would the league really bother if a deal weren’t going to happen?

All that said, it might not be soon. In fact, I’d say it’s likely CP3 is still a Hornet at season’s beginning. Paul’s facade of satisfaction gives New Orleans the benefit of “wanting” to trade Paul instead of “needing” to trade him, so the team can take all the time it wants to get teams to compete in their offers for the point guard. And no matter what they get, they have Collison to fall back on at their next point guard of the future. With Paul in New Orleans, the future is bleak. With Paul gone (maybe in a package with Okafor’s bloated contract) and a few picks and one or two young pieces in return, it’s much, much brighter.

As for this wacko conspiracy that there’s a mysterious orchestra of important people using LeBron and Paul as puppets, I don’t buy it. Continuing to concentrate talent will eventually destroy the league, and then even the teams with all the players won’t have the money to pay them. There won’t be another coup of free agents like the one we saw this summer for some time.

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Would Bulls Regret Signing T-Mac?

Mar. 06, 2010 - New York - (100307) -- NEW YORK, Mar. 7, 2010 (Xinhua) -- Tracy McGrady (R) of New York Knicks controls the ball during the NBA game against New Jersey Nets in New York, the United State, Mar. 6, 2010. Nets won 113-93. (Xinhua/Shen Hong.

Source: Yardbarker.com

Well, it looks like Tracy McGrady will be back in the NBA for another year. After a summer of minimal interest in T-Mac (with the exception of the Clippers’ decision to let him work out), the Chicago Bulls seem prepared to make the 31-year-old guard-forward a deal for the upcoming season — at least.

The Bulls are in the midst of a reconstruction of their own, attempting (as best they can) to keep up with the fast pace that the Miami Heat have set during this year’s free agency. They got their big fish in Carlos Boozer, a scoring and rebounding power forward that gives them a post presence that they have sorely lacked in years past. Then they went after Kyle Korver of the Utah Jazz, who simply lights it up from long range; he hit something like 53 percent of his three-point attempts in 2009-2010. They weren’t done yet, though. They also nabbed Ronnie Brewer, an underrated shooting guard who plays admirable defense and can score the basketball, too. To put on the finishing touches, the Bulls brought aboard Kurt Thomas as a veteran presence in the frontcourt and acquired C.J. Watson via sign-and-trade from the Golden State Warriors. He’s a solid backup for Derrick Rose.

But that’s not enough for Chicago, apparently hellbent on challenging Miami in the now-prestigious Eastern Conference. Its next move is to add the once-superstar Tracy McGrady to their rotation as a scoring option. There are, however, some stipulations for the deal. First of all, he’ll need to prove he’s healthy in a workout with the team. The Bulls don’t want to throw their money down the toilet if he’s just going to ride the pine in a boot all year. Second of all, he must agree that he’ll accept a bench role in the rotation.

In theory, adding T-Mac could pay substantial dividends. He showed for many years that he can score with the best of them. But aren’t there drawbacks to this? The most important one concerns whether he’ll be able to play good ball. While I said that he showed that he could score, he hasn’t exactly lived up to his reputation over the last couple seasons. In 2008-2009 with Houston, his scoring average dropped to 15.6 points. In 2009-2010 with the New York Knicks, who were willing to give him a chance with that attractive expiring contract, he was a complete dud, scoring only 9.4 points per game on 39 percent shooting.

Accordingly, the Bulls risk bringing him on and letting him use too many possessions to shoot way too inefficiently when there are better options on the team. He might be able to accept a bench role, but that doesn’t mean he’ll play like a bench player.

Then there is the potential problem that he won’t live up to his deal with the team. Sure, he might look good in a short workout with the team and pledge that he’ll be happy in the second unit, but it doesn’t mean he’ll stay true to that all year. After he gets his deal, he might stop worrying about his game shape and find himself injured anyway. More problematically, he might recant on his satisfaction to come off the bench and start trouble in the locker room like he did in Houston. It’s the last thing the Bulls could want while trying to compete at the highest level.

There’s no doubt that T-Mac still has the talent to play a viable role in the NBA. But it seems to me that the risks in signing him to deal vastly outweigh the possible rewards that could result.

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Would Bulls Regret Signing T-Mac?

Mar. 06, 2010 - New York - (100307) -- NEW YORK, Mar. 7, 2010 (Xinhua) -- Tracy McGrady (R) of New York Knicks controls the ball during the NBA game against New Jersey Nets in New York, the United State, Mar. 6, 2010. Nets won 113-93. (Xinhua/Shen Hong.

Source: Yardbarker.com

Well, it looks like Tracy McGrady will be back in the NBA for another year. After a summer of minimal interest in T-Mac (with the exception of the Clippers’ decision to let him work out), the Chicago Bulls seem prepared to make the 31-year-old guard-forward a deal for the upcoming season — at least.

The Bulls are in the midst of a reconstruction of their own, attempting (as best they can) to keep up with the fast pace that the Miami Heat have set during this year’s free agency. They got their big fish in Carlos Boozer, a scoring and rebounding power forward that gives them a post presence that they have sorely lacked in years past. Then they went after Kyle Korver of the Utah Jazz, who simply lights it up from long range; he hit something like 53 percent of his three-point attempts in 2009-2010. They weren’t done yet, though. They also nabbed Ronnie Brewer, an underrated shooting guard who plays admirable defense and can score the basketball, too. To put on the finishing touches, the Bulls brought aboard Kurt Thomas as a veteran presence in the frontcourt and acquired C.J. Watson via sign-and-trade from the Golden State Warriors. He’s a solid backup for Derrick Rose.

But that’s not enough for Chicago, apparently hellbent on challenging Miami in the now-prestigious Eastern Conference. Its next move is to add the once-superstar Tracy McGrady to their rotation as a scoring option. There are, however, some stipulations for the deal. First of all, he’ll need to prove he’s healthy in a workout with the team. The Bulls don’t want to throw their money down the toilet if he’s just going to ride the pine in a boot all year. Second of all, he must agree that he’ll accept a bench role in the rotation.

In theory, adding T-Mac could pay substantial dividends. He showed for many years that he can score with the best of them. But aren’t there drawbacks to this? The most important one concerns whether he’ll be able to play good ball. While I said that he showed that he could score, he hasn’t exactly lived up to his reputation over the last couple seasons. In 2008-2009 with Houston, his scoring average dropped to 15.6 points. In 2009-2010 with the New York Knicks, who were willing to give him a chance with that attractive expiring contract, he was a complete dud, scoring only 9.4 points per game on 39 percent shooting.

Accordingly, the Bulls risk bringing him on and letting him use too many possessions to shoot way too inefficiently when there are better options on the team. He might be able to accept a bench role, but that doesn’t mean he’ll play like a bench player.

Then there is the potential problem that he won’t live up to his deal with the team. Sure, he might look good in a short workout with the team and pledge that he’ll be happy in the second unit, but it doesn’t mean he’ll stay true to that all year. After he gets his deal, he might stop worrying about his game shape and find himself injured anyway. More problematically, he might recant on his satisfaction to come off the bench and start trouble in the locker room like he did in Houston. It’s the last thing the Bulls could want while trying to compete at the highest level.

There’s no doubt that T-Mac still has the talent to play a viable role in the NBA. But it seems to me that the risks in signing him to deal vastly outweigh the possible rewards that could result.

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Grading Offseasons: Southwest Division

Sure, the NBA offseason isn’t over yet, but with the passing of Summer League and most of the key free agents signed, let’s grade each of the NBA teams’ progress this summer. To finish, here’s the Southwest Division.

Dallas Mavericks (55-27, Lost First Round): A-

Dallas once again succumbed to a Western Conference foe a little too early last season, falling to the Spurs in the first round. This summer, the priority for Mark Cuban was to re-sign Dirk Nowitzki, who stunningly opted out of his contract, and the team succeeded. Then they further bolstered their frontcourt by re-signing Brendan Haywood to start at center and parlaying Erick Dampier’s bloated expiring contract into Tyson Chandler and Alexis Ajinca from Charlotte. The Mavericks will, once more, be contenders in the West, even as the roster gets yet another year older.

San Antonio Spurs (50-32, Lost Western Conference Semifinals): A

The Spurs’ window for capturing another title under the reign of Tim Duncan is quickly closing, but R.C. Buford did everything he could to make this year will be a full-scale assault. That started with keeping the big three together, and Manu Ginobili will stick around for another year. Richard Jefferson’s also coming back after opting out of his deal and not finding a bite on the open market — and he’s getting significantly less money, too. They’re also bringing 2007 first-round pick Tiago Splitter over to the NBA this year, and many believe he can be a standout big man from the get-go. Finally, they drafted James Anderson, who can fill minutes at the 3 right away.

Houston Rockets (42-40, Missed Playoffs): B

The Rockets suffered last season in the absence of Yao Ming, who will be back this year — no one’s sure if he’ll play up to his previous standard of greatness, though. Other than that, the Rockets re-signed Luis Scola, who had a great year last year, and Kyle Lowry, a defensive point guard who has the potential to improve. Throw in Patrick Patterson, who many believe is the most NBA-ready prospect in the draft, and Houston will almost definitely be in the playoff picture next Spring.

Memphis Grizzlies (40-42, Missed Playoffs): B-

Although I disagree with the negotiation strategy used by the Grizzlies to lure RFA Rudy Gay back to Memphis, I don’t deny that it was a completely necessary move for the development of the team. Not letting him get away was the best thing they could have done this summer. In addition, they brought in Xavier Henry, a plus shooter, via the draft, so they continue to stockpile the young talent. They might make the race for eight interesting, at least, come April.

New Orleans Hornets (37-45, Missed Playoffs): F

The Hornets had a bad year last season amid injuries to Chris Paul, and they didn’t do anything this summer to remedy the problem, leading to Paul’s distrust in the team and desire for a trade. Darren Collison might be the next big thing, but there won’t be anyone around to help him. The Hornets didn’t add any draft picks, and the only free agents they signed are basically negligible. If Paul decides to quit on this team next season, it could be a brutal campaign in New Orleans.

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Grading Offseasons: Pacific Division

Sure, the NBA offseason isn’t over yet, but with the passing of Summer League and most of the key free agents signed, let’s grade each of the NBA teams’ progress this summer. Next up is the Pacific Division.

Los Angeles Lakers (57-25, Won NBA Finals): B

The Lakers are one of the most complete teams in the NBA, notwithstanding a somewhat weak bench. Their roster was designed to compete last year, and they won again, so they’ve embraced the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” strategy this summer — not that they have any cap room to make any significant additions. Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar, and Josh Powell are gone, but we all know they were fairly extraneous anyway. More importantly, GM Mitch Kupchak convinced Derek Fisher to stay on as the starting point guard instead of letting him slide to the Heat, and he brought on Steve Blake to back him up. They succeeded in the draft, too. Both Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter looked impressive in Summer League play, and they should get second-unit minutes next year.

Phoenix Suns (54-28, Lost Western Conference Finals): D+

Steve Nash is still around, but he’s another year older. Who knows how long he’ll continue his graceful aging? Obviously the big blow this summer was losing Amar’e Stoudemire, an offensive force who was the team’s only true threat in the post. His scoring will be sorely missed, and acquisition Hakim Warrick won’t be able to reproduce it. They did fetch Hedo Turkoglu and Josh Childress, who should fit well in Alvin Gentry’s up-tempo system, but this will truly be a team that lives and dies by the trey — and Leandro Barbosa, one of their finest shooters, was shipped off in the Turk deal.

Los Angeles Clippers (29-53, Missed Playoffs): A-

The most important item on the agenda for the Clippers this summer was to get 2009 No. 1 overall pick Blake Griffin in game shape for his first NBA regular-season game, and they’ve done that: Griffin has been at 100 percent for awhile, and he’ll be ready to go by late October. With Griffin, the lineup is virtually set at four positions, with small forward the notable void. While the Clippers didn’t get a top-tier 3 like Rudy Gay or, dare I say, LeBron James in free agency, they drafted Al-Farouq Aminu, who has the potential to be an impact player a few years down the road. His performance in Summer League showed he’s still very raw, but the team also acquired Ryan Gomes from Minnesota, a hard-nosed 3-4 swinger who can play meaningful starting minutes in the meantime. They also drafted Eric Bledsoe, who will back up Baron Davis at the point, and Willie Warren, who can play both backcourt positions. Moreover, they signed Randy Foye, who can further anchor the backcourt and make spot starts. Signees Brian Cook and Craig Smith fill out the frontcourt and give the team a greater veteran presence among so many youngsters. And there’s still the possibility that Tracy McGrady might hop on board. The bottom line is that the Clippers could end up surprising a lot of people this year.

Golden State Warriors (26-56, Missed Playoffs): B

The biggest error for the Warriors this season was keeping Don Nelson, who is apparently incapable of properly handling and developing young players. That said, Corey Maggette is gone, creating more time for those young players to crack the rotation. They also brought on board David Lee, who, alongside Andris Biedrins, forms one of the finest rebounding tandems in the league. They lost Anthony Morrow to the Nets, but they have so many shooters that that shouldn’t matter too much anyway. Ekpe Udoh would have been a factor in their rotation, so it’s unfortunate that he’ll miss the first six months after injuring himself.

Sacramento Kings (25-57, Missed Playoffs): B-

The Kings snagged DeMarcus Cousins with the fifth pick in the draft, and he looks like he could be a dominant center in the NBA if he checks his ego at the door of the Arco Arena. His floortime in Summer League demonstrated the polarity that everyone suspected prior to the draft. But if he stays level-headed, he’ll make a great frontcourt with Carl Landry. Veteran Samuel Dalembert can start until Cousins is ready and give them plenty of defense and rebounding. Don’t forget Jason Thompson, who also figures to take his share of minutes.

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Grading Offseasons: Northwest Division

Sure, the NBA offseason isn’t over yet, but with the passing of Summer League and most of the key free agents signed, let’s grade each of the NBA teams’ progress this summer. Next up is the Northwest Division.

Denver Nuggets (53-29, Lost First Round): C

The Nuggets didn’t make any notable moves this summer, and they didn’t draft anybody, but they didn’t need to. Denver is still ready to contend with the roster as it is. As Ty Lawson progresses, he should be more integral in their plans on a game-by-game basis. And if they had managed to extend Carmelo Anthony’s contract this summer, that would have been ideal.

Utah Jazz (53-29, Lost Western Conference Semifinals): A-

As I wrote last week, the acquisitions of Raja Bell and Al Jefferson drastically outweigh the losses of Carlos Boozer and Wesley Matthews. The Jazz did everything they could to prepare themselves for a playoff matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011, and they’re just better overall.

Portland Trail Blazers (50-32, Lost First Round): B-

Portland is another team that didn’t really need to make drastic changes. Adding an impact offensive player on the block would have been nice, but they can hope that Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla remain healthy for the entire year. With Marcus Camby there as the defensive stopper and rebounder, they should be able to contend with the best of the frontcourts in the league. And there’s always LaMarcus Aldridge, who continues to improve. They also nabbed Wesley Matthews from Utah, who has shown he is a talented youngster who can affect a basketball game on both ends.

Oklahoma City Thunder (50-32, Lost First Round): B

Oklahoma City is a difficult team to judge, as its success is so largely dependent on team chemistry and player development. While adding a post scorer would have been the tops, it’s still a solid result to have all the players on the roster just continue to improve. Their so young that doing nothing in terms of personnel makes the team better. Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Jeff Green, Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha, and even Kevin Durant stand to become better players during the year ahead. That’s enough to make the stagnant offseason understandable.

Minnesota Timberwolves (15-67, Missed Playoffs): D+

Who knows? David Kahn made so many moves this summer that it’s really hard to keep track of them all, but the dominating concern is the bloated contract that the zany GM awarded to Darko Milicic. Al Jefferson’s gone, Ryan Gomes is gone, and Ricky Rubio’s still in Europe. Wesley Johnson should contribute immediately, though, which is one good thing.

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Grading Offseasons: Southeast Division

Sure, the NBA offseason isn’t over yet, but with the passing of Summer League and most of the key free agents signed, let’s grade each of the NBA teams’ progress this summer. Next up is the Southeast Division.

Orlando Magic (59-23, Lost Eastern Conference Finals): C

The Orlando Magic will still compete deep into this year’s playoffs, but now that the Heat have bulked up, the Magic should have made some move to make the team better. Instead, they lost out on Matt Barnes, a tough defender and good shooter in the system. Good thing they matched the offer on J.J. Redick, or he would have been a substantial loss. Drafting a project center in Daniel Orton who won’t even break the second unit with all the 4s and 5s on the team was not a good idea for a team that needs more immediate role players to enhance the chances of winning a title.

Atlanta Hawks (53-29, Lost Eastern Conference Semifinals): B

The Atlanta Hawks might not be ready to win the Eastern Conference, but they kept their team from caving in by re-signing Joe Johnson, even though it cost them a pretty penny. If he left, the Hawks would probably be a lottery team next year. Getting Larry Drew to coach should be a good move, but Mike Woodson didn’t deserve to be fired after his team quit on him. Lastly, Jordan Crawford is a born scorer, but he makes the second J. Crawford on the team that’s a born scorer. The former’s role is in question. How could they finish this offseason with a bang? Sign Shaq to a one-year deal. Then they’ll have a counter to Dwight Howard, and maybe they won’t look so pathetic against the Magic again.

Miami Heat (47-35, Lost First Round): A+

Need I say more? Aside from the Big 3, though, Pat Riley has managed to assemble an amazing cast of supporters, anchored by Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller. They’re definitely the favorites in the East next season.

Charlotte Bobcats (44-38, Lost First Round): C-

The Bobcats didn’t take on any players in the draft, but they did re-sign Tyrus Thomas, who hasn’t yet proven his worth in the NBA. They lost Tyson Chandler, though, who was a defensive anchor for a fantastic defensive team last season. They also lost Raymond Felton, so they’ll have to hope that D.J. Augustin can foot the bill as the starting point guard.

Washington Wizards (26-56, Missed Playoffs): B+

The Wizards’ ranking might be mostly based on luck, but bringing on John Wall is going to change that franchise for the better. His Summer League performances only confirmed that he is going to be a star. They cleaned house, though, and Randy Foye, Mike Miller, Caron Butler, and Antawn Jamison are all gone. If it all works out, Gilbert Arenas will gel in an off-ball role, Andray Blatche will continue his surprising development, and Josh Howard will play like he did a few years ago in Dallas.

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Grading Offseasons: Central Division

Sure, the NBA offseason isn’t over yet, but with the passing of Summer League and most of the key free agents signed, let’s grade each of the NBA teams’ progress this summer. Next up is the Central Division.

Cleveland Cavaliers (61-21, Lost Eastern Conference Semifinals): D-

Any team that loses LeBron James has had a bad offseason. Any team that loses LeBron James and doesn’t make a move to account for it has had a terrible offseason. The only reason to hold out hope? They’ve hired Byron Scott, and he has a plan to implement an up-tempo system and make the requisite changes to make it work.

Milwaukee Bucks (46-36, Lost First Round): B

It was upsetting to see rising star Andrew Bogut crash to the floor at the end of the regular season and his arm splinter all over the floor as a result. It was even more upsetting to see the virtually zombified Atlanta Hawks top the Bucks in the first round before bowing out disgracefully to the Orlando Magic. Next year, though, figures to be kind to the Bucks. They managed to retain John Salmons, who was a key cog in their offensive scheme, and they signed journeyman Drew Gooden. Although his contract was a little steep, he’s a plus rebounder and a decent inside scorer that will provide valuable minutes for the Deer. Factor in Brandon Jennings in his second season and Bogut’s return, and they’re a team I’d like to watch.

Chicago Bulls (41-41, Lost First Round): A

The Bulls might not have snagged LeBron, Dwyane Wade, or Chris Bosh, but they did just about everything else right. First of all, they secured Tom Thibodeau to be their head coach, a defensive mastermind who should do wonders for the development of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, and others. Then they signed the next best thing on the market (except maybe Amar’e Stoudemire) in Carlos Boozer to anchor their post play and provide a solid companion for Rose on the pick and roll. The icing on the cake was adding Kyle Korver, possibly the best shooter in the NBA, and the defensive stopper Ronnie Brewer, who can keep most 2-guards in check. J.J. Redick would have been a nice nab, but as it stands, they did basically the best they could.

Indiana Pacers (32-50, Missed Playoffs): D+

The Pacers’ main priority this summer was to sign a serviceable point guard, and they’ve yet to do that. While selecting Paul George should be a solid player, they already have Danny Granger entrenched at the position. It probably would have been best for them to trade down in the draft and take Eric Bledsoe as the second-best 1 in the draft. Jim O’Brien’s going to have a tough time winning with this team next season.

Detroit Pistons (27-55, Missed Playoffs): C

The current roster for the Pistons probably isn’t destined for greatness, but they succeeded in re-signing Ben Wallace for two more years, and he’s still a force to be reckoned with on defense in the post. They also got Greg Monroe, who can provide quality offense in the post right off the bat. They’re not going to make the playoffs next year, but they’ll probably win more than 27 games.

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Grading Offseasons: Atlantic Division

Sure, the NBA offseason isn’t over yet, but with the passing of Summer League and most of the key free agents signed, let’s grade each of the NBA teams’ progress this summer, starting with the Atlantic Division.

Boston Celtics (50-32, Lost NBA Finals): A-

For the aging Boston Celtics, the objective is clear: keep the team competitive for one more season while the Big 3 still have value. This summer, the Celtics did exactly that. Danny Ainge managed to reach agreements with both Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, keeping the core of the team intact for yet another year. Then, with Rasheed Wallace retiring and Kendrick Perkins out for who knows how long, he inked Jermaine O’Neal to a contract, who can do most of the things Sheed did while replacing his outside shot with better post skills. He rounded out his effort by re-signing Nate Robinson, who demonstrated his value as a backup point guard in the playoffs, and nabbing Avery Bradley in the draft. He’ll provide a great shooting touch in the second unit that the team previously lacked. The one error? They let defensive stalwart Tony Allen slip through their fingers.

Toronto Raptors (40-42, Missed Playoffs): D

The only reason this isn’t an F is because Chris Bosh’s departure was basically inevitable and there was nothing they could really do. Nevertheless, when a lottery team loses its one star, it’s a recipe for disaster. Ed Davis won’t be ready for a couple years, and while dumping the disgruntled Hedo Turkoglu and his bloated deal on the Suns was a good move, LeAndro Barbosa isn’t going to save the team. And giving Amir Johnson $34 million over 5 years? Please. It’s going to be a miserable year north of the border for the Raptors.

New York Knicks (29-53, Missed Playoffs): B-

Amar’e Stoudemire is a great get for the Knicks, but can he really be a difference maker for them? After all, he’s not that much of an upgrade over David Lee, and no one has seen what he can do without Steve Nash’s wizardry. Donnie Walsh’s plan was to snag two A-List free agents off the market, and he didn’t come through. Raymond Felton’s a good point guard, but $8 million a year is a little steep for someone who hasn’t shown he can be an elite player. Andy Rautins and Landry Fields aren’t going to set the court on fire either. All this notwithstanding, the Knicks have an outside shot at the playoffs this year even in the talented Eastern Conference.

Philadelphia 76ers (27-55, Missed Playoffs): B+

The Sixers’ biggest addition came via the draft in Evan Turner, who figures to be a poor man’s Brandon Roy within a couple years in the NBA. When you add on Jrue Holiday’s development at the point and the swap of Samuel Dalembert for Spencer Hawes, and it’s pretty promising lineup to go along with Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young. If new coach Doug Collins (another plus) can figure out how to motivate Elton Brand, this team could surprise a lot of people this year.

New Jersey Nets (12-70, Missed Playoffs): F

New owner Mikhail Prokhorov wants a championship within five years, but his Nets were the only key players to strike out in the pursuit of top-of-the-line free agents. Instead of reeling in LeBron, Chris Bosh, or Carlos Boozer, the Nets overpaid Travis Outlaw and brought in three role players in Anthony Morrow, Jordan Farmar, and Johan Petro. While the team will inevitably improve its record as Brook Lopez improves and Devin Harris bounces back, this summer was a total disappointment for the Newark Nets.