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.