Summer 2016 has brought a lot of roster changes, especially in the east. Some teams made the grade, while others missed the mark. Here are my off-season grades for the eastern conference.
Atlanta Hawks: B-
The Hawks lost perhaps their best player to free agency in Al Horford. They traded Jeff and let Hinrich walk away. Instead of entering full blown rebuild mode after drafting DeAndre Bembry and trading during the draft for Taurean Prince, they opted to sign Dwight Howard, bringing the big man home, in hopes of revitalizing his career. To further keep their playoff hopes alive they signed Jarrett Jack and Malcolm Delaney on top of resigning Kent Bazemore and Kris Humphries. In a stronger eastern conference, it will be a challenge to make the playoffs, but they have the talent to make it happen.
Projected Starting Lineup: Dennis Shoulder (PG) Kent Bazemore (SG) Kyle Lover(SF) Paul Millsap (PF) Dwight Howard (C)
Boston Celtics: A-
The Celtics almost wooed Kevin Durant, but lost out to the Warriors, spoiling what would have been the perfect offseason. As it is, they drafted Jalen Brown, let Evan Turner and Jared Sullinger walk away, before snagging Al Horford and Gerald Green. They also resigned big man Tyler Zeller. The Celtics had one of the better, if not best offseason of the eastern conference. We will no doubt see them go deep into the playoffs next season.
Projected Starting Lineup: Isaiah Thomas (PG) Avery Bradley (SG) Jae Crowder (SF) Amir Johnson (PF) Al Horford (C)
Brooklyn Nets: C
The Nets had conceivably the hardest offseason in the NBA (Other than OKC and Miami) losing out on Tyler Johnson and Allen Crabbe whose offer sheets were matched by their respective teams. The Nets saw the most players of any team this offseason leave. But they were able to find a hord of youth and role players, as well as starter Jeremy Lin. They signed Trevor Booker, Anthony Bennet, Randy Foye, Joe Harris, Justin Hamilton, Luis Scola, and Greivis Vasquez. They drafted Caris Albert using the pick from the Thaddeus Young trade and Isaiah Whitehead. It will be another down season for the nets, though they win a few more than last season.
Projected Starting Lineup: Jeremy Lin (PG) Randy Foye (SG) Ronde Hollis – Jefferson (SF) Anthony Bennett (PF) Brook Lopez (C)
Charlotte Hornets: C+/B-
The Hornets saw Jeremy Lin, Al Jefferson, Courtney Lee, Tyler Hansbrough, Troy Daniels, and Jorge Gutierrez disappear in free agency. Those first few names leave a bit of a sting. Charlotte resigned Batum and Williams, and snagged Roy Hibbert, Brian Roberts, Ramon Sessions, and Christian Woods in free agency. Not a bad free agency not exactly a good one. The Hornets will look to compete, but with a stronger eastern conference, it won’t be an easy journey this coming season.
Projected Starting Lineup: Kemba Walker (PG) Nicolas Batum ( SG)Michael Kidd – Gilchrist (SF) Marvin Williams (PF) Roy Hibbert (C)
Chicago Bulls: C+/B-
The Bulls started their offseason out by trading oft injured point guard and centerpiece star Derrick Rose to the Knicks for Robin Lopez and change. Joakim Noah followed his teammate to the Big Apple. Mike Dunleavy, Pau Gasol, E’Twaun Moore, and Aaron Brooks also left during the summer vacation. Not a good sign for Chicago. Yet, they picked up declining point guard Rajon Rondo and won the Dwyane Wade sweepstakes. They also drafted Denzel Valentine and Paul Zipper. A rough and tumble jigsaw, Chicago is hopeful that the Bulls can get back to the playoffs on Wade and Butler’s backs.
Projected Starting Lineup: Rojon Rondo ( PG) Dwyane Wade (SG) Jimmy Butler (SF) Nikola Mirotic (PF) Robin Lopez (C)
Cleveland Cavaliers: D+
The defending champion Cavaliers have taken a step back, albeit a small one that won’t effect them much. They let Dellavedova go to Milwaukee for Mike Dunleavy, who got some reason, Lebron James has an itch to play with. Timofey Mozgov took off to LA and Sasha Kaun surprisingly retired after only one year in the NBA, leaving the Cavalier’s a little short handed in the front court. They aptly signed the Birdman, Chris Anderson to help out. A little worse for wear, but not much really, the Cavs are once again the favorites in the East.
Projected Starting Lineup: Kyrie Irving (PG) JR Smith (SG) Lebron James (SF) Kevin Love (PF) Tristan Thompson ( C)
Detroit Pistons: C-
The offseason didn’t break the Pistons, neither did it make them contenders. What it did was to exchange some age for youth and potential. Joel Anthony, Anthony Tolliver, Steve Blake, and Cameron Bairstow bid sweet adeu to motor city this offseason. The Pistons went to work drafting Henry Ellison and Michael Gbinije, and signing Jon Leuer, Ish Smith, and Ray McCallum out of free agency. They also picked up big man Boban Marjonovic. An active offseason that will make for a productive season. Detroit will look to compete for a playoff spot in the burgeoning east.
Projected Starting Lineup: Reggie Jackson (PG) Kentavious Caldwell – Pope (SG) Tobias Harris (SF) Marcus Morris (PF) Andre Drummond (C)
Indiana Pacers: C
The Pacers said goodbye to their Hills this offseason, trading George Hill in a three way deal, that netted them hometown boy Jeff Teague in return. Solomon Hill and Jordan Hill left in free agency along with Ian Mamhinmi. The Pacers traded their 1st round draft pick for Thaddeus Young, before taking Georges Niang in the second. They signed Jeremy Evans, Al Jefferson, and Kevin Seraphin. A lot of talent and experience to try and help Indiana get out of the stagnation it’s found itself in that past few seasons.
Projected Starting Lineup: Jeff Teague (PG) Monta Ellis (SG) CJ Miles (SF) Paul George (PF) Myles Turner (C)
Miami Heat: D+/C-
GM Pat Riley was made to sweat this off season with impending departure of Wade, a max offer sheet for Tyler Johnson, and the health woes of Chris Bosh. Not to mention the score of players who hit the road this summer, including Luol Deng, Gerald Green, Amare Stoudemire, and Joe Johnson. Riley matched Johnson’s offer sheet, signed Derrick Williams, Willie Reed, Wayne Ellington, and Luke Babbit.He also offered contracts to three undrafted prospects including Rodney McGruder and Okaro White. Somehow he fended off the sharks and resigned big man Hassan Whiteside. It’s a rebuilding year for Miami, but the talent is there.
Projected Starting Lineup: Goran Dragic (PG) Josh Richardson (SG) Justice Winslow (SF) Chris Bosh (PF) Hassan Whiteside (C)
Milwaukee Bucks: D+
The Bucks lost OJ Mayo, who was banished from the NBA for drug violations. Then they unexpectedly took Thon Maker in the draft lottery at the tenth pick. A handful of free agents including Jerryd Blayless, Johnny O’Bryant, Greivis Vasquez, Damien Inglis, and Steve Novak took off during the summer. The bucks then traded Mike Dunleavy for Matthew Dellavedova, before signing Jon Leuer, Mirza Teletovic, and Jason Terry. They retained Miles Plumlee. Another season in the basement is imminent for the Bucks, though they have plenty of talent, and will no doubt make things harder for other teams.
Projected Starting Lineup: Michael Carter Williams (PG) Chris Middleton (SG) Giannis Antetokounmpo (SF) Greg Monroe (PF) Miles Plumlee (C)
New York Knicks: B-
The Knicks had a good offseason, though the self proclaimed super team, is overreaching. Jackson had little to work with this summer, but he got the fed up Bulls to trade him oft injured Derrick Rose for Robin Lopez and change. Joakim Noah followed his teammate to the big apple. And so started the flow, thank goodness because the Knicks were bleeding out players. Arron Afflalo, Lou Admunson, Cleanthony Early, Langston Galloway, Kevin Seraphin, and Derrick Williams left this summer. Courtney Lee, Brandon Jennings, and Mindaugus Kuzminskis signed on. Jackson drafted Willy Hernangomez and Marshall Plumlee to fill up the roster. A good group, a talented group, but age and injury might hender them. They have set a high bar for themselves, let’s see if they can reach it.
Projected Starting Lineup: Derrick Rose (PG) Courtney Lee (SG) Carmelo Anthony (SF) Kristaps Porzingas (PF) Joakim Noah (C)
Orlando Magic: B-
The Magic traded Victor Oladipo, Ersan Illyasova, and the rights to Domantas Sabonis to the Thunder for Serge Ibaka. They Stephen Zimmerman in the second round and later signed Bismack Biyombo, Jeff Green, Jodie Meeks, CJ Wilcox, and DJ Augstine. Andrew Nicolson, Jason Smith, Brandon Jennings, Shabazz Napier, and Devyn Marble departed in side trades and free agency. The Magic definatley took a step foward on the defensive end, but the offense is less clear. The offseason has also left the Magic a little shallow in the middle. This team will be fighting for the playoffs for sure.
Projected Starting Lineup: Elfred Payton (PG) Evan Fournier (SG) Mario Hezonja (SF) Serge Ibaka ( PF) Nikola Vucevic (C)
Phildelphia 76ers: B+
The Sixers who have spent a number of seasons rebuilding is still at it. This summer however, they have made some smart moves, taking Ben Simmons as the first pick in the draft, signing Sergio Rodriquez, Jerryd Blayless, Dario Static, and Gerald Henderson. They also drafted Timothe Luwawu, and picked up James Webb III. The certainly won’t be vying for a ring this year, but they are headed in the right direction.
Projected Starting Lineup: Sergio Rodriguez (PG) Gerald Henderson (SG) Ben Simmons (SF) Kahlil Okafor (PF) Nerlens Noel ( C)
Toronto Raptors: C-
The Raptors successfully resigned star DeMar Derozan, which was in itself a successful offseason for Tornto, though They lost big man Bismack Biyombo, Luis Scola, and James Johnson to free agency. They snagged Jared Sullinger and drafted big man Jakob Poetl. They also drafted Pascal Siakiem and Fred Vanvleet. A rather uneventful yawn of an offseason, the Raptors will probably drop a seed ot two but still make the playoffs.
Projected Starting Lineup: Kyle Lowry (PG) DeMar DeRozan (SG) DeMarre Carroll (SF) Jared Sullinger ( PF) Jonas Valanciunus (C)
Washington Wizards: B+
The Wizards let Alan Anderson, Jared Dudley, Drew Gooden, JJ Hickson, Nene, Ramon Sessions, and Garrett Temple walk away. They signed the undrafted David ochefu, Ian Mamhinmi, Andrew Nicholson, and Jason Smith. They also pick up Trey Burke along the way. They resigned Bradley Beal and Marcus Thornton. The Wizards will most likely be in the thick of it come the playoffs, thick in the front court, a little thin in the middle.
Projected Starting Lineup: John Wall (PG) Bradley Beal ( SG) Otto Porter (SF) Markieff Morris (PF) Marcin Gortat ( C)