A New Brand of Atlantic Division Basketball

Looks like CB4 and JO suddenly have another big body to compete against in the Atlantic...

Looks like CB4 and JO suddenly have another big body to compete against in the Atlantic...

Originally I was going to write a piece for this morning about Toronto’s Summer League squad; who looked to have a chance at the Raptors’ roster, who was there simply as a courtesy…you get the idea.

However halfway through the article, it became evident that it would need to be pushed back a day as Howland called me from work to divulge the breaking news; the Philadelphia 76ers had apparently won the Elton Brand sweepstakes.

In fact, Howland actually put it like this:

"Franchise, aaah…that lightning and crazy storm going on outside isn’t due to Mother Nature, it’s due to Father Legomaster upon hearing the news of this deal!"

All of a sudden, the division that was known as the "Titanic" has suddenly become one of the strongest in the league on paper, and Toronto’s big coup from a mere few weeks ago might now be an afterthought considering last night’s moves.

Brand to Philly?

Maggette now to Golden State?

Pietrus to Orlando?

I’ve seen less swapping on an episode of Melrose Place!

This has been the wildest free agent season I can remember and if indeed these moves are made official, three big winners and three big losers immediately come to mind.

Winners:

1) Philadelphia. Um…this is a team that drafted Marreese Speights because they were so desperate for help at the 4. Now they land one of the best low post players in the game at that position? Teamed with Samuel Dalembert up front, Thaddeus Young and Andre Iguodala (assuming they re-sign him) on the wings, and Andre Miller keeping everyone happy, this club looks primed for a good run next year.

2) Golden State. I actually think this works out best for G State in the long run. Davis couldn’t get the Warriors back to the playoffs last year so why max him out and hurt the club in the long run? With Maggette, they can get another athletic player to fit with Mad Scientist Nelson’s plans, use the cap room to re-sign their other key players, and still fly right around the final playoff spot while building on their youth movement with players like Belinelli, Biedrins, Ellis and Wright.

3) Orlando. It sounds like the Magic are keeping Keyon Dooling as well so they’ve reloaded. Now with Pietrus at the 2, this is a very big starting line-up outside of the point guard position, and a very athletic one as well. I really like the moves they’ve made as they haven’t had to sacrifice anyone from their core. Plus, they can still dangle JJ Redick and a few players near the trade deadline if they need one more piece.

Losers:

1) Baron Davis. Hmmm…don’t think I’d want to be Davis’ agent right about now. Let me get this straight. Davis leaves money on the table and the place that was responsible for putting him back in the spotlight so he can join Brand in Clipperland. Only Brand bolts, and now Davis is looking at a long-term future with a club that’s going nowhere in an incredibly tough conference. Unless somehow Eric Gordon turns into Clyde Drexler and Al Thornton morphs into Dr J over the summer, it’s going to be a very long season for Davis in LA.

2) Vince Carter. This also came to mind immediately after Howland told me about the impending moves. Vince Carter, who forced his way out of Toronto as he didn’t want to be part of a rebuilding project, is now with an even bigger one, on possibly the worst team in not only the division after the recent moves by Philly, but also the conference! Oh the joys of karma.

3) Chris Bosh. There are only so many forward spots in the East on the All-Star squad, and the cupboard just got a bit more crowded. Accolades aside, Brand also represents one more big hurdle in the post that Chris Bosh (and probably Jermaine O’Neal) is going to have to deal with night in night out. Look at the East now! Brand, KG, Jamison, Wallace, Okafor, Randolph, Howard, Curry, even Beasley! Those are some big and talented bodies up front and next year is certainly not going to be a cakewalk for the young forward.

So can Philly compete for the East title? I’m not sure if they are that far yet but they’re definitely good enough to strike some fear in the East’s elite. From John Hollinger this morning:

Even with poor shooting, the Sixers should ascend into the East's upper crust. Boston and Detroit are obviously where the discussion begins in this conference, and Orlando (which made an underrated pickup of their own today in Mickael Pietrus), Cleveland and perhaps Toronto also have to be seen as strong threats.

The other point worth mentioning this morning is that the salary cap final number was made official last night. The amount came in just under $59 Million ($58.68) which means that all our guestimates about Toronto being quite close to the luxury tax limit after re-signing Jose were bang on. The luxury tax is at $71.15 Million so the Raps just won’t have a lot of room to play with as predicted.

That’s especially the case later today when the signings of Jose and Hassan Adams, and the Jermaine O’Neal trade will be made official. The Raptors will be holding a press conference to announce the moves and while we’ve got the invite, unfortunately our real jobs will prevent us from being present.

However we’re hoping to do an interview with Hassan in the coming weeks and later this week will be talking with the preeminent Pacers’ blog, Indiana Cornrows, about the JO-TJ deal.

What looked to potentially be a quiet off-season just keeps getting crazier and crazier.

FRANCHISE

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