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Grading the Competition

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Having entered the quietest period on the NBA calendar now seems like an appropriate time to look back at what the other Atlantic Division teams have done this off-season.

Bryan Colangelo has been one of the busiest NBA GM’s this summer. He has almost completely remade the roster and the team, on paper, looks stronger than it has in years. The other teams in the Atlantic have also been active, but some have fared better than others.

BOSTON CELTICS

Key additions: Rasheed Wallace, Shelden Williams

Key subtractions: Leon Powe

If there is one team that I don’t have a gut feeling about it is the Celtics. In last years playoffs the Celtics were pushed to the brink by an up and coming Bulls squad and they fell way short of winning back to back titles. Of course this has everything in the world to do with the absence of their heart and soul, Kevin Garnett. By all accounts Kevin Garnett is looking good as he prepares for another season and getting KG back won’t be the only addition to the Celts front court. Danny Ainge has added former All-Star Rasheed Wallace to the roster, re-signed Baby Davis and inked Shelden Williams. The front court has gotten much deeper despite the Celts having let Leon Powe back his bags for Cleveland.

At first glance I thought the Wallace signing was an absolute coup for the Celts but then Bill Simmons, as he so often does, provided this dose of reality:

Look, it's hard to criticize your team for spending $20 million to upgrade a position that Mikki Moore and Brian Scalabrine manned last season. But Sheed will be 35 years old and is coming off a brutal contract year. He coasted on his reputation these past two seasons and helped two coaches get fired. Last season, he looked disinterested, took bad shots at the wrong times and never posted up. (In the words of William Miller, "I was there. I WAS THERE.") Considering the Celtics had trouble with everyone who went small against them last season, weren't they better off targeting a third swing guy who could make 3s and defend hot scorers (and please don't tell me Marquis Daniels is the answer) over frontcourt insurance? Also, what makes anyone think Kendrick Perkins -- a young warrior who really came on last season, but an emotional guy for better or worse -- won't be affected with Rasheed breathing down his neck for playing time?

There is no doubt that the Wallace addition makes the Celtics front-court scary good from a defensive stand-point but offensively it’s hard to get excited about the Wallace signing. He did take a lot of "misguided" shots last year. Nevertheless, it will be must see TV when Bosh and Bargs go head to head with these two guys. Wallace has had CB4’s number in the past so this will be a true test for the Raps front-court.

The Celts could be an excellent team this season but there’s a good chance the window has closed and the sun is setting on this veteran led team. The Wallace signing says they are making one last run…will it fall short?

Oh and they let Stephon Marbury go. I am sure that loss will be felt for decades.

Off-Season Grade: B

NEW JERSEY NETS

Key additions: Courtney Lee, Terrence Williams, Rafer ALston, Tony Battie

Key subtractions: Vince Carter, Ryan Anderson

This team has clearly bought into the old adage, short term pain for long-term gain. By dealing VC to Orlando they no-only jettisoned a large contract but also their best player. In return? An up and coming SG in Courtney Lee. It looks to be a long season in New Jersey but they are slowly collecting solid, young assets to build around. The Nets have a ton of young talent with Devin Harris, Terrence Williams, Yi Jianlian, Brook Lopez and the aforementioned Lee. Given this team was going no-where with Carter clearing the deck make good basketball and financial sense for a team looking to re-stock when it moves to Brooklyn.

For the upcoming season however, this team is going to struggle mightily and should be out of the playoff picture before December.

Off-Season Grade: D

NEW YORK KNICKS

Key additions: Jordan Hill, Toney Douglas, Darko Milicic

Key subtractions: Quentin Richardson

In limbo: David Lee (R), Nate Robinson (R)

Given the David Lee and Nate Robinson situations are yet to be finalized it is tough to evaluate what the Knicks have done this summer. The Knicks were seemingly screwed by the Golden State Warriors when Don Nelson et al. decided to take Stephen Curry with the eight pick of the draft (leaving the Knicks with Jordan Hill) and adding Darko Milicic isn’t exactly a game changer. Adding Ramon Sessions wouldn’t hurt their cause given Chris Duhon is not really starter material.

For the Knicks it continues to be all about the summer of 2010. If you read this article by Chad Ford however, things are not all peaches and cream for the Knick going forward even after purging their roster of heavy contracts (save for Eddy Curry and Jared Jeffries). The shrinking salary cap could end any hopes the Knicks have of signing two big name free-agents in 2010. If you are Lebron James are you going to leave a good situation in Cleveland for a Knicks team no talent to support you?

The other loss by the Knicks this summer was Q-Rich. Of course do you even remember when Q-Rich was with the Knicks? He might be the first player to have been the property of every team in the league when his career is said and done.

Off-Season Grade: Inc.

PHILADELPHIA 76ers

Key additions: Jrue Hliday, Jason Kapono, Primoz Brezec

Key subtractions: Andre Miller, Reggie Evans, Theo Ratliff

If you thought the Knicks had a bad off-season how about the 76ers! The importance of Andre Miller to this squad cannot be overstated and letting him walk will be devastating this upcoming season. Suddenly the PG’s for this team are Louis Williams and Royal Ivey and Jrue Holiday. That’s a major drop-off and the effects will be felt in the standings.

Louis Williams is a good combo guard who can score but he is not exactly known for his steady hand and willingness to create offense for others. Holiday looks like a solid player and after speaking with him during the pre-draft workouts seems convinced of being a PG, but he isn’t ready to step in and take the reins from Day 1.

Although this team remains very talented on the wing much of this seasons success will depend on the health of Elton Brand and how this team meshes with him on the court. Of course if he doesn’t come back at 100% they can always rely on newly signed Primoz Brezec!

Although the Kapono experiment in TO was a failure, things might turn out better in the City of Brotherly love as this team will run all day allowing him open looks from beyond the arc. It doesn’t make up for the Miller loss however.

Off-Season Grade: C

To me it is clearly obvious is that the Raps, by far and away, had the best off-season in the Atlantic Division. It should be enough to get them at least the second spot in the Division and if everything goes according to plan a push for the Atlantic Division crown. If any of the Knicks, Nets or 76ers end up ahead of the Raps in the division standings by years end then it will have been another disappointing season.

Of course it is one thing critique another teams off-season moves, it is another to prove you can do better. To that end we we will be introducing the RaptorsHQ Fatansy League later this afternoon. Here readers will have the ability to play GM for one of the NBA teams and relive the summer that was and structure a squad for the season ahead. It is easily the most comprehensive fantasy league on the web and we will show you how to sign-up and get involved shorty.