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NBA Draft Kit: Position Battles (Atlantic Division)

Ken Crites

Ken Crites

An early RotoWire contributor from back in the 90s, Ken returns with the grace of Gheorghe Muresan and the wisdom of Joe Gibbs. Tweet him at @KenCrites or e-mail him at ken@rotowire.com. Ken won the FSWA 2014 Humor Article Of The Year award. And he still owns a RotoNews shirt.

Does it seem odd that the biggest news coming out of the Atlantic this summer is that Carmelo Anthony and Kyle Lowry are staying with their respective teams?

Where's the big splashy signing or trade we usually get from Boston, New York, Brooklyn, or Philly? Sorry, but the Knicks getting Jose Calderon just doesn't excite me, and trust me, I'm easily excited.

Boston CelticsBoston Celtics
You know a team is rebuilding and willing to shake up their roster when their first draft pick is a player at the only position where they have established talent. General manager Danny Ainge is clearly expecting another year of dealing, collecting assets, and thinking long-term. Meanwhile, the Celtics are looking at another 25-win season.

Wings: Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Evan Turner, James Young, Gerald Wallace

Last year was Jeff Green's time to shine, while Avery Bradley was supposed to continue his defensive dominance. It didn't happen. Green showed modest improvement (16.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.6 three-pointers), but didn't grab the spotlight. That said, he did have this awesome game winner against the Heat: (Let's kick em while they are down.)



Bradley had more health issues and played only 60 games. On the positive, he improved his field goal percentage by four ticks, up to 44 percent and upped his treys to 1.3 per game.

Now, enter Marcus Smart, the sixth pick in the draft. Smart can play the point and shooting guard, but the 6-4 rookie won't shove Rajon Rondo aside, so until Ainge pulls off another big deal, Smart will get most of his minutes at shooting guard. With Bradley's shaky health history, this situation could solve itself.

Or so we thought, until the Celtics took a gamble on Evan Turner in free agency. Not to mention that they got Marcus Thornton in the same trade that got them Tyler Zeller.

Turner, only 25 years old, has a high ceiling and will command minutes at the two and the three. Green will still start at small forward, but coach Brad Stevens could have a quick hook with Turner being available off the bench. The log jam does allow Boston to take its time developing 19-year-old rookie James Young. Gerald Wallace had a few angry rants last year, so one can only imagine how frustrated he'll get with all these other wings in his way.

Expect Green and Bradley to both see reduced minutes and slightly lower per-game stats. Smart could shine but will probably have the typical rookie issues of a poor field goal percentage and high turnovers. He shot only 41 percent in college. Turner won't be as productive as he was last year with Philly but should improve on what he did with Indiana. Only consider Young in deep leagues that value three-pointers. Expect Thornton and Wallace to be wearing a different uniform before the trade deadline strikes.

Bigs: Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Brandon Bass, Tyler Zeller, Vitor Faverani

Wow, that's just a big ol' buffet of "ugh". You can see why of all Boston was pining for Kevin Love. At least Zeller is a true center, which they lacked all of last year. Someone has to protect the rim, so expect Zeller to see more than the 15 minutes per game he averaged last year in Cleveland, meaning eight points, eight rebounds, and one block per game are attainable.

Sullinger and Olynyk are really power forwards, which explains the stories that Boston is desperate to trade Bass. At 29 years old, Bass doesn't belong on a rebuilding project.

You may recall Vitor Faverani, who was hot at the beginning of last year. His minutes went into severe decline before knee issues ended his season, and now he's dealing with DUI issues in Spain. Stay away.

Sullinger and Olynyk are the ones with upside. Sully, only 22 years old, could still turn into a double-double machine who hits treys. Last year's game averages of 13.3 points and 8.1 rebounds made him a nice late-round surprise. Plus, he increased his total three-pointers made from one in his rookie year to 56 last season.

Stevens likes bigs who can shoot from long-distance. The team hopes to see similar progress from Olynyk, but don't expect high block totals from either of them. Also, expect Stevens to go with some small lineups, like last year, that have Gerald Wallace playing some power forward.

What should be really interesting is what the Celtics lineup will look like after the trade deadline in late February.

Brooklyn NetsBrooklyn Nets
Well, well, well, last year's big spenders now seem pretty quiet. Do you think they'll put Jarrett Jack on the media guide cover? Plus, Paul Pierce very quietly walked away and signed with Washington. The Nets' inactivity has led to a fairly set lineup, but there is a modest debate at small forward.

Small Forward: Andrei Kirilenko, Alan Anderson

Anderson started 26 games last year, but Kirilenko's crazy contract probably includes "starting job by year two" and "a free vodka factory for every blocked shot." (Note to Russian Mafia that was a joke.) Actually, it would be hard for Brooklyn to improve on the agreement Kirilenko has with his wife.

Anderson is a nice source of cheap three-pointers. He made 1.1 per game last year. However, AK-47 has that tempting multi-category history that older fantasy ballers still remember. At 33 years of age, how much does Kirilenko still have in the tank? Is last year's injury-riddled 45-game effort a trend or just fodder helping lower his ADP? The hope is that he returns to his 2012-13 Minnesota numbers of 12.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 1.0 block, and 0.5 three-pointers per game. All things considered, I'd rather gamble a late-round pick on Kirilenko's upside and assume a three-point shooter like Anderson is available in the free agent pool.

New York KnicksNew York Knicks
So, I guess Tyson Chandler doesn't fit well with a triangle offense? What might be a foolish basketball move (dumping Chandler's awesome defense for an old point guard) could be fantasy gold for you and Jose Calderon.

Shooting Guard: J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert

This, frankly, is one uninspiring roster. Whoever coach Derek Fisher starts at shooting guard will indicate what type of direction the new Phil Jackson regime will be heading toward.

Do you go with the younger, higher-potential, defensive-minded Shumpert or the troubled, inefficient shooting Smith? If I were a Knicks fan (and thankfully I'm not), I'd want to see Shumpert in there. Shumpert has a +5.2 score for plus/minus per 100 possessions, per Basketball-Reference, much better than Smith's -0.9 score.

Hey, defense wins championships and the hearts of the MSG faithful. Unfortunately, fantasy is a cruel beast, and Smith is the better play due to his three-pointers and points. With that said, his 42 percent shooting from the field can do some bad damage at a high volume.

Philadelphia 76ersPhiladelphia 76ers
OK, so who on this team will actually play in 2014-15? Thaddeus Young is moving to Minnesota as part of the wacky Kevin-Love-to-Cleveland deal. Curious. There's an absurd amount of young talent collecting in Philly, but our focus is on the upcoming season.

Surprisingly, the starting five is seemingly pretty well set with Michael Carter-Williams, Tony Wroten, Hollis Thompson (insert shriek of horror here), Bennett, and rookie Nerlens Noel. Maybe we should create a new fantasy category for awesome flat-tops? A legit NBA roster would have players threatening Wroten and Thompson for minutes, but this will not be a legit roster until next season or later. Wroten, only 22 years old, could be the hidden gem that blossoms this year, his third NBA season. Alexey Shved and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute came to Philadelphia as part of the Kevin Love deal as well, and both players have the opportunity to compete for starting positions.

There are a lot of people who think K.J. McDaniels could steal the starting shooting guard or small forward spot, and with the way that Jordan McRae played at the Las Vegas Summer League, it's possible that McRae could be in the conversation for the starting shooting guard spot.

Toronto Raptors Toronto Raptors
Like Philly, the Raptors' starting five is pretty well set. Unlike Philly, they should be highly competitive in 2014-15, with a few fantasy studs on the roster. The Northern Uprising should continue with Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Amir Johnson, and Jonas Valanciunas as the starting five. Though, everyone should remember that Valanciunas and Ross are both very young (22 and 23 years old, respectively) with plenty of room for fantasy and real-NBA upside. In deeper leagues, reserve point guard Greivis Vasquez can be a cheap source of three-pointers and assists. He also has a great free throw percentage but doesn't shoot enough freebies to make an impact.

We can't just end with Vasquez ramblings. Let's watch some video of the inflatable Raptor mascot failing miserably to try to master roller blades:



Next up, the Central Division! I hear Cleveland has made a few changes...

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