NBA Offseason Preview: Atlantic Division

NBA Offseason Preview: Atlantic Division

This article is part of our NBA Offseason series.

With the 2022 NBA season officially over, we'll take a division-by-division look at the roster decisions and draft considerations all 30 teams will need to make over the summer. The NBA draft and free agency are just days away, so let's examine the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division.

Boston Celtics: While the Celtics were defeated in the NBA Finals, Boston is a premier team in the league. The core returns and the stars should continue to improve.

Philadelphia 76ers: Philadelphia was bested by Miami in the second round of the playoffs. Joel Embiid is a perennial MVP candidate. The 76ers have a top-heavy roster with the backcourt of Tyrese Maxey and James Harden as the X-Factor. 

Toronto Raptors: Spoiled with wing talent, Toronto was a gritty playoff matchup, but lost in the first round. A young and savvy crew will lose some depth, but the main core is just beginning.

Brooklyn Nets: Brooklyn was swept by the Celtics in the first round. Ben Simmons will debut with the new campaign. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant spearhead a team that is deeper than most realize.

New York Knicks: Finishing with a 37-45 record, the Knicks regressed in line with Julius Randle taking a big step back following a breakout 2020-21 campaign. Talent exists up and down the roster, but a revamp through the draft, free agency and homegrown adjustments make 2022-23 pivotal. 

New York Knicks

Potential Departures: Mitchell Robinson, Taj Gibson 

Julius Randle and RJ Barrett remain a promising duo

With the 2022 NBA season officially over, we'll take a division-by-division look at the roster decisions and draft considerations all 30 teams will need to make over the summer. The NBA draft and free agency are just days away, so let's examine the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division.

Boston Celtics: While the Celtics were defeated in the NBA Finals, Boston is a premier team in the league. The core returns and the stars should continue to improve.

Philadelphia 76ers: Philadelphia was bested by Miami in the second round of the playoffs. Joel Embiid is a perennial MVP candidate. The 76ers have a top-heavy roster with the backcourt of Tyrese Maxey and James Harden as the X-Factor. 

Toronto Raptors: Spoiled with wing talent, Toronto was a gritty playoff matchup, but lost in the first round. A young and savvy crew will lose some depth, but the main core is just beginning.

Brooklyn Nets: Brooklyn was swept by the Celtics in the first round. Ben Simmons will debut with the new campaign. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant spearhead a team that is deeper than most realize.

New York Knicks: Finishing with a 37-45 record, the Knicks regressed in line with Julius Randle taking a big step back following a breakout 2020-21 campaign. Talent exists up and down the roster, but a revamp through the draft, free agency and homegrown adjustments make 2022-23 pivotal. 

New York Knicks

Potential Departures: Mitchell Robinson, Taj Gibson 

Julius Randle and RJ Barrett remain a promising duo on paper, but inefficient shooting seasons from both sunk the Knicks last season. Going deeper, Randle relapsed into a 3:2 assist-to-turnover ratio, while Barrett is spending over 50 percent of his possessions as a P&R ball handler or spot-up shooter – but he grades in the bottom-third of the league for his collective productivity there. Nonetheless, Barrett is 22 years old and flashes star power. By the end of the season, he constantly attacked the basket at a high level.

Immanuel Quickley is part of the future in New York. The 23-year-old averaged 21.2 points per-36 minutes last season and is trending upward. Handing him the keys and having the ball in his hands more often on offense would be wise. Quentin Grimes showcased 3&D upside as a rookie. He and Obi Toppin will see more playing time this season.

Toppin may never space the floor at a high level and on defense he doesn't hold position against bigger players, which makes him an awkward fit in the rotation with Randle and New York's traditional, non-floor spacing bigs. Nonetheless, it's in the Knicks' best interest to unleash him and he's athletic enough to reward them.

This ties into Mitchell Robinson's unrestricted free agency. The Knicks graded as a fringe-top-10 defense with a top-five rebounding percent with Mitchell anchoring the interior last season. He's a quality defender in the P&R and solid in transition. Paying him $10-12 million is fair and maintains continuity, but the Knicks have the option to draft Robinson's replacement if the franchise has other cap plans. New York was an above-average three-point shooting team last season but finished with the fourth-worst field-goal percentage in the league. Identifying if Robinson will grow and can be used as a greater source for efficient buckets is big. 

The Knicks have quality veterans returning. Alec Burks has been dynamite from beyond the arc late in his career. Derrick Rose will be 34 years old returning from ankle surgery, but he's a huge stabilizing presence in the backcourt. Evan Fournier is a talented shooter. Cam Reddish isn't a veteran, but he's another body that will get additional run on the wings. Speaking of additional bodies, Jericho Sims has defensive/rebounding upside despite being undersized.

Realistically, the roster amounts to a playoff team with low likelihood of beating any team led by stars. However, there's a promising mix of development and leadership in place. New York is a rumored destination for Jalen Brunson. Collin Sexton could work. Floor spacing on the wing, adding a skilled, downhill guard and solving the center position make the Knicks well-rounded. If they could dump money in the process that would be ideal. The Knicks currently own pick No. 11 and No. 42 in the upcoming 2022 NBA Draft.

Draft Considerations: Jalen Duren, Bennedict Mathurin, A.J. Griffin, Christian Koloko, Dominick Barlow

Offseason Considerations: Trade Fournier and Nerlens Noel, add an attacker and athleticism. 

Brooklyn Nets

Potential Departures: Kyrie Irving, Bruce Brown, Patty Mills, Nicolas Claxton, Kessler Edwards Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Drummond

Kyrie Irving and the Nets are at an impasse in future contract negotiations. From an outside perspective, trying to influence Irving's decisions leads to turmoil. This offseason is essentially his free agency. If he decides he doesn't want to be in Brooklyn, so be it. The Ben Simmons trade is then a saving grace for the franchise. Simmons – assuming he's back to playing basketball – can handle point duties, Seth Curry and Joe Harris are ideal teammates for him. Patty Mills exercising his player option won't hurt. Combined with signing another ball handler, Simmons steps into a great spot.

Sans Kyrie, Brooklyn would be able to re-sign Bruce Brown, although he'll be a hot commodity among a weak pool of free agents. Ditto for Nicolas Claxton – and he'll be cheaper. If Claxton walks, Day'Ron Sharpe was a productive two-way player. Sample size is small, but the 2021 first-round pick is controllable for three more seasons.

While Brooklyn should prioritize getting younger on the bench, LaMarcus Aldridge was awesome in limited minutes last season. Blake Griffin had moments, as well, but can't really be counted on at this stage. Andre Drummond was an underrated defender. Kessler Edwards brings the youth with good size. Brooklyn getting swept by the Celtics should be a testament to great basketball from the Celtics. 

The Nets don't have draft selections until 2023 and are into the luxury tax, but the MLE and trade exceptions make improving the roster possible. Luckily, the Nets also have Kevin Durant. Joe Ingles (knee) would be a bounce-back candidate with a diverse skill set. A prove-it year could benefit Thomas Bryant. Dewayne Dedmon can space the floor. Javale McGee? Josh Okogie can bring the juice defensively and needs a change of scenery. If Ricky Rubio wants a ring, he'd be a savvy add coming off a career season before tearing his ACL. 

Draft Considerations: N/A

Offseason Considerations: Defensive-minded floor general point guard, two-way wings and bigs.

Toronto Raptors

Potential Departures: Chris Boucher, Thaddeus Young, Yuta Watanabe

Fred VanVleet ranked 11th in the league for total WAR last season. Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes both ranked in the league's top-20 for total minutes played. Gary Trent wasn't far behind them. OG Anunoby is the final name in Toronto's current core. His shooting slash regressed, but the 24-year-old had a solid season, when healthy. Anunoby missed nearly half the season for a second consecutive campaign. He's been linked to discussions about Portland trading the No. 7 pick.

Owners of a top-10 defensive rating, but the fourth-worst effective field-goal percentage in the league, Toronto's league-average offensive rating is buoyed by elite offensive rebounding. Chris Boucher helped with that, but opponents will work to snatch him in free agency. It's a culture in Toronto – Precious Achiuwa helps lead the charge – and the wing cast brings active rebounding. Thaddeus Young is less helpful, but versatile and he should be retained cheaply.

Toronto's only pick resides at No. 33. However, a trade centered around Anunoby and the No. 7 pick would free cap space for Toronto, while filling Portland's combo-forward vacancy. Toronto grabbing Jalen Duren or Dyson Daniels would fit the culture. Shaedon Sharpe would be a divine selection here. The Canadian's shot fills a need in a low-pressure growth environment. His defense could be disguised early in his career.

Khem Birch is the only tradition center on the roster. Adding another big, three-point shooting, and an aggressive/driving guard should be the mission – with or without Anunoby.

Draft Considerations: Shaedon Sharpe, Jalen Duren, Dyson Daniels, Wendell Moore, Dereon Seabron, Blake Wesley, Walker Kessler

Offseason Considerations: Someone to be like Maxi Kleber, backup point or combo guard, switchable depth.

Philadelphia 76ers

Potential Departures: Danny Green, Paul Millsap, DeAndre Jordan

Goodbye to Danny Green – the 76ers can do better. The rest of Philadelphia's core returns. Hovering around the luxury tax, Philadelphia is limited in strengthening the roster. Moving Tobias Harris is the best source for addressing multiple positions. Philadelphia doesn't have a first-round pick to attach to Harris for the foreseeable future, but an exchange of bad contracts is possible. Trade formalities aside, the Knicks sending Evan Fournier, Kemba Walker and Nerlens Noel to Philadelphia would bring big man depth while not subtracting too much offense. Harris is a questionable fit on the Knicks, but his contract expires before Fournier and New York may be considering another guard selection at No. 11.

Jeremy Lamb would be a buy-low addition who can create for himself. Foremost, Philadelphia will be looking for defenders to help Matisse Thybulle overcome deficiencies from the aforementioned guards, as well as Shake Milton, Furkan Korkmaz and to a lesser extent Georges Niang

Delon Wright is a gritty two-way player. Tony Bradley was a plus-defender in Chicago (he has a player option). Kent Bazemore fills forward depth. DeMarcus Cousins and Joel Embiid would be good friends.

Pick No. 23 in the upcoming draft needs to be the best player available, but the wing situation is dire. A contributor now is needed, but with so few future picks, trading back to acquire immediate help as well as upside would be ideal.

Draft Considerations: Marjon Beauchamp, E.J. Liddell, Christian Braun, Jake LaRavia, Dereon Seabron

Offseason Considerations: Wings who can defend, back-up center, rebounding, hustle.

Boston Celtics

Potential Departures: Luke Kornet, Nik Stauskas

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown each took steps forward in 2022 – Tatum as a creator and Brown as a ball-handler, especially. Patented versatility on offense and defense, Marcus Smart joins them in that regard. Al Horford and Robert Williams are like Master Splinter and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles if the cartoon cast was amazing at basketball. Horford ranked 10th league-wide in total WAR last season. He's joined by Derrick White and Grant Williams as selfless defenders.

All aforementioned Celtics besides Horford and Grant Williams are locked up beyond the upcoming season. The Celtics are in the luxury tax, so minimum contracts, a taxpayer MLE and trade exceptions are the path to improvement for the next calendar year. Boston owns pick No. 53 in the upcoming draft. 

Draft Considerations: Leonard Miller, Kenneth Lofton, Gabriele Procida, Matteo Spagnolo 

Offseason Considerations: Point forward, traditional scoring guard, athleticism/explosiveness off the bench

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Henry Weinberg
Henry is a sports writer and analyst, specializing in NBA analysis, CBB coverage and draft prep. He's a freelance scout, passionate baseball fan, elite fantasy football player and former Butler Bulldog.
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