Now that I’ve given my take on the Sixers’ draft, let’s take a look at what the other teams in the Atlantic Division accomplished on draft day, and thereabouts. The takeaway from last season is that the Sixers were the third-best team in the division. The Nets and Raptors were better than the Sixers, the Knicks and Celtics worse. The Nets got a little better through the draft (if Sean Williams can stay out of trouble, which is a big if, they’ve gotten much more stout down low on defense, which was a big need, and getting Krstic back will be a huge boon).
Toronto did nothing in the draft, but they probably didn’t need to in order to repeat as champs of the division. They did, however, sign Jason Kapono, which will give them a legit threat from the outside.
The two teams below the Sixers made a big splash. The Knicks traded Steve Franchise and Channing Frye for Zach Randolph, Dan Dickau and Fred Jones. The Celtics traded the number 5 pick (Jeff Green), Delonte West and Wally Szerbiak for Ray Allen.
Both teams added All-Stars, and frankly, stars, to their lineups. On paper, you’d assume this would catapult them above the Sixers, I tend to lean the other way. The Knicks gave up basically nothing for Randolph, so you can’t fault Isiah for making the move, on the surface. On the court, however, this trade isn’t going to noticeably improve the Knicks. They already had a big man who does nothing but score, now they have two. Randolph is a better rebounder than Curry, but neither plays a lick of defense, and both demand consistent touches to be effective on offense. Your guess is as good as mine as to who’s going to get the ball to either of them, or how you’re going to get them enough touches to keep them from pouting and/or eating themselves to death. Not to mention the fact that you can now double team the Knicks numbers 1 and 2 options on defense without the threat of being hurt by ball movement. Randolph passes about as well as Curry.
The comical thing about the Randolph deal is the fact that Isiah has been given even more rope to completely hamstring this franchise financially. I guess he earned it with his dramatic 10–game improvement. I’m less impressed with a 10–game leap when we’re talking about the jump from 23 wins to 33 wins, but that’s just me.
Maybe Isiah isn’t done dealing, Chad Ford, from ESPN thinks the Knicks may turn around and move Randolph, or maybe even Curry. I don’t think so. Isiah added another marquis name to his roster, with zero thought as to how that player is going to fit into the team.
The Knicks’ first round pick, Wilson Chandler, looks to be a carbon copy of Renaldo Balkman, without the motor.
The Celts made a desperation move. Ray Allen is not going to make this team a contender. Ray Allen is not going to make this team a playoff team. Ray Allen has a bum knee and had surgery on both ankles. The Celtics are a bad team. They have Paul Pierce, Al Jefferson and now Ray Allen. Those are three nice players, two of which are on a dramatic decline and prone to injury. The smart move would’ve been to build around Al Jefferson. The smart move would’ve been to trade Pierce. Danny Ainge rarely makes the smart move. This team is going to be lottery bound again next year, write it down.
Say what you will about the Sixers draft. Say what you will about Billy King, he’s earned most of it. But before you laugh at the Sixers, take a look at the division. The Raptors have a young superstar, and they’re building around him. There’s a plan there. The Nets are aging, and desperately hoping to piece together another contender. They even brought Vince Carter back. They were in the playoffs last year, without their center. It’s reasonable to assume that their old guys have enough left in the tank to make a run at it one more time. The Knicks are grasping at straws, and have been since Isiah took over. He falls in love with the idea of getting a certain guy without thinking about what having him on your team means. He’s flailing, and failing. Danny Ainge has no plan at all, other “please let this save my job.” He squandered the #5 pick in an immensely deep draft, after tanking an entire season to get wind up with that pick. Here’s a tip Danny, when you finish a season with 24 wins, you are not one player away from contending, in most cases. In all cases, you are not an aging shooting guard away from contending. You’ve sunk this team further into the abyss.
The Sixers have a plan. They have a young superstar, and they’re building around him. Andre Miller’s presence is helping to guide them in the right direction, and Billy King went out and got guys who would fit into the program. Smart, team players. He’s probably upgraded the two highest priority positions, and he didn’t do anything drastic, because he didn’t need to. They are a team headed in the right direction, and he may just have fitted a few more pieces into the puzzle.
The Knicks may have a better record this year than last. It’s a statistical certainty that Boston will, but at what price? Ainge mortgaged the future for a snowball’s chance in hell at making the playoffs, and Isiah further tied the team’s hands with another bloated contract.
Best case: King made this team better, this year, and set them up to make great strides over the next five. Worst case: The Sixers are no worse than they were after the Iverson trade last season, and that isn’t so bad. They were a +.500 team, as constructed. That gets you into the playoffs in the East. They’re a playoff team, and they’re set up for the future. The only other team you can honestly say that about in the Atlantic is the Raptors.