Jonas Valanciunas headlines the Atlantic Division draft picks.

Rival Draft Evaluation- Looking at the Atlantic Division

Divisions are not a big deal in the NBA. The playoff seeding is done basically off where you finish in your conference, the notable exception being that if you win you’re division you are guaranteed a top four seed, and home-court advantage in the playoffs for the first round. However, divisions make up a good chunk of your schedule, as you have to play four games against each team in your division. So, after the first part of the offseason where you are able to upgrade your team, where does this leave the 76ers in the division?

Out of the 5 teams in the division (Sixers, Celtics, Nets, Knicks, Raptors) only the Raptors held a lottery pick in the draft. However, they drafted a player that stay overseas for a year, so if you go by the draft order, the 76ers had the best chance to upgrade their team with the 16th pick in the draft. The Knicks picked one spot lower at 17th, the Celtics picked 25th, and the Nets selection was 27th (New Jersey and Boston swapped selections on draft night, so switch those numbers) New Jersey picked 27th only after their original first round pick, which eventually turned into the third overall pick, was traded to the Jazz in the Deron Williams deal.

Toronto

Raptors GM Brian Colangelo was given a multiyear contract extension, even after the team has gone downhill since he has taken over as the GM. With that new puzzling job security, he felt comfortable picking the player Ric Bucher called the best player in the draft in Jonas Valanciunas. The problem is that Valanciunas will not be able to play in the NBA next year. This caused speculation that he could fall all the way to the Kings at number seven. Then there were rumors that Cleveland would take him, and no speculation that he would play for the Raptors. In the end though, Colangelo decided to go with the potential value, as, like Bucher said, Jonas could be the best player in the draft.

Bottom Line: This all means that the Raptors did not improve this year’s team from the draft, although Valanciunas could make it harder on the 76ers in the long term. Before the draft it was pretty much impossible for the Raptors to be able to surpass the 76ers, and that has not changed.

New Jersey

The Nets draft pick was essentially Providence gunner Marshon Brooks, after their trade, so we will treat it that way. It is unknown how Brooks will perform with an NBA team. He was the leading scorer in the best conference in basketball, but did so while playing a Monta Ellis style of play. He never took single digit shots in a game. He took eighteen or more shots in a game fifteen times this year. And he did so without being a knock down shooter. He only shot 34% from three and is also known as a very poor defender. Another negative is that while taking all those shots, he only averaged 2.5 assists per game. ¬¬ He was a good rebounder in college for a six foot five guard, as he averaged seven boards per game.

So how will he improve the Nets? He will give them an instant boost off the bench as a scorer. He has the potential to be an average NBA defender in time with his strength and athleticism. He has great north to south ability in the open court, and great change of direction dribble moves to finish in transition. He also has the ability to explode in games, evidenced by two games that he scored over forty points in the Big East

Bottom Line: Marshon Brooks may help the Nets if he gets the playing time and catches fire, but he will draw the ire of Coach Avery Johnson for his shot selection, not allowing him to get on the court very often. He will probably not make a huge impact for the Nets, but he can give them the occasional burst when the offense goes south. However, this will not allow the New Jersey Nets to pass the 76ers this year. The only way that the Nets will pass the 76ers is if Dwight Howard comes before or very early in the season.

Boston

The player that the Boston Celtics selected was, after their trade with the New Jersey Nets, Jajuan Johnson. He will help them in adding size, something that the Celtics lacked this year, as they were one of the worst rebounding teams in the league. Picking a big player like Johnson was viewed as the Celtics biggest need in this draft, and that is what they did. He is a legit 6’10” with long arms and was a proven rebounder in college. He is not a great shooter, and shot 29.4% from the three point line this past year, and since three pointers in college are pretty much long 2’s in the pros, then it seems as though he will not be a guy who can stretch the floor for Boston. He is also not the strongest player in the post, and he does not have a frame that appears to be able to hold more bulk, to defend strong players in the post. And he also may not be able to help the Celtics as much with rebounding as you may think, because he just lacks that size and strength.

Bottom Line: Whatever happened in the draft, Boston was going to come out of it better than the Sixers. By drafting for need, Boston only improved what should be a very good, if not aging, team.

New York

I saved the Knicks for last in this article, as they are the only team that could realistically be passed by the Sixers or pass the 76ers. They selected ImanShumpert one pick after the 76ers, and many experts thought this to be a reach. Many thought that Chris Singleton would have been a better pick, and I have a hard time disagreeing. Shumpert is a very good defensive guard, but his decision making is very suspect. So suspect, that the 6’5” player whom many projected as a big point guard, may have to play shooting guard, even though the Knicks already have Landry Fields on their team. Singleton was thought to maybe the best defender in this years draft, and he was not thought of as a very poor decision maker on the court.

Shumpert is also not a good shooter, although he seems to think he is. He shot nearly five threes per game last year, while making under 30% of these attempts. He is also not improving as a shooter, as his percentages seemed to be almost identical in his three year career in college. He also will go for the flashy highlight play in situations where he could make a simple play.

There are positives to Shumpert. Besides being a good defender of twos and threes, he is unbelievably athletic, as he had a 42” vertical jump at the NBA combine in Chicago. He can also be a stat sheet stuffer, as evidenced by his near quadruple double against Virginia earlier this year. Another thing is that it is possible that his decision making will improve once he is in a better, more stable situation. His Georgia Tech team imploded last year, leading to their coach getting fired.

Bottom Line: Shumpert can help the Knicks defensively, but he is going to have trouble cracking the rotation next year very often as his decision making could be awful. Where the Knicks finish realative to the 76ers should have to do with how well the Knicks do with putting complimentary pieces around Carmelo Anthony and Amar’eStoudemire. I am sure the Knicks front office hopes that they avoid having the same thing as this year happening, when they were forced to go with Melo and the D-Leaguers after Stoudemire got hurt.

This was mostly to evaluate how the other teams in the division did this draft, because I am sure we will talk about the 76ers draft plenty. In fact, we already have. But I will say that I thought the 76ers draft was pretty good, but not great. Vucevic should add immediate size, but Allen seemed like a reach. Anyway, realistically, the 76ers could finish second in the division this year. It will be tough to beat the Knicks, but if Iguodala stays, maybe the 76ers are up for it.

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