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NBA Team Pre-Draft Needs - Atlantic Division

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Today marks the start of our series looking at what positions or areas each NBA team needs to address in the upcoming draft.  This will be a little tricky, as the infamous Summer of 2010 is nigh at hand, and many teams may try to address immediate needs through free agency.  

The draft remains the cheapest and smartest way to build a team, though (assuming the GM knows what he's doing), and the past few seasons have seen large numbers of rookies contributing immediately.  Some (including DraftExpress) have called this year's draft extremely strong, so that trend should continue.  When evaluating team needs, I'll look at who will/will not be under contract next season, as well as the team's recent draft history.  Any contract information I use comes from ShamSports.  But enough of my yakkin'.  Whaddya say?  Let's boogie!

New Jersey Nets [picks: lottery (25% chance at #1), 27, 32]

Players under contract for next season: Devin Harris, Brook Lopez, Yi Jianlian, Courtney Lee, Terrence Williams, Josh Boone (Qualifying Offer), Kris Humphries (Player Option), Chris Douglas-Roberts (Team Option) Keyon Dooling (Unguaranteed)

Recent draft picks: G/F Terrence Williams (2009 1st round); C Brook Lopez (2008 1st round); PF Ryan Anderson (2008 1st round); G Chris Douglas-Roberts (2008 2nd round); PF Sean Williams (2007 1st round)

The Nets were unquestionably awful this season, winning just 12 games. Second-year player Brook Lopez continued to show that he's one of, if not the, best young big man in the league, but otherwise there was a whole lot of "not really that good." 

Harris played nothing like he did two seasons ago, nor did he always seem particularly interested in doing so. Courtney Lee got exposed a little bit after leaving Orlando, and while I like Chris Douglas-Roberts, he seems better suited to being a complementary player rather than a member of a young core.

The Nets have seven players under contract for next season assuming they don't pick up Douglas Roberts's option or give Dooling guaranteed money. They could attempt to address most of their needs in free agency with a new owner and the possibility of a move to Brooklyn as enticements, and that may not be a terrible idea; New Jersey has a relatively spotty recent draft history. Center and point guard should be held down, but just about everything else could be up for grabs. That's unless they get the top pick, in which case the strategy should be to draft John Wall and figure it out from there.

Needs: small forward, shooting guard

Philadelphia 76ers [picks: lottery (5.3% chance at #1)]

Players under contract for next season: Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, Samuel Dalembert, Louis Williams, Thaddeus Young, Mareese Speights, Jrue Holiday, Jason Smith, Jodie Meeks, Jason Kapono (Player Option), Willie Green (Early Termination)

Recent draft picks: PG Jrue Holiday (2009 1st round); C/F Marreese Speights (2008 1st round); F Thaddeus Young (2007 1st round); PG Daequan Cook (2007 1st round); PG Petteri Koponen (2007 1st round); C Kyrylo Fesenko (2007 2nd round)

Philadelphia's needs are less positional and more of a general nature. Consistency generally is a problem, as they have several young players who have shown flashes of being future contributors (Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young, Marreese Speights) but haven't done enough to have their names written in permanent marker (whatever that means). I'll let Liberty Ballers' (and now RU's) own TAFKA Mike Bourn explain (via e-mail):

So it's not that we need a 2 or a 3, we just need a wing that can stretch the defense and not be completely inept at everything else basketball (Kapono). Speights is a complete waste everywhere but 10-15 out for a jumper and decent rebounding. He's lazy, he's fat, he doesn't pass, he plays no defense, and has virtually no concept of the team game. Does consistency from the coaching position help to develop young guys (Thad has had 3 coaches in his 3 years)? Yes. But if you want to make yourself a better shooter or a better dribbler or get in better shape, you can take it upon yourself and make it happen.

For needs, I would say everything but point guard, unless we win the lotto. To say we need a center or a shooting guard is pretty simplistic and not indicative of our actual problems. Chemistry, half-court efficiency, better team shooting, and especially team defense are our most pressing needs. And awful contracts and terrible management are bogging us down.

Needs: shooting guard, center, anyone who can shoot or play defense

New York Knicks [picks: 38, 39]

Players under contract for next season: Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Toney Douglas, Sergio Rodriguez (Qualifying Offer), Eddy Curry (Player Option), Bill Walker (Unguaranteed)

Recent draft picks: PF Jordan Hill (2009 1st round); F Danilo Gallinari (2008 1st round); G/F Wilson Chandler (2007 1st round)

If you aren't aware by now that the Knicks are "looking to make a big splash in free agency this summer," may I direct you to every other NBA website so that you can read about it? It's a good thing the Knicks are planning to go the free agent route, as they have just two second-round picks. The cupboard is pretty much bare, though, especially after trading away last year's lottery pick Jordan Hill. The second round is usually where teams pick either the best talent available or whomever can contribute immediately rather than focusing on positional needs, so it's a good thing this is a "best talent available"-ready roster.

Needs: Yes.

Toronto Raptors [picks: lottery (0.6% chance at #1)]

Players under contract next season: Hidayet Turkoglu, Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani, Jarrett Jack, DeMar DeRozan, Maurice Evans, Marco Belinelli, Marcus Banks, Sonny Weems (Unguaranteed), Joey Dorsey (Unguaranteed)

Recent draft picks: SG DeMar DeRozan (2009 1st round); C Roy Hibbert (2008 1st round); none in 2007

The Raptors almost made the playoffs this season, and there's not really a whole lot that needs an upgrade from a roster standpoint that will come in this draft. Chris Bosh has a $17.1 million player option for next season, but he's not listed above because he's one of the more likely free agent candidates to change teams this offseason. Amir Johnson also is a free agent, but even if the team re-signs him (or signs someone else to replace him and Bosh) they'll still need some more people to play up front with Andrea Bargnani and, you know, rebound and stuff.

There will be a fair amoung of big men in this draft, so even though they're likely to be drafting at the bottom of the lottery, they still might be able to find some help.  The Raptors also somewhat famously were tops in the league in offense and at the very bottom in defense at one point this past year (they finished 5th in offensive efficiency and 30th in defensive efficiency, according to Knickerblogger's stats), so some defense might help as well wherever they can find it.

Needs: center, power forward, defense, rebounding

Boston Celtics [picks: 19, 52]

Players under contract next season
: Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis, Rasheed Wallace (LOLZ), Paul Pierce (Early Termination), Oliver Lafayette (Unguaranteed), Tony Gaffney (Unguaranteed)

Recent draft picks: G Lester Hudson (2009 2nd round); G J.R. Giddens (2008 1st round); C Semih Erden (2008 2nd round); F Jeff Green (2007 1st round); G Gabe Pruitt (2007 2nd round)

The biggest question for the Celtics this offseason likely will be whether to re-sign Ray Allen. On the one hand, he's been exposed defensively the last few seasons, particularly in the playoffs, and 34-year old players aren't exactly prime candidates for big free-agent deals. On the other hand, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce probably won't be thrilled if he's not around and they have to deal with more of these punk teenagers. In addition to Ray Allen, guards Tony Allen, Michael Finley, Marquis Daniels and Nate Robinson could head elsewhere. Those are a lot of FGAs suddenly up for grabs.  

If none of those players return, then Paul Pierce will be the only player left who shot better than 33 percent from outside this season.  And, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that this could be the end of the Brian Scalabrine Era in Boston.  If you'll notice, none of Boston's draft picks from the last three years are on the Celtics' roster anymore. That trend can't continue for much longer, as Boston has racked up more "they're old" jokes on the internet than the Spurs used to (probably).

Needs: backcourt, three-point shooting, Best Redhead Available