NBA Draft Predictions: Atlantic Division
The Toronto Raptors, at No. 9, are trying to make sure that free-agent-to-be Chris Bosh, doesn't go anywhere in 2010. All three teams should be able to get decent players where they are picking. In the Atlanta Division, the Knicks are the most likely of the three to trade up to get what they want.
New York Knicks
Picks: No. 8 (first round).
Needs: They could use upgrades everywhere. Under Coach Mike D'Antoni's system, they better find someone who can run and shoot from the perimeter. They might want to start with a better point guard.
Possibilities: Brandon Jennings, Stephen Curry, Ricky Rubio.
Put it into the equation: D'Antoni would love to land his former point guard Steve Nash, who is going into the last year of his contract in Phoenix, but that's probably not going to happen. If they could move up to take Rubio, that would be a coup. The Knicks probably will be bad for another season until they can buy into that free agent class of 2010.
Picks: No. 9 (first round).
Needs: They need a better shooting guard because Anthony Parker should be a backup. They also could use more depth at almost every other position. A bruiser in the front court would be nice so Chris Bosh doesn't have to get beat up so much. They lacked a defensive mentality last season, which is why they took a big step backward.
Possibilities: Wayne Ellington, Gerald Henderson, DeMar DeRozan.
Put it into the equation: They better find a way to keep Bosh happy, or he could disappear next summer when he becomes a free agent. Then everything falls apart. If the Raptors stay healthy, add a better shooting guard, they have the talent to be the second-best team in the division, where they can wait for the Celtics to fade. Keeping this core of Bosh, Bargnani and Calderon is key.
New Jersey Nets
Picks: No. 11 (first round).
Needs: A tough, rebounding power forward would be great. So would an athletic small forward who could help Vince Carter carry some of the offensive load. The Nets need to look good as they prepare for a move to Brooklyn and that 2010 free agent market.
Possibilities: DeJuan Blair, Jordan Hill, Earl Clark.
Put it into the equation: They like what they drafted last year with center Brook Lopez. Yi Jianlian will be outstanding in the future. They need more of a defensive mentality to push them back into the playoff picture. Vince Carter, 32, is starting to slow down, so they want someone else to start carrying the scoring load from the backcourt. The Nets are positioning themselves well to attract a good young free agent in 2010.
Picks: No. 17 (first round).
Needs: If they lose Andre Miller, as expected, in free agency, they better find another point guard quickly, although it's tough to imagine getting a starter with the No. 17 pick. Another small forward would be nice, too.
Possibilities: Eric Maynor, Ty Lawson, Jrue Holiday.
Put it into the equation: The Sixers reached the playoffs even without Elton Brand, so they should be considerably better when he returns this season. If not, they are wasting a lot of money on the power forward. New coach Eddie Jordan is going to shake up the mix, but he is expected to get them back to the playoffs. He is inheriting a pretty good team. Brand will give them a low post presence, which they didn't have. The draft won't help them much, except provide a little more depth.
Picks: No. 58 (second round).
Needs: They are happy not to be tying up guaranteed money with a first-round pick. What they need is healthy veterans to make a final run at another NBA title.
Possibilities: Wesley Matthews, Chris Johnson, Jodie Meeks.
Put it into the equation: The Celts have done well lately in the draft, getting good players like Rajon Rondo and Glen Davis at picks 21 and 35, respectively. Whatever they pluck out of the second round, it's hard to imagine him actually contributing this season. If Kevin Garnett returns healthy, the Celts will challenge the Magic and Cavs for the East title. Problem is that Ray Allen is starting to look old in his role, so he's going to need more rest during the season. More depth in the backcourt would be helpful.