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Rising tide (cont.)

Posted: Monday August 27, 2007 12:15PM; Updated: Tuesday September 4, 2007 11:35AM
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New York Knicks

In trading for Zach Randolph, Isiah Thomas proved willing to gamble again on a player whose questionable reputation precedes him.
In trading for Zach Randolph, Isiah Thomas proved willing to gamble again on a player whose questionable reputation precedes him.
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What Went Right:

They added Zach Randolph.
In a bold gamble, president/coach Isiah Thomas swung a deal with the Blazers for power forward Zach Randolph. The 6-9 lefty is a legit 20-point, 10-rebound guy and one of the best low-post players in the game. If he can find a way to play alongside Eddy Curry -- and stay out of trouble in New York -- Randolph could be a beast in the East.

They subtracted Steve Francis.
As part of the Randolph trade, the Knicks also got rid of Francis and the remaining $30 million on his contract (Portland then waived Francis, clearing the way for him to sign with Houston). Francis was never a good fit in New York. His departure should clear the way for Jamal Crawford, Quentin Richardson and Mardy Collins to play bigger roles.

What Went Wrong:

They lost Channing Frye.
In order to get Randolph (and shed Francis' contract), the Knicks had to give up something. The loss of Frye, who showed signs of being a pretty good player during his two seasons in Gotham, could come back to haunt them someday down the road --- especially if the Randolph move backfires.

They failed to clear more bodies.
Even with Francis' departure, the Knicks are still overloaded with perimeter players and centers. Thomas needed to trade somebody among the group of Jerome James, Malik Rose, Fred Jones, Dan Dickau and Richardson if for no other reason than to clear space for his younger guys.

Grade: B

Despite no cap room and a huge payroll, Isiah managed to land an All-Star caliber player (Randolph) without giving up too much. But if the chemistry isn't right, it could backfire.

Philadelphia 76ers

What Went Right:

They added more prospects.
First-round draft picks Thaddeus Young (No. 12) and Jason Smith (No. 20) give them two more decent prospects as they go about rebuilding after the end of the Allen Iverson Era. Young, a 6-8 forward from Georgia Tech, is an athletic slasher. Smith, a 7-footer from Colorado State, gives them another much-needed big man.

Louis Williams lit up the summer league.
The 6-2 combo guard was one of the big stars in the Las Vegas Summer League. The third-year pro averaged 25.2 points while getting into the paint at will, and was named to the all-tourney team. The Sixers need him to step up this season as a reliable backup to Andre Miller.

What Went Wrong:

No shakeup on draft night.
With three first-round picks, GM Billy King was said to be exploring a trade for a veteran who could help the team right away. He wasn't able to swing a deal, meaning the Sixers only got younger and Philly fans will have to remain patient.

Joe Smith bolted for Chicago.
King was hoping to re-sign the veteran power forward, who played well for Philly after arriving in a midseason trade. Smith opted instead to sign with the Bulls. The young Philly squad might miss his leadership and experience.

Grade: D

With no salary-cap room and few tradable assets, King didn't have many options. Still, they made no real improvement while the Celtics and Knicks passed them.

Toronto Raptors

What Went Right:

They re-signed Sam Mitchell.
Despite overtures from several other NBA teams, the reigning Coach of the Year chose to stay in Toronto and sign a new four-year, $16 million deal. After last season's stunning turnaround, which saw the Raptors improve from 27 to 47 wins and claim their first-ever Atlantic title, Toronto could not afford to start over with a new coaching staff.

They shored up the perimeter.
GM Bryan Colangelo signed Heat forward Jason Kapono to a four-year, $24 million free-agent deal, and got Carlos Delfino in a trade with the Pistons for the bargain basement price of two future second-round picks (2009, '11). Kapono led the NBA in 3-point shooting (.514) last year, while Delfino is an intriguing talent who could benefit from a change of scenery after being stuck behind Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups in Detroit.

Jorge Garbajosa stayed on schedule.
The 6-foot-9 forward, a key component in Toronto's turnaround a year ago, is said to be near fully-recovered from the leg and ankle injuries that derailed his season last March. He did not play for his native Spain in the recent FIBA tournament, but sources say it was more for precautionary reasons. He is expected to be ready for training camp.

What Went Wrong:

They lost Mo Pete.
Unwilling to grant him a long-term deal, the Raptors let veteran Morris Peterson bolt via free agency to the Hornets. The 6-7 small forward might not have fit in the Raptors' long-range plans, but he was a stable presence in the locker room and a fan favorite who had spent his entire career in Toronto.

They couldn't add a draft pick.
After landing the No. 1 overall pick in '06 (Andrea Bargnani), Toronto didn't have a single pick in last June's draft. Colangelo said he tried hard to trade into the first round for a shot at Italian sharpshooter Marco Belinelli (who went to the Warriors), but couldn't get the right deal.

Minor injuries cropped up.
While not a major concern, Chris Bosh (foot) and Delfino (knee) had to withdraw from this summer's FIBA Americas Tourney with ailments. Both are expected to be fine by training camp, but Bosh's injury bears watching.

Grade: A-

The defending Atlantic champs didn't need to make major changes. Just keeping the core together, while adding Kapono and Delfino, looks pretty good.

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