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Posted: Tuesday August 26, 2008 1:18PM; Updated: Friday August 29, 2008 2:29PM
Marty Burns Marty Burns >

Atlantic grades

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New York Knicks

What went right:

New leadership at the top.
Owner James Dolan finally pulled the plug on the dismal reign of Isiah Thomas as president/coach. In GM Donnie Walsh and coach Mike D'Antoni, the Knicks now have two proven winners and experienced hands to implement a true rebuilding plan. It might take time, but New York fans can have faith again.

They added a Donte and a Duhon.
With their first-round pick (No. 6 overall), the Knicks got a terrific prospect in 6-10 Italian forward Danilo Gallinari. They then signed free agent point guard Chris Duhon, formerly of the Bulls, to provide a steady hand at the top. They won't be huge difference-makers right away, but they should eventually be good fits in D'Antoni's system.

A new attitude emerged.
It's early, but the initial reactions from the Knicks veterans over the Walsh/D'Antoni regime have been positive. Quentin Richardson, Jamal Crawford, Eddy Curry and several other key regulars are said to be working out hard and seem genuinely excited about playing in Gotham again. After the past two seasons, it's a good first sign for the Knicks.

What went wrong:

D'Antoni didn't bring Nash with him.
Knicks fans might have to wait a while for D'Antoni's high-octane system to get running at peak speed. New York still doesn't have a Steve Nash type at point guard to orchestrate such an attack. Neither Duhon nor Nate Robinson has anything close to Nash's shooting touch, and Stephon Marbury is expected to be waived.

Not takers for Steph or Zach.
The Knicks would have preferred to trade Marbury, but they could not find a taker for the petulant point guard with the big contract (one more year, $21 million). They also failed to unload Zach Randolph (three years, $47.9 million), another apparent poor fit for the D'Antoni system. Until they can find a new home for both, their housecleaning won't be complete.

Grade: B

The Walsh/D'Antoni regime has freshened the air in the organization, but no quick fix appears forthcoming this season.

Philadelphia 76ers

What went right:

Brand appeal.
In the league's biggest offseason free agent signing, Brand bolted the Clippers for a five-year, $82 million deal with the Sixers. If he's recovered from the Achilles injury that kept him out most of last year, the 6-9 power forward should fill a gaping hole for Philadelphia. Brand's ability to score in the low-post makes the Sixers a much more well-rounded club.

They re-signed Iggy and Lou.
The Sixers also opened up the checkbook to keep two of their own key players in Andre Iguodala and Louis Williams. Iguodala (six years, $80 million) will join with Brand and Andre Miller to form Philly's own Big Three to challenge the one in Boston. Williams (five years, $25 million) will try to reprise his role as the top scoring guard off the bench.

They shored up their bench.
Philadelphia bolstered its depth by signing veterans Kareem Rush, Royal Ivey and Theo Ratliff. Rush (Pacers) brings outside shooting, while Ivey (Hawks) provides solid defense in the backcourt. The 6-10 Ratliff (Pistons) returns to Philadelphia to help back up Brand and Samuel Dalembert in the frontcourt.

What went wrong:

Jason Smith got hurt.
The 6-10 reserve center tore his left ACL while working out in Las Vegas, and is out for the season. Last year he averaged 4.5 points and 3.5 rebounds as a rookie while playing solid D as Dalembert's backup. Ratliff should help fill Smith's role, but it's a setback nonetheless for the young player.

They spent a ton of money.
By shelling out almost $200 million on a bevy of free agents, GM Ed Stefanski has invested heavily in this roster. With the Sixers now well into the luxury tax, he might not have much in the way of flexibility. Brand and Iguodala, meanwhile, better live up to expectations or they will surely hear about it from those famous Philly fans.

Grade: A

Luring Brand was a major coup. One of the NBA's surprise teams of a year ago, the Sixers should be even better in '08-09.

Toronto Raptors

What went right:

They got J.O.
In one of the bigger gambles of the offseason, GM Bryan Colangelo acquired six-time All-Star forward/center O'Neal from the Pacers in exchange for point guard T.J. Ford and center Rasho Nesterovic. The 6-11 O'Neal, if fully recovered from the knee problems that kept him out 40 games last year, should join with Chris Bosh to give Toronto one of the NBA's best frontcourt tandems.

They re-signed Jose.
With Ford gone, the Raptors could ill afford to let free agent point guard Jose Calderon get away. Mission accomplished. The Raptors signed the Spanish floor general, who blossomed into a near-All-Star talent last year, to a reported five-year, $45 million contract that will make him the team's clear-cut floor leader for the foreseeable future.

They imported Ukic.
Needing a backup for Calderon, Toronto convinced Croatian point guard Roko Ukic to leave his Italian pro team for a shot at the NBA. The 6-5 Ukic, a second-round draft pick (No. 41 in '05), should provide steady help off the bench while he learns the NBA game.

What went wrong:

They didn't address the depth.
The Raptors have a fine point guard and a potentially dynamite frontcourt, but they still lack depth. Anthony Parker, Andrea Bargnani, Jamario Moon and Jason Kapono form a decent perimeter core, but there isn't much behind them. The free agent signings of Will Solomon and Hassan Adams are not likely to make much difference.

They hit the ceiling.
Like the Sixers, the Raptors don't have a lot of flexibility going forward. Toronto's payroll is now right up against the luxury tax, and its ownership (unlike that of Philadelphia) is apparently unwilling to cross over the threshold. Colangelo can only hope O'Neal stays healthy and the bench produces, because he might not be able to make any more moves.

Grade: A-

O'Neal's knees are a major question mark, but the Raptors had to make this gamble. Now, if things go right, they could challenge in the East.

More summer report cards: Central | Southwest | Northwest

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