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The Next Five Years Of The Atlantic Division

The trend for front offices in the modern day NBA is projection. When a team drafts a high school player, or now, drafts a player one year out of high school, they are projecting his potential, as kids under the age of 20 rarely have the comparable production of a college junior or senior. When a team signs a young free agent to a long term deal based on one year of production, they are projecting that the previous season?s production will continue throughout the life of the contract. The selection of Kobe Bryant by the Lakers and the Magic signing Tracy McGrady are the finest of examples of accurate projections. On the other hand, the Pacers are still waiting for the payoff of the Johnathan Bender draft day deal and the continuance of Austin Croshere?s 2000 playoffs performance.

   
Though player projection has always occurred in professional sports, the NBA is taking it to a whole new level. Today, teams trade productive players whose contracts might be considered prohibitive in the future, all in a hope to create salary cap space. Players like Anfernee Hardaway are valued for what they do best, hurting themselves and sitting on the end of the bench in dapper duds, because their contract expires at the end of the season.

In the first of a 6 part series, RealGM will examine every NBA team, determining which teams are best set up for success over the next five seasons. In keeping with the monolithic media tradition of East Coast bias, the Atlantic Division is up first.

Boston Celtics

2004-2005 Division Finish: 1st

Projected 2005-2006 Opening Night Lineup

Centers  

Starter: Raef LaFrentz (Projected FA year 2009)
Reserves: Mark Blount (FA year 2010), Kendrick Perkins (FA year 2007)


Projected Cut: Curtis Borchardt

The Breakdown: This is complicated, and not in a good way for C?s fans. LaFrentz signed a 7 year deal worth $70 million during the summer of 2002, though he has an out clause that would make him a FA following the 2007 season. There is one problem, and it?s the Celtics, not LaFrentz?s. Why would LaFrentz opt out of a deal that pays him significantly better than his production would call for? Especially when that deal is back loaded? LaFrentz is going to be making over $12 million in the each of the last two years of his deal, so unless the C?s can find a buyer before the 2007 trade deadline on the flimsy reasoning the LaFrentz will opt out, he will be the albatross on their cap until the summer of 2009. Blount, much like LaFrentz, makes more money than his horrendous production would dictate. The other similarity is a player option that gives Blount a chance to become a FA after the fifth year of the six year, $38.6 million deal he signed last summer. The C?s paid him for his outstanding play in the 2nd half of the 2003-04 season, and he promptly reverted back to his old, meaningless, lazy self. Boston fans should be worried, because Doc Rivers may be on orders to play Blount. Whether those orders are from his own mind, which he seemed to lose at points late last season, or from Danny Ainge and the C?s brass, remains to be seen. Blount is going to be showcased early in the season in hopes that someone sees something and will trade for him, freeing the C?s from the dire possibility of having to pay two aging centers close to a combined $20 million from 2007-2009. Blount?s trade kicker makes that all but impossible. The loser in all of this, besides Celtics fans, is Kendrick Perkins. Perkins played a high tempo defensive game in the limited minutes he received, and 20 year old centers always have room to improve. He would garner the nod for the C?s center of the future, if not for the fact that he is blocked by dollar signs and useless big men. I can?t see Borchardt beating out any of these guys to make the team, but he?ll catch on with someone.

Centers from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-08 roster: 2 (LaFrentz, Blount)

Centers from 2005-2006 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 1 (Blount)

5 Year Center Outlook: D

The Bottom Line: The only thing that keeps this from being an F is LaFrentz?s current production, which is passable when his salary is not considered.

Power Forwards

Starter: Al Jefferson (FA year 2008)


Reserves: Brian Scalabrine (FA year 2010), Ryan Gomes (FA year 2008)

The Breakdown: This, on the other hand, is simple. Jefferson is the future of this team, a superstar in the making. Scalabrine just signed a 5 year, $15 million deal. Whether that was prudent or not remains to be seen, but it looks as if Scalabrine is set to back up Jefferson for the long haul. The one scary thought: What if the Blount/LaFrentz deals hinder the C?s in their attempt to give Jefferson a big money deal in 2008? Gomes was a great player at Providence, much more skilled than Scalabrine. If he flashes the talent with some consistency that was missing with the Friars, Gomes will easily crack the rotation in 2006-2007. We?ll see how Ainge responds if Scalabrine falters, as his contract is not so much prohibitive as it is an annoyance to whoever takes it on.

Power Forwards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-08 roster: All 3

Power Forwards from 2005-2006 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 2 (Jefferson, Scalabrine)

5 Year Power Forward Outlook: A

The Bottom Line: Jefferson is a stud. Soon, he?ll need to be paid like one. This is about as stable as a team can get for the future of a position.

Small Forward

Starter: Paul Pierce (FA year 2008)


Reserves: Gomes, Justin Reed (FA year 2006)

The Breakdown: Plenty has been written about Pierce, his attitude, his playing time, his future, and most importantly, how he will respond to the supposed rebuild in Boston. No need to re-hash it all, but I am of the opinion that Pierce will not be a Celtic by the end of the season. His value is still high and you would have to expect that someone will take the risk and hope that he produces like the $15-16 million player he will be in 2006-2008. Ainge, who seems set on building with Jefferson as the key forward, will happily take a small return in exchange for the cap room. Again, Gomes should benefit from this. Ryan Gomes will be the starter at the 3 for Boston by April 2006.

Small Forwards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-08 roster: 1 (Gomes)

Small Forwards from 2005-2006 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 0

5 Year Small Forward Outlook: C

The Bottom Line: Dumping Pierce?s contract outweighs the fact that the C?s have no potential cornerstones at SF.

Shooting Guard

Starter: Tony Allen (FA year 2009) or Ricky Davis (2008)


Reserve: Gerald Green (2010)

The Breakdown: Gerald Green was a draft day godsend. He was one of the top 5 talents in the class, and it did not take long for his talent to shine through during summer ball. Ricky Davis? situation, much like Pierce?s, is well documented, but he does not present the same heavy financial burden in a trade. Those who believe he has matured and is ready to breakout are going out on a limb, but talent has never been a problem for Davis. Expect a trade to happen sooner or later, with this column saying he?ll be gone by this time next year, when Green is ready to take on 25+ minutes a night, which is basically Davis? share for this season. That share will also belong to Tony Allen, though I am not as big on him as some others. Allen and Davis may end up being on the floor at the same time, which may be a precursor to a Pierce trade. His impressive play in the summer league aside, Allen has something to prove this season in order to hold off Green for 2006-2007. His knee surgery may make Davis the opening night starter, and some good play from Ricky may make him the starter for the season with Allen hitting the trade block. This is a situation to watch.

Shooting Guards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-2008 roster: 2 (Allen and Green)

Shooting Guards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 1 (Green)

5 Year Shooting Guard Outlook: B+

The Bottom Line: Green has it all, now all he needs is the minutes and the patience. Allen is a very solid reserve, but I would not trust him as an 82 game, 26-30 minute a night player.

Point Guard

Starter: Delonte West


Reserves: Dan Dickau (?????), Marcus Banks, Will Bynum, Orien Greene

The Breakdown: The Dickau situation remains open, though rumors have labeled it a done deal. If he comes to Boston, I expect he?ll be the starter by midseason. This is a jumbled mess, and while Greene, West and Banks have great potential, there is no tangible production that would lead one to believe they are the future at the 1. With the all action Ainge in charge, I would not expect this to last. Ainge knows the importance of a stable situation at the point and will do everything to remedy this during and after the season. Perhaps baiting for one in a deal involving Pierce, Allen or Davis would work.

Point Guards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-2008 roster: 1 (Greene)

Point Guards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 1 (Greene)

5 Year Point Guard Outlook: C-

Front Office

GM: Danny Ainge


Coach: Doc Rivers

The Breakdown: This seems like the duo that will lead the Celtics through the rebuilding process. Ainge choose Rivers to be his man when Jim O?Brien and John Carroll were not getting the job done, so their working relationship should not be a problem. We?ll see what occurs if/when a trade situation arises in which Allen, Davis or Pierce can be moved for draft picks and/or cap relief.

Will the Ainge/Rivers duo exist to start the 2007-2008 season? Yes

Will the Ainge/Rivers duo exist to start the 2009-10 season? Yes

The Future

Projected Finish in 2005-2006 Atlantic Division: 4th

Projected Finish in 2007-2008 Atlantic Division: 1st



Projected Finish in 2009-2010 Atlantic Division: 1st

Future Outlook Final Grade: B+

The Bottom Line: Not many teams can claim to have an established young building block like Jefferson. Not many teams can claim to have an uber-talented young guard like Gerald Green. In the Atlantic Division, no team besides Boston can claim this (Rafer Alston does not count, Raptors fans, but Bosh does). That gives them a high grade, but the LaFrentz/Blount contracts and the potential for problems with Davis and Pierce keep them from anything higher than a B.

New Jersey Nets

2004-2005 Division Finish: 3rd

Projected 2005-2006 Opening Night Lineup

Centers

Starter: Nenad Kristic (2009)


Reserve: Marc Jackson (2007)

The Breakdown: Kristic has developed into a good player, someone that I would easily put in the upper half of the conference?s centers. He may be at the bottom of that list, but at this point it is clear he is the starting center for this team when they open in Brooklyn. Nets fans can debate how much of the future is on his shoulders, but I would say his production level will never be that of a ?dominant? center. In this style of lineup, he works, and his development will only be furthered if Jason Kidd and Vince Carter stay healthy. Will his extending work in Europe this off season fatigue him? Jackson was acquired for a cheap draft pick. That is about as far as I?ll go on labeling him, because I really don?t know what to expect. For under $5 million per, it is not that long of a commitment, so give Rod Thorn and Ed Stefanski credit for that. I?m guessing his goal is to have Jackson as 20 minute a game guy, but that might be giving him too much credit. We?ll see, but if the Nets lose Kristic, I?d expect a trade before I?d expect Jackson starting for an extended period.

Centers from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-2008 roster: 1 (Kristic)

Centers from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 1 (Kristic)

5 Year Center Outlook: C+

The Bottom Line: If Kristic?s progression continues, this grade will improve. The depth here is poor, though.

Power Forwards

Starter: Jason Collins (2009)


Reserves: Clifford Robinson (No Contract Terms), Scott Padgett (No Terms)

The Breakdown: Collins has been given the contract, now it is all on him to produce like a starting 4 should. There are two extremes on his play, as most seem to think Thorn/Stefanski was out of line paying him like a starter, while some diehard Nets fans say you have to watch him every night to appreciate him. Collins is a good defensive player who has the size of a center, making him valuable inside if teams try to push Kristic around. He also, like Kristic, seems to fit Lawrence Frank?s system perfectly, something that you can not put a price on.  The offensive numbers need to improve, though, to justify the money and the minutes he?ll be receiving. I could not find contract terms for Robinson and Padgett, but they are short term backups.

Power Forwards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-2008 roster: 1 (Collins)

Power Forwards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 0

5 Year Power Forward Outlook: C

The Bottom Line: Collins. That?s it. He plays well, no problems. He doesn?t, the contract is going to grow into an annoyance in the later years.

Small Forward

Starter: Richard Jefferson (2011)


Reserves: Antoine Wright (2010), Lamond Murray, Linton Johnson (2007?)

The Breakdown: RJ is going to be paid handsomely for a long, long, long time. This is not meant to be a player breakdown column at heart, so there really is not much more to say regarding Jefferson and his deal. Maybe if the Vince Carter situation ends up badly, RJ goes back to the 2, but right now, he?s here to stay. Great depth at this spot, Johnson and Wright should earn some valuable minutes.

Small Forwards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-2008 roster: 3 (All but Murray)

Small Forwards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 2 (RJ and Wright)

5 Year Small Forward Outlook: B+

The Bottom Line: Jefferson is getting paid mega bucks, when some would argue he is not a mega player.

Shooting Guards

Starter: Vince Carter (2008)


Reserves: Zoran Planinic (2008), Rodney Buford

The Breakdown: There is no reason to try and predict Carter?s future; his flaky reputation makes that impossible. If Kidd leaves, VC may go nuts or he may embrace the chance to make New Jersey/Brooklyn his town. But, since the point of this column is that magic P word, I?m going to say Carter ends his career a Net, with Planinic becoming the 1 when Kidd bolts. Buford is not a long term option off the bench with Wright around.

Shooting Guards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-2008 roster: 2 (All but Buford)

Shooting Guards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 2

5 Year Shooting Guard Outlook: B-

The Bottom Line: Carter gets paid. Carter is a star. Carter played like a man possessed after the trade. Carter is a flake. I wouldn?t bet against Carter. Planinic is going to be a good one though I am convinced his future is at the point.

Point Guards

Starter: Jason Kidd (2009)


Reserves: Jeff McInnis (2007), Jacque Vaughn (2006)

The Breakdown: The Nets are Jason Kidd. Without him, they probably revert back to the old blue and red jerseys. He moved them into a new different stratosphere, and dare I say is the reason the Nets are going to move to Brooklyn. His mood changes often, and I wouldn?t bank on him being around much past the move, but Kidd is the face of the franchise in a way very few players in the league are. McInnis and Vaughn are very good reserves for this season, and McInnis is relatively cheap.

Point Guards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-2008 roster: 1 (Kidd)

Small Forwards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 0

5 Year Point Guard Outlook: C

The Bottom Line: No future here specifically, unless you want to count Planinic. Kidd makes over $21 million in 08-09. If the Nets don?t have confidence in Planinic, they need to start looking ahead for Kidd?s departure.

Front Office

General Manager: Ed Stefanski


Head Coach: Lawrence Frank

The Breakdown: Stefanski has been solid since coming to New Jersey, and his recent contract extension points to his longevity. Frank, on the other hand, has the talent to win right now. If the Nets don?t threaten to win the East in the next two seasons, Shaq or not, Frank may start hearing it.

Will the Stefanski/Frank duo exist to start the 2007-2008 season? Yes

Will the Stefanski/Frank duo exist to start the 2009-10 season? No (Frank gone)

The Future

Projected Finish in 2005-2006 Atlantic Division: 1st

Projected Finish in 2007-2008 Atlantic Division: 2nd



Projected Finish in 2009-2010 Atlantic Division: 3rd

Future Outlook Final Grade: B-

The Bottom Line: Way too many big contracts, though at least they are paying talented guys like RJ, VC and Kidd. The keys are Planinic, Wright and Kristic developing into viable starters and keeping the three stars happy. It won?t last forever, but it needs to last long enough to get the Nets to Brooklyn a winner.


New York Knicks

2004-2005 Division Finish: 4th

Projected 2005-2006 Opening Night Lineup

Centers

Starter: Jerome James (2010)


Reserves: Channing Frye (2010)

The Breakdown: James was paid because he played decent, not great, in one playoff series. All those who truly think this guy can play more than 20 minutes a night for 82 games and not embarrass himself, I?d love to know why. Frye has work to do before considering him a future starter, let alone a future star. Pacific 10 basketball fans will tell you that he was pushed around by Ike Diogu and David Paris. He needs to work on his inside positioning before people start anointing him the big man of the future.
Centers from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-2008 roster: 2

Centers from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 2

5 Year Power Forward Outlook: D

The Bottom Line: James is not going to live up to that deal. No chance. And it is going to hurt, bad, come 2007-2008 when Isiah realizes he overpaid for an old, immobile (On and off the court) stiff. Frye needs to show me something before this grade improves.

Power Forwards

Starter: Mike Sweetney (2008)


Reserves: Malik Rose (2009), Maurice Taylor (2007), David Lee (2010)

The Breakdown: I always wondered what would happen if Sweetney was ever given a real chance to stay in the starting lineup. The team always seems to play better when he is on the court, and the numbers back that up. Using him as trade bait for Curry would be a bad idea. Lee was underrated at Florida, I hope he gets a chance to develop. He could be a cheap option in the future, if that occurs.

Power Forwards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-2008 roster: 2 (Lee and Rose)

Power Forwards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 1 (Lee)

5 Year Power Forward Outlook: C

The Bottom Line: They won?t be paying much after Rose leaves, but I think Sweetney ends up getting dealt sooner rather than later. Lee needs a shot.

Small Forward

Starter: Quentin Richardson (2010)


Reserves: Tim Thomas (2006), Trevor Ariza (2006)

The Breakdown: What do you think about Richardson? If you like him, you think the Knicks are set. If you don?t, you?re laughing at the fact that this guy is due over $8 million per for 4 years starting next season. I?m in the middle, and I wonder what Larry Brown will do the second Q starts lobbing 3?s from 27 feet in the middle of the 3rd quarter and the Knicks down 8. Ariza is fun to watch, Thomas is an albatross who is movable at the deadline.

Small Forwards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-2008 roster: 2 (Q and Ariza)

Small Forwards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 2

5 Year Small Forward Outlook: B

The Bottom Line: I don?t mind Richardson right now, but he can easily turn this into an F if he doesn?t buy into Brown. Nothing like another trey chucking maniac to add to the two that man the backcourt. They need to keep Ariza after this year.

Shooting Guards

Starter: Jamal Crawford (2011)


Reserves: Allan Houston (2007), Penny Hardaway (2006)

The Breakdown: Crawford, on the other hand, I don?t need to ask about. I?ve seen enough of him to know that he is utterly useless, in relation to his salary. You are telling me, Knick fan, that you are comfortable with your team on the hook for $10 million plus in 2010-2011? For a guy who plays a style of the game that gets unspeakably worse with age? I?d love to know how. Houston, Penny, they should make for some damn fine trade bait for a team thinking they need the cap space in the next few seasons to make a run at Amare Stoudamire, Vlad Radmonivic, Eddy Curry, Chris Bosh or LeBron James. I can already see Isiah trading Houston to the Lakers for Kwame Brown next spring.  

Shooting Guards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-2008 roster: 1 (Crawford)

Shooting Guards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 1

5 Year Shooting Guard Outlook: D

The Bottom Line: Crawford is an F, but the possible bounty Isiah could get from Houston or Penny saves this. I believe those two potential deals, along with a Mo Taylor trade, will define Isiah?s Knick legacy.

Point Guards

Starter: Stephon Marbury (2009)


Reserves: Nate Robinson (2010)

The Breakdown: As great as Marbury thinks he is, his contract still ties down the chances of Nate Robinson becoming the breakout star he looked like in the Summer League. Brown and Isiah might come to blows over Marbury?s playing time if Robinson shows something in limited minutes early in the season. Marbury gets a bad rap in many places, but I feel he is invaluable to the Knicks. Put an average replacement in his place, and this is probably the worst team in basketball.

Point Guards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-2008 roster: 2

Point Guards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 1 (Robinson)

5 Year Point Guard Outlook: B

The Bottom Line: Just hope the Robinson is the real deal and Marbury gets along with Brown.

Front Office

General Manager: Isiah Thomas


Head Coach: Larry Brown

The Breakdown: This is going to be fun, but I think Larry lasts two seasons before his head nearly explodes on the sidelines.

Will the Thomas/Brown duo exist to start the 2007-2008 season? No (Brown gone)

Will the Thomas/Brown duo exist to start the 2009-10 season? No (Both gone)

The Future

Projected Finish in 2005-2006 Atlantic Division: 3rd

Projected Finish in 2007-2008 Atlantic Division: 5th



Projected Finish in 2009-2010 Atlantic Division: 5th

Future Outlook Final Grade: D

The Bottom Line: I?m waiting, Knicks fans. Please, tell me how great Isiah is and what a difference Brown will make. The Knicks will sneak into the playoffs this year, get smashed by either Miami or Indiana and begin a precipitous fall.


Philadelphia 76ers

2004-2005 Division Finish: 2nd

Projected 2005-2006 Opening Night Lineup


Centers

Starters: Samuel Dalembert (2011)


Reserves: Steven Hunter (2010)

The Breakdown: I like this combo as much as any in the division in terms of future potential and pay. They will pay a combined $12-$14 million for a strong post combination at the end of the contract, which is relatively cheap in comparison to other teams with much less production. The Dalembert contract is not as bad as some have made it out to be, but I believe in him as a Top 10 Center in the league.

Centers from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-2008 roster: 2

Centers from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 2

5 Year Power Forward Outlook: B+

The Bottom Line: Would/Will be an A once Dalembert proves he is worthy of his deal.

Power Forwards

Starters: Chris Webber (2008)


Reserves: Rodney Rogers (2006), Michael Bradley (2006), Lee Nailon (Terms Unknown)

The Breakdown: Webber looked absolutely finished at times last season, and unless he is healthy for 70 games or more, this will be a problem spot for the Sixers. Nailon is a nice signing, though terms were not released. If Webber gets hurt, it looks like Nailon and Hunter starting with Dalembert down low.

Power Forwards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-2008 roster: 0

Power Forwards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 0

5 Year Power Forward Outlook: C-

The Bottom Line: I think Webber retires before the 07-08 season. Again, it is not an F because they will be out from under his stifling contract, but it is still a poor situation at the 4 in Philly.

Small Forward

Starters: Kyle Korver (2011)


Reserves: Matt Barnes (2006), Josh Davis (2006)


The Breakdown: Argue all you want about Korver; that is for a player scouting column. I happen to think he is very important to the success of the Sixers and deserves to be paid as such. Losing Willie Green is really going to hurt the depth at the 2/3.

Small Forwards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-2008 roster: 1 (Korver)

Small Forwards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 1

5 Year Small Forward Outlook: B-

The Bottom Line: Korver is going to live up to his modest deal, and become a solid starter in the early years of his deal. I could see him moving to the 6th Man role in later years, though.

Shooting Guards

Starters: Andre Iguodala (2009)


Reserves: John Salmons (2007)

The Breakdown: The ?Other? AI may be on his way to making another name for himself: All Star. He has outstanding defensive acumen at a very young age, and when he is on the floor the Sixers are a better team based on his athleticism alone. The rookie contract will look like a bargain by the time it is due, even if he doesn?t fill out offensively. Depth needs work, but the 2/3 is a jumble for the Sixers, anyway. I can?t see Salmons staying on this team past 2007.

Shooting Guards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-2008 roster: 1 (Iguodala)

Shooting Guards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 1

5 Year Shooting Guard Outlook: A-

The Bottom Line: Iguodala is one of the league?s best deals at age 21. He will be the last man standing when this year?s roster is completely dismantled in, say, 2012 (Ahead of Korver and Allen Iverson).

Point Guards

Starters: Allen Iverson (2009)


Reserves: Kevin Ollie (2007)

The Breakdown: Honestly, its Iverson, there is not much that can be said. He?s due over $71 million in the next 4 years, so he is The Franchise by nature. If he starts to wear down, as some have surmised, this will be as bad as the Webber deal for future rosters. If he plays at his current level through at least 2008, then it isn?t that bad. Ollie is not getting his option picked up after 2007, I can promise that right now.

Point Guards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-2008 roster: 1 (Iverson)

Point Guards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 0

5 Year Shooting Guard Outlook: C+

The Bottom Line: Too much money in Ollie and Iverson is so day to day with his health, I just can?t expect him to last forever at his current production level.

Front Office

General Manager: Billy King


Head Coach: Maurice Cheeks

The Breakdown: King has been blamed for ruining the Sixers future by taking on the Webber deal and being stuck with Aaron McKie and his $20 million over the next 3 years. That is true, but the core of this team is solid, with Dalembert/Hunter, Iguodala, Korver and Iverson. Really, it all comes down to Iverson, there is not much more to it. If he can?t play 70 games a year for the next 4 years, this team won?t have anything going for them due to lack of financial flexibility.

Will the King/Cheeks duo exist to start the 2007-2008 season? Yes

Will the King/Cheeks duo exist to start the 2009-10 season? No (Both gone)

The Future

Projected Finish in 2005-2006 Atlantic Division: 2nd

Projected Finish in 2007-2008 Atlantic Division: 3rd



Projected Finish in 2009-2010 Atlantic Division: 4th

Future Outlook Final Grade: C+

The Bottom Line: The talent is there, the money is not. Right now, I?m not very impressed with King?s cap skills, but there is time to improve that once Webber and McKie are off the books. Will King have that long, though?


Toronto Raptors

2004-2005 Division Finish: 5th

Projected 2005-2006 Opening Night Lineup

Centers

Starter: Rafael Araujo (2009)


Reserves: Aaron Williams (2006), Pape Sow (Unknown), Loren Woods (2006)

The Breakdown: Harsh words surround Araujo here in the States, despite his only being in the league one season. He may have been unspeakably bad last season, but there is a line where the bust proclamations become hasty. Not much here, though, so it really falls on the shoulders of Rafael.

Centers from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-2008 roster: 1 (Araujo)

Centers from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 1

5 Year Power Forward Outlook: C-

The Bottom Line: Based off last year, the future looks bleak, but there is not much future cash tied up here, so improvements can be made if Araujo completely bottoms out. Williams is good trade bait with his contract ending.



Power Forwards

Starter: Chris Bosh (2008)


Reserve: Charlie Villanueva (2010)

The Breakdown: Villanueva??? What??? At 7? You gotta be kidd?Just messing with ya, Raptors fans, this is not an indictment of the pick or of CV. I?m willing to see how he pans out, but until Jalen Rose is gone, he is stuck behind Bosh, unless he magically becomes a 5 and they play CV at the 4. Bosh is superstar and he?s on his rookie contract, which is a recipe for success.

Power Forwards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-2008 roster: 2

Power Forwards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 2

5 Year Power Forward Outlook: A-

The Bottom Line: Bosh is going to be a max player soon, so if the Raptors develop CV right they could have leverage with him. I don?t see Babcock letting Bosh go if he continues his current development path, as that would probably be the end of the NBA in Canada.

Small Forward

Starter: Jalen Rose (2007)


Reserves: Matt Bonner (2007), Joey Graham (2010)

The Breakdown: Rose thinks he is Vince Carter now, and he is, if you look only at the salary cap hit. No, actually, this is a great spot for Babcock, as Rose is going to be cap valuable next season and may draw some interest. Graham is the future here, he was a steal at 16, and he is going to have time to develop over the next season and a half before Rose has tangible value to another team. Bonner might be worth some minutes to see if he is a future reserve.

Small Forwards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-2008 roster: 2 (Bonner and Graham)

Small Forwards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 2

5 Year Small Forward Outlook: B+

The Bottom Line: Rose?s contract hurts it this year, but once he gains value and Graham gains experience, the future at the 3 is very bright in Toronto.

 

Shooting Guards

Starter: Morris Peterson (2007)


Reserves: Eric Williams (2007)

The Breakdown: Williams is going to take that nice $4.3 million option for next year, Raps fans. He will not get that type of money anywhere else. Peterson just seems like the kind of guy who is going to wake up to some driving blizzard in November 2006, think to himself ?What the hell am I doing in Toronto?? and become Ray Allen for 5 months. From there, some poor team, hopefully not the Raptors, will pay him as such and be stuck with their own version of Jamal Crawford, but more inconsistent, if that is at all possible. Freeing up this money will be nice, but like the Rose deal, won?t mean anything if Babcock can?t convince good free agents to head north.

Shooting Guards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-2008 roster: 0

Shooting Guards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 0

5 Year Shooting Guard Outlook: C

The Bottom Line: The faster Peterson is gone, the better. Big money can be spent on a 2 after the 07 season.

Point Guards

Starter: Rafer Alston (2010)


Reserves: Jose Calderon (2008), Alvin Williams (2008)

The Breakdown: Alston is disliked because of his ?Me against the world? type attitude, which shines through in his high aspirations for Toronto in 2005-06. I like him, personally, though his contract is always going to be questioned. Calderon has been getting great write ups from national basketball analysts, and he is really, really, really cheap, the third and final year of his deal paying him less than $900,000. Williams? contract dampens the situation, though, with his health being the biggest question mark on the team outside of Araujo. Picking up Jay Williams would be a great move.

Point Guards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2007-2008 roster: 3

Point Guards from 2005-06 roster that will be on the 2009-10 roster: 1 (Alston)

5 Year Point Guard Outlook: B

The Bottom Line: Paying lots of money for middle of the road production, but the ceiling is high for the 1 in Toronto. Alston could be a breakout star and great leader, Calderon is a question mark who many seem to like, and Williams? health is just a bonus at this point.
This is probably the position in the division with the greatest range of movement. It could easily be an F or an A.

Front Office

General Manager: Rod Babcock


Head Coach: Sam Mitchell

The Breakdown: Babcock has a plan that is easy to question and Mitchell is inexperienced with the head job. Not much else to say. Babcock didn?t win many fans when he said the team would be worse this year.

Will the Babcock/Mitchell duo exist to start the 2007-2008 season? No (Mitchell gone)

Will the Babcock/Mitchell duo exist to start the 2009-10 season? No (Babcock stays)

The Future

Projected Finish in 2005-2006 Atlantic Division: 5th

Projected Finish in 2007-2008 Atlantic Division: 4th



Projected Finish in 2009-2010 Atlantic Division: 3rd (Playoffs)

Future Outlook Final Grade: B-

The Bottom Line: The Raptors are going to have the money to make a huge move in 2007. Does anybody want to play there? Can Babcock resist the urge of signing someone mediocre next summer (Vlad Radmonivic, for example) if he doesn?t get the biggest fish in the pond? The young talent is also there, Bosh/CV/Graham/Alston/Calderon/Araujo is outstanding, but the odds of them all reaching their potential are slim. I think Toronto would settle for Alston/Graham/CV/Bosh as the core in 2008, though. Its possible, and so is a playoff berth. Be patient, Toronto.

So, there you have it, one division down, five to go. Next up is the Central.

 

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