As we cross the midway point of the offseason, we're taking a week-long look at the biggest offseason move by each team. Up next? The Atlantic Division
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With LeBron James no longer in the Eastern Conference, the balance of power has shifted to the Atlantic. The Celtics, Raptors and 76ers enter the season as favourites, projected to win more games than any other teams in the East. While the Knicks and Nets aren't likely to contend in 2018-19, both have optimistic outlooks moving forward.
MORE BEST MOVES: Pacific Division | Southwest Division | Northwest Division | Central Division
Biggest move: Trading DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard
After several seasons of racking up regular-season wins and underperforming in the postseason, Raptors president Masai Ujiri is swinging for the fences in 2018-19.
The decision to move on from DeRozan in favor of Leonard - who can walk for nothing next summer - represents the biggest gamble in franchise history. The best case scenario ends with Leonard winning MVP en route to the East's best record, the Raptors riding some good fortune en route to an unexpected title and Ujiri inking Leonard to a long-term extension in July. The worst case is another early exit with Leonard opting to play elsewhere and a 33-year old Kyle Lowry left to captain the ship on his own.
Biggest move: Progress for Gordon Hayward
On paper, the biggest move Boston made was retaining Marcus Smart on a team-friendly four-year, $52 million contract. Though Smart certainly plays a major role and is the type of piece that becomes more valuable come playoff time, there's only so much value added to a roster loaded on the perimeter. Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown make for a crowded wing before even mentioning Terry Rozier, who averaged 16.5 points per game in the playoffs.
Given the glut, the biggest development for Boston in the offseason is the continued rehab of Hayward. The Celtics have serious designs of contending for a championship this season and while they could conceivably come out of the East without Hayward humming at 100 percent, they'll need every ounce from him to actually hang with the Golden State Warriors, who appear once again the heavy favourite to win the West.
Biggest move: Two max slots for 2019
Give Nets GM Sean Marks a standing ovation. After trading Timofey Mozgov for Dwight Howard (who was then bought out), thus getting out from under the two years remaining on Mozgov's deal, the Nets then traded Jeremy Lin to the Atlanta Hawks, which opened up enough room to trade for the expiring contracts of Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur (since traded for Jared Dudley, who is also on an expiring contract). Add it all up and Brooklyn can walk into next offseason with enough cap room to sign two max free agents.
Finally free from the stench of the ill-fated trade with the Celtics in the summer of 2013, the Nets are now in position to make a major splash next summer when Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins are all free agents. Will the draw of starring in the media capital of the world be enough to net two major fish? That it's even a realistic option represents a major step in the right direction for Brooklyn.
New York Knicks
Biggest move: Drafting Kevin Knox
Each time Kevin Knox showcased a new move at Summer League in Vegas, that sound you could hear 2,000 miles away was the hype train gathering steam in Penn Station. Knicks fans have every reason to be excited about Knox, who averaged 21.3 points per game and showed significantly more polish than he did at Kentucky. With Kristaps Porzingis still recovering from a torn ACL, Knox will have every opportunity to build reps and do so with relatively low pressure as the Knicks enter 2018-19 with manageable expectations.
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There exists a not-so-far-fetched reality in which Knox develops into an efficient volume scorer, Porzingis returns fully healthy, the Knicks land a top-5 pick in 2019 and a free agent stud signs on the dotted line next summer. Should it play out, the Knicks are poised to return to relevance in the East.
Biggest move: Re-signing JJ Redick
You get the feeling that most 76ers fans are somewhat underwhelmed by an offseason in which they made overtures to LeBron James and had the means to pull off a major, landscape-shifting move, only to re-sign Redick and trade for Wilson Chandler. That's not a knock on Redick as he remains one of the league's elite snipers, is a perfect fit playing off Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and would have been a major loss. But he alone isn't the type of piece that's likely to tip the scales against Boston, which easily dispatched Philadelphia in the playoffs without the services of Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward.
The 76ers are talented enough to win the Eastern Conference with the continued development of Simmons and Embiid, not to mention Markelle Fultz, who by all accounts is primed for a bounce back sophomore season. If Redick and Robert Covington continue to knock down shots and the team gets something out of rookie Zhaire Smith, treading water this offseason could ultimately be enough.