Catching Up on the 2017-18 NBA Offseason: The Atlantic Division

Between the Celtics, Nets, Knicks, Sixers, and Raptors, who got better this offseason and who got worse?

This offseason will go down as one of the most eventful in NBA history.

Six members of last season's All-Star teams (and one guy who would've been an All-Star had he not been injured) have moved to a new franchise this summer.

Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are Celtics. Isaiah Thomas is a Cavalier. Jimmy Butler is a Timberwolf. Chris Paul is a Rocket. Paul Millsap is a Nugget. And Paul George is a...Thunder? A Clap of Thunder? Seriously, can we stop using uncountable nouns as team names, please?

I digress.

Anyway, the NBA done changed this summer. Good teams got great, bad teams got good, and the Knicks...well, they did some stuff too.

In the end, it's still possible that no one touches the Golden State Warriors, but it's been a lot of fun to see everyone try.

This is the first in a series of seven articles in which we'll analyze the player movement within each of the six NBA divisions, then we'll finish it all off with an all-encompassing summary at the end. The goal is for this series to serve as a helpful guide for catching up on the numerous changes that went on in the Association this summer, while comparing how each team's moves stack up against those made by their most direct competition.

For said comparison, we'll be using our proprietary metric, nERD.

If you're not familiar with nERD, it combines several offensive, defensive, and usage factors to produce one number that is meant to project a player's overall value to his team. That final number is an estimate of how many games above or below .500 a league-average team would win over an 82-game season with the player in question as one of its starters. It's comparable to win shares, but is meant to be predictive (projecting an 82-game season) as opposed to descriptive (how many wins the player has contributed to his team in the past).

For our purposes, we'll use last season's nERD scores for every player on the move, focusing on total nERD in and nERD out for each of the NBA's 30 team (leaving out rookies, overseas imports, and G League players with two-way contracts, since we have no idea how much they'll contribute).

Now, let's take a look at which teams got better in the Atlantic Division this offseason, and which may have taken a step back.

Boston Celtics

Player In How? nERD Player Out How? nERD
Gordon Hayward FA 12.0 Isaiah Thomas Trade 16.3
Kyrie Irving Trade 8.2 Jae Crowder Trade 4.3
Aron Baynes FA 1.1 Amir Johnson FA 3.2
Marcus Morris Trade -3.0 Kelly Olynyk FA 1.9
Shane Larkin FA -4.7 Demetrius Jackson Waived 0.2
Tyler Zeller Waived -0.2
Jordan Mickey Waived -0.4
Jonas Jerebko FA -1.1
Avery Bradley Trade -1.4

nERD in:
nERD out: 22.8
Net nERD: -9.2

The Boston Celtics certainly had the splashiest offseason of any team in the Association, landing arguably the biggest available free agent in Gordon Hayward and pulling off one of the biggest and most blockbuster-y trades in acquiring Kyrie Irving. While that might put them right alongside the Cleveland Cavaliers in some minds, we're not so sure.

Our efficiency metric likes outgoing point guard Isaiah Thomas (16.3 nERD) a fair bit more than Irving (8.2 nERD) as it is, but the total nERD lost in all the players leaving Boston might prove to be the biggest hindrance to the team's improvement. Even with 13.6 total nERD coming in, that net difference of -9.2 suggests that the Celtics will likely feel the loss of efficient players like Thomas, Amir Johnson, and Kelly Olynyk, and defensive stalwarts like Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley more than expected.

Brooklyn Nets

Player In How? nERD Player Out How? nERD
DeMarre Carroll Trade -0.1 Brook Lopez Trade 0.8
Allen Crabbe Trade -0.6 Archie Goodwin Waived 0.7
Timofey Mozgov Trade -2.6 Justin Hamilton Trade -0.8
D'Angelo Russell Trade -5.4 K.J. McDaniels FA -1.1
Andrew Nicholson Trade -1.9

nERD in:
nERD out: -2.3
Net nERD: -6.4

The Brooklyn Nets may have added D'Angelo Russell -- the second overall pick in 2015 -- this summer, but this still doesn't feel like a team on the rise. They absorbed three fairly inefficient players on horrible contracts in DeMarre Carroll (-0.1 nERD), Allen Crabbe (-0.6 nERD), and Timofey Mozgov (-2.6 nERD), and even Russell had a deplorable nERD of -5.4 last season, ranking him 469th of 486 players in our database for the year.

With more efficient players like Brook Lopez (0.8 nERD) heading out, and less efficient ones coming in, the Nets are set up for yet another sub-par season and they still don't own their first-round pick next year, which just went to Cleveland in the Kyrie Irving deal.

New York Knicks

Player In How? nERD Player Out How? nERD
Tim Hardaway Jr. FA 1.1 Marshall Plumlee Waived -0.4
Michael Beasley FA -0.2 Maurice Ndour Waived -0.6
Ramon Sessions FA -1.7 Justin Holiday FA -1.8
Derrick Rose FA -2.9
Sasha Vujacic FA -2.9

nERD in:
nERD out: -8.6
Net nERD: 7.8

The moves the New York Knicks made this offseason were very underwhelming (Tim Hardaway Jr. for four years and $71 million, anyone?), but they may have actually gotten slightly better by way of addition by subtraction. Derrick Rose (-2.9 nERD) and Sasha Vujacic (-2.9 nERD) were very inefficient guards last season, and perhaps Hardaway Jr. (1.1 nERD) and rookie Frank Ntilikina filling those minutes will end up being a good thing for the team.

Either way, losing five players that each had a negative nERD last year and bringing in a few guys near league-average in terms of efficiency gives them an impressive 7.8 net nERD, and that qualifies as a decent summer by Knicks standards. It'll be hard to fully judge the team's offseason until the seemingly inevitable Carmelo Anthony deal does or does not happen, but for now, we'll grade them a solid "meh, okay, sure."

Philadelphia 76ers

Player In How? nERD Player Out How? nERD
Amir Johnson FA 3.2 Shawn Long Trade 1.0
J.J. Redick FA 1.2 Alex Poythress FA 0.0
James Michael McAdoo FA 0.3 Gerald Henderson Waived -3.0
Sergio Rodriguez FA -5.2

nERD in:
nERD out: -7.2
Net nERD: 11.9

All three players that the Philadelphia 76ers added through free agency -- Amir Johnson (3.2 nERD), J.J. Redick (1.2 nERD), and James Michael McAdoo (0.3 nERD) -- fall on the positive side of the ledger according to our efficiency metric, while they managed to shed major efficiency craters like Gerald Henderson (-3.0 nERD) and Sergio Rodriguez (-5.2 nERD).

Their net nERD of 11.9 stands as the best in the Atlantic Division, and that's without even mentioning that they have a budding star in Joel Embiid and the last two first overall picks about to start their rookie seasons in Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz. If the young guys can stay healthy, the Sixers might finally have just the right blend of youth and veteran presence to crawl back into the playoffs (and relevance).

Toronto Raptors

Player In How? nERD Player Out How? nERD
C.J. Miles FA 1.3 Patrick Patterson FA 0.1
Kyle Wiltjer FA -0.3 DeMarre Carroll Trade -0.1
K.J. McDaniels FA -1.1 Cory Joseph Trade -1.7
P.J. Tucker FA -2.3

nERD in:
nERD out: -4.0
Net nERD: 3.9

The Toronto Raptors didn't make as many headlines as the Celtics summer (other than re-signing Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka), but they are still poised to sit near the top of the Eastern Conference right alongside them. They may have lost four fairly substantial rotation pieces in Patrick Patterson, DeMarre Carroll, Cory Joseph, and P.J. Tucker, but their solid depth at every position makes for some pretty interesting "next man up" situations (especially when you consider the fact that all four of the aforementioned players were on the bottom half of Toronto's roster in terms of our efficiency metric, nERD).

Youngsters like Norman Powell, Delon Wright, and Jakob Poeltl (all positive nERD players in limited roles last season) were chomping at the bit for more of an opportunity, and it looks like the franchise is ready to see what they're made of. Throw in a helpful and efficient offseason acquisition like C.J. Miles (1.3 nERD) and the upside of rookie OG Anunoby, and the Raptors might even be taking a step forward with all the turnover (as suggested by their 3.9 net nERD).


TeamnERD InnERD OutNet nERD
Boston Celtics13.622.8-9.2
Brooklyn Nets-8.7-2.3-6.4
New York Knicks-0.8-8.67.8
Philadelphia 76ers4.7-7.211.9
Toronto Raptors-0.1-4.03.9

If you had to pick an offseason winner in the Atlantic Division, it would be easy to just go with the team that gained All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, but the massive turnover on the Celtics might keep them in exactly the same place as they were last season (or even set them a step back as they adjust to all the new personnel). The Raptors should stay more or less the same, while neither the Knicks nor the Nets made any moves to catapult them out of their respective pits of mediocrity.

For our money, the team that improved the most in the division this summer is the 76ers, who registered a solid 11.9 net nERD for their offseason moves and have more promising prospects than just about any team in the Association. Process trusted.