2018 Offseason Playlist: Atlantic Division
When I’m not working, sleeping, or eating, chances are I am watching basketball or listening to music. Often, I am indulged in sports or music while working and eating. If I don’t have my AUX cord in the car, my commute is ruined. If I don’t have headphones to play hip-hop for my workout, I will not be able to pump myself up. Without a speaker playing country or reggae music at the beach, I might as well just be sitting in a sandbox. The beautiful thing about music is that it can set the tone for anything in life.
This notion is what initially inspired the Offseason Playlist over two years ago. Music describes situations better than any words can – it can be extremely relatable and carry so much nostalgia. I personally find myself quoting songs all the time to explain what is happening or how I am feeling, partially because it is fun but also because it’s effective. So naturally, that’s what this Offseason Playlist is.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Offseason Playlist, it is a set of six articles that summarize the offseason or current state of all 30 NBA teams. It’s not your normal summary, though. One song and one quote from that song are used to summarize each teams’ summer, and then I explain the reason behind each. Once again, the series will be divided into six segments with each covering a different division in the league. With that in mind, let’s get started with the first five teams.
Be sure to follow along with the actual Spotify playlist – here are the first five songs:
Other than one blockbuster trade, the past few months haven’t been too eventful in the Atlantic Division. That being said, even for teams that remained quiet, there are always plenty of roster tweaks to talk about (or sing about, in our case).
Toronto Raptors: Nice For What (Drake)
“You really pipin’ up on these n****s
You gotta be nice for what to these n****s?”
It’s become a ritual to kick off the Offseason Playlist with Drake unintentionally summarizing his hometown team’s offseason moves in one of his songs. The Raptors have virtually been the same team for the better half of a decade. Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, and Jonas Valanciunas have been rostered by Toronto since 2012, in which they have found consistent regular season success. After failing to ever make the Finals, and getting swept by the Cavaliers in consecutive Conference semi-finals, GM Masai Ujiri was done waiting on his core to make some postseason noise.
Ujiri must’ve thought, “I have to be nice for what to these players?” At the end of the day, what have they given him other than a long list of underperforming showings under the spotlight? DeRozan is the most storied player in Raptors history who wanted to stay with the franchise long-term, but Ujiri was done with being nice with players’ feelings. He had to make a change – any change – and trading DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard is as good as you can get. The Raptors front office were done with being nice this offseason after coming up short in the East year after year.
Boston Celtics: Alright (Logic)
“Hold up, let me get my mind right
You know everything is alright”
In: Robert Williams, P.J. Dozier
Out: Greg Monroe, Shane Larkin
Calling those above moves “notable” is quite debatable. Honestly, the Celtics sat tight this offseason, and for good reason. Without two of their All-Stars, they came eight points shy from a trip to the NBA Finals. Now, with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward coming back and all other pieces still intact, everything is good in Boston.
Despite hampered expectations with a banged up roster, it was still disappointing for the Celtics to fall to Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals – Jaylen Brown was one of the players who spoke out about this letdown. So, this summer was about getting their mind right – from both a healing perspective and a mental recovery perspective – to make another run. Between all of this, plus the King’s departure from the East, everything is alright in Boston.
New York Knicks: 8TEEN (Khalid)
“Because I’m eighteen…
let’s do all the stupid s*** that young kids do”
New York addressed two major points this summer: Continue gearing towards a rebuild that is centered around youth, and land another potential star to pair with Kristaps Porzingis (once he returns). They accomplished this by ditching veterans Michael Beasley, Jarrett Jack, and Kyle O’Quinn and replacing them with four young players. One of these new youngsters,19-year-old rookie Kevin Knox, is a tantalizing prospect who has fans buzzing due to his athletic ability and flashes of promise in summer league.
One of my favorite artists, Khalid, has a great tune to describe these moves. His track titled 8TEEN is about embracing youth and the stupid decision making that often comes with it – which is exactly what the Knicks did this summer.
As Porzingis recovers from an ACL injury back in February, New York will be leaning heavily on Knox right out of the gate – a big ask for a teen. Naturally, Knox and the rest of the very young newcomers will end up doing some “stupid shit that young kids do” on the court – that’s just the learning curve of the NBA. You know what, though? That’s perfectly fine. Just like Khalid is embracing those stupid things that kids do, so are the Knick’s new front office. They understand that they needed to attack their rebuild heads on. Ditching their veterans and bringing in fresh talent, including their hyped-up teenager, is a great way to do that and is best for them in the long-term. In the meantime, though, there may be some ugly mistakes from these kids, including from Knox, who was still just 18 years old himself less than a month ago.
Philadelphia 76ers: Little Bit Older (Randy Houser)
“Another day’s over raise ’em up higher
Tomorrow’s already lookin’ brighter”
First, let’s just take a moment to appreciate what might be one of the best country lyrics of all time: “A little bit older, a little Budweiser.” Truly poetic stuff. And you know what, it’s fairly symbolic of this year’s developing Sixers squad…well, maybe with the exception of 20-year-old Markelle Fultz…any the whole Budweiser part.
The Sixers have had a top-three draft pick in four straight years, meaning they’ve been constantly adding youth to their squad. Last season finally brought a notable change in the win column for Philly after Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid led a solid roster of players. Now, for the first time in quite a while, the Sixers will not rely on the draft or rookies for improvement, but rather on the development of their current core.
Philadelphia is at the stage where they’ve accumulated their talent, and now just have to wait for players to continue developing. Simmons, an already capable player who topped Donovan Mitchell for Rookie of the Year honors, is just scratching the surface of his potential. Embiid is already dominant, yet has room to further grow his game. This offseason, as it often is for young teams, was all about development and growth. Tomorrow is already looking brighter for Philly after another day of progress for the young guys. Plus, Brett Brown is adding 31-year-old Wilson Chandler and bringing back 34-year-old JJ Redick. This team will surely be a little bit older and a little bit wiser after this offseason.
Brooklyn Nets: Circle of Life (Carmen Twillie)
“It’s the circle of life, and it moves us all
Through despair and hope, through faith and love”
The circle of life is nature’s way of taking and giving back life to earth. If something dies, it gives new life to another. In a way, that’s exactly what the Brooklyn Nets have been doing for the last five years.
In 2013, the Nets traded away their future in an attempt to win a title with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and their current core. As we know, their superstar roster quickly crumbled, leaving them in a pit of despair for years – a pit of despair that brought new life to the Boston Celtics. The Nets’ dreadful seasons led to the Celtics adding Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, and helped towards hauling in Kyrie Irving. The dead Brooklyn roster continuously brought life elsewhere in the league, just like the circle of life.
The summer of ’18 finally marks the end of this despair. The last piece of the Nets-Celtics trade has been put into play, meaning the Nets finally have new life moving forward. The Nets have followed a similar theme to the Lion King, where everyone must find their place in the Circle of Life, no matter how much they suffer on the path. The good news is that the suffering can slowly start reducing from here for the Nets.
That’s it for Week 1 – stay tuned for the next edition and be sure to follow along with the playlist on Spotify!
On Deck: Central Division
Follow Erik on Twitter: @erikjohnson32
Cropped photo of DeRozan, Hezonja, and Leonard via Flickr/BigThreeSports artwork