And finally we get to the most-important division in the league, the Atlantic. The champs loom large, but two other teams made big moves and one cellar-dweller made a necessary move. I expect this division to send three teams to the playoffs, all with high seeds.
1. Boston Celtics (60-22)
I'd love to tell you Boston will rest on its laurels, coast through the season and get knocked out early in the playoffs. Actually, that is what I'm telling you. The only problem is that coasting through the season will still end with 60 wins.
Their D is too strong, KG is too intense, etc. etc. Losing Posey will hurt them, especially if Ray Allen is guarding anyone who can score late in games, but they still have too much for just about everyone. The only thing that can really derail them is a major injury to Garnett or Pierce. I suspect each of the old three will see his minutes toned down a bit as the season wears on.Team blog worth checking out: Celtics Blog
2. Philadelphia 76ers (56-26)
Adding Elton Brand immediately made the Sixers a contender in the East. The development of the young guys will either vault them to the top of the conference, or keep them somewhere around the 5 or 6 seed. I'm betting on the development going well.
We've talked ad nauseum about the upcoming Sixers season, so I'm going to use this space to make a couple of predictions.
First, Andre Iguodala will be this team's MVP. He's taken more heat from fans of the team than any 24-year old with his track record ever should. I think bringing in Brand as the legit number one option will free Iguodala up to play his natural game. His assists will be up, and he will make everyone around him better. He'll get better shots, meaning his shooting percentage will go up (especially from three). I'm expecting an all around stellar season from him.
Thad Young will emerge as a legit offensive threat. I saw enough from this kid last season to know he has that innate ability to put the biscuit in the basket. I think he takes the next two steps this year. Teams won't be focusing on him at all, and he's going to light it up. 15 points/game is not a stretch, and I expect we'll see a handful of 30 point games out him as well.
Finally, one of the minor signings is going to have a big impact. Right now, the easy money would be on Kareem Rush and his 3pt shooting, but I'm leaning toward Theo. Mo has an option off the bench who can come in when Sammy's having an off night, or gets into early foul trouble, and keep pace as a shot blocker and defender. I think as the season wears on, he'll be seeing more minutes than Reggie Evans, just a shot in the dark.Team blog worth checking out:
Jordan's new home, Liberty Ballers
3. Toronto Raptors (50-32)
This pick isn't so much about the Jermaine O'Neal trade, although I do think he'll make the Raps much better for the 40-50 games he plays, it's about Jose Calderon. I can't say enough about this guy.
The O'Neal trade was huge because it moved TJ Ford out of the lineup and gave the point over to Calderon, full time. He's one of the most efficient points in the league, and he takes care of the ball better than anyone.
Bosh should thrive playing alongside O'Neal and if Jermaine can defy all odds and remain healthy for 70 games the Raptors and the Sixers should be fighting for the #2 spot in the division.Team blog worth checking out: Raptors Talk
4. New Jersey Nets (33-49)
Things I like about the Nets: Devin Harris.
Things I kind of like about the Nets: Lawrence Frank, Sean Williams
Things I hate about the Nets: Vince Carter
This team is going nowhere fast, and if they don't get their stadium in Brooklyn, which isn't looking good, they can kiss any shot at LeBron in the future good bye. It's a dire time to be a Nets fan, but they did make out like bandits in the Jason Kidd deal, so they've got that going for them.
Expect a huge year out of Harris, zero effort from Vince Carter, until he gets dealt mid-season and decides to play for a month or two for a contending team, probably out west. Frank keeps them somewhat competitive, somehow.Team blog worth checking out: Nets Daily
5. New York Knicks (30-52)
The good news: Mike D'Antoni is an innovative coach who will bring an exciting brand of basketball to this pitiful franchise.
The bad news: He's trying to fit a square peg into a round hole by using Isiah's roster to run this offense.
D'Antoni is going to get a first-hand look at just how bad of a GM Isiah was. Eddy Curry is going to fake an injury very quickly, and/or force a trade. He's even more out of shape than he was last year and he can't run with this team for more than a couple of possessions.
David Lee seems to have taken to D'Antoni's offense, which is great for him, he'll be a restricted free agent after the season.
I expect the Knicks to have the worst defense in the league by every single measure, and it won't be completely because of D'Antoni's philosophy either. I wonder when we're going to see Danillo. Team blog worth checking out: The Knicks Blog