Atlantic Division Preview

The addition of Garnett, Pierce and Terry to the Nets make them a strong contender for an Atlantic Division title.

Boston Celtics

The Celtics have unofficially phoned it in before the season has even started.  Gone are the big three and their coach Doc Rivers who was traded to the Clippers after last season ended.  New coach Brad Stevens was a shocking hire despite having significant success at Butler University.  Rajon Rando is the only reason to watch this Celtics team which is all but guaranteed a high draft pick, especially when you consider the fact that he is recovering from a knee injury and won’t be available to start the season. (Glenn Coyle)

The Celtics hope Brad Stevens transition to the NBA is better than most college coaches.

Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets enter this season with the most excitement that this organization has seen in years. From making former player, Jason Kidd, their new head coach or the trade which acquired Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry, Brooklyn has done a great job of making some noise in the offseason and more importantly, bring some juice back to this team after it had disappeared over the last couple seasons when they were in Newark. They had a first round playoff exit last year in a great series to the Chicago Bulls. Many had thought the Nets underachieved and should’ve at least won that series to face the Miami Heat. The Bulls had a couple significant injuries yet that did not deter them as they wound up winning the deciding game seven in Brooklyn. Although Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have aged and are on the downswing in their careers, their leadership and experience may be the things the Nets need to help win them an NBA title. Leadership is something that I question with the Nets team that I think Garnett and Pierce can change. Deron Williams practically ran one of basketball’s great coaches in Jerry Sloan out of town in Salt Lake City. Joe Johnson’s more of a role player than leader and Brook Lopez seems too mild-mannered and low key to have a leader type of mentality. Personally, I think one of the most overrated players in the game is Joe Johnson. He gets paid over 90 million dollars and he did nothing in game seven last year. The Nets also acquired Andrei Kirilenko for a pretty cheap price at 3.2 million and a player option at 3.3 for next season. Kirilenko was very productive with the Minnesota Timberwolves last year and he made 10 million last season. He is a good defender who can play multiple positions. The Nets have a lot of size now with Lopez, Mason Plumlee, Kirilenko, Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche. Lopez and Blatche are the guys that can score down low, Garnett provides toughness and defense and Evans is underrated to me and a pretty good rebounder. Their weakness is that with the age, they won’t be able to run with teams such as the Golden State Warriors. They aren’t the most athletic players either. The bottom line is that this team has the chance to compete for the NBA Championship. But still 82 games is a very long season and you have to keep the older legs fresh. They have a very good chance to make the Eastern Conference finals, but still have a hard time seeing them get past a team like the Heat or the Bulls. They should win 55 games or so and get further than last year, but I just don’t see this team as NBA Championship caliber. (Dan Sohler)

The Nets have an all star lineup, but have a very new head coach.

New York Knicks

The New York Knicks degree of relevance over the past 15 years is overall something like what you would expect from the Milwaukee Bucks. Terrible for long periods but with a few bright spots. The big difference being while Herb Kohl’s Bucks showed fiscal discipline during that period the Knicks have developed a tradition of putting money into a giant hole and effectively lighting it on fire. This year’s team bears some similarities to what we’ve seen in the past from the Knicks. They’re relevant, they’re in playoff contention, but there’s a ton of cash just waiting to ignite. Raymond Felton is an 8 year pro at this point and while he’s now bounced around the league his second tour in New York is entirely predictable. Felton falls into a spot similar to a lot of journeymen starter PGs. He’s an alright distributor but no one is going to mistake him for Steve Nash in his prime. He’s an alright shooter at times but has massively frustrating cold stretches. His TO/Assist ratio is nothing special but nothing horrible. The Knicks could potentially do better but they certainly could do worse. Felton will contribute as much as he can and that’s alright. The 2 guard is another story. Surprisingly the Knicks don’t have a traditional 2 guard, an optimal spot for spending too much money. To start the season Iman Shumpert is most likely to play the 2 guard and while he’s young there’s a sincere doubt whether he’s the type of swingman who can be successful long term. Shumpert obviously isn’t going to challenge Carmelo Anthony for touches, but he can shoot well enough so that he should be averaging 15 PPG by the end of this season Early indications are that he’ll be better than in the past but still the lack of touches is going to prevent him from showing what ability he may have. J.R. Smith is a much more adept scorer than Shumpert and will take more shots throughout the season. At 28 years old this season will determine the future for both 2 guards with the potential for either to become a key cog in the Knicks offense. Tim Hardaway Jr. isn’t ready to provide major minutes but should give some depth and grow as a player thorughout the season. Carmelo Anthony remains the alpha dog in New York by a light year and no matter anyone’s opinion Anthony is one of the most dynamic players in the NBA. As Melo goes so to will go the Knicks and as long as he’s on the floor there’s no single game the Knicks are out of. What the Knicks can be a little afraid of is that when Melo is off it can be difficult to tell for one because of how good he is and then while he’s off there’s not a lot that the rest of this team can do to provide a spark. The addition of Meta World Peace is a nice one but loads up heavily on what was already a strength. Peace will have to come in at different spots in order to have a bigger impact. Andrea Bargnani has developed into a capable big man who can shoot but under no circumstances should he be counted on for boards, blocks, or around the Net play. Smartly the Knicks plan is to utilize him more in the power forward role while Tyson Chandler roles at center. There’s no reason why Bargnani can’t be the #2 scorer for this team. Tyson Chandler is a traditional big middle presence and the Knicks will employ him as such. There won’t be a lot of surprises from Chandler as he hovers just under a 10/10. That’s enough for him to be the best option for the Knicks. At post time a broken right leg is going to keep him out for 4-6 weeks, which means a likely swap of Bargnani to the center position. When that happens the toughest replacement for the Knicks will be the rebounding that Chandler provides. So here’s the big question mark for everyone. At a salary of over $21 million the Knicks now are in a need, not want, production position with Amar’e Stoudemire. It has been excruciating watching the decline of Stoudemire over the past few years and the Knicks now will need him to at least put forward 20-25 minutes a night with some difficult rebounding. The Knicks aren’t dissimilar to what we’ve seen for decades now. Built on continually fleeting moments of acquisition and excitement without the requisite difficulty of constructing a true contender. This is an alright team but overall nothing impressive or special. A 4-6 seed seems likely and maybe one round win in the playoffs. Indiana, Chicago, Brooklyn, and Miami are markedly better teams at this point and the Knicks will struggle to keep up throughout the season with their lineup’s brittleness and age. (Michael Bedard)

It is a contract year for Carmelo so expect a big season.

Philadelphia 76ers

After trading Jrue Holiday, the Sixers decided it was time to rebuild. They hired a new General Manager Sam Hinkie who knows that in order to contend you must build through the draft. He traded Holiday for young big man Nerlens Noel and a future first round pick that he hopes will be in the talent deep 2014 draft. They also selected Michael Carter Williams with their original pick and hope that he can be the dynamic point guard for this franchise. Alongside Carter Williams they have Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young, who are two veterans who understand the culture of basketball in Philly. Brett Brown was hired as head coach and brings winning experience serving under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio. The bench of the Sixers is loaded with guys who lack talent or who just have not been given much time yet. A team that floundered around the 8th seed the past few seasons, has decided to build through the draft and hope to get their hands on one of the elite talents that will be coming out. (Scott Boutcher)

The Sixers drafted their point guard in Carter Williams and hope to add more talent through the 2014 draft.

Toronto Raptors

The 2013-2014 season looks to be a building block for a hopeful future for the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors possess a very athletic team, with potential super star Rudy Gay on the team. DeMar Derozan, Kyle Lowry, and big man Jonas Valanciunas finish out a starting lineup that could turn some heads this year. However, the biggest weakness for the Raptors is the fact that when it comes down to it, they have no go to big man and lack depth on their roster. Most of the players on the roster would be backups on a lot of NBA teams, and with that being said, it will be a battle this year for a playoff spot. The top of the Eastern Conference is in another talent class compared to the Raptors, but the Raptors could fight for the 8th spot by the end of the season. With inconsistency being a major flaw for the Raptors, we do not know what to expect this year. (Kevin Langner)

The Raptors expect big things from Rudy Gay in his first full season.

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