Last season, the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division was the worst of all six. The winner of the division posted only the 4th best record in the Eastern Conference. The last place team in the division boasted the 2nd worst record in the entire NBA. And 4 out of the 5 teams in the division finished below .500, the only division in the league to accomplish that. Subsequently, the Atlantic Division was a big joke this past season. Nobody other than the division leader was a true contender for a playoff spot, and everybody but New Jersey gave up 100 points/game on defense. There was little change in the make-up of most of these teams, and thus this division’s level of play is not going to have much of an effect on the rest of the conference. Nonetheless, here are my predictions for this NBA Season’s standings in this pedestrian division:
New Jersey Nets – The Nets just need to keep doing what they did last season in order to take home the Atlantic Division crown once again. With the assumed natural improvement of Nenad Krstic and the continual development of Richard Jefferson, the Nets will be at least 1 win better than last season, and that will give them the 50 games they need to wrap up this division. Naturally, this will land them in the playoffs at no better than the 3rd seeded team. The addition of rookie selection, PG Marcus Williams, was probably the biggest pick-up in the off-season for this team, and it shows that Rod Thorne does not believe that there is much else he can do to help this team win an NBA championship.
New York Knickerbockers – The Knicks have all the talent in the world to be a legitimate playoff contender. And while I not only question the heart of last year’s team, but I full-heartedly believe they had none of the veterans had any heart last season. However, when a team is talented enough to win and fails to produce, coaching is just as much an issue as any other factor; consequently, Larry Brown was at fault for many of the Knicks’ transgressions. I truly believe that Isiah Thomas’s appearance on the sidelines is going to institute a sense of urgency in this team. With his dedication to running a Phoenix style offense, it should match the high level of guard play that is representative of the Knicks’ roster. Look for the Knicks to accumulate about 42-47 wins with Steve Francis and Stephon Marbury playing for their NBA lives.
Boston Celtics – Finishing off another active offseason for Danny Ainge, the Celtics seem to not know what they are doing. Other than resigning Paul Pierce to a contract extension, none of the Celtics’ moves make sense. Extending Kendrick Perkins’ contract, keeping Theo Ratliff, and acquiring Rajon Rondo after just having traded for Sebastian Telfair makes no sense. Because after all that, they still have the same overall talent and no proven point guard. They will probably win 15 games off Paul Pierce alone, so I predict them to be 30-52.
Toronto Raptors – Believe it or not, they’ve got something going on up in . Bryan Colangelo is a master basketball architect, and he has been doing some good construction over the off-season. Adding Anthony Park, Rasho Nesterovic and Jorge Garbajosa are going to make the raptors one heck of a running team in the years to come. I am not sold on unproven European players, but the Raptors were kind of forced to draft him, and he is worth half the hype, they will not regret the pick. The addition of T.J. Ford will make the Raptors a very fast pace moving team. Chris Bosh will be a force in this division for years to come, and if all of these pieces fall into place, this team will be in the playoffs in the future. But a lack of a defensive presence means they won’t be headed to the promised land this year. My prediction: 27-55.
Philadelphia 76ers – Nothing was done in the off-season to make this team better. They flirted with trading AllenIverson but never did pull the trigger. Thus it is clear to me that the 76ers have committed to nothing this season. So I will not commit to them. They will go 25-57.