ATLANTIC DIVISION PREVIEW
The NBA Season tips off December 22nd. In this preview, we will take a brief look at the Atlantic Division. One notable change to this season is that it will have a total of 72 games, which is 10 less than the usual slate. The NBA is back after a very short offseason, and this is how we see the Atlantic shaping up.
The Boston Celtics should be solidifying itself as one of the elite teams in the East now. While the Miami Heat were the East’s representatives in the bubble Finals, the Celtics count itself on the heels of the Heat, at a minimum. Reports are Jayson Tatum has grown two inches, to a full 6-foot-10 now. Tatum and Kemba Walker form a great 1-2 scoring punch and Jaylen Brown is a dangerous third option.
Marcus Smart adds defense and intangibles, while the Celtics have a host of young talent ranging from Robert Williams III’s defense to the athleticism of second-year swingman Grant Williams. Boston could really put the pressure on late in the season if it makes the most of its depth. Jeff Teague should find a nice home in providing veteran leadership and steady play behind Kemba Walker.
Projected Record: 44-28
The Brooklyn Nets look to be a very different team with the addition of one Kevin Durant. Teaming Durant with a healthy Kyrie Irving gives Brooklyn an elite pairing that should be able to keep up with any Eastern Conference team. Chris LeVert will provide the third punch, and Jarrett Allen is developing nicely in the paint.
The Nets may encounter some frontcourt depth issues, but having DeAndre Jordan as a backup center is a pretty nice luxury if he remains healthy. Rodions Kurucs is an interesting stretch big who has looked good in his limited run prior to this year. The Nets seem at least on paper to be in the class with Boston, Miami, and Toronto.
Projected Record: 42-30
New York Knicks
The New York Knicks are not short on talent, but it has perhaps some of the worst fits in the league and its defense remains questionable, even with a defensive ace in Nerlens Noel starting at center, with another major shot blocker who will challenge him for playing time, in Mitchell Robinson. It seems likely even that Robinson claims the starting spot.
It remains to be seen if Kevin Knox can pan out in the NBA, and RJ Barrett had his struggles with inefficiency as a rookie. Elfrid Payton can be explosively good or just very bad, as consistency has never been his calling card. Frank Ntilikina looms behind him still as a major question mark, instead of a prospect.
New York should probably be pretty horrible, barring some chemistry miracle that just does not even seem likely on paper.
Projected Record: 21-51
The Philadelphia 76ers Process seems to have stalled out. An overpaid Tobias Harris is effective at the 4, but the Sixers have higher hopes for its second-year small forward Matisse Thybulle. Ben Simmons still seems like he has untapped potential, but his overall approach as a point guard has been at least somewhat disappointing. Joel Embiid needs both to stay healthy, and to stay out of foul trouble, but at least if he does not Dwight Howard is a more than capable backup coming off a great NBA Finals appearance.
Shake Milton is a name that might not be known to a lot, but he has shown immense potential and will get minutes behind Simmons. Overall, this team is not replete with talent despite having two major cogs from its “Process” in Simmons and Embiid. The two have never fit together that well.
Projected Record: 30-42
The Toronto Raptors are still a contender, at least for now. Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet are hardly an athletic tandem in the backcourt, but both are very good, and VanVleet has a clutch gene. The forward positions are manned with the length and athleticism of OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam. Siakam seems to be going “next-level” again and basically has assumed the role Kawhi Leonard had before he departed.
Aron Baynes is an underrated big man, and Norman Powell is a capable sixth man with good value. Terence Davis II is an explosive two-guard with high potential behind VanVleet. The Raptors have a strong backup at every position in the rotation, but this team will go as far as Siakam does, with his improvements.
Projected Record: 42-30