Upcoming 2011-12 NBA Preview: Atlantic Division

EASTERN CONFERENCE – ATLANTIC 

NEW YORK KNICKS

 

Last Season: 42-40, 2nd in Division, 6th overall in East, Lost to Boston in 1st Round

Key Losses: Chauncey Billups, Derrick Brown, Anthony Carter, Roger Mason JR, Shawne Williams, Sheldon Williams, Andy Rautins, Ronny Turiaf

Key Additions: Tyson Chandler, Mike Bibby, Baron Davis, Jared Jeffries (resigned), Iman Shumpert (draft), Josh Harrelson (draft), Jerome Jordan (draft)

Main Rotation: Starters – Baron Davis, Landry Fields, Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler;  Key Reserves – Tony Douglas, Mike Bibby, Jared Jeffries, Renaldo Balkman, Jerome Jordan

With the addition of Chandler to the mix, the Knicks now have the best frontcourt in the NBA without a doubt.  Without Chandler, this team is pathetic on defense.  Carmelo and Amare are nowhere near defensive stoppers so it was important for the Knicks to bring in a defensive presence.  Although, the Knick’s backcourt, especially at point, is fairly weak.  If only they were able to keep Billups while adding Chandler, the Knicks would have the best starting five in the league.

The point position will be by committee between the veterans Baron Davis and Mike Bibby as well as the young inexpereinced Tony Douglas. If Davis and Bibby can be rejuvanated to even just half of what they did in their prime or Douglas can have a breakout year, watch out NBA.  Don’t get me wrong though.  Even if these three guys have subpar years, the Knicks will still be one of the best teams in the league.  Defensively, I love what Chandler brings and lookout for Landry Fields to make an impact on the perimeter defensively.

The two main questions with this team are “Is head coach Mike D’Antoni’s style the right fit in New York?” and “Will Chandler’s defensive intensity rub off on Carmelo and Amare?”

Prediction:  46-20, Division Champions, 3rd Overall in East, Championship Contenders

BOSTON CELTICS

Last Season: 56-26, Division Champions, 3rd Overall in East, Lost to Miami in East Semifinals

Key Losses Glen Davis, Nenad Kristic, Troy Murphy, Delonte West, Von Wafer and Jeff Green (Resigned, but out for season),

Key Additions Sasha Pavlovic (resigned), Brandon Bass, Keyon Dooling, Marquis Daniels, Chris Wilcox, JaJuan Johnson (draft), E’twaun Moore (draft)

Main Rotation: Starters – Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal; Key Reserves – Brandon Bass, Chris Wilcox, Keyon Dooling, Sasha Pavlovic, Marquis Daniels

Yes, the Celtics still have their Big Four – Rondo, Allen, Pierce, and KG – but three of the four have an average of 15 years experience.  The biggest concern of this team is the loss of Jeff Green for the whole season though since he will undergo a heart procedure.  The bench is already thin when it comes to an offensive punch.  Green was to be counted as the team’s sixth man.

The trade of Glen Davis to the Magic for Brandon Bass adds size and toughness which the Celtic’s lack but Big Baby’s offensive threat will surely be missed.  Bass is not a guy you can go to in the post like Big Baby.  With that being said though,  as long as KG is still the anchor of this defense, the Celtics will still be making another run at a title.  They will still be the best defensively in the NBA but their bench will be exposed.

With a shortened season compressed into 4 months, head coach Doc Rivers will have to monitor Allen, Pierce, and KG’s minutes especially on the back-to-back-to-back nights. Fortunately, it is a shortened season for these older guys.  The Celtics regular season record should be solid and if Allen, Pierce, and KG are healthy and not overplayed; expect a very strong title push in the playoffs.  However, Boston fans, enjoy it this year.  This is your last run at a championship.  This team will look a lot different next year.

Prediction: 44-22, 2nd in Divison, 4th overall in East, Championship Contenders

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Last Season: 41-41, 3rd in Division, 7th Overall in East, Lost to Miami in 1st Round

Key Losses: Jason Kapono

Key Additions Thaddeus Young (resigned), Spencer Hawes (resigned), Tony Battie (resigned), Nikola Vucevic (draft), Lavoy Allen (draft)

Main Rotation: Starters –  Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Elton Brand, Spencer Hawes; Key Reserves – Lou Williams, Evan Turner, Jodie Meeks, Andres Nocioni, Marreese Speights

After surprisingly making the playoffs last year, this team looked like it was on the right track.  They have a solid starting five led by Iguodala but they didn’t do anything really in the offseason to improve – which honestly could be the right move when you think about who was available.  The Sixers are basically bringing back the same nucleus to continue to grow together.  Their starting five is pretty solid and with another year under his belt, Holiday will be that much better.

If the Sixers plan to battle for a playoff spot though, Holiday must become a better floor general and Hawes must provide Brand more help of front.  Hawes will be key and needs to put up double-double numbers and be a significant factor in the middle.

The key storyline of this team will be Evan Turner and Andre Iguodala.  Look for Turner to breakout this year and show signs of why he was a #2 pick.  Due to the log jam in the backcourt, Turner’s minutes may still be limited but expect questions about who the Sixers starting two guard should be.  Turner should make Iguodala tradeable in order to improve their frontcourt.

Prediction: 34-32, 3rd in Division, 8th overall in East, Playoff Contender

TORONTO RAPTORS

Last Season: 22-60, Last in Division, 14th Overall in East, Missed playoffs

Key Losses: Sonny Weems, Jay Triano (Head Coach)

Key Additions: Jonas Valanciunas (draft – Will continue to play overseas),  Gary Forbes, Aaron Gray, Rasual Butler, Anthony Carter, Jamaal Magloire, Dwane Casey (Head Coach)

Main Rotation: Starters – Jose Calderon, Leandro Barbosa, DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani; Key Reserves –  Jerryd Bayless, Ed Davis, Linus Kleiza, Solomon Alabi

It would’ve been nice to have Jonas Valanciunas next to Bargnani but it was known when Jonas was drafted that it would be next year when Toronto will be able to see that combo up front.  Other than this, Toronto did not make any major moves other than obtaining some veterans who basically are all insurance policies.

This team needs to get tougher up front.  Bargnani is too soft and Amir Johnson did not evolve into the great shot blocker that was once thought of.  It’ll be difficult to pull of a trade with a team at this point so they will have to toughen up within.  The health of Calderon will be key as well. He hasn’t played more than 70 games in a few years and he needs to show why he’s making $9.7 million/yr.  If DeRozan can hit his jump shot consistently and Ed Davis continues to grow, this team can be solid at each position but will not win many games.

Toronto will realize that Ed Davis will become untradeable.  This guy is a double-double every game waiting to happen.  Expect Davis to build his name at the power forward spot by rebounding and blocking shots.  Amir Johnson’s starting spot will be in jeopardy very soon into the season.

Prediction: 20-46, 4th in Division, 12th overall in East, Draft Lottery-bound

NEW JERSEY NETS

Last Season: 24-58, 4th in Division, 12th Overall in East , Missed playoffs

Key Losses: Brandon Wright, Sasha Vujacic, Travis Outlaw

Key Additions: Shawne Williams, Sheldon Williams, Marshon Brooks (draft), Jordan Williams (draft)

Main Rotation: Starters – Deron Williams, Anthony Morrow, Stephen Graham, Sheldon Williams, Brook Lopez;  Key Reserves – Jordan Farmar, Marshon Brooks, Shawne Williams, Johan Petro

With one of the worst records in the league last year, it’s a shame they couldn’t add another potential talent in the draft to play alongside of their star point guard Deron Williams. Instead they were stuck with only low draft picks this past summer.  They did add three different “Williams” to the squad though so they do lead the league in most players with same last name.

At this point, this team is pathetic.  Other than Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, every other guy on this team would be the 9th to 12th guy on a team with even subpar talent.  This team needs help in every way possible just to get out of the bottom five into the next worse five.

The Deron Williams saga will continue throughout the season.  Will he be traded?  Unless the Nets are able to pull of a Dwight Howard trade, look for Deron Williams to sulk and demand to get shipped out.  It’s sad to see one of the best point guards in the league get lost in Jersey.

Prediction: 9-57, Last in Divison, Last in East, Draft Lottery-bound

Stay tuned for: Eastern Conference – Central Divison

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