1. Brooklyn Nets (58-24)
Key Additions: Paul Pierce (BOS), Kevin Garnett (BOS), Jason Terry (BOS), Andre Kirilenko (MIN)
Key Losses: Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks
Mikhail Prokhorov probably set the Nets back ten years with his moves this off-season. Prokhorov made the decision to take Pierce, Garnett and Terry off the Celtics hands, and as a result, the Nets will be expected to pay an estimated $82 million in luxury taxes. But that’s the future.For now, the Nets have given themselves about a two year window. They’re either going to win an NBA championship (which I highly doubt)– or we’ll look back on this trade as one of the worst personnel moves in NBA history. You have to admire the dude’s balls though.
As far as the roster is concerned, the Nets are stacked. Deron Williams will play most of the team’s minutes at the point. Joe Johnson will start at the two, with Jason Terry coming in to supply the occasional scoring punch off the bench. Paul Pierce is close to death but he’ll be able to give the Nets some solid minutes. His back up is Andre Kirilenko, who will serve as the team’s best perimeter defender. Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez will start in the front court. The rebound master Reggie Evans will rotate in as well.
Overall, this team has depth. They have a chance to make a run in the playoffs but the biggest key will be injuries. Can Pierce, Garnett and Terry make it through an entire season without withering away into a pile of decomposing human dust? It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. For the Net’s sake, hopefully it’s not this season.
2. New York Knicks (50-32)
Key Additions: Andrea Bargnani (TOR), Metta World Peace (LAL), Beno Udrich (ORL), Tim Hardaway Jr. (Draft)
Key Losses: Jason Kidd, Steve Novak, Chris Copeland
The Knick’s biggest problem this season will lie in their front court. Their guards are solid enough– with Raymond Felton and Beno Udrih at the point. The dynamic Iman Shumpert and the knucklehead J.R. Smith will play shooting guard. Carmelo will continue to be Carmelo. He’ll put up his numbers and take his shots. The addition of Metta World Peace will give the Knicks an added defensive presence on the perimeter.
Things look a little more bleak when you begin to consider the front court. Other than the aging Tyson Chandler, the Knicks don’t have a low-post defensive presence. Andrea Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire are good scorers, but neither can play a lick of defense. They’ll match up OK against similar teams like the Heat, who also lack an inside presence. However, against good defensive teams like the Bulls and Pacers, the Knicks won’t stand a chance.
Overall, this team has Carmelo Anthony– so they’ll win a decent amount of games. But their lack of depth in the front court will prove to be their eventual undoing.
3. Boston Celtics (39-43)
Key Additions: Gerald Wallace (BRK), Kris Humphries (BRK), Kelly Olynyk (Draft)
Key Losses: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry
This will be a rebuilding year for the Boston Celtics. They were able to clear a massive amount of cap space in the aforementioned trade with the Nets, which I applaud them for. The big three is gone– but what’s left isn’t pretty.
Other than Rajon Rondo, the Celtics don’t have much in terms of talent. Avery Bradley is a solid combo guard and will most likely see a boat load of minutes at both the one and two. The biggest problem for the Celtics this year will be generating points. On the wings, the Celtics have Courtney Lee, Jordan Crawford, Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace– none of which being polished scorers. On the low post, Jarred Sullinger will be expected to take over the starting role at power forward. Kris Humphries, Brandon Bass and Kelly Olynyk will split time at center.
Overall, the Celtics have one of the best distributors in the game in Rondo. The problem is, none of his teammates can make shots. I wouldn’t worry too much if I were a Celtics fan, however. Boston is a big market and with all that cap space– it’s only a matter of time before a couple big-name free agents come calling.
4. Philadelphia 76ers (35-47)
Key Additions: Nerlens Noel (Draft), Michael Carter-Williams (Draft), Royce White (HOU)
Key Losses: Andrew Bynum, Jrue Holiday
The 76ers are another team in rebuilding mode. They gave up on the whole Andrew Bynum experiment (that never was), and picked up some big pieces in the draft. Michael Carter-Williams has had a solid preseason. He’s not scoring a whole lot– but he’s shown he can take care of the ball, only averaging around one turnover in 28 minutes per game. Nerlens Noel has to get healthy, but he should fit in nicely as a defensive stopper inside. Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young will provide most of the scoring for this team.
The biggest problems for the 76ers will be depth and low-post scoring. As far as depth is concerned– James Anderson, Royce White and Arnett Moultrie will all play significant roles as backups (ehhh). On the low-post, the 76ers are set to start Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes. Neither have shown the ability to score on a consistent basis from the block.
Overall, this is a team in transition. The first couple games won’t be pretty. But if Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel can prove to be functional NBA players, this season should be considered a success.
5. Toronto Raptors (28-54)
Key Additions: Tyler Hansbrough (IND), D.J. Augustin (IND), Austin Daye (MEM), Steve Novak (NYK)
Key Losses: Andrea Bargnani, Linas Kleiza, Marcus Camby
It seems like we say this every year, but the Raptors are a mess. Once again, this year’s roster is a hodgepodge of castoffs and retreads who couldn’t find a home anywhere else. In the back-court, the Raptors will start Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Lowry is decent and DeRozan has proven himself to be a solid scorer. D.J. Augustin and Terrence Ross will be the first off the bench in the back-court.
In the front court, Amir Johnson is the definition of average at the four. Jonas Valanciunas looks to be the starter at center. At the very least, he should provide an interior presence on a team that has none. This team won’t have a problem scoring. Rudy Gay will be the go-to scorer at the small forward position. I already mentioned DeRozan, who averaged close to 15 points per game last season. Not only that, the addition of Steve Novak will provide some three point shooting off the bench.
Overall, the biggest problem with this team will be their defense. Tyler Hansbrough will try hard but he’s a spaz. Aaron Gray is about as athletic as a tree stump. Not only that, the perimeter players (Gay, DeRozan and Lowry) aren’t what you’d call “defensive specialists” either. There’s just not enough star power on the Raptors for this team to go anywhere. Unfortunately, it’s Toronto– so there probably won’t be star power heading there any time soon.
Overall, the Atlantic division is pretty weak. Only the Nets and the Knicks have a reasonable chance to make the playoffs. Even if they do, neither team can compete with the great teams like Miami, Chicago and Indiana. Make sure you tune in tomorrow as Ryan Meehan covers the Central division!