2010-11 Atlantic Division Preview
Can anyone challenge the Celtics’ Atlantic Division supremacy?
1. Boston Celtics
If it’s possible to sleep on a team that is coming off a Game 7 loss in the Finals, it may be happening to Boston. Everyone has already decided that the team on South Beach is going to win the East, but the Celtics return every important piece from last season plus two O’Neals and the man who allegedly derailed LeBron’s career in Cleveland. The Celtics should shine defensively, should have enough to handle business on offense, and might just produce more YouTube worthy moments than you can shake a stick at. Presuming you’re the type to shake sticks at things, of course.
2. New York Knicks
The Knicks will be better. The additions of Amare Stoudemire and Raymond Felton pretty much guarantee that. But will they be good enough to make the playoffs? Probably not. But they’ll get up and down the court and get used to playing ball with each other in preparation for next season, when they’ll have the chance to sign a meaningful free agent or swing a trade for a difference maker. Sounds familiar.
3. Philadelphia 76ers
Is new Sixers coach Doug Collins the person to put together the pieces of a puzzle that has underachieved in recent years? Maybe, but probably not. There’s pretty good talent on the roster in Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Jrue Holiday and Louis Williams. There are some wildcards in Elton Brand, Spencer Hawes and Andres Nocioni. Evan Turner probably needs the ball in his hands more than he’ll have it here if he’s going to be an effective player. The Sixers may be improved and could even sneak up to second in the division, but that doesn’t mean they’ll get to play past April.
4. New Jersey Nets
The Nets can’t do any worse than they did last year. Watching them try to avoid the record for fewest wins in a season was painful. Avery Johnson alone may be enough to get them to 20 wins. Improved personnel might get them a few more. Devin Harris and Brook Lopez are the players to watch, while Terrence Williams and Derrick Favors are wild cards that may surprise you. Past that, they’ve added some experienced role players that shouldn’t take losing lightly. If they end up with Carmelo Anthony (a long shot), disregard everything I’ve said here. Except for the parts about them losing lots of games.
5. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors missed the Playoffs with Chris Bosh on board last season. Now that Bosh has jumped aboard the gravy train in South Beach, the Raptors don’t have a chance of making the Playoffs. DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems will keep us entertained with some above the rim acrobatics and Leandro Barbosa, Andrea Bargnani and Linas Kleiza should provide some substance. But they won’t win many games. And no one outside of Toronto will know what they’re doing, unless you see them playing your favorite team. Tune in early before things get too far out of hand.