2010-2011 Atlantic Division Preview

I’m going to give a run at putting together some predictions for each team this season. I think there are some interesting things happening all over the league this year even though it feels like the only two teams anyone is talking about are the Heat and the Lakers.

Now, for the record, who can really guess these things? There are so many factors that can’t be guessed at – injuries, chemistry, player desire, etc. but I do think there are things to watch for as the season evolves.

As a fantasy player, I know enough about my skills to know that I’m absolutely horrible when it comes to predicting what a team’s record is going to be, or in what seed they earn in the playoffs, but I will take a shot at how I think the division order will end up at the end of the season.

I’ve also put together pages for each of these teams, which I hope to keep updated through the season ahead, so feel free to click these team names to see them.

  1. Boston Celtics
  2. New York Knicks
  3. Philadelphia 76ers
  4. New Jersey Nets
  5. Toronto Raptors

Celtics – Still the Kings of the East

2009-2010 Record 50-32 Power Label Gate Keeper
2009-2010 Result NBA Finals Conference Eastern
2010-2011 Salary 83.3 M Division Atlantic

Heading into this season, the source of the greatest asset available to the Boston Celtics happen to also be the cause for its great concern.

Let’s assume that Shaquille O’Neal wins a starting job to begin the season, and he starts with Rondo, Allen, Pierce and Garnett. If that happens, then the Celtics starting line up will feature a combined 63 years of NBA experience.

For the purpose of this post, let’s also say that Pinky and the Brain finds a way to manifest the entirety of that experience into human male form. For kicks, let’s go ahead and call this man Geno.

Geno would have an amazing basketball resume. We’re talking 8 Championships, 2 MVPs, 4 finals MVPs, 2 scoring championships, 46 all star appearances and 12 appearances on the NBA first team list.

Geno would earn 53 million dollars this year, and would be the star of a reality TV show.

Unfortunately, he would also have a bad hamstring, two bad knees, a bum left foot, a tender right ankle and a bad back.

Not to mention the fact that Geno would hit the mandatory retirement age before this year’s All Star break. This is where things get tricky for the Celtics, but let’s be clear about something.

I think it’s too easy to say that the Celtics are aging and frail, and leave it at that.

For all the hype we’re hearing about the Heat, for all the news that the Magic and the Bulls look really good on paper, it’s important to remember that the Celtics OWNED the Eastern Conference in last year’s playoffs.

Heading into the 2nd round, LeBron James was as animated and confident as I’ve ever seen him play. It looked to all the world that he was on the march to his first title in Cleveland. 12 days later, he was done in Cleveland. Done.

The Celtics are the gate keepers in the East.

It is certainly possible that the Celtics age will lead to injuries, and those injuries will lead to losses. It is certainly possible that the Celtics don’t go the Finals this year, but if any other team in the East does, they’re going to have to get through the Celtics to get there.

Knicks – Get Ready To Run

2009-2010 Record 29-53 Power Label Playoff Bound
2009-2010 Result Lottery Conference Eastern
2010-2011 Salary 44.7 M Division Atlantic

Here we go, you ready for this?

The Knicks are going to the playoffs this season.

Boom. It’s out there.

For the record, I’m not just saying that because I’m drinking the Stoudemire-gets-to-run-again kool aid – though, I am – but I also watched half a dozen Knicks games last season, and found myself pleasantly surprised. last year’s squad was, very slowly, starting to adopt their coach’s basketball philosophy. The Knicks were becoming a run-and-gun, seven second offense kind of squad, but they had already dug themselves into a hole when it came to their record and chance for a playoff berth.
And then they went and grabbed Amar’e. And then they got David Lee to agree to a sign-and-trade for Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf, Kelenna Azubuike and a 2011 second-round pick.

They dropped some old bodies (Al Harrington, Tracy McGrady, Eddie House and Sergio Rodriguez) and they added Andy Rautins, Landry Fields, Patrick Ewing Jr. and Roger Mason Jr.
Obviously, they were in the hunt for LeBron, Wade and Bosh. That didn’t work. They’ve been in the hunt for Melo and that didn’t work out. I’m going to suggest that Amar’e gives you everything that those top flight guys do, but when you look at the big picture, this year’s Knicks are young, fast and ready to listen to coach D’Antoni. It certainly would be nice if they were stronger at the point and deeper in the paint, but this squad may well be able to run teams out of the building, and when you consider the other teams in this division, that may be enough to get them to the postseason.

Philadelphia 76ers – The New Upstarts

2009-2010 Record 27-55 Power Label Upstarts
2009-2010 Result Lottery Conference Eastern
2010-2011 Salary 69.3 M Division Atlantic

It seems like there’s a shimmer of light coming from the Philadelphia 76ers. I don’t know what may come of it, but if you’re your of the mindset to go searching for sleeper teams, this may be your best bet in the East.

I’ll give you three reasons why the Sixers will be better than the 27-55 team they were last year.

  1. Doug Collins. Not to get ahead of myself (as I’m well aware that Collins hasn’t coached a team to the Playoffs since 1997), but Collins does bring something that’s been lacking with the Sixers in some time now. He does has a strong sense of what he wants his team to be, and is skilled in bringing that out of people.
  2. Evan Turner. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a draft pick so thoroughly excited to play for the team that picked him. In every interview I’ve heard with him, he’s rattled on and on about how much he loves Philly and how he feels like he’s up for the task to win over Philly fans. It’s important to point out that he may well be coming off the bench behind Jrue Holiday, but even that doesn’t seem to phase him. If Collins can build this kid up, he could a lot of fun to watch.
  3. Andre Iguodala. Iguodala shined in this year’s FIBA Championships. He had strong numbers on Offensive and Overall rebounds, and led the team in steals and FG percentage, even though he only played 170 minutes (Durrant lead the team in minutes per game at 254). When Iguodala returned to Philly after the tournament, Collins forced him to go take some time off and relax, because Andre was already wanting to start going to work on the start of the season. Iguodala was always an interesting weapon offensively. If the FIBA tourney is any indication, he just got a good deal better in the offseason.

Now, naturally, there’s no real way to tell how these three pieces are going to work together. Nor is there any way to guess how they’ll deal if any of their stars gets hurt, but one thing for certain, the barometer is finally starting to point upward in Philadelphia. If they’re not a playoff team this year, they stand a good chance of being one next year.

New Jersey Nets – Next Stop Brooklyn

2009-2010 Record 12-70 Power Label Lottery Team
2009-2010 Result Lottery Conference Eastern
2010-2011 Salary 56.9 M Division Atlantic

Mr. Prokhorov, the Basketball Gods are hazing you.

Don’t get me wrong, I was as giddy as anyone when the new owner of the New Jersey Nets promised his fans that he would bring them a championship in five years, especially after his new team had managed to go 12-70 the previous season. I loved that he showed up in NY for the draft lottery talking big and dreaming bigger. He had as close to a clean slate as is possible in the NBA, and I was excited to see what the Nets were going to be able to do.

In fact, let’s quickly jump into the wayback machine and travel back to the morning of May 18th, 2010. The Nets had the worst record in the NBA, which meant that they had the highest odds for getting the 1st overall pick in the draft. They were going to get themselves a new coach, and they happened to have the most amount of money to work with heading into the Free Agency summer of Armageddon.

One had to assume that the Nets could get at least one of the big three (LeBron, Wade, Bosh), or if not, they’d easily get a guy like Boozer or Stoudemire, but even if that didn’t work out, it looks like the Nets would be in the best possible position to go get Melo in a trade or the following summer when Melo became a free agent.

It was a shocking thing to consider, but as of the morning of the draft lottery, the Nets had the best possible chance to start the season with John Wall, Brook Lopez, LeBron, Bosh, Wade or Melo and someone like Boozer or Stoudemire, not to mention that they had a bunch of money to go get the best possible coach available – and remember, this is still when it sounded like Phil Jackson wanted to keep coaching, but may want to leave the Lakers.

Everyone was teasing this idea that the Nets – yes the Nets – were in a prime position to load up their roster, make the move to Brooklyn and become the relevant team in New York.
So why not tell your fans that you’re going to deliver a Championship in five years?
Well, apparently, because the Gods of Basketball don’t have a sense of humor about this sort of thing.

I will say this, of all the things that I assume the Nets would have hoped they would have done this season, there were three bright spots. The first was grabbing Derrick Favors out of Georgia Tech with what became the 3rd overall pick, the second was getting Avery Johnson to sign as the new head coach, and the third was allowing Brook Lopez to go play for Team USA in the FIBA Championship. I heard over and over that his game improved in that environment, and that Lopez is now clearly the strongest player on that squad.

Still, after that, it felt like nothing else went right for the Nets this summer.

They still have a paw in the Melo trade world, and they certainly look to be better than last season (of course, there’s almost no way they couldn’t be), but, sadly, this isn’t going to be the breakout year of the Nets.

Look for the front office staff to start packing boxes in January, and look for the moving trucks to be sitting outside the Prudential Center the morning after the regular season is over.
Things are bound to turn around in Brooklyn.

Toronto Raptors – Life after Bosh

2009-2010 Record 40-42 Power Label Lottery Team
2009-2010 Result Lottery Conference Eastern
2010-2011 Salary 49.3 M Division Atlantic

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of positive things to say about the Raptors. I don’t want to be the kind of guy who talks ill against a team caught in a re-building period, but as near as I can tell, 2010 has just not been a good year for this franchise.

  • 40-42 season
  • Their mascot ate a cheerleader
  • Failed to make playoffs
  • Failed to get a top 10 lottery pick (drafted Ed Davis with the 13th overall)
  • Failed to get Chris Bosh to stay with the team, though Bosh did agree to do a sign-and-trade so that the Raptors could at least get some first round picks from the loss.
  • Admitted failure on the Turkoglu experiment and shipped him off to Phoenix for Barbosa and Dwayne Jones.

Last year, the Raptors finished at the bottom of the league in defensive efficiency, and unfortunately, nothing seems to have happened to turn that around.

On the upside, they have a 7 foot sharp shooter in Bargnani to go along with Calderon, Jack and Barbosa. I think Raptors fans may be in for a long season, but at least there should be some occasional high scoring affairs to enjoy.

Hopefully.

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~ by djepperson on October 4, 2010.

2 Responses to “2010-2011 Atlantic Division Preview”

  1. Nice article man! I think that there are a lot of issues surrounding the Raptors that go deeper than not having a star/lead player. Colangelo attempted to put together a contending team last year and failed, however he doesn’t seem to be able to accept the fact that the Raptors do not have the pieces to make a winning team now, yet he still tries to bring in 2nd and 3rd tier talent (i.e. Kleiza and re-signing Amir Johnson). In the end the Raptors are going to need to rebuild, but who knows when that is going to happen.

    http://chrisross91.wordpress.com/2010/10/03/back-to-the-future/

  2. Thanks man. I agree with what you’re saying about the Raptors, both here and in your article (which was great by the way).

    It’s unfortunate that things played out the way they did, but I do think there are things to build on with that squad.

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