NBA Atlantic Division Preview
The NBA's Atlantic Division, especially in the last season, was taken seriously by no one. But with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joining the Boston Celtics there could be a contender in the mix. The Atlantic features the super-renovated superstar Celtics, the talent-stacked New Jersey Nets, last season's pleasant surprise Toronto Raptors, the post-Iverson Philadelphia 76ers, and big-budgeted New York Knicks.
BEST ATLANTIC DIVISION PLAYERS
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Kidd, Chris Bosh, Vince Carter, Ray Allen, Zach Randolph, Richard Jefferson, Andre Miller, Stephon Marbury, Andre Iguodala, Eddy Curry, Nenad Krstic, T.J. Ford.
INSIDEHOOPS.COM'S ALL-ATLANTIC TEAMS
Players may be used slightly of of position (within reason) to make the best possible teams:
ALL-ATLANTIC FIRST TEAM: PG: Jason Kidd, SG: Vince Carter, SF: Paul Pierce, PF: Chris Bosh, C: Kevin Garnett
ALL-ATLANTIC SECOND TEAM: PG: Andre Miller, SG: Ray Allen, SF: Richard Jefferson, PF: Zach Randolph, C: Eddy Curry
ALL-ATLANTIC THIRD TEAM: PG: TJ Ford, SG: Stephon Marbury, SF: Andre Iguodala, PF: David Lee, C: Nenad Krstic
ATLANTIC TEAM ONE-LINERS
Toronto Raptors: The Raptors may find it tough to beat last season's success.
New Jersey Nets: Injuries hurt the Nets last season, but even when healthy they must avoid standing still while Vince Carter operates.
New York Knicks: Lots of talented yet flawed players. Can they make each other better and operate as a unit?
Philadelphia 76ers: In a partial rebuilding mode, unclear what direction team is taking.
Boston Celtics: In one summer went from failed youth movement to multi-star contender, on paper at least.
THE ATLANTIC TEAMS TO WATCH
The Boston Celtics last season consisted of a superstar in Paul Pierce, a rising future semi-star in Al Jefferson, and lots of young, raw talent. The result was a failure of a season. Now, Pierce finally has big-time help with Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett on board. All three stars are intelligent basketball players, able to adjust their games for the good of the team. Their supporting cast is weak, however. Young point guard Rajon Rondo will be left open outside and must somehow very quickly develop consistent three-point shooting ability. And center Kendrick Perkins must somehow magically become a rebounding, defensive force who moves correctly on the floor. Off the bench, Boston will get scoring punch from Eddie House and Tony Allen, and solid role play from James Posey. Even though they're new, the Celtics are the only Atlantic Division team that should be considered a contender to finish first in the Eastern conference.
MORE ATLANTIC DIVISION STORYLINES
Will the Celtics strengthen their bench? ... Will key Nets Richard Jefferson and Nenad Krstic stay healthy? ... Will the Nets realize that when Vince Carter has the ball, other players need to cut and move, and not just stand still? ... Will Jamaal Magloire take Jason Collins' minutes in New Jersey? ... Will Jason Kidd start showing his age? ... Stephon Marbury had various revelantions this summer. Will they somehow change his game? ... Will Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry compliment each others' games? ... Will David Lee's head explode due to other Knicks not playing as intelligently as he does? ... Who will be the main Knicks small forward? ... Are the 76ers rebuilding? ... Is Reggie Evans now Philly's starting power forward? ... Will Samuel Dalembert keep developing? ... How long will Andre Miller be with the 76ers? ... Does Chris Bosh have enough help for the Raptors to improve upon last season? ... Is Andrea Bargnani ready to become a star or not quite yet? ... Will the rest of the league play especially hard against the Raptors since they won the Atlantic last season? ... Jason Kapono can nail threes but is the rest of his game going to suit Toronto's needs?
PREDICTED ORDER OF ATLANTIC DIVISION FINISH
1) Boston Celtics - On paper they win the division.
2) New Jersey Nets - If healthy they need to make noise now before Kidd gets old.
3) Toronto Raptors - Can Sam Mitchell coach these guys to an even higher level? We may only have them third but they're at a virtual tie with the Nets.
4) New York Knicks - If they can develop team chemistry the Knicks can be better than this.
5) Philadelphia 76ers - Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala and friends play well together and could surprise a little. But success isn't expected.