Welcome to NBA Outsider’s season preview series. There’s no better place to start than the Atlantic Division, home to the current NBA champions. Can the Celtics repeat? How much better did the Sixers get? Will Mike D’Antoni turn the Knicks around? These questions and more linger as teams prepare for the upcoming season. Let’s take a look where they stand…
2007-’08 record: 66-16
Additions: Darius Miles, Patrick O’Bryant, Bill Walker, J.R. Giddens
Subtractions: James Posey, Scot Pollard, P.J. Brown, Sam Cassell
Projected record for ‘08-’09: 56-26
Comments: The key acquisition of the offseason for the Celtics was the signing of Darius Miles to a non-guaranteed contract. If Miles shows that he’s serious about making a comeback, he could assume the role played by James Posey last season. Posey left for the New Orleans Hornets, so his presence as a defensive stopper and three point shooter will be missed off the bench. The Celtics still have their big three and an improving bench. Resigning Eddie House and Tony Allen will help. With less to prove, the team should coast to a number one seed in the East.
New Jersey Nets
2007-’08 record: 34-48
Additions: Yi Jianlian, Bobby Simmons, Brook Lopez, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Ryan Anderson, Jarvis Hayes, Eduardo Najera, Keyon Dooling
Subtractions: Richard Jefferson, Nenad Krstic
Projected record for ‘08-’09: 32-50
Comments: The Nets are in rebuilding mode, which doesn’t bode well for Vince Carter. Carter chided with coaches and management over a similar situation in Toronto. Devin Harris is the key for the Nets this year. If he plays well and Carter embraces the leadership role, the Nets could turn things around quicker than previously thought. However, expect some growing pains with a young and inexperienced front line.
New York Knickerbockers
2007-’08 record: 23-59
Additions: Mike D’Antoni, Chris Duhon, Danilo Gallinari, Patrick Ewing Jr.
Subtractions: Isiah Thomas, Fred Jones, Renaldo Balkman
Projected record for ‘08-’09: 17-65
Comments: The Knicks are rumored to be pursuing a deal with the Grizzlies to unload Zach Randolph for Darko Milicic and Marko Jaric. They unloaded Renaldo Balkman this summer to the Knicks, but he’s the least of their worries. Chris Duhon was brought in to stabilize the point guard situation and Mike D’Antoni replaces Isiah Thomas, but there is still far too much dead weight on the roster. The rebuilding process is slow and painful in the Big Apple. At least fans can get excited about the return of Patrick Ewing. Junior, that is. He could play the role of Balkman this year.
2007-’-08 record: 40-42
Additions: Elton Brand, Theo Ratliff, Donyell Marshall, Kareem Rush, Royal Ivey, Mareesse Speights
Subtractions: Louis Amundson, Shavlik Randolph, Calvin Booth, Rodney Carney, Kevin Ollie
Projected record for ‘08-’09: 53-29
Comments: The Sixers hit the jackpot this offseason with the signing of Elton Brand. They also locked up their young nucleus of Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams. When Jason Smith went down with a knee injury, the Sixers brought back former fan favorite Theo Ratliff. Donyell Marshall was signed to give the team a perimeter shooting big man off the bench. Royal Ivey and Kareem Rush fill out the roster. Ivey takes on Kevin Ollie’s role, while Rush will be asked to provide instant offense off the bench. The Sixers made some savvy moves to build upon the success they earned last season, posting the fifth best record in the league after the all-star break. With a fastbreak style, they now have a trailer and somebody in the post to pound it in to just in case they want to pull the ball back out and set the offense. Last year’s biggest splash in free agency came from the Orlando Magic signing Rashard Lewis. They improved from 40 wins to 52. Look for a similar jump this year from the Sixers.
2007-’08 record: 41-41
Additions: Jermaine O’Neal, Hassan Adams, Nathan Jawai
Subtractions: T.J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, Carlos Defino, Primoz Brezec
Projected record for ‘08-’09: 47-35
Comments: Delfino and Brezec signed to play overseas. The Raptors locked up the underrated Jose Calderon to be their franchise point guard this summer. They traded T.J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovic and the 17th pick in the draft to the Indiana Pacers for Jermaine O’Neal, giving Chris Bosh a legit presence in the middle. Hassan Adams was signed to replace Delfino. Whether O’Neal returns to his All-Star form will determine just how good the Raptors can be this year. They underachieved last season and look to get back to their form from two years ago.
Conclusion: The Celtics are still on top of the world. Until somebody knocks them off, they are the favorites. Look for the Sixers to continue their resurgence and secure home court for the first round of the playoffs. They will be a tough out and could end up facing the Celtics in the playoffs to renew their rivalry of old. The Raptors look like a legitimate five or six seed. The Nets are rebuilding and the Knicks are stuck with too many bad contracts. If they can unload Zach Randolph, the Knicks might surprise some people under D’Antoni. The Nets are just too inexperienced, sans Vince Carter. Whether Vinsanity finishes the season as a Net remains to be seen. Stay tuned…