Projected being: want to start taking a look at each division as we get closer to the start of the NBA season. Today I will look at what appears to be the strongest division not only in the East but in the NBA. The three top contenders in the East all reside in the Atlantic Division. I will place them in the order how I think they will finish in the Atlantic Division.
Eastern Conference Preview: Atlantic Division
The Celtics were the cream of the crop of the East almost all season. That is until they lost Kyrie Irving in the playoffs and ran into LeBron in the playoffs. They feel they would have represented the East if the injury to Irving never happened and of course if they had a whole season of Hayward. Hayward was lost after the first few minutes of his first game with Boston and he missed the entire rest of the season. That injury did speed up the development of both Jaylen brown and Jayson Tatum, which will help them immensely this upcoming season. While Irving is the best player on the team, I feel Tatum will emerge as the second option on the Celtics. The depth of this team makes them extremely tough. Their second unit could all start on other teams. I think this is the year Boston can come out of the East.
The Raptors made the deal of the summer acquiring Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. The right away improved their defense and three-point shooting. While Leonard obviously is the big get in the deal, I really like getting Green as well. This could be the last chance for Toronto to get out of the East. I still think Toronto may look to move Valanciunas, but the lineup possibilities now are endless. This team is the most versatile roster the Raptors have ever had.
The Sixers took that step into the playoffs last season. Now the expectations are high and they could be ready to make another move up the standings. The experiment of Simmons at point guard worked magnificently and last year’s number 1 pick Fultz is likely going to come off the bench again. The Sixers have a good balance of shooting and inside play with Embiid leading the charge. Embiid has established himself as a go-to scorer down low and looks to continue improving.
New York Knicks
The Knicks are still trying to get back to the playoffs. It looks like they had a solid draft taking Knox and Mitchell, who both will be in the rotation and possibly Knox in the starting lineup. Porzingis will be out of commission until likely February after suffering torn his ACL. I do like the depth New York has added and think they are definitely on the rise. A big step forward by Tim Hardaway Jr and the Knicks could be better than most think.
The Nets are once again looking like a last place team. They did improve but not enough to get them out of the basement of the Atlantic Division. I’m still not sold of Russell as a point guard as he is more suited off the ball. The move to get Faried from Denver was a good acquisition as he may claim the starting power forward spot. Brooklyn is loaded with quality wings and three-pointer shooting. Also, the Nets are expecting center Jarrett Allen to become a stud defender and better scorer. This needs to be the year the Nets at least start making some progress.