NBA Preview: Atlantic Division
The Nets had the best offseason of anybody in the NBA and there is no question about it. They made the blockbuster deal with the Celtics to acquire Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry. They added some much-needed depth on the bench with Andrei Kirilenko, Alan Anderson, and Shaun Livingston. They have the best all-around starting lineup in the league if they can stay healthy. They will need the veteran leadership of Garnett and Pierce with rookie head coach Jason Kidd. The addition of Lawrence Frank as an assistant will be essential as well for Kidd's development as a coach in this league. This is an entirely revamped team after winning 49 games last year and this team is thinking title. With a short two-year window, the time is now in Brooklyn. The Nets have put together a championship caliber team this season, and expect them to do just that. The Brooklyn Nets will hold up their first ever NBA Championship trophy in 2014.
2. New York Knicks (50-32)
The Knicks are an intriguing team that many people seem to be overlooking. They will be the second best in New York, but after finishing second in the East, they definitely didn’t get any worse in the offseason. The problem is that the other teams around them got a little better. Mike Woodson’s squad added big man Andrea Bargnani, who people forget is a big man with how soft he plays and his perimeter style of play. They also bring in Metta World Peace, who should improve the Knicks defense. Carmelo Anthony will be a free agent next offseason and the Knicks will have to put together a terrific season if their superstar wants to stick around. A lot will ride on this team staying healthy, which was their demise last season. Look for the Knicks to finish with 50 wins and be a top five team in the East, but not have enough depth to beat out the Nets.
3. Toronto Raptors (37-45)
The Raptors are in rebuilding mode under new GM Masai Ujiri. The team was much improved after acquiring Rudy Gay and could contend for one of the final playoff spots, but they didn’t do enough in the offseason to make them dangerous this season. Gay and Kyle Lowry will be a fun one-two punch to watch, but this team will need to do more next offseason to get to .500 and get to the playoffs. The Raptors have some nice pieces and could be fun to watch this season, but look for next season to be the year Toronto gets back in the playoff race. Don't be surprised if they make a couple of moves come trade deadline in February to get to ball rolling.
4. Boston Celtics (33-49)
A new era in Boston has begun under new head coach Brad Stevens. The former Butler coach that took them to consecutive National Championship games will take over a roster in flux that is set for a lottery pick. With Pierce and Garnett gone, their replacements are Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries. Rajon Rondo will start the season recovering from a torn ACL and he likely won’t rush his return with the Celtics not having the talent to be a playoff team. After Jeff Green, there aren’t many names on the C’s roster that open your eyes, but rookie Kelly Olynk could be a guy to watch out for in the paint. Expect the Celtics to have a lot of empty seats in Boston this season as they try and clear salary and build for next season.
5. Philadelphia 76ers (22-60)
When the picture to the left is one of Evan Turner, you know it's going to be a rough season. The 76ers have a great shot at being the first pick in the draft. Their roster is depleted after trading Jrue Holiday and getting rid of Andrew Bynum. Nerlens Noel may not play all season after tearing his ACL. Michael Carter-Williams will see a ton of playing time alongside a bunch of role players. It’s going to be a LONG season rookie head coach Brett Brown with a lot of growing pains as the 76ers undergo a complete rebuilding process.