To keep the ball rolling, let’s jump into the Atlantic Division with all of the changes. We have five teams with different paths. Two teams certified playoff contenders, two on the cusp for the postseason and one with a vague sense of direction. This post will focus on the Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors. If you missed the Southeast Division, here is part one and part two.
Brooklyn Nets (ended 2015-16 14th in Eastern Conference, 21-61):
It’s hard to find anything positive to say about the play of the Nets last season. The Nets are starting to become that quintessential terrible New York sports team (i.e. the Knicks) that seems to find a new, exciting and unbelievable ways to put themselves in a position to lose. The Nets couldn’t even tank last season if they desired to do so because their picks for the next two seasons are owned by the Celtics. So I was quite surprised at the direction the Nets took in the off season because it seems to be in the right direction for a rebuilding team.
The Nets replaced Billy King with Sean Marks as the General Manager. What Marks brings to the table is the essence of Spurs basketball. He will hopefully change the ideologies of the Nets organization and lead them to a path of winning through creating a system that empowers and grows quality players. We have begun to see some of this in play already with the signings of Jeremy Lin, Trevor Booker and Randy Foye. None of which are big name free agents but all proven to be solid NBA players. I’m quite indifferent of the signing of Anthony Bennett. I hate to write individuals off but this is most likely his last chance of making a name for himself in the NBA.
The Nets almost made some very questionable and problematic moves in the off season. When the Nets drafted offer sheets for Alan Crabbe and Tyler Johnson, I feared those would be quite possibly the worst moves made in the off season (as bad as giving Mike Conley a five year 153-million- dollar contract). Thankfully those deals didn’t pan out and the Nets put that money to good use by signing more solid players like the likes of Joe Harris, Luis Scola and Greivis Vasquez. Overall the Nets made some very solid moves on some low risk high reward players.
I’m not expecting the Nets to make the playoffs but I do believe that will have a solid season and finish with a 36-46 record. They will be that team that makes all the elite teams work hard for their wins when they play against them. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Nets finish with the same or a better record than the New York Knicks.
Toronto Raptors (ended 2015-16 2nd in Eastern Conference, 56-26):
I feel the Raptors had a Cinderella season last year. Everything that could have went right did. Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan are the heart of the team and with the minor changes during the offseason, we can expect another season of a top four finish in the East. It will prove to be a difficult journey this year with the rest of the East spending cash over the summer to bring in a flush of talent.
When a team loses one of their major defensive players to a conference rival, you have two options. To find a player of equal standing OR fill by committee to overcome the lost of said player. In Toronto’s case, they need to do the latter and use the draft picks they signed as well as internal development from the players went are not named Lowry/Derozan. I do see Jared Sullinger as a sly pickup who can add some range to the PF position as well as rebounding help. Sullinger comes into this season in great shape. In addition, DeMarre Carroll is healthy and should bring stability to the SF position. His injury plagued season last year limited the team from meshing going into the playoffs. While I don’t expect this team to win 56 games, I do expect them to not finish less than fourth in the Eastern Conference. Boston has a chance to take the Atlantic from their grasp but the other teams shouldn’t overtake them this year.
My guess is 49-33 as their record.
Boston Celtics (ended 2015-16 5th in Eastern Conference, 48-34):
I never would have imagined a Knicks fan writing about the Celtics in a glowing manner in relation to an NBA season but look at us now. The Celtics are in prime position to take the Atlantic Division and have a shot at being a legit foil to the Cleveland Cavaliers this season. This is all due to stealing Al Horford from the Hawks. The offseason would have been a complete steal if Kevin Durant went to Beantown. Thankfully, only the Center position has been reinforced. The near hit doesn’t mean the Celtics aren’t dangerous. They have a mighty PG and rotation weapons in the SG/SF/PF positions. They lost Evan Turner who assisted in the ball handling responsibilities but gained Gerald Green (originally drafted by the Celtics in 2005). Second place in the East is for Boston to lose.
I feel the weakness of the Celtics is the need for more shooters. Defensively, this is a solid team. The main aspect of their identity which held them back for the past two years is scoring. It was on Thomas shoulders quite often and for this team to get to that next level he will need help. Yes, Horford brings the interior presence but there needs to be two to three knockdown shooters ready for the kick out passes. Once they add that the Cavs will be genuinely worried to face these folks in the postseason. Next year they will have the cap space to add even more personnel. That is a real scary thought for the rest of the East.
My guess is 53-29 as their record.
Philadelphia 76ers (ended 2015-16 15th in Eastern Conference, 10-72):
This write up would have been vastly different had i written it before Friday; I was ready with so many jokes & puns. Don’t get me wrong, while the 76ers are still going be just as fun as last year, it’s hurts a little that we didn’t get a chance to call them the Philadelphia Seventy-Simmons, i mean, uhh that we likely won’t be seeing Simmons ball out this year. His agent Rich Paul has threatened to keep Simmons sidelined for the entire year after his three month recovery from foot surgery.
I guess there’s a silver lining, though. Maybe we’ll get to see Sam Hinke’s science experiment come to fruition. Maybe this is the year we finally see Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid, & Nerlins Noel come together & take the east (see: Wildcard). Probably not, but it’s still fun to root on potential & they definitely got it. If we’re lucky though, Ben Simmons comes back after three months, carries the team to precipice of the playoffs, at which point they are ultimately & cold-heartedly reminded that Carmelo the god & Kristaps Por-sling-dick (shout out to bodegahive) rule the Atlantic Coast.
Final record: 38-44