2007 Atlantic Division - Eastern Conference
The NBA season is days away and its time to look at the changes that have happened in the off season and take a look at the teams that will make a run at the championship. The preview begins in the East which was notably the weaker conference when compared to the powerhouse teams in the West. The off season brought many changes to the East but will it be enough to obtain a championship? Only time will tell.
The NBA preview will start off with a look at the Atlantic Division and do a team by team breakdown with predictions for the upcoming seasons. Last year it was the Raptors taking the eastern division as they held off a late run by the nets, this year the teams stack up much differently then in years past.
Toronto Raptors (1st last year)
This Raptor team was the surprise team in the East last year as they improved with putting 20 wins in the win column and grabbed the first division title in franchise history. The key to their improvement was the acquisition of key players starting off with T.J. Ford. They were ran in the first round of the playoffs, mostly due to a lack of experience but they are back to make a run at another title. In the off season they parted ways with key bench player Morris Peterson, but did go out and get Carlos Delfino in a trade and grab sharp shooter Jason Kapono off the free agent market. With Bargnani and Bosh in the frontcourt the Raptors will have some strength down low as long as Bargnani can put up the same numbers he did last year when he finished second in the rookie of the year balloting. If Bosh can stay healthy look for head coach Sam Mitchell to get the most of his players and make another run at the Atlantic title.
New Jersey Nets (2nd last year)
The nets finished second in the east and bowed out in the second round of the playoffs, but look for them to take it another step further this year. Jason Kidd is off an impressive outing with Team USA and the Nets did a service to the team by resigning superstar Vince Carter in the off season. They let some offense go in the off season with players like Clifford Robinson and Eddie House leaving, but stocked up in depth and defense by signing veterans Darrell Armstrong and Jamaal Magloire. This is a solid move for the team and they had an above average draft and stole Sean Williams out of Boston College. The backcourt of the Nets is deadly with Kidd and Carter combining to be one of the best in the league and the best in the Atlantic. The key will be the front court where they have plenty of question marks. If they can get the front court to play well the nets can make a run for the title in the East and a deep run in the playoffs.
Philadelphia Sixers (3rd last year)
The Sixers went through incredible turmoil last year so it is very surprising that they managed to get it together and finish third in the Atlantic division. The team lost its face and the franchise player in the middle of the season when they traded Iverson to the Nuggets. The surprising thing is the team did not go in the tank and in to rebuilding mode and instead a new leader emerged in Andre Iguodala. They were pretty quiet in the off season but did improve in rebounding by getting Reggie Evans and dumped some payroll by letting expensive veteran Joe Smith leave the team. Thaddeus Young is a solid draft pick by the Sixers but is very young and at just 19 he may get some playing time but will not be an impact player right away. The Sixers are on the rise but are still a few years from seriously competing in the Atlantic or in the East. They are one dimensional when it comes to scoring and are thin on the depth chart. Mo Cheeks get the best out of his players and they will always play hard for him. Near the end of the season they should be playing more for a draft pick than a playoff berth.
New York Knicks (4th last year)
Talk about your turmoil the knicks always seem to be in the middle of it. Most of the time it is on the court and the scrutiny is about over paid players coming together to produce mediocre results. This off season was much different as Isaiah Thomas and MSG were in and out of court all summer producing costly results as it was ruled that they had to pay good money out of pocket when they lost. It has recently been said that the owner of the Knicks has vowed to make serious changes to this staff and team due to recent events. When it comes to player personnel the Knicks actually had a pretty decent off season. They dumped expensive veterans in Steve Francis and let Kelvin Cato go to free agency. The did trade talented young Channing Frye but it was a good deal as in return they got big man Zack Randolph in return. The key to this team is to stay healthy and to work together. This team has talent but what matters is the chemistry and if they can work together and not be ball hogs, the Knicks actually may surprise some folks down the stretch. The knicks are a talented bunch and at seasons end I would not be surprised to see them attempting to put a few wins together to grab a 7 or an 8 spot in the eastern playoffs.
Boston Celtics (5th last year)
When it comes to making noise in the off season no one can top the off season the Boston Celtics had. This was a team that was accused of tanking games last year on purpose so they would get the number one pick in the draft. They then has the bouncing balls go in another direction and take the Celtics out of the running from the two great top picks in the draft. Oden and Durant were drafted by other teams and that left the Celtics scrambling to make some noise in the draft. Ainge did not stand pat instead he traded the first round draft pick and grabbed veteran Ray Allen and little did the league know this was just the start of things. Later in the off season Ainge pulled off a block buster and traded players and draft picks for Kevin Garnett giving the Celtics arguably the best player in the league and a new version of the big three. They were not done yet, they traded or waived most of the big ticket contracts that they have been dying to get rid of and picked up big defensive veterans to add depth and play around the big three. The Celtics even did well with the one draft pick they did have when the selected Glen “Big baby” Davis late in the draft. The Celtics are now ready to make a move to get a high playoff spot and race to win the Atlantic and run deep into the playoffs. While I am not sold yet on a title for Boston only injuries can stop this team from going far on the season.
Predicted final standings in the Atlantic division:
1. New Jersey Nets — the core of the Nets is equal to Boston’s but have more experience playing with one another, this will be the edge they need to capture the Atlantic division.
2. Boston Celtics — the big three will carry this team to a good record and a second place finish. It will take some time for this team to learn to play with one another and injuries could be an issue with depth problems in Boston
3. New York Knicks — a surprising third place finish for New York will be in the cards. The Knicks now have a core that should be able to play well with one another and they are deeper than most teams in the East. Isaiah needs to win now to take some heat off of him and the management.
4. Toronto Raptors — the raptors will have a disappoint season as compared to last year. The team is solid but Bosh is injury prone and they have too many question marks to count on another outstanding season.
5. Philadelphia Sixers — the sixers are in rebuilding mode and are not ready to make a move especially in a division that is crowded with talent and have made significant moves. The sixers are still years away from making a run at the playoffs btu the lottery will help them rebuild.