2013 NBA Preview: Atlantic Division

The leaves have fallen, the air is crisp, and basketball is once again upon us! Sneaker squeaks and bouncing balls will soon be pleasing our ears once more. For some NBA fans this winter will bring pleasure. Others, not so much (sorry, Sixers fans). This is the first installment of College Sports Town’s 2013 NBA preview. Tonight, we are covering the Atlantic, where the Nets have vaulted over the Knicks to the top of the division.

1. Brooklyn Nets

What we like:

The Nets won 49 games last year, and did so with an unstable coaching situation. In the off-season, they settled on a coach (Jason Kidd) and then they went and loaded up on stars, making a huge, mega, super, jumbo, blockbuster (you get the point) trade with the Celtics that sent Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry to Brooklyn. The trade gave the Nets a ridiculously dynamic starting lineup offensively and the veteran leadership and grit that they seemed to be lacking when they lost to the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs last April. The talent level of this Nets team is insane; the Deron Williams/Joe Johnson/Paul Pierce 1-2-3 should be virtually unguardable, especially since the Nets’ big men–Lopez and Garnett–are both extremely skilled. Meanwhile, Garnett and Reggie Evans should make the Nets’ frontcourt super fiery and tough. Andrei Kirilenko, Andray Blatche, and Shaun Livingston were great off-season adds too. On paper, the Nets should be outstanding.

What we don’t:

There are a lot of unknowns and new faces. Kidd is unproven as a coach. They’re also real old. So the potential is there for injuries or chemistry issues. And we all remember what happened to the Lakers last year.

Our call:

Part of what makes adding guys like Pierce, Terry, and Garnett so great is that they’re not only stars but also winners. These are guys who are willing to make personal sacrifices. And sacrifices will need to be made all over the place: Pierce, Deron, Johnson, and Lopez can’t realistically all score 20 a night. But if the Nets can coalesce quickly into a real team, they could be scary. There’s reason to believe they could be the best offensive team in the league and also play an elite brand of defense. Yeah, there’s a lot of pressure on Kidd, and there’s no denying that the Nets could disappoint, but we think they’ll be the class of the Atlantic and serious championship contenders. Brooooklyn.

It's funny seeing Pierce in a Nets jersey.

It’s funny seeing Pierce in a Nets jersey.

2. New York Knicks

What we like:

Carmelo Anthony is still a top three scorer–he had a dynamite ‘12-13 campaign and should pick up where he left off this year. He’s turned himself into an elite shooter. J.R. Smith is an elite shooter too…sometimes. Amar’e Stoudemire’s return coupled with the arrival of Andrea Bargnani gives the Knicks exciting frontcourt options also. A big factor for the Knicks should be the play of Iman Shumpert, who just keeps getting better. The biggest addition of the off-season for New York was probably the man formerly known as Prince Ron Artest. The Knicks have great defensive players in World Peace, Shumpert, and, of course, Tyson Chandler. Coach Mike Woodson’s teams are always good defensively and this one should be too. They also have loads of offensive weapons, and rookie Tim Hardaway could provide a boost off the bench.

What we don’t:

The Knicks looked lost in the playoffs last year and are not a youthful team. Smith is an enigma wrapped in a question wrapped in tattoos. You have to wonder whether the Knicks can expect consistent production from him. Then there is the fact that Woodson’s teams seem to struggle in the playoffs going back to Atlanta. Injuries could derail the season. So could offensive issues. And thoughts of 2014 free agency could become a distraction for Anthony.

Our call:

It felt like the Knicks overachieved last season. They did make some interesting off-season additions, but none that would appear splashy enough to keep the Knicks at the top of the Eastern Conference. The Knicks probably will slide down a bit in the loaded East, but they should at least be a mid playoff seed.

Melo's Knicks should again be good, but not great.

Melo’s Knicks should again be good, but not great.

3. Toronto Raptors

What we like:

The Raptors are very good offensively in the backcourt. Kyle Lowry is a good, complete player. The freakishly athletic Demar Derozan puts up a lot of points. And Terrence Ross is a young athletic shooter. The star for Toronto is Rudy Gay–a proven commodity and big shot maker. The Raptors went 18-18 after trading for Gay last winter. Newly acquired Tyler Hansbrough should help the Raptors frontcourt. He will join 21-year-old center Jonas Valanciunas, who had a nice rookie campaign last season and should build on it this year. The Raptors should be solid defensively.

What we don’t:

Let’s be honest, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas an imposing starting frontcourt does not make. And, overall, the Raptors don’t have many consistent players nor play makers–Gay and Derozan are their best. Another concern for Toronto will be lack of depth.

Our call:

The Raptors could very easily be playoff material if Gay and Derozan have good seasons and Valaniunas takes a step forward. But don’t expect anything more than a low seed and a first round exit should the Raptors avoid the lottery.

Rudy Gay gliding to the net.

Rudy Gay gliding to the net.

4. Boston Celtics

What we like:

We loved the Brad Stevens hire. His first team in Boston does have some nice pieces. Jeff Green seems poised for a breakout season–he was almost unstoppable at times late last season. And when Rajon Rondo returns from injury, he will team with Avery Bradley to again create what should be a relentless defensive backcourt. Gerald Wallace, who the C’s got from Brooklyn, is still a tough defender too and does a lot well.

What we don’t:

They traded away Pierce and Garnett to Brooklyn to build for the future. Meanwhile, Rondo probably won’t play for a couple months and the Celtics may be looking to deal him. The C’s new frontcourt of Brandon Bass and Kris Humphries will be among the league’s worst. This is clearly a team in transition.

Our call:

While it is hard to knock the Celtics for trading Pierce and Garnett to go full-on tank mode, this should be a tough season for Bostonians used to watching the C’s consistently win. The big question: will Rajon Rondo still be in Beantown in a few months?

Jeff Green is a great dunker.

Jeff Green is a great dunker.

5. Philadelphia 76ers

What we like:

Their future! The sixers should be awful this year, but the future in Philly is bright (or…ummm…sunny). They’ve got two new exciting rookies; big, dynamic 1 Michael Carter-Williams, and the consensus no.1 pick in this summer’s draft until he wasn’t, Nerlens Noel (who may miss the whole season recovering from knee surgery). They also loaded up on draft picks when they made the Draft night trade that gave them Noel (Philly gave up Jrue Holliday). They could have two lottery picks next summer.

What we don’t:

Their best player is Thaddeus Young.

Our call:

This is a team that could have a tough time breaking 20 wins. The fun in watching them will be seeing what Carter-Williams can do as a rookie. But the 76ers could be fantastic down the road.

First year Sixers coach Brett Brown might have this expression on his face a lot this year.

First year Sixers coach Brett Brown might have this expression on his face a lot this year.

The Atlantic Division is filled with potential. The Nets and Knicks are centered around winning today with aging rosters, the Raptors are loaded with young talent, and the Celtics and 76ers… well, they’re both hoping a young man named Andrew Wiggins will fall into their laps in the 2014 NBA draft.

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One response to “2013 NBA Preview: Atlantic Division

  1. Pingback: 2013 NBA Preview: Central Division | College Sports Town

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