With the World Series just underway, I can hardly believe that is time for the NBA to tip-off again. We here at Joe & Joe Sports will be breaking down each division over the next several days and I'll be starting today with the Atlantic Division, here we go:
The 2008-2009 Boston Celtics look alot like the team that brought Boston its first NBA championship since 1987. Perennial All-Stars Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce return along with the defensive minded Kendrick Perkins and the maturing Rajon Rondo. Everything appears to line up for the C's to make another run at an NBA title, but I'm not convinced. First off, the "Boston Three-Party" (Garnett, Allen and Pierce) have gotten a year older, something that is not insignificant considering they are all over 30 years old. Also, expect some hangover from Boston. Garnett especially spent years trying to will decent and sub-par teams late into the post-season, so it's natural that with a ring finally on his finger his tenacity and desire may decline a little. Now I'm not saying Boston is going to miss the playoffs, but I wouldn't be surprised if they had a more relaxed approach to the regular season than they did last year. That being said, they are definitely going to be a top 4 team in the East, but I'm not so sure they will be able to just throw the switch and pour it on during the playoffs.
Projected record: 54-28
New Jersey Nets
First the good news for New Jersey Net fans: NJ management finally decided to blow up the triumvirate of Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter that never delivered on its immense potential, the Nets are only two years away from moving to Brooklyn and co-owner Jay-Z is rumored to have the inside track in bringing Lebron James to NYC. Now the bad news: The Nets are going to suck this year. Vince Carter is a known commodity and with Jason Kidd gone he won't be getting some of the easy scoring opportunities he has become accustomed to. Devin Harris is a nice player, but he seems to have accepted a role as a "good, not great" NBA player. Yi Jianlian and 2008 first round pick Brook Lopez are still years away. Bobby Simmons and Josh Boone would be nice guys coming off the bench, but shouldn't be NBA starters. So take heart Nets fans, sure you will have to watch VC sleep walk through half the season, but better days are just around the corner.
Projected record: 28-54
New York Knicks
Oh jeez, remember all those things that I said New Jersey fans had to look forward to, umm, yeah, sorry New York. 2008-09 is going to be a bad season at MSG... and so is 2009-10, 2010-11 and most likely 2011-2012. The Knicks only redeemable asset is David Lee and he is stuck on the bench behind Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph, two guys who, while a formidable burger eating team, may actually be allergic to playing defense. On the bright side, Stephon Marbury is finally in the last year of his contact and becomes a trade-able asset, but don't be surprised if GM Isiah Thomas completely blows that too.
Projected record: 26-56
Whoa, I was seriously depressed after having to preview those NYC/NJ teams, but I'm feeling alot better after looking at the revamped Sixers (and taking a Zoloft). Revamped is kinda deceiving since they really only added one player, but adding Elton Brand completely changes this Philly team. Not only do they add a 20 point - 10 rebound player with defensive toughness, but every other player on this team should benefit from having Brand on the floor. Samuel Dalembert will combine with Brand to form the best defensive front line in the NBA. Thaddeus Young showed alot of promise in his rookie campaign and should get plenty of floor space in 2008-09 with defenders paying more attention to Brand and the high-flyer Andre Iguodala. Andre Miller is still playing some of the best basketball of his career and will probably see his assist totals rise with the addition of Brand. To summarize, the Sixers are super athletic and are going to be one of the best defensive teams in the league, that spells success to me.
Projected record: 56-26 (Yes, better than the Celtics)
The Raptors biggest off-season move was finally anointing Jose Calderon as the starting point guard. Calderon, who had been outplaying incumbent T.J. Ford for years, is one of the best creators and distributors in the NBA and should continue to improve in 2008-09. In exchange for Ford the Raptors were able to land Jermaine O'Neal. While O'Neal was underwhelming last year, his potential of 20-10 is well worth the Raptors risk. Look for Chris Bosh to continue being one of the dominant big men in the NBA and, if O'Neal can return to form, Bosh could be looking at an MVP-type season. Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker both play defense and do the little things to win games, but Toronto would be better off with a more dynamic scorer from the SG or SF position and either Moon or Parker coming off the bench. The Raptors should be at least a .500 team, but have the potential to be one of the top teams in the Eastern conference.
Projected record: 45-37
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