2014-2015 NBA Divisional Preview: Atlantic

*As I post this, several games are already underway. The Bulls are looking okay but still smacking the Knicks. The Knicks stink.  Look for an Opening Night recap blog tomorrow. Derrick Rose still has both knees intact. Praise Allah. 

Eastern Conference, Atlantic Division:

Coming into this season, the Atlantic is definitely the biggest crap shoot in the Eastern Conference.  Brooklyn, New York, and Toronto all have the potential to play exceptional offense and flirt with 50 wins, but, realistically, they will play shoddy defense and struggle offensively through segments of the season.  I see Toronto and Brooklyn winning 41-45 games, and the Knicks being 36-40, basically a repeat of last year.

Philadelphia is going to be horrendous, but I do think they surpass Vegas’ over/under total of 15.5 wins and come in around 18 wins. The 76ers have a few decent scorers and will play hard with Nerlens Noel anchoring the paint on defense. Noel is a couple years away from holding his own offensively, and their only vet in the frontcourt is Luc Mbah a Moute. Look for Sam Hinkie to flirt with lots of trade offers centered around Michael Carter-Williams (MCW is due for another big start, eating up the minutes at PG). Jason Richardson and Tony Wroten will get moved if the price is right, too.

Boston hopes to be much improved from last season, but any team relying on Jeff Green, Evan Turner, and 6’7 PF Jared Sullinger is not making the playoffs.  I actually like all three of those guys on their own.  That’s a lie, ET is a troll of a human and has the mental fortitude of Geno Smith, but I do like his game as a 6th or 7th man.  Green and Sullinger have all of the heart, but they aren’t leading you to the promise land.  You’re probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned Rajon Rondo.  Well, I think he will get moved about 30 games into the season.  There’s no way he listens to Brad Stevens in the film room. That relationship does not strike me as one in which “Respect” is a two-way street. But, if Rondo does stick around all year, he doesn’t score enough points to counteract all of the should-have-been-assists from the rest of this squad.  Marcus Smart and James Young are the high potential Rookies on the roster, and they can both DO WORK.  Here’s hoping Rondo gets traded to a contender, allowing all parties involved to grow.  Next:

Toronto finished 48-34 last season in an overall brutal East.  It’s a lock that the Cavs will improve their record by a ton, and almost a lock for the Bulls (by several). The Pacers will fall, as will the Heat (though not as considerably).  I think the Pistons (praise Stan Van Gundy), Hawks, Bobcats, and Bucks will all improve on last season’s records as well, at least by a few wins. Basically, what I’m saying here is that the East is better this season and this feels like a fall back year for the Raptors. There are simply not enough wins to go around, and I think the Raptors will be left scrapping and clawing for every win in the 5-8 playoff slots.  Coincidentally, the Knicks and Nets will be right there with them, so it’s anyone’s division to steal. Toronto is everybody’s pick, but I’m not convinced.  Terrence Ross and DeMar DeRozan are good scorers, but are also inefficient. Kyle Lowry is the key.  If Lowry can recreate his success from last season the Raps are the team to beat in the division and will land in the 5th spot in the East.  Shit, I think I just talked myself out of picking the Nets.

– The Brooklyn Nets look decent on paper every year.  Joe Johnson is a regular season monster, Deron Williams used to be D-Will, KG used to be KG, and every year (the last three) they have had fun role players that you can’t help but root for (what up, Shaun Livingston, hey, Gerald Wallace).  The number one key for this team is the health of Brook Lopez.  He can be as dominant of a scoring Big as there is right now, but he seems to be catching that Yao Ming illness where you’re so huge that bones in your legs won’t stop snapping.  It could be sad.  The other key for the Nets is Williams, who I think is due for a bounce back season (picked him in fantasy).  If he continues to slide, he’s either too old or doesn’t care, and he’s not too old. It will be interesting to watch Mason Plumlee attempt to carry over his success with Team USA to the regular season.  He could be a fantasy stud if Lopez goes down.  Also of note: look for Markell Brown and Bojan Bogdonavic to be used much more than most 2nd round picks. My sleeper pick on DraftKings tonight is Mizra Teletovic. I’m hoping he’s the young buck who can steal KG’s minutes. Oh, and does AK-47 even exist anymore? Poof.

– Welcome to Neeeewwwwww Yooooooorrkkkkkkkk.  Taylor Swift’s recent change in residency may have inspired thousands of tweens in TriBeCa, but she won’t have the same effect on any member of this team.  Actually, one beautiful fall evening with the non-existent leaves blowing past her Frye boots, she’ll  have a wine cooler and get tricked into letting Iman Shumpert visit her studio. There, he will record a remix of Shake It Off and convince her to play the Tickle Game on the studio couch, where he will steal a kiss. She will write a song called “Iman” and Iman will finish the season playing great defense but only averaging 10 ppg. Shump will not get traded when he should have. Tim Hardaway Jr will steal his minutes and average 15ppg.  He will be Melo’s pup in training and they will snub Tay at games. The Knicks will win 38 games, miss the playoffs again, and dump everyone’s salary.  On and on we go.  Sidenote: I’m pretty upset that my moving to NYC has overlapped with the last two Knicks seasons. Winters in NYC would just be more fun if they were a 50-win team.  Also, no more T-Swift references.  Promise?  No. Update: Tay Tay is already sitting courtside next to Ben Stiller. Can I drop them below Boston?

Prediction: Philly stinks, Boston finishes 11th in the East, Knicks finish 9th and dump everyone. Brooklyn finishes 7th in the East and gets trounced by the Cavs (spoiler) in the First Round. Toronto finishes 5th, winning the Atlantic.

Next up, Central Division Preview.  Stay Gritty.

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