Tuesday, 24 October 2006

NBA Preview: Atlantic Division

In the midst of the football season being in full swing, and the World Series winding down, it came as a mini-surprise to me that the first NBA regular season game is less than a week away, with opening night being on Halloween. So it's time for some quick previews, starting with the Atlantic Division.

Boston Celtics - Once again, the C's will be very, very young, but also talented. As with any young bunch, consistency is key. The Celtics need to take better care of the ball and rebound better. These two areas will be determined a lot by who eventually starts at PG, and if Al Jefferson can get back to looking like the budding star he was 2 years ago. At PG, I'm not really crazy about Sebastian Telfair or Rajon Rondo... frankly, I don't think either of them can shoot a lick from outside right now... but if one of them can get established and take care of the ball, the PG spot will be ok, and the Celtics will have a very real shot at .500 and maybe, just maybe a shot at the division title.

New Jersey Nets - I don't really like this team much. The big 3 is there, but getting older. Vince Carter doesn't give much effort defensively or going to the basket, Richard Jefferson is not that effective in a halfcourt set, and Jason Kidd is not what he used to be as an outside shooter or defender. After that, things look bleak. The bench, in a word, sucks. Their 6th man is either Eddie House or Cliff Robinson, and that is really, really bad. They have Marcus Williams, who as I've said I like a ton, but the 2nd unit is just bad. If they have any injury problems (and they had hardly any last year), they'll be in trouble.

New York Knicks - Ah yes, the abomination that is the New York Knicks under Isiah Thomas. The team should be better just by pure luck and the fact that the young guys will play a little more, but not by much. Their big FA signing of the offseason was Jared Jeffries, a bad offensive player who they overpaid for. Shocking. This is still a team filled with shoot-first PGs and poor offensive 2/3 men... and that's not a good combo. One bright spot should be Channing Frye, who will get more time this year, and should thrive if the Knicks push the ball a little more. Frye is a guy I really like as well as a fantasy sleeper!

Philadelphia 76ers - I love the Sixers, but the whole offseason was much ado about nothing. They tried their best to trade Allen Iverson, but at the end of the day he's back in Philly. The big FA signing was Alan Henderson (though Rodney Carney should immediately get playing time as a rookie and be a solid player). As a result, I see a lot of the same things happening as last year... great offensively in transition, awful defensively. Andre Iguodala is very solid defensively, and Samuel Dalembert has the potential to be solid defensively, but there's not much else in that category for the starters. Allen Iverson will take a lot of chances and get a lot of steals, but he also gambles and loses a lot. Chris Webber is playing basically on one leg. Kyle Korver is a situational shooter moonlighting as a starter. It could get really ugly defensively.

Toronto Raptors - This is one of the teams I'm most looking forward to seeing how they do under new man Bryan Colangelo. They should play at a fast pace, be a little better defensively, and be relatively competitive as they begin the slow climb to respectability. Chris Bosh is the star, and he's a darn good play at the 4 or 5 spot. After that, Mo Pete is a solid player, the rookie Andrea Bargnani is intriguing, and it will be interesting to see how TJ Ford fits in the offense. If nothing else, they're deeper and will have loads of cap space next year... it will be an interesting year North of the Border.

Predicted Order of Finish:
1. Boston Celtics
2. New Jersey Nets
3. Philadelphia 76ers
4. New York Knicks
5. Toronto Raptors