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2013-14 NBA Atlantic Division Preview

Russell Simon |
October 23, 2013 | 2:30 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Deron Williams and the new-look Brooklyn Nets look to be favorites in the division. (Lolita Lens/Wikimedia Commons)
Deron Williams and the new-look Brooklyn Nets look to be favorites in the division. (Lolita Lens/Wikimedia Commons)
The Atlantic Division may be the most intriguing division in the NBA going forward into the 2013-2014 regular season. It’s got everything: Two teams already in full tank mode, a plethora of watching-friendly All-Stars and a budding East River rivalry between the Knicks and Nets. Here’s what to look for from each team in the Atlantic.

Teams Ranked In The Order They Finished Last Year

1. New York Knicks (54-28, Lost To Pacers in Second Round)

Who They Got- PF/C Andrea Bargnani, SF Metta World Peace, PG Beno Udrih

Who They Lost- SF Chris Copeland, PG Jason Kidd, PF Rasheed Wallace, F Steve Novak, PF/C Marcus Camby, G/F James White

Who They Drafted- SG Tim Hardaway Jr. (24th Overall)

Projected Starting Five

PG: Raymond Felton

SG: Iman Shumpert

SF: Carmelo Anthony

PF: Andrea Bargnani

C: Tyson Chandler

This July, the Knicks finished a major overhaul of both their team and arena. Gone are the old and cramped Madison Square Garden hallways and many of the veterans who broke down in April. Instead, the Knicks have focused a bit on the young and new when they acquired Tim Hardaway Jr. and refitted Madison Square Garden with skybridges that somehow hang from the Garden Ceiling.

Those who thought the Knicks could not have a more eventful offseason than the one they had last year, in which they wavered back and forth on signing Jeremy Lin for two months, were wrong. The drama began when rumors came out that Knicks management was pondering moving Iman Shumpert because Knicks owner James Dolan was unhappy that the versatile guard was missing Summer League, even though it's Shumpert's third year in the league. The team then traded a 2016 first-round pick to Toronto for much-maligned big man Andrea Bargnani, signed Metta World Peace and hired Steve Mills as general manager. As if that was not tumultuous enough, Carmelo Anthony announced his intent on becoming a free agent after this season.

If the Knicks want to contend, Carmelo Anthony needs to play less in the post. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
If the Knicks want to contend, Carmelo Anthony needs to play less in the post. (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
The big question on the court with this team now is if they can defend better then they did last year. With Anthony at the '4' for most of last season, the Knicks had to double-team aggressively when any big man got the ball in the post. This led to countless blown rotations and wide-open threes for teams who took advantage of the Knicks' carelessness. Plus, Anthony spent the entire year bruising with larger power forwards and hurt his shoulder at the end of the season. Expect Bargnani to have a big role as the Knicks look to move Anthony back to the 3 more to keep him healthy.

Best Case Scenario: Bargnani fits right in on offense as the Knicks continue to succeed by shooting at a historic rate from downtown. They fix their defensive shortcomings from last season and the athletic Shumpert blossoms into a borderline All-Star. With a better defense, the Knicks emerge as legit contenders in the Eastern Conference for the first time in over a decade.

Worst Case Scenario: The Knicks continue to recklessly double-team on defense and blow their rotations. Bargnani continues to play like he did in Toronto and does not mesh with the Knicks offense. Shumpert does not improve defensively, J.R. Smith continues to be a distraction, World Peace breaks down towards the end of the year and Amar'e Stoudemire plays at all. The Knicks get bounced in the first round, Anthony opts out Stoudemire opts in for another year of being paid over $20 million.

2. Brooklyn Nets (49-33, Lost to Chicago in Second Round)

Who They Got- PF/C Kevin Garnett, SF Paul Pierce, SF Andrei Kirilenko, SG Jason Terry

Who They Lost- F Gerald Wallace, PF Kris Humphries, PG C.J. Watson, G Jerry Stackhouse, SG MarShon Brooks

Who They Drafted- PF Mason Plumlee (22nd Overall)

Projected Starting Five

PG: Deron Williams

SG: Joe Johnson

SF: Paul Pierce

PF: Kevin Garnett

C: Brook Lopez

On paper, the starting lineup is incredible. In Williams, the Nets have a dynamic, multifaceted point guard who was injured for basically all of last season. They have a great shooter who now will get plenty of open looks in Joe Johnson. Garnett and Pierce are two veteran leaders who will provide defensive toughness to a team that was sorely lacking it last year, while Brook Lopez is emerging as one of the best centers in the game. The Nets have a lot of pieces, and it will be up to first-year head coach Jason Kidd to make them all fit.

Brook Lopez has become one of the NBA's best centers, but his team needs to stay healthy. (SportsAngle.com/Flickr)
Brook Lopez has become one of the NBA's best centers, but his team needs to stay healthy. (SportsAngle.com/Flickr)
But, this team could have a huge issue with health. Williams was never 100 percent last season, and the team struggled with him running the point. Plus, Kevin Garnett is 37 and Paul Pierce is 36. They have both been in the league for ages and if they are not in tip-top shape in April, the Nets are in trouble. 

Best Case: They stay healthy, while KG and Pierce make the Nets a much tougher and better defensive team. Brook Lopez continues to grow, Deron Williams gets all of his explosivness back and Joe Johnson finds his stroke as the Nets battle for one of the top spots in the East.

Worst Case: The injury problems persist. Jason Kidd is overmatched in his first season as a coach. Paul Pierce and KG slow down as the season develops. The Nets draw a tough first round matchup with either Indiana, Chicago or Miami. They lose and then Garnett and Pierce retire.

3. Boston Celtics (41-40, Lost to Knicks in First Round)

Who They Got- F Gerald Wallace, PF Kris Humphries, SG MarShon Brooks.

Who They Lost- PF Kevin Garnett, SF Paul Pierce, SG Jason Terry, C Fab Melo

Who They Drafted- C Kelly Olynyk (13th overall)

Projected Starting Five

PG: Rajon Rondo

SG: Avery Bradley

SF: Jeff Green

PF: Kris Humphries

C: Kelly Olynyk

It'll be a rebuilding season for Brad Stevens and the Celtics. (bradjward/Wikimedia Commons)
It'll be a rebuilding season for Brad Stevens and the Celtics. (bradjward/Wikimedia Commons)
It was an offseason of change for the Celtics. Gone are all of the Big 3 and Doc Rivers. Still, GM Danny Ainge has planted the seeds for a fruitful rebuilding process by stockpiling draft picks and signing Brad Stevens as head coach. The Celtics still have Rajon Rondo, and a terrible year here would put them in a great spot for 2014 since they have two first-round picks in a historically good draft.

Best Case: The Celtics struggle this year, but don’t trade Rajon Rondo. They luck out in the lottery and land at least one Top 5 pick, as well as another quality first-round pick. The rebuild is a quick one and the Celtics are a playoff contender in 2014.

Worst Case: The Celtics perform surprisingly well with Rondo leading the charge. They win 37 games, barely miss the playoffs, get a mid level draft pick and have set themselves up for years of mediocrity.

4. Philadelphia 76ers (34-48)

Who They Got- PF Royce White, SG James Anderson, PG Darius Morris, C Daniel Orton

Who They Lost- PG Jrue Holiday, C Andrew Bynum, SG Nick Young, SF Dorell Wright

Who They Drafted- F Nerlens Noel (6th pick overall) G Michael Carter-Williams (11th pick overall)

Projected Starting Five

PG: Michael Carter-Williams

SG: Evan Turner

SF: Thaddeus Young

PF: Lavoy Allen

C: Spencer Hawes

The Sixers have all but admitted they are trying to be as bad as possible this year to get the best possible chance at landing Andrew Wiggins in the draft. Philadelphia was actually under the salary floor that the NBA established for this season. Yes, they have not spent enough money on getting players for the 2013 season. That’s all you need to know.

Best Case: Philadelphia does not set the record for most losses in one year and gets the 1st overall pick.

Worst Case: The 76ers set the record for most losses and don't end up with Wiggins.

5. Toronto Raptors (34-48)

Who They Got- F Steve Novak, PF Tyler Hansbrough, PG D.J. Augustin, SF Austin Daye

Who They Lost- PF Andrea Bargnani, SG Alan Anderson, SF Linas Kleiza, their mascot

Drafted- N/A

Projected Starting Five

PG: Kyle Lowry

SG: DeMar DeRozan

SF: Rudy Gay

PF: Amir Johnson

C: Jonas Valanciunas

New GM Masai Ujiri has a long term plan for Toronto, and it includes being pretty bad in the 2013-2014 season. The Raptors are looking long term- getting rid of Andrea Bargani’s albatross of a contract and acquiring an extra first-round pick in 2016. They will enter into the Wiggins sweepstakes and will look to slowly build themselves into a contender.

Best Case: Toronto struggles to win 30 games. They luck out in the lottery and get the first pick. Andrew Wiggins returns to Canada, where the Raptors, in a year, build themselves into a contender.

Worst Case: Toronto struggles through a miserable season, but does not luck out in the lotto. They end up with a Top 10 pick but no Wiggins. A nation puts on "Nothing Was the Same" and cries itself to sleep with Drake. Molson sales go through the roof.

Reach Staff Writer Russell Simon here or follow him here.



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