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Predicted Record: 46-36
In my mind, the second, third and fourth place spots in the Atlantic Division are all interchangeable. As I previously mentioned, all three teams have strengths, and all have evident weaknesses.
The Philadelphia 76ers are the sexy pick to leapfrog the Knicks and even the Celtics at this point, but I still think it's too early to make that call.
The Sixers have improved, and there's absolutely no arguing that. Andrew Bynum is the best offensive center in the game today, and now that he's the lone superstar on a young team, he has a chance to mold his legacy as he sees fit.
Firmly established as the first option on the offensive end of the floor, Bynum feels like a lock to average 20 points and 10 or more rebounds per game this season.
What the Sixers have improved the most, though, is their overall team depth. Finally blessed with some legitimate perimeter shooters, the Sixers can throw combinations of Nick Young, Jason Richardson and Dorell Wright at opponents.
With Bynum and a host of talented wing players (let's not forget Evan Turner), the Sixers now possess an inside-out game that should be difficult to stop.
Under head coach Doug Collins the Sixers have been one of the NBA's stingiest defensive squads, but the departure of swingman Andre Iguodala could hurt them a tad on the defensive end.
Turner will be called upon to lock down the likes of Carmelo Anthony and Joe Johnson, so he's going to need to grow up quickly in order for the Sixers to remain a stout defensive side.
It will undoubtedly take some time for all of these new pieces to mesh, but the Sixers are a team better suited for a playoff run than immense regular season success.