The Atlantic Division progressed dramatically in the offseason. With the emergence of the Nets, an improved 76ers team, the timeless Celtics and the New York Carmelo's, the division could realistically send four teams to the playoffs.
Yet, the Nets will beat them all for the wildly contested division crown. Here is a breakdown of why the Nets will conquer its tough competition.
The winners of the past five division titles, the Celtics are mere shadows of their former NBA championship team. Because of their experience, they are always dangerous in the postseason. But for them, the regular season is merely a warmup to stay healthy and get the necessary reps in.
The Nets are much deeper—and younger—than the Celtics.
The athleticism of former superstars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett is dissipating before our eyes.
Yes, Rajon Rondo has a strong claim as the top point guard in the the league, but he needs to make his jump shot consistently—like in the postseason—to top Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Derrick Rose.
Rounding out the starting lineup are strong defenders Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass, but neither stretch the floor offensively.
Jason Terry and Courtney Lee are both nice additions off the bench, but the Celtics lack serviceable big men in the second unit. They will have to rely on rookies Fab Melo and Jared Sullinger for quality minutes.
I expect Brooklyn's strong bench, especially MarShon Brooks and Mirza Teletovic, to perform well against the light second unit.
Pierce and Garnett will need to experience a renaissance of their prime years for this team to win the division for a sixth straight season.
New York Knicks
The East River Rivalry has come to fruition as well as hoped. The public, aggressive, savvy, comedic Prokhorov has morphed into the anti-Dolan.
On the court, the Knicks revolve around the play of Carmelo Anthony. Yes, he is one of the most talented players in the league, but he has yet to prove he can lead a team to a title.
Also, the duo of Carmelo and Amare Stoudemire has failed miserably. They simply do not co-exist well together. Neither give much effort on the defensive end, either.
NBA Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler will lock down the paint, but provides little on the offensive end.
Raymond Felton played well in New York under Mike D'Antoni's system, but he will perform as an average point guard at best with Mike Woodson. Deron Williams will torch him to prove the Nets' superiority.
The signing of Ronnie Brewer was extremely underrated; he is one of the better perimeter defenders. Yet I still believe Joe Johnson will back up his words and show that he still in one of the top offensive shooting guards in the league on the big stage.
Their bench is quite deep with J.R. Smith, Steve Novak, Iman Shumpert, Jason Kidd, and Marcus Camby.
After a surprising upset over the No. 1 seed Bulls in the Eastern Conference playoffs—with some help from Derrick Rose—the 76ers dramatically improved with the acquisition of All-Star center Andrew Bynum.
Bynum—arguably the top offensive center in the league, who averaged 18.7 ppg and 11.8 rpg—adds a much-needed interior presence. Only 24 years old, he possesses all the potential in the world, yet has had attitude issues and is injury-prone
The recent news that Bynum will receive radical knee treatment in Germany does little to allay the fears of his injury-filled past.
The 76ers are packed with young talent, but it must develop quickly to give coach Doug Collins reliable second and third options.
Talented point guard Jrue Holiday took a step back last season but still has all the potential in the world. The uber-quick 22-year-old handles the ball well but need to make better decisions and up his shooting from 43 percent.
Deron Williams will bring the kid back to school.
Evan Turner and Dorell Wright are the expected wing starters. Both have plenty of room to grow and Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace will steepen the learning curve.
Spencer Hawes plays a finesse game, but is a capable scorer with solid shooting range. He should mesh with Bynum's physical, low-post prowess.
They lack depth off the bench, especially at point guard and center, relying on Royal Ivey and Kwame Brown. Really, Kwame Brown? Young guys Lavoy Allen and Arnett Moultrie could add solid minutes down low. Shoot-first guys like Jason Richardson and Nick Young will add scoring and not that much else from the wings.
Overall, the Nets have more experienced players currently in their prime and should teach the youngsters some lessons.
The Raptors are still a few years away from contending. The number four pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Jonas Valanciunas, will support leading scorer Andrea Bargnani and former lottery pick Ed Davis.
DeMar Derozan continues to develop on all facets on the game.
Former Rocket Kyle Lowry, who averaged 6. assists last season, will lead the charge as the floor general.
The addition of Landry Fields will help on the wing as a shooter and a solid defender.
But all in all, the Raptors are very outmatched by the Nets at every starting position and off the bench. The Raptors are still rebuilding and cultivating lottery-level talent for the future.