The Atlantic Division looks to be a lot deeper this season, as basically every single team improved for the time being and the future.
With that being said, the Nets might have made the biggest advancements. If the "Core Four" of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez stay healthy, the Nets can make a legitimate claim as a contender for a top-four seed.
Their role players are also underrated, and the addition of Euroleague scoring champion Mirza Teletovic should not be forgotten.
So, how do the reigning Atlantic Division-winning Boston Celtics stack up against Brooklyn?
Let's see how these teams match up with each other. Each team's component is rated like a boxing match to see whether the Nets or the Celtics will have an advantage next season.
Rajon Rondo over Deron Williams: 10-9
Joe Johnson over Avery Bradley: 10-8
Paul Pierce over Gerald Wallace: 10-9
Brandon Bass and Kris Humphries: EVEN
Kevin Garnett over Brook Lopez: 10-9
Celtics Bench over Nets Bench: 10-9
Doc Rivers over Avery Johnson: 10-8
After looking at everything, Boston posts a comfortable four-point advantage over Brooklyn. Here's why:
While Deron Williams is definitely a better scorer than Rajon Rondo, the Celtics point guard involves his teammates better and is a much more proficient defender than the Illinois alum.
In a playoff series, Rondo will definitely play his best ball, and if he even gets close to the ridiculous 17-12-6 stat line he posted in the 2012 playoffs, this advantage might be even bigger.
Avery Bradley is a great on-ball defender and has the potential to make an All-Defensive team this season. His offensive game pales in comparison to Joe Johnson's though.
Johnson will benefit from having Williams as his point guard, especially since he has been playing with Jeff Teague for the past few seasons. Add in the fact that Johnson is noticeably taller, and the Nets have the advantage there.
Paul Pierce is definitely better than Gerald Wallace, but the margin between the two is not nearly as large as one might imagine.
While Pierce is the better scorer and will stay healthier than Wallace over the course of the season, "Slash" does so many little things well, that he turns out to be a fringe All-Star player. Even though Wallace is a much better defender, Pierce still gets the edge.
The frontcourt scoring relied on Brook Lopez staying healthy. If the former Stanford center is hurt or out, Kevin Garnett will easily dominate the Nets. A healthy Lopez poses problems for Boston, because he is such a great offensive player.
Who Wins a Potential Seven-Game Series?
Bass and Humphries essentially cancel each other out, with Humphries being the better stat stuffer and Bass being the better team player.
Like they usually do, the Celtics post a huge advantage in terms of their bench and coaching.
Boston's highly heralded second unit includes Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox and Jared Sullinger, but Brooklyn's bench is nothing to write off. Jeremy Evans, MarShon Brooks, Teletovic and C.J. Watson all have the potential to play big minutes in a potential playoff series, and each can even start for extended stretches at a time.
As for coaching, Doc Rivers is simply one of the top-two coaches in the league, while Avery Johnson is simply an average head man. Nothing against Johnson, but Doc simply manages the game better than he does.
At the end of the day, that four-point advantage could easily be much different if key players are not healthy—a major issue for both teams.
In any case, it's going to be great to see these two teams duke it out for the shot at a high seed in the Eastern Conference.