Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Predicting anything about the awful Atlantic Division—other than there will be losing and tanking and crying and jobs lost and celery-based consolation trophies handed out—is bold.
Four months ago, this particular prediction wouldn't have seemed all that bold. Pundits and proponents of bald-headed, poorly shaven rookie head coaches and aging cores were enamored by the Nets, but New York winning the division wasn't out of the question.
Though the Knicks lost Jason Kidd to Brooklyn's dysfunctional sidelines and inexplicably relinquished a first-round pick for Andrea Bargnani, a player Toronto was desperate to move, they still had talent. We thought.
Optimists oblivious to their current 9-21 record would still say they have talent when healthy, and they're not entirely wrong. But that's not why the Knicks, who are tied for the third-worst record in the NBA, will win this forsaken division.
Three teams are actively trying not to win it—Philadelphia 76ers, Raptors and Celtics. One is failing (Raptors) miserably. Ujiri will take care of that, though. While Rondo's return will make the Celtics better, I'm already betting Ainge will take care of that, too. And at this point, there's no hope for the Sixers, which is just how they wanted it.
After them, there's Brooklyn, home to an expensive disaster. Brook Lopez is likely done for the season, and while Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett talk a big game, they're demonstrating levels of interest that rival Andrew Bynum's (seriously). Then there's Deron Williams, who's fragile and great, but mostly fragile.
Before the season is out, GM Billy King will blow it up. ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported, and Bleacher Report's Howard Beck confirmed, the Rockets contacted Brooklyn about dealing Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik for Williams, noting nothing came out of talks.
That exact trade may not go down (though it should), but something drastic will. Even if it doesn't, stick a fork in the Nets. They're done.
By default, and out of stubborn refusals to blow up their own roster, the Knicks, who are currently five games behind the division-leading Raptors, will take the Atlantic.