Many people think this coming season, the trade for Yi Jianlian will propel the New Jersey Nets into first or second place in the Atlantic division and make the playoffs. They made some key changes and brought in some good players, and I do think they will definitely now make the playoffs.
But unless key injuries come to the Celtics and the Raptors, the Nets will finish no better or worse than third in the Atlantic division.
Now that we're assuming all is said and done, here is what the starting lineup for the Nets would look like going into training camp:
Guard: Devin Harris
Guard: Vince Carter
Center: Nenad Krstic
Forward: Yi Jianlian
Forward: Bobby Simmons
If the season started right now, that would probably be their starting lineup with key backups being Brook Lopez, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Marcus Williams, Stromile Swift, and Bostjan Nachbar.
Now that is pretty good, considering they have four players 6'10" or over who could easily be starters. (Nenad Krstic, Yi Jianlian, Brook Lopez, and Stromile Swift). This team seems to me as it is going to do very well because let's face it, they are pretty stacked.
But they are stacked in an even more stacked division. In the Atlantic you have the Nets, Celtics, Raptors, and Sixers all being legitimate playoff contenders. This season it will definitely be the strongest division in the Eastern Conference.
Even though they are going to do very well, I think the Raptors and the Celtics will both do better.
You have the returning champion Celtics who have almost the exact same team as last year with more experience. They now have Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce who finally have each won a championship. They also have youngsters in Rajon Rondo, Leon Powe, and Kendrick Perkins who now all have playoff experience!
The Celtics had the best record in the league last year so they should have another good year this season.
If the Raptors stay healthy they also will have a great season. With the addition of Jermaine O'Neal, they now have two huge all-star forwards in O'Neal and Bosh. Who, if healthy should both get 20 points and 10 rebounds a game which will free up that outside shot they love. Expect great years from Andrea Bargnani, Jason Kapono, and Anthony Parker with those seven footers inside.
The probable starting lineup for the Raptors is:
Guard: Jose Calderon
Guard: Anthony Parker
Center: Jermaine O'Neal
Forward: Chris Bosh
Forward: Jamario Moon or Andrea Bargnani
Now I know the T.J. Ford for Jermaine O'Neal trade isn't final yet, but both GMs and all of the players seem to think it is going to go through which usually means it will.
If it doesn't the Raptors will still be in good shape for they will have Roy Hibbert in the middle and will probably trade T.J. Ford for someone like a Boris Diaw. Which then I still think they will finish ahead of the Nets.
I'm not saying the Nets won't do good, but I just think these two teams will finish better. The Celtics will win the division and the Raptors will finish fifth in the East and the Nets will finish sixth. (Cavaliers fourth, Sixers seventh, and Pacers or Hawks eighth).