Last season, the Atlantic Division was arguably one of the weakest in the NBA, sending only one team, the Boston Celtics, to the postseason. However, this offseason was a busy one, and each of these five teams, The Celtics, Knicks, Nets, Raptors, and Sixers, all made key moves that will impact their performance in this upcoming season. Let's break down each team's offseason and assess their expectations for the 2010-2011 season.
Key Acquisitions: Shaquille O'Neal (C), Jermaine O'Neal (PF)
Key Departures: Rasheed Wallace (PF), Tony Allen (SF)
After a somewhat shocking run to the NBA Finals last spring, there where many questions surrounding the future of this franchise. Will Paul Pierce and Ray Allen resign? Will Allen even retire? How will they fill the gap Kendrick Perkins left when he tore his ACL?
Like any successful team, the Celtics went out and proved that they still have it in them to give it one more run at a title, resigning the Big Three and acquiring the two O'Neals to provide stellar depth in the front court. When Perkins finally comes back to full strength (he tore his ACL in Game 6 of the Finals), the Celtics will have perhaps the most solidified and intimidating front court in the NBA.
And let's not forget about the other guys. Rajon Rondo has easily emerged as one of the quickest and smartest point guards in the league, who has also learned to take control of his team on and off the court. And Nate Robinson, after being traded from the Knicks, provided instant energy off the bench along with Glen Davis and could be the spark plug this team needs in tough situations.
That being said, I say the Celtics have a legitimate shot to reach the Finals, as they have a more balanced, and overall more talented roster than their foes in South Beach.
New York Knicks:
Key Acquisitions: Amar'e Stoudemire (C), Raymond Felton (PG), Anthony Randolph (PF)
Key Departures: Tracy McGrady (SG), Al Harrington (PF), David Lee (PF)
Going into the offseason, the Knicks had one goal: sign LeBron James. It didn't happen. And when it didn't, the Knicks needed to get busy, and fast, for they only had three players signed for the upcoming year (one of them being Eddy Curry).
Considering the situation, the franchise responded well, signing All-Star Center Amar'e Stoudemire from the Suns and consistent, all-around point guard Raymond Felton from Charlotte. Combined with young talents like Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, these new additions should certainly help the Knicks move in a positive direction, something they have been trying to accomplish will little to no success for the last five years.
Hopefully a new GM, possibly former St. John's star Chris Mullin, understands the value of draft picks and will hold onto them, unlike his predecessor, allowing this team to build upon the core it has created.
As for Carmelo Anthony, unless the Nuggets are willing to accept an out of shape Eddy Curry and a 2012 draft pick, it seems highly unlikely he will suit up in blue and orange anytime soon.
Look for the Knicks to be a low seed in the playoffs come May, if of course, everything goes as planned. (Knicks fans know to knock on wood about now)
Key Acquisitions: Troy Murphy (PF), Travis Outlaw (SF), Derrick Favors (PF), Damion James (PF)
Key Departures: Courtney Lee (SG), Chris Douglas-Roberts (SF)
After serving as the laughing stock of the league for a year, it looks like the only place to go is up. As another team left unsatisfied with the "LeBron Sweepstakes," the Nets had a lot of cap room to fill, and a lot of holes to go with it. After a few smart trades, the Nets rid themselves of a few risky investments in favor of players like Murphy, Outlaw, and Anthony Morrow, who are capable of providing some instant offense as well as solid defense.
While none of the names on the Nets roster may stand out to the average NBA fan, they definitely have the potential to in the near future. Brook Lopez had a tremendous season last year, and he seems to be the perfect role model for rookie big men Derrick Favors and Damion James.
In a successful season, the Nets triple their win total from last season (12), missing the postseason, but not by much.
Key Acquisitions: Andres Nocioni (SF), Evan Turner (SG)
Key Departures: Samuel Dalembert (C), Allen Iverson (SG)
The 76ers sneeked into the two spot in the draft, hitting an absolute jackpot in Evan Turner. If the things he did for Ohio State last year are any insight into what he can do in the future, boy is he going to be fun to watch. Paired up with sophomore Jrue Holliday in the back court, Turner is going to give opposing defenses nightmares. The 76ers definitely have high hopes for this tandem, but the same cannot be said for the injury-prone Elton Brand. After signing Brand to a mega contract in 2008, the Sixers certainly have not gotten what they bargained for, and need him to stay healthy if they are going to do any damage in this division this year.
I expect them, like the Nets, to come just short of the postseason, but show definite signs of potential for the years to come.
Key Acquisitions: Leandro Barbosa (SG), Amir Johnson (PF)
Key Departures: Hedo Turkoglu (F), Chris Bosh (PF), Chris Bosh (PF), Chris Bosh (PF)
No, that is not a typo. The city of Toronto was devastated when Bosh announced that he would be "taking his talents to South Beach" or so the phrase goes. Although the fans are upset, I think the team is in even worse shape. Suddenly without a go-to guy, the Raptors are going to need to find away to scrape out wins, if they do even win many games at all. At least Raptors vs. Cavaliers games are going to be almost as exciting as Celtics vs. Lakers games now. A battle between two sub-par rosters each trying to prove they haven't suddenly becomes the worst team in the league. Who knows, maybe the Raptors will even pursue Vince Carter to try to bring back the old days?
But seriously, the expectations for this franchise can't be any higher than merely to survive without making any "league's worst" records.