Atlantic Division Preview: Boston Celtics Should Take the Crown

Adam MillerCorrespondent IOctober 5, 2008

Boston Celtics

Projected Depth Chart:

PG Rajon Rondo/Sam Cassell/Eddie House

SG Ray Allen/Tony Allen

SF Paul Pierce/Darius Miles

PF Kevin Garnett/Leon Powe/Glen Davis

C Kendrick Perkins/Patrick O’Bryant

The Boston Celtics should be the favorites to win the Atlantic Division, considering the New Jersey Nets are only marginally better, and the Philadelphia 76ers, while improved, aren’t going to compete with the Celtics.

The only way that Boston doesn’t come out as the No. 1 team in this division—and perhaps the entire Eastern Conference—is if age begins to show, or if one of the "Big Three" gets injured. Assuming neither problem occurs, the Celtics should make it back to the Finals with a group that hasn’t changed much.

The Celtics should rely on their depth a little more. Rajon Rondo has some playoff experience and is much better, while Kendrick Perkins has become a rebounding beast.

Boston’s only real addition is Darius Miles, who, under Celtics’ coach Doc Rivers’ system, should finally come close to reaching his potential.

New Jersey Nets

Projected Depth Chart:

PG Devin Harris/Keyon Dooling

SG Vince Carter/Trenton Hassell/Maurice Ager

SF Jarvis Hayes/Bobby Simmons

PF Yi Jianlian/Eduardo Najera

C Stromile Swift/Sean Williams/Brook Lopez

The Nets are in a rebuilding phase after trading point guard Jason Kidd last season and forward Richard Jefferson in the offseason. They have a rising point guard in Devin Harris and a falling star in Vince Carter.

This team is bound to make the lottery again as they are bound to struggle against the Raptors, Celtics, and 76ers. For the Eastern Conference, this should be the most competitive division, which means it’s going to be a frustrating season, as New Jersey is still one of the conference’s weaker teams.

New Jersey realizes that this team is not built for this season. It’s built for the 2010 season, when LeBron James will be a free agent and the Nets will be in prime position to offer him the maximum contract.

They are also going to relocate to Brooklyn, which will appeal to James’ sponsors. This team is waiting for James to propel them into an Eastern Conference heavyweight.

New York Knicks

Projected Depth Chart:

PG Stephon Marbury/Nate Robinson/Chris Duhon

SG Jamal Crawford/Mardy Collins

SF Quentin Richardson/Wilson Chandler

PF Zach Randolph/Jared Jeffries/Danilo Gallinari

C Eddy Curry/Jerome James

This is another team that is trying to get in on the LeBron James sweepstakes. The Knicks have a lot of depth, but no cap room. They’ve wised up a little bit and will also have contract room to sign James in 2010.

You can assume that the current frontline will be all but gone by the time that happens. That means it’s going to be the Knicks’ bench that is going to be leading the way going into the 2009-2010 season.

The younger core of Wilson Chandler, Nate Robinson, and now Danilo Gallinari are the Knicks’ future. They are talented enough to be solid role players if James joins them. But until the 2010 offseason, New York will have to deal with what it has.

If the Nets aren’t the worst team in this division, it’s certainly the Knicks. The one thing they have going for them is the fresh face of Mike D’Antoni, who will bring his up-tempo offense to New York. In other words, this team should at least do a lot of scoring.

Philadelphia 76ers

Projected Depth Chart:

PG Andre Miller/Louis Williams

SG Kareem Rush/Willie Green/Royal Ivey

SF Andre Iguodala/Reggie Evans/Thaddeus Young

PF Elton Brand/Donyell Marshall

C Samuel Dalembert/Theo Ratliff/Marreese Speights

The Philadelphia 76ers are considerably better after adding Elton Brand to the team. In fact, this is probably the best team the 76ers have had since the 2001 squad that made it to the NBA Finals.

You could even make an argument that this team will be even better with more all-around talent instead of just Allen Iverson and everyone else. They aren't a better team than Boston, but they are a lot closer than many people would believe.

Philly is one of the only teams in the Eastern Conference with a true center—and he’s no stiff either. Samuel Dalembert is probably the best defensive center in the NBA, considering his rebounding and shot-blocking prowess.

The big question mark with this team is how the Sixers’ best player, Andre Iguodala, will perform this season. Last year he scored nearly 20 points per game, which is good but not great when you are trying to establish yourself as a top-flight NBA player.

With the scoring help that Brand will provide, he probably doesn’t need to score 30 points per game. But if he can boost his average a couple points or so, he will make a serious case for becoming an All-Star this season.

Toronto Raptors

Projected Depth Chart:

PG Jose Calderon/Roko Ukic

SG Anthony Parker/Hassan Adams

SF Andrea Bargnani/Jason Kapono/Joey Graham

PF Chris Bosh/Kris Humphries/Jamario Moon

C Jermaine O’Neal/Jamal Sampson

Toronto is very interesting because they have a very strong backcourt and are good at every position, but don't have any strong players who can really take over a game.

Anthony Parker had a very nice rookie season last year and should do even better, although he likely won’t get as many touches with such a strong presence in the post.

I would be shocked if the Raptors actually start Andrea Bargnani at small forward, but they have too much invested to make him sit behind Chris Bosh or Jermaine O’Neal.

But the most important piece of this front court is going to be Jermaine O’Neal. Toronto is going to be a much different team if it has him the entire season. It’s safe to say that he’s not the same player that he once was, but he is good enough to make the Raptors a significantly better team.

They still don’t have the talent to beat Philly or Boston, but they should make the playoffs pretty easily, and perhaps get out of the first round.

This article is also published on Hoops 4 Life. You can find it published here.


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