Boston Celtics: Are the C's Still the Favorite to Win the Atlantic Division?

Nikhil BaradwajSenior Analyst IAugust 14, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 17: Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks drives against Brandon Bass #30 and Paul Pierce #34 (R) of the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden on April 17, 2012 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

The Eastern Conference became stronger after this offseason, with the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers all improving. 

What do all of these teams have in common?

They are all in the Atlantic Division along with the Boston Celtics. While the C's did make their fair share of smart decisions this offseason, look for the race for the division crown to be a lot closer than even last season.

With that in mind, are the Celtics still the team to beat in the Atlantic? Let's look at their chances against these three other franchises.

The weakest threat to Boston is likely New York. While the team does have stars like Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire, the Knicks lack the chemistry to contend with the best.

Role players like Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Pablo Prigioni and J.R. Smith certainly have something to say about this assertion, but this roster does not match up well with Boston.

Stoudemire and Anthony are far too similar offensively and effectively cancel each other out instead of complementing each other.

With Mike Woodson now in charge, New York will certainly improve from the No. 7 seed, but not enough to be a division winner.

From here, we move to the Philadelphia 76ers, who look like a much bigger threat to Boston with a starting lineup of Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Dorell Wright, Spencer Hawes and Andrew Bynum.

Bench players like Nick and Thaddeus Young, Lavoy Allen, Kwame Brown and Jason Richardson complement the core and make the 76ers essentially as deep as they were last season.

Even with the Bynum deal, Philadelphia lacks a go-to scorer, especially after losing Lou Williams. For this reason, along with the loss of Andre Iguodala, the 76ers will struggle to close out games against elite teams.

With that being said, the 76ers will likely be the third-best team in the division (yeah, the Atlantic is that deep), unless Turner blossoms into an All-Star-caliber 2.

The Brooklyn Nets' "Core Four" of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez is not the only reason why they are a top-four playoff team this season.

Role players like Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Euroleague scoring champion Mirza Teletovic and Jeremy Evans are also on board, giving the Nets a solid eight-man rotation.

For the first time since his earlier days in Utah, Williams has an elite supporting cast, which will benefit not only him, but everyone around him.

Look for Johnson and Wallace to have resurgent seasons, especially since both have lacked elite point guards for the majority of their careers.

Even so, the Nets lack the depth to contend with Boston's deep second unit featuring Jeff Green, Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Jared Sullinger and Chris Wilcox, just to name a few.

While Brooklyn will provide a strong challenge to Boston, the Celtics are still the better and more experienced roster.

While the rest of the Atlantic has improved, Boston still reigns supreme. Not only are the C's the favorite in their division, but they are also one of the few contenders to an NBA title.


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