Blog Entry

2011-2012 Atlantic Division Preview

Posted on: December 22, 2011 7:20 pm

By Matt Moore

We're less than a week away from the start of the 2011-2012 NBA season. After an interminable lockout and a rushed free agency period, here's a first look division-by-division preview at how the league is shaping up. We finish with the Atlantic Division.

2011 Standings:
Boston Celtics, 56-26, lost second round of Eastern Conference Playoffs to Heat, 4-1
New York Knicks, 42-40, lost first round of Eastern Confernce Playoffs to Celtics, 4-0
Philadelphia 76ers, 41-41, lost first round of Eastern Conference Playoffs to Heat, 4-1
New Jersey Nets, 24-58, NBA Lottery
Toronto Raptors, 22-60, NBA Lottery

Best team: Boston Celtics

One more year. That's what the Celtics get. One more year to rule the roost. The Celtics have one more ride left with this core and then it's a sail off into the sunset while the team tries to figure out how to rebuild around Rajon Rondo. But with the extra time off, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce should be in good shape to make one more run at a title in order to validate themselves as one of the truly great teams of this era. (Pierce is already questionable for Sunday's opener vs. the Knicks.)

Without a second title, the Celtics have to be considered a disappointment. Winning a championship is supposed to validate everything, yet the Celtics were supposed to win multiple titles when the Big 3 formed. Good enough for the rest of the league is not good enough for the Celtics. But injuries and then a slow fade has denied them, as well as improvements in star power for the Heat and Lakers. The Celtics are still a dominant team, built around defense and reliable offensive weaponry. Their veteran experience helps them dismantle younger teams and their toughness helps them outlast weaker, more explosive teams.

But there's no stopping age, and this team is at the end of its run. They've got once chance, with a phenomenally weak bench, tougher competition, and continuing injury issues to try and surprise everyone and go out on top. One more chance to ride off into the sunset. Saddle up.

Worst team: Toronto Raptors

The Nets are hanging above this spot by a thread. A thin thread. A very, very thin thread. They have questions at every position except point guard and coach Avery Johnson has not taken the team by storm. But Deron Williams and the possibility of getting Dwight Howard keeps them out of the bottom.

We know who the Raptors are. They don't rebound. They don't defend. They struggle with toughness. They don't have a star. They don't have any complete offensive players. But there's reason to believe they might shake this bottom spot. Dwane Casey comes from Dallas with a determination to change the culture defensively. DeMar DeRozan has the chance to take the next step. Ed Davis looks like a beast in the making. There are good players on this roster. Unfortunately, everything hinges on everyone's least favorite Raptor, Andrea Bargnani. The fans are done with Bargnani for his lack of defense and rebounding. Unless he comes out dominant in the paint, he'll continue to be the object of scorn. With no real center on the roster (Jamal Magloire is starting), it's hard to see any real improvement for the Raps. They'll likely be at the bottom of the division, but there's always a chance they can surprise.

Biggest surprise: New York Knicks

The Knicks are going to surprise one way or another. Because if they fail to secure a top-five pick this season, it will be a letdown. Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler can't make a top-four seed? And if they do make a top-four seed, it means that the Knicks have started to play defense, which is a stunner all its own.

The Knicks are at once a title contender and a non-factor in the Eastern Conference. It's just a matter of which side of the Hudson you're on. Melo is either going to be an MVP candidate, or fail miserably at point forward. Tyson Chandler is either going to make all the difference, or be an injury-prone non-factor who can't cover for all the other weaknesses. There's little in-between. But the Knicks in a full season together with a better combination of talent should take a step forward. This is a super-team that has not been built with a clean carving. It's rough, it's wild, and it operates for the most inventive head coach in the league. The Knicks may wind up exactly where they were last season.

But the ride should be full of surprises for someone, anyway.

Three Best Players: Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, Amar'e Stoudemire

I couldn't win here. I left off Carmelo Anthony, which is going to drive Knicks fans batty. I included Amar'e Stoudemire, which is going to light the fires on half the people who read this. I excluded Ray Allen, the best pure shooter in the league. Paul Pierce isn't on here despite being the clutchest of the clutch. Kevin Garnett's on here, and some people think he's past the point of no return. Andre Iguodala is one of the best all-around players in the league and he's not even close to being on here. Deron Williams' team may win 20 games this season and he's on here. And Andrea Bargnani... no. Andrea Bargnani would not be on here. But the point is this division is long on players with top level ability. There are seven to eight names you can put on here as "the best."

Biggest Question: Can the Knicks gel?

Putting together a three-headed monster all in the frontcourt is a risky proposition. There's not a player to bind it all together. No creator. The absence of a viable point guard for the Knicks, at least until Baron Davis gets healthy, means that the frontcourt has to run an offense itself. It's like asking a plane to fly itself without navigation. The Knicks were up and down all season, including during the stretch with Melo and STAT, mostly on account of not knowing how to work with one another. But with one being a high-usage small forward and the other being a high-usage power forward, can they work together? Is this a combination of players that makes sense?

The Knicks can win with this group because stars win games. But can they win the big games, can they make the jump to an elite team? More importantly, can they establish an identity going forward? The Knicks have tossed together two of the best players in the game and then added one of the best big men in terms of rebounding and defense out there. But can talent alone spell greatness? And if not... what does that mean for Mike D'Antoni?

2012 Projected Standings:
1. Boston Celtics
2. New York Knicks
3. Philadelphia 76ers
4. New Jersey Nets
5. Toronto Raptors

Since: Mar 30, 2007
Posted on: January 31, 2012 7:18 am

2011-2012 Atlantic Division Preview

All I gotta say is I toldya so.

Since: Dec 11, 2006
Posted on: January 4, 2012 12:37 pm

2011-2012 Atlantic Division Preview one is talking about the Lakers. This is a comment stream related to the Atlantic division, literally the opposite division of the Lakers.

The fact that Boston is a huge college area means nothing when it comes to professional bias in sports writing. Many of the college students who come to Boston are from somewhere else, and you won't get far with any successful, well-regarded publication if you cannot do your job with a level of impartiality. isn't the Globe, the Herald or the Providence Journal, it's not Comcast, NESN or WEEI, and it's not Barstool or anything else that would tilt favor and opinion towards Beantown in any way, These writers are from all over the country; if it seems like they write about Boston too much, try to remember that New England teams have won 7 freaking titles since 2001. If you want to say there is a significant East Coast bias, I won't argue with that. But there is no evident Boston bias on national sports websites and no disproportionate number of writers hailing from the Boston-area any more than from any other top 25 city in the country.

Here's your journalism school rankings (not a Boston school in the bunch)

And as far as Sixers/Knicks Atlantic slugfest, you got it half right. Expect either the Knicks or Celtics to be winning this division. I see it going 1. Boston 2. New York 3. Philadelphia 4. New Jersey 5. Toronto

Since: Aug 11, 2008
Posted on: December 25, 2011 1:39 pm

2011-2012 Atlantic Division Preview

Gooooooooooooooooooo Celtics! 

Since: Aug 18, 2006
Posted on: December 23, 2011 11:59 pm

2011-2012 Atlantic Division Preview

If the Knicks don't learn to play defense they won't be anything more than a division runner up that gets taken out in the 1st round by a complete team.  If they do learn how and actually decide to do it....they have the talent to win the whole thing.  Smart money though says they will be a 2nd or 3rd place team and get bounced in round 1.

Since: Nov 20, 2006
Posted on: December 23, 2011 9:40 pm

2011-2012 Atlantic Division Preview

2011-2012 Atlantic Division Preview

the knicks will win this division hands down. sixers you guys are dreaming you dont have any dominant player and you guys are talking shit.

it will be knicks versus celtics and this time the knicks will take it. knicks finally have a center and wont be getting out rebounded every game as soon as the knicks start to gel watch out

Since: Nov 20, 2006
Posted on: December 23, 2011 9:39 pm

2011-2012 Atlantic Division Preview

the knicks will win this division hands down. sixers you guys are dreaming you dont have any dominant player and you guys are talking shit.

it will be knicks versus celtics and this time the knicks will take it. knicks finally have a center and wont be getting out rebounded every game as soon as the knicks start to gel watch out.  

Since: Oct 12, 2006
Posted on: December 23, 2011 5:31 pm

2011-2012 Atlantic Division Preview

Sixers are going to shock the Knicks. The Celtics, they looked old last season, They lost more than Davis, they lost Perkins, the other player ythat went middle of last season to Oklahoma. That was a big reason they were able to handle the Heat prior to the last season in the playoffs, it was those 2 other players that made a huge difference. Now they're gone, so they better have guys that can step in at those positions and time of the game to get them the quality minutes. The Sixers are a year more experienced and developed, Collins will have these guys playing team and they will get 7-8 players to get into double figures for scoring, Like last season gonna be hard to beat that every night. The Sixers actually played the Heat closer than the Celtics in losing 4-1 in those playoff series. Sixers played the Celtics closer than anyone else in the division. They have a better shot than most give them credit for. I like the way the Sixers built this team, they didn't sign 3 stars in FA or trade around to get a 4th star. They remind me of the way Brown built and coached the last Sixers team that made the Finals around Iverson. They were fun to watch for a few seasons as they were one of the better Eastern Conference teams. Last season this team was fun to watch, frustrating too. But as long as they become a unified force, Who do you shut down, they are all contributing at key moments and it's always the extra pass to the open or more open man.

Since: Mar 30, 2007
Posted on: December 23, 2011 5:23 pm

2011-2012 Atlantic Division Preview

Sorry to spam but just check this out<span class="Apple-tab-span" style="white-space: pre;">

Since: Mar 30, 2007
Posted on: December 23, 2011 4:50 pm

2011-2012 Atlantic Division Preview

BTW, "old" Elton Brand is younger than most of the Big 4. So just think about that for a bit.

Since: Mar 30, 2007
Posted on: December 23, 2011 4:44 pm

2011-2012 Atlantic Division Preview

If you wanted to have a playoff series, sure, but I just don't think the Celtics can hold up for a whole year. What happens if two of their top players go down for a period of time? None of them are dominating enough anymore at this stage in their careers to carry and entire team by themselves, post-Shaq Kobe style. Because thats the team they will resemble most if they lose anyone, the Smush Parker/Kwame Brown Lakers.  How are the Celts going to pull a deal when they have nothing of value? I'm just stating facts here. There's 66 games, and KG will miss at least 16 and Peirce will miss at least 10. So there's only 40-50 games that the actual Celtics will be playing. Just do the math. The Celtics are a good team and they might get lucky but this schedule kills them as does their lack of anything resembling NBA players on their bench. 

As for Brand, did you see him last year? 18 and 9. Solid production there. The sixers have 8 starter quality players to cover the 240 minutes. The Celtics have 4 or 5 and while they might be better, they are also old and injury prone 

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or