2017 NBA Preview – Atlantic Division

THE NBA season is fast approaching! So there is no better time than the present to analyse each of the 30 teams with tipoff etching closer every day. Read each of the division by division primers to know what to expect from the 2017-18 NBA season!

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Boston Celtics

Roster Changes
NO roster went through more of an overhaul in the offseason than the Celtics. One of two teams in the league to lose double-digit faces from a season ago, Boston also welcomed 14 new players (league high) to their 2017-18 team. Kyrie Irving is easily the biggest addition to the team, but it came at a cost with Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder leaving. Gordon Hayward’s free agency signing and drafting Jayson Tatum means that the makeup this year is vastly different.

Three Questions That Matter

1. Can They Trust Marcus Smart?
DEPENDING on who you ask Marcus Smart has been cutting hard this preseason losing somewhere between 15 and 165 pounds. There is plenty of excitement surrounding this squad, but if they are going to be good they need to have ‘lockdown defenders’ come crunch time. A healthy, Smart taking the next step could push them over the edge and see them make the leap into the NBA finals.

2. Will The Overhaul To The Roster Cause Chemistry Issues?
WHEN teams go through as many changes as this Celtics team does, there is the potential for things to go pear-shaped. While it will obviously take time for this team to gel, having someone from a college background in Brad Stevens, who is used to dealing with high player turnover, bodes as a huge bonus moving forward.

3. In Hindsight Was Trading Avery Bradley A Bad Move?
LOOKING back the Celtics might regret moving Avery Bradley in July. In their defense the do-it all, grit and grind guard was due for a payday in the near future, one that Boston would not have been able to afford. However, if they knew that they were going to acquire Kyrie Irving, you have to wonder if they would rework their squad or trade him again if they had their time over.

Record: 56-26
CLEARLY the Celtics are in the box seat to take out the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference this season. However, as we have seen in the past that might not mean they can take care of business in the playoffs. Some may ask how they lose 26 games in a woeful conference, but a slow start will hamper the inevitable Kyrie Irving ‘heat check’ games that send the TD Garden into raptures.

2017 NBA Preview - Atlantic Division 1Image from sportstories.net

Brooklyn Nets

Roster Changes
WHETHER people agree or not, Brook Lopez is actually a good NBA player. A versatile scorer and amicable defender, Lopez swung some games on his own accord last year for the Nets and he will be a big loss for the team. They did however add D’Angelo Russell in that trade, who seems ready to take control of a team now that he is out of the bright LA lights. Throw in Allen Crabbe, Tyler Zeller and rookie Jarrett Allen and they probably have a better team than they did a season ago.

Three Questions That Matter

1. With No Incentive To Tank Can Brooklyn Actually Win A Bunch Of Games This Year?
THERE is light at the end of the tunnel Nets fans. After this year they will reclaim their first round picks after that horrid trade with Boston that robbed them of talent in the past. Cleveland will draft in Brooklyn’s place this season, meaning with no reason to tank the Nets might try and climb up the standings in an effort to recruit future free agents.

2. Will Jeremy Lin (And His Hair) Have An Impact?
WHATEVER your opinion is on Lin’s hair there’s no denying that for the past five years he hasn’t come close to recapturing the hype that surrounded him during Linsanity. With injuries and a lack of opportunity hampering his output, hopefully this is the season that he can re-establish himself as a functional floor general and contribute to Brooklyn’s success.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Charlotte HornetsImage from ftw.usatoday.com

3. Who Else Can Score The Ball?
RONDAE Hollins-Jefferson (8.7 PPG), DeMarre Carroll (8.9 PPG), Caris LeVert (8.2 PPG) and Timofey Mozgov (7.4 PPG) all struggled to score the ball a season ago, due to their limited roles and inability to, well play good basketball. With Lopez and Russell virtually a straight swap for average points, someone else alongside the likes of Lin and Booker will need to step up their offensive game to help the Nets win. Allen Crabbe should help, but they still need more players to lift their game.

Record: 29-53
THERE is still a lot of work to be done before the Nets can restart climbing up the Eastern Conference ladder. that being said I think a lot of people are underestimating them this year. The backcourt is their strength (which isn’t saying a lot) and if D’Angelo can harness his role as a team’s primary scorer don’t laugh when he averages 20 PPG. Slowly and steadily they are on the up.

New York Knicks

Roster Changes
THE biggest change to this year’s New York Knicks is the absence of Carmelo Anthony. After seven seasons, 10,186 points and just seven playoff victories the Knicks dealt him to OKC for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a 2018 2nd rounder via Chicago. They also ditched Derrick Rose and seem to be all in on their youth movement surrounding Kristaps Porzinigs and rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina, with the addition of Beasley, Jack and a returning Tim Hardaway Jr.

Stock Up:Stock Down - NBA Summer League 2Image  from nydailynews.com

Three Questions That Matter

1. Will Michael Beasley/Doug McDermott Help Or Hinder?
TWO guys who average nine points for their careers are being asked to step up and help the Knicks this year. What can go wrong? If New York is going to win any games they will need someone outside of Porzingis to score and provide stability on a young Knicks roster. The candidates that are likely to fit the mould are veterans with some know how, but can you really expect Beasley and McDermott to be those players?

2. If Porzingis Can Stay On The Floor What Can We Expect?
THE O.G. Unicorn finds himself as a franchise player on a pretty awful New York team starving for some postseason success. The Latvian sensation known as Kristaps Porzingis can only carry the team so far without support and it would be unfair to expect too much from the third year pro. Having played 138 games out of a possible 164 games in his career to date, injury concerns are somewhat warranted. As the team’s primary scoring option it’s tough to predict just how Porzingis will harness the new role and I hope that he can stay on the court long enough to produce.

3. Are They Smart Enough To Tank?
AFTER this season the new lottery rules kick in, making the incentive to tank much less beneficial. Therefore it makes sense for the Knicks to try and lose more than they usually would (not that they will have to try hard). Since the last successful, winning period in the franchise’s history there have been some head scratching decisions made by the front office, so while it makes sense for them to lose, don’t assume that the Knicks will make the smartest decision for their future.


Record: 28-54
REGARDLESS of if New York wants to lose or not, their roster won’t give them much choice. They could choose to put Porzingis on ice at around the 65 game mark if he is struggling with minor injuries which may see there win’s trend towards the lower 20’s. Either way, the Knicks are lottery bound and there isn’t much that they can do about it in the short term.

Philadelphia 76ers

Roster Changes
AFTER all the changes to Philadelphia’s roster they virtually have the same core going into their new campaign. They are definitely bolstered by a (potential) one year of J.J. Redick and No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz arriving in the City of Brotherly Love. No one will be burning Tiago Splitter or Gerald Henderson jerseys in the streets, so expect Philly to turn a corner this season if…

Three Questions That Matter

1. …They Can Be Healthy. Right?
I won’t dive into the injury issues surrounding this 76ers team too much. All you need to know is that their three best players (Simmons, Embiid and Fultz) have all been injured throughout the preseason at some point and have a history of health issues. If they can stay on the floor they may even go close to 45+ wins. That’s a big ‘if’ though.

2. Will Another Losing Season Cost Brett Brown His Job?
BRETT Brown is a pretty good coach. He hasn’t had a lot to work with in the past with the 76ers opting to trade or move any player who seems like a decent prospect in order to acquire future assets. With ‘The Process’ seemingly complete everyone is expecting big things in 2017-18, but if they fail the finger will have to be pointed at someone. I think it would be the wrong move to show Brown the door, but if the loss column is somewhere near the 50’s the front office may make a knee jerk reaction and give him the boot.

3. Will J.J Redick Be ‘That Guy’?
IN the modern NBA every team has a player whose role is to bang three’s with regularity. J.J. Redick isn’t handicapped to do just that, having shown an ability to put the ball on the floor averaging over 15 points a game in his four years with the Clippers. As a veteran and leader for Philadelphia, he will face a new challenge and it will interesting to see if he becomes a stand in the corner and spot up guy or if he is relied upon to help do something when the rookies panic.

Record: 40-42
EVERY man, woman and child is all aboard the ‘Philly Postseason’ train, but I’m somewhat sceptical. I have to see Simmons, Embiid and Fultz on the floor for a big duration of time before I think they are a good team worthy of a +.500 record. They definitely have the talent on paper and when (if) they can stay healthy I will buy a ticket to jump on the playoff train at any possible station.

2017 NBA Preview - Atlantic Division 3Image from twitter.com

Toronto Raptors

Roster Changes
A handful of irrelevant role players are coming in to fill the void left by Patrick Patterson (OKC), Cory Joseph (IND) and P.J. Tucker (HOU). Time will tell if the Raptors will take a step backwards after the loss of those aforementioned guys, but there is no denying that Toronto is virtually (once again) running it back.

Three Questions That Matter

1. Will They Trade Valanciunas?
THE Lithuanian big man has been mentioned in trade rumours for years with the Raptors considering moving his 12/9 averages elsewhere in an effort to take the next step. At the age of 25, his best days are may still be ahead of him and a buyer could emerge if Toronto decides to take their franchise in a different direction.

2. Now That He Has Been Paid Will Kyle Lowry Go Backwards?
THERE is a universal belief that after a player get’s a big extension they fall into a comfort zone and regress. Kyle Lowry’s ceiling has been demonstrated throughout his Canadian tenure so far and his 18.2 PPG and 6.8 APG averages over the past five seasons are probably close to what we should expect again this year. At the age of 31 and with the possibility of the Raptors reaching their peak we still may see Lowry take his foot off the pedal ever so slightly though.

3. Is It Time To Blow It Up?
IN the words of The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor it’s time to BLOW IT UP! Trade DeMar, trade Kyle, get future first rounders and bottom out. The Raptors have experienced the best stretch of success in franchise history with those two All-Star peers steering the ship, but they just aren’t good enough to contend with the upper echelon of the league. If Toronto hovers around a .500 record through the first month or two of the season we could see the front office choose to fold their hand and look ahead to the 2022 title.

Record: 48-34
I still think that if Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are in your starting backcourt then you’re one of the best teams in the East. I think their 2017-18 team is worse than their team from a season ago, but remember they play in the inferior conference. They once again seem destined to win in the highs 40’s and bow out in the East semifinals to a Cavs/Celtics squad in six games.

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