NBA Eastern Conference Betting Preview: Atlantic Division Predictions
by Robert Ferringo and Nolan Sinclair - 10/24/2008
"Wait, you mean we have to do it again?"
That's kind of the general sense I get about the attitude of the Boston Celtics. After their triumphant return to glory and basketball relevance in 2007-08 the Celtics will be back this year trying to defend their world championship. Last year's Celtics club was absolutely dominating in the postseason (well, except for that bizarre Hawks series). But now Boston needs to avoid the type of letdown that seems to be plaguing Massachusetts sports teams at the moment. (See: Patriots. Red Sox, and Boston College.) And that right there is the key to the Atlantic Division, and perhaps the Eastern Conference.
The championship parade vomit wasn't even dry on Causeway Street before folks in Beantown were talking repeat. And with the Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce all still wearing green there's little reason to think that they couldn't. However, one key surrounding this team is the fact that all three players have been rather injury-prone throughout their careers. And after such a grueling journey last year I would find it very odd if all three managed to dodge the injury bug this season. Further, while the core from this team is intact there were some other key pieces (James Posey, for one) that were jettisoned in the offseason. All told, I would say to look for the Celtics to win the Atlantic Division crown but by much less a margin than the year before.
The 76ers, by adding Elton Brand and resigning Andre Iguodala, made the necessary moves to challenge the Celtics for the Atlantic Division title. These two should provide us with a drama-filled, season-long battle that we haven't seen since Brandon decided to leave 90210. Chemistry, as always, is an issue in Philly. But with the talent and brutish style that they have cultivated we should be in for some throwback rivalry games between the Sixers and Celts.
Outside of the Top Two in the Atlantic Division we have the Raptors' playoff hopes and the rubble surrounding the rebuilding Nets and Knicks. Toronto's main concern is if they can stay healthy, and with the addition of Jermaine O'Neal that is a big IF. The Nets and Knicks should battle for the bottom of not only the Atlantic Division but of the Eastern Conference. The Nets do have some young talent that could provide their fans with some exciting games, but when it is all said and done, they won't be lighting up the wins column. The Knicks brought in a new coach to energize and percolate the Madison Square Garden crowd but they just don't have the personnel. (That's my nod to Walt Clyde Frazier. He always says, "percolate" when it doesn't fit into a sentence.) Getting rid of Stephon Marbury and Zach Randolph will be as start, but it looks like both the Knicks and Nets are waiting for the free agent class of 2010 and some guy named LeBron.
Without further adieu, I give you the 2009 Doc's Sports Eastern Conference Atlantic Division Predictions:
1. Boston Celtics
2007-2008 Record: 66-16
2008-2009 Projected Record: 57-25
Odds to win NBA Finals: (7/2)
Key Additions: J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker (draft)
Key Losses: James Posey
This Celtics team will feel the sting a little from losing James Posey to free agency, but resigning Eddie House should help. He shot over 40 percent from the three-point line during the finals. The most important thing that the Celtics lost is a year's worth of time. Garnett, Allen, and Pierce are another year older and a step slower after that fantastic run to the NBA Finals. Also, the Celtics suffered extremely good fortune in that none of their Big Three - each of whom have had injury issues in their career - got hurt for a prolonged period of time in 2007. Not sure if that will happen again. It seems the NBA is on a youth movement and this could hurt the Men in Green in 2008-09. Overall, though, this is still the team to beat in the Atlantic Conference.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
2007-2008 Record: 40-42
2008-2009 Projected Record: 52-30
Odds to win NBA Finals: (20/1)
Key Additions: Elton Brand, Theo Ratliff, Kareem Rush, and Marreese Speights
Key Losses: none
With the addition of Elton Brand to a team that had six different players average at least nine points per game in the playoffs, the 76ers go from the likely No. 7 or No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference to potentially the No. 4 or No. 5, if not higher. The 76ers now have the offensive post presence they have been looking for in Brand, and they can pair him with Steady Sam Dalembert and his 10 points and 10 rebounds a game. Brand, along with Andre Iguodala (20 ppg) and Andre Miller (17.0 ppg, 7.0 apg) form a triumvirate that can score with just about anyone in the NBA. Even the Celtics. If they stay healthy the 76ers will challenge the Celtics for top dog in the Atlantic Division.
3. Toronto Raptors
2007-2008 Record: 41-41
2008-2009 Projected Record: 43-39
Odds to win NBA Finals: (20/1)
Key Additions: Jermaine O'Neal
Key Losses: Rasho Nesterovic, and T.J. Ford (all part of Jermaine O'Neal trade)
This was last year's trendy pick to make noise in the East because they had a good mix of young players. Chris Bosh is a sensational talent, but he isn't the type of player to lead a team to greatness. Jermaine O'Neal will help but he has only played more than 51 games once in the last four seasons and simply can't be counted on for anything other than misdemeanors and being a malcontent. This team just doesn't have enough depth to match the 76ers or the Celtics. But the one thing I will say is that they execute their "Euro" brand of basketball extremely well. And execution is a gambler's best friend.
4. New Jersey Nets:
2007-2008 Record: 34-48
2008-2009 Projected Record: 35-47
Odds to win NBA Finals: (60/1)
Key Additions: Yi Jianlian, Bobby Simmons, Brooke Lopez (draft)
Key Losses: Richard Jefferson
This team is nothing but question marks. One being will Vince Carter be around for the whole season? Most likely, no. With the departure of Richard Jefferson and the probable departure of Carter at the trade deadline the Nets will have one player, Devin Harris, that averaged over 10 points a game last year. If Carter stays for the whole season the Nets will finish with close to 35 wins. But if he doesn't, the Nets will be a dangerous team…in 2011.
5. New York Knicks:
2007-2008 Record: 23-59
2008-2009 Projected Record: 33-49
Odds to win NBA Finals: (100/1)
Key Additions: Chris Duhon, Danilo Gallinari (draft), Mike D'Antoni (coach)
Key Losses: None
It is very rare that a team with no key losses from last year's roster hasn't gotten considerably better. Especially a team that is so used to losses overall. Well, welcome to the New York Knicks! The Knicks brass brought in the up-tempo coaching style of Mike D'Antoni to energize the faithful at Madison Square Garden, but the coach isn't the one wearing the sneakers. The players on the roster just don't have the necessary skills to play at D'Antoni's frantic pace. Oh, they'll be frantic - like John McCain at a town hall meeting - but they won't be efficient. The Knicks did add some young players that will play hard, and have some of the necessary pieces, but this season should continue the rebuilding process.