THE Sports & Swag Report

NBA – Atlantic Division Preview: The new look Brooklyn Nets should own the Atlantic…

In the off-season, the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics made one of the biggest blockbuster trades in NBA history, when long time Celtic icons, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were sent from Beantown to the Big Apple. The Celtics had been the king of the hill in the Atlantic for years, however with Pierce, Garnett, and Jason Terry changing uniforms, the landscape is about to change.

All Atlantic Division Team:

PG  –  Rajon Rondo  (Boston Celtics)

SG  –  Joe Johnson  (Brooklyn Nets)

SF  –  Carmelo Anthony  (New York Knicks)

PF  –  Kevin Garnett  (Brooklyn Nets)

C    –  Brook Lopez  (Brooklyn Nets)

Best Veteran Addition(s):

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett  –  (Brooklyn Nets)

Best Newcomer(s)

Kelly Olynyk  –  (Boston Celtics)

Predicted Order of Finish:

1. Brooklyn Nets  (2012-13 result: Lost in 1st Round of Playoffs)

Projected Lineup and Rotations:

PG   –  Deron Williams          Bench  –  Shaun Livingston

SG  –   Joe Johnson               Bench  –  Jason Terry

SF   –   Paul Pierce                 Bench  –  Andrei Kirilenko

PF   –   Kevin Garnett              Bench  –  Reggie Evans

C    –    Brook Lopez                Bench  –  Andray Blatche

Strengths:  There are few teams out there that can match the veteran leadership and playoff experience, that the Nets have. With the exception of point guard, depth shouldn’t be an issue for this team, either. That’s huge, because there will be a lot of nights where Garnett, or Pierce have to rest. The Nets should be able compensate. Deron Williams, didn’t have his best season, but he’s still one of the top point guards in the NBA. Also, in a league where the center position is relatively weak, Brook Lopez is one the best centers around, and looks to have a very productive season.

Weaknesses:  New head coach, Jason Kidd is in his first season ever, as a head coach. While, Kidd has always been an extension of his head coaches on the floor throughout his career, being on the bench and ultimately responsible for everything that goes on with a team is totally different. Eventually, Kidd will be a good coach. He’s just unproven. Also, while there is quality depth, the weak spot will be behind Williams. Then, there is the age factor. Will Pierce, KG, and Terry be able to stay rested and healthy?

Outcome:  While, I see the Nets being the best team in this division, I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t make the Eastern Conference Finals, which would be a major disappointment. With the moves made in the off-season, its championship or bust for the Nets. Sorry Nets fans, looks like a bust to me.

2. New York Knicks  (2012-13 result: Lost in 2nd Round of Playoffs)

Projected Lineup and Rotations:

PG   –   Raymond Felton           Bench  –   Pablo Prigioni

SG   –   J.R. Smith                      Bench  –   Iman Shumpert

SF   –   Carmelo Anthony          Bench  –   Metta World Peace

PF   –   Amar’e Stoudamire      Bench  –    Andrea Bargnani / Kenyon Martin

C     –   Tyson Chandler             Bench  –  Amar’e Stoudamire

Strengths:  Carmelo Anthony, capable for putting a team on his back and carrying them for several games or weeks at a time, so don’t expect the Knicks to go on many prolonged slumps. Raymond Felton has really come on to be a solid point guard and gives the Knicks the ball handling they need, when Anthony doesn’t have the ball. Coaching. Mike Woodson is very underrated as a coach, but I’m not sure this is the right fit for him.

Weaknesses:  Melo handles the ball far too much 1 on 1. I should say, 1 on 5, because when he has the ball, he attracts so much attention from the defense. Which leads to another problem. When healthy, Stoudamire is one of the better talents in the NBA, but its next to impossible for he and Melo to coexist. One, because of their attitude toward the game, and Two, because they both attack defenses in much the same way. Perimeter shooting will take a  hit with the loss of Steve Novak. J.R. Smith does return, but he’s a streaky shooter and can let his emotions get the better of him sometimes.  Chandler and Stoudamire’s age and health are always a concern.

Outcome:  There were times, where it looked like the Knicks may have turned the corner and were ready to be a contender. Those times were short lived, and have faded away. The Knicks are a playoff team, but will probably be 1st round and done.

3.  Toronto Raptors (2012-13 results: Missed Playoffs)

Projected Lineup and Rotations:

PG  –  Kyle Lowry                  Bench  –  Sebastian Telfair / D.J. Augustin

SG  –  DeMar DeRozan         Bench  –  Terrence Ross

SF  –  Rudy Gay                     Bench  –  Steve Novak / Mickael Pietrus

PF  –  Amir Johnson             Bench  –  Tyler Hansbrough

C    –  Jonas Valanciunas    Bench  –  Aaron Gray

Strengths:  With DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, and Rudy Gay in the fold, the Raptors have athletes galore. On the wing, the Raptors are very underrated and can cause problems for teams trying to match up with them. Amir Johnson, is no slouch at power forward in terms of athleticism as well. At center, Jonas Valanciunas really came on the last couple months of the season. He averaged 12.5 point the last two months of the season after only averaging 5 per game in the preceding months.

Weaknesses:  While Valanciunas came on with his scoring, he still only averaged 6 boards a game for the season. At power forward, Johnson wasn’t much better at 7.5 boards per game. Toronto has athletes that can get to the rim and finish with the best of them, but can they consistently knock down shots from the perimeter. Kyle Lowry, at times is a very solid point guard. At other times, whether its his shooting or just overall duties running the team, he leaves you scratching your head. He has to be more consistent for the Raptors to reach their potential.

Outcome:  The Raptors have potential, but also a lot of questions. The playoffs aren’t impossible but its very unlikely until they are more consistent in just about every phase of the game.

4. Boston Celtics  (2012-13 result: Lost in 1st Round of Playoffs)

Projected Lineup and Rotations:

PG  –  Rajon Rondo              Bench  –  Avery Bradley

SG  –  Courtney Lee             Bench  –  Marshon Brooks / Keith Bogans

SF  –  Jeff Green                  Bench  –  Gerald Wallace

PF  –  Brandon Bass            Bench  –  Jared Sullinger / Kris Humpries

C    –  Kelly Olynyk              Bench  –  Kris Humphries

Strengths:  Even after trading away two of the most celebrated players in Boston Celtics history, it’s not hard to find strengths on this team. Rajon Rondo is one of the better point guards in the league and Jeff Green is on the verge of being a star. There is also some depth at shooting guard and small forward. Question is; will these players be wearing a Celtic uniform by the end of the year. The Celtics front office has made it no secret, that they are in full rebuild mode. Meaning, the only player that might be unmovable is Jeff Green. Everyone else, including Rondo could be traded if the offer is right. At any rate, the Celtics Rookie center, Kelly Olynyk is an undervalued player, even though he was drafted in the first round.

Weaknesses:  Pretty simple. It’s impossible to determine just what direction the Celtics headed in, on the floor and off. The trade with Brooklyn, and the hiring of Brad Stevens has completely changed how we’ve looked at the Celtics organization over the years. Speaking of Stevens, it may be a while before we can determine whether or not he will be a successful NBA head coach. I think he has a good chance to be, but with the roster in so much question, the Celtics will have to wait to find out.

Outcome:  Again, its impossible to predict who will be on the team, let alone how they will finish in the Atlantic Division. The playoffs seem out of the question, though.

5. Philadelphia 76ers  (2012-13 Result: Missed Playoffs)

Projected Lineup and Rotations:

PG  –  Michael Carter-Williams      Bench  –  Darius Morris

SG  –  Jason Richardson               Bench  –  James Anderson

SF  –  Evan Turner                        Bench  –  Thaddeus Young

PF  –  Thaddeus Young                 Bench  –  Lavoy Allen

C    –  Spencer Hawes                   Bench  –  Kwame Brown

Strengths:  The Sixers have some talent up front. I’m a fan of what Thaddeus Young brings to the table at power forward. His athleticism is remarkable and he has help at the 4 when Lavoy Allen comes off the bench. Evan Turner is also a very solid player right now. Turner, averaged 13 points per game last season, but I think those numbers will only go up. Spencer Hawes is also pretty solid at center and gives the Sixers a nice combination down low.

Weaknesses:  The Sixers are also in rebuilding mode. Gone is promising point guard Jrue Holiday, in a move that is a huge gamble for the organization. In that trade with New Orleans, the Sixers received a 1st round pick in return. That could prove to be a very good gamble for Philly, but if it doesn’t, it will be extremely difficult for the fans in Philly to ever take this organization seriously. With Holiday gone, the Sixers decided to take Michael Carter-Williams in the draft.Williams, while talented, has a lot to learn about running a team in the NBA. The Sixers, also  drafted Nerlens Noel from Kentucky, but he won’t be available for a while due to is injury from last season. Doesn’t look good if you’re Sixers fan.

Thanks for reading!  As always, please feel free to comment……..

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