The Boston Celtics return this year as division champs in the Atlantic Division with a record of 45-37. Uncharacteristically, GM Danny Ainge did not make any major moves during the off season. The rest of the division made upgrades and will be looking to dethrone the Celtics. The Nets Trio of Kidd, Jefferson and Carter has New Jersey ( Brooklyn) ready to challenge the Celtics. The Knicks brought in the gypsy of coaches, Larry Brown, and center Eddy Curry in what could be a playoff bound year for the Knicks. Allan Iverson and Chris Webber will try once again to get the 76ers to playoffs while the Raptors of Toronto will be rebuilding around Power Forward Chris Bosh.
New Jersey Nets
The Nets have arguably the best perimeter trio in the league with PG Jason Kidd (14.4ppg, 8.3apg, 7.4rpg), G Vince Carter (24.5ppg, 4.2apg, 5.2rpg) and F Richard Jefferson (22.2ppg, 4.0apg, 7.3rpg). C Nenad Krstic (10.0, 5.3rpg) responded well last season and should improve in his second year in the league. The addition of Marc Jackson (12.0, 5.0rpg) will bring some energy and toughness to the second team. After last season’s injuries and distractions with the talks of moving to Brooklyn, Head Coach Lawrence frank demonstrated the leadership skills to be in the NBA. Look for the Nets to win the Atlantic Division.
The Celtics return G-F Paul Pierce (21.6ppg, 6.6rpg, 4.2apg) and the supporting cast of youngsters that made the nucleus of the team that won the Atlantic Division last season. G Ricky Davis (16.0, 3.0apg) comes off the bench to give the second team an instant scoring burst. Boston is soft in the pivot with F-C Raef LaFrentz (11.1, 6.9rpg) looking for the 3 point shot and the disappointing play of C Mark Blount (9.4, 4.8rpg). Head Coach Doc Rivers has a youth movement that will be a team to contend with in the very near future.
New York Knicks
Isiah Thomas ignored Larry Brown’s contract with the Detroit Pistons and signed him to coach his team this season. Brown with have to first get on the same page with the self proclaimed point guard in the NBA, Stephon Marbury (21.7ppg, 8.1apg, 1.49spg). The Knicks did improve the team by bringing in F Quentin Richardson (14.9ppg, 6.1rpp, 226 3-pointers) to help with perimeter scoring. C/F Eddy Curry (16.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg) was brought in to give the Knicks a presence in the pivot. The Knicks did well in the draft with three first round draft picks: (Rd 1, #8) Channing Frye-ARI, (Rd 1, #21) Nate Robinson-WAS, (Rd 1, #30) David Lee-FLO. I personally watched Robinson and Frye play well in the development league over the summer here in Las Vegas and believe that they will give the Knicks valuable minutes off the bench. If Brown can create chemistry on this unstable roster, the Knicks have the talent to get to the playoffs.
G Allen Iverson (30.7ppg, 7.9 pg, 2.4spg) is the toughest player to ever play in the NBA. Iverson played his best basketball as a professional last season and should benefit from playing a full season with F Chris Webber (19.5ppg, 9.1rpg, 4.7apg) G Andre Iguodala (9.0ppg, 5.7rpg, 1.68spg), F Kyle Korver (11.5ppg, 226 3-pointers) and C Samuel Dalembert (8.2ppg, 7.5rpg, 1.68bpg) will be the supporting cast that will help and complement the fast paced offense that the 76ers will run this season. F Lee Nailon (14.2ppg, 4.4rpg) will provide an inside scoring punch off the bench. The loss of G Willie Green will hurt the second team offensively. The 76ers are tapped out financially and will have a good season if they stay healthy. Any injuries to the starting five will make for a long season for new head coach Maurice Cheeks.
F-C Chris Bosh (16.8ppg, 8.9rpg, 1.40bpg) is in the shadows of Lebron James and Dwayne Wade in the eyes of the fans. In Canada the Raptors are looking for Bosh to be the cornerstone of the franchise after shipping carter to the New Jersey Nets. The Raptors had two first round draft picks and went after front court players, (Rd 1, #7) Charlie Villanueva-CON, (Rd 1, #16) Joey Graham-OSU, to give the franchise needed depth along the front line and will contribute immediately. G-F Jalen Rose (18.5ppg, 3.4rpg) will have to pick up the perimeter scoring void left with the departure of Carter. G Mike James (11.8ppg, 3.6 apg) will supply good on the ball defense and a solid three point shot. F Morris Peterson (12.5ppg, 4.1rpg) should fill in nicely for the departed Donyell Marshall. Toronto is in a rebuild year but they have a nice mixture of experience and new talent that can make will progress.
Jorge Gonzalez is a documented member of the Professional Handicappers League. Read all of his articles at http://www.procappers.com/Jorge_Gonzalez.htm