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2016-2017 Atlantic Division Preview – Can the Knicks rise to the top?

The NBA season is right around the corner, I’ll be dropping division previews in the next few days. Let’s start off with the on-the-rise Atlantic Division.

Key Division Additions: Al Horford, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee, Jeremy Lin, Brandon Jennings, Ben Simmons (R), Jaylen Brown (R)

Key Division Departures: Bismack Biyombo, Evan Turner, Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo, Thaddeus Young


Boston Celtics
Key Additions: Al Horford, Gerald Green and Jaylen Brown (R)
Key Departures: Jared Sullinger and Evan Turner
Off-Season Grade: A

The turnaround in Boston is what every team dreams of when entering the rebuilding mode. Since winning a measly 25 games in the 2013-2014, Boston made jumps to 40 wins in 2014-2015 and 48 wins last season. Danny Ainge went out and added a huge free agent in Al Horford, drafted a potentially fine young player in Jaylen Brown and still has an army of draft picks (thanks to the Nets) in his back pocket. Celtics fans aren’t thinking playoffs, they want more. The sense in Boston is they believe they can truly compete with the Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference Crown. My sense? They can. Will Ainge use one one (or both) of Brooklyn’s first round picks to go out and land a star at the trade deadline? DeMarcus Cousins, Russell Westbrook and Gordon Hayward are expected to headline those trade rumors.

Prediction: 54-28
1st Place in the Atlantic Division

New York Knicks
Key Additions: Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee, Brandon Jennings
Key Departures: Robin Lopez, Derrick Williams, Arron Afflalo, Jose Calderon, Langston Galloway
Off-Season Grade: A

Phil Jackson’s time in the NBA is coming to an end. He must win, and win now. 11 Championship rings as a head coach. 0 playoff wins as Knicks team President……for now. The City of New York has waited and waited….and waited for the Knicks to make their way back up the NBA ranks. Wait no more – they’re back.

Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee, Joakim Noah will join Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis in the starting lineup. Brandon Jennings is expected to compete for the NBA’s 6th Man of the Year award and will have a huge role anchoring New York’s bench. The big question, of course, is health – starting with former MVP Derrick Rose. After all, Rose is playing in a contract year – he’s playing for a (huge) contract next season. He’s playing to prove to the entire NBA world he still can play at an elite level. Rose believes he can, his teammates believe he can, I believe he can. If the Knicks can remain healthy, I expect them to have a fantastic season and make some serious noise come playoff time.

Prediction: 52-30
2nd Place in the Atlantic Division

Toronto Raptors
Key Additions: Jared Sullinger, Jakob Poeltl (R)
Key Departures: Bismack Biyombo
Off-Season Grade: C-

Raptors fans are reading this right now, thinking — what? 3rd place? Here’s the thing – Toronto didn’t get better from last season. Yes, they re-signed DeMar DeRozan. Yes, they have the second best back-court in the NBA behind Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Yes, the Celtics and Knicks both improved drastically. Toronto, didn’t. The guard and wings spots will remain relatively the same. Jared Sullinger should be able to fill the role of Luis Scola, but losing Bismack Biyombo will hurt. Biyombo was crucial in Toronto pushing Cleveland to six games last postseason. With Lowry, DeRozan, Carroll and Valanciunas the Raptors are well equipped for a playoff run, I just think they take a step back this year.

Prediction: 51-31
3rd Place in the Atlantic Division

Philadelphia 76ers
Key Additions: Ben Simmons (R), Dario Saric (R), Gerald Henderson
Key Departures: Ish Smith
Off-Season Grade: B+

#TrustTheProcess, right? The 76ers and their fans enter the 2016 season with loads of excitement. Drafting a potential franchise player in Ben Simmons, Dario Saric is finally making his way to the NBA and former 3rd overall pick Joel Embiid is set to make NBA debut. Those three, linked with Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor gives Philadelphia five of the top young front-court players in the league.

ben-simmons-2

2016 first overall pick, Ben Simmons. (Getty Images)

The 76ers are trending in the right direction, I believe they’ll make a huge leap this season and should triple their win count from last year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in a lot of close games, which will help the maturity of this young team.

Prediction: 30-52
4th Place in the Atlantic Division

 

 

 

Brooklyn Nets
Key Additions: Jeremy Lin, Caris LeVert (R), Isaiah Whitehead (R)
Key Departures: Thaddeus Young, Jarrett Jack
Off-Season Grade: C-

Where do we start? Can the Nets adapt the#TrustTheProcess hashtag?

The Nets had the most roster turnover than any other team in the NBA this summer. New general manager Sean Marks has made it clear – no bad contracts, no long term deals. This is a full rebuild. Brook Lopez is the only player on the roster who was on the team when the Nets last made the postseason.

The bright spot? Youth. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris McCollough, Caris LeVert, Isaiah Whitehead and Sean Kilpatrick are all players the Nets hope turn out to be special, regardless if they’re apart of the Nets organization in the future. Brooklyn may try and trade one of more of those players in an effort to acquire draft picks down the road. The Nets will compete, and will compete hard — expect a lot of close games, but not many wins.

Prediction: 24-58
5th Place in the Atlantic Division