The following is the first in a six-part series previewing the NBA. We will write about each team in the order they finished in the division last year.
Toronto Raptors (48-34, lost in the first round to Brooklyn):
Headline: Toronto Looks to Build Off Last Year’s Success and Make a Deep Playoff Run
Summary: The Raptors were a lot of fun last year, breaking out of a slow start to win the (admittedly weak) Atlantic Division and revitalizing a rabid Toronto fanbase which hasn’t seen much success from many of its teams, other than the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts, in quite some time. This is a young talented Raptors squad that is sure to entertain, even if significant questions remain as to whether they can hope to keep pace with the East’s elite.
Overall Trend: Up, stable, strong core, good coaching staff, weak competition, they should hit 50 wins this year for the first time in franchise history.
Salary: $80M (over luxury tax threshold)
2014 Draft picks: Owe 2015 Second Round Pick to Atlanta
Biggest Addition: Lou Williams
Losses: John Salmons
Best Case: Eastern Conference Finals. This is not a team that is good enough to win a seven game series against the East’s best but given a favorable matchup its possible to see it getting to the Conference Finals.
Worst Case: First round. The bottom of the east playoff picture is a hot mess and unless absoltuely everything goes wrong for them its hard to see the Raptors doing worse than another playoff appearance.
Most Likely Case: Second Round. The Raptors are probably the third or fourth best team in the east and so can be expected to win a series before bowing out.
Brooklyn Nets (44-33, lost in the second round to Miami):
Headline: The Nets Look for the Self Destruct Button as They Look to Blow it Up
Summary: The Nets always had a short window with their heavily veteran-laden roster and that window has now closed. With the team reportedly being shopped by owner Mikhail Prokhorov its hard to see anything good coming out of this squad for the next few years. About the only favorable comparison one might make for them is with their cross-town rivals the Knicks, but even there it appears the Knicks are slightly less dysfunctional than the Nets.
Overall Trend: Down, this is going to be a long and painful rebuilding process.
Salary: $92.2M (over luxury tax threshold)
2015 draft picks: Atlanta has the right to swap its 2015 First Round Pick with Brooklyn.
Biggest Addition: Head Coach Lionel Hollins
Losses: Paul Pierce, Shaun Livngston
Best Case: Second Round. If the Nets gets healthy at the right team and get a good matchup, sure they could win a series.
Worst Case: Miss the Playoffs and Be Worse than Atlanta. The Nets don’t have a lot of picks in the ensuing years and it would be adding insult to injury if they missed the playoffs and were worse than the Hawks, causing Atlanta to swap picks.
Most Likely Case: Miss Playoffs. This team is not good enough, nor likely to be healthy enough, to even make the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference.
New York Knicks (37-45, missed playoffs):
Headline: The Knicks Look to Avoid Another Season as a Broadway Flop
Summary: In true New York fashion the Knicks appeared to have all the makings of a Broadway Hit last year, a top star in Carmelo Anthony, a big-time address in Madison Square Garden and, coming off a successful season that saw them win their first playoff series in over a decade, good things were expected. Well, much like the Broadway show “Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark” a promising open lead to disappointment as injuries, poor coaching and a roster that was thin, at best, the Knicks were seventeen games worse than their previous year. Its hard to see it getting better, at least anytime soon.
Overall Trend: Up, if only slightly over last year since Felton left.
Salary: $87.16M (over luxury tax threshold)
2015 Draft picks: Owe 2015 Second Round Pick to Houston
Biggest Addition: Trading Raymond Felton
Losses: Tyson Chandler, Shannon Brown, Lamar Odom
Best Case: Second Round. This team is good enough, in theory, to win a series if it all goes well.
Worst Case: Miss Playoffs. If Melo can’t score a lot of points every night, this team won’t be able to make up for its awful defense and will miss the playoffs again.
Most Likely Case: First Round. It’ll be a short playoff visit for New York but I believe they’ll sneak into the 7th or 8th seed.
Boston Celtics (25-57, missed playoffs):
Headline: Boston Continues its Rebuild As They Look to Build a New Core
Summary: When Boston presses the reset button, they press it hard, and such was the case last season as the Celtics completely rebooted and sank towards the bottom so they could begin rising again. Boston had a good draft and looks to be headed in the right direction, even if the playoffs are a few years off.
Overall Trend: Up, Boston hit bottom and is starting to rise again.
Salary: $72.43M (over salary cap)
2015 Draft picks: Owed the Clippers’s 2015 First Round Pick, Philadelphia’s 2015 First Round Pick (Protected for Selections 1-14) and Washington’s 2015 Second Round Pick (Protected for Selections 31-49). Owe Cleveland their 2015 Second Round Pick (Protected for Selections 31-55).
Biggest Addition: Marcus Smart
Losses: Jerryd Bayless, Kris Humphries
Best Case: #1 pick, the Celtics will be bad but not so bad as to be among the favorites to see them win the #1 pick but still, they will have a decent chance to win it.
Worst Case: Mid lottery pick, the Celtics are not totally devoid of talent and if they are reasonably okay, they could find themselves in a pick in the 7-9 range.
Most Likely Case: Top five pick, the Celtics will suck, the only question is how much.
Philadelphia 76ers (19-63, missed playoffs):
Headline: Philly Challenges for the Worst Record in NBA History as they Continue to Tank
Summary: Gotta hand it to the Sixers, they know to tank. Tying the longest losing streak in league history with 26 straight defeats last year, not much went right on the court for them. Michael Carter-Williams won Rookie of the Year almost by default but, hey it was something good for them in a year that was otherwise simply terrible.
Overall Trend: Down, although far less than last year, not much space left to go down after only winning nineteen games.
Salary: $30.5M ($29M under cap)
2015 Draft picks: Owed Miami’s 2015 First Round Pick (Protected for Selections 1-10) and Golden State’s, Orlando’s and New Orleans’s 2015 Round Picks. Owe Boston their 2015 First Round Pick (Protected for Selections 1-14), Owe Cleveland their 2015 Second Round Pick (Protected for Selections 31-50 and 56-60) and OKC their 2015 Second Round Pick (Protected for Selections 21-55).
Biggest Addition: Joel Embid
Losses: Thaddeus Young
Best Case: #1 overall pick, they will be among the favorites to land it come next spring.
Worst Case: #4 pick, the Sixers should have one of the three worst records in the league and so #4 is as low as they go.
Most Likely Case: #1 pick, they’ll probably be just worse than anyone else and so the odds will appear to be in their favor to land the top pick.