The following is the first of a six-part series previewing the NBA. Due to the short lead-up before the season begins, I will do one division at a time. I will write about each team in the order they finished in the division last year.
(56-26, lost in the second round to Miami)
Headline: The Original Big Three Tries for Ring #2.
Summary: Before the big three in Miami, there was Boston’s version, which won the 2007-08 NBA title and fell just short in the 2009-2010 season, losing to the Lakers in seven games. With their big three in the twilight of their careers, does Boston have enough left to make a run for one more title?
Overall Trend: Down. They simply looked to run out of gas late last year, and it doesn’t look like it’ll get any better.
Biggest Addition: Brandon Bass.
Losses: Jeff Green (to heart surgery), Glen Davis.
Best Case: NBA Title, if it all comes together, it could happen.
Worst Case: First round of the playoffs. The bottom of the east is so bad they will make the playoffs but give them the wrong matchup and they are done early.
Most Likely Case: Second round of the playoffs. They are simply not as good as the top three teams in the east anymore.
New York Knicks
(42-40, lost in the first round to Boston)
Headline: A New Era Tries to Lead New York Back to the Top.
Summary: It has not been a good last decade for the Knicks franchise, awful as recently as two seasons ago, but it turned around last year with the additions of Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. Although swept out of the first round by the Celtics, the Knicks nonetheless are poised to make the NBA matter in New York again.
Overall Trend: Up. They might not be headed for the elite as soon as their fans think, but it’s definitely a brighter day for New York than it has been.
Biggest Addition: Tyson Chandler.
Losses: Chauncey Billups.
Best Case: Eastern Conference finals. This team is not as good as Miami or Chicago, but it is feasible to see them easing past one of the two before falling one step short of the finals.
Worst Case: First Round of the playoffs. A middling regular season followed by a first round matchup with Chicago, Boston or Miami could mean a quick exit for New York.
Most Likely Case: Second Round of the playoffs. They will probably be the #3 or 4 seed, and thus should draw a fairly easy first round matchup before falling to one of the elite teams in the second round.
(41-41, lost in the first round to Miami)
Headline: With New Ownership, Time to Grow Up or Blow it Up.
Summary: The Sixers were one of the more surprising teams in the league last year, starting horribly but finishing very well to make the playoffs. With an odd mix of young and old on their roster, the time has come for Philly to decide if it wants to try and make a run now or jettison their veterans and start rebuilding anew.
Overall Trend: Uncertain. With Elton Brand’s monster contract finally coming off the books after next year, the Sixers are a cross-roads. They can try and trade Brand and possibly Iguodala as well and look to score in free agency or hang on and hope to make a run now. Their choice clearly clouds their future.
Biggest Addition: Nikola Vučevic (16th overall pick).
Best Case: Second Round of the playoffs. They are still a step behind the elite in the eastern conference, but they could possibly pull one upset and make the second round.
Worst Case: Miss the playoffs. If they decide to trade Brand/Iguodala, they will miss the playoffs for sure. However, it is possible they will anyways, if they aren’t able to put it together like they were last year.
Most Likely Case: First round of the playoffs. They’ll probably make the playoffs, but that will be the end of the road for Philly.
New Jersey Nets
(24-58, missed playoffs)
Headline: After Striking Out on Dwight, What’s Left for the Nets?
Summary: Owner Mikhail Prokhorov has become one of the more colorful owners in the league in the short time he has owned the team. Yet, after striking out so far in their attempt to get Dwight Howard, what will they do now in their final season before moving to Brooklyn.
Overall Trend: Up. They are better than they were last year, but how much better is not yet certain.
Biggest Addition: Shawne Williams.
Losses: Travis Outlaw.
Best Case: First round of the playoffs. Although unlikely, it is possible that the Nets could sneak into the playoffs, especially if they nab Dwight Howard midseason, but even if they don’t, Deron Williams could be good enough to lead them there.
Worst Case: Miss the playoffs and completely strike out in the FA/trade market. This is not a deep team to say the least, and it remains to be seen that they are truly an attractive destination for star players.
Most Likely Case: Miss the playoffs. One of the smart things NJ did after failing to land Dwight Howard was to sign a bunch of players to short-term deals to preserve cap space next summer. These players are not very good, so the team can be expected to miss the playoffs.
(22-60, missed playoffs)
Headline: Can the Woeful Raptors Escape Last Place?
Summary: After losing Chris Bosh before last season, Toronto was a team adrift, and this still appears to be the case. They are among the worst teams in the league, and frankly, they have not gotten any better. It will be another long year for Canada’s only team.
Overall Trend: Up… barely… maybe… I don’t know. It’s hard to see them doing worse than last year, but it’s possible.
Biggest Addition: Gary Forbes.
Best Case: Get the #1 pick in next year’s draft. They will probably have one of the worst records in the league, maybe they get lucky and get the #1 overall pick, only to somehow pick another international player like they do every year.
Worst Case: Do something foolish like give Bayless or Barbosa a big extension. This is not only a bad team, but one without a lot of young star talent on it. The worst they can do is hamstring rebuilding attempts longterm by giving out an outsized deal to a player that doesn’t deserve it.
Most Likely Case: Miss the playoffs and get a top five pick, which they will again use on an international player.