Atlantic Division: Is Boston's dominance coming to an end?
Can Raptors contend?
The Torono Raptors have a new head coach and a new attitude on defence.
That doesn't mean they're back in contention for the Atlantic Division crown. At least not yet any way.
Until someone steps up and proves otherwise, the Atlantic is still the Boston Celtics' division to lose.
From the time Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Paul Pierce in Boston back in 2007, the Celtics have owned the division winning four straight Atlantic titles.
||2011 Record: 56-26
96.5 Points Per Game
91.1 Points Allowed
||2011 Record: 42-40
106.5 Points Per Game
105.7 Points Allowed
||2011 Record: 41-41
99.0 Points Per Game
97.5 Points Allowed
||2011 Record: 24-58
94.2 Points Per Game
100.4 Points Allowed
||2011 Record: 22-60
99.1 Points Per Game
105.4 Points Allowed
Each of their titles was won by at least 10 games. Pure dominance.
The core of Pierce, Garnett, Rondo and Allen are is as good of a four-man unit as there is in the NBA. When they are on the court together they’re capable of dominating at both ends of the floor.
Three of the Celtics’ four All-Stars are 34 years or older though and a compressed schedule may not be kind to old bodies. The team also traded away Kendrick Perkins last season and has yet to find a solid replacement at centre.
Meanwhile, their Atlantic foes have gotten a lot better in the last year.
The Knicks, Nets and 76ers all improved by more than 10 wins from 2009-10 to 2010-11. And three Western All-Stars swelled the division’s talent pool last season as Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Soudemire joined the Knicks while Deron Williams made his way to New Jersey.
So can the aging Celtics maintain their grip on the Atlantic or will father time catch up with the Beantown ballers?
The Knicks likely pose the biggest threat to the Celtics reign with Anthony and Stoudemire providing an impressive one-two punch on offence.
Both stars are liabilities on the defensive end though and the Knicks don’t have much wiggle room under the cap to fill out their roster with more suitable complementary pieces. They also lost out on the chance at Chris Paul (for now at least) when he was traded to the Clippers and exercised his option for next year.
The Philadelphia 76ers are a young, gritty team with a ton of athleticism. They’ll need some of their young players like Jrue Holliday and Evan Turner to show a fair bit of improvement though if they want to elevate themselves from a bottom-tier playoff team to a legitimate contender in the East.
The Nets wouldn’t have made the playoffs last year even if you combined their win total from the last two seasons. The Nets actually improved by 12-games last season and still only won 24 games.
So what is there to look forward to? Lots. On the court they have an elite point guard in Deron Williams. Off of it there’s the move to Brooklyn which should make the team for enticing for luring free agents and the Prokhorov factor. The Nets Russian billionaire owner is entertaining enough to make the team interesting all by himself but he's also shown that he is willing to spend for talent.
And then there’s the Raptors.
The team is very young but does have money to burn. While luring free agents to Toronto is never easy the team can afford to be a player in the trade market or take a chance on someone who has been waived via the new amnesty clause.
The Raptors are essentially trotting out the same team that won 22 games last season. And while that number is sure to go up under new coach Dwane Casey the team likely isn’t going to make much noise this season.
The team has some solid young pieces in DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis and Amir Johnson. The team’s top pick in the draft Jonas Valanciunas won’t join the Raptors until 2012 but he along with Davis, may actually mean the team has a front-line it can build around.
The team’s biggest star Andrea Bargnani has definite gifts on the offensive end but is unfortunately about as effective as a pylon on the defensive end. Although their new coach seems to think the big man is improving on that end.
Still, another seat at the NBA lottery is likely for the Raptors.
So is the Atlantic division still Boston’s to lose er will one of the other Atlantic teams end their reign And how will the Raptors fare under their new head coach? Chime in with your thoughts at the bottom of the page in our Your Call section.
Also don't forget to check out our team-by team outlooks for each of the teams in the Atlantic..
|Mark Your Calendars
The NBA kicks off on Christmas Day with the Celtics and Knicks opening the slate at noon et.
Boston Celtics: Dec. 25 at New York
New York Knicks: Dec. 25 vs Boston
New Jersey Nets: Dec. 26 at Washington
Toronto Raptors: Dec. 26 at Cleveland
Philadelphia 76ers: Dec. 26 at Portland
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