The Atlantic Division
Ah the Atlantic. For more than 36 seasons now, the NBA’s Big East conference has played home to some of the most memorable teams in history. From the powerhouse Celtics teams of the 1980’s (and the awful Knicks teams) to this newest edition of the powerhouse Celtics (and the awful Knicks teams) here’s what the Atlantic is bringing this year:
How often do teams lose their star player, win 62 games, go down in a grueling 7 game series against the game’s best big man… and come out grumbling about what should have been. These are the Rajon Rondo Celtics: NBA champions, gritty, full of attitude and talent. Between Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Rasheed Wallace and the Little Triple Double himself, Rajon Rondo, the Celtics have all of the firepower to compete for their 379th NBA title. Of course, between Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Rasheed Wallace and the Little Trade Bait himself, Rajon Rondo, the Celtics have all the egos to compete with the Real Housewives of Boston. It’ll be a championship or bust season for a team which only two years ago became only the eighth team to win a championship with 65+ wins in the same season.
The Big Three:
While KG’s knee will be the focal point of so much scrutiny, Celtics faithful always seem to fall back on The Truth. This is a perimeter scorer’s league and for more than a decade, the Celtics have run through Paul Pierce. Of course, for more than a decade prior to the arrival of a certain other perimeter scorer, the Celtics had won as much time with the Larry O’Brien Trophy as they did with the Stanley Cup – old Jesus Shuttlesworth plays a massive part in the C’s destiny. If Ray Ray can get and stay in rhythm for prolonged stretches of the season, then the Green could be one of a few teams to get a sniff at 70 wins this year.
Raging Rajon and the Disintegrating Sheed:
One of the great problems with the NBA playoffs is that there are just too damned many of them. In a system where more than half of the league makes the playoffs and every bloody series is a best of 7, even the most hardcore fans tend to take the “Wake me when it COUNTS counts” stance. What a great tragedy it was that Chicago Bulls – Boston Celtics series of 2009-09 was missed by so many should-be and kind-of fans. Not only was it a terrific series, it gave birth to the certifiable star of Rajon Rondo. No, he was not and should not have been an all-star last season, but this year, the big fisted jitterbug and uniquely skill-setted PG looks to build on a postseason where he more or less, averaged a triple double (16.8, 9.7 and 9.8.) Sheed looks to come in and not suck, although at the physical age of 35 and the emotional age of 12 – the question becomes can Sheed pick and pop his way to filling the hole left by Leon Powe (not to mention the step KG may or may not have lost.) Although Sheed may be asked to play the Middle Relief Left Handed Hitter Specialist role and basically show up for 7-10 games this year: the 3 regular season and 4-7 playoff matches with Dwight Howard and the Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic.
The Celtics have the great disadvantage of playing with other Celtics – there are only so many touches to go around. When you play on a team where anywhere between 3-4.5 guys could go score 25 ppg on other teams, you just can’t be too sure who is going to get the numbers. Rajon Rondo is probably the most interesting Celtic as he is both the least dusty (so fresh at only 23 years old) and least likely to give up minutes (Eddie House would be the only backup PG at this point.) The Celtics of 09-10 may end up looking a lot like that other Rasheed Wallace team… a championship team with a bunch of guys at 16-20 ppg, 5-8 rpg and a smattering of defensive stats. Rajon should be in the 14-16 ppg, 9-11 apg, 4-6 rpg, 2-3 spg and basically the only Celtic even kind of worth going out on a limb for fantasy wise.
It’s the hope that kills you. It isn’t the fans of perennial terrible teams like the Clippers or the Clippers who get hurt every May/June – it’s the fans of perennial almost teams like the Sixers. After firmly moving from the reign of previous AI Allen Iverson to new AI (and should have been NBA slam dunk champions 3 seasons ago) Andre Iguodala, the Sixers added a bigtime middle piece in Elton Brand to go along with Andre Miller and looked to make some noise. After losing the oft-lost Brand, the Sixers looked doomed to another ignoble first round loss. Suddenly, after sophomore sensation Thaddeus Young’s game winning layup over sometimes DOPEY DPOY Dwight Howard, the Sixers held a 2-1 advantage on second round admission over the Magic… so that didn’t work out. Now, after losing the most underrated PG of the past decade in Andre Miller, the Sixers look to get Brand back and move into the next echelon of NBA teams.
Albatross Arms and AI2
Elton Brand was once that most rare and pursued NBA character, a 20-10 guy… of course, that was on the Clippers…of course, that was when the Clippers were good… of course that was for one year...a horse is a horse, of course…of course… After shirking Baron and those very same very bad Clippers (that would make 7 potshots at the Clippers for anyone keeping score) Brand got a dose of instant karma and wound up where he winds up most NBA seasons – in a suit on the sideline. But not only does Elton have to get and stay healthy, at the wrong side of 30 years old now, the former Blue Devil has to prove that he can return to Clippers form (how often do you say that in a positive sense – “Return to Clippers form”… that would be 9.) And all Andre Iguodala has done is to begin hit game-winning shots and take a team no one expected to compete after Brand’s loss to the brink of the second round.
Dalembert, Young and the Gang
After averaging a double-double in 07-08, Samuel Dalembert fell off in 08-09. Alternatively, Thaddeus Young picked up more minutes and turned into a reasonable 15 ppg 5 rpg type of dude. If the Sixers want to succeed in the Year of Referees that will be 09-10, they are going to have to do it with last year’s Thaddeus Young and the year before’s Dalembert. But the major loss here was Andre Miller. All the guy does is run a solid point, take his team to the playoff…and go to a new team. Philly faithful/delusional are salivating at the long armed UCLA prospect Jrue Holiday as a potential Russell Westbrook… but is a teenager really ready to be a contributing member of a playoff NBA team? Will the Sixers look to make a midseason trade for a serviceable PG? Will Lebron v. Kobe dominate the NBA again? Is the NBA a corporate shell of its former self just like all sport/everything in the Western World? But yeah… Jrue Holiday…
Don’t touch Elton Brand within the first 5 rounds of your draft. That man is the definition of injury prone. While AI is going to get most of the attention here for his reasonable across the board numbers, keep your eye on Thaddeus Young as a major sleeper pick here. His minutes per game went up about 50% last season while his production went up about 90%. Young could be a 16-18 ppg 6-8 rpg 4-6 apg guy that doesn’t even get drafted in a lot of leagues.
New Jersey Nets
The Almost-Brooklyn Nets enter the 2009-10 season the envy of every team in the NBA – not only are they not going to be expected to win anything, they are probably going to end up playing for a traveling Playboy Mansion. Yes, the Yi Jianlin, Skip to My Lou, praying for Lebron, not quite Brooklyn Nets now playing for Vito Corleonovsky. Last year, Devin Harris gained a lot of attention as the halfcourt-shot hitting impresario of the 34 win Nets. A cap-clearing sweepout of Air Canada left the Nets with Rafer Alston and the interesting young tweener Courtney Lee. Really, the Nets are looking to pull together some nice young pieces and surround a major 2010 acquisition, whether it be Lebron or Wade or Amare is yet to be seen – but rest assured, with New York looming and ownership a buzzing, the Nets will be picking up someone big next season.
Devin Harris holds a fascinating place in the NBA world. He is one of a handful of players to average 21+ and 7+ and would certainly cream his trade partner Jason Kidd in a one-on-one game. But at 25 years old and having played in only 69 games last season due to injury, Devin is a little older than most people think. Not to mention, he piloted a 34 win team in a pretty weak Eastern Conference. He is the most overrated underrated player in the league. As most of us are thinking, Devin recalls to mind the 75-76 New York Knickerbockers led by the similarly do-everything PG Tiny Archibald to a 30-something win season in the Atlantic Division. He’ll get numbers…he’ll miss games… so it goes.
Yi, Lee and Lopez
It’s possible that in 2009-2010, the most watched and cared for player in the NBA will be Yi Jianlian. After all with Yao out and Yi in, the biggest country in the world’s best player in the NBA will be Yi. Of course, no one has any idea what the Hell the Nets are trying to put out on the court in 2009-10 so God only knows what Yi will actually be asked to do. Courtney Lee will take his 10 ppg post-All-Star rookie average and look to transition into a more featured offensive role. Or he’s going to get minutes on a team with no real identity. Whatever. Finally we get to Brook Lopez. After a surprisingly awesome rookie campaign, Brook looks to establish himself as a legitimate all-star big man. The kid plays big and has some moves – if he can get touches then he could put up some bigtime numbers. This whole season has got to be an audition for a lot of these guys – can they play nice and wait for Lebron or whomever the big name coming in 2010 will be?
09-10 Devin Harris = 06-07 Baron Davis. He’s going to get numbers, but it’s going to come at the expense of a lot of TOs and a rough FG%. The guy to go after on the Nets is Lopez. He’s young, last year he was a 13, 8 and 2 bpg guy and the Nets have nothing. With every other position on the Nets roster looking like a turf war, Lopez is could be a real breakout player this year. Look to snag him with a later pick but don’t be afraid to go a bit out on a limb for this guy, 18 ppg, 10 rpg and 3 bpg would not be shocking.
New York Knicks
After battling through a stretch of bad records, bad management and huge payroll, the Knicks look like they may have finally trimmed some of the fat. Marbury is gone and Isaah Thomas is a memory, Lee has been re-signed as has Nate Robinson. With Jamal Crawford, Al Harrington and some young talent, offensive genius Mike D’Antoni has a lot of offensive players at his behest. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. David Stern please don’t mess your pants… but the Knicks may not be awful next season. New York may have a basketball team again!
Nate Robinson and David Lee
Though Nate may not be a starter, he is one of the real leaders of this Knicks squad. The Tick can both score (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EksBeXdGeps) and defend (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kt5pOPn_0Ik ) while the 26 year old Lee scrapped his way to a career high in points and rebounds last season (16 and almost 12.) Though these two are probably going to factor the most into games the next season for the Knicks, neither was able to score more than a one year deal with the Knicks looking to stay flexible for the coming off-season (ie Go Really Hard After Lebron.)
Dario, Duhon and Darko
Mike D’Antoni gets the old pace of the game moving along. You can either vibe with that or you can be Steve Kerr. Apparently, second year wingman Dario Gallinari was bred to play for D’Antoni with his sweet stroke, quick step and general aversion to manning up on D. But hey, that describes Jamal Crawford, Al Harrington and Eddy Curry as well. Chris Duhon, while a fine defensive back-up, is a fishy out of water in D’Antoni’s system. And while he begins the season as the starter, you’ve got figure that at a 43% FG and 7 or so apg and the second year of a 2 year deal, something has got to change with Duhon or he won’t be bringing the ball up much longer.
The Knicks are going to produce a lot more fantasy value than most would think. Look, D’Antoni is a fantasy bball player’s dream – speed the game up, gamble on defense and score. Jamal Crawford could end up a decent pick if he gets minutes. Nate Robinson will be around 20 ppg with 4 and 4. David Lee will be around where he was last year. Try sitting on a number of Knicks players during your draft and start wholesale shopping around round 8 – you’re bound to pick up a 15 ppg guy.
In a telling metaphor for the basketball world, most Americans have no idea exactly how big of a city Toronto is. At a population around 6 million, the only metropolis area in the US bigger than Toronto’s is New York. Likewise, the Raptors are trying to get something done this year. While most teams are battening down the hatches for the economic Armageddon, the Raptors went out and spent a bunch of money on free agents to surround a legit superstar, a very solid PG and a maturing number 1 pick. A few veterans trickled north and a very talented upside-guy was drafted – things could be looking back up in Canada.
Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu
It’s hard to fathom how good Hedo Turkoglu is by looking at him. He’s a gangly, unathletic sort of mopey looking guy… that was the best offensive player on an NBA Finals team last season. Hedo can hit shots, create shots and move the ball around while Bosh is one of the best face-up high post players in the NBA. Of course, neither has a reputation of being all that too formidable or physical. Add into the mix the hot-shooting but not so-much-a-down-low-presence Andrea Bargnani, the Raptors three biggest players in the presumed starting lineup would’ve been more at home on the 06-07 Suns then the 06-07 Spurs. Definitely a talented bunch, the question will be whether or not they can stop the other team from scoring down low.
Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani
2 hot-shooting, efficient imports hold a lot of the keys to the Raptors success. The former number 1 pick and 7 footer, Andrea Bargnani truly stepped into his starting role with a 45% FG and a 41% 3 PT FG. Then again, the guy is seven foot tall and getting 5 rpg – not exactly the numbers you look for out of a major big man. Still, Bargnani rarely turns the ball over, especially for a big man so prone to being away from the basket (1.7 TOs per game) and with Bosh in the middle, Andrea draws big men out and away from the hoop with his Nowitzki-esque accuracy. Meanwhile Calderon just set the single season FT% record at 98+% keeping up a golden assist-to-turnover rating of 4.5-1 or so. Neither are great at creating their own shot, an issue hopefully solved by the arrival of Hedo. Because if the Raptors can function as a team getting Andrea and/or Jose consistent open looks, look for a playoff team that no one wants to face in the early rounds of the 2010 championship run.
A lot of talent on the Raptors, between Hedo, Bosh, Andrea and rookie DeMar DeRozan, there are going to be a number of 110 point nights. While Bosh is likely to be right around 22 ppg and 10 rpg with 49-51% FG, he’s never played a full 82 games. And even though Hedo’s successes in the playoffs are fresh, the 08-09 campaign was way down compared to his 07-08 effort. Bosh will and should be a top 15 pick with Hedo in the top 30-40. Both are potentially valuable, neither is going to make your team and with injuries, either could break it. The player here to go after is Jose Calderon. He’s not going to get you more than 12, 13 ppg but with the influx of talent in Toronto, his apg are going up from 8.9 to undoubtedly somewhere in the 9.5-11 range. He’s extremely efficient at 50% FG 40% 3PT and 98% FT with very few TOs to boot. Calderon is going to be a great deep pick in a lot of leagues.
That’s what we’re looking at with the 2009-10 Atlantic Division. It’s a land of prime PGs (Rondo, Harris and Calderon) and at least 3 teams looking to improve on last season. Here’s a fun fact – did you know that the last time two teams were .500+ at the end of the season in the Atlantic Division was the 2004-05 season (the longest drought of any division in the NBA.) Don’t look for that to continue this season – particularly with the moves that Toronto has made, look for a few winning teams to come from the Atlantic in 2010.
Since: Jun 27, 2007
Posted on: October 15, 2009 5:47 pm
2009-10 Atlantic Division Preview
Since: Nov 20, 2006
Posted on: October 1, 2009 3:11 am
2009-10 Atlantic Division Preview
Since: Jun 25, 2007
Posted on: September 28, 2009 9:52 pm
2009-10 Atlantic Division Preview
Since: Jun 4, 2008
Posted on: September 28, 2009 8:37 pm
2009-10 Atlantic Division Preview