In recent years, the Atlantic Division has won the nickname of the Titanic Division. The Celtics have had an easy time of it in their own division, winning the last 5 division championships. In recent years, the other 4 teams in the division have been easy pickings for the rest of the league. And, before 2008, even the Celtics were included in the weak teams of the division.
But, things have changed and this season, the Atlantic Division might be one of the toughest instead of the soft division of the past. Let's take a look at each team along with the changes each team has undergone going into this season. Let's start with the Celtics.
The Celtics have had a good off-season and will once again be contenders for the title. They have brought back their core of veteran players other than Ray Allen. But they have also added some youth and athleticism in Jeff Green and Courtney Lee. They have returning from last year's surgery Chris Wilcox. And also have a key addition in Jason Terry. Rookie Jared Sullinger was a lottery talent who slipped to the Celtics at 21 and should help this season. The Celtics will be talented and deep. The key for the Celtics will be health and staying away from injuries. If they can stay healthy, my money is on the Celtics to win their 6th division championship in a row.
The New York Knicks bring back a solid core of Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler. Key additions include Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Raymond Felton, and Ronnie Brewer. They also return some key players from last year including Iman Shumpert, Steve Novak, and JR Smith. The Knicks have star power but can they play together and make the most of the players they have? That's a big question.
The Brooklyn Nets are getting a fresh start in a new arena and a new name and new uniforms. They also have some new players in Gerald Wallace and Joe Johnson that will make them much better. They also return Deron Williams, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez. They will be motivated with a whole new crowd behind them and they could challenge for the Atlantic division title.
The Philadelphia 76ers are one of the most intriguing teams in the East. Their big addition (no pun intended) was Andrew Bynum, who will be the most dominant center in the East if he can stay healthy and keeps his head on straight. Doc Rivers said that he's the only center that worries him. They've put a young and solid, but not spectacular cast around him including Kwame Brown, Lavoy Allen, Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Jason Richardson, and Nick and Thad Young. They could be a team to keep an eye on this season.
Finally, there are the Raptors, who have been one of the doormats of the league in recent years. Even the Raptors will be improved and won't be an automatic win next season. They've got a young and athletic team that may surprise a lot of teams. Andrea Bargnana, Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRosen, Landry Fields, Amir Johnson, John Lucas and Jonas Valanciunas are all solid young players who may come into their own next season.
The Atlantic won't be the easy target it has been in the past. The Celtics will have to be up for each game and can't take any of the games for granted. That may be a good thing because it will keep the team sharp. Too many gimme games tend to make a team play softer. But, they'll still have the Bobcats to kick around. So, there's that.