By: Tom McDermott
The Atlantic division looks to be the strongest of all of the NBA divisions as we prepare for the start of the 2018-2019 NBA season. With arguably the three best teams in the Eastern Conference, it is hard to envision any other division competing with that. With the new NBA season right around the corner, we see exactly how these teams stack up against one another.
There have been two prominent offseason storylines surrounding the number one seed from the 2017-2018 season. The first is that the Kawhi Leonard trade is the missing piece to put this organization over the top at last. The other is not as promising. With many reports surrounding how the trade went down, it has been reported that there is a strong disconnect between the players and upper management. While no one knows for sure which of these two storylines will play out, it is pretty clear that this team has upgraded on the basketball court. The Raptors situation should be the number one storyline to watch as this young season plays out.
The Celtics are as talented as almost any other team I have seen in recent years. With Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward returning to a team that fell a game short of reaching the NBA Finals, they seem to be the favorite to win the Eastern Conference now that LeBron has gone to Los Angeles. The problem for them lies in the fact that Golden State is still a thing no matter how hard the rest of the NBA tries to pretend that it is just a bad dream. A team with seven legitimate NBA starters will be so intriguing to watch as young stars like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Scary Terry Rozier continue their rise to stardom. The Celtics are going to be a fun team to watch this season.
For those who have trusted the process since the lowly days when the Sixers struggled to reach double-digit wins, this is your year. Philly has put together a fantastic roster of point guards and great big men, with some shooting to surround them. JJ Reddick will continue to be the main shooting option for the team unless former number one pick Markelle Fultz remembers how to shoot after somehow forgetting last year. There is no denying this lineup of lottery picks is talented, but some will question if they have what it takes to overcome the Raptors and the Celtics in the East. This young team will continue to build off of their successes and can be a serious contender in the Eastern Conference for years to come.
New York Knicks
The good news for the Knicks is Kristaps Porzingis will return this year. However, he may not return until December at the earliest according to many reports. The Knicks will have to start the season relying heavily on first-round pick Kevin Knox. Knox did look like the Rookie of the Year in the summer, but it is highly unlikely he will keep up those levels of production once the competition is increased. The Knicks will likely miss the playoffs once again, but there is enough talent on the roster to compete for the eight seed. It is very apparent that the Knicks are all in on the 2019 free agent class and the season will likely not do much to impress those free agents.
The Nets have begun to rise from the ashes of the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett trade that tore their roster apart for the better part of their time in Brooklyn. The rebuilding process has been a very slow and arduous one, but the Nets are starting to show signs of life. Getting D’Angelo Russell in a salary dump move was a genius move by the current Nets regime. Spencer Dinwiddie and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are also part of this bright young core that has brought the Nets from the abyss. Even with those young talents and veterans like Kenneth Faried and DeMarre Carroll, the Nets will likely not be going to the playoffs this year. However, there is hope for this team in the future, so it is best to take notes now.
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