SOSB's 2011-12 NBA PREVIEW BONANZA!: ATLANTIC DIVISION

The times they are a changin’…

Feels like a new day in the Atlantic, where some of these teams look like they’ll be passing each other by on there way up (or down) the ladder. Three of these teams looks to have some hope for the future, one looks to be in the danger of coming to the end of the road and the last one, well, they look fucked, more or less.

I’ll leave to you to figure which is which…

Now then, let’s do this is predicted order of finish.

BOSTON CELTICS

Gotta love Danny Ainge’s moxy. Dude has more than a little gamble in him. Yeah, the Perkins trade at last year’s deadline kind of blew up in his face, but I admire the guy who is wise enough to know his team isn’t good enough, and bold enough to swing a crazy trade to get them there. And wouldn’t you know it, Ainge tried like hell to do it again, only this time he was willing to unload Rajon Rondo in an effort to make one more run at the Finals before they have to send these old guys to the glue factory.

That takes balls, if nothing else.

And yeah, don’t be surprised if he ends up trying again, sooner than later.

The Best Case: Well, I’m a practical type of guy, so i’ll leave out all the dream scenarios involving the fountain of youth and genies and shit. I mean, the genie already retired, anyhow. Still, this remains a really good, really seasoned team. With a little luck health-wise, you still don’t want to see them in the playoffs. Of course, this roster is a known commodity, meaning don’t expect any surprises from this bunch.

Thing is, I’m still expecting at least one more hail-mary attempt from Ainge. If he connects, these guys might have at least one more crack at hoisting the trophy.

The Worst Case: Injuries.

Hey, the youngest member of the big three is 34 years old. If bodies start dropping, Ainge might decide it’s time to blow it up. Best believe Danny has “sooner than later” mentality when it comes to busting up a team that can’t win it, lest the Celtics have to endure the same 25 year rebuilding nightmare they went through when the Bird-Parish-McHale teams got too old.

Don’t know about you, but but if I squint my eyes just right, I can see ol’ Danny Boy with two hands on one of those old dynamite plungers, just a waitin’.

Something like this, actually.

The Bottom Line: This team is still dangerous. If things go right for them, they can still be a nightmare for the rest of the league, and with a risk-taker driving the ship, they can be back in the thick of things in the blink of an eye.

The C’s are a safe bet to hang around all year, laying in the weeds. Lurking. Waiting.

Count them out at your own peril.

NEW YORK KNICKS



Oh, Jimmy Dolan. If only you werent as terrible running a basketball franchise as you are at singing or playing guitar or pretty much everything else.

I’ll do my best to keep this in perspective. Yeah, the Knicks tanked for two years to get themselves into position to sign LeBron James and came up short. Yeah, signed Amar’e Stoundemire (who turned out to be alot more than a booby prize) for 100 million dollars and actually started to show some promise. Yeah, they traded for Carmelo Anthony at last years’ deadline and gave away every last asset they had to do it.

Yes, they were deluded enough to think they could land Chris Paul, at least until the point where everyone in the world have figured out that they had approximately 0% chance of pulling it off, at which point they gave the rest of their money to Tyson Chandler and called it a day.

I’ll just be polite here and say things could be worse.

The Best Case: Oh, this is still a pretty good team. Think of them as something like the old Suns, only without Steve Nash or any front court depth. Assuming one of Amare’s knees doesnt fall off in the midst of a 7-games in-9-days stretch, they’ll be good enough on offense to win most nights, and just un-terrible enough on defense to steal a game or two they wouldn’t have won last year.

If they are truly blessed, Josh Harrelson will emerge as a blue-collar terror and they’ll get something out of the rest of the bench, which honestly looks like a loose collection of wayward NBA journeyman.

The Worst Case: One of the mainstays gets hurt, instantly transforming this into a .500 team and pissing off all the fans who have waited forever for this team to be good. This is still New York after all, and if this team should struggle out of the gate everyone will be getting an earful about.

Honestly, Mike D’ Antoni’s job might be at stake if they flounder. His system can be beautiful to watch if it leads to wins, but New Yorkers won’t sit still for a team that loses consistently and doesn’t play a lick of defense.

The Bottom Line: This team will be just good enough, as in “just good enough to make the playoffs and lose to a real contender like Chicago or Miami”, or “just good enough to annoy all the fans who wish they hadn’t overpaid for Chandler or given away everything they had in the ‘Melo” trade.

I mean, you’ve got 3 pretty damn good players, but you’re bench is suspect and your starting point guard is Mike Bibby.

Good luck getting out of the first round, in other words.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS



Doug Collins has made a carrer of teaching young, underachieving teams the art of winning basketball, and he’s done it again here.

Now, we find out if this is actually a good team, or if Doug has already maxed them out. Truth is, it could go either way. Yeah, Elton Brand’s obese contract is an anchor weighing them down and Andre Iguodala’s deal is only slightly better, but they have some talented young pieces and a proven identity as an athletic, defensive-orieneted team that likes to get out in transition.

Think of them as a welfare recipient’s version of the Heat.

The Best Case: These guys could take another step forward if they continue listening to Collins. Yeah, he’s the kind of coach that usually burns his guys out in three or fours years, but that means they’ve still got some time. Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, Jodie Meeks and Thaddeus Young can all play, and after a disastrous first half of the year, Evan Turner started to show why he’s was drafted with the second pick the year prior.

If they can find a way to flip Iguodala for some useful players (forget about finding any takers fro Brand. Ain’t gonna happen) they might really have something cookin’ here.

The Worst Case: Collins burns ’em out with the yelling ahead of schedule, they can’t dump their bad contracts and all the young talent starts bitching about shots and minutes. We’ve seen it happen with too many young teams to count. Doug’s job here is to teach and to define roles, and if he can’t build on last year than it likely means they’ll take a step backwards.

The Bottom Line: I expect to see the Sixers in the playoffs, probably somewhere between the 5th and the 7th seed. As long as they hustle and continue to get after it on D, they should have enough talent to get it done. Still, if I was in charge I’d be keeping one eye on the future, not only in regards to the roster but the coaching staff as well. Guys like Collins always have an expiration date, and if you leave them in there too long, they will spoil everything, literally and figuratively.

NEW JERSEY NETS



Harder than it looks, eh?

One year in for Mikhail Prokhorov, and so far it has been more misses than hits. I mean, his legacy to this point has been his tendency to get involved on all the big moves, only to fall just short of the prize. Sure, he landed Deron Williams in a trade, but he’s also been the bridesmaid on everyone from LeBron to Dwayne Wade to Dwight Howard.

Of course, he’s got time on his side and money to burn, so I’m not counting him out just yet.

The Best Case: Well, today I’d say there best case is finding a way to win the Howard sweepstakes. Otherwise, there isn’t much to like about this roster. You’ve got Williams, Brook Lopez and, well, nothing else to speak of. Of course, they have money to spend but nobody who seems to want it just yet.

The most you can expect out of these guys is something close to .550 basketball, and that’s if Avery gets them to defend passionately and play together.

The Worst Case: Prokhorov continues to come up short on the big fish and Deron Williams decides he doesn’t want to move to Brooklyn. Really, that would be a devastating turn of events and would set the rebuilding project back even further.

The Nets strategy these days feels rushed and desperate, alot like a boxer who is well behind on points and is just looking to land that one big bomb in hopes of turning everything around.

A low-percentage play, to be honest.

The Bottom Line: Everyone involved here seems to hoping the future and the move to Brooklyn will bring about positive change, which also means they seem to be resigned to sucking in the interim. Like I said, I’m not gonna count Mikhail out so soon, especially when he can sell future free-agents on living in the Big Apple.

As for the here and now, I’d say 25 to 30 wins is all you can hope for here.

TORONTO RAPTORS



No, the mascot doesn’t have a jump shot, and no, I don’t blame you for asking.

That’s what it’s come to in Toronto these days, a team that epitomizes the hazards of being a small-market NBA team. Yeah, they’ve got one of the best crowds in the league, but that’s really just about all they have. Talent-wise the cupboard is rather bare, management has made a string of bizarre decisions in recent years and the next time they sign a significant free-agent will be the first time.

This may not be the worst team in the league, but they aren’t far off.

The Best Case: Play fast enough to make your fans forget how shitty you are.

No really, that’s the best-case scenario here.


Listen, I like some of the parts here but as a team I just don’t see it. Last year I thought they could surprise people and they did, just not in the way I intended. Bad NBA Basketbal teams can often look like pick-up teams, and that’s what they resembled most of the year. Just a collection of guys running, jumping, shooting, You know, going through the motions.

If they come out this year playing as a unit, maybe they show us a little something. Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Andrea Bargnani, Ed Davis? I mean, we’ve seen worse, right?

The Worst Case: Last year repeating itself, basically. 22 wins won’t get it done anyhwere, even if expectations here are rock-bottom. Losing is one thing, but rolling over on a nightly basis shouldn’t be tolerated from such a moderately talented bunch as this one.

Die with your boots on if you’re gonna die!

The Bottom Line: Well, it ain’t pretty. Like I said, they have a some decent young pieces, but this team isn’t going anyhwere unless you stick a superstar, game-chainging type payer in there and they simply don’t have one.

To that end, it might have been a better idea for them to draft for more immediate help insteas of spending the 5th pick of the draft on a guy who might not play in the US for a few years?

Such is life when you’re a shitty NBA Franchise. Stands to reason that tf they made better decisions they wouldn’t be stuck in this predicament.

THE FINAL WORD


This still feels like the Celtics’ division, with a mild challenge from New York. I expect the top three to make the post-season here, with the Sixers maybe even having a chance to shock somebody.

Also, most of the teams here feel like they could potentially make big moves personnel-wise beofre the end of the year. Either way, I’d expect the Atlantic to be above-average at worst.

-John Hathwell

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