We continue our NBA preview tour with a look at the Atlantic Division.
The Favorite: Boston Celtics – (+140)
It’s Finals or bust for this team. After a fantastic playoff run last season, the city will expect nothing short of a repeat this season.
The biggest storyline for Boston this offseason was the year-long suspension served to Ime Udoka for sleeping with a member of the Celtics staff. As a result, Joe Mazzulla will be their interim head coach. While he is being handed a tremendous roster, there is no telling what he will be able to accomplish.
After winning the Eastern Conference, the Celtics didn’t need to do much in the offseason, but they still found ways to improve. They didn’t lose any players worth noting, but they added Malcolm Brogdon, Justin Jackson, Danilo Gallinari, and Blake Griffin. These players should add some depth to an already incredible line-up.
As a fan or bettor, there is no way to tell how the Udoka controversy will affect the club, but seeing that the reigns are being given to a guy with only three years of NBA — assistant — coaching experience. They don’t deserve any preseason bets.
Brooklyn Nets (+220)
It’s a mess in Brooklyn, and it comes as a surprise that Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are both still on the team. There were all kinds of rumors during the offseason that one of them would be traded, but it looks like they are both staying put.
When Kyrie and KD came to town in 2019, Brooklyn fans were sizing all their fingers as they expected multiple rings from these guys, but they have yet to make the Finals. Given what we’ve seen from them thus far, there is no reason to think that is going to change this year.
The Nets had some turnover during the summer, as they lost LaMarcus Aldridge, Bruce Brown, Goran Dragic, and Andre Drummond; they brought in TJ Warren, Royce O’Neale, and Markieff Morris to replace these players. Whether that’s an upgrade or downgrade, it won’t affect this team much. Their success will come down to how KD and Kyrie get along and how many games they end up playing together.
The only other play to note on the roster is Ben Simmons. Simmons hasn’t played in a game since June 20th, 2021. There is no telling what the Nets will get out of him, but he has the potential to be a difference-maker if he ever finds his way onto the court.
Brooklyn has underperformed for three straight years, and there is no reason for bettors to think it will improve this season. Steer clear of futures on this team.
My Pick – Philadelphia 76ers (+260)
The 76ers are the most put-together team in this division. Both their roster and front office is problem-free, and that might be all it takes to win the Atlantic.
Joel Embiid was robbed of an MVP last year, and Philly fans are hoping he’ll use that as he adds that chip to his already — metaphorically — torn-up shoulder.
Philadelphia has made the playoffs five years in a row but has yet to make the Conference Finals. However, the 76ers have added some talent this off-season that may help them get over the hump. They traded Danny Green to Memphis for De’Anthony Melton and signed Montrezl Harris, Danuel House, along with PJ Tucker. Tucker will be an excellent addition to the starting five.
As solid as this franchise has been over the last half-decade, their starting lineup differs yearly. This season it will be James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, PJ Tucker, and Joel Embiid. Maxey looked incredible in the playoffs, and Philly fans should be excited about what he will bring to the team this year.
Toronto Raptors – (+850)
Since winning the Finals with Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors have been trying to build something worthwhile. Unfortunately, ever since Leonard left, they have been painfully mediocre. They have made the playoffs in two of those three years but haven’t accomplished anything of note.
Toronto made some solid additions in the off-season, but nothing that will move the needle. They picked up Otto Porter, DJ Wilson, and Juancho Hernangomez. Their starting five remains the same, so Nick Nurse may be insane to expect different results this season.
While fans hope to see some growth and improvement from their young core, the Raptors may want to consider tanking, as they are currently doing nothing to improve this team.
Dark Horse – New York Knicks (+6500)
The New York Knicks are the saddest franchise in sports. They receive the same hatred as the Yankees, Cowboys, and Lakers but haven’t had a tenth of the success — they have won two championships in 72 years.
After RJ Barret and Julius Randle led the Kicks to the playoffs in 2021, it seemed like this team was on the rise, but they took a step back last season and finished eight games under .500.
The most significant move the Knicks made this offseason was packaging Kemba Walker, Alec Burks, and Nerlens Noel and sending them to Detroit in an attempt to clear cap space. Unfortunately for fans, New York didn’t do much with the freed-up funds, as Jalen Brunson was the only free agent of note that they signed. They did also pick up Isaiah Hartenstein, who may see some meaningful minutes.
Given how unpredictable a young core can be, they may shock the NBA and be the Grizzlies of this season. The Knicks to win the division may be worth a small bet. Sacrifice five dollars to win $325.