The NBA’s Atlantic Division seems to be split into two sections this season: the New York State part and the non-New York part. The breakdown of this corner of the NBA world will show that the Boston Celtics will be on the outside looking in this season, a change for longtime pro basketball observers.
1. New York Knicks
Odds To Win Atlantic Division: +130
The Knicks will finish first because, well, the other four teams have bigger weaknesses. Philadelphia, Toronto and Boston are gutted-out teams who don’t even belong in the Atlantic Division title conversation. There is only one real contender for the Knicks, and that’s the Brooklyn Nets. In a comparison of the Knicks and the Nets, the Knicks might not have as much sex appeal, but they seem to have a more integrated and consciously assembled team than Brooklyn. The Knicks gelled on the court last season. They weren’t strong enough to handle the Indiana Pacers in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, but they still exceeded preseason expectations. They came together and performed well under the guidance of head coach Mike Woodson, a man they respect.
The Knicks have Carmelo Anthony as the centerpiece of their team, but they got better because the pieces surrounding Melo were able to complement the superstar. Raymond Felton proved to be a highly compatible point guard who blended in well with Melo. He set up open shots for Melo and the Knicks’ other perimeter shooters. He pushed the pace and enabled the Knicks to run the floor. Big man Tyson Chandler, coming over from Dallas (where he won the 2011 title with the Mavericks), provided the interior defense and rebounding the Knicks had been missing. Chandler lost steam – and health – late in the season, and Indiana’s Roy Hibbert punished him in the playoffs, but Chandler’s work during the season enabled the Knicks to get the second seed in the East, a terrific achievement. This team already knows what it has. The Nets and their spare parts do not know what they really have. There’s some NBA betting value here.
2. Brooklyn Nets
Odds To Win Atlantic Division: -158
Let’s discuss the Nets in greater depth and detail. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are Hall of Fame players, but they’re at the ends of their respective careers. They have no more than two reasonably good years left, and they’re far past their primes. They’re entering a new situation with other players who have been brought in from other clubs, including Andrei Kirilenko and Jason Terry. All of these roster changes are occurring in tandem with the arrival of a first-year NBA head coach, Jason Kidd, who has never coached in the NBA prior to this season. The Nets are unfamiliar with each other, and they’re being led by an unproven coach. Yet, the acquisitions of Garnett and Pierce mean that the Nets have to win in the next two years, because KG and The Truth are not going to be viable as NBA starters for anything beyond that period of time. This seems like a failure in the making. The Nets will reach the playoffs, but they appear to be too old and slow to do anything once in the postseason.
3. Boston Celtics
Odds To Win Atlantic Division: +6000
Surrendering Garnett, Pierce and head coach Doc Rivers to other organizations should hammer the Celtics this season. Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green could lead the team to the eighth seed in the East, but that’s about the most that basketball betting cappers can expect from the Celtics.
4. Toronto Raptors
Odds To Win Atlantic Division: +1250
This team has Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan… and pretty much nothing else. It’s hard to see how Toronto will amount to much of anything.
5. Philadelphia 76ers
Odds To Win Atlantic Division: +300000
After being taken by Andrew Bynum – giving up lots of dollars to obtain a player who never played a second – the Sixers are in a tear-down-and-rebuild mode. Philadelphia is starting over, and teams that start over want to be lottery teams the following season.