Top Storylines: Atlantic Division
Boston Celtics – Last Season Wasn’t Luck.
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The Boston Celtics didn’t add any huge free agents this offseason, which has led them to be overlooked as a playoff team in the newly improved Eastern Conference. But the Celtics have a talented 5’9” point guard coming off the bench: the soon-to-be 2015-16 Sixth Man of the Year, Isaiah Thomas.
The C’s will go as far as Thomas can take them. This team will be defined by his success as a leader on and off the court. No pressure, right? As long as Thomas stays healthy, the Celtics are definitely in the race for playoff contention. They visibly buffed up their roster, but so did most of the other teams in the East. It’ll be a dogfight when playoffs are approaching, but I think the Celtics will sneak into the 8th seed with a 42-40 record and a likely rematch with King James and the Cavaliers.
The cohesiveness, work ethic, and A1 coaching of the C’s will have them ending lengthy winning streaks, beating big teams on any given night, and shocking naysayers who don’t believe in this team which lacks a superstar. Ultimately, flying under the radar will have the Celtics exceeding expectations and soaring high when it counts. – Romana Bholat
Brooklyn Nets – You Got…Jacked Up.
*Photo via AP
The Brooklyn Nets made one of the biggest offseason moves of the summer when they bought out Deron Williams. The Dallas native chose to return home and suit up for the Dallas Mavericks, opening a spot for Jarrett Jack to become the starter. Jarrett Jack is no stranger to starting in the NBA. In his sophomore year in the league, then a member of the Portland Trail Blazers, Jack started all 79 games that he played, averaging 12 points and 5 assists per game. And in other stops with the Indiana Pacers, Toronto Raptors and New Orleans Hornets, Jack started 53, 43 and 39 games respectively.
In Deron’s absence with a young backcourt in depth, this is now Jack’s team, making him the key to the Nets success. Brook Lopez is one of the best offensive centers in the league and Joe Johnson, although 34 can still score. In the end it all depends on how Jack produces from the lead guard spot as the full-time starter. In the 27 games that Jack started for the Nets last season, the 10-year vet averaged 15.9 points and 6.5 assists, featuring five double-doubles. The Nets, based on their young roster are projected to fight for the 8th seed. If that happens, Jack will have to replicate his 27 games started last season into a full season. – Greg Alcala
New York Knicks – Can Fisher Actually Coach?
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The New York Knicks head into the upcoming season with a number of storylines that could make or break a potential run to the postseason. Perhaps the biggest storyline of this season is Derek Fisher’s improvement as a coach.
The Knicks were horrible in just about every category last year besides foul shooting. With a much-improved roster heading into his second year as a coach, Fisher no longer receives a pass for it being his first year and the roster being absolutely crap. If the team gets off to a dreadful start once again, President Phil Jackson could be forced to put his former point guard on the hot seat.
Luckily, New York has looked much better this preseason. Their pace is night and day from last year, their defense looks solid and they aren’t relying so much on a rigid triangle offense as the players seem comfortable.
The Knicks are expected to flounder at the bottom of an improving Eastern Conference, but they have the talent to compete for the 8th playoff spot if Fisher improves as a coach, and of course if Carmelo Anthony is healthy (forgot about him!). – John Aiello
Philadelphia 76ers – Get Ready to Tank…Again.
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It's that time of year again. The NBA season is upon us and the Philadelphia 76ers are once again leading contenders for the tanking title. Expect nothing less and nothing more. However, with the new tandem of Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel, the Sixers may be a decent team to watch even in a losing effort. We can expect the Okafor to be one of the leading candidates for Rookie of the Year, and we can expect that Noel will improve in his second season. These two stars are going to be great for the team in the future. Other than that, expect the Sixers to be at the bottom of the conference by December and waiting for the lottery draft in June. The Sixers will have a better record than last year, but they will walk away this season as one of the worst teams in the NBA. – Marc Cantave
Toronto Raptors – New Views from the 6
*Photo via USA Today
This past offseason was a big one for Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry. After being selected to the All-Star team last year, Lowry put in a tremendous amount of work this summer and came back noticeably leaner. It is unclear as to how much weight Lowry lost; however, it is evident that he will be in far better shape come the start of this season. But, will this tremendous transformation influence his game and the overall success of the Raptors?
Last season Lowry was starting for the Eastern Conference All-Star team, as he enjoyed his best year as an NBA player. However, near the end of the regular season and going right into the playoffs, Lowry’s game fell off, as the Raptors were swept and eliminated by fellow All-Star starter John Wall and the Washington Wizards.
If the problem last year was Lowry simply running out of gas due to his physical conditioning, then this year might bring some excitement to the Raptors faithful. Lowry’s improvement in physical shape, along with the small but wise additions by Masai Ujiri, may have Toronto up around the top of the Eastern Conference for the third year in a row. Will it lead to advancement in the NBA playoffs? We will just have to wait and see. – Max Russo