NBA Atlantic Division preview: Celtics lead a tight race
The Atlantic Division is one of the most wide-open groups in the NBA, giving some true value to those preseason futures odds. Take a look and why and why not to bet these five teams and get our NBA expert's pick for each clubs' season win total.
Boston Celtics (2011-12: 39-27 SU, 34-30-2 ATS)
Odds to win division: +165
Season win total: 51.5
Why to bet the Celtics: Boston has the premier point guard in the NBA with Rajon Rondo. The Celtics go as he goes, and as long as he stays healthy this team is dangerous. Boston still has veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and they added 3-point specialist Jason Terry.
Why not to bet the Celtics: Age. Aside from Rondo, the Celtics main contributors are 36 (Garnett), 35 (Terry), and 34 (Pierce). They wore down noticeably last season despite the shortened schedule and going back to 82 games this year will be a major challenge for Doc Rivers to keep his guys fresh for the playoffs.
Season win total pick: Under 51.5
Brooklyn Nets (2011-12: 22-44 SU, 28-38-0 ATS)
Odds to win division: +350
Season win total: 43.5
Why to bet the Nets: Brooklyn has a deep roster with quality depth at every position. The Nets will be an explosive offensive team led by the backcourt duo of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. The Nets also have Brook Lopez inside, who is one of the league’s best low-post scorers.
Why not to bet the Nets: Defense. The Nets will have to out-score their opponents to win this season. Avery Johnson is a defensive-minded coach, but Brooklyn is loaded with veteran guys who have proven to be offense first. Those guys will also need time to adjust to their new teammates and new system.
Season win total pick: Under 43.5
New York Knicks (2011-12: 36-30 SU, 27-39-0 ATS)
Odds to win division: +240
Season win total: 45.5
Why to bet the Knicks: New York finally has the depth it’s longed for. The Knicks don’t need to rely heavily on their starting unit so they should be a fresher team late in games. The Knicks seemed to play hard for head coach Mike Woodson when he took over last season, so they should do the same from the get-go.
Why not to bet the Knicks: Chemistry. Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire are not a good fit. And now the Knicks have a completely revamped roster coming into this season with the additions of Marcus Camby, Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Kurt Thomas, and Rasheed Wallace. The one variable they all have is old age - four of those five guys are 38 or older.
Season win total pick: Under 45.5
Philadelphia 76ers (2011-12: 35-31 SU, 33-32-1 ATS)
Odds to win division: +400
Season win total: 47.5
Why to bet the 76ers: Philadelphia was an exciting team to watch last season, especially after it changed to an up-tempo offense. The 76ers are a youthful team and they’ve added two more offensive weapons in Jason Richardson, who will start, and Nick Young off the bench. Andrew Bynum gives Philadelphia a big guy in the paint which should help Spencer Hawes’ production.
Why not to bet the 76ers: Losses. Philadelphia traded Andre Iguodala and they lost Lou Williams to free agency. Iguodala and Williams were the 76ers best players last season, so now they must rely on newcomers (Bynum, Richardson, and Young) to catch on quickly to a new system. It’s going to take some time and bettors really don’t know if the pieces are going to fit together.
Season win total pick: Under 47.5
Toronto Raptors (2011-12: 23-43 SU, 28-38-0 ATS)
Odds to win division: +8,000
Season win total: 31.5
Why to bet the Raptors: Toronto has just 43 wins to 103 losses over the last two seasons. That alone creates plenty of value and the Raptors have some potential. They will be changing their offensive philosophy to more of an up-tempo team. Head coach Dwane Casey is well respected, and if the Raptors don’t forget to play defense, they will be much improved.
Why not to bet the Raptors: Turnovers. With Toronto changing the way they play, there are going to be some growing pains. There’s going to be sloppy play and reports out of training camp say the Raptors are “throwing the ball all over the gym.” Until they get into rhythm, Toronto’s defense will suffer because of their offense.
Season win total pick: Over 31.5