5. New Jersey Nets - After trading away Kidd and Jefferson, the Nets have begun a rebuilding process with Vince Carter as their veteran leader. Whoa, whoa, whoa... they did whaaaat??? Didn’t they see what happened last time that prima donna was involved in a rebuilding project? If he starts claiming he doesn’t want to dunk anymore, or tipping off other teams about what plays his team is running, I don’t suppose anyone in Toronto will be too sympathetic. Wince Carter as a veteran role model? HAHAHA! Suck it up you whiny little bitch, your team blows goats!
The core of the Nets for the foreseeable future will be Chairman Yi, Devin Harris and Brook Lopez. Wowee wow wow. Brutal! Is Rod Thorn fucked in the head?
Well, I suppose not. Apparently the super top secret blueprint (that we all already know) for the team is to dick around for a bit, move the club to Brooklyn, then sign Lebron. Time will tell.
4. New York Knicks - Where to begin? The team Isaiah built is a wreck and his personal life is in even worse shape after he attempted suicide then tried to pin on his daughter.
Out on the hardwood their monster frontcourt duo of Eddie Curry and Zach Randolph will be paid about 25 million combined this season – not to mention the fact that they are both on the hook for next season too. Hypothetically, would you rather pay those two players such exorbitant salaries or take on a frontcourt duo of Oliver Miller and Sharone Wright in the present day and pay them the minimum? I'll take Sharone and the Big O anyday!
That goes without mentioning the further dead weight on the roster that includes Jerome James, Malik Rose, Jared Jeffries and of course Starbury. Together those four count for more than 40 million and contribute virtually nothing to the team.
The bright spots will include Nate Robinson, David Lee, Jamal Crawford, Danilo Galinari and I personally like Wilson Chandler. I don’t see Mike D’Antoni being able to squeeze much more that 27 wins out of that atrocious core though. This season is all about unloading as many bad contracts as possible and getting a good draft pick.
3. Toronto Raptors – What can we say that hasn’t already been said? Here is the recap of the five most salient Raptor worries:
-Jermaine O’Neal’s health is a mammoth question mark
-Will Bargnani ever become useful?
-Can my Roko Ono effectively back up Calderon?
-Is Kapono actually going to start shooting threes and stop driving?
-Will the perimeter defense ever be fixed?
To these concerns I would predict: O’Neal plays 70 games, Bargnani will never justify a first overall pick, Roko struggles mightily as a rookie, the small forward situation will need to be solved by a trade and the perimeter defense will be better as a result of the strong new interior defense.
Lets temper our expectations a bit and give them a close third in the division with a win total in the high 40s. The possibility of moving up certainly exists if major injuries hit Pierce or Brand. Also, lets keep in mind, ultimately the most important thing is getting a favorable first round playoff matchup - not who wins this division. (Disclaimer - if the Raps win tonight, Championship!)
2. Philadelphia 76ers – This team went from being a bottom feeder to a fairly serious contender almost overnight. The scary thing is that this team is looking even stronger. There is no denying the fact that the starting five of Miller, Iguodala, Young, Brand and Dalembert looks imposing on paper. It has an intriguing construction with a good mix of youth, experience, rebounding, athleticism, shot blocking, and clearly defined roles. The only slight weakness appears to be in the 3 point shooting department.
Then when you look at the bench, they continue to impress. Lou Williams, Willie Green, Reggie Evans, Mareese Speights and even Theo Ratliff will all likely contribute good minutes.
The one massive question mark for the 76ers surrounds the rehabilitation of Elton Brand’s achilles tendon. He looked iffy in the preseason. If he is not healthy, this team definitely drops a notch behind the Raptors. However, assuming Brand is good to go, I’d say this team that finished one game behind the Raptors last season has the horses to finish just ahead of them this year. Will they be able to run with the Celtics though? Something tells me Rocky ain’t ready to go toe-to-toe with Apollo just yet.
1. Boston Celtics – You gotta give it to them, the big three of Garnett, Pierce and Allen made a remarkable run last year for the title in beating some tough teams in the Cavs, Pistons and Lakers. (Not to mention those tricky Hawks who stretched them to 7 games) They made teammates with serious deficiencies in their games like Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo play at levels that even their mothers couldn’t have expected. Most amazingly, they stayed healthy. For players who had been banged up in the past like Paul Pierce and especially Ray Allen, this was the key that allowed them to win it all.
They have lost a key playoff contributor in James Posey. That subtraction likely won’t play much of a factor in the regular season, but it may do come April and May when they need a clutch performer. They added a couple of rookies with undeniable talent, but suspect characters/work ethics in JR Giddens and Bill Walker which made me jealous that the Raps still have no young talent at those positions. Then again, those guys won’t likely see the court much in the upcoming season. Overall, no major additions or subtractions.
Two major problems do lie in their future though. The first is that they are the World Champs and will have a huge target on their backs – especially after Paul Pierce has been chatting so much crap. The second important question for the Celtics again this year will be whether they can continue to outrun Father Time. My instincts tell me that Garnett and Pierce will be fine, but I am highly suspicious of another standout season from Ray Allen. He is getting close to that "Dell Curry as a Raptor" stage of his career where he will only be on the court because he has a sweet jumper. Forget defense and driving ability. Based on these two problems, combined with the lack of depth behind their big three, I foresee a fall in the win column. Look for them to slightly edge out the 76ers and Raps for the division title with a win total in the low 50s.