- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
More NBA: 2006-07 season preview
SportStream: Atlantic preview
The Atlantic Division was the worst in the NBA last season. Its teams combined for just 170 wins, the fewest total of any division in the league, and only the New Jersey Nets made the playoffs.
The Nets again figure to dominate the Atlantic as they look to win their fifth division title in six seasons. Predicting the next four teams becomes much trickier – you might as well throw four names into a hat – as the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics all seem to enter the season with similar yet precarious hopes. None made enough dramatic personnel changes to challenge the Nets, so the balance of power should stay in the Meadowlands.
But even with New Jersey likely to run away with the division, there are some intriguing issues to keep an eye on.
In Toronto, the Raptors are making some interesting moves and appear poised to be the surprise team in the Atlantic.
Bryan Colangelo took over the Raptors last February and immediately began a reclamation project. Wanting his team to run, he traded for speedy point guard T.J. Ford. Colangelo also locked up his star, Chris Bosh, to a three-year contract extension, and he went across the Atlantic to bring in several European stars to bolster the roster, including the 2006 draft's No. 1 pick, Andrea Bargnani.
There is hope in Toronto, and the Raptors think they have a shot at the postseason. If there is drama to be found, look no further than New York.
Isiah Thomas takes over as the Knicks' head coach, and he inherits the talented but flawed roster he put together as general manager. He'll try to find the right combination of players to form a rotation that makes sense – something Larry Brown couldn't do last season.
If Thomas fails and the Knicks falter, there's no telling what the future will hold in the Big Apple. Owner James Dolan has put all of his eggs in Isiah's basket, so it's time to see some results. If not, Thomas could be gone.
A couple of other coaches who could be feeling a little heat are Boston's Doc Rivers and Philadelphia's Maurice Cheeks. Each presided over teams that had subpar seasons in 2005-06, as both the Celtics and 76ers underachieved, and a playoff appearance this season would go a long way towards providing job security.
Both Rivers and Cheeks are hoping for major strides from a pair of talented wing players to help their respective causes. Gerald Green is a gifted, athletic scorer with loads of potential, and he'll get more playing time for the Celtics in his second NBA season. Paul Pierce enjoyed the best year of his career last season, but if Green emerges, Boston will be much improved.
In Philly, Cheeks needs Andre Iguodala to become a more consistent performer. With the Allen Iverson/Chris Webber combination shaky at best – particularly defensively – Iguodala's athleticism and versatility are critical to helping the Sixers establish a tougher defensive mentality.
Regardless of what happens in Toronto, Boston, New York and Philadelphia, however, the Atlantic is the Nets' division to lose.