2009 NBA Preview: Atlantic Division

This year, we’re doing a division-by-division preview with quick-hitting analysis for every team in the league. If a franchise is a legitimate championship contender, I’ll focus on what stars have to line up for a title run. If a team is a playoff “also-ran,” I’ll identify the weaknesses that have to be shored up via trade, free agency or draft over the next couple of seasons to make it a contender. If a team is likely to miss the playoffs, I’ll take a look at the salary cap, and provide a blueprint for how the team should proceed in the near future to get back in the postseason. At the end of each divisional preview, I’ll provide some (random) thoughts for the fantasy hoopsters out there.

For each division, I’ll pick the order of finish. You’ll also see the team’s league-wide preseason rank in parenthesis.

Boston Celtics (5)
Normally, the return of a healthy Kevin Garnett would be enough to thrust the Celtics back to contender status, but with the way the rich got richer this summer in terms of talent, GM Danny Ainge knew he had to improve his team, so he went out and signed Rasheed Wallace to give the C’s another big body up front. If everyone is healthy, minutes are going to be a problem, as Glen Davis and Kendrick Perkins deserve to play, but one might get squeezed out by Garnett and Wallace. In the backcourt, the big question seems to be the overall attitude of Rajon Rondo, who is running out of time to sign an extension. It is unlikely that he and the Celtics will come to terms by the end of the month as the two sides are reportedly far apart in perceived value. Marquis Daniels was brought in to shore up the backcourt, so the Celtics will once again head into the season with a deep and talented roster. But can everyone stay healthy? If Garnett, Rondo, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are all feeling good come playoff time, the Celtics will be a serious threat to make the Finals.

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2008 NBA Team-by-Team Preview

Ron Artest is a Rocket, Jermaine O’Neal is a Raptor and Mo Williams is a Cavalier. Richard Jefferson is a Buck and Corey Maggette is a Warrior. Baron Davis signed up to play with Elton Brand in L.A., but Brand bolted for Philly to play with AI2 instead. And Andrew Bynum is back from injury, trying to figure out how to co-exist with Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. There, you’re all caught up on most of the big summer news from the NBA.

Want more? We’ve got you covered. Our team-by-team preview breaks down each franchise’s offseason movement and outlook, along with a player (or situation) to keep your eye on. We also ask “The Big Question” that is haunting each team as it enters the season.

For the last two weeks, We’ve been previewing each team from #30 to #1, posting three team previews per business day, starting with the league’s bottom feeders – we’re looking at you, Thunder – and finishing up with the cream of the crop. So who will be #1? The Lakers? The Celtics? Or will there be a surprise at the top of our preseason power rankings?

Click here to see the entire preview.

2008 NBA Preview: #2 Boston Celtics

Offseason Movement: The Celtics were unable to re-sign James Posey, who ended up signing with the Hornets. GM Danny Ainge did re-sign Tony Allen, Eddie House, and Sam Cassell, while also signing Darius Miles and Patrick O’Bryant. Out of the draft, the team ended up with shooting guard JR Giddens and small forward Bill Walker.
Keep Your Eye On: The bench
Even more than last season, Boston is going to need a regular lift from its bench. With Posey gone, someone will have to pick up his defensive-mindedness and shooting touch. The bench projects to be very young, but with youth comes energy, and the Celtics will need it this season.
The Big Question: Now that the Big Three won a title, will they be as focused?
Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen came to Boston with one thing in mind – a NBA championship. Paul Pierce set aside his ego for the same reason. Throughout that season, the Celtics were focused on a singular goal, but now that they have their rings, will they be able to bring that same intensity every night? Hunger can really bolster a team’s success, and Boston will somehow have to manufacture that hunger this season. That’s a tough thing to do.
Outlook: The C’s are still the class of the East, but will face a bigger test within the conference given the improvements that the Sixers and the Heat have made, along with the continued maturity of the Magic and the Cavs. James Posey was so crucial to the team’s playoff success that one wonders if the team will be overcome that loss and stay as focused as they were last season. They are the odds-on favorites to win the East, but it’s shaping up to be a very interesting season in Beantown.

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