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 Preview: #27 New Jersey Nets

Offseason Movement: The team traded Richard Jefferson to Milwaukee for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons, and both players figure to play a prominent role this season. The Nets are rebuilding with an eye on the summer of 2010 when LeBron James (and a few other stars) might be hitting the free agent market. Last summer, the team elected to re-sign Vince Carter, a decision they’re certainly regretting now.
Keep Your Eye On: Devin Harris, Yi Jianlian, Brook Lopez
The team is trying to put together a young and inexpensive core that will attract a big-name free agent in the summer of 2010. Harris is no Chris Paul or Deron Williams, but he’s a great young point guard with a lot of potential. Potential is all that Jianlian has right now, though he played pretty well in spurts for the Bucks last season before injuries started to take their toll. Brook Lopez slipped to the Nets in the draft and they’re happy to have him. He’s a big body who can score in the post. If everything pans out for this trio, the Nets will have their point guard, power forward and center locked up. Now all they need is a couple of wing players and Vince Carter is signed through 2011…hmmm…
The Big Question: Does the team really have a viable chance to land LeBron?
One thing about making a long-term plan like the Nets have is that there really aren’t any pressing issues since the team isn’t really built to win right now. They want to see their youngsters develop, they want to acquire draft picks and they want to avoid spending any serious money. In an ideal situation, LeBron would join a Nets team that has a dynamic All-Star caliber point guard (Harris), a veteran off guard (Carter) an up-and-coming versatile power forward (Jianlian) and a double-double guy in the middle (Lopez). Two things need to happen: 1) the youngsters must develop and 2) LeBron must agree to play in Brooklyn. If you build it, he will come…
Outlook: Nets fans shouldn’t expect a playoff berth this season. Carter is still there to put butts in the seats, though he’s not as dynamic as he used to be. The Nets are just too young to compete with the best in the East, but the opportunity for growth is certainly there.

Check out our NBA Preview page for a look at every team. We’ll be posting three previews per business day, which will take us up to the start of the season on Tuesday, October 28th.

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