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: #28 New York Knicks

Offseason Movement: New head coach Mike D’Antoni needed a point guard to run his up-tempo attack, so the Knicks signed Chris Duhon to fill the role. They probably would have liked to do better, but when you’re $40 million over the cap and have a roster full of players that nobody wants, you’re options are limited. However, Duhon is a pass-first floor general who could surprise.
Keep Your Eye On: Mike D’Antoni’s blood pressure
With Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry still on the roster (and penciled into the starting lineup) it’s not clear how D’Antoni will be able to effectively run his frenetic style of offense. Both players are slow-footed and neither guy is known to be a willing passer, two huge no-no’s in D’Antoni’s system. One player who should thrive is forward David Lee, who might be able to work his way into the starting lineup sooner rather than later.
The Big Question: Is this a lost cause?
Even with Stephon Marbury’s monster contract ($22 million) coming off the books next summer, the team is still in salary cap hell until the summer of 2010 unless they can rid themselves of Randolph ($14.7 million) or Curry ($9.7 million) before then. D’Antoni will bring energy to New York, but how patient will Knick fans be? It’s going to take a while to remake this roster, so will D’Antoni live to see it happen?
Outlook: The Knicks do have some talent on this roster. The aforementioned Lee and Duhon are unselfish players that are a good fit for what D’Antoni is trying to do. Jamal Crawford is a terrific scorer, and if he buys into the system (by passing up questionable shots to create opportunities for his teammates), he could have a nice season. Nate Robinson and Quentin Richardson have the potential to thrive as well. The wildcard is rookie SF Danilo Gallinari. As the first pick of the D’Antoni era, it’s crucial that he’s not a bust. The Knicks best lineup might consist of Duhon and Crawford in the backcourt, Richardson and Gallnari in the frontcourt, and Lee at center. They’d be undersized, but if everyone bought in, that might be a fun lineup to watch.

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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