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: #15 Toronto Raptors

Offseason Movement: The Raptors turned their depth at point guard (T.J. Ford) into a former All-Star big man (Jermaine O’Neal) in a nice trade that could really pan out if O’Neal can stay healthy. He has two years and $44 million remaining on his contract, so it’s a risky move, but if he can play 70 or 80 games, he’ll really give a big boost to the Toronto frontline.
Keep Your Eye On: Jose Calderon, PG
It was Calderon’s fine play (PER: 20.51, #5 amongst point guards) that made Ford expendable. He played 30 minutes a game last season, and will be asked to increase that to 35-38 minutes. That extra PT will give Calderon the opportunity to become a star. Last season, he averaged 11.2 points and 8.2 assists, while shooting 52% from the field and 43% from long range. In short, he’s the quintessential point guard that is flying way under the radar.
The Big Question: Are the Raptors tough enough to take that next step?
With a projected starting lineup of Calderon, Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, Chris Bosh and O’Neal, there’s no doubt that there is plenty of talent in Toronto, but do they have the mental toughness to win a series or two in the playoffs? That’s the next step that this team has to prove it can make.
Outlook: If O’Neal, Calderon and Bosh can stay healthy, the Raptors are a pretty much a shoe-in for the playoffs. However, with Boston and Philly, the Atlantic is looking like the toughest division in the East, so if they falter or suffer a bad injury or two, it’s not inconceivable that Toronto could be fighting for a postseason berth in April.

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