Last season I drooled at the thought of the 76ers winning the Atlantic division. And then those dreams came crashing to a halt. But, this season is shaping up to be one of the most exciting finishes for a division in a while. I see 4 teams making the playoffs. So, half of the seeds are from one single division.
The Atlantic Division may have the best division in the league. They definitely have the best in the East. Central’s best team are the Pacers, followed by the Bulls. The other 3 teams appear to not be playoff teams: Pistons, Cavaliers, and Bucks. The South East have the Heat, the best team in the league, but then the talent has a major drop-off with the Hawks coming in. Then it’s the Magic, Wizards, and Bobcats bringing in the rear.
So yes, I think it’s clear in the overall sense that the Atlantic Division is the best around. But, who’s winning the division? Most sites that I’ve looked at have the Celtics winning it. I’ve also talked about it a little bit during my breakdown of the Andrew Bynum trade. I had the Celtics beating the Sixers too.
But I never really dove into the Atlantic division…until now.
As is the custom for NBA scheduling, teams in the same division go against each other 4 times. The lockout and shortened season are an obvious exception but, in the current format, 4 is the magic number. So that actually heightens the rivalry. Only one team will win but with constant back and forth between the teams, any of them could pull it off.
Beating a team that is above you in the same conference/division is a beautiful thing because you jump a full game closer. You can guarantee you’re catching up to your foe. Sort of control your destiny. So, the teams are never really out of it unless they are clearly outclassed.
I think Celtics take first. Now, in the seeding for playoffs, the top 4 spots always consist of the 3 winners of the division and then the next best record (not in that particular order. Winning% still has play on seeding).
That’s the easy part. Now, the Sixers are still a mystery team to us. We have quite a few new guys as well as letting go of our old key guys. We won’t know how well they blend until I guess the preseason. They’ll need breakout seasons from Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner. I like the Nets but my biggest problem is the lack of depth.
Knicks are overrated but it’s not like they’re a bad team. They’re dangerous. I think the “Championship or bust” is a stretch. But, you can’t sleep on these guys. The biggest thing for them is if their stars can play defense and if Carmelo’s “I’m taking all the shots” game comes to a close. I’m reminded of how Wilt Chamberlain was the best scorer in the league but the Sixers didn’t win a championship. The next season, coach convinces Wilt to pass more and even though Wilt lost the scoring title, he got an NBA title. Not to say that Carmelo is of the same scoring level and not to say if Carmelo passes more the Knicks will win it all. I do think if Melo is thinking stats, he’ll never win. I don’t know if it’s a trust issue.
But who’s the clear winner here out of these 3 teams? Tough to say. My gut says Sixers. But, you would expect that from a 76ers fan blog, right? I hate to do this to myself. 76ers have one of the clear top two best Centers in the game. That has to count for something. But, as I said earlier, unless Holiday and Turner breakout, Sixers won’t be hanging around much longer. Can Bynum stay healthy? Quite a few things have to go right for the team. So, here’s my ranking of the Atlantic Division:
Now look, I expect Celtics, Knicks, 76ers, and Nets to make the playoffs. But, with the teams meeting each other so many times, I don’t think we’ll lock up seeding for this division until April.
So…who you got for the Atlantic?
Dante Nelson is Editor here at The Sixer Sense. Follow him on Twitter @DanteWrites and follow the site @SixerSense