In the upcoming previews we look ahead each division and we highlight all the offseason moves of the teams. We continue with the strongest division in the NBA: the Atlantic Division. Here is our Central Division preview.
2021-22 Atlantic Division preview
1. Brooklyn Nets: 57-25
In a division that is very strong on paper, it is quite impressive to start the season as the big favorite. Yet that is the case for the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets missed the NBA Finals last year due to injuries and Kevin Durant’s long toe, but are almost intact for next season.
In fact, the selection has only gotten stronger. Patty Mills, James Johnson, Paul Millsap, Sekou Doumbouya and DeAndre Bembry, while Cameron Thomas, Day’Ron Sharpe, Kessler Edwards also added some rookies. Kevin Durant also got a decent contract extension (4 years, $192 mil) and the number of players who left remained nil. Spencer Dinwiddie, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Jeff Green and Landry Shamet will be the main departures, while Chris Chiozza, Mike James, Alize Johnson, Tyler Johnson and DeAndre Jordan also no longer play in Brooklyn.
PG: James Harden | SG: Kyrie Irving | SF: Joe Harris | PF Kevin Durant | C: LaMarcus Aldridge
The main question is who will play alongside Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant. Since the wash on PF and C is thin, it could well be that Joe Harris starts in SF, Kevin Durant goes to PF and then in center the choice has to be made between Claxton and the experienced Blake Griffin. Millsap and the returned LaMarcus Aldridge are also options. Anyway, it is clear that the biggest ‘question marks’ are in the center position. And not in terms of options, but more in terms of who will start.
Mills, Bruce Brown will also get a part and Jevon Carter, Cameron Thomas, DeAndre Bembry, Sekou Doumbouya, James Johnson and Day’Ron Sharpe will have to fight for the last few spots in the rotation. A rotation that, thanks to the presence of Irving, Harden and Durant, doesn’t have that many minutes to fill from the couch.
2. Boston Celtics: 52-30
The question is really mainly: who can play their way to second place behind the Nets? The Celtics, along with the 76ers, are the biggest contender. The Celtics hope to take advantage of the 76ers’ problems. Last year was also solid for the Celtics, but thanks to Jaylen Brown’s injury, the season was actually over before the playoffs started. This year, however, quite a bit has changed in Boston. Evan Fournier, Tristan Thompson and Kemba Walker left the Celtics via trades.
The question then is: who came back for it? Josh Richardson and Dennis Schroder have been added to the Celtics team, while Al Horford came over from the Thunder as part of the huge Kemba Walker trade. Juan Hernangomez, Enes Kanter, Garrison Matthews, Kris Dunn and Bruno Fernando are also new names in Boston. Robert Williams and Marcus Smart were also extended to stay longer in Boston.
PG: Dennis Schroder | SG: Marcus Smart | SF: Jaylen Brown | PF: Jayson Tatum | C: Al Horford
So the setup only looks different on PG and C. The other three names are the same as last year’s. Schroder replaces Walker, while Horford takes over from Thompson and Theis.
Furthermore, Richardson, Dunn, Jabari Parker, Romeo Langford, Aaron Nesmith, Payton Pritchard, Fernando, Robert Williams II, Enes Kanter and Hernangomez will all compete for the remaining spots in the rotation. The question, given the line-up, is how many minutes this will be and how many players will there be room for in the rotation.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: 48-34
Then the much-discussed 76ers. Last year was decent, but again not good enough. This year it has to be different. In the draft, Jaden Springer was drafted to strengthen the backcourt, while Andre Drummond was brought in in free agency. George Niang and Shaquille Harrison also came, but that was it.
George Hill, Dwight Howard, Mike Scott and Anthony Tolliver left. The rest of the team remained intact, which also means that Ben Simmons is still part of the team. The 76ers are not ready to trade the point guard yet, but the Australian has seen it in Philly and wants to leave. The chance that he will still be traded seems quite high.
PG: Tyrese Maxey | SG: Seth Curry | SF: Danny Green | PF: Tobias Harris | C: Joel Embiid
Embiid and Drummond will form the rotation at center, while on SG and SF Danny Green, Seth Curry, Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton are the obvious options. Tobias Harris, as there is no PF, will move to power forward. Niang will also get his minutes there, as will Matisse Thybulle.
Ben Simmons is currently on point guard, but the chance that he will play is currently zero. So the question is: who should start there and play? Tyrese Maxey and Shake Milton are the most logical options, while Curry could also be at point guard. Yet these are not point guards. In short: you can understand why the 76ers don’t want to trade Simmons. There is no substitute in the house. He will then have to come across in the trade with Simmons. Or from free agency of course. In short: headaches in Philly.
4. New York Knicks: 45-37
The New York Knicks surprised friend and foe last season by making the playoffs. After the first round the adventure was over, but it gives hope for next season. In a very strong division, the Knicks suddenly join. The ambition was also reflected in the moves the Knicks made during the offseason.
Kemba Walker came to New York via free agency (after the trade to the Thunder) to be the new point guard. In addition, the Knicks also strengthened with Evan Fournier and Dwayne Bacon, while Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride joined the roster via the draft. Who left? Frank Ntilikina, Reggie Bullock and Elfrid Payton. That is it.
PG: Kemba Walker | SG: Evan Fournier | SF: RJ Barrett | PF: Julius Randle | C: Mitchell Robinson/Nerlens Noel
So in two places the base is different compared to last year, and it should be clear that that base looks strong than last year. With Walker and Fournier as backcourts, the Knicks suddenly have a lot of experience in those positions. Add to that the talent of Barrett, Randle and Robinson or Noel and you have a balanced starting five.
The bench will also include Derrick Rose, Alec Burks (both re-signed), Immanuel Quickley, Bacon, Kevin Knox II, Obi Toppin and Taj Gibson. In addition, there are also the rookies (Grimes, McBride and Sims) who will compete for their place. A deep, strong and balanced roster ready to continue last season. When the base quickly gets used to each other, the team could well challenge the Celtics and 76ers in the division.
5. Toronto Raptors: 40-42
It hasn’t been that long since the Raptors were a stable playoff squad, even winning the championship. Last season, thanks in part to corona and injuries, Toronto had to watch from the sidelines as other teams made it to the playoffs. Has much changed in that regard last offseason? No not really.
The biggest change is that Raptors legend Kyle Lowry is no longer with the Toronto squad. He will play for the Miami Heat next season. Aaron Baynes, DeAndre Bembry and Stanley Johnson also left. However, something came in return.
Scottie Barnes was chosen in the draft. Furthermore, Precious Achiuwa, Isaac Bonga, Sam Dekker, Goran Dragic, Svi Mykhaliliuk and Ishmail Wainwright have been added to the roster. The Raptors are at the bottom of the list for many people in this division, but will certainly make an attempt to make the playoffs next season.
PG: Fred VanVleet | SG: Gary Trent Jr | SF: OG Anunoby | PF: Pascal Siakam | C: Khem Birch/Chris Boucher
The base won’t change much from how it was at the end of last year. At center, it remains to be seen who of Birch and Boucher (when he is back from his injury) will win the game and be the starter. The rest is pretty fixed. VanVleet, Trent Jr, Anunoby and Siakam have earned their spurs.
From the bench, Goran Dragic, Malachi Flynn, Scottie Barnes, Yuta Watanabe, Achiuwa and Bonga will be making a lot of minutes. The question is whether this will be good enough in a strong division to really participate, but should be feasible for the team from Toronto.
Finally, the awards. For MVP it was between Durant and Embiid, but we are going for Embiid because Durant has two other absolute superstars standing next to him with whom he has to share the points. For rookie of the year, there’s really only one real option: Scottie Barnes. The rest of the teams don’t have that many rookies who will immediately play an important role. Cam Thomas (Nets) is a rookie to keep an eye on.
In addition, Nerlens Noel wins Defensive Player of the Year, Dragic takes home the 6th man award, Steve Nash is the division’s best head coach and Scott Perry will become the division’s executive/GM thanks to his moves with the Knicks. made this summer.
Most Valuable Player: Joel Embiid
Rookie of the Year: Scottie Barnes
Defensive Player of the Year: Nerlens Noel
6th Man of the Year: Goran Dragic
Coach of the Year: Steve Nash
Executive of the Year: Brad Stevens