The 2021/22 NBA season is set to tip-off on October 19th which means it’s time to permutate and predict.
We’ll be running through each team’s prospects for the 2021/22 season divisionally, starting with the Atlantic Division.
The Atlantic Division is one of six divisions in the NBA containing five teams each. It is also one of three divisions in the Eastern Conference and it is the strongest based on last season.
The Atlantic Division consists of the Philadephia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics and the Toronto Raptors. Four of those teams played in the Eastern Conference playoffs last season, leaving just four more slots for the other two divisions to share.
Alright, now that we’re all caught up on the Atlantic Division, let’s examine the strengths and weaknesses of these five teams heading into the new season.
Philadelphia was the team to beat in the Eastern Conference regular season as they clinched the first seed last season. So of course in typical 6ers fashion, they lost in the second round of the playoffs to the fifth seed, Atlanta Hawks.
And it hasn’t gotten much better as the preparations for a new season have been overshadowed by the Ben Simmons standoff.
The uncertainty surrounding the future of their second-best player is Philadelphia’s biggest weakness at the moment. Coach Doc Rivers still doesn’t have a clear idea of his starting five because his starting point guard wants to leave.
However, they haven’t been able to find a suitable trade despite Daryl Morey’s efforts. This means they may well have a disgruntled and uninterested Ben Simmons on their hands for the season.
Ben Simmons and the 76ers have made progress on a resolution to bring him back to the team, per @wojespn Philadelphia will still survey the league to trade him. pic.twitter.com/8elu8vN5gI — Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 11, 2021
On a more positive note, the 76ers still have further solidified their stellar support cast with the addition of Andre Drummond.
The likes of Shake Milton, Tyrese Maxey, Seth Curry etc showed last season that this team is more than just Embiid and Simmons.
Over in Brooklyn, Steve Nash faces similar problems as Doc Rivers as he’s also sweating over the availability of his starting point guard. Kyrie Irving is refusing to get vaccinated which rules him out of over half of the Nets’ regular season games.
Nets announce Kyrie Irving is banned from team until he's vaccinated https://t.co/vyewciLzvf pic.twitter.com/Wo3nedVhTv — New York Post (@nypost) October 12, 2021
Therefore, Brooklyn are down to just two former MVPs and scoring champs in Kevin Durant and James Harden. What a difficult way to start the season.
The Nets are so stacked that losing in the Conference finals was tagged a poor season and expectations have only increased. Only a championship will be regarded as success and they may well do it even without Kyrie Irving.
Injuries exposed their lack of roster depth last season and the Nets have moved swiftly to solve that problem. The addition of Patty Mills and Paul Millsap will help ease the effects of the superstars’ load shedding.
27th pick, Cameron Thomas could also be a surprise package in his rookie season. Thomas will get a lot of minutes if Kyrie remains in exile.
NEW YORK KNICKS
Coach Tom Thibodeau is cooking something nice in New York and it appears there is bacon on the menu. Dwayne Bacon, Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker all joined in free agency after the Knicks finished fourth in the East last season.
Clyde loves him some Dwayne Bacon: "We won't go hungry this year" 😂 pic.twitter.com/BYf9Cz4a4m — KNICKS ON MSG (@KnicksMSGN) October 6, 2021
The roster is now 19 players deep with over half of those being guards, an interesting strategy that inspires confidence. The new additions, especially Kemba Walker takes the full scoring burden from Julius Randle.
It could also turn out to be a weakness for them, you know what they say about too many cooks. All the additions could harm rather than improve their chemistry.
The surprise element could be a tactical change, coach Thibs now has the option of going small. The Knicks could start with three guards to compliment forwards, RJ Barrett and Julius Randle.
After a disappointing campaign last time out, the Celtics have rung the changes and will start this season with a new head coach and fresh expectations.
Ime Udoka has the task of rejuvenating a squad that underperformed last season and they’ve made efforts to improve. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will have help from Dennis Schroder, Josh Richardson, Al Horford and Enes Kanter.
The biggest issue from last season was their weak bench, the Celtics averaged 30.7 bench points per game, the third-lowest in the league.
Their strengths lie in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, two young players establishing themselves among the best in the league.
THE JAYS AGAIN pic.twitter.com/wvSV9whX3i — Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 5, 2021
However, there’s still a lack of shooting prowess on the roster compared to the other teams in the division.
Despite being the most recent NBA champions in the Atlantic division, the Toronto Raptors look further away from replicating 2019.
They’re a team in a rebuilding process with Pascal Siakam seemingly unable to shoulder all the responsibility. He will have help from Fred Van Vleet and the exciting rookie, Scottie Barnes but that won’t be enough.
Speaking of Scottie Barnes, his arrival strengthens the Toronto young core. Along with Malachi Flynn and Precious Achiuwa, they could become something special in a few years.
MY GOODNESS DIME @ScottBarnes561 pic.twitter.com/tTCEC1cSZZ — Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) October 13, 2021
This team simply lacks the star power required to challenge seriously in the NBA and it doesn’t help that they lost Kyle Lowry too.
His replacement is Goran Dragic, a solid and experienced point guard but ultimately a downgrade on Lowry.