One of the more hyped divisions at the start of the season, so far the Atlantic has proved to be the most tightly contested division with 4 teams within 4 games of the lead. All four of the top teams have playoff aspirations, and all look to be formidable opponents for the second half of the season. New York has jumped out to a hot start, led by Carmelo Anthony, who is shooting an impressive 43% from downtown. For me, what really makes the Knicks a dangerous team is their depth. Adding veteran back ups at both the center and point guard positions can do wonders for a teams ability to instill consistency. Both Rasheed Wallace and Jason Kidd have played well this year, although Rasheed is still plagued by his undying wish that he was a shooting guard as he is shooting only 29% from 3 point land but taking a loft 3.5 shots from deep a game. Jason Kidd on the hand has showed remarkable efficiency even at his ripe old age of 39. He is shooting 48% from the field, 50% from three point land, and an equally impressive 96% from the foul line. Kidd has also been playing excellent defense, leading the team with nearly 2 steals per game. As always Tyson Chandler mans the middle with intensity and a ferocity night in and night out. He is averaging a double with a 13ppg and 10rpg line. This team is built for the long haul and will give the rest of the division a real run for its money.
The Brooklyn Nets, losers of there last 4 games are in a bit of a tailspin. They have the opportunity to right the ship and pick up a game on the Knicks as they head to MSG tomorrow night (Tuesday @ 7pm). This team certainly has the top level talent to compete with franchise player Deron Williams, surrounded by all star caliber players in Brook Lopez, Gerald Wallace (who had 16 points and 16 rebounds in a loss last night to the Bucks) and Joe Johnson. No one on this team is playing particularly well right now. Brook Lopez has shown, as he has for his whole career, to be extremely efficient on offense, shooting 53% and leading the team with an average of 18.5 PPG, however, he only average 6.8 rebounds, not nearly enough for an athletic 7 footer. Kris Humphries is down to averaging 8 and 8 after averaging a double double last year. Deron Williams is shooting only 39% from the floor while averaging under 17 a game. He needs to shoot in the mid to upper 40’s and average 22-23 points per game for this team to be a real contender. Overall, with a top heavy rotation, the Nets will need their big 4 to play a whole lot better than they have.
The 76ers have played fairly well this year considering their franchise player and the player they traded Iggy for has been hurt all year. Andrew Bynum’s only contribution to this team has been the buzz he created by sporting one the great James Brown esque haricuts I’ve seen in my lifetime.
In all seriousness though, what this team has manged to do so far has been excellent. The man I’m most impressed with is Thaddeus Young, who is averaging 15 points and 7.5 boards per game, but most importantly provides incredible energy and helps to push the tempo with his speed. While I don’t see this team competing for the division title, I think they have the ability, with a healthy Bynum, to make some noise come April.
The Celtics have truly been about as up and down as a team can be. At times, showing the ability to be near the top of the league and at others looking old and sluggish. Well, we’ve seen this before, so don’t over-react Boston. Rajon Rondo continues to be one of the most interesting players in the league, dominating games with averages of 13 points, an amazing 13 assists, which leads the league and 5 rebounds which is tops among NBA point guards. Rondo has showcased a much improved jumper so far this year and truly dominates games even while not putting up high scoring numbers. Jeff Green, Jason Terry and Jared Sullinger have been excellent. Paul Pierce, the captain hasn’t been playing at his best, shooting belows 42% percent, however he is getting to free throw line at an excellent pace of 6.6 attempts per game. Kevin Garnett, the big ticket, also continues to play well while limited somewhat minute wise. He is the defensive captain and a force still on defense. This team has great depth and once Doc Rivers figures out his rotations and these players catch on to the Celtics defensive rotations (especially on the pick and roll or pick and pop) then I think this team will make its run. Avery Bradley’s return next month should also provide a huge defensive spark. I expect them to battle the Knicks in April for the division title.
And lastly, since I have nothing nice to say about the Raptors I wont say anything today except I’ll be shocked if this team wins more than 20 games.
Who is going to end up on top in the Atlantic? What’s your take? Let’s discuss in the comments.