Sportsbook.ag begins its run of previewing all six NBA divisions before the regular season tips off on Oct. 29. First up is the Atlantic Division, which the New York Knicks won by five games last season.
2012-13 SU record: 43-44 SU (49.4%), 17th in NBA
2012-13 ATS record: 40-44-3 ATS (47.6%), 20th in NBA
Odds to Win 2013-14 Eastern Conference: 60-to-1
Odds to Win 2013-14 NBA Championship: 125-to-1
RAJON RONDO is the last man standing in Boston. Coming off a torn ACL and with a weakened supporting cast, it’s going to be a long year . . . Avery Bradley is the favorite to start alongside Rondo. He’s still lost on offense, but his defense will be much needed . . . Courtney Lee continues to tease with flashes of talent, but hasn’t shown consistency and is no longer “young” . . . Jordan Crawford will hoist a lot of shots . . . MARshon Brooks fell out of favor in Brooklyn and is just hanging on to an NBA roster spot . . . Keith Bogans is in Boston because a new deal made the numbers work on the Nets trade . . . Local product Phil Pressey, an undersized point guard, will try to stick as a back-up.
Suddenly, Jeff Green is Boston’s first option on offense. He showed an ability to score with 20.1 PPG over 17 starts last season, but he’ll be in for a whole new world of attention as the only legitimate scorer on this team . . . Brandon Bass should continue to hold down the power forward spot, and he’ll get to take more shots with the team rebuilding . . . Durability is a major issue for Jared Sullinger, but he has a chance to play big minutes for a team in need of his offensive skill set . . . A washed-up vet with arguably the worst contract in the NBA, Gerald Wallace is of little use to the Celtics (or any other team) . . . Kris Humphries is also dead weight, but is a more enticing trade chip due to an expiring contract.
Rookie Kelly Olynyk is going to get pushed around, but he has some rare shooting and ball-handling skills for a 7-footer. Boston has little to lose by letting him learn on the job . . . Vitor Faverani is a tough-nosed Euro import who gives them insurance behind Olynyk.
2012-13 SU record: 52-37 SU (58.4%), 9th in NBA
2012-13 ATS record: 43-44-2 ATS (49.4%), 16th in NBA
Odds to Win 2013-14 Eastern Conference: 15-to-2
Odds to Win 2013-14 NBA Championship: 14-to-1
DERON WILLIAMS will surely take on more of a distributor role this year, but he’s still this team’s best option from three-point range, as well . . . Joe Johnson started to break down last season, so along with fewer shots (with the upgrade to the rest of the roster), he figures to play fewer regular-season minutes as well . . . Jason Terry is clearly in the decline phase of his career, but is still the top scoring option among Brooklyn’s second unit . . . Alan Anderson gives them another shooter off the bench . . . Shaun Livingston steps into the back-up point guard spot vacated by C.J. Watson. The injury-prone vet will be one of the more rarely used back-up PGs . . . Tyshawn Taylor will be a non-factor.
Paul Pierce still has something left in the tank. While his athleticism is fading, he’s still a cagey scorer who can also play some point forward to set up Williams . . . Andrei Kirilenko will be a Swiss army knife sixth man and should see plenty of starts as new head coach Jason Kidd rotates which veterans rest . . . Reggie Evans was retained for his rebounding ability and willingness to look ridiculous while flopping . . . Andray Blatche will continue to settle in as a second-unit big. He’s a name to remember for the future, as Kevin Garnett doesn’t have much left in the tank . . . Mirza Teletovic will be a seldom-used option as a stretch four . . . Tornike Shengelia is still years away from contributing, and the influx of veterans will further delay his development.
Last year did a lot to assuage durability concerns for BROOK LOPEZ. He’s highly skilled, and he may be forced to grab more rebounds now that Reggie Evans is on the second unit . . . Kevin Garnett will start at power forward. He’s still an effective pick-and-pop shooter and pick-and-roll defender, but he’ll have to rest often during the regular season . . . Mason Plumlee is in no position to help this season.
NEW YORK KNICKS
2012-13 SU record: 60-34 SU (63.8%), 7th in NBA
2012-13 ATS record: 52-41-1 ATS (55.9%), 5th in NBA
Odds to Win 2013-14 Eastern Conference: 13-to-1
Odds to Win 2013-14 NBA Championship: 35-to-1
Raymond Felton is still the best the Knicks can do at point guard. With his shortcomings in the half court, head coach Mike Woodson’s desire to go up-tempo should play to Felton’s skill set a little bit better . . . Iman Shumpert should be ready for a slightly bigger role. He’s their best perimeter defender and a good enough spot-up shooter to play off Carmelo Anthony . . . J.R. Smith’s offseason knee surgery is a bit of a concern, as is the fact that he’s no longer in a contract year. Still, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year should light it up on many nights . . . Pablo Prigioni will be Felton’s primary back-up. He disappears at times, but can at least knock down threes . . . BENO UDRIH will provide quality backup minutes after another solid year seeing big minutes in Orlando…Tim Hardaway Jr. is likely looking at a redshirt year in 2013-14.
Last year was Carmelo Anthony’s dream offense, with lots of isolation plays. With his improved three-point shot, Melo should make a run at a second-straight scoring title . . . Andrea Bargnani might start by default, but he’s more suited to a part-time role as a one-dimensional floor spacer . . . Expect to see a lot of lineups with either Anthony or Metta World Peace at the four. MWP is still good enough defensively to justify his erratic shot selection . . . Amar’e Stoudemire will likely be limited to a part-time role due to injuries. He’ll try to re-invent himself as a second-unit scorer . . . Kenyon Martin will be counted on to play some four and five off the bench . . . Athletic rookie C.J. Leslie is ticketed for the D-League. <P>
Tyson Chandler will be relied on heavily on the glass for what could be the weakest rebounding team in the NBA. The Knicks would like to keep his regular-season minutes down, but they may be forced to play him a lot if they’re going to get home court in a first-round playoff series . . . The Knicks will try to develop Jeremy Tyler into a useful No. 2 center.
2012-13 SU record: 34-48 SU (41.5%), T-19th in NBA
2012-13 ATS record: 39-42-1 ATS (48.1%), 19th in NBA
Odds to Win 2013-14 Eastern Conference: 200-to-1
Odds to Win 2013-14 NBA Championship: 500-to-1
Welcome to Tankadelphia. Michael Carter-Williams will be handed the reigns at the point, and has the size and savvy to create some offense. But a work-in-progress jumper and too many risky passes will lead to plenty of lost possessions . . . The Sixers would love to unload perennially disappointing ex-No. 2 pick Evan Turner. He’s yet to develop a jump shot, and while he’ll start for a laughably thin Philly team, he looks more and more like a second-unit player . . . James Anderson could end up playing a lot of minutes off the bench, simply because the Sixers don’t have enough NBA-caliber players . . . Jason Richardson will miss at least half the season after major knee surgery. He may never contribute in the NBA again…TONY WROTEN could see the floor plenty as a high-upside player who must cut down on his turnovers and improve his jump shot.
Thaddeus Young will likely step up as the No. 1 option, and he very well may be the only player on this team that would make a rotation of a playoff contender. We’ll see what he can do with defenses focused on stopping him . . . Lavoy Allen will be leaned on for heavy minutes as one of their few proven players . . . Arnett Moultrie might end up with a very big role this year, as the Sixers are especially lacking post players. He at least rebounds and gets in people’s way defensively . . . Philly will try its hand with Royce White, who has plenty of talent but just as much baggage. He and the Rockets couldn’t see eye-to-eye with how to manage his anxiety issues . . . Tim Ohlbrecht might actually see the court on this team.
Spencer Hawes should start at center, especially early. His mid-range shooting makes him one of the few offensive options on this team . . . Coming off a torn ACL, Nerlens Noel probably won’t be ready until December. He should contribute as a rim protector and rebounder, but will be pushed around and doesn’t have much on offense . . . Kwame Brown is waiting for his contract to be bought out.
2012-13 SU record: 34-48 SU (41.5%), T-19 in NBA
2012-13 ATS record: 41-40-1 ATS (50.6%), 13th in NBA
Odds to Win 2013-14 Eastern Conference: 65-to-1
Odds to Win 2013-14 NBA Championship: 125-to-1
Kyle Lowry was banged up last season, but he enters this year healthy and has the potential to be one of the league’s best two-way point guards . . . DeMar DeRozan does a nice job attacking, but he’s a flawed player unless he develops a jump shot . . . The Raptors want Terrence Ross to attack the basket more often. But whether he develops a three-point shot could determine where he fits into this rotation . . . After a disastrous season in Indiana, D.J. Augustin will have to earn his rotation spot. Toronto could use his shooting, though . . . Dwight Buycks comes back from Europe to back up Lowry . . . Versatile Julyan Stone is an interesting bit piece, as he reunites with GM Masai Ujiri, who brought him to Denver.
Despite all that talent, Rudy Gay’s poor shot selection and disinterested defense will have him on the trading block . . . Amir Johnson will get another chance at full-time minutes. Despite some inconsistency, he still has the upside to be a good rebounder and shot-blocker . . . Tyler Hansbrough brings toughness and a decent mid-range jumper. He’s a second-unit talent, but could challenge Johnson for minutes . . . Landry Fields is a well-compensated reserve . . . Steve Novak gives them a legitimate shooter among the second unit . . . Toronto will try to shake some of that upside out of Austin Daye . . . Quincy Acy will move to the three, likely making this a redshirt year.
Jonas Valanciunas is set to become Toronto’s new centerpiece. Talented enough for them to run the offense through him, he’s rapidly improving on both ends of the court . . . Aaron Gray will stick around as a decent back-up, a 7-footer who can get in the way defensively.