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Dime’s 2011-12 NBA Preview: The Atlantic Division

By 12.19.11

Rajon Rondo

Everyone wants to talk about super teams. Of course, the Heat, Knicks, Clippers, Celtics and all the rest of ‘em capture the imagination of the NBA fan base. There’s nothing quite like feeling the anticipation and excitement in the air when you see that news hit telling you Chris Paul has finally been traded and he’s going to the Clippers. What immediately follows is typically more invigorating than what eventually happens. The promise of what could be is almost always better than what is. Even here at Dime, we find ourselves talking about one third of the NBA about 80 percent of the time. That doesn’t mean we don’t care about everyone else.

In the final week before the regular season tips off for real this Sunday on Christmas, we’ll break down each division, team by team in an effort to give you an overall look at what to expect in what’s sure to be a relentlessly exciting season.

To start things off, we’ll get our East Coast bias on and dive into the Atlantic Division, previewed in order of expected finish:

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5. Toronto Raptors
The New Guys That Count: Aaron Gray (We guess)
Projected Starting Five: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Andrea Bargnani, Ed Davis

Last week, after we stated the Hornets might now become the worst team in the league, our Twitter and Facebook following blew up. They told us “Calm down, relax. NO ONE is worse than Toronto.” Sorry to our Canadian brothers, but 80 percent of the responses that came pouring in all said the same thing: the worst team in the league is those dinosaurs north of the border.

On the basis of argument, the Raptors do have a third-year player, DeRozan, who could soon be making annual trips to All-Star weekend (and not to get robbed on Saturday night either). They have an athletic big in Davis, and the guy who once was compared to Dirk until we smarted up and realized that Il Mago makes even Nowitzki look like the next Xavier McDaniel.

But when you’re atrocious defensively, and don’t have a starting caliber player at either center or point guard, you’re going to get run over more often than a sunbathing turtle.

BEST CASE: Realistically? DeRozan makes the same step Eric Gordon made last year, Bargnani gets tougher and the Raptors stay out of the league’s cellar.
WORST CASE: I don’t want to talk about it… Is 10 wins bad enough?

4. New Jersey Nets
The New Guys That Count: MarShon Brooks, Shawne Williams, Shelden Williams, reportedly Andrei Kirilenko (Marc Stein tweeted this just a few minutes ago)
Projected Starting Five: Deron Williams, Anthony Morrow, Damion James (or hopefully Kirilenko), Shelden Williams, Brook Lopez

What’s the worst part about moving? It’s not redecorating. It’s not finding a new place to stay. It’s not even the initial decision to actually suck it up and go for it. It’s that in-between time when all your clothes, appliances and if you’re us, your sneakers, are stuffed into boxes and bags, your life in shambles all around you. A few containers might be at the new digs. Some more will still be waiting on the move, and you’ll be in a forever state of transition, not quite here or there. Constant stress. Never a moment to lay down and relax (If you even have a bed to sprawl out on). That’s the Nets right now, stuck with a half-assembled roster and sitting in the purgatory of Newark for one more year while they wait to move to Brooklyn.

Can you blame Deron Williams for testing free agency this summer? You mean besides the business aspect (He would’ve been stupid not too)? No. No one in the organization knows what the team will look like a year from now. Neither does he.

For now, the Nets are a pit stop for almost every NBA team on the schedule, a chance for local fans to check out LeBron and the Heat when they come or Kobe and the Lakers when they stop into town. No fan is losing sleep over the Nets. And that’s a pity for Deron Williams. We’ve already got dibs on a future “Deron Williams Is Back, The Best Point Guard In The League” headline once he finds himself on a playoff team again. We’ll watch this squad just to see how long he can keep a smiling face this season.

BEST CASE: Deron Williams shows out and starts hearing BPG (Best Point Guard) solicitation again. Everyone goes in over their heads and somehow come out smiling. 30 wins.
WORST CASE: Deron Williams gets tired of his teammates (Shawne, Jordan, Shelden) dirtying up the family name and starts going for his. Brook Lopez continues sliding towards All-Pusseycat and the Nets mentally bounce for Brooklyn by game no. 20.


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