Who knows what will happen to the Toronto Raptors by the end of the upcoming NBA season. I mean, just a week ago the Indiana Pacers were still a top team in the Eastern Conference, but now with Lance Stephenson moving to Charlotte and the season of star forward Paul George seemingly over, the team will probably fall into mediocrity.
All that being said, it’s still fun making predictions. As the field currently stands, it is hard to envision any Atlantic Division team making any more ground-shattering moves. Lets start, going from worst to first.
It will be hard to believe this team is capable of winning over 20 games this upcoming season, but that is not their goal. In fact, the 76ers wants to continue to be brutally bad so their core develops, while still getting a top pick in next years draft.
Mar 5, 2014; Lawrence, KS, USA; Kansas Jayhawks center Joel Embiid (center) celebrates after the game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas won the game 82-57. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports1
Joel Embiid will be off the court (although, as evident on his Twitter account, he is keeping himself busy), while Nerlens Noel will get his first taste of the NBA along with a few other athletic and interesting rookies. Michael Carter-Williams will continue developing (hopefully without learning too many bad habits on a bad team), Dario Saric will be stashed away in Turkey and really, who knows what will happen to Thaddeus Young?
Oh, and do not sleep on Tony Wroten. He’s a special player and hopefully he will have a breakout season in 2014 while the Sixers continue to occupy the Eastern Conference cellar.
Rajon Rondo may very well be entering his last season with the Celtics. A good individual start to the season will blow Rondo’s value through the roof and that may be what Danny Ainge wants after drafting the highly-touted, Marcus Smart.
Still in control of a ton of draft picks, the Celtics will continue to occupy the bottom of the Eastern Conference while hoping for more development from Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk. For all the people who still think Jeff Green will finally become a star, you should probably stop right now.
New York Knicks
Sorry, but Phil Jackson will not catapult this team into the playoffs. There is a chance, but did this team really get any better? Yes, Jose Calderon is an upgrade from the train wreck of a point guard that was Raymond Felton, but as good of a floor general as he is, there are many holes in his game on the other side of the ball.
Mar 18, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks new president of basketball of operations Phil Jackson is introduced at a press conference at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Chandler, the team’s defensive anchor, is gone and Samuel Dalembert is not an upgrade in the slightest. This team is still awful defensively and Derek Fisher will not be the saving grace they are looking for. Hopefully, Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr., J.R. Smith and Cleanthony Early will produce, but worst comes to worst, the Knicks can always hand the ball over to Carmelo Anthony and watch him hoist up 20-30 shots a game.
The loss of Paul Pierce hurts. You cannot replace a clutch, veteran player who still has the ability to win close games for your team. Kevin Garnett is on his last wheel, Deron Williams still has his ankle problems and Shaun Livingston is now gone.
The Jarrett Jack addition is a good one, but it is not an improvement by no means. That leaves Joe Johnson as the player who will without a doubt be forced to carry the team and the lack of defensive presence will only harm him and the Nets this season. Although a playoff berth is possible, do not be surprised if the Nets end up with the ninth or tenth seed. Good thing they have a ton of draft picks saved up. Oh, wait…
Feb 19, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) with center Jonas Valanciunas (17) and guard Terrence Ross (31) against the Chicago Bulls at Air Canada Centre. The Bulls beat the Raptors 94-92. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
The division crown is theirs to lose, but look for continued improvements from Terrence Ross and all-star, DeMar DeRozan, as well as for a big season from Jonas Valanciunas. Sometimes, stability is better than remaking half a roster after a playoff run (take notes Bryan Colangelo).
Kyle Lowry is back as the leader of the team, while Lou Williams and Greivis Vasquez headline an improved second unit. Bringing back the athletic James Johnson gives the Raptors a solid option when Ross is being bullied by bigger forwards like Joe Johnson. With a top four seed very possible, here’s hoping the Raptors continue to improve on what was a successful 2013-14 campaign!