EASTERN CONFERENCE: ATLANTIC DIVISION
- Boston Celtics — 52-30
- Toronto Raptors — 49-33
- New York Knicks — 37-45
- Brooklyn Nets — 29-53
- Philadelphia 76ers — 22-60
The Boston Celtics have been steadily improving under head coach Brad Stevens, but the addition of Al Horford in free agency makes them the second best team in the Eastern Conference. Horford is the star player the Celtics have coveted for many years.
The 30-year-old center is a great fit with his new team. Celtics roll men finished in the 10th percentile (per Synergy) of efficiency in 2015-16. He finished in the 78th percentile on 301 attempts, shooting 54.2%. Boston was 27th in mid-range field goal percentage on 20.3 attempts per game. Horford is a career 46.8% shooter on two-point attempts longer than 16 ft. from the rim (per Basketball-Reference.com) and 34.0% on threes. The Celtics were 10th in points scored per 100 possessions and adding Horford should put them into the top five.
RELATED: Knicks Season Preview
The Toronto Raptors will take a step back from last year’s 56-win finish. Everything went right for them in 2015-16. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were both All-Stars for which DeRozan was rewarded with a max deal, and Lowry will be this summer.
The Raptors lost their top shot blocker and second-leading rebounder in Bismack Biyombo to free agency after the journeyman had a career year at just the right time. Biyombo led an excellent defense that was fourth in opponent’s points in the paint and seventh in opponent’s field goal percentage in the restricted area.
He was essentially replaced by Jared Sullinger, who will need foot surgery to start the season. Sullinger’s known more for his offense anyway.
Both players are notorious for their poor defense, and Jennings’ inefficient play has been well-documented. Jennings has recorded a positive defensive box plus-minus only twice in his career and Rose just once.
The Knicks spent $125 million on Jennings, Joakim Noah, and Courtney Lee in an attempt to not only make the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 season but make a serious run once they get there.
RELATED: Nets Season Preview
There are too many uncertainties with this team. Unless everything breaks their way, the Knicks won’t be a playoff team. What if Rose goes down yet again? What if Noah is done as an effective player? What if the bench is a problem? There are too many what ifs.
Their New York City counterparts, the Brooklyn Nets, are going to improve. Their new front office was extremely active in free agency and adding Jeremy Lin was a big improvement to complement Brook Lopez in the pick and roll.
A new offense that will rely heavily on the three-point shot and the inevitable improvement of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson should boost excitement around a previously dormant franchise.
Trusting the process may finally pay off for the Philadelphia 76ers. They finally have the No. 1 pick in Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid is finally healthy. Simmons is out indefinitely after breaking his foot, but Embiid has looked incredible during the preseason.
The Sixers are going to be bad. Again. But they’re going to be interesting.