NBA 

Season Previews: Atlantic Division

With the 2015-2016 NBA approaching, the basketball staff of My Mind on Sports is bringing you our season preview roundtable. In these roundtables we will answer key questions in each division concerning their respective teams. The first division up is the Atlantic. The Atlantic Division consists of the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors, and the Boston Celtics.

1. Will anyone in the Atlantic Division besides the Raptors finish over 0.500%?

Javeen Robinson:  The Celtics, in my opinion, will join the Raptors as the other .500 team in the Atlantic Division. Last year’s postseason birth will definitely help them in the experience department. The new additions of David lee and Amir Johnson help the team upgrade the frontcourt to go along with a solid group of perimeter players. Marcus Smart appears to be much more comfortable than last year, and Isaiah Thomas now has an opportunity to go through camp, allowing him  to understand his role better. Moreover, anytime you have Brad Stevens as coach, X’s and O’s won’t be a problem. Look for the Celtics to be a solid playoff team.

Eddie McDonald: It’s not likely, but the Celtics have a decent shot of doing so. David Lee and Amir Johnson will be a nice for for Brad Stevens. But at the end of the day, the Raptors will be the lone team in the Atlantic Division with a record over .500.

Wilson Tarpeh Jr.: The safe and most popular answer in this division would be the Boston Celtics as they made the playoffs last season. However, I like the team Phil Jackson has put around Melo. It may not be in the form of big name players, but there’s pieces that actually resemble a basketball team. In the Triangle, gifted scorers are very difficult to double team. The supporting cast in New York this season may not be as talented as past groups, but certainly make up for it on the IQ side of things. Anthony has proven that he’s a handful for teams to cover throughout his career, with the right pieces in place, as long as he’s willing to move the ball the Knicks have a chance. Whether playing the 3 or the 4 (small forward, power forward) he commands attention and will generate open shots for teammates. The guards on this roster fit well, especially Afflalo if he can stay healthy. Lopez is a solid big next to him on both ends of the floor, especially the defensive end. Seraphin, O’Quinn, and Williams provide solid depth. It’s on the guards, whether this team will be at or over .500. If Calderon, Grant, Galloway, and Vujacic can’t hit the open shots they’ll be given then my selecting them in this scenario goes for naught. Porzingas could play a huge role as well, his ability to stretch the floor with his size, mobility, and more importantly his shooting prowess can swing help the cause for at .500 or over. Now I’m not saying the Knicks are contenders, they are far from it. The question is whether they could finish at or above .500 and I believe they can. Obviously, only time will tell.

Charles Maggio:  The Celtics will. I’m not buying FiveThirtyEight’s prediction of third in the East, but Boston will at win at least three more games than last season to go 43-39. Remember, the Celtics went 20-10 to finish out the regular season after 5-foot-9 point guard Isaiah Thomas joined the team at the trade deadline. The acquisitions of big men Amir Johnson and David Lee beefed up the frontcourt, while the selections of Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, Jordan Mickey and Marcus Thornton in the draft add not only depth but chips for a possible trade for an All-Star. I expect Thomas to be an All-Star candidate and for Marcus Smart to avoid injury and produce more in his sophomore season. The Celtics have all the potential to be over .500 and be a middle-of-the-road Eastern Conference squad.

Samar Gaines: As much as I believe they shouldn’t, it’s going to be the Celtics. With the moves they made this offseason the Celtics appear to be one of the deeper teams in the league. I absolutely love the addition of Amir Johnson, he should add a very nice defensive presence to this Celtics team. And Brad Stevens is one of the best young coaches in the NBA.

2. Should the Knicks trade Carmelo Anthony?

Javeen: A season ago, I did think it was best for the Knicks to trade Melo, but nothing is urgent anymore. I actually think the team has surrounded Melo with a solid group of players. Obviously, the roster doesn’t scream championship caliber, but they will definitely make noise in an average Eastern conference as early as next season.

Eddie: I believe the Knicks should wait to trade Melo. I want to see how they handle next year’s free agency. Unless the perfect deal comes into play, the Knicks should keep Melo and continue to build around him.

Wilson: In short, “No”. For many of the reasons I listed above, Melo is the most important piece in New York. His presence dictates whether Jackson is rebuilding or reloading, it may be much closer to reloading than many think. For all of those reasons, I don’t believe Melo is leaving New York before the end of his contract.

Charles: No. For one, I don’t see Melo wanting out, as he hasn’t given any indication that he wants to play elsewhere. Also, his contract makes him tough to move. Not only does Anthony have a no-trade clause, which would make any deal tough to amicably pull off, but not many teams are going to want to pick up the remaining $101.6 million left on his contract and part with prospects and draft picks to get him. Any team seriously thinking of giving all of that money and talent away for a 30-or-older small forward not named LeBron James is foolish.

Samar: Having Carmelo at that price on a team that isn’t likely to win over 30 games seems like a waste, but when the Knicks can’t go full tank mode this season because they do not own their 2016 first round pick. The Knicks only option right now is to try and make the playoffs, get that revenue and look to try and move Melo this offseason.

3. Do you believe in what Sam Hinkie is doing in Philly?

Javeen: Sam Hinkie’s plan is definitely infuriating from a patience standpoint, but I see no major issues with what he’s done. If anything, he’s assembled a squad that has talent to, one day, contend in the East. When Noel, Okafor, Saric (Whenever he gets here?),  and even Embiid get some valuable experience, I expect Philadelphia basketball to be relevant again. Hinkie has also picked up solid role players like Robert Covington, Nik Stauskas, Hollis Thompson, and Kendall Marshall to compliment the future stars. Nevertheless, the whole tanking stuff needs to end now and put all resources into developing these young guys. Tony Wroten is an underrated talent in my opinion.

Eddie: I do not believe in what Sam Hinkie is doing. Sure, it might look alright on paper, but it’s just not a good strategy. Who knows how these young players will develop over time.

Wilson: While I can’t see the plan, I’m not privy to that type of information. It’s starting to make a little sense, he’s simply stockpiling talent. As of now he has three talented bigs, two of which that are healthy in Jahlil and Nerlens. Covington is one of the most underrated if not invisible small forwards in the league, he’s pretty skilled though. For the 76ers though, it’s all about finding their floor general and if it means they have to tank again, then…they’ll do it. But, yes I actually believe in what Hinkie’s doing in Philadelphia even if the public won’t get a fair view of the final picture for another year or two.

Charles: I don’t believe in any general managers who have a record of 37-127 and have made no effort to fix their pathetic franchise. In a town that booed legendary personalities like Mike Schmidt and Santa Claus, Hinkie shouldn’t have as long of a leash as he has been given.

Samar: Of course, in Hinkie we trust is my life motto. People seem to forget just how hopeless the 76ers were before Hinkie. His method to building in a team makes the most sense to me as he’s stockpiling assets in hopes to turn those assets into a star player kind of like the Rockets did when they traded for James Harden. This team is treated as a laughingstock in this league but it shouldn’t be, defensively this is a long athletic team that is able to create turnovers at a very good rate. Offensively the plan has always been to push the pace, shoot threes, and get to the FT line. All things that the Houston Rockets do. Hinkie’s best player available draft model might be frustrating to fans but Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel are likely two studs, Embiid could be finally ready to play next season, Saric will be over, they own the Lakers pick next season (top 3 protected) OKC and Miami first round picks (both protected) plus there own pick. 2016 should be the year Hinkie cashes in and the 76ers patience finally pays off.

4. What is a fair contact for DeRozen

Javeen: Derozan should get a near “max” contract given the increasing market of today. He’s not a #1 star, but he is definitely a solid player who gets better every year. That being said, I don’t think the Raptors should stretch their finances too much for Derozan  given the continued development of Terrence Ross.

Eddie: $14-15 mil seems fair to me.

Wilson: Fair or what is he going to get with all this crazy money being thrown around? I think he’ll be in the neighborhood of what Bradley Beal gets, while he hasn’t been hurt as much, they both need to prove it this year. The biggest difference for DeRozan is that Beal doesn’t have a younger shooting guard nipping at his heels. If Ross continues to develop that may change how the team views DeMarr, but we’re in a world where Brandon Knight and Reggie Jackson got $70, $80 million dollar deals. So he’s probably at least in that area.

Charles: DeRozan is a max-contract player. Not only is he averaging 21. 4 points a game over the last two seasons, he’s also improving defensively, with 4.4 boards a game in that span. DeRozan is proving that he’s more than a freak athlete, and the Raptors can’t let him go if they hope to go deeper in the postseason.

Samar: DeRozan is an intriguing player, he doesn’t shoot three’s well, just a career 27% three point shooter, nor is he very efficient. In a lot of ways DeRozan is a dinosaur, a relic of the game of yesterday. But DeRozan is a name and he makes a decent enough impact that some team will offer him a max or near max.

5. Should the Celtics tank?

Javeen: I’m not a believer in the Celtics tanking. They have a very solid group of players who can, at minimum, get a 7 or 8 seed in the playoffs. Yes that is basketball purgatory, but they have stocked up on some solid young guys who can be as valuable or better than certain lottery picks.

Eddie: Absolutely not. Tanking in sports is such a dumb decision. Sure it might pay off, but that’s a huge risk, especially since the No. 1 overall pick isn’t a guarantee to the league’s worst team. Tanking is ridiculous and teams who do so should be punished.
Wilson: The Celtics are really in an interesting place, like the equivalent of sports purgatory. They’re not close enough to contend, think Miami last year with all the health issues and getting blessed with a top 10 pick. Yet they’re not close to as talent challenged as the 76ers, now throw in the fact that they made the playoffs last season. No, it’s about developing a culture in a winning town with a franchise that’s trying to get it’s legs back under them. They can’t afford to tank, no matter what I expect them to play this season out to the best of their abilities.
Charles: Absolutely not. The Celtics have the talented young players they need on their roster; tanking a season when they’re on the upswing would be a waste of everyone’s year. Boston is a 42-to-45-game winner as is, and not only should they not tank, they should be buyers at the trade deadline if everything goes according to plan. Tanking is in the past for this group.
Samar: Yes, the Celtics should tank. They should’ve tanked last season but Brad Stevens is just too good of a coach. Has a team ever held a coach out for tanking purposes? The Celtics should be the first team to do it.

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