The Atlantic Division is horrific, there's no other way to say it. The Boston Celtics found their way to the top of the division on Tuesday following their win over the Milwaukee Bucks. An 8-12 record in the Atlantic Division gets you first place and a top four slot in the Eastern Conference seeding. Yikes.
Here is what the division looks like (as of December 4, 2013)
|New York Knicks||3||13|
The Toronto Raptors, who gave up a 27 point lead on Tuesday against the Warriors, has a smart GM and a lot of assets that could potentially be unloaded this season, possibly even this month. Kyle Lowery is an expiring contract. Landry Fields is a stinky contract, he's getting $5 million this year and then $8.5 million next year. Amir Johnson and DeMar Derozan are also potential pieces that teams could trade for. Who can forget Rudy Gay? He this season left under contract and then a player option for 2014-15.
Masai Ujiri is an outstanding GM who could make a bunch of moves to make sure this team does not make the playoffs. So what happens if the Raptors break up their band? Could the Boston Celtics find themselves as the class of the division? It is actually a possibility right now.
The Celtics will get Rajon Rondo back pretty soon according to Baxter Holmes of the Boston Globe. That means they get an All-Star point guard, which means they should get better. If the Raptors begin to get rid of their players and take themselves out of contention, we if 76ers continue down the road they are on (2-8 in their last 10 while also only 1-7 on the road), then the Celtics have as good a shot as the anyone in the division.
The Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks have dug themselves some pretty deep holes. The Knicks have 66 games left. A record of 38-28 will get them to .500, the Nets have to play their final 64 games at 36-26 to get back to .500.
So it begins, even after 20 games, the Atlantic Division seems extremely shaky. Teams with playoff hopes (Knicks and Nets) are desperate to get something going in order to win games. Whereas the Raptors, Celtics, and 76ers find themselves in playoff contention whether they like it or not. The 76ers aren't good enough to contend, that seems like a certainty. The Celtics look primed to make a run at the playoffs once Rondo is back. If they manage to play .500 the rest of the way they would finish with 39 wins.
The Atlantic Division winner has to go to the playoffs, that is an undeniably sad fact right now. Frankly, it's a shame that the Eastern Conference gets to have eight teams make the playoffs. So who wins the Atlantic Division? Can the Knicks or Nets right the ship and beat out the Celtics? Will the Raptors really sell their players and try their luck in the lottery? While the division might be bad, it's not short on drama right now. The long months of winter are ahead, when veteran players and coaches start to take over and use their wily abilities to win games and sneak up the standings. It will be interesting to see where the Celtics end up when everything shakes out.
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