2021 NBA Atlantic Division Preview
The NBA is almost back and with it comes drama, intrigue, super teams, and even more LeBron coverage on ESPN. This year, I’ll be handling the NBA picks for the BTB team and am thrilled to share some of my insight on the teams. Not all of these thoughts are official plays, for those, you need to click above and buy the NBA futures package (out before 10/19). You can also purchase 30 days’ worth of plays that includes sides, totals, and player props.
First in conference and division, 49-23 last year.
Keep in mind, last season was a 72-game schedule, which probably is about how many should actually be played. It could potentially stop some of the lazy, unwatchable games that the teams have each year. Anyway, Philly had a nice campaign before crapping out against the Hawks last season in the playoffs. Joel Embiid has the capability to be one of the most dominant players in the NBA, but it doesn’t look like he has the drive to do it. Then there is the drama surrounding Ben Simmons and his meltdown of an offensive performance. The 76ers are open to moving him, though you basically need to give up an entire roster of draft picks. Now it has come out that he won’t play for them ever again. The 76ers are a regular season team, and I hope they trade for Damian Lillard because he could make them legitimate Eastern Conference contenders. They have a posted total of 50.5 or 51.5 depending where you look. I don’t know how you bet on this team with the uncertainty around Simmons.
Second in conference and division, 48-24 last year.
Brooklyn has no excuse for not winning the NBA championship this year. Kevin Durant is one of the singular best players in the NBA, and even though he couldn’t get past the Bucks by himself last year, he got damn close. James Harden for a full season should improve them as I expect he can average a double-double this year. Kyrie Irving just needs to not be in the media spotlight. That’s highly unlikely, but he still possesses a talent level that is higher than all but a handful of point guards in the league. The Nets have added to their supporting cast with a lot of former big names – Blake Griffin (he was there last year), Paul Millsap (an underrated addition), Lamarcus Aldridge (was there last year before abruptly retiring, now he is back), and Patty Mills. Mills is a very underrated addition as he basically should only be expected to shoot threes and play defense – his two strong suits. They are favorites for the championship at around +200 for a reason.
New York Knicks
Fourth in conference, third in division, 41-31 last year.
I think it was a surprise to most people that the Knicks were not only .500, but the fourth best team in the Eastern Conference. But, that’s the impact of Tom Thibodeau on a team. The Knicks took a lot of other team’s scraps, such as Julius Randle, and turned them into a hard-playing unit that got to the first round of the playoffs before they were eliminated by the equally surprising Hawks. This year, I don’t think the Knicks can replicate the same success. But, I do think they should still be a hard-nosed team that fights every night of the regular season. They did add Kemba Walker, but he hasn’t been the same Kemba since he was in Charlotte. Don’t expect them to be the same team they were this year. Thibs outwears his welcome pretty fast… That, too, is the impact he has on a team.
Seventh in conference, fourth in division, 36-36 last year.
I’m not sure I understand this logic. A team gets worse each year despite adding bigger-name players and consistently having good assets, and the coach gets promoted. I was a Stevens fan, but I think he is better with those under-the-radar college teams than a superstar squad. Sure, there were injuries, but the Celtics had their success when he wasn’t really “expected” to have it. Now Ime Udoka is the head coach and who knows how he will perform. Ultimately, it might not matter if Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown don’t take yet another step forward. The rest of the pieces on the Celtics can compete in games, but no addition (Dennis Schroeder, Josh Richardson, the return of Al Horford, etc.) will make a big enough impact to really make a difference and push them much higher in the conference. At 45.5 wins, there isn’t much wiggle room either way.
Twelfth in conference, fifth in division, 27-45.
The trio that brought the first championship to the Raptors is completely gone now with Kyle Lowry heading to Miami. The reigns have been turned over to Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and number four overall pick Scottie Barnes. There are some nice pieces on here, and they should improve over last season, but I still expect them to finish last in the division. A 10 win improvement here is a lot to ask with their posted total of 36.5. Officially playing the Raptors under 36.5 wins for 1 unit (FanDuel).
- David Troy
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