In what is arguably the deepest division in the Eastern Conference, we have the Raptors, Celtics, Nets, and 76ers all fighting for top spot. The Knicks won’t have much competition for the worst team in the division.
The Raptors took the division last year even after most wrote them off without Kawhi Leonard. Next year’s team should look pretty similar to last year, even though Marc Gasol has left them. What can we expect from them? They will be a consistently try-hard team that looks for outside shots (last year 37% of their shots came from the 3-point line). They will continue to be tenacious on defense. They are currently sitting at +375 to win the division, which might not be a bad play considering the consistency of their team over the rest in the division.
The Celtics have lost Gordon Hayward and are without Kemba Walker until sometime in January. So, basically the same team they had last year in the playoffs (yes, that was a shot at Walker’s playoff performance). The team will still be led by Jayson Tatum and Jalen Brown while their defensive identity is going to be given from Marcus Smart. They have added a couple of veteran players – Jeff Teague and Tristan Thompson. Both are underrated moves as Walker recovers, Teague should help keep the team afloat and Thompson can be a solid replacement for Kanter. If Tatum can take another step forward, he could also be in the MVP mix. He currently sits at +2000 for MVP. The Celtics are -140 favorites for the division and I just don’t see myself laying anything on that. The Nets if healthy could be a force, the Raptors are always scrappy, and the 76ers are trying to find a better identity next year. While the Celtics are probably the best team, it is just as easy to see them coming in second or third as it is first in the division.
The 76ers have revamped the most this offseason led by hiring former Rockets architect Daryl Morey and coach Doc Rivers. With the special, but often injured and not committed Joel Embiid, and the talented but not amazing, Ben Simmons, how much different will the 76ers look? I’m not sure why people think that Rivers will make that big of a difference considering he couldn’t get Leonard and George to even the Western Conference Finals with the Clippers last year. They got rid of Al Horford, which was a bad piece to add in the first place but Danny Green is a terrible shooter that is paid to do nothing but shoot. I personally like Tobias Harris but if they could flip him for a couple of defenders and supporting players they probably would be better off. They are also +375 to win the division, but they would need everything to click in order to get there. It will be another disappointing season in Philly by the end and my guess is Simmons will not be there next year.
The biggest move this offseason for the Nets is getting back Kevin Durant. The biggest question is, are they getting back Kevin Durant as we knew him, or a lesser version of him? Obviously not the same type of player, but Boogie Cousins tore his achilles and hasn’t been the same since. Is that how KD will look? Will Kyrie be physically healthy all year? If they want any chance, they need him to be. There are so many question marks on the team, having them at second favorite, +190 to win the division just seems odd to me. Best case scenario, Kyrie and Durant are healthy, play well together. That might be enough to get them first place. I see them more likely to be the third best team in the division as Durant and Kyrie are both very likely to miss multiple games.
New York has a fringe professional basketball team. Their odds are +15000 to win the division. I mean, if you want to put $10 on it, I’ve wasted money on worse things. If literally every big-name player goes down, the Knicks are still probably not going to win the division. In the off chance they add Russell Westbrook maybe they have a shot at a few more games. Obi Toppin does have the potential to win Rookie of the Year, but even that seems unlikely.
I personally wouldn’t bet on this division. If I was forced to pick a winner, I’d probably say the Celtics have about a 60% chance to take it. If I am going on value, I’d take the Raptors.
- David Troy
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