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Featured Gallery, NBA / Dec 19, 2011 / 2:15 pm

Dime’s 2011-12 NBA Preview: The Atlantic Division

Rajon Rondo

Everyone wants to talk about super teams. Of course, the Heat, Knicks, Clippers, Celtics and all the rest of ‘em capture the imagination of the NBA fan base. There’s nothing quite like feeling the anticipation and excitement in the air when you see that news hit telling you Chris Paul has finally been traded and he’s going to the Clippers. What immediately follows is typically more invigorating than what eventually happens. The promise of what could be is almost always better than what is. Even here at Dime, we find ourselves talking about one third of the NBA about 80 percent of the time. That doesn’t mean we don’t care about everyone else.

In the final week before the regular season tips off for real this Sunday on Christmas, we’ll break down each division, team by team in an effort to give you an overall look at what to expect in what’s sure to be a relentlessly exciting season.

To start things off, we’ll get our East Coast bias on and dive into the Atlantic Division, previewed in order of expected finish:

***

5. Toronto Raptors
The New Guys That Count: Aaron Gray (We guess)
Projected Starting Five: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Andrea Bargnani, Ed Davis

Last week, after we stated the Hornets might now become the worst team in the league, our Twitter and Facebook following blew up. They told us “Calm down, relax. NO ONE is worse than Toronto.” Sorry to our Canadian brothers, but 80 percent of the responses that came pouring in all said the same thing: the worst team in the league is those dinosaurs north of the border.

On the basis of argument, the Raptors do have a third-year player, DeRozan, who could soon be making annual trips to All-Star weekend (and not to get robbed on Saturday night either). They have an athletic big in Davis, and the guy who once was compared to Dirk until we smarted up and realized that Il Mago makes even Nowitzki look like the next Xavier McDaniel.

But when you’re atrocious defensively, and don’t have a starting caliber player at either center or point guard, you’re going to get run over more often than a sunbathing turtle.

BEST CASE: Realistically? DeRozan makes the same step Eric Gordon made last year, Bargnani gets tougher and the Raptors stay out of the league’s cellar.
WORST CASE: I don’t want to talk about it… Is 10 wins bad enough?

4. New Jersey Nets
The New Guys That Count: MarShon Brooks, Shawne Williams, Shelden Williams, reportedly Andrei Kirilenko (Marc Stein tweeted this just a few minutes ago)
Projected Starting Five: Deron Williams, Anthony Morrow, Damion James (or hopefully Kirilenko), Shelden Williams, Brook Lopez

What’s the worst part about moving? It’s not redecorating. It’s not finding a new place to stay. It’s not even the initial decision to actually suck it up and go for it. It’s that in-between time when all your clothes, appliances and if you’re us, your sneakers, are stuffed into boxes and bags, your life in shambles all around you. A few containers might be at the new digs. Some more will still be waiting on the move, and you’ll be in a forever state of transition, not quite here or there. Constant stress. Never a moment to lay down and relax (If you even have a bed to sprawl out on). That’s the Nets right now, stuck with a half-assembled roster and sitting in the purgatory of Newark for one more year while they wait to move to Brooklyn.

Can you blame Deron Williams for testing free agency this summer? You mean besides the business aspect (He would’ve been stupid not too)? No. No one in the organization knows what the team will look like a year from now. Neither does he.

For now, the Nets are a pit stop for almost every NBA team on the schedule, a chance for local fans to check out LeBron and the Heat when they come or Kobe and the Lakers when they stop into town. No fan is losing sleep over the Nets. And that’s a pity for Deron Williams. We’ve already got dibs on a future “Deron Williams Is Back, The Best Point Guard In The League” headline once he finds himself on a playoff team again. We’ll watch this squad just to see how long he can keep a smiling face this season.

BEST CASE: Deron Williams shows out and starts hearing BPG (Best Point Guard) solicitation again. Everyone goes in over their heads and somehow come out smiling. 30 wins.
WORST CASE: Deron Williams gets tired of his teammates (Shawne, Jordan, Shelden) dirtying up the family name and starts going for his. Brook Lopez continues sliding towards All-Pusseycat and the Nets mentally bounce for Brooklyn by game no. 20.

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  • Sam

    Lopez looked like a beast in his first pre-season game, of course, it was a pre-season game, so don’t pay much attention to it.

    If they can add Kirilenko to the mix and re-sign Humphries I think this team can possibly sneak into the playoffs. Then they can do a sign and trade with the Magic in July which would be a win-win for both organizations: the Nets get a decent pick in the stacked 2012 draft, can trade Lopez, Brooks and whoever else the Magic want for Dwight, who apparently really wants to play with Deron Williams. The Magic don’t lose out on a full season of Dwight Dollars, get to go to the playoffs one last time, and then start rebuilding in 2012 with a good shot at landing Shabazz Muhammad in 2013.

  • silky

    knicks will begin the season with 3 defensive starters… good see.

  • G

    Not saying my Sixers are gonna be good. But how are you not gonna mention Lou Will at all when breaking down their preview?

  • http://scottkdouglas.com Scott

    Just an fyi, most of the intelligent Raps fans north of the border are actually anticipating a horrendous season, and are willing to enjoy it. As long as Casey gets them playing better defence, we’ll gladly suck and get another lottery pick to put beside DeRozan (our only legit hope right now, maybe Davis too… maybe), and Jonas V from the last draft.

    Bargs will either become a player or get traded (lord willing he’s traded), and as one reporter said it best, Calderon deserves to be sent to a Dallas or Lakers type of team where he could help off the bench, he’s been in the black whole of an organization for long enough, he earned a winning situation.

    Oh, and seriously Aaron Gray? Gary Forbes is as notable an addition as Shawne Williams on the Nets. And what about Magloire?? (just kidding about Magloire lol).

  • Tdot

    Calderon > Miami
    Wade / LeBron > T.O.

    One can only dream….

  • JH

    Raptors, Cavs, Pistons…who’d you watch?

    Final posting for unofficial DIME/Yahoo 12 person H2H/9 category league.
    Live draft tonight @ 9:00 pm MST.
    League ID: 55438
    Password: Password

  • control

    Man, I know my Raps don’t have the best expectations right now, but I know Cleveland, Narlins and maybe Pistons are all going to be worse than the Raps. Cleveland will be the worst team by far, which is good, fuck Gilbert!

  • Banny

    I think Detroit will be better then the Raps.

  • http://www.zwani.com/graphics/funny_pictures/images/88funny-pictures128.jpg JAY

    What the heck is #5 saying?

    Calderon is greater than Miami?
    Wade and LBJ is greater than Toronto? Or is that Terrell Owens??

    @Scott
    What reporter said Calderon ‘deserves’ to be traded to a franchise like the Lakers? Tell me, what has Jose done in Toronto to warrant a trade to a championship contender? F that. He’s “earned” that right as much as DJ Augustin has. I would LOVE to argue with that reporter. Jose has been one of the reasons why our defense has been so porous since he joined the squad. He’s a turnstile.
    “Deserves” <– funny choice of words.

  • http://www.zwani.com/graphics/funny_pictures/images/88funny-pictures128.jpg JAY

    Before I get killed for calling the Lakers a championship contender… consider that I’m from Toronto. From my perspective for the last 16-17 years, Charlotte is a contender.

  • doc

    Id take Holiday over Rondo too.Rondo about to disappear from best pg convos as soon as kg and them fall off.

  • http://scottkdouglas.com Scott

    @JAY deserves is probably the wrong term, it was a blogger actually. Regardless, I’m kind of surprised they didn’t Amnesty Calderon… though if they wanted to Amnesty Bargs I wouldn’t mind either.

  • http://www.zwani.com/graphics/funny_pictures/images/88funny-pictures128.jpg JAY

    @ Scott
    Calderon and his contract are tradeable. I expect to see him in another uni before the deadline.

    And as long a Gherardini is assistant GM, Bargnani will be a Raptor. I’m not a fan of Barg either but I’m convinced that he’ll be a complete monster when he plays full-time at the power forward spot. That Calderon/Chandler trade last year would have turned Bargnani’s career around. Fact is, he’s not a center. He’s been playing out of position forever. Play him beside a rebounding, shotblocking, defensive center who doesn’t need the ball, which will give him the freedom to roam 15ft and out, and we’ll see a completely different player.

    That said, if I’m wrong, i wouldn’t give 2 shits. It makes sense in my head though.

  • Rainman

    Aaron Gray ? u guess? what about Jamal Magloire? Rasuel Butler, they had a few pieaces added and all, but u come up with Aaron Gray? I know noone really cares about em, but at least be professional…