The Baseline With Laz Jackson: NBA Preview Edition (Eastern Conference – Atlantic Division)

I love basketball. Like, more than football, baseball, food, air, my grades, and my non-existent girlfriend. Which meant that when I saw preseason action on SportsCenter, I knew this had to happen. Yes, one and all, it’s the first-ever Baseline NBA Season Guide!

As for my format, Major Acquisition/Major Loss should be self-explanatory. Ceiling is the absolute BEST I think the team is capable of, and Floor is the expected (EXPECTED!!!) worst case-scenario. The Ceilings and Floors are not necessarily connected (meaning there can be more than one 4 seed in the east, etc.), which I know is a cop-out, but I had little choice if I wanted to preserve my sanity.

This week, I’ll preview the Eastern Conference, division by division. Next week, I’ll do the same for the Western Conference.

First off, the Atlantic Division. Boston runs away with this division, and a dogfight for second place (between Philly and Toronto) ends up the Canadians on top. Hooray sleeper team! Follow the jump for the full rundown.

Eastern Conference / Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics

Motto: ‘We’re the Champs. Deal with it.”

Major Acquisition: None.

Major Loss: SF James Posey.

Ceiling: 60-22, 1st Seed in the Eastern Conference, NBA Champions.

Floor: 45-43, 7th in the Easter Conference, 1st round playoff exit.

Yes, they are the champs. Yes, they lost nothing except a year of their youth and James Posey’s playoff experience. Yes, KG is still hungry, and yes, they can do it again. But it all depends on team health. See the Floor? That’s if KG gets hurt. I love Pierce, he stepped up huge in the Finals, but if KG gets hurt, this team turns into every other MJ/Scottie type team in the league, and plays as such. KG is the nuclear reactor at the heart of that team. Dude got ROBBED for MVP last year.

New Jersey Nets

Motto: “Now with 100% less Jason Kidd baby mama drama!”

Major Acquisition: SG/SF Chris Douglas-Roberts.

Major Loss: SG/SF Richard Jefferson.
Ceiling: 50-32, 4th Seed in the Eastern Conference, Second-Round exit.

Floor: 38-44, out of playoffs.

Young team, got younger in-season by trading Jason Kidd for Devin Harris (who I am a fan of). The team is best described the same way as its best player: Potentially Dangerous. Vince Carter could carry this team on his back and take them to their ceiling. Or he could hurt his ankle again and sit out a month. Eh, who are we kidding, he’s not in a contract year, of COURSE he’s going to take two months to heal his ankle. Look for CDR to take that Richard Jefferson role in the offense, though. I’m a fan of the Detroit native, what can I say?

New York Knicks

Motto: “No Isiah Thomas. We Swear. YOU CAN COME BACK NOW!!!”

Major Acquisition: None.

Major Loss: None (and that’s a BAD thing).

Ceiling: ??????

Floor: 19-63, out of playoffs.

Welcome to the black parade. Without the stormcloud that was Isiah Thomas, the future of this team looks bright. However, this is the present. Nobody on this team scares me offensively (ooohhh, Jamal Crawford. I’m scared [/sarcasm]) and the defensive presence of Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph couldn’t stop Darko. Yes, it’s so bad, they don’t even get a ceiling. Guys: ya gotta crawl before you can run transition D, so GET TA CRAWLIN’!

Philadelphia 76ers

Motto: “We’re the… *counts slowly* 5th best fast-break team in the league!”

Major Acquistion: PF Elton Brand.

Major Loss: None.

Ceiling: 47-35, 6th seed in the Eastern Conference.

Floor: 39-43, out of playoffs.

Good team, didn’t lose anything and gained a lot of presence down low with the signing of Elton Brand. Remember when Andre Iguodala was killing the Pistons in the playoffs? Yeah, expect more of that. This team is young, good, and in the right division to makes some noise. Now if only they could shoot from the outside… or execute a bit better in the half-court offense.

Toronto Raptors

Motto: “Don’t tell anyone… but we could do a LOT of damage.”

Major Acquisition: PF/C Jermaine O’Neal.

Major Loss: None.

Ceiling: 55-27, 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference, East Finals exit.

Floor: 45-42, 7th seed in the Eastern Conference, first round exit.

Ok, this is my sleeper. I love their point guard Calderon, I LOVE the fact they got Jermaine O’Neal to take some of the post pressure off Chris Bosh, they can go inside, they can go outside, they can run, they can execute in the half-court, they can play transition D, they can play half-court D, but the thing holding them back is that they’re not KNOWN for any one thing. I think this is the year they become known for half-court execution on both sides of the ball, and hit that ceiling.

**Tune in Wednesday for the Central Division!