Today at The Athletic, their writer roundtable previewed the upcoming season for the Atlantic Division. (Paywalled)
Considered last season’s best division, all five of its teams finished .500 or better. The Knicks went 47-35 and placed third in their group, behind the Celtics (57-25) and 76ers (54-28), and ahead of the Nets (45-37) and Toronto (41-41).
Last season, New York finished fifth in the Eastern Conference, with two division rivals (Boston, Philly) ahead of them. Will they gain ground in their division this year? Will Quentin Grimes leap to stardom? Here are a few quick notables from The Athletic’s roundtable.
Boston Celtics—What changed: Out went Marcus Smart (to Memphis) and Grant Williams (to Dallas), and in came Kristaps Porziņģis . . . who is already hurt. They extended Jaylen Brown for much moola.
David Aldridge was impressed by KP in Washington last year: “He can post. He’s lethal at the elbows. He made 3s at a strong clip last season, so I can’t imagine he’ll shoot it worse playing off of much better players in Boston. Plus, he’s better defensively at the rim than most people know.” But Josh Robbins countered that the loss of Smart and Williams “brings more negatives than Porziņģis’ addition brings positives.” Nonethess, two the three writers in the discussion chose the Celtics to win the division again.
Philadelphia 76ers—What changed: Georges Niang signed with the Cavs; Shake Milton joined the Timberwolves. They signed Patrick Beverley, Mo Bamba, and Paul Reed. There’s fresh James “Trade Me” Harden turmoil in cheesesteak town, but maybe new coach Nick Nurse will stabilize the situation.
Weiss called Nurse a “tinkerer who fits ideally with the way Daryl Morey wants to build this team.” Maybe, as he suggests, Nurse might provide the fresh start they need. Still, he’s dubious about the Harden debacle: “That crisis is murky enough to make the Celtics an easy pick.”
New York Knicks—What changed: Replaced Obi Toppin (to Indiana) with Donte DiVincenzo; extended Josh Hart.
Josh Robbins credits the Knicks for taking a step forward, but doubts they have what it takes to pass Philadelphia.
Weiss countered with, “This year is gonna be Grime time at MSG. Immanuel Quickley made the national leap last year, but Quentin Grimes has the potential to make that same ascension as he gets better attacking the rim and making decisions off the catch. He’s a good spot-up shooter who can drive open space to throw it down and finish solidly in transition; plus, he gets buckets on a nightly basis from cutting backdoor and crashing the offensive glass. He knows how to work the floor and find a role in the offense, but there’s more creativity to unlock in his game and he should take another step forward this year.”
David Aldridge expects Boston to win the Division, however. “If Porziņģis stays healthy, and that’s always a big if, Boston still has more than enough to take the Atlantic comfortably over New York and Philly.”
Oddly, no mention of Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, or RJ Barrett in this Boston-heavy conversation.
Brooklyn Nets—What changed: Traded Joe Harris to Detroit and Patty Mills (see below). Signed Dennis Smith Jr. and Lonnie Walker. Still pleased with new faces Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, acquired last season via Kevin Durant trade with the Suns.
Robbins predicts that Bridges will, “solidify, and maybe even build on, the statistical gains he made after his trade from Phoenix to Brooklyn last season.” Bridges scored 26.1 points and 4.5 boards per game for Brooklyn last year.
(How’s this for NBA life? This summer, Patty Mills was initially traded to the Houston Rockets, but was then included in a five-team trade that sent him to Oklahoma City. Then, Mills was traded for a third time to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for TyTy Washington Jr., Usman Garuba, Rudy Gay, and a 2026 2nd round pick. Let’s hope Patty rents.)
Toronto Raptors—What changed: Out went familiar faces Fred VanVleet and coach Nick Nurse, in came Jalen McDaniels, draft pick Gradey Dick (selected 13th), and FIBA World Cup champion . . . Dennis Schröder.
Aldridge predicts that Scottie Barnes will have a breakout season. “The Raptors have cleared the runway for him to be the guy going forward — I know Pascal Siakam is still there, but it feels like the relationship with him and the team has just about run its course. Barnes could become a superstar in short order.” Barnes averaged 15.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.8 assists last year.
The consensus seems to be a repeat of last year’s order: Boston on top, Toronto on bottom, with Philly, New York, and Brooklyn sandwiched in between. Agree? Disagree? Air it out below.