Get set for the new NBA season with BetBright!
As the new NBA basketball season gets underway next week, we’ve got a real treat in store for NBA fans as we bring you full season previews of each division in the Eastern and Western Conferences and deliver the BetBright Verdict on each team.
In the first of our 2014/15 NBA season previews, we turn our focus to the Eastern Conference, starting with the Atlantic Division.
The NBA’s Atlantic Division hasn’t fielded a real powerhouse in the East since the Pierce-Garnett-Allen Celtics of a few years ago.
Could this be the year either Toronto or Brooklyn becomes a real contender in the conference? They’ll need to balance this division out as the Celtics and 76ers seem lottery-bound.
The surprise team in the Eastern Conference (and perhaps the entire NBA last season) benefitted by trading away forward Rudy Gay early last season.
The Raptors won a franchise-record 48 games and took the Atlantic Division crown. The trade allowed guards DeMarr DeRozan and Kyle Lowry to blossom last year—the two averaged a combined 40.6 points per contest in 2013-14.
The trade also allowed the athletic swingman Terrence Ross more minutes. 7’0” Center Jonas Valanciunas, while not a shot blocker, is a nightly double-double threat at the tender age of 22. While lacking a true superstar, Toronto has great depth with backup point guard Lou Williams and Patrick Patterson – this team could win their division going away.
Coach Dwane Casey and General Manager Masai Ujiri have built an enviable nucleus with a palpable team chemistry that could be good for a long time.
The team’s continued climb to legitimate Eastern Conference contender hinges on their rejuvenated floor general, point guard Kyle Lowry’s play after signing his new lucrative contract. He can be a little injury-prone and his shooting can go cold for stretches, but he’s the guy at crunch time they trust to take the big shot.
Toronto’s weakness of a top-level scoring option and their relative avoidance of the injury bug are some of the few weaknesses on this squad. This team relies on defense and shot 375 from downtown last year – is it reasonable to expect a sizeable regression?
The Raptors will need Valaniciunas to develop as a third scoring option to really take it to the next level in the East. An Atlantic Division crown is eminently doable.
The BetBright Verdict
52-30 (1st in the Atlantic Division) – We have them priced as fifth favourites in the betting for the Eastern Conference at 17/1.
Opening Game: The Raptors start the 2014-15 season at home against the Atlanta Hawks @ 12:30am UK time, Thursday, October 30th.
The Nets, one of the few teams in the East that gave the Miami Heat all it could handle during the regular season, finished 44-38 and loss to the same Heat in the semifinals.
One of the few teams that were projected to be serious contender in the East last offseason, General Manager Billy King opted to go with youth and change. Instead of spending more money on free agents and coaches they let Paul Pierce and Jason Kidd walk.
They rid themselves of Marcus Thornton, Andray Blatche, and Shaun Livingston. In comes Jarrett Jack, Cory Jefferson, Markel Brown with a full season of a healthy Brook Lopez. New coach Lionel Hollins will try his best to lure Kevin Garnett back for one more year. This team should be scrapping it out for a division title if all goes as projected.
Has the team gone through too much change? Are they too old? With Hollins, whereas he led Memphis to several playoff appearances, will be New Jersey’s fourth coach in two years. Jason Kidd struggled out of the gate but seemingly got better as the season wore on – now he’s in Milwaukee. Can Deron Williams find himself again?
Too many times last year, Williams was tentative going to the cup which is his trademark and looked lethargic handling the ball. Joe Johnson may be on his last few legs, having his points per game dip to fewer than 16 last year.
The Nets have to be excited about the development of youngsters Mason Plumlee, Alan Anderson, and imports Mirza Teletovic and Bojan Bogdanovic. Especially encouraging has been the play of Plumlee, who has looked outstanding in the Summer League.
They certainly have plenty of talent on their roster and a coach who knows how to work to players’ strengths. A 45 to 50-win season is easily within grasp.
The BetBright Verdict
48-34 (2nd in the Atlantic Division) – We have them priced as sixth favourites in the betting for the Eastern conference at 18/1.
Opening Game: The Nets start the 2014-15 season on the road against the Celtics @ 12:30am UK time, Thursday, October 30th.
New York Knicks
Oh, the Knicks. Last year, they were supposed to make hay in the division only to miss the playoffs with a disappointing 37-45 record. The Knicks then had to withstand potentially losing their main attraction, forward Carmelo Anthony in free agency.
To their credit, Anthony stayed in Gotham; they then added the Zen master, Phil Jackson to oversee basketball operations and Jackson immediately hired Derek Fisher as coach. But make no mistake; this team isn’t ready to really compete with the bigger boys in the Eastern Conference – at least not this year.
With no discernible young talent on the roster and few draft picks, the Knickerbockers had to retain Anthony’s services to gear up for free agency 2015.
The Knicks have needed a point guard for decades now. That was apparent again in 2013. This offseason they tried to address this need by trading Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler to Dallas for guard Jose Calderon. They also received guard Shane Larkin and Cleanthony Early in the Calderon trade.
They still have some offensive help in Amare Stoudamire, Andrea Bargnani and mercurial guard J.R. Smith, although it will be interesting to see how Fisher uses these guys in the triangle offense. Regardless, the offense will go through Carmelo Anthony, who tirelessly carried the Knicks night-in and night-out last year.
The Knicks are still excited about youngsters Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Iman Shumpert and they will both see heavy minutes. They should benefit from a culture change and the stability that Jackson and Fisher will bring. Anthony will still have to shoulder a heavy load offensively; they have the look of a 40-win team.
The BetBright Verdict
40-42 (3rd in the Atlantic Division) – We have them priced as eighth favourites in the betting for the Eastern conference at 18/1.
Opening Game: The Knicks start the 2014-15 season at home against the Chicago Bulls @ 1:00am UK time, Thursday, October 30th
With future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and coach Doc Rivers gone last year, this year marks the second season of a new era in Celtics basketball.
The rebuilding Celtics finished with a moribund 25 wins and besides point guard Rajon Rondo, there isn’t a ton of name-recognizable talent on the roster.
Boston struggled to score points last year but hung around due to their above average defense. There is reason for the C’s this year; they have some young pieces like Marcus Smart, James Young and seven-footer Kelly Olynyk to go with guard Avery Bradley and forward Jared Sullinger.
Second year coach Brad Stevens looked good, coaxing a decent defensive performance without a dominant defensive presence down low. They have a plethora of draft picks to further enhance their young roster. Jeff Green, easily their best scorer, averaged 16.9 points a game and could be a 20-point per game player.
Then there’s reason for pessimism. Although they suffered through a 25-57 record without their best player, point guard Rajon Rondo, the trade winds are indicating that arguably the best pure point guard in the league may not want to stay in Boston during the rebuild.
Rondo is an unrestricted free agent next summer which could be a distraction to a young team that can’t afford to be. They’ll probably have to trade Rondo as they don’t seem able to retain his floor general abilities which are greatly coveted by many would-be contenders.
Offensively, this team lacks proven options offensively (27th ranked in the league in 2014). They need additional pieces and Rondo could bring them a boatload.
The Celtics aren’t likely to be as bad as the Sixers, but they are hardly a playoff contender, even in a weak East. They’ll try to get the best deal possible for Rondo and continue to rebuild. If Marcus Smart can progress quickly they may sniff .500.
The BetBright Verdict
31-51 (4th in the Atlantic Division) – We have them priced as eleventh favourites in the betting for the Eastern conference at 50/1.
Opening Game: The Celtics start the 2014-15 season at home against the Brooklyn Nets @ 12:30am UK time, Thursday, October 30th.
With a continual eye to the future, this Sixers team will likely lose a lot of games in 2015, just as they did in 2014, when they finished with the second worst record in the NBA.
While they won’t likely lose that many in ’15, this will still be a rebuilding year. However, in the last few years the 76ers have arguably the best stockpile of young talent, including Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric.
They are especially excited about forward Nerlens Noel who missed all of last year with injury, and dominated the competition at times in the Las Vegas Summer League.
Noel is an explosive athlete with a shot blocking resume, he gives the Sixers a big man they can build around, along with Elliot Williams.
Williams, the NBA’s reigning Rookie of the Year joined Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson as the only rookies ever to average at least 16 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in their inaugural season.
He’ll need to work on his jump shot to become the offensive threat this team needs, especially since they departed with Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes.
The Sixers don’t have much proven NBA talent besides Williams, however. Center Joel Embiid, who could either be a great player or a colossal bust, won’t probably be ready to play until 2015. They are going to be picking in the lottery.
The BetBright Verdict
16-66 (5th in the Atlantic Division) – We have them priced as fifteenth favourites in the betting for the Eastern conference at a whopping 140/1.
Opening Game: The Sixers start the 2014-15 season on the road against the Indiana Pacers @ 12:00am UK time, Thursday, October 30th.
Next up in our NBA season preview series, we’ll take a look at the Central Division, feauturing two of the traditional favourites to win the Eastern Conference outright.