With the excitement of an offseason that has seen a New Jersey fan favorite depart, four new Net additions, and numerous all-stars that have changed teams through free agency and trades, the Atlantic Division may be the most affected of any division in the league. Two teams have added stars that will surely help them contend, and two teams have subtracted cap space and added young, yet untested talent. So what does this mean for the Nets, and who will their real competition be next year?
Toronto Raptors: After a disappointing season that saw two experiments fail (Jermaine O’Neal and Shawn Marion) the Raptors knew they would come into 2010 looking much different than they did when they entered last season. First, Demar Derozan, a young, athletic swingman was added via the June 25th draft, and Shawn Marion left via free agency (the Raps made it clear they didn’t want to make a deal). Then, former General Manager of the Year Brian Colangelo dropped a bombshell…from his wallet. A disgruntled Hedo Turkoglu opted out of his contract in Orlando and began shopping for a new team. It seemed he might have headed West as talks with Portland heated up, but those discussions hit a snag and Hedo (above, left) decided to accept another offer, this time North in Toronto. His experience and versatile talent will surely allow Toronto to make a case for the 2010 Playoffs and the addition makes Toronto one of, if not the, longest teams in the East. This length is what will reek havoc for the Nets and other opponents next year. Heads up, here come the Raps.
Boston Celtics: A regular season equally as great as the 2007-08 campaign ended very differently in 2009. Superstar Kevin Garnett went down late in the year, keeping him out of the playoffs and keeping his team from reaching the Conference Finals or a rematch with Kobe and the Lakers. Although this was mostly negative for the Celts, it made them realize that they not only needed talent off the bench (which they had) but level-headedness and experience. They got this and way more when they added Rasheed Wallace, longtime Detroit frontman earlier this week. Ray Allen said “he makes us better on both ends of the floor” and Doc Rivers seemed extremely excited to have his skill backing up Kevin Garnett. This makes the already fantastic Celtics even better, another division win looms.
New York Knicks: Although no big names have yet agreed to sign, the Knicks have reportedly been talking to former Net hero Jason Kidd about a return to the tri-state. If this did happen and they managed to keep key free agents Nate Robinson and David Lee, the Knicks may have a more impressive team than many would expect. Sleeper alert: (don’t laugh) Danilo Galinari and Darko Milicic. Jordan Hill ain’t half bad either.
All in all the Nets might have to be a little worried with the way their division rivals have all strengthened. If the Nets play well and New York has a dream season, the Atlantic might, (might!), have five teams above five hundred next year. Scary division to be in if you ask me.