Since there is absolutely no offseason in the NBA, this summer’s trade deadline and free agency period may have been the most talked about and most important in the history of the league. A whopping 8 (!!) All Stars from last year have changed teams, including maybe 4 of the top 10 players in the league in AD, PG, Kawhi and KD. All this movement has resulted in the 2019–20 season being considered as the most wide-open we’ve seen in years. On June 25, Caesars Sportsbook posted 2019-20 season win totals for all 30 NBA teams, so I’m going to do a breakdown of all six divisions. I’ll be giving a season outlook and an over/under prediction for each team, as well as sleepers and favorites to win each division. For my sixth and final article of the series, I’ll be looking at the Atlantic Division.
Atlantic Division Win Totals (Odds Courtesy of Odds Shark)
Philadelphia 76ers (2018-19 Season: 51-31, Finished 2nd in Atlantic Division, Lost Eastern Conference Finals 4-3)
2019-20 Season Line & Odds: OVER 53.5 Wins (-105) / UNDER 53.5 Wins (-115)
The 76ers came within inches of their first NBA Finals appearance since 2001. Literal inches.
Thanks to a historically lucky shot from eventual Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard, the 76ers came up just short of the NBA Finals, losing 4-3 in the Eastern Conference Finals. But, there’s no reason they can’t make it back to the Conference Finals, or even make it to the Finals, this year.
After a pretty shocking offseason, Philadelphia is going to look like a very different team this season.
If you would’ve told me that Jimmy Butler, JJ Redick and TJ McConnell would be traded/signed away, I would’ve said the Sixers were doomed, but they found a way to replace a good amount of their production and add depth for this year. Unfortunately, the supporting cast around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid is now void of another late-game scorer/playmaker like Butler.
During free agency, the 76ers were able to re-sign Tobias Harris, who will likely be taking over JJ Redick’s role as their sharpshooter. Harris averaged 20 points and 7.9 rebounds last season and shot 39.7% from 3, which will be extremely valuable for Philadelphia.
In the frontcourt, the Sixers were able to sign Al Horford, who should be a very good fit with their scheme as a stretch-4 that can back up Embiid at the 5, when needed. Horford’s versatility should allow Philadelphia to experiment with different frontcourt lineups and keep Joel Embiid rested and healthy, which is a huge positive.
If Joel Embiid can stay healthy and Ben Simmons can improve his shooting, the 76ers will be a very dangerous team this year. Their bench is solid and they have one of the more intriguing starting lineups in the NBA, if they choose to go with their biggest, longest 5 (Simmons, Richardson, Harris Horford, Embiid). Losing JJ Redick and Jimmy Butler would be devastating for most teams, but I think Philadelphia can recover well this year and make a legitimate run at the 1-seed in the Eastern Conference. I would take the over for the 76ers this season.
Brooklyn Nets (2018–19 Season: 42–40, Finished 4th in Atlantic Division, Lost Eastern Conference 1st Round 4–1)
2019-20 Season Line & Odds: OVER 45.5 Wins (-115) / UNDER 45.5 Wins (-105)
Wow. What a difference a year makes.
Even before this wild offseason, the Nets’ rebuild was already ahead of schedule. After 4 straight losing seasons, Brooklyn was finally able to get over .500 and make it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2015. And they did most of that without their budding young star, Caris LeVert, who suffered what appeared to be a gruesome leg injury in November and was forced to miss 42 games. LeVert looked primed and ready for a breakout season, averaging over 18 points per game before the injury.
Shortly after LeVert’s injury, Brooklyn hit an eight-game skid and fund themselves at 8-18. It had all the makings of another lost season with many fans calling for the tank. With the season in the balance, veteran Jared Dudley called for a players-only film session, pointing out various areas where each player could improve. Following the meeting, Brooklyn would go on to win 19 of their next 24 games and become one of the hottest stories in the NBA.
D’Angelo Russell, who earned his first All-Star selection last year, improved in every aspect of his game, reaching career highs in almost every category. A large part of his success was due to his improved 3-point shooting (32.4% on 5.8 attempts per game in 2017-18, 36.9% on 7.8 attempts per game in 2018-19). Most importantly for the Nets, he improved his late-game decision-making, which led to them winning more close games than previous years.
Another reason for Brooklyn’s success last season was the improved scoring ability of PG Spencer Dinwiddie. Dinwiddie used a rare combination of explosiveness and size to get to the basket more often last season, which allowed him to improve his shooting percentages from both 2 and 3. He had a career year as far as scoring goes, averaging 16.8 points per game, which was good for second-highest on the Nets. Brooklyn rewarded the third-year Net with a well-deserved 3-year, $34 million extension in early December.
Joe Harris developed quite nicely this season, emerging as the top 3-point shooter in the league at 47.4%. Brooklyn has been great for Harris, who has improved his shooting, scoring and efficiency on the offensive end in each of his 3 seasons with the Nets.
Even if the Nets had only brought in one of Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving, the offseason would have been a home run. In addition to landing Durant and Irving, Brooklyn was able to add some solid pieces to put around the two superstars.
Brooklyn added DeAndre Jordan, Wilson Chandler, Garrett Temple, Taurean Prince, and a few more pieces. Temple and Chandler will provide them with veteran wing depth and the fact that they were able to get a protected first-rounder from the Warriors in the D’Angelo Russell-Kevin Durant sign-and-trade is impressive in its own right.
Although some may argue they overpaid DeAndre Jordan, it seems like that was just the cost of doing business with Irving and Durant. In addition to bringing in elite talent like KD and Kyrie, the Nets were able to acquire Taurean Prince, who could be a fill-in starter while Durant recovers, for Allen Crabbe’s bloated, expiring contract and two first-rounders.
Having said all that, unless something major happens during his recovery, Kevin Durant will miss the entire 2019–20 season. And, as we’ve seen with Kyrie, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to build chemistry with him in the locker room or on the floor. So, anything could happen this season.
It’s impossible not to like what the Nets did this offseason. Combine that with the fact that they won 42 games last season and I think that’s a recipe for success. I don’t necessarily see the Nets finishing the season with home-court advantage, but I think the cut-off will be right around 49 or 50 wins for that, so I would still go with over 45.5 wins for the Brooklyn Nets.
Boston Celtics (2018–19 Season: 49–33, Finished 3rd in Atlantic Division, Lost Eastern Conference Semifinals 4–1)
2019-20 Season Line & Odds: OVER 48.5 Wins (-110) / UNDER 48.5 Wins (-110)
“The Boston Celtics are gonna win 67 games. There’s gonna be a lot of high-fiving. A lot of 3-pointers. A lot of ice on the knees.” — Bill Simmons before the 2018–19 NBA season
Sorry Bill. I guess last season didn’t go quite as planned.
The Boston Celtics finished 49–33, which was good enough for the 4-seed in the Eastern Conference. There’s a good amount of teams in the bottom half of the NBA who would’ve loved to have a season like that. But, when you’re coming off of back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals appearances and you feel like your young stars are primed for a big playoff push, losing in the Semifinals is bad enough. But, it’s even worse when you win Game 1 on the road by 22, then proceed to lose 4 straight games by an average of over 16 points. Not exactly a strong finish.
Just when it looked like things couldn’t get worse, the Celtics took a massive blow this offseason, losing 3 starters in Kyrie Irving, Al Horford and Marcus Morris. Those 3 combined for a whopping 51.3 points, 17.8 rebounds and 12.6 assists per game. That’s A LOT of production to have to replace. But, they won’t be starting from scratch, as they were able to replace Kyrie with Kemba Walker in a sign-and-trade that resulted in Terry Rozier and a protected 2020 second-round draft pick heading to Charlotte, in exchange for Walker and an unprotected 2020 second-round draft pick.
Going from Kyrie to Kemba should be a fairly even trade-off when comparing on-court production and it seems like it could be an upgrade as far as team chemistry goes. But, going from Baynes and Horford in your frontcourt to Enes Kanter as your starting center is certainly a downgrade, especially on the defensive end, where Kanter has struggled mightily and is considered by almost every metric to be the worst defender at his position.
In the draft, the Celtics took PG Carsen Edwards, who I think will be a solid contributor for them this year and for years to come. Edwards burst onto the national scene last season, averaging 24.3 points per game in the regular season (9th in D-1) and 34.8 points per game in 4 NCAA Tournament games. His prolific 3-point shooting and scoring abilities were the focus for him, but his 6’6″ wingspan allowed him to play bigger than he is (6’0″, 199 lbs) on the defensive end. Edwards’ ability to score inside, combined with his quick release and deep range, should make him hard to stop.
I think the Celtics are due for a regression this season, especially considering just how much of a downgrade it is for them to have gone from Al Horford and Aron Baynes to Enes Kanter. I don’t think the Celtics will be able to match last season’s win total after so much change this offseason. I would take the under for the Celtics this season.
Toronto Raptors (2018-19 Season: 58-24, Finished 1st in Atlantic Division, Won NBA Finals 4-2)
2019-20 Season Line & Odds: OVER 45.5 Wins (-110) / UNDER 45.5 Wins (-110)
I never thought I’d say this, but the Toronto Raptors are the reigning NBA Champions.
Obviously, the Raptors and the people of Toronto will never forget about this championship season and Kawhi’s historic postseason run. But, the prototypical “honeymoon phase” didn’t last very long, though, as the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes dominated the offseason conversation and, ultimately, resulted in his departure to the Los Angeles Clippers.
As if the departure of Kawhi Leonard wasn’t enough, the Raptors lost Danny Green to the Lakers this offseason. Although those are the only players the Raptors lost from last year’s championship squad, Kawhi was clearly their most important player and Danny Green played a vital role during the regular season and the NBA Finals.
In my mind, there’s no chance the Raptors will repeat as champions or even reach the Finals. I feel like that’s a pretty popular opinion, considering they replaced Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard with Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Cameron Payne. Not exactly an even return.
Having said all that, Toronto is still bringing back some integral pieces of their team last year, including Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka, and last year’s Most Improved Player, Pascal Siakam. Siakam and Lowry will be their go-to guys next year, which doesn’t sound bad at all. But, after those five guys, the Raptors’ second unit doesn’t really stack up very well compared to those of other teams around the league.
You never want question marks when it comes to your depth and bench scoring, in particular, so this season could be quite a letdown. However, I think their core (Lowry, Siakam, Gasol, Ibaka) will be good enough to lead them to another playoff appearance after the 2019-20 season. The Nets and 76ers will be tough competition within the Atlantic Division, but I think the Raptors can find their way into the playoffs with somewhere around 48 wins next year.
New York Knicks (2018-19 Season: 17-65, Finished 5th in Atlantic Division, Missed Playoffs)
2019-20 Season Line & Odds: OVER 26.5 Wins (-110) / UNDER 26.5 Wins (-110)
James Dolan promised big and failed to deliver? Color me shocked.
No one should be surprised that the Knicks failed to bring in marquee free agents this offseason. But having Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant express strong interest in playing in New York for months in advance and end up with Julius Randle as your big offseason signing is nothing short of disappointing for Knicks fans.
This offseason was especially disasppointing because their trade of Kristaps Porzingis, which opened up two max slots, ended up not really mattering. That’s certainly not ideal.
The Knicks did sign some decent players to fill out their roster, including Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, and Marcus Morris. Randle showed a marked improvement on the offensive end last year, averaging a career-high 21.4 points per game on 34.4% shooting from 3.
Unfortunately for New York, each of them has struggled on both ends at times. For a team that finished near the bottom in scoring offense (28th of 30) and scoring defense (22nd of 30), there will be times when the Knicks may regret not shelling out enough to attract marquee free agents.
It’s just really hard to be a believer in the Knicks right now, so I’d rather underestimate them than overestimate them. I would take the under for the Knicks this season, but I hope RJ Barrett and Kevin Knox spend this season developing their games and improving on both ends.