Best and Worst Case Scenarios in the NBA Atlantic Division

While the Western Conference has been very competitive, the Eastern Conference has been weak over the past few years. Outside of Cleveland, few can feel confident about their team’s chances of dominating the East this season. Therefore, the door is open for almost every team to win games and qualify for the postseason. Last season, two teams made the playoffs with a record under .500. If you lose more than you win, you should not be eligible for the postseason. Yet both Boston and Brooklyn qualified, proving any team can make it in the East. The NBA season is right around the corner and us fans are ready for the next chapter of history to be written. Let’s look at the best and worst case scenarios for the NBA Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference.

Boston Celtics

Best Case: The Celtics show that their 24-12 finish last season wasn’t a fluke. Sure, they won’t continue that pace all year with a core led by Isaiah Thomas, Evan Turner and Marcus Smart. However, the Eastern Conference is very weak and should provide some easy games for Boston. Continued development from a young core and great coaching from Brad Stevens propels this team into the postseason again. Smart has a breakout year and earns the Most Improved Player of the Year award. Boston hustles its way to 45 wins and is a tough matchup in the first round.

Worst Case: The Celtics aren’t very good, but considering they are in the East, they win 36 games and barely miss the playoffs. This record ensures that the team doesn’t get a high draft pick, but isn’t in the playoffs, the worst possible scenario for a team that is still rebuilding. The Celtics are built off of hustle but have no clear cut franchise players on this roster that every championship team seems to have. Without a top draft choice, the Celtics get stuck in the cycle of mediocrity. Add on an overachieving Brooklyn Nets team and the Celtics former treasure-trove of draft picks loses major value.

More Likely: Best Case

Philadelphia 76ers:

Best Case: The 76ers have a trio of talented, young big men. However, only two are healthy. Nerlens Noel had his best stretch of games in his rookie year last March, averaging 14.3 PPG, 11.2 RPG and 2.1 BPG. This season Noel starts alongside rookie Jahlil Okafor and they emerge as the future backcourt of the NBA. Joel Embiid recovers healthily and should be ready for the 2016-2017 season. The 76ers show slight improvement in the win column, but the front court is set for the future. The 76ers enter the draft next season with a need for an impact guard and show fans that the playoffs are close.

Worst Case: After a promising rookie campaign, Noel regresses in his second year playing as he struggles to develop any mid-range scoring. Okafor dominated the post in college, but is not as effective against the elite defensive centers in the NBA. The 76ers also have no guard play, as acquisition Nik Stauskas proves to be a bust. With more bad news about Embiid’s foot, the 76ers realize that the rebuilding process is nowhere near complete.

More Likely: Best Case

New York Knicks:

Best Case: The New York Knicks return to the postseason led by a rejuvenated Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks feature a new-look lineup in 2015-2016 that features Arron Aflalo, Robin Lopez and the fourth-overall pick Kristaps Porzingis alongside Anthony and Jose Calderon. NBA Rookie of the Year Porzingis averages 15 points and 10 rebounds per game and Jerian Grant turns his impressive summer into being one of the best rookies in the league, taking over the starting point guard spot from Calderon midseason. Phil Jackson’s newlook roster helps the Knicks take advantage of a weak Eastern Conference. Not only does New York make the playoffs with 43 wins, but the team also has young talent to build off of.

Worst Case: The Knicks lose 8 of their first 10 games and the city immediately panics. Porzingis needs time to adjust to the NBA, but the New York media disagrees, deeming him the next European bust. Porgzinis looks lost and Anthony realizes what a mistake he made by staying in New York instead of going to Chicago a few years back. The Knicks have another awful year and have to go back to the drawing board.

More Likely: Best Case

Brooklyn Nets:

Best Case: The Nets clear as much cap space as possible throughout the season, trading away contracts like Jarrett Jack, Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez. They don’t make the playoffs, but since they can’t build through the draft, the only chance this team has of turning around the ship quickly is through free agency. Expect bold moves at the trade deadline and next summer by Brooklyn.

Worst Case: The Brooklyn Nets do not have much of a future. Their draft picks are essentially owned for the next few seasons, the team has virtually no talent on the roster and they have an owner who overpays for everything. The Nets win 20 games this season and have nothing to offer their fans. Celtics fans rejoice as they get a top three pick next season.

More Likely: Worst case

Toronto Raptors:

Best Case: The Raptors should be even better this year. The team now features DeMarre Carroll in their starting lineup, a definite upgrade that should help on both sides of the court. Toronto has one of the best, underpaid backcourts in basketball. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are both all-star guards and will guide Toronto to the postseason again. Jonas Valanciunas had a great season last year and is featured in the offense again. The Atlantic division is weak, so Toronto wins over 50 games and has home court advantage in the first round.

Worst Case: Toronto was one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA last season as they allowed 107.7 points per 100 possessions, ranking 25th out of 30. The addition of Carroll improves their defense, but it is not enough for the team to beat other good teams. DeMar DeRozan is very talented, but he continues to take too many bad shots and Toronto’s offense cannot reach its maximum potential. The team is going to make the playoffs due to the weak Eastern conference, but being outside the top 5 seeds and losing in the first round would be a problem North of the border.

More Likely: Best Case