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Atlantic Division: Random Thoughts and Observations

Three really good teams, and some reason for hope in the Big Apple

, Andy Roth, Hardcore Hoop Talk, NBA Analysis

Who needs long, drawn out team previews? Let’s just go with what comes to mind right away when I think of the five Atlantic Division teams.

If Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward can return to form and Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are even better next season, then the Celtics could give the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors all they can handle in a seven-game series.

Will Ben Simmons be able to consistently knock down jump shots and did Markelle Fultz fix his broken jump shot? Those are the two big questions facing the Sixers. They definitely need Fultz to be the player they expected him to be when they drafted him number one overall if they hope to compete with Boston.

The addition of Kawhi Leonard should make the Raptors better than last years’ version which was the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, but like last season, they won’t be the best team come playoff time. With Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas as their second and third best players, that won’t be enough to win the East.

Optimism isn’t normally a word associated with the New York Knicks, but after the summer league play of rookies Kevin Knox (9th overall pick) and Mitchell Robinson (36th overall pick), that’s what Big Apple fans are feeling. And so is new head coach David Fizdale after watching Knox and Mitchell excel in their first taste of the NBA.

“They work really hard, they don’t mess around, they come to work like grown-ups. They’re competitive. You can see they like being with the Knicks and scrapping. Obviously, I keep raving about their length and athleticism. I love that. That is my kind of guys. They’re just good kids. They’re just good-hearted, nice kids that just want to be good basketball players. So I really like them a lot.”

Slowly but surely, GM Sean Marks is bringing the Nets back from a state of hopelessness following the Billy King era. Marks has had a busy and productive offseason. He acquired several future draft picks, including a top-14 protected, 2019 first rounder from the Denver Nuggets. He added some nice pieces to the bench with the additions of Kenneth Faried, Ed Davis and Shabazz Napier. And most importantly, he’ll be able to sign two max free agents next summer. The Nets basically have a no-name roster, but I really like the young trio of Caris LeVert, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Jarrett Allen.

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