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NBA Atlantic Division Predictions: Knicks, 76ers Still Chasing Celtics

The Atlantic Division goes into the 2023–24 season with 3 genuine competitors in the Celtics, Knicks and 76ers, while the Nets and Raptors will start the season with far more modest expectations. What else should you watch on from these 5 groups?

Projected Order of Finish

  1. Boston Celtics (1)
  2. New York Knicks (4)
  3. Philadelphia 76ers (5)
  4. Brooklyn Nets (7)
  5. Toronto Raptors (14)

Conference seed in parentheses

Harden’s (left) mindset will have an outsized effect on Philly’s season.

Bill Streicher/U.S.A. TODAY Sports

Scouts’ Anonymous Takes (as informed to Chris Mannix)


In Philadelphia, the most significant thing you need to question is, what is James Harden’s frame of mind going to be? Where is he going to be? He’s going to request for a trade all year. With him there I believe they can be actually excellent. They can equate to in 2015, a minimum of. I believe Tyrese Maxey is a guy that is all set to take another action offensively. I’m curious to see what they do defensively.

Last year for example, I seemed like they had 3 power forwards in their lineup defensively: P.J. TuckerTobias Harris and Harden due to the fact that Harden doesn’t actually wish to secure point player, so they put him on larger gamers. P.J., they place on a few of the much better wings or power forwards. And then, you had Tobias, who I believed was remarkable in 2015 and he safeguarded out of position all year. They had him secure point player due to the fact that Tyrese required to take another action defensively.

With that being stated, they were still a top-10 protective group in the league due to the fact that when Joel’s engaged, he alters whatever.

I believe it’s tough for Tyrese to take another action with Harden around. I believe it’s tough due to the fact that I believe the most significant issue that they encounter is when he simply begins dribbling the ball for 20 out of the 24 seconds, and after that simply tosses it to someone. I constantly believed James worked finest with a rolling huge—a Clint Capela. When he has somebody rolling to the rim, that is a lob danger to select and roll; I believed he was constantly at his finest with that.

Joel [Embiid] doesn’t do that. Why? I don’t understand. But he doesn’t like to roll. Joel likes to pop and capture the ball at the top of the secret, free-throw-line location for his little dive shot, which is excellent, however when it pertains to playoffs and you have 4 guys sitting there waiting on him to capture the ball there and James, who most likely doesn’t get to the rim like he utilized to and he doesn’t get the nasty calls he utilized to, that makes it hard.

I’m a huge Maxey fan. I believe there is an All-Star there. I believe he shoots the ball actually well from 3; he gets to the rim. He still requires to end up much better around the rim. I seem like often he simply goes one speed. And then, there’s another thing that he requires to enhance: his death. But I’m a fan. And I think you might argue that perhaps he is simply the 2nd or 3rd choice, at finest. But he’s an employee.


I believed the Nets protected well after all the trades, however they relied excessive on shooting a great deal of 3s. They had a hard time offensively, specifically in the playoffs, to score. But I simulate Mikal Bridges. I simulate the pieces they have. I like Spencer Dinwiddie, however I don’t understand if he is who fits the very best of those 2. But he’s another guy, he can get you 30. They require some size. Philadelphia injured them with their size in the playoffs.

They require dependable half-court scoring. Is Bridges that guy? I believe he does have the benefit. They’re respectable in shift, however they require Bridges to end up being an effective half-court scorer. Him and even Cam Johnson, those guys are the guys that have the ability to get a pail, however they need to have the ability to get that pail at a playoff level. Cam Johnson can get to the rim on straight line drives. I believe Bridges is respectable—he can get his shot when he desires. And I believe Dinwiddie is a respectable pick-and-roll gamer. They do require to improve in the half-court offense.

I like [Nic] Claxton, I believe he has fun with a great deal of energy. He’s an excellent roller to the rim, offending rebounder. But when it pertains to fighting guys like Joel Embiid or Giannis [Antetokounmpo], he’s actually the only guy, the huge. They require some more measure front.


Losing Fred VanVleet is substantial. I believe that presses the Raptors into a reconstruct. They have a number of excellent pieces a minimum of in [Pascal] Siakam and Scottie Barnes. With those 2 guys, they’re still 2 excellent fundamental pieces. How long do they wish to wait to get the other pieces around? [OG] Anunoby—those 3 guys are excellent. But as a group I believe they’re average. I don’t believe they can be the worst group in the league, certainly. But I don’t understand. Are they a play-in group? Probably, perhaps a six-seed, at finest.

I believe Barnes has actually got to shoot the ball much better. That’s the most significant thing. He can pass; he can get to the basket. I simply believe it’s taking his shooting to another level. And what position is he? He can actually pass the ball and he can get to the rim. Is he a point forward? Is he a point player? He’s not an excellent off-the-ball gamer who might simply stall and shoot the 3. I believe that’s the most significant concern with him.

I like Anunoby. I believe he’s an actually excellent shooter, spot-up shooter, corner shooter, excellent protector, excellent size. He’s got a great deal of interest out there; a great deal of groups have an interest in him. I don’t understand if they anticipate excessive in return for a trade. I’m a fan, however I believe he’s a function gamer, a great function gamer at that. He’s a guy that can get you 18 and get you 9 rebounds and secure the very best gamer on a group.

Siakam remained in attack mode in 2015. Really the last 2 seasons. He’s actually proficient at entering into the paint. He appears like he has his self-confidence back. He can score a lot of various methods. As just recently as a couple of years ago he was simply a one-way gamer.


Jrue Holiday is an upgrade on border defense in Boston. To me, he’s a much better protector than [Marcus] Smart, and I don’t believe it’s even close. So I like that. I believe he fits well with essentially any group he has fun with, any gamers he has fun with, so I like that a lot from that viewpoint. Losing Robert Williams III harms. Losing Malcolm Brogdon does not injured. It’s going to be intriguing to see how they make use of Kristaps Porziņģis and Al Horford. To me, it appears like they’re attempting to go as much offense and shooting as they perhaps can, which is typically speaking a good idea. But at the end of the day, I don’t understand just how much you can count on Porziņģis.

With Porziņģis (8) and Horford down low, Boston is putting more focus on offense this season.

Eric Canha/U.S.A. TODAY Sports

If Porziņģis plays like he did in 2015, which he had a terrific year, then the [Jayson] Tatum[Jaylen] Brown, Porziņģis trio might be a headache for individuals. But will Porziņģis be the very same guy in Boston? I believed Washington actually played through him. He was a huge centerpiece of their offense. He shot the ball well. He might be a match issue for individuals. That won’t take place in Boston. When he remained in Dallas, Luka [Dončić] simply controls the ball a lot that I don’t believe it was an excellent location for him to be in. With the Celtics, he’ll be No. 3. I believe he’ll be great due to the fact that Boston does a respectable task of moving the ball. But it will be a modification.

People constantly quibble the Jaylen Brown–Jayson Tatum duo. I can think about most likely 27 other groups that would desire them. I understand they both are comparable with how they wish to score. But even if they haven’t won yet, does that indicate it doesn’t work? They’ve been to the Finals and in 2015 certainly they didn’t specify where they wished to. But they had all examples happening with their group in 2015—with the brand-new coach, the method their season began, with all that things. Now they need to make another change with Porziņģis. But I believe that those guys, they’re having success; they simply haven’t got that supreme objective yet.

I believe Smart specifically is a guy that holds a few of those other guys responsible when perhaps Jaylen is dribbling excessive or not moving the ball or Jayson is doing the very same thing. He is a guy that can get on them. Or a minimum of he had the influence, the voice to inform them. I believe they’ll certainly miss out on that.

And then, Smart makes all the insane plays. When they beat Philly in Game 6, on that Tatum 3, nobody ever discussed how excellent of a pass it was from Smart. Those kinds of plays. And they get a few of that with Derrick White, I think, however I don’t believe it’s to the very same level.


I believed the Knicks were actually excellent last season. I believed that they offered a lot of groups match issues. They were tough to protect. [Jalen] Brunson is among the premier gamers in the East. I like that Donte DiVincenzo addition. I believe he’s a Tom Thibodeau guy. I would’ve liked to have actually seen them do a bit more in totally free firm, however I simulate what they have.

Brunson revealed me, one, he is an astounding scorer. He can strike 3s, get to the basket, make passes. He’s actually proficient at pick-and-roll, clutch shots, makes huge shots, ruthless, simply keeps plugging along no matter how he’s playing, even if he’s having a bad video game. His strength is most likely the number-one thing.

I simply don’t understand if you can win with Julius Randle as your 2nd choice. That’s a huge concern, right? They weren’t the inmost group in 2015. I don’t understand just how much that will alter this year. I think they might be a bit much deeper. Thibs is going to play 7, 8 guys anyhow, regardless who’s on his group. They certainly are a group that requires to take another action. And I believe that does boil down to how well Randle plays. He’s extremely dominant to that left hand, and after that he goes right, likes to go back right. There’s certainly propensities that you can certainly rest on with him, for sure.

The most intriguing aspect of the …


The Celtics took an enormous swing this offseason by dealing for Porziņģis and sending Smart, the group’s body and soul. A shakeup was called for after their ECF loss to Miami. But Boston now has a center rotation of Porziņģis and 37-year-old Al Horford. Porziņģis was great last season, however the health of the Celtics’ huge guys might determine whether they come out of the East.

Brunson (11) will as soon as again power a Knicks attack wanting to go deeper in the playoffs.

Dan Hamilton/U.S.A. TODAY Sports


When the Knicks was up to Miami in Round 2 of the playoffs in 2015, the concern was their offense. New York, which had the NBA’s least expensive regular-season help portion, counts on individually plays more than a lot of groups. Brunson stood out versus the Heat, however a hobbled Randle had a hard time in the postseason yet once again. The Knicks require to much better make use of much deeper choices such as RJ Barrett, Josh Hart and beginner DiVincenzo.


The Sixers are seeming like a borderline harmful scenario. Harden called the group president a phony and stated he won’t ever bet him once again. Embiid, the ruling MVP who has actually never ever made it past the 2nd round of the playoffs, stated he wishes to win a title in Philly “or anywhere else,” and a 2nd prominent holdout in 3 seasons following the Ben Simmons fiasco won’t assist. And if Harden does go back to the group this season, how will everything work?


One of the NBA’s most significant under-the-radar stories last season was what Bridges provided for the Nets after he showed up midseason from Phoenix in the Kevin Durant trade. Bridges, 27, was currently viewed as an ironman and great protector. In Brooklyn he flashed the possible to be a full-on star, balancing 26.1 points. He went individually practically 3 times regularly as a Net, gathering 109 points per 100 iso belongings—up from a rate of 77 points in Phoenix.


For all the discuss the Raptors’ length on defense, Toronto really scored the least points (14.5 per video game) in the league off turnovers last season. Those points might be even scarcer with VanVleet, a seasonal leader in deflections, gone to Houston. The concern this year is: Will Siakam be beside go? The Raptors have actually apparently chosen versus paying him limit. And if he goes, what will Toronto do to support young star Barnes?


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