How bad has the Atlantic Division been this season?
The worst team in the Southwest Division (New Orleans Pelicans) has the same win percentage as the best team in the Atlantic. That says everything you need to know about the five teams in that division.
Since Tyson Chandler went down, the New York Knicks (3-11) have been the opposite of an NBA playoff team, currently losers of seven in a row. The team with the biggest acquisition in the offseason in the Brooklyn Nets (4-11) are constantly hampered by old age and constant injuries, placing them at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. As for the Boston Celtics (6-11) and Philadelphia 76ers (6-10)? Well they are what they are and them being below .500 is a shock to none.
With all of that information digested, that leaves the Toronto Raptors atop this anemic division. Prior to the season, the Raptors had the third best odds to win the division behind New York and Brooklyn,which likely left them out of the playoffs. Bovada pegged the Raptors for 36.5 wins on the season, ninth in the Eastern Conference rankings behind notable teams like the Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Now Bovada, Sportsbook and other mobile betting spreads have a prop bet for the Raptors to make the playoffs at -145.
Depending on how you approach the Raptors’ season, the teams around them and what is ahead for them, picking the Raptors sounds smart.
First and foremost, ask yourself this: do you think the Knicks and Nets will bounce back? While the Knicks have struggled, a return from Chandler, a player who disguises several of the team’s flaws, could steer them down the right path. Will they be the sharp-shooting team we saw last year? Due to a change in perimeter personnel, probably not. But New York would be tons better than what they are now.
For the Nets, things are a bit more complicated. Injuries have been an issue, but even when the highly anticipated starting five has played together, the group has struggled. In 78 minutes played, the lineups featuring Joe Johnson, Deron Wililams, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Brook Lopez have a net rating of -5.4. And we can’t forget the age factor. Garnett is officially on the tail-end of his career. Look at the Pierce-Lopez-Williams-Johnson lineup with Garnett and Andray Blatche:
With KG: Off. Rtg (95.1), Def. Rtg. (100.6), Net Rtg (-5.4), eFG percentage (47.7), TS percentage (52.2)
With Blatche: Off. Rtg (104.1), Def. Rtg. (87.5), Net Rtg (16.5), eFG percentage (53.3), TS percentage (57.3)
That leaves the Raptors (I don’t think Philly and Boston can actually compete). For a team that has no direction, this division may literally fall into their lap. As an optimist, I want to think that Rudy Gay‘s play improves, but history precedes all thoughts in this situation. Gay is shooting 37 percent from the field while sporting a usage percentage of 31.1. That’s a poor a combination as you’ll find in all of sports. Outside of Gay, I think the players, along with proper coach (good luck) could balance out Gay’s wrongdoings on offense.
Demar Derozan has been solid and Jonas Valanciunas is headed in the right direction as a young player. Those are concerning numbers for a championship team. All in all, I’m not sure the Nets are this bad, but if the combination of no chemistry, injuries and age continue to be a problem, we could be looking at team whose salary is over the $100 million mark while being a lottery team.
Oh, and did I mention the Eastern Conference was a dumpster fire? No, seriously, only four teams are .500 or better.
Just seeing the inconsistency and poor play taking place here makes me confident that the Raptors will be one of the eight teams eligible for playoff basketball come April. We’ll see if the East returns to form because this is just ugly.