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Atlantic Division Preview

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Sportsbook.ag NBA Atlantic Division Preview

BOSTON CELTICS

2011-12 SU record: 50-36 SU (58.1%), 9th in NBA
2011-12 ATS record: 44-42 ATS (51.2%), 14th in NBA
Odds to Win 2012-13 Eastern Conference: 6-to-1
Odds to Win 2012-13 NBA Championship: 12-to-1

GUARDS

This offense now belongs to Rajon Rondo, and that should be especially true during the regular season . . . Even if he comes off the bench, Jason Terry figures to see the bulk of the minutes at shooting guard. He provides some much-needed outside shooting after Ray Allen left and should challenge Paul Pierce for the team lead in shot attempts . . . Adding Courtney Lee was more of a move for the future. He's a fine young second-unit player for now and should be an heir apparent on one of the wings . . . Avery Bradley could be out until December after shoulder surgery. As Boston's best defensive player, he could reclaim his starting job in the season's second half.

FORWARDS

Paul Pierce quietly had a great regular season last year. Though with some improved depth behind him, Rivers might have his 35-year-old All-Star wing rest more often . . . Brandon Bass gives them another scoring option, even if he does struggle on the defensive end. He'll get full-time minutes only in certain matchups as long as the frontcourt is healthy . . . Jeff Green's heart condition is no longer a concern, but the tweener's role in Boston after a year off is cause for worry . . . There are already question marks surrounding rookie Jared Sullinger's back. He's very similar to Bass: He can score out to mid-range but doesn't play much defense. Expect him to be strictly a second-unit player in his first NBA season . . . Chris Wilcox will provide fouls off the bench when healthy.

CENTERS

The Celtics are prepared to go with Kevin Garnett in the middle, which was the case when they were at their best last season. His role on offense is still knocking down mid-range jumpers, and he's still an elite defensive player . . . Professional flopper Jason Collins will fill in nicely for the departed Greg Stiemsma . . . Fab Melo is years away from being ready to contribute (if he actually is ever ready to contribute) and Darko Milicic was also added via free agency for more frontcourt depth.

BROOKLYN NETS

2011-12 SU record: 22-44 SU (33.3%), T-25th in NBA
2011-12 ATS record: 27-37-2 ATS (42.2%), 28th in NBA
Odds to Win 2012-13 Eastern Conference: 20-to-1
Odds to Win 2012-13 NBA Championship: 50-to-1

GUARDS

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Deron Williams
is healthy and got a much-improved supporting cast to work with. He could re-enter the NBA's best point guard discussion . . . Joe Johnson won't have the ball in his hands as much as he used to in Atlanta. It might give him a chance to concentrate on regaining his stroke as one of the NBA's best shooters . . . Marshon Brooks will look to settle in as a high-scoring sixth man. He'll be trade bait for most of the season . . . After a disastrous year in Chicago, C.J. Watson will be asked to spell Williams for a few minutes a night . . . Keith Bogans is still kicking around as a second unit glue guy . . . Tyshawn Taylor is an at-times out-of-control combo guard, but the rookie could threaten Watson's role at some point.

FORWARDS

Kris Humphries' contract was structured to make him easier to trade. He'll rebound and get his put-backs, and the Nets will likely showcase him a bit . . . Gerald Wallace is slowing down, and now that he's signed his last big NBA contract he might not have much incentive to live up to his "Crash" nickname. Brooklyn has no choice but to give him heavy minutes considering their investment . . . Mirza Teletovic is a veteran stretch four. Consider him a penniless man's Channing Frye . . . Tornike Shengelia played himself into a roster spot this summer. He's a mediocre athlete, but a cagey scorer with a high basketball IQ . . . Josh Childress and Jerry Stackhouse were added in September for depth . . . REGGIE EVANS will flop unconvincingly, punch opponents in the jewels and bring other "tough guy" intangibles.

CENTERS

Brook Lopez had been remarkably durable before last year's foot injury, and he should be fully healed by the start of training camp. He's gifted offensively, but will continue to grab relatively few rebounds and generally get fried defensively. He's also a candidate to be traded midseason if another franchise can stomach his max contract . . . As insurance, former Wizards big man Andray Blatche was brought in. He could be the team's best interior defender, able to play either the four or five spot.

NEW YORK KNICKS

2011-12 SU record: 37-34 SU (52.1%), 14th in NBA
2011-12 ATS record: 36-33-2 ATS (52.2%), 11th in NBA
Odds to Win 2012-13 Eastern Conference: 20-to-1
Odds to Win 2012-13 NBA Championship: 40-to-1

GUARDS

Raymond Felton will start at the point, which seems like a colossal mistake. He had his career year in New York under Mike D'Antoni, but the Knicks have gone away from the pick-and-roll system he thrived in . . . Don't be surprised if Jason Kidd is overtaking Felton in minutes played by midseason. He's limited athletically but still a heady passer . . . Resident chucker J.R. Smith should see big minutes early before Iman Shumpert steps in as the defense half of their shooting guard platoon as soon as his knee is recovered mid-season . . . Ronnie Brewer will be Smith's defensive complement while Shumpert is out . . . Pablo Prigioni is a game manager who provides insurance at the point.

FORWARDS

This is once again Carmelo Anthony's team, as the Knicks will run their offense through him. It's going to be a lot of iso, and a lot of scoring opportunities for Melo . . . Amar'e Stoudemire doesn't fit nearly as well in this system as he did in former coach Mike D'Antoni's. He ended up forcing a lot of shots a year ago, and his durability is a major question mark . . . Steve Novak will continue to come off the bench strictly as a three-point shooter. He's one of the best long-range bombers in the NBA, but he's too much of a defensive liability to play more than 20 minutes per night . . . Swingman James White will also get some minutes at the two or three spots with his 6-foot-7 frame. . . Chris Copeland had some solid years overseas, but will be lucky to break into this rotation . . . Kurt Thomas is in player/coach mode.

CENTERS

Tyson Chandler is indispensible on the defensive end as long as sieves Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire are also in the frontcourt . . . Marcus Camby can't defend in space like Chandler can, but his ability to rebound and protect the rim will come in handy as the second unit is no better defensively than the starters . . . Rasheed Wallace came out of retirement, but has a long way to go, especially with his lack of conditioning, before he contributes much at age 38.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

2011-12 SU record: 42-37 SU (53.2%), 13th in NBA
2011-12 ATS record: 41-38 ATS (51.9%), 12th in NBA
Odds to Win 2012-13 Eastern Conference: 10-to-1
Odds to Win 2012-13 NBA Championship: 30-to-1

GUARDS

Jrue Holiday is knocking on the door of All-Star status. He's excellent defensively, though his stats sometimes sag because of Philly's deliberate style . . . Jason Richardson gives them some shooting on the wing, but may see his minutes fade if he can't play the kind of defense Collins demands . . . Swingman Evan Turner is an intriguing but flawed player. He doesn't quite have the offensive repertoire to be a primary scorer, and he'll continue to get inconsistent minutes as Collins plays to matchups on the wings . . . Nick Young will have something of a lesser sixth-man role than Lou Williams used to have . . . As an offensively-limited but athletic, defensive-minded guard, ROYAL IVEY is the kind of bench player Collins looks for.

FORWARDS

Even with Elton Brand gone, Thaddeus Young will play more of a part-time role. Collins has never seemed satisfied with his talented young 'tweener, and Spencer Hawes is expected to slide to the four alongside Andrew Bynum . . . Dorrell Wright brings some much needed shooting on the wing. He plays the kind of defense Collins demands and, if his shot is on, he should be close to a 30-MPG player despite his struggles in Golden State last season . . . Lavoy Allen is a serviceable reserve big. He'll see few minutes off the bench unless Bynum gets hurt . . . Arnett Moultrie fits the Sixers mold as an athlete. He could be a regular in the rotation by midseason.

CENTERS

Maybe Andrew Bynum will be happier moving back to the east coast. As long as his knees hold up, he's an All-Star lock . . . Spencer Hawes will actually play a lot of four this year. He's an offensively-capable 7-footer who's also become a much better rebounder over the past couple seasons . . . Kwame Brown will be sparingly used as a big body who can move on the defensive end.

TORONTO RAPTORS

2011-12 SU record: 23-43 SU (34.8%), T-23rd in NBA
2011-12 ATS record: 36-28-2 ATS (56.2%), 3rd in NBA
Odds to Win 2012-13 Eastern Conference: 50-to-1
Odds to Win 2012-13 NBA Championship: 100-to-1

GUARDS

Kyle Lowry is healthy again and will be handed the reigns. He could be the Raptors best player on both ends of the floor . . . As of now, Jose Calderon is still on the roster, but he's not long for Toronto with Lowry's arrival. He won't start over Lowry, but he could see decent minutes as the Raptors attempt to showcase him . . . With Toronto's influx of new talent, DeMar DeRozan could be marginalized on the offensive end. He hasn't really progressed past the dunker/raw athlete stage of his career . . . Rookie Terrence Ross can just about match DeRozan's athleticism, and while he has no handle, he's a potentially deadly three-point threat . . . John Lucas III will back up both guard spots . . . Alan Anderson returns as a defensive stopper in the second unit.

FORWARDS

Andrea Bargnani makes his triumphant return and will likely go back to the perimeter. The Raptors have beefed up in the middle so Bargnani can play outside more . . . Landry Fields plays enough defense to earn minutes, but it seems like his signing was more a result of Toronto playing cap games to try to land Steve Nash. He'll likely platoon with Terrence Ross . . . Ed Davis made some strides this offseason, but he's still not where the Raptors want him to be on the offensive end . . . Linas Kleiza's knee should be in better shape this season. The Raptors want more shooting, and he has a chance to grab a bigger role . . . Toronto will do everything it can to get out from under Amir Johnson's contract . . . Dominic McGuire figures to occupy the final seat on the Raptors bench.

CENTERS

Jonas Valanciunas would have been the No. 2 pick of the draft had he come out a year later. He's a wiry, strong athlete who's physical down low with soft touch out to 10 feet. Toronto sees him as a franchise cornerstone who meshes nicely with Bargnani . . . Aaron Gray should provide ample competition for the starting center job.

  
HEADLINES
Edwards: Wednesday's Tip Sheet
Sportsbook: Heat, Spurs look for 2-0 leads
Lawrence: Zig-Zag Theory
Wizards top Bulls in OT to take 2-0 lead
Pacers run past Hawks, series tied 1-1
Raptors edge Nets in Game 2, 'over' hits
Popovich wins NBA Coach of the Year
Jazz begin search for new coach
Wolves look to replace Adelman
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