1. Toronto Raptors
Valanciunas and Lowry need to take Toronto to the next step as contenders.
2. Brooklyn Nets
Having a stable head coach should solidify things for the Nets.
3. New York Knicks
Phil Jackson has a plan and it starts with building a team around Carmelo.
4. Boston Celtics
Questions are surrounding the future of Rajon Rondo.
5. Philadelphia 76ers
It will be another tanking season.
Head Coach: Dwane Casey
Key Position: Point Guard – They rewarded Kyle Lowry with an extension worthy of his talent. The Raptors hope that he can continue his stellar play in a year where they are the clear favorites in the Atlantic division. Bringing back Greivis Vasquez was a smart move to. Lowry and Vasquez worked well together in the backcourt. Toronto’s depth is unmatched in the division. This should be a team that competes for a top-3 seed in the East.
Key Rookies: None
Key Acquisitions: G Kyle Lowry (re-signed), G Lou Williams (Atlanta Hawks)
Starting Lineup: G Kyle Lowry, G Terrence Ross, F DeMar DeRozan, F Amir Johnson, C Jonas Valanciunas
Head Coach: Lionel Hollins (Memphis Grizzlies – 2013)
Key Position: Center – Brook Lopez has tremendous ability to be a top 3 center in the league. He can never live up to it though with his ankles constantly giving him trouble. If he is able to stay healthy for at least 60 games this season the Nets might sneak up on some in the East. If he isn’t around for a playoff run, then the Nets might be looking at an early exit in the first round.
Key Rookies: F Bojan Bogdanovic
Key Acquisitions: G Jarrett Jack (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Starting Lineup: G Deron Williams, G Alan Anderson, F Joe Johnson, F Kevin Garnett, C Brook Lopez
Head Coach: Derek Fisher (Retired Player)
Key Position: Power Forward – There are some nice pieces in place to compete for a playoff spot. There isn’t enough to be considered contenders. Once Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani’s contracts are up at the end of season the Knicks will look for some new pieces to place next to Carmelo. For now, one of them must step into the power forward or center position to keep opponents away from double teaming Carmelo.
Key Rookies: F Cleanthony Early
Key Acquisitions: G Jose Calderon (Dallas Mavericks), C Samuel Dalembert (Dallas Mavericks), F Carmelo Anthony (re-signed)
Starting Lineup: G Jose Calderon, G Iman Shumpert, F Carmelo Anthony, F Amar’e Stoudemire, C Samuel Dalembert
Head Coach: Brad Stevens
Key Position: Point Guard – It’s a matter of when, not if the Celtics will trade Rajon Rondo. He isn’t saying it publicly, but he wants out of Boston. Seeing how Danny Ainge was using this past years draft to plan for the eventual departure of Rondo tells you all you need to know. How Brad Stevens does with the rest of the cast will determine if he will last long term in Boston.
Key Rookies: G Marcus Smart, G James Young
Key Acquisitions: G Avery Bradley (re-signed), G Evan Turner (Indiana Pacers), G Marcus Thornton (Brooklyn Nets), C Tyler Zeller (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Starting Lineup: G Rajon Rondo, G Avery Bradley, F Jeff Green, F Jared Sullinger, C Kelly Olynyk
Head Coach: Brett Brown
Key Position: Point Guard – We’ll have to wait another year to see how the combination of Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid plays out, but for now all you have to look forward to is the progression of Michael Carter-Williams. He is the lone bright spot on this team and should be looking at a 20-5-5 type season. Not many players can average those kind of numbers in their first two seasons.
Key Rookies: C Joel Embiid (injured), F K.J. McDaniels
Key Acquisitions: F Luc Mbah A Moute (Minnesota Timberwolves), G Alexey Shved (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Starting Lineup: G Michael Carter-Williams, G Jason Richardson, F Hollis Thompson, F Nerlens Noel, C Henry Sims