NBA 2021 Atlantic Division Preview

Story posted October 19, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Austin Groft

Drama, drama and more drama – that describes what is currently happening in the NBA’s Atlantic division. Let’s break down this competitive division one team at a time.

Sixers

Ben Simmons. What will the culture look like in Philadelphia with his decision to return?

Last year, he left many Sixers fans angered with his poor postseason performance shooting 34.2% from the free-throw line and passing up an easy layup in Game 7 versus Atlanta.

With Simmons finally returning to practice, it remains in question when he will make his debut this season.

The Sixers finished first in the Eastern conference last year and were on pace to make a playoff run. This year, their roster is practically identical from last season except for the addition of Andre Drummond and some rookies.

Whether Simmons sees significant court time or not, the Sixers will still be a competitive team in the East. Expect Tyrese Maxey to have a bigger role this season and build upon his sensational rookie performance.

Raptors

Toronto had a major setback last season ending with a losing record for the first time since the 2012-13 season. The departure of Raptors all-time leading scorer Kyle Lowry leaves them searching for that “go-to guy.”

They still have their core three players from the 2019 NBA championship with OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. After that there’s a lot of young talent that will have to step it up this season. The fourth overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft Scottie Barnes is NBA ready, being able to play any position on the court standing at 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan.

The Raptors also have veteran Goran Dragic who came from Miami as part of the Lowry trade. Despite his inconsistency, he is a great veteran player to mash alongside this Raptors team with many new faces.

Celtics

The Celtics have a potential MVP in Jayson Tatum. He continues to grow both as a leader and a player.

Tatum was second on the USA Olympic men’s basketball team in scoring, averaging 15.2 points per game. Jaylen Brown is the other of the powerful duo that returns this season.

The Celtics had an interesting offseason, bringing in Dennis Schroder who went from having the best year of his career in Oklahoma City, to struggling in Los Angeles with stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis by his side.

There’s no question that the Celtics have some solid guards, it is the big man situation that needs to be addressed. They brought home Enes Kanter and Al Horford who both averaged double figures last season.

Nets

With or without Kyrie Irving, the Brooklyn Nets are going to be the team to beat in the East.

Last season, the Nets were able to take the Bucks to seven games in the playoffs without Irving. James Harden and Kevin Durant are bringing back their chemistry from the days with the Thunder.

Brooklyn, even with a talented roster last year, was able to improve its roster.

The Nets were able to add value to their bench, which didn’t have much scoring talent last year.  Patty Mills, LaMarcus Aldridge and Paul Millsap are all veteran players that were added in the offseason pursuit.

They also acquired Cameron Thomas from LSU, one of the best guards in the 2021 NBA draft class, averaging 23 points per game. This team has what it needs to be the 2022 NBA champions.

Knicks

The New York Knicks are back. Ending the seven-year playoff drought, they are slowly on the rise being a competitor in the expanding Eastern Conference supremacy.

There is no question that the Knicks had the best defense in the league last year being first in points against allowing 104.7 points per game. The elite perimeter defense will without a doubt be the harpoon acting as the foundation for the team this season. It is the offense that needs work.

The Knicks return leading point scorers R.J. Barrett and Julius Randle, and this offseason they obtained Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier, who will both contribute to solve the offensive inability. These additions will also take stress off Randle, who clearly struggled under pressure in the playoffs.

 

Austin Groft is a third-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email atg5271@psu.edu.