We close out our preview of the Atlantic Division by asking the Crossover Chronicles writers their thoughts on the big questions in the Atlantic Division.
1. Can Andrew Bynum and his troublesome knees carry this team and keep this team together?
Jeff Garcia: Carry the team? No. But Bynum is a great addition to the squad. If the Sixers expect to make waves for a full season (unlike last season when they cooled off as the season progressed) they will need to have Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday and new player Nick Young to compliment Bynum for any chance at a successful season. Also, should Bynum's knees be a prolonged issue, then the rest of the team will have to step up to replace what Bynum's contributions will be. I'm looking at you Spencer Hawes.
John Karalis: No. I just don't trust Bynum to be "the man" mentally and physically for an entire NBA season. His knee is already an issue, and it's going to cost him most of, if not the entire preseason. If that doesn't get any better, and they are forced to sit him for stretches during the regular season, then they'll be forced to use Spencer Hawes, who, as we saw in the playoffs, can be quite the liability.
In Los Angeles, Bynum's tantrums and mental lapses could be dealt with because he really was a third option. In Philly, he is option number one. And if he "loafs around" in this situation, it's going to kill the Sixers.
Bynum's talent is unquestioned. What he's capable of doing on the court is spectacular. The reality of his body and mind allowing him to do that is in doubt for me.
Kyle Boenitz: I’m actually kind of rooting for Andrew Bynum to finally live up to his potential. I didn’t care for him much in L.A. because I thought his attitude sucked, but that could have just been a failure to mesh with Kobe. Now that he’s out of there, it’s a chance to start new. The injuries are going to be a problem. We’ve seen big guys struggle through stuff like this and if he’s in and out of the lineup it’s going to be tough for Bynum and the 76ers to get any kind of momentum going. This team is probably still a few years away from being really good, and that’s assuming that Bynum behaves himself through those years.
Trevor Zickgraf: I suppose if I think Greg Oden is going to get healthy at some point I should think the same thing about Bynum, considering he's actually played a mostly healthy season. I don't ever think he's going to be an 82 game a year guy, but 65-70 games seems right for this season.
2. What will it take for Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire to be a successful duo
Jeff: Either a good point guard or trading one of them. But considering a trade might not happen (with their large contracts and Amar'e's ailing back) the addition of Jason Kidd will do wonders for the team. Despite his age, Kidd can still be effective and considering the team doesn't need him to score much, his floor leadership will help Melo and Amar'e become a better duo.
John: A great point guard, so let's see how Jason Kidd handles them. Stoudemire needs to be fed, and excels in pick and roll/pick and pop situations. Melo is clearly an iso guy who dominates the ball and the offense. A great point guard not only has the ability to get these guys the ball in the right spots, he has the clout to command the flow of the game and tell one or both to chill out. If Kidd doesn't get that kind of respect from his teammates in NY, then they're a lost cause.
Kyle: This team needs guidance. Someone needs to step up and pull these guys together. They need to know that they’re not a bunch of superstars out there for their own good, they’re the New York Knicks. Bringing in Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton was a step in the right direction because both of those guys are capable of running an offense. Carmelo should shoot the ball less and Amar’e needs to step up and prove he’s a true post player. The talent to performance ratio of this team has been underwhelming for far too long.
Trevor: Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudamire are two of the most overrated players in the game playing on the most overrated franchise in NBA history. There's nothing that shows Carmelo is willing to break his ball stopping ways, and even if he did we don't know if Amar'e Stoudamire is the same guy he was even two years ago.
3. Can the Nets displace the Knicks as the Kings of New York?
Jeff: It all depends on team success. The New York media will have a heavy hand in which team will be the darlings of the Big Apple. However, considering the Knicks are a team which has chemistry, and a better squad, the Nets are a season and a few players away from displacing the Knicks as the Kings of NYC. Not too mention the Nets will need time to gel.
John: I think they can. Like I wrote the other day, things are shaping up nicely for the Nets to be in the mix and develop a pretty quick fan base. But really, the best way to do it is to win. I think the Nets have a shot at being even with the Knicks this year, which would be a huge first step. If the Nets can turn around and build a winner while the Knicks bumble around in purgatory, then they'll really start to shift allegiances. If they start winning now, they'll not only pluck a few fans away from the Knicks, they'll start winning the minds of young basketball players around the city who will grow up to be Nets fans. That's how you do it when you're trying to poach fans and take over a city.
Kyle: The Nets have laid the groundwork to completely eclipse the Knicks. They changed their look, got a crazy new arena to play in, have celebrity endorsements, picked up some talented new players and have completely hyped themselves up. They’ve done all this while the Knicks have been self-destructing. I will say this though. If they don’t win right out of the gate, then it was all for nothing. People in New York have to be excited to see the resurrection of this team, just like people in L.A. were excited for the Clippers. The Clippers probably didn’t pull away too many Laker fans because the Lakers were still good, but it’s a different case in New York. The Nets have a great situation to really put themselves on the map as a big market team, but like I said, they still have to win.
Trevor: I don't know if the Nets will replace the Knicks, because the Knicks fan base is the best part about that franchise, but the Nets are definitely going to be the best team in New York for the next couple of seasons. Better roster, better coach, funnier owner.
4. What effect will losing Ray Allen have on the Celtics?
Jeff: Not much. Allen was not the same player he was in seasons past for the C's. Plus the addition of Jason Terry and Courtney Lee will surely help fill any void left by Allen. His departure was great for fans to argue over but in the end, the Celtics improved at the shooting guard spot.
John: It really doesn't hurt the Celtics when you consider who they added to replace him. Ray was asked to come off the bench late last year and provide some scoring punch for the second unit. He was not happy about that. Ray also needed to come off a ton of screens to get open, which he couldn't do as well as he used to. On top of that, he was a liability on the wing on defense.
Now, the Celtics added Jason Terry, a guy who thrives in the sixth man role. So there's no question about starting or not. He already calls himself the captain of the bench. He loves the role. Then, the C's added Courtney Lee, a 27 year-old who shot 40 percent from 3 last season, and is a pretty good perimeter defender.
Where the loss of Ray Allen really hurts Boston is the fact that he went to Miami, and his skill set is much more needed there. I was more than willing to let Ray walk after last year, but him walking to Miami hurts. He helps them a lot more than he would have helped Boston.
Kyle: It won’t be as big of a loss as most people might think. Yes, Ray Allen has been a huge part of that team for the last five seasons, but his numbers have consistently been falling off. He’s struggled with injuries and wasn’t even contributing that much in the postseason this year. They brought in Jason Terry and Courtney Lee who can fill the sharpshooter role just fine, if not better than Allen did last year. The only real downside for the Celtics is that Allen went to the Heat, where outside shooters thrive because so much attention is paid to Miami’s big three. Ray Allen’s move should intensify the Heat-Celtics rivalry even more, especially if he hits some big shots when the two teams play.
Trevor: Ray Allen's loss is going to have an impact from a leadership stand point more than anything. It'll leave a vacuum that Rajon Rondo may or may not be able to pick up. On the court, I think the combo of Courtney Lee and Jason Terry will be enough to compensate for Ray on the court.
5. What needs to happen for Toronto to take the next step?
Jeff: Patience. They got a nice core to build around with Bargnani, DeRozan, Calderon, Fields, Kleiza, Lowry, Valanciunas, and Ed Davis but they will need time to gel.
John: They just need more competent management. They need to be bolder about making trades to bring in stars rather than waiting and hoping to woo stars (or try to keep their own who are clearly leaving). I know this sounds like rapper analysis, but they need to be more hardcore. And by that I mean, management needs to be tougher if stars decide they want to leave. Forget the "well, we'll just do a sign and trade." They need to start making bolder moves, and shipping players like that out if they're clearly not sticking around. And if they're stuck in no-man's land? Take the tradeable assets you have and start building up your stockpile of draft picks and younger stars.
It's the Presti blueprint with Seattle/OKC. And of course, he got lucky with Kevin Durant, but he put himself in a spot to get lucky. If Toronto gets lucky, it's a freakin' miracle. They need to get into the habit of going for it... and then blowing it up if it doesn't work. If you don't do that, then you're just going to be stuck.
Kyle: When you look at the Raptors roster, it’s not anything to scoff at. This team should play better than they do. DeMar DeRozan is coming along nicely and if Andrea Bargnani can stay healthy, they really have something to build on. I think one of those two guys needs to really step up as a leader for the team though. Successful teams always have a guy they can look to that will lead them into battle and they can rally behind. If DeRozan or Bargnani steps in to fill that role, the Raptors could exceed some expectations.
Trevor: Well, the Raptors improved their point guard play. Now they need better shooters and hope that Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas gel well together. Then they have to hope DeMar DeRozan takes another step forward. Then they have to hope their bench gets better. So basically a lot needs to happen.
Crossover Chronicle's Atlantic Division Prediction:
How will the Atlantic Division shake out? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or on Twitter by tweeting us @CrossoverNBA. Next week we hit the Southwest Division.