Aquino’s Atlantic Division Predictions: Part 3

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Boston Celtics:

Prediction: 1st in the Atlantic

Record: 55-27



Rajon Rondo-Avery Bradley

Courtney Lee-Jason Terry

Paul Pierce-Jeff Green-Kris Joseph

Brandon Bass-Jared Sullinger-Chris Wilcox

Kevin Garnett-Fab Melo-Jason Collins

Key Bench Players:  Bradley, Terry, Green, Collins, Wilcox, Sullinger and Melo.

Coach: Doc Rivers – Doc Rivers maybe the best coach in the NBA, behind only Gregg Popovich.  He knows how to motivate his players and have them playing their best ball in the playoffs.  Rivers was able to clearly define roles for his big three while in Boston by winning an NBA title in 2008.  One of his best coaching jobs I’ve ever seen was the way Doc had them pushing Miami to the brink in last year’s playoffs.  As Boston’s leader, the team has always mirrored Doc as a player; tough, smart and disciplined and this year’s team isn’t any different.

Chemistry: The Celtics have always had excellent chemistry, but the chemistry last year during the regular season was strained due to the relationship between Rondo and Ray Allen.  Allen is gone in Miami and that should help.  There is a new big three in Boston and its Garnett, Pierce and Rondo.  The new additions are exceptional role players.  Jason Terry is the quintessential catch and shoot shot maker to fill the Allen role off the bench.  Courtney Lee is one of the most underrated defenders and three point shooters in the league.  Lee should start and he fits in perfectly accepting passes from the big three.  This is a major upgrade for Boston.

Experience:  The Celtics one major advantage is knowing how to win close games and their ability to exploit opponent’s weaknesses.  They know how to pester and annoy teams and take away their focus.  They will pace themselves during this regular season but they understand the importance of developing their young players and winning the division.  I believe they will balance both.

Depth:  GM Danny Ainge added key depth at various positions.  Avery Bradley, backing up Rondo at the one when he returns is another capable ball handler and corner three point shooting specialist who fits in perfectly spacing the floor on a second unit with Jason Terry, Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green.  Green is back and healthy and can play the three and the four.  I think Jared Sullinger will factor into the team big time.  He’s a crafty and skilled post scorer who will be going up against Garnett every day in practice.  He will only improve.  Sullinger should back up Brandon Bass at the four.  Fab Melo can rebound and block shots which should get him some time off the pine.

Match-up for the Knicks to expose:  Carmelo should be able to handle anyone the Celtics throw at him.  The Celts will most likely try to use Jeff Green on him.

Match-up for the Knicks to look out for: Rajon Rondo.  They will have to once again throw Iman Shumpert at a top flight guard in order to minimize Rondo penetrating and dishing to the array of sharpshooters on the Celtics roster.

Summary: The Celtics have the chemistry, depth and experience to win the division and the fact of the matter is they have won it for five consecutive seasons.  I don’t think the Knicks get it together in time to win the division, though I do believe the Knicks will be the better team come this postseason.  The Celtics will have to rely on the health of their warriors, Pierce aged 35 and Garnett turns 37 by the end of the regular season campaign and that can end up ruining their chances.


New York Knicks:

Prediction: 2nd in the Atlantic

Record: 52-30



Raymond Felton-Jason Kidd-Pablo Prigioni

Ronnie Brewer-JR Smith-Iman Shumpert

Carmelo Anthony-Steve Novak

Amar’e Stoudemire-Kurt Thomas

Tyson- Chandler – Marcus Camby

Key Bench Players: Kidd, Smith, Brewer, Novak, Camby

Coach: Mike Woodson – Woodson elevated the Knicks to a top 5 defense in the NBA. Woodson’s major challenge will be offensively, where the Knicks will have the identity of a grind it out, isolation heavy team.  The key to the offense will be activating Stoudemire’s offensive genius and how Woodson accomplishes this is the most intriguing storyline of the Knicks season.  We know the defense will be there but offensive efficiency will be just as essential to any sustained success and will most likely take some time.

Chemistry:  One month before training camp and the Knicks have already worked out together in New York.  Woodson brought in Hakeem Olajuwon to coach of all of the bigs, Chandler and Anthony won gold together in London and Marcus Camby, Raymond Felton and Amar’e Stoudemire all traveled to Puerto Rico to help Carmelo’s foundation.  These activities will only help the chemistry and spill over onto the court. Felton and Kidd have the responsibility to get the ball to the Knicks where they can be the most potent and I believe the Knicks believe in each other this season more than any other in recent Knicks history.

Depth: The Knicks are 10 deep with proven players who are still productive.  They do not have very many question marks.  The addition of Marcus Camby to spell Chandler may prove to be one of the best moves any team in the league has made this off season.  The Knicks provided the reigning Defensive Player of the Year with a past DPOY who was tops in the league in total rebounding percentage last year.  Jason Kidd will add the leadership the Knicks so desperately need in the back-court.  If Novak continues his amazing three point accuracy and JR Smith goes back to his career percentage of 37% from downtown this team would have surrounded Carmelo with the shooters he needs to make defenses pay for doubling him.  The defensive versatility this team boasts is second to maybe only Miami.  The Knicks can rotate shut down defenders, Shumpert and Brewer in the back-court to go along with the twin towers Chandler and Camby.  These match-ups can be devastating to the rest of the league.

Match-up to Highlight: Putting Carmelo Anthony in various scoring situations and making the right passes out of the double teams.

Match-up to worry about: The ability for the team to hit consistent outside shots from 15 feet and out.  STAT, Camby, Smith, Kidd and Novak are immensely important here and need to hit at their career marks to be successful.

Summary:  The Knicks will take some time to heat up and the chemistry between Felton and Amar’e is vital.  The Knick defense will be top 3 in the league and it will keep them above .500 early on as there will be some ugly offensive performances in the first month or so.  Clyde Frazier is right; Carmelo will need to play at a MVP caliber level for the Knicks to win the division.  I think he can, but the Knicks will need to get comfortable first.  With Shumpert’s return and if the Knicks can stay healthy, by the end of the regular season, the Knicks will be the team no one wants to face in the playoffs.  Home court advantage is the clear road towards the NBA Finals and I believe this team can make it happen.

 Below is a look at the biggest weeks for the Knicks this upcoming season.  Winning these games is pivotal to winning the division and raising the banner.


Key Weeks for the Knicks during the Regular Season:

11/1 at Brooklyn, 11/4 and 11/5 Back to Back vs. Philadelphia
12/11 at Brooklyn and 12/19 Brooklyn
1/21 Brooklyn, 1/24 at Boston and 1/26 at Philadelphia
2/22 at Toronto and 2/24 vs. Philadelphia
3/26 at Boston and 3/31 vs. Boston

 Sean Aquino @reactdrummer34 – Knickswag Contributor


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