The following is the first in a six-part series previewing the NBA. We will write about each team in the order they finished in the division last year.
Boston Celtics (39-27, lost in the eastern conference finals to Miami)
Headline: With Ray Allen gone, the Celtics look to make one final push for a title.
Summary: After a surprising playoff run last season that saw them end up losing in seven games to the eventual champion Miami, the Celtics return to the court season having lost the best three point shooter in NBA history, Ray Allen, to Miami. A return to the conference finals is unlikely but perhaps the Celtics have one final push in them.
Overall Trend: Down, last year may have been their only real chance at a second ring, with a weaker and older team it is unlikely they can repeat what they did last season.
Salary: $73.61M (over luxury tax threshold)
2013 Draft picks: Owe 2013 second round pick to Portland.
Biggest Addition: Jason Terry.
Losses: Ray Allen.
Best Case: NBA Title, if it all comes together, it could happen.
Worst Case: First Round, they are going to make the playoffs but they could easily find themselves in the bottom half of the bracket and facing a very early exit.
Most Likely Case: Second Round, they are probably still just good enough to win a single series but that’s all.
New York Knicks (36-30, lost in the first round to Miami)
Headline: The oldest team in NBA history looks to harness that experience and make a deep playoff run
Summary: At least New York won a game in the playoffs last year, something they hadn’t done in nearly a decade prior. Still, for a franchise in the country’s largest market, being tied with the Blazers as the team that has gone the longest without winning a series (Charlotte hasn’t won one either but they haven’t been around as long) isn’t what the Knicks thought they were destined for when they traded for Carmelo Anthony and signed Amare a few seasons back.
Overall Trend: Up, I guess, replacing Lin with Felton/Kidd is probably an upgrade and if healthy their veterans probably have enough left to push them a little farther than they went last season.
Salary: $82.48M (over luxury tax threshold)
2013 Draft picks: Owe 2013 second round pick to Washington.
Biggest Addition: Raymond Felton
Losses: Jeremy Lin
Best Case: NBA Finals, this team is not as good as Miami but with the race for the second best team in the east fairly wide open this year the Knicks could get lucky and end up in the finals, where they will likely be summarily dismissed by the Western Conference champ.
Worst Case: Miss Playoffs, with such a veteran team, especially one with as many injuries as they have sustained, it is not outside the realm of possibility that things could simply go south for them and they could miss the postseason entirely. After all, they were only the #7 seed last year.
Most Likely Case: Second Round, the Knicks will probably be good enough to notch their first series win in a long time but that will be all for New York.
Philadelphia 76ers (35-31, lost in the second round to Boston)
Headline: Last year’s surprise team reboots as they look to move forward
Summary: The Sixers had a great season last year, upsetting Chicago in the first round of the NBA playoffs before falling to the Celtics in seven hard fought games in the second round. Smartly realizing, however, that their current core wouldn’t get them where they wanted to be, the Sixers jettisoned Iggy and Elton Brand as they look to rebuild around a young core as well as former Laker C Andrew Bynum.
Overall Trend: Down ever so slightly, losing Iggy is the right move to make in the midterm but in the short term it will likely sting.
Salary: $67.61M (over cap)
2013 Draft picks: Owes 2013 first round pick to Miami (top 14 protected), owed 2013 second round pick from New Orleans.
Biggest Addition: Andre Bynum
Losses: Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand
Best Case: Second Round, maybe if everything comes together they can win a series but that’s probably it.
Worst Case: Miss Playoffs, this team isn’t going to contend in the next few years so it wouldn’t be entirely a bad thing if they miss out on the playoffs, which they could easily do especially if Bynum gets hurt again.
Most Likely Case: First Round, they’ll probably make the playoffs but that’ll be it for Philly.
Toronto Raptors (23-43, missed playoffs)
Headline: Can the Raptors finally move forward after two years stuck near the bottom?
Summary: The Raptors actually improved last season, winning more games than they did the prior year despite the shorter schedule. That is faint praise for a team still struggling to find itself after Chris Bosh bolted from Canada’s only franchise two years ago.
Overall Trend: Up, they aren’t a playoff team but they are better off then they were.
Salary: $63.85M (over cap)
2013 Draft picks: Owe 2013 first round pick to Houston (top 3 and 15-30 protected).
Biggest Addition: Jonas Valanciunas
Losses: Jerryd Bayless
Best Case: First round, if everything falls together perfectly for Toronto it is possible, however unlikely, that they could sneak into the playoffs and probably get smacked around by Miami as a result.
Worst Case: Just miss the playoffs, if you aren’t going to be good, you might as well be really bad. If the Raptors just miss the playoffs and get a late lottery pick they probably will not move forward much if at all.
Most Likely Case: Miss the playoffs and get a top mid lottery pick which they will have to convey to Houston, they’ll be better but probably not by enough to make much of a move up the standings.
Brooklyn Nets (22-44, missed playoffs)
Headline: After Striking out on Dwight, Brooklyn’s Plan B looks to be solid gold
Summary: The Nets went into last season with one goal in mind, get Dwight Howard. After striking out on that, Brooklyn was one of the more active teams this offseason and despite sending their first round pick to Portland they managed to move the team forward. They might not be title contenders but they are surely a playoff team.
Overall Trend: Up, way up, they are going to be a much better team their first year in Brooklyn than they were their last year in New Jersey.
Salary: $86.07M (over luxury tax threshold)
2013 draft picks: Owe 2013 second round pick to Minnesota.
Biggest Addition: Joe Johnson
Losses: Jordan Farmar, DeShawn Stevenson, Johan Petro.
Best Case: Eastern conference finals, the Nets have a solid “core four” in Wallace, B. Lopez, Johnson and D. Williams, if everything goes right it could be enough for an eastern conference finals run.
Worst Case: First round, this team is good enough to make the playoffs unless it suffers a rash of injuries but could be one and done.
Most Likely Case: First round, just not seeing the Nets being good enough yet to make the step out of the first round, especially if they land a matchup against the conference’s elite.