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2018-19 NBA – Atlantic Division Preview,
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Image licensed from USA Today Sports

The upcoming NBA season should bring an exciting battle in the Atlantic Division, as the Boston Celtics, the Toronto Raptors, and the Philadelphia 76ers will all challenge the Eastern Conference title, so the bettors should see an entertaining race for the division title.

Last year, the Toronto Raptors dominated their rivals in the East, topping the conference with a 59-23 record, and winning the Atlantic Division ahead of the Boston Celtics (55-27) and the Philadelphia 76ers (52-30) who also finished second and third in the Eastern Conference. The New York Knicks (29-53) ended fourth in Atlantic Division, one game ahead of the Brooklyn Nets (28-54), while both of these teams are big favorites to miss the playoffs in the upcoming 2018-19 season.

Kawhi Leonard has signed with the Toronto Raptors, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are both healthy and back from the sidelines, while the Sixers' young core seems sharp and keen to prove its' worth. So, let's see what we can expect from these teams in the battle for the Atlantic Division title.

BOSTON CELTICS

Despite some substantial injury problems, the Boston Celtics had an excellent 2017-18 season, reaching the Eastern Conference Final where they eventually lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in seven games. Gordon Hayward missed the whole season after a horrible injury in the opening game against the Cavs, while Kyrie Irving missed 22 games in the regular season plus the entire playoffs. It was a big chance for some young guns to step up, and the rookie Jayson Tatum was one of them.

Tatum averaged 13.9 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in the regular season, while he had 18.5 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game in the post-season, shooting 47.1% from the field. The 20-year-old small forward showed top-notch displays under pressure, proving he could be the franchise's leader in the further years. The point guard Terry Rozier was an excellent replacement for the injured Uncle Drew in the playoffs, averaging 16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 5.7 assists in 36.6 minutes per contest.

The Celtics were quite consistent throughout the previous season, leading the league in covering the spread with a 50-30-2 record. With their All-Stars healthy and back on the floor, the Celtics should at least cover the spread on the same level as they did it last year, so the bettors should pay attention. On the other side, the over was 43-38 in the Celtics' games, while we saw 204.4 points in total on average.

This summer, the Celtics didn't make any significant moves, signing the free agent PG Bred Wanamaker, and losing the C Greg Monroe who joined the Raptors after playing just 37 games for the Celtics. If they stay healthy, the Boston Celtics should satisfy the odds and win the Atlantic Division, while I can see them in the conference finals once again.

According to the sportsbooks, the Boston Celtics are the strongest contenders to win the Atlantic Division with the odds at -145, while they are also the biggest favorites to win the Eastern Conference at -115. The Celtics are +550 favorites to win the NBA championship (only the Warriors have stronger chances at -175), and with a brilliant head coach in Brad Stevens and great depth in their roster, the Celtics look ready to mount a serious challenge. The bookies are sure we'll see the Celtics in the post-season, setting the price at -10000, while the line on the total win is set at 58.5 with the odds on the over/under at -115.

The Pick: Boston Celtics to win Atlantic Division at -145

Regular Season Total Wins: Over 58.5 at -115

 

TORONTO RAPTORS

The Raptors set the franchise record with 59 wins last season to top the Eastern Conference, but it all fell apart in the semifinals where Toronto was blown out by LeBron James' Cavs in four games. Dwane Casey paid the price despite earning the NBA Coach of the Year Award, as his team had the 2nd-best offensive rating (113.8 points per 100 possessions) and the 5th-best defensive rating in the league (105.9 points per 100 possessions). Sacking Casey was a surprise, but acquiring the restless superstar Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for DeMar DeRozan was a bombshell.

The Toronto Raptors decided to roll the dice and acquire Kawhi who was desperate to leave the Spurs, but the two-time All-Star and one-time NBA champion stated he's not interested in joining Toronto. However, the Spurs were glad to get the four-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan who led the Raptors for nine years averaging 19.7 points per game, while last season, DeRozan set his career high in assists (5.2 per game) while recording 23.0 points and 3.9 rebounds.

On the other side, Kawhi Leonard played in just nine games last season to record 16.2 points and 4.7 rebounds, missing the rest of the action due to an injury. Reportedly, the Claw was unhappy in San Antonio, and he wanted to move back home to Los Angeles, so it's a big question how he'll adapt in Toronto. Kawhi will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, free to choose his new team, but in this term, he should work hard to get back on the highest level. At this point, the Raptors look like a mystery, and I am not entirely convinced that they will surpass the 54-win mark.

The experienced playmaker Kyle Lowry is still a Dino, but the four-time All-Star dropped his numbers in points averaging 16.2 per game, while two years ago, he recorded 22.4 points per game to set the career high. Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas will continue to contribute in the paint, but the Raptors' bench arguably needs depth, although they have some talented guys in Fred Van Fleet (8.6 points and 3.2 assists per game last season), Pascal Siakam (7.3 points and 4.5 rebounds), and O.G. Anunoby (5.9 points and 2.5 rebounds per game). Greg Monroe will fortify the Raptors' frontcourt, while Toronto didn't have any picks at the 2018 NBA Draft.

Last year, the Raptors were 43-38-1 against the spread which ranked them 7th in the NBA, while the over was 41-40 (215.6 points in total per game). With the new head coach Nick Nurse, the Raptors will need some time to gel the things, so they could struggle to cover, especially early in the season. Toronto is the second strongest favorites to win the Atlantic Division at +250 odds, but I think the Raptors will finish behind the Celtics and the 76ers. Likewise, the Raptors are at the second place on the favorites list to win the Eastern Conference with the odds at +350, while the price on winning the NBA Championship is set at +1500. I think the Raptors will fail to reach the conference finals even if Kawhi Leonard is ready to play on the highest level, but they will undoubtedly make it to the post-season at -5000.

Regular Season Total Wins: Under 54.5 at +115

 

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

The Process is finished, and after five years of losing, the 76ers' fans have finally had a reason to enjoy the last season's performance. Philadelphia finished third in the Eastern Conference with a 52-30 record, behind its division rivals the Boston Celtics and the Toronto Raptors. Led by the Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons and super talented big man Joel Embiid, the Sixers easily overcame the Miami Heat in five games in the Eastern Conference First Round. The Celtics were too much in the semifinals, beating the Sixers in five games, but Philadelphia's young core didn't disappoint.

On the contrary, the Sixers put on a fight, losing three of four games with a 5-point margin or fewer. They lacked experience, for sure, but the Sixers were also unlucky to make this matchup more intriguing. During the playoffs, Joel Embiid was averaging 21.4 points, 12.6 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game, while Ben Simmons was tallying 16.3 points, 9.4 rebounds, 7.7 assists, and 4.4 turnovers per game.

The Philadelphia 76ers had the 4th-fastest pace in the league with 99.8 possessions per 48 minutes, recording 109.8 points per game (7th-best) and allowing 105.3 points per contest to their opponents (11th-best). The Sixers played some high-energy basketball on both ends of the floor, and the bettors can expect more of the same in this term. Philadelphia was 47-33-2 ATS which ranked them second in the NBA, while the over was 41-40.

This summer, the 76ers lost Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova who both had a modest contribution off the bench in the second half of the 2017-18 season. On the other side, they acquired Wilson Chandler who averaged 10.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last season with the Nuggets, and his versatility should be a nice addition to the Sixers' roster. The 16th overall pick from the 2018 NBA Draft Zhaire Smith could get some minutes, but the biggest reinforcement could be Markelle Fultz who played in just 14 games last season due to injury, averaging 7.1 points and 3.8 assists.

The Sixers are considered as +375 underdogs to win the Atlantic Division, and I think they will finish second behind the Boston Celtics, while I expect to see a great battle for the second spot in the East between the Sixers, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Toronto Raptors, and the Indiana Pacers. If Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons continue to improve, the 76ers will certainly stand a chance to win the conference at +375 odds, but I don't think they can upset the odds and win the championship at +1500. Likewise, I would avoid wagering on the total win, as the chalk is a tricky one at 53.5, but with a bit of luck, the Sixers should surpass this mark.

Regular Season Total Wins: Over 53.5 at -110

 

NEW YORK KNICKS

After another season in limbo, the New York Knicks hired David Fizdale as a new head coach, deciding to split the ways with Jeff Hornacek who won 29 games in his second year with the Knicks, two less than in the 2017-18 season. The New York Knicks missed the playoffs for the fifth year in a row, while they also lost Kristaps Porzingis with a torn ACL, and KP6 will most likely not be ready to suit up until this Christmas, which is a massive blow for the fans' expectations.

Last year, Porzingis played 48 games to record 22.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per contest while shooting 43.9% from the field and 39.5% from beyond the arc. Kristaps earned his first All-Star selection, and the Latvian international had some fantastic displays before the injury, especially at the start of the 2017-18 season. Porzingis had seven 30-plus point games in his first ten starts last year, so the Knicks will certainly miss their Unicorn at the beginning of the 2018-19 campaign.

Without Porzingis, the shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. led the team with 17.5 points per game on 42.1% shooting from the field, while the Turkish international Enes Kanter was a go-to guy in the paint, averaging 14.1 points and 11.0 rebounds in 25.8 minutes per game. After arriving in the trade from the Nuggets, the playmaker Emmanuel Mudiay played in 22 games (8.8 points and 3.9 assists per game), and the 7th overall pick from the 2015 NBA Draft is expected to start at the PG position this season.

David Fizdale will have to work hard with his guys on many things, particularly at the defensive end, as the Knicks were 23rd in the league in defensive rating, allowing 110.7 points per 100 possessions to their opponents. Adding the versatile wingman Kevin Knox with a 9th overall pick at this year's draft should help the Knicks' defense, while the newcomer Mario Hezonja could boost the team's offense. Hezonja had a solid third season in the league with the Magic, averaging 9.6 points on 44.2% shooting from the field and 33.7% from beyond the arc.

The Knicks were 38-44-0 ATS last season, while the over was 43-38 in their games, and nothing indicates they will cover better this year. The New York Knicks are huge +500 underdogs to reach the playoffs, and they need Kristaps Porzingis back as soon as possible to even think about joining the race. The Knicks are +5000 minnows to win the Atlantic Division, while the price is +6000 on the Knicks to reach the NBA Finals. Finally, the New York Knicks are at +20000 to win the NBA Championship, while the odds are set at -125 on the Knicks to reach the 30-win mark. If Porzingis recovers for 2019, the Knicks should be somewhere around the chalk.

Regular Season Total Wins: Over 29.5 at -125

 

BROOKLYN NETS

The Nets couldn't surpass the 30-win mark for the third season in a row, finishing 12th in the Eastern Conference with a 28-54 record, enough for the bottom of the Atlantic Division second year straight. The coach Kenny Atkinson is still at the helm after winning eight games more than in his first season as a head coach, and the Nets hope he can improve the team's play in the upcoming season.

The Brooklyn Nets made a lot of roster changes this summer, still keeping their main players and trying to surround them with the right group of guys. Brooklyn acquired Kenneth Faried from the Denver Nuggets who just wanted to get rid of Faried's expensive contract, and the member of the 2014 United States national team should be a nice addition for this young Nets team. Faried appeared just 32 times last season, averaging 5.9 points and 4.8 rebounds in 14.4 minutes per game, but this move could revive his career. In seven years with the Nuggets, the Manimal was averaging 11.4 points and 8.2 rebounds, starting in 372 games during that span. After two years with the Trail Blazers, Shabazz Napier has joined the Nets, and he will be a solid backup at point guard, as the Nets lost Jeremy Lin and Nik Stauskas. However, the combo guard Spencer Dinwiddie will continue to contribute after averaging 12.6 points and 6.6 assists in 28.8 minutes per game.

D'Angelo Russell will be the first scoring option for the Nets, and the 22-year-old point guard played only 48 last season due to injury problems, still managing to nail 15.5 points and 5.2 assists per game. The talented wing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson should have an important role, while Joe Harris could be the X-factor, as the sharpshooter averaged 10.8 points on 41.9% shooting from downtown per game last season. Kenny Atkinson prefers a fast basketball with a lot of 3-point shots, so the bettors can expect some high-scoring affairs from the Nets. However, the over was 37-43 last season, but the Brooklyn Nets covered very well, recording 46-36-0 ATS which ranked them 5th in the NBA. They had the 6th-fastest pace with 98.9 possessions per 48 minutes while taking 35.7 3-point attempts per game, and only the Rockets took more threes than the Nets.

Brooklyn is the biggest underdog in the Atlantic Division with the odds at +6000 to finish on top, while the price is +8000 on the Nets to win the Eastern Conference. The Nets are at +25000 to win the championship, as they are +300 underdogs even to make it to the playoffs. The competition in the East looks pretty thin so the Nets should grab a few wins more than last season, but that's still around the line at 32.5 games. I believe D'Angelo Russell will stay healthy and Kenneth Faried will boost the Nets' defense, so I'll go with the over.

Regular Season Total Wins: Over 32.5 at +100

 

The Admiral

You want someone to show you how to make some money, then talk to me, I am your man. Folks, I have been doing this since....forever, so yeah, I know a thing or two on how to beat the spread and get your pockets loaded with the totals. Basketball, Soccer, Football, Hockey, you name it, and I will find the best pick for you.

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