The NBA Blog Previews series got started on Sunday with the Celtics. Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog (who organized this whole thing) kicked things off with his Celtics preview. There are also Celtics previews from Celtics17 and LOY's Place.
Atlantic Division previews continued today with the NetsDaily preview of New Jersey.
Now, I made it a goal of mine, not just to post links to these previews, but to comment on each of them as well. A tall order. Let's see how I do.
In my experience, Celtics fans are not generally, how shall we say, overly objective. Just ask Bill Simmons. Surprisingly, 2 of the 3 Celtics bloggers remained pretty well grounded. Coming off a 33-49 season that included a myriad of injuries, with a squad brimming with youth, playing in the less than intimidating Atlantic Division, one could excuse a loyalist for predicting big things. CelticsBlog foresees a 9 game improvement to 42-40, while LOY's Place puts it at a 7 game improvement, to 40-42. Only Celtics17 allowed irrational exuberance to get the best of them, going with a prediction of 48-34, a whopping 15 game improvement! (He admits to having his 'Kool-Aid goggles' on, but seems more like green beer goggles to me.)
The Celtics are tantalizing. They have no fewer than 7 guys under 24 on the roster, and I'm talking about the VETERANS. There are also 4 rookies with a chance to get some run.
But, this is also the problem. Eventually, guys have to cease using the 'of the future' modifier (point guard of the future, center of the future, etc.). We all know that 'center of the future' usually means 'draft day mistake of 2 Junes ago'. It's also a problem when the 'point guard of the future' (Sebastian Telfair) is being backed up by the 'other point guard of the future' (Rajon Rando), which is the case at several positions. All of these guys have looked great at times: Perkins, Jefferson, Green, Gomes, West... the list goes on and on. But exactly NONE of them have put it together for a sustained period of time.
Paul Pierce is a great player. Wally Szczerbiak is a great scorer. I even happen to think Theo Ratliff has some tread on his tires. But the C's have question marks at three spots. It's not a recipe for a 15 game improvement. I'll give them a shot at .500, with the improvement based on fewer injuries, and some growth from the young'uns.
As for New Jersey, no good team in the league is thinner, not even the paper thin Lakers. This is a team who will MISS Lamond Murray, if you can possibly believe that. Beyond the Big 3 plus 1 (and I'm not sold on Krstic, btw), you're down to the likes of Jason Collins, and 40 year old Clifford Robinson. Their big free agent signing was Eddie House, a great shooter who almost literally does nothing else (why would he leave Phoenix, why?) Beyond that, you're down to a bunch of rookies and near rookies who have never helped an NBA roster.
New Jersey will win the Atlantic, simply because no one else has enough to challenge them. And barring injury, they'll probably end up near last year's win total of 49. But be warned - one injury to Jason Kidd, Vince Carter or Richard Jefferson (all of whom have missed significant time in their careers), and this team is in the lottery.