The NBA season is quickly approaching, and after a dramatic offseason, the regular season is set to tip off on October 18th. Hoops Prospects has you covered, summarizing each teams’ key additions, key departures, and other developments. Below is my preview of each team in the Atlantic Division in the predicted order of finish within the division.
The projected depth charts come directly from Hoops Prospects. We update them regularly throughout the year. Click here for an explanation of the various depth-chart notations.
1. Philadelphia 76ers
- Record last season: 51-31 (4th in East)
- Offensive Rating: 113.0 (11th)
- Defensive Rating: 110.2 (12th)
- Net Rating: 2.8 (9th)
Key Departures: Danny Green, Paul Milsap, DeAndre Jordan
Key Additions: P.J. Tucker, Montrezel Harrell, De’Anthony Melton, Danuel House Jr.
Key Rookies: None
Projected Depth Chart
|James Harden||Tyrese Maxey||Tobias Harris||P.J. Tucker||Joel Embiid|
|De’Anthony Melton||Shake Milton||Matisse Thybulle||Georges Niang||Montrezl Harrell|
|Jaden Springer||Furkan Korkmaz||Danuel House||Julian Champagnie **||Paul Reed|
|Aminu Mohammed||Charlie Brown Jr. **||Michael Foster|
The acquisition of James Harden last year primed the Philadelphia 76ers for championship contention. The first couple of games after the trade, the NBA world was on fire, mentioning Harden and Joel Embiid with the top duos in the league. This faded away, and the hype turned to criticism after Harden’s lackluster overall playoff performance, averaging 18.6 points and shooting 40.5 percent from the field. He graciously took a pay cut this off-season to help the Sixers sign former Houston Rocket teammates P.J. Tucker, Montrezel Harrell, and Danuel House Jr., a classic Daryl Morey move.
You could excuse Harden for not living up to expectations due to a lack of time to get situated with his new team. With an off-season and a full and healthy training camp with the 76ers under his belt, expect the team to be improved. Regardless of Harden’s scoring, his basketball intelligence paired with the dominance of Embiid is enough to consider the 76ers a strong playoff team. Tucker and Harrell add toughness and rebounding that this team needed last year in the playoffs, and with the development of Tyrese Maxey, who is shooting a scorching 56 percent from three during preseason, this team has the pieces to go far in the playoffs. One question mark is Tobias Harris, who struggled to situate himself after the Harden trade. The fit is questionable with the two ball-dominant guards, Harden and Maxey, mixing with Harris, who is more of a mid-post player rather than a spot-up threat. Overall, the team looks motivated, and with a seemingly healthy offseason, the 76ers should be one of the favorites to come out of the East.
2. Brooklyn Nets
- Record last season: 44-38 (7th in East)
- Offensive Rating: 113.2 (10th)
- Defensive Rating: 112.3 (20th)
- Net Rating: .9 (15th)
Key Departures: Goran Dragic, Bruce Brown, Andre Drummond, Lamarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin
Key Additions: Royce O’Neale, T.J. Warren, Edmond Sumner, Markieef Morris
Key Rookies: None
Projected Depth Chart
|Kyrie Irving||Seth Curry||Royce O’Neale||Kevin Durant||Ben Simmons|
|Patty Mills||Joe Harris||T.J. Warren||Nic Claxton||Markieff Morris|
|David Duke **||Cameron Thomas||Edmond Sumner||Kessler Edwards||Day’Ron Sharpe|
|Chris Chiozza||Alondes Williams **||Donovan Williams||Raiquan Gray||Yuta Watanabe|
The most talked about NBA franchise this off-season was the Brooklyn Nets. Coming off their embarrassing playoff series against the Boston Celtics, the Nets had an issue with a lack of creativity and versatility on both ends of the floor. Early in the off-season, there were whispers of a Kyrie Irving trade, but no one thought much of it until June 30th, when Kevin Durant requested a trade. The internal divide grew when Durant said that he wanted Coach Steve Nash and GM Sean Marks out.
The Nets acted as if Durant and Irving would return for at least one more year, acquiring Royce O’Neale from the Utah Jazz and signing T.J. Warren in free agency. This belief paid off, and after all the rumbling, the Nets have their two stars back, with Nash and Marks still leading the franchise.
The Nets have not had the success that they hoped for when they first acquired Durant and Irving. Many people have since written off the team because of its apparent dysfunction. Ben Simmons has averaged just 5.7 points a game during preseason, making just 17 percent of his foul shots and attempting zero threes. He has not played in a regular-season game for 16 months, but at a minimum, he should add elite defensive versatility and play-making ability. Warren was a proven scorer before his foot injury, and the talent around him will give him time to adjust to the pace of the NBA. O’Neale will replace the departed Bruce Brown as a defensive stopper, and he has played the small-ball five in the playoffs in previous years with the Jazz. It is a big ask, but with no significant injuries and no major drama, this team has all the talent of a top seed in the East.
3. Boston Celtics
- Record last season: 51-31 (2nd in East)
- Offensive Rating: 113.6 (9th)
- Defensive Rating: 106.2 (1st)
- Net Rating: 7.4 (2nd)
Key Departures: Daniel Theis, Aaron Nesmith
Key Additions: Malcolm Brogdan, Danillo Gallinari (injured), Blake Griffin
Key Rookies: JD Davison (pick 53)
Projected Depth Chart
|Malcolm Brogdon||Marcus Smart||Jaylen Brown||Jayson Tatum||Al Horford|
|Payton Pritchard||Derrick White||Sam Hauser||Grant Williams||Robert Williams|
|JD Davison **||Justin Jackson||Jake Layman||Blake Griffin||Luke Kornet|
|Danilo Gallinari||Mfiondu Kabengele **||Noah Vonleh|
The Eastern Conference Champion Boston Celtics will look for another final run this year. There was a clear need for another point guard to help the flow of the offense, which Brad Stevens, GM of the Celtics, wasted no time and traded for Malcolm Brogdon. Brogdon only played 36 games last year and has been riddled with injuries for much of his career. He will not be required to do as much as he did for the Indiana Pacers, which should contribute to staying healthy. The Celtics also added Danillo Gallinari. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with a torn ACL while playing in Eurobasket. However, the Celtics might have found their dual-forward replacement with Sam Hauser, who has had an impressive preseason, averaging 15 points while shooting 60 percent from three on 6.67 attempts a game..
The Celtics got much-needed experience by playing in the 2022 NBA Finals, and much of the roster returns. However, after an improbable Finals run, Head Coach Ime Udoka has been suspended for the season after having a relationship with a staff member of the Celtics. This could not be worse for the team, as Udoka put each Celtic player in a position to be successful on both ends and earned their trust after the playoffs. The Celtics have chosen their interim Head Coach to be Joe Mazzulla. His only head coaching experience is with the Celtics’ Summer League team in 2021. Even if Mazzulla comes in with a system that works for the team, it may be hard to win over players’ trust and respect, especially if the club gets off to a slow start. If Mazzulla changes anything with their offense or defense, players will likely question why to change the system that leads them to the NBA Finals. If Mazzulla keeps the current system of Udoka, he will not reach his fullest coaching potential, hindering the team just as much. There are many questions that the team will need to answer early in the season, which is why I am predicting the Celtics to not finish atop their division. On the other hand, the Celtics still have one of the most talented rosters in the NBA and should not be counted out of another playoff run.
4. Toronto Raptors
- Record last season: 48-34 (5th in East)
- Offensive Rating: 112.1 (15th)
- Defensive Rating: 109.9 (9th)
- Net Rating: 2.2 (12th)
Key Departures: Svi Mykhailiuk, Yuta Watanabe, Isaac Bonga
Key Additions: Otto Porter Jr., Thaddeus Young
Key Rookies: Christain Koloko (pick 33)
Projected Depth Chart
|Fred VanVleet||Gary Trent Jr.||OG Anunoby||Scottie Barnes||Pascal Siakam|
|Malachi Flynn||Dalano Banton||Otto Porter||Chris Boucher||Precious Achiuwa|
|Jeff Dowtin **||Josh Jackson||Juancho Hernangomez||Thaddeus Young||Khem Birch|
|Ron Harper Jr. **||Gabe Brown||Justin Champagnie||D.J. Wilson||Christian Koloko|
Coach Nick Nurse of the Toronto Raptors has helped this team tremendously since he was hired. Prioritizing development, opportunity, and switchability, the Raptors had arguably the best rookie of 2021-22 in Scottie Barnes, along with a consistent Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakim. Few people thought that the club would make the playoffs, yet they secured the fifth seed and played well. Though the only rotation player added was Otto Porter, the Raptors have a bright future and have quality depth developing on the bench. Oversized second-year guard Dalano Banton has been impressive in preseason, averaging 10.5 points and shooting 62.1 percent from the field, fitting in with the Raptors’ switchability identity.
The Raptors’ defensive versatility and coaching will make them difficult opponents for any team. They should make the playoffs with consistency on both ends, though it will be tough to secure the fifth seed again. The team has a great chance to be a high seed in the play-in tournament and secure a lower playoff seed. One thing to note is OG Anunoby, who was discussed in trades scenarios this offseason, is a key piece to their defense, and trading him would certainly hurt their postseason chances. At some point, the Raptors will need to decide to tank for a top draft pick or go for a playoff spot, but currently, they have an opportunity to be a low-seed playoff team in the East.
5. New York Knicks
- Record last season: 37-45 (11 in East)
- Offensive Rating: 109.7 (23rd)
- Defensive Rating: 110.2 (11th)
- Net Rating: -.4 (19th)
Key Departures: Nerles Noel, Taj Gibson, Alec Burks, Kemba Walker
Key Additions: Jalen Brunson, Isaiah Hartenstein
Key Rookies: Trevor Keels (pick 42)
Projected Depth Chart
|Jalen Brunson||Quentin Grimes||RJ Barrett||Julius Randle||Mitchell Robinson|
|Derrick Rose||Immanuel Quickley||Evan Fournier||Obi Toppin||Isaiah Hartenstein|
|Miles McBride||Svi Mykhailiuk||Cam Reddish||Feron Hunt **||Jericho Sims|
|Jean Montero||Ryan Arcidiacono||Jalen Harris||Trevor Keels **||DaQuan Jeffries|
The New York Knicks finally acquired a point guard in free agency. Jalen Brunson, the former Dallas Maverick playoff star, signed a four-year, 104-million dollar deal with the Knicks. They re-signed Mitchell Robinson to a 4-year, 60-million dollar deal and signed Isaiah Hartenstein to a 2-year, 16-million dollar deal to back up Robinson. After trade talks for Donovan Mitchell fell through, the Knicks happily re-signed their former top pick, RJ Barrett, to a four-year, 120-million dollar deal.
Despite the additions and re-signings, there are issues with the Knicks’ roster. Their addition of Brunson now has them starting three dominant left-handed mid-range slashers. Barrett, who averaged 20 points a game and shot 34.2 percent from three last season, will now be coexisting with another left-handed scorer in Brunson. Barrett is a player who has shown improvement in his three-point shot but still wants to get to the rim or drive and kick. There were already issues with spacing and sharing with the team’s other left-handed scorer, Julius Randle. Randle had an all-star year in 2021, but in 2022, his efficiency dropped off a cliff, shooting 30.8 percent from three and 41.1 percent from the field. Adding Brunson, a player who wants to get into the paint and score in the mid-range and only shot three 3-point shots a game last year, creates even more spacing issues that Coach Tom Thibodeau will need to address. Brunson has already started showing signs of the inefficiency to expect this preseason, shooting 43 percent from the field, a seven percent drop off from his previous regular season average with the Mavericks.
On the positive side, the Knicks do have good depth, and the starting lineup that begins this season could look very different by the All-Star break. Second-year pro Quentin Grimes, who is currently injured, will push 10-year vet Evan Fournier for playing time. The same could be said for former lottery pick Obi Toppin, who will push Randle, and Hartenstein and Jericho Sims may challenge Robinson for minutes.
Sources, Credits, and Acknowledgements
Statistics used in our scouting reports come from RealGM.com (international and NBA stats), Sports-Reference.com (NCAA and NBA stats), and Synergy Sports Technology (special analytics). Other outside sources are noted with links to the source. Click here to see the statistical abbreviation key.