Sky Sports NBA analyst Mike Tuck previews the NBA’s Atlantic Division, offers his prediction for division winners and invites you to have your say in our poll.
Atlantic Division – 2018-19 standings
- Toronto Raptors – 58-24
- Philadelphia 76ers – 51-31
- Boston Celtics – 49-33
- Brooklyn Nets – 42-40
- New York Knicks – 17-65
I really like Philly this season. I saw their starters line up at media day and they looked big, strong and athletic.
The biggest question for them is who will be their closer. They lost Jimmy Butler in free agency. Does Tobias Harris have it in him to do that job? I don’t know if he can create like that.
Josh Richardson has come in from Miami off a breakout season. This is the perfect time for him to take the next step. But he doesn’t have the ego to be ‘the man’ like Butler did.
Joel Embiid has been humbled in the playoffs and has matured a bit. The Sixers need to take note of what the Raptors did with Kawhi Leonard and get Embiid to the playoffs in good shape, keep him healthy down the stretch.
They must also hope Ben Simmons shoots a few threes this season! If he can do that, it changes everything as it opens up the floor for his team-mates. He has to catch-and-shoot when he is open.
Simmons is the key for Philly. Can he elevate his game to the next level? It is time for him to start evolving.
In Boston, Kemba Walker is not an upgrade for Kyrie Irving in terms of talent, but he does offer the better overall package and better leadership. The extra stuff with Kyrie, the psychodrama, you don’t want to hear about it. Kemba has the right attitude, he’s not a negative guy. He’s been in this small market putting up monster games in Charlotte. For him, back in a big market, this could be a break-out season for him.
Losing Al Horford to a division rival is the worst thing for the Celtics. That move blindsided me. Kemba can replace Kyrie, but Enes Kanter can’t replicate what Horford gave Boston at both ends of the floor.
Now Boston’s younger guys now have another chance to step. I think this will be Jayson Tatum’s year. Can Gordon Hayward rebuild on what he was doing towards the end of last season? Is he truly back to 100 per cent? They had four guys on the US World Cup team too. That’s good, they’ve had guys working out together all summer and that will build cohesiveness.
The downside? The Celtics are struggling in the big man department. Kanter will help, but defensively he is a bit of a liability.
Everyone is writing my Raptors off! We’re reigning champs! They’ll obviously miss Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green but they’ve re-signed Kyle Lowry on a one-year extension. OG Anunoby is coming back from injury and the door is wide open for Pascal Siakam to shine.
Siakam has said he’s ready, physically he looks ready and he has already had big games in the preseason. Can he do it every night? Can he do it for the whole season? It’s his time.
Kawhi Leonard came into Toronto last year and showed those young guys the way. He helped them build confidence through every round of the playoffs. They even started talking like him in the end – ‘don’t get too high, don’t get too low’. The Raptors, along with the Sixers and the Celtics, should all make the playoffs.
My pick to win the Atlantic? Philadelphia 76ers