Winning a division isn’t as crucial in the NBA as it is in many other major professional sports leagues in North America. In the NBA, a club is more likely to worry about its playoff seed within the conference than its spot in the divisional standings.
Still, even if winning a division doesn’t assure a team of a first-round bye or a weak opponent in the postseason, there will be at least one NBA divisional race worth keeping a close eye on in 2018/19. The Celtics, Raptors, and Sixers project to be not just the top three teams in the Atlantic but also the three best teams in the Eastern Conference, based on a handful of early win-loss projections from oddsmakers.
According to sports betting site Bodog.eu, for instance, the Celtics have an over/under of 58.5 wins for next season, followed by Toronto and Philadelphia at 54.5. No other Eastern Conference team is projected for more than 46.5 wins.
The forecast for the Atlantic makes sense. The Raptors (59-23), Celtics (55-27), and 76ers (52-30) were the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference in 2017/18, and there’s no reason to expect any of them to take a huge step back.
The Celtics should have Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving back to lead a deep rotation that includes Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Morris, among others. Young Sixers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons now have a full year under their belts, and if 2017’s first overall pick Markelle Fultz can bounce back from a lost rookie season, Philadelphia has a scary amount of high-level talent on its roster.
The Raptors underwent the most significant changes of any of the Atlantic’s top three teams this summer, with Nick Nurse replacing Dwane Casey on the sidelines and Kawhi Leonard replacing DeMar DeRozan on the court. If Nurse struggles in his first NBA head coaching job and/or Leonard isn’t fully healthy, the Raptors figure to fall short of their projections, but their upside is as high as that of any team in the East.
We want to get your thoughts on how the Atlantic division will play out this season. Will the Celtics make good on their status as favorites and take the division? Will the Raptors defend their Atlantic title? Will the Sixers take a big step forward as their young stars continue to improve? What order do you expect those top three Atlantic teams to finish in?
Vote below in our poll and jump into the comment section below to share your thoughts!
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