September 25, 2016 by Ell and Mike Sports
Ell’s NBA Divisional Rankings
Eastern Conference – Atlantic Division
Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Amir Johnson, Al Horford
G Marcus Smart, SG/SF Gerald Green, SF Jaylen Brown, F Jonas Jerebko, PF/C Kelly Olynyk
PG Terry Rozier, C Tyler Zeller
The Celtics should be the best team in the Atlantic Division again; as they continue to watch their young players develop. The young vet Avery Bradley is looking to get even better defensively (which could be hard to do) and continue to provide a spark on offense. Isaiah Thomas continues to provide instant offense as one of the best one on one scorers in the league. Jae Crowder should be even better with a 2nd year of receiving the highest minutes in his career which he proved to be a good idea with his energy, hustle, and all around play. Al Horford should add a bigger offensive presence in the paint, as well as another defender next to Amir Johnson. Marcus Smart has free roam of the 2nd unit to continue to expand his game with the departure of Evan Turner. Gerald Green was brought in to provide instant offense at the wing and athleticism. Rookie 1st round pick, #3 overall, Jaylen Brown should show his athleticism and ability to get to the free throw line. Jonas Jerebko proved to be a solid contributor off the bench last season with his athleticism and versatility. The team hopes Kelly Olynyk can stay healthy, as he provides a high energy post presence when he is available. Terry Rozier saw valuable minutes at the beginning of the season and the playoffs, so after a big summer league showing he could see some time in the mix of guards. Cody Zeller has been a solid big man for the Celts whether starting or coming off the bench. The Celtics have a solid young core behind the teaching and good coaching of HC Brad Stevens; they should continue to give teams problems with their depth and athleticism.
Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee, Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, Joakim Noah
PG Brandon Jennings, SG Sasha Vujacic, SF Lance Thomas, PF/C Kyle O’Quinn, C Guillermo Hernangomez
C Marshall Plumlee
The Knicks really improved in the offseason going from transition team to a playoff lock with a good mix of instant contributors via trade and free agency. Derrick Rose has proved that he is one of the top PG’s when healthy and last season he was very consistent. However, the free agency signing of Brandon Jennings provides valuable insurance, in case Rose misses anytime, as he can also be a quality starter when healthy and engaged; in this situation he could thrive. Courtney Lee is a solid perimeter defender and solid 3 and D player who should help this team gel. Carmelo Anthony continues to be a top scorer and player in the league, but he is on a decline, as he deals with knee soreness, but the Knicks have done a good job of trying to bring in help this season. Porzingis quieted all the haters last season with a solid rookie season, even surprising Carmelo, as he took charge, as the new face of the franchise; he should be even better in his 2nd season. Joakim Noah is coming off an injury-plagued season, but he should have enough left in the tank to give this team good energy, leadership, and defense. Jennings leads the 2nd unit, while Sasha Vujacic has good knowledge in the system from his Lakers days. Lance Thomas has proven to be a decent contributor, as he continues to grow. Kyle O’Quinn is a solid rebounder and a solid bench contributor inside the paint. Guillermo Hernangomez comes in from Spain in the 2nd round with good size and toughness. Undrafted Marshall Plumlee showed in the Summer League that he can contribute some solid play inside. The Knicks should be much improved and fighting for a playoff spot, their health and ability to gel will determine how far they can go.
Kyle Lowry, DeMar Derozan, DeMarre Carroll, Jared Sullinger, Jonas Valanciunas
PG Cory Joseph, SG Nolan Powell, SG/SF Terrance Ross, PF Patrick Patterson, C Jakob Poeltl
G Delon Wright
The Raptors brought back the same core of Lowry, Derozan, and Valanciunas with the hopes that this unit can continue to grow and the pieces around them. Kyle Lowry continues to provide consistent play at the most important position and he is a valuable defender. DeMar Derozan continues to grow as a scorer, but needs to develop better consistency, however he is very athletic and a solid defender, as one of the better two-way players in the league. DeMarre Carroll provides solid defense and he can provide an offensive spark, but he needs to stay healthy. Jared Sullinger was brought in via free agency on a cheap deal, but he was a consistent rebounder and inside presence for the Celtics, however back issues always hover over his talent. Valanciunas showed great improvement towards the end of the season and in the playoffs; the team is hoping to see him continue to dominate inside. Cory Joseph proved to be a valuable contributor off the bench who can provide a nice spark when needed. 2nd year wingman, Nolan Carroll showed improvement in his rookie season, but was very inconsistent; he should be better with a season under his belt. Terrance Ross continues to be inconsistent, but he can provide an offensive spark at times and knock down threes. Patrick Patterson is a solid contributor off the bench with the ability to rebound, pass, and score; he should continue to see big minutes. Rookie 1st round pick, Jakob Poeltl is a solid offensive big man with good size and rebound skills, who needs to continue to improve on the defensive end, but he should be able to contribute. 2nd year combo guard Delon Wright wasn’t as ready as people believed coming out of the draft, but he should improve this season with a season under his belt. The Raptors should play with the same consistency and make the playoffs, as they have the past few season with their trio, but they could miss Bismack Biyombo’s energy and rebounding.
Sergio Rodriguez, Gerald Henderson, Ben Simmons, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Oakfor
G Jerryd Bayless, SG Nik Stauskas, F Robert Covington, F Jerami Grant, C Joel Embiid
SG/SF Hollis Thompson, PF Dario Saric
The 76ers should finally be headed in the right direction after a few down seasons, where they let talent develop now they have an interesting group of players. Sergio Rodriguez returns to the NBA a more polished, seasoned player and not the raw young PG he was in his earlier days. Gerald Henderson was brought in after a giving a solid contribution off the bench for the Blazer; he should provide a solid veteran presence at a problem position. 1st round pick, #1 pick Ben Simmons has a plethora of moves with his ability to pass, rebound, and score; he should put the fans in the stands which they have been missing for years. Nerlens Noel proved that he can provide solid defense and rebounding inside, but he needs to continue to stay healthy and continue to get bigger. Jahlil Okafor proved to be a solid offensive big man who can score in bunches, but he needs to be a more consistent rebounder and continue to improve his defense in his 2nd year. Jerryd Bayless should provide instant offense as a solid free agent addition and can even start in spurts at either guard spot. Nik Stauskas is a streaky shooter who has good long range, but consistency will be the key to keep Hollis Thompson from taking his minutes as a decent role player. Robert Covington proved that he can be a solid scorer and all-around player, coming off the bench will make him even more valuable. Jerami Grant proved to be an athletic, defensive piece contributing off the bench or in the starting lineup; he should continue to grow. Joel Embiid is finally back from injury and fully healthy (cross your fingers), but he will finally be able to prove why he was a top 1st round pick, especially on the defensive end. Dario Saric finally comes to the NBA after a two season wait, he can finally show case his shooting ability and prove if he can be as ready as Porzingis was last season with the Knicks. The 76ers have a logjam of big men and forwards, but as the season goes on the depth chart will right itself and someone could be on the move for a much needed guard upgrade.
Jeremy Lin, Bogjan Bogdonvic, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Trevor Booker, Brook Lopez
PG Greivis Vasquez, SG Caris LeVert, SG Sean Kilpatrick, F Chris McCollough, C Justin Hamilton
PF Luis Scola, PG/SG Randy Foye
The Nets are officially in rebuild mode after missing out on big free agents and throwing big money at mid-tier free agents which also didn’t work. Jeremy Lin was one of the few free agents that did bite on a contract from the Nets, as he comes in, as the clear cut starter, after a solid season, as a bench contributor for the Hornets; however, the limitations and inconsistencies of his game are well documented. Bogjan Bogdonvic proved to be a solid scorer, who can help carry the load, but he will be expected to provide even more this year; he can play SG or SF, but seems to play better at SG. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is finally healthy and can prove why he was worth a 1st round pick; he has the ability to guard multiple positions similar to Andre Roberson from the Thunder, but he needs to stay healthy. Trevor Booker is another free agent who accepted an offer from the Nets, he proved to be a much improved player off the bench on a young Jazz team; he will be able to showcase his talents on a Nets team in need of anyone to step up. Brook Lopez continues to be the only star on the team, as a solid offensive big man with inconsistent rebounding, but he also needs to stay healthy as he is the franchise. Greivis Vasquez was also brought in as another inconsistent guard who can score in spurts and really be a playmaker when locked in, but he also needs to stay healthy. 1st round pick, Caris LeVert will have plenty of minutes to showcase his all-around talent and scoring ability, but there are health concerns surrounding him, as well, from his college days. Sean Kilpatrick proved to be a solid find last season, as a solid scorer off the bench from the wing, he will have even more opportunities to make plays. Chris McCollough is an interesting athletic big man that the Nets really like; he will have even more opportunities to prove he can play big minutes with a season under his belt. Justin Hamilton was brought in as a low free agent find after a solid season overseas, but not much production in the NBA so far; the Nets hope that he can be a stretch 5. Veteran Luis Scola was brought in after a down season with the Raptors, where he seemed burned out by midseason; the Nets hope he has something left in the tank. Veteran combo guard Randy Foye was brought in as insurance for the young/inconsistent guard spots; he proved that he can still provide good minutes in spurts. The Nets are a young team in transition hoping to find pieces to gel with Brook Lopez; it will be a long season again.