Disrespect the Atlantic Division at Your Own Peril

By Lenn Robbins | @lennrobbins

Rodney Dangerfield, one of the great comedic actors of all time, would have had a field day with the NBA Atlantic Division.

On paper, it’s fair to question if any team in the division improved from last season. Of course, the games aren’t played on paper, which is one of the beauties of sports: It is unpredictable.

For example: Imagine how much richer you’d be today if a year ago you put $100 on the Toronto Raptors winning the Atlantic Division? It happened. And the Raptors believe they have something to build on, even if they hold the belief that they are the Rodney Dangerfields of the NBA – you know, no respect.

The Raptors re-signed point guard Kyle Lowry, who was playing for a new contract in 2013-14. If he continues to play with the same passion, the Raptors have locked up one of the league’s top point guards for four years. But if Lowry shifts into coast mode, then the Raptors have a problem. Toronto will not sneak up on any team in 2014-15. It’s easier to be the hunters than the hunted. Let’s give the Raptors the benefit of the doubt that they win 48 games for a second straight season.

Is it enough to win the Atlantic?

Consider the competition:

The Boston Celtics, winners of just 25 games last season, drafted an NBA-ready guard in Marcus Smart. He is tough and talented.

Sounds good, right?

One problem: The Celtics have a tough and talented point guard in Rajon Rondo. Unless the Celtics plan on being the Phoenix Suns of the Eastern Conference, Boston might have one too many starting point guards.

The Philadelphia 76ers are so young they might consider adding a nanny to the support staff.

Last season’s first-round pick, Nerlens Noel, looked great in the summer league, which is sort of like saying a Miss America contestant won the talent portion of the competition. Does it really matter? Noel missed all of last season recovering from ACL surgery. If healthy, he is the NBA’s new prototype center, able to run the court as effectively as any of the league’s wing players.

Philadelphia used one of its first-round picks in this year’s draft on Joel Embiid, a 7-foot, 250-pound, back-to-the-basket center.

Sounds good, right?

One problem: Embid suffered a stress fracture in his foot just prior to the draft. His recovery time is expected to be between five and eight months.

The 76ers lost 63 games last season, including 26 straight, tying the longest losing streak in NBA history. They could be worse in 2014-15. No wonder the most action the 76ers were involved in this off-season was arguing against proposed changes in the NBA Draft lottery.

New commissioner Adam Silver wisely wants to reform the current system. Under the new proposals, instead of the team with the worst record having a 25-percent chance of getting the first pick, the bottom five or six teams will have an equal chance of getting the No. 1 pick.

The Knicks don’t expect to be in the conversation for the top pick in the 2015 draft after convincing superstar Carmelo Anthony to re-sign. But new president Phil Jackson, who has more championship rings (11) than he has fingers, faces challenges. Jackson hired highly respected former player Derek Fisher to be the team’s head coach. As was the case last season when the Brooklyn Nets hired Jason Kidd, Fisher has no head-coaching experience.

Fisher will need time installing the triangle offense. He doesn’t have a tremendously talented roster after Anthony. And he doesn’t have the veteran leadership Kidd enjoyed last season with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

So where does Brooklyn fit into the Atlantic Division conversation after advancing to the Eastern Conference semifinals last season?

The Nets opted not to make an offer to Pierce, an unrestricted free agent. They were unable to match Golden State’s offer for point guard Shaun Livingston. GM Billy King made no blockbuster deal, though he did add an established veteran in point guard Jarrett Jack.

But center Brook Lopez and point guard Deron Williams are expected to make full recoveries from injuries suffered last season; Joe Johnson once again proved to be one of the most clutch players in NBA history; the roster got younger and more athletic with the additions of Bojan Bogdanovic and 2014 draftees Markel Brown and Cory Jefferson; and let’s not forget the ever-improving Mason Plumlee.

On paper, the Raptors can be considered the favorite to win the Atlantic for a second straight season. The Nets have other ideas.

Dangerfield would look at the Atlantic and bemoan the fact that it doesn’t get any respect. Toronto and Brooklyn don’t see it that way. And Anthony is one of the premier scorers in the NBA.

Now might not be a bad time to put a wager on your sleeper to win the Atlantic. Some would say every team in the division is a sleeper. They must have been Dangerfield fans.

Coach Hollins Visits Yankee Stadium

Brooklyn Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins and his family enjoy a day at Yankee Stadium.

Playlist 050814

Scroll Video up Scroll Video down Scroll Video left Scroll Video right

Coach Hollins Visits Yankee Stadium

Brooklyn Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins and his family enjoy a day at Yankee Stadium.
Sep 17, 2014  |  01:04

Learning the Game at the Brooklyn Nets Hamptons Basketball Camp powered by Dribbl

Coach Lionel Hollins and center Brook Lopez stopped by the Brooklyn Nets Hamptons Basketball Camp powered by Dribbl to talk hoops and shoot around with the kids.
Sep 5, 2014  |  01:45

Postgame: Mason Plumlee

Mason Plumlee talks with Sekou Smith after Team USA's impressive victory.
Sep 3, 2014  |  00:00

FIBA: Day Five Wrap

Check out all the best action from Wednesday at the FIBA World Cup.
Sep 2, 2014  |  00:00

Dominican Republic vs. USA

Every player on the roster scores for Team USAto beat the Dominican Republic 106-71, with 5 players in double figures clinching the first place in Group C of the FIBA World Cup.
Sep 2, 2014  |  00:00

One-On-One with Brook Lopez

Brook: “My confidence is sky high right now.”
Sep 2, 2014  |  05:14

USA vs. New Zealand

Team USA features six players in double figures with a balanced defensive effort to rout New Zealand 98-71.
Sep 1, 2014  |  00:00

FIBA: Day Three Wrap

Check out the best basketball that summer has to offer in the FIBA Day Three Wrap.
Aug 31, 2014  |  00:00

FIBA: Day One Wrap

Take a look at some of the action from day one in Spain.
Aug 29, 2014  |  00:00

Brooklyn Nets Hamptons Basketball Camp powered by Dribbl

Cory Jefferson and Dribbl teach kids the fundamentals of basketball at the first-ever Brooklyn Nets Hamptons Basketball Camp.
Aug 27, 2014  |  02:21

Mason Plumlee Interview at NYAC

Mason Plumlee talks with Brooklynnets.com after practicing with Team USA at the New York Athletic Club.
Aug 22, 2014  |  03:36

Rookies at the Brooklyn Nets Office

Nets rookies Markel Brown and Cory Jefferson help sell tickets for the 2014-15 season.
Aug 21, 2014  |  01:00

One-On-One with Mason Plumlee

Nets forward/center Mason Plumlee talks about his experience with the US Men's Basketball Team.
Aug 20, 2014  |  07:01

One-On-One with Cory Jefferson

Nets forward Cory Jefferson sits down with Nets Senior Beat Writer Lenn Robbins to talk basketball.
Aug 19, 2014  |  08:19

Nets 2014 Playoffs: Top10

Count down the Top 10 plays from the Nets during their run through the Playoffs.
Aug 10, 2014  |  00:00

NBA Rookie Photo Shoot 2014

Nets' 2014 draftees Markel Brown and Cory Jefferson were hard at work over the weekend at the NBA's annual rookie photo shoot.
Aug 4, 2014  |  00:41

Brooklyn Nets Kids Audition on August 20

An open call for the 2014-15 Brooklyn Nets Kids dance team will be held on August 20 at LIU Brooklyn.
Jul 30, 2014  |  00:35

One-On-One with Bojan Bogdanović

Lenn Robbins sat down with newly acquired Brooklyn Net, Bojan Bogdanović and spoke to him about joining the Nets organization and growing up playing the game of basketball.
Jul 28, 2014  |  04:28

The Chris Carrino Foundation for FSHD Recap

Nets broadcaster Chris Carrino discusses how the condition has affected his life, how he plans to help others, and what the future holds.
Jul 23, 2014  |  02:53

Infographic: Joe Johnson

View statistical highlights of Joe Johnson from the 2013-14 season.
Jul 18, 2014  |  00:52

One-On-One with Mason Plumlee

Lenn Robbins caught up with Mason Plumlee and talked to him about his progression through NBA Summer League and his upcoming role for the NBA season.
Jul 16, 2014  |  03:43

2014-15 Brooklynettes Auditions

Over 300 dancers auditioned to join the 2014-15 Brooklynettes. Get a behind the scenes look at the competition for a coveted spot on the squad.
Jul 15, 2014  |  02:54

One on One with Lionel Hollins: Part 2

Head coach Lionel Hollins talks about the current team, what bringing a title to Brooklyn would mean, and living in New York.
Jul 14, 2014  |  07:39

A Message from Coach Lionel Hollins

The Nets new coach introduces himself.
Jul 14, 2014  |  00:14

One on One with Lionel Hollins: Part I

Head coach Lionel Hollins talks about his upbringing and how it has shaped his coaching philosophy.
Jul 14, 2014  |  10:38

Chris Carrino's Battle With FSHD

Nets broadcaster Chris Carrino discusses how the condition has affected his life, how he plans to help others, and what the future holds.
Jul 11, 2014  |  03:01

One-On-One with Sergey Karasev

Lenn Robbins sat down with newly acquired guard, Sergey Karasev. Watch as they talk about the recent trade, playing with Andrei Kirilenko and his excitement about playing in Brooklyn.
Jul 11, 2014  |  04:27

Jarrett Jack Acquisition Helps Brooklyn

Lenn Robbins explains how Jack’s veteran experience will be a boost to the Nets next season.
Jul 10, 2014  |  00:31

Lenn Robbins Recaps Game 4 of NBA Summer League

Game 4 against the Philadelphia 76ers concluded and Lenn Robbins has a recap of what happened.
Jul 10, 2014  |  00:37

One-On-One With Jorge Gutiérrez

Lenn Robbins sat down with Jorge Gutiérrez and spoke with him about making the team, leaving home at a young age and pursuing his basketball career.
Jul 9, 2014  |  07:40

One-On-One With Markel Brown

Lenn Robbins has a sit down interview with one of the Brooklyn Nets draft picks, Markel Brown. Watch as they talk about his life, NBA Summer League and making the adjustment from college basketball to the NBA.
Jul 9, 2014  |  09:59

Lionel Hollins Introduction Press Conference

Lionel Hollins was named as the 19th head coach in Nets NBA franchise history July 7, 2014.
Jul 8, 2014  |  20:48

Summer League Post Game 3 Interviews

Brooklyn Nets players, Mason Plumlee and Cory Jefferson spoke with media following game 3 of the NBA Summer league.
Jul 8, 2014  |  07:06

Lenn Robbins Recaps Game 3 of NBA Summer League

Game 3 against Oklahoma City concluded and Lenn Robbins has a recap of what happened.
Jul 8, 2014  |  00:48

Lenn Robbins Recaps Game 2 of NBA Summer League

Game 2 of NBA Summer League against the Miami Heat is wrapped up and Lenn Robbins has the recap of what happened.
Jul 7, 2014  |  00:44

Summer League Post Game 1 Interviews

Brooklyn Nets players, Mason Plumlee, Marquis Teague, Markel Brown and Jorge Gutiérrez interviewed with the media following the first game of the NBA Summer League.
Jul 7, 2014  |  10:07

Lenn Robbins Recaps Game 1 of the NBA Summer League

The Brooklyn Nets are in Orlando for NBA Summer League and Lenn Robbins has a recap of what went on in game 1.
Jul 5, 2014  |  00:53

Billy King Talks Draft and Free Agency

General Manager of the Brooklyn Nets, Billy King met with media to talk about the upcoming draft and free agency.
Jul 2, 2014  |  05:50

Lenn Robbins 2014 NBA Draft Recap

The 2014 NBA Draft was held at Barclays Center and Lenn Robbins was there to cover every Brooklyn Nets move. Here's his recap.
Jul 2, 2014  |  00:51

2014 NBA Draft Preview

Brooklyn Nets Senior Beat Writer Lenn Robbins previews the 2014 NBA Draft.
Jul 1, 2014  |  00:44

The Brooklynettes perform "Yonce.”

The Brooklynettes perform "Yonce" choreographed by Rhapsody James for Beyoncé.
Jun 30, 2014  |  01:09

The Brooklynettes perform "Jump"

The Brooklynettes perform "Jump" choreographed by Luam with the Brooklyn Jumbies.
Jun 30, 2014  |  01:37

The Brooklynettes perform with Team Hype

The Brooklynettes dance and dunk with Team Hype.
Jun 30, 2014  |  01:23

The Brooklynettes perform “Want Dem All.”

The Brooklynettes perform “Want Dem All” choreographed by Tanisha Scott.
Jun 30, 2014  |  01:00

Draft Day: Mason Plumlee Interview

Nets All-Rookie First Team selection Mason Plumlee talks being drafted, what he loves about Brooklyn, and how he'd grade his first season.
Jun 23, 2014  |  03:40

Brooklynettes Audition on June 28

Show Brooklyn you have what it takes! An open call for the 2014-15 Brooklynettes dance team will be held on June 28 at LIU Brooklyn.
Jun 18, 2014  |  01:00

A Place to Grow

Community garden takes shape in Cypress Hills.
Jun 11, 2014  |  01:25

Wear in Brooklyn Part 3

Nets fans in Barclays Center show their style.
Jun 10, 2014  |  01:48

Nets Free Agent Mini-Camp Recap (6/4/14)

Nets Senior Beat Writer Lenn Robbins recaps the third day of free agent mini-camp.
Jun 4, 2014  |  00:48

Nets Free Agent Mini-Camp Recap

Nets Senior Beat Writer recaps the Nets Free Agent Mini-Camp.
Jun 3, 2014  |  01:03

Related Stories