Diehl ’18: The far-too-brief NBA preview: The Atlantic/Central divisions

Sports Columnist
Friday, October 23, 2015

A new season of the NBA is upon us. This week, I’ll preview the Atlantic and Central divisions of the East, the conference equivalent of Goose to the Western Conference’s Maverick, if you will. I’ll rank the order that I think each team will finish in its division and include a best-case scenario, worst-case scenario and bold prediction for each squad with Hemingway-like efficiency.

Atlantic Division

1. Toronto Raptors

Best-case scenario: DeMarre Carroll continues his rise from forgotten role player to prominent starter, giving the offense newfound fluidity and an edge on defense. The men from up north advance to the second round before succumbing to King James.

Worst-case scenario: Jonas Valanciunas becomes an archaic big in the modern NBA, Kyle Lowry sprains his ankle three more times and half the team tries out for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Bold prediction: DeMar DeRozan averages over 23 points per game, but the Raptors lose in the first round. Pretty average season, eh?

2. Boston Celtics

Best-case scenario: David Lee immediately improves the flow on offense, Marcus Smart continues to grow and the young Celtics upset one of the top-four East teams in the first round.

Worst-case scenario: Coach Brad Stevens relies too heavily on Lee and Evan Turner, none of the rookies contribute and Jared Sullinger breaks his back.

Bold prediction: The Celtics, struggling to remain in the playoff picture, trade their young assets for a disgruntled superstar. They still lose in the first round.

3. New York Knicks

Best-case scenario: Kristaps Porzingis becomes the Baby Dirk everyone wants him to be, and people finally are able to identify Latvia on a map.

Worst-case scenario: Kristaps plays like a 19-year-old and Derek Fisher continues to have no idea what he’s doing.

Bold prediction: Despite a decidedly inferior roster, the triangle offense shows some life, and the Knicks leapfrog the Nets in the division.

4. Brooklyn Nets

Best-case scenario: There isn’t really one. The season flies by and the fans begin looking forward to next year’s critical season.

Worst-case scenario: Mikhail Prokhorov relocates the team to Moscow. Brook Lopez becomes a high-ranking KGB official.

Bold prediction: Shane Larkin becomes the starter at point guard before the season, en route to a trip to the lottery.

5. Philadelphia 76ers

Best-case scenario: Jahlil Okafor is the rookie of the year and the Sixers sail their way to the number one overall pick.

Worst-case scenario: Philly stinks its way to the bottom, only for its pick to land outside the top three.

Bold prediction: The 76ers don’t begin a single game with five NBA-caliber players.

Five things I want to see

1. Drake makes a song called “Kyle Lowry” with the lyrics “Ballin like Kyle Lowry. Married to the game — no dowry.” He dances with a basketball in front of a green screen for the music video.

2. Robin Lopez and Brook Lopez trade places for the Nets-Knicks game.

3. Kristaps Porzingis sprays champagne in a club. Bonus points for 1 Oak.

4. The 76ers lose every game.

5. Marcus Smart lives up to his last name.

Central Division

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Best-case scenario: The offensive chemistry reaches new heights, and Tristan Thompson wins the Sixth Man of the Year award en route to Cleveland’s first sports championship in forever.

Worst-case scenario: LeBron dies.

Bold prediction: The Cavs don’t make it to the NBA finals.

2. Chicago Bulls

Best-case scenario: Derrick Rose comes roaring back into MVP form, Jimmy Butler expands his game and new coach Fred Hoiberg figures out how to get that offense flowing. A trip to the NBA finals is in store.

Worst-case scenario: Rose and Joakim Noah both break down, Pau Gasol can’t contribute enough on offense and the Bulls exit in the second round.

Bold prediction: Rose posts a career-low PER and falls off the radar of elite point guards. The Bulls still advance to the Eastern Conference finals for a showdown with the Cavs.

3. Milwaukee Bucks

Best-case scenario: Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo become stars, and the Bucks advance to the second round.

Worst-case scenario: Jason Kidd takes the young kids to a local bar. Half of the team has never consumed alcohol before and decides to pursue a life of vice following this experience.

Bold prediction: The Bucks upset one of the elite teams in the first round and take the Cavs to seven games in the next.

4. Detroit Pistons

Best-case scenario: The Pistons decide not to suck for a season.

Worst-case scenario: The Pistons continue to suck for another season.

Bold prediction: The Pistons improve to somewhere between mediocre and acceptable.

5. Indiana Pacers

Best-case scenario: Paul George recovers from last year’s season-ending leg injury to become a superstar, and the new philosophy of small-ball prevails.

Worst-case scenario: Larry Bird’s personnel experiment fails, and the fans begin calling for Roy Hibbert’s return.

Bold prediction: Jordan Hill and Miles Turner struggle at center, Paul George refuses to play power forward and the Pacers blow their roster up.

Five things I want to see

1. Stan Van Gundy screams “FORM A F—–G WALL” to his players as a new Wendy’s opens for business across the street.

2. Dougie McBuckets gets some minutes. Don’t let him turn into the next Jimmer, Fred!

3. Brandon Jennings and Reggie Jackson compete in the “who can chuck more long-twos” contest.

4. Jabari Parker averages 20 points a game.

5. Cleveland finally wins a championship (Well, kind of. I’ll be lukewarmly excited).

Joe Diehl ’18 is Drake’s ghostwriter. Ask him how “Views from the 6” is going at


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