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NBA betting preview: Atlantic Division

NBA betting preview: Atlantic Division

NBA betting preview: Atlantic Division

Atlantic Division Preview

Boston Celtics

Odds: 56.5 over/under wins, 7-2 to win title

In: Darius Miles, J.R. Giddens

Out: James Posey

Outlook: The Celtics made the greatest one-year improvement in league history, won 66 games and their first title in 22 years and their fans have one question to ask: What have you done for me lately? Boston was a great defenisve team last year, with even Paul Pierce and Ray Allen guarding people with zeal for the first time in their careers. Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo are legit defensive stoppers and center Kendrick Perkins has some beef and is willing to throw it around -- rare in the NBA. Offensively, the team is obviously loaded and can get better if Perkins and backup forward Leon Powe improve their scoring in the post. The loss of Posey hurts on both ends of the court but not 10 wins worth.

Prediction: Go with the over on 56.5 and 7-2 seems fair as well.

Philadelphia 76ers

Odds: 46.5, 22-1

In: Elton Brand, Kareem Rush, Theo Ratliff

Out: Rodney Carney

Outlook: With Brand's surprising departure from the Clippers, the Sixers' starting five of Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala, Brand, Samuel Dalembert and Thaddeus Young is pretty respectable. They still can't shoot the 3-pointer, which foiled their upset bid against Detroit in last year's playoffs, but they might be a little better with Rush and the continued improvement of Louis Williams off the bench. Having Brand will erase some of the scoring droughts, as he looks all the way back from his Achilles' tendon injury. The quick Williams was one-third of a nice young trio with Young and big man Jason Smith, but Smith is out for the year with an injury. If Williams can cut out some of the wildness, he and Miller make this a very dangerous team in transition. Reggie Evans is a beast off the bench, attacking the glass and other players while having no offensive game inside whatsoever.

Prediction: Philly went 22-12 down the stretch last year to finish with 40 wins and now has confidence and Brand. We like the over.

Toronto Raptors

Odds: 47.5, 25-1

In: Jermaine O'Neal

Out: T.J. Ford, Carlos Delfino, Rasho Nesterovic

Outlook: Ford was dealt to Indiana for O'Neal after he couldn't handle losing his point guard job to Jose Calderon last year and killed the Raptors (41-41) on and off the court down the stretch. How much the oft-injured O'Neal has left in the tank is a mystery, but one thing is clear. The presence of him and Chris Bosh at center and power forward pretty much means 2007 No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani is glued to the bench. Granted, he couldn't shoot to save his life last season, but that seems like a rash demotion doesn't it? O'Neal and small forward Jamario Moon are very good defensively and Calderon should become a star this season. The Raptors had a point-differential of a 51-win team last season but their backcourt depth took a real hit with the losses of Ford and Delfino. Now they're couting on a European rookie named Roko Ukic and Jason Kapono, who can shoot the 3-pointer but does nothing else well.

Prediction: O'Neal has to stay healthy and a five-game improvement would only get you 46 wins. So go with the under.

New Jersey Nets

Odds: 33.5, 75-1

In: Yi Jianlian, Brook Lopez, Bobby Simmons, Eduardo Najera, Keyon Dooling, Ryan Anderson, Chris Douglas-Roberts

Out: Richard Jefferson, Nenad Krstic, Marcus Williams

Outlook: This team is being built for the future, hopefully one where LeBron James is the centerpiece in two years. And if you're LeBron, you gotta like the idea of playing for his idol, part owner Jay-Z, and running up the court with young point guard Devin Harris and talented young big men Lopez, Yi and Sean Williams. Harris' stats have improved in each of his five seasons and the Mavericks now realize they were closer to winning the title with him than they are now with Jason Kidd. Yi was expensive (Jefferson) and is raw but has upside -- he is after all a 7-footer with quicks who can shoot. Keeping the leading scrorer role warm until (if?) LeBron shows up is Vince Carter, but if some team offers a young gun for the moody star, he will follow Kidd and Jefferson out the door.

Prediction: The Nets' win total (34) last season was misleading -- they had the point differential of a 25-win team -- and the under 33.5 is one of the best bets on the board.

New York Knicks

Odds: 29.5, 100-1

In: Chris Duhon, Allan Houston, Danilo Gallinari

Out: Renaldo Balkman

Outlook: How soft were the 23-win Knicks last season? Then-Warriors point guard Baron Davis had two fewer blocked shots (43) than New York big men Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry combined (45). Overhauling this big-money roster will be hard, but New York made a nice step in luring coach Mike D'Antoni away from Phoenix. He seems ready to turn David Lee loose, probably at power forward to free up space inside for Randolph at center. Jamal Crawford could thrive in D'Antoni's wide-open offense and small forward Quentin Richardson had his best season under D'Antoni in Phoenix four years ago. What happens at point guard with Duhon, Nate Robertson and Stephon Marbury is anybody's guess. And the team's defense will stink again. The rookie, Gallinari, seems a long ways off, and that was before his back flared up in the summer league.

Prediction: We love Lee and see a slight improvement, but we couldn't tell you if that means 28 wins or 31. Pass on the 29.5.

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