Philadelphia's Evan Turner drives to the basket during last season's Eastern Conference semi-finals. Photo: Reuters
- South-West division: Mills facing a battle for court time with Spurs
- NorthWest division: Nuggets strike gold for battle with Thunder
- Central divison: Bulls on parade towards playoffs
- Pacific division: Lakes reload to take shot at Heat
- Southeast division: Heat is on
BOSTON are ageing but still in contention for the NBA crown but Philadelphia have emerged as one of the dark horses from the Eastern Conference after snaring Lakers All-Stars centre Andrew Bynum.
The Atlantic Division will be one of the big talking points in the NBA this season with the Celtics and 76ers up against the unpredictable Knicks and the new-look Brooklyn Nets. Forget Toronto.
In the fourth instalment in the division by division preview of the NBA for season 2012-13, Paul Suttor and Paul Zalunardo examine how the five teams in the Atlantic Division are shaping up.
Boston Celtics: Can Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce turn back Father Time once again? With the spiteful exit of Ray Allen to Miami, the Celtics are facing a tough road if they want to make another run at the title. They will still be good and Rajon Rondo will still dominate, but Miami (and a couple of other teams in the east) have improved while the Celtics have taken a step backwards. Title winner Jason Terry needs to be a consistent producer in his new surrounds. They will make the play-offs but may find the going tough once they are there.
Last season: 39-27 (Eastern Conference finalists)
Gains: Jason Terry (Mavericks), F Jared Sullinger (draft), C Fab Melo (draft), F Kris Joseph (draft), G Courtney Lee (Rockets), C Ryan Hollins (Cavaliers), C Jason Collins (Hawks).
Losses: G Ray Allen (Heat), F Sasha Pavlovic (Trail Blazers), F Greg Stiemsma (Timberwolves), C Jermaine O'Neal (Suns).
Brooklyn Nets: Pro sports returns to Brooklyn but it is who the Nets missed out on rather than who they signed that has dominated their off-season switch from New Jersey. Brooklyn did everything they could to get Dwight Howard into black and white prior to the Lakers winning that battle. They still have a play-off calibre squad with Deron Williams one of the league's top point guards. Shooting guard Joe Johnson can go for 30 on any given night and centre Brook Lopez is a force in the low post. Their battles with the Knicks should be something else.
Last season: 22-44
Gains: G Tyshawn Taylor (draft), F Tornike Shengelia (draft), F Ilkan Karaman (draft), G Joe Johnson (Hawks), F Reggie Evans (Clippers), G C.J. Watson (Bulls), F Jerry Stackhouse (Hawks).
Losses: G DeShawn Stevenson (Hawks), G Anthony Morrow (Hawks), F Jordan Williams (Hawks), C Johan Petro (Hawks), G Gerald Green (Pacers).
New York Knicks: Favourites for the 2002 NBA title. Free-agent signings Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Rasheed Wallace and Kurt Thomas have a combined age of 155. If the Knicks can nurse Camby, Wallace and Thomas through the bulk of the regular season and still make the play-offs they will be able to call on their experience. If they need to use them often, trouble looms. Get ready for more injuries for Amar'e Stoudimire and more high-volume offence from Carmelo Anthony. On a positive note, the return of swingman Iman Shumpert from a knee injury will boost the team mid-season. The biggest loss is the departure of Jeremy Lin. The Knicks say they can do without him - let's see about that one.
Last season: 36-30 (1st round play-offs)
Gains: G Jason Kidd (Mavericks), C Marcus Camby (Rockets), G Raymond Felton (Trails Blazers), G Kurt Thomas (Trail Blazers), G Ronnie Brewer (Bulls), G Chris Smith (draft).
Losses: G Toney Douglas (Rockets), F Jared Jeffries (Trail Blazers), C Dan Gadzuric (Trail Blazers), F Landry Fields (Raptors), G Jeremy Lin (Rockets).
Philadelphia 76ers: If off-season recruit Andrew Bynum can stay injury free and remain interested, the 76ers may emerge as the second-best team in the east. Bynum is one of the top low-post players in the league. However, the fact he is already in doubt for the season opener doesn't bode well. Combine a fit Bynum with the smart guard play of Jrue Holliday and Evan Turner and you have a team that can go deep in the play-offs. The loss of Andre Iguodala will hurt, but Philly can make up for that.
Last season: 35-31 (2nd round play-offs)
Gains: F Arnett Moultrie (draft), F Dorell Wright (Warriors), C Darryl Watkins (Hornets), C Kwame Brown (Bucks), G Nick Young (free agency), G Royal Ivey (Thunder), C Andrew Bynum (Lakers), G Jason Richardson (Magic).
Losses: G Lou Williams (Hawks), F Elton Brand (Mavericks), G Andre Iguodala (Nuggets), F Nikola Vucevic (Magic), G Jodie Meeks (Lakers).
Toronto Raptors: Let's face it, the whole NBA in Canada thing hasn't really worked. The Vancouver Grizzlies weren't long for this world and while the Raptors are still kicking, no one is confusing them for a team on the rise. The won 23 of 66 games last year and a similar success rate is on the cards again. The franchise's fascination with Euro talent also continues. Tomislav Zubcic and Jonas Valanciunas are the latest additions to a cosmopolitan team, joining Linas Kleiza, Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani in the Euro contingent at the Air Canada Centre.
Last season: 23-43
Gains: G Terrence Ross (draft), F Quincy Acy (draft), C Tomislav Zubcic (draft), G Kyle Lowry (Rockets), F Landry Fields (Knicks), C Jonas Valanciunas (Lithuania), G John Lucas (Bulls).
Losses: G Jerryd Bayless (Magic), F James Johnson (Kings).