Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Atlantic Division; The Cure For Your Raptors Blues

With the depression levels of Raptors fans reaching a season high in the last two days, I thought I'd go a different route than most of the morning papers I've sifted through this morning.

Let's ignore the Chris Bosh injury, the Turkoglu mystery, the Bulls stampeding behind us - let's forget about all of that for a few minutes. Everyone outside of Toronto keeps focusing on our future, a future without Chris Bosh that is. Well Toronto fans finally got a true glimpse of that last night against the Celtics.

Let's call it the Young Gunz era.

Assuming Chris Bosh's tenure in Toronto has finally ended, this is what the city has in store for it:

A high octane, fast paced and athletic offense led by a group of young fellas. That's what I saw last night. It may not have the same star power that Bosh has in one hand, but it's a good start nonetheless. Perhaps a proper rebuild is on the horizon for the Toronto Raptors? Again - assuming Bosh chooses a new home - Toronto could very well end up with the necessary pieces to rebuild a team like the OKC Thunder.

Before you get it twisted, i'm not trying to sugarcoat anything here. If we go into next season with a resigned Amir Johnson, DeRozan, Weems, Jack, Bargnani, and Turk (which looks pretty possible) then we'll surely lose more than our fair share of games. But then again, so did young teams like Portland and Oklahoma. But as soon as they were given a chance to develop together, it all clicked. Obviously, the Blazers had Roy, and the Thunder had Durant; but who's to say that Weems (23), DeRozan (20) and Amir (22) don't have the potential to be very good players in the future? They didn't get the nickname "Young Gunz" for no reason.

So let's put things into perspective. Regardless of how bleak you may think the future looks, remember this: An NBA season is truly won within your division. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Atlantic Division:

Do any of these teams really strike immediate fear moving forward? Well - not really. And that's my point. With the steady decline of the Boston Celtics, this division is once again for the taking in the years to come. Let's look at each team here.

The Celtics: Let's be real here. This is the one division leading team of the entire NBA that many people feel are on its last leg. Their age is finally catching up to them, and that championship window is about an inch away from finally closing shut. Even Celtics fans are ready to go back to what they call the "Age of Darkness". They threw away their entire future for a couple glory years. Was it worth it? Of course. Absolutely. But will they now have to pay their debt? Yup.

The Knicks: This is obviously the wildcard of the division. They've gone all-in for the 2010 off season. If they manage to get LeBron, then everything changes and this becomes their division to own. But with recent reports coming out of Cleveland saying LeBron isn't going anywhere, there's a good chance the Knicks may end up with something like Joe Johnson or Rudy Gay with a resigned David Lee. Bosh could also end up here as well - which would only make the rivalry between the Knicks and Raps heat up even more.

The Sixers: They finally get it. This team isn't good enough, at least not when you consider what their being paid. The Philly front office has been more than ready to part with Iggy, Sammy D, and Brand. Not because of their talent, but due to the fact that they can't afford to keep them around. They are really the one team that resembles the Raptors' scenario the most. They too have some young talent moving forward, but are currently strapped down with some bad contracts.

The Nets: They almost made history this year as the worst NBA team ever. They'll most likely end up as the team with the worst record, which would ultimately give them the best chance of landing the #1 pick. John Wall anybody? No one in the Atlantic wants this Wildcat phenom to settle down here. But remember this, having the worst record entitles you to a 25% chance of landing the first pick. Well with that in mind, in the last 20 years of the draft, the team with the worst record has only won the lottery a total of 3 times.

Surely, Colangelo will sell these points when he attempts to re-sign Bosh. But even if the greatest player to ever rock a Raptor uniform departs, know that there is a very manageable future just around the corner. Winning your division guarantees you a top 4 seed in your conference. From there, anything can happen.

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