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NBA Season Preview: Did the East’s best division get even better?

Better or Worse: The Atlantic Division

NBA: Toronto Raptors-Media Day Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

A lot can change in a single offseason. The Detroit Pistons largely stood pat with their roster but saw radical changes on the sidelines and in the front office. Their stated goal is the playoffs, but to get there will mean at least one team falling out of the playoffs and others not leapfrogging the Pistons. So did other Eastern Conference contenders get better or worse? To find out, we set up a little game (survey, really, but I find surveys fun) called Better or Worse. Staff writers at DBB voted on whether a team go better or worse. Below is the consensus, and therefore correct, opinion of every team in the Eastern Conference.

We have the percent vote of the vote along with average of predicted record, plus a representative comment from various DBB writers.

Now let’s play BETTER or WORSE — Atlantic Division.

Toronto Raptors

Verdict: WORSE (75%)

Last year’s record: 59-23 (1st in East)
Projected Record: 55-27
Change: -2 wins

Additions: Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Greg Monroe

Subtractions: DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, Alfonzo McKinnie

Explain yourselves:

There’s no option for “same record, better team,” but this Toronto team, with a healthy Kawhi, is undoubtedly better. They have enough talent spread across the roster to go big, small, switch-heavy, drop-and-corrall, get out in transition, halfcourt sets, anything - and Nick Nurse is, by all accounts, a creative coach who will take advantage of the flexibility on the roster.

They did a good job of preserving Kyle Lowry’s legs for the playoffs, I expect that to continue. All their kids - OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell - will likely be better, and being that deep will win you a bunch of regular-season games. However, I want to build in some Kawhi health suspicion and the possibility that Toronto plays for the playoffs, not the regular season, after being the 1 seed last year and still not making it the conference finals. Hence, 59 wins (so the same record) but, a better team overall. (Lazarus Jackson)

NBA: Preseason-Boston Celtics at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics

Verdict: BETTER (100%)

Last year’s record: 55-23 (No. 2)
Projected record: 60-22
Change: +5 wins

Additions: Brad Wanamaker, Robert Williams

Subtractions: Shane Larkin, Greg Monroe, Abdel Nader

Explain yourselves:

This one’s pretty simple. Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving are both healthy. And via the absence of Hayward, they’ve come to discover that Jayson Tatum is their best scorer, bar none. They’re loaded at the wings, have three top notch point guards, and have a healthy array of versatile bigs in Horford, Baynes and Theis. Oh yeah, and Jaylen Brown has another year of NBA ball under his belt. This team is a legit contender for the title. (David Fernandez)

NBA: Playoffs-Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia 76ers

Verdict: WORSE (55.6%)

Last year’s record: 52-30
Projected record: 52-30
Change: +0 wins

Additions: Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, Zhaire Smith, Landry Shamet, Shake Milton, Jonah Boldon

Subtractions: Justin Anderson, Marco Belinelli, Richaun Holmes, Ersan Ilyasova, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot

Explain yourselves:

Everything clicked into place pretty well last season for Philadelphia and their young players seem like ascendant superstars. Joel Embiid is already one of the best centers in the league and Ben Simmons is great even though he can’t shoot a lick. Still ..... there is just something about them that makes me think they take a step back this season. This team was one of the more divisive among the staff, with the people who think Philly will get better thinking they will get much better. I’m just not sure they can repeat offensively what we saw last year. Mike Muscala is no Ersan Ilyasova, Wilson Chandler is no Marco Belinelli and I’m not sure what happens when this team’s depth is tested. (Sean Corp)

NBA: New York Knicks at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks

Verdict: WORSE (77.8%)

Last year’s record: 29-53 (No. 11)
Projected record: 26-56
Change: -3 wins

Additions: Mario Hezonja, Noah Vonleh, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson

Subtractions: Michael Beasley, Kyle O’Quinn, Troy Williams

Explain yourselves:

Kristaps Porzingis is out until Christmas. The Knicks are going to be sad. (Brady Fredericksen)

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Brooklyn Nets

Verdict: BETTER (100%)

Last year’s record: 28-54 (12)
Projected Record: 35-47
Change: +7 wins

Additions: Ed Davis, Jared Dudley, Kennth Faried, Treveon Graham, Shabazz Napier, Dzanan Musa, Rodions Kurucs

Subtractions: Darrell Arthur, Dante Cunningham, Jeremy Lin, Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas, Isaiah Whitehead

Explain yourselves:

Sign me up for the way Sean Marks is rebuilding in Brooklyn. Starting with nothing but a bunch of lousy contracts and little talent to speak of, he’s added young talent, overpaid but still useful veterans, and is poised to make some strong pitches for next year’s free agent class. (Steve Hinson)