Joel Embiid plays on one of the best “starting 5” rosters in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers, who should have an easy path to their first Atlantic Division title in almost 20 seasons.

Joel Embiid Philadelphia Sixers Atlantic Division
Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid grabs a rebound in a preseason game. (Image: AP)

The Sixers are the best team in a weak division that’s on the mend. With the defending champion Toronto Raptors facing a down year without Kawhi Leonard, the Boston Celtics are the only competition for the Sixers this season.

The Sixers are -170 on the money line if you want to back Joel Embiid en route to his first Atlantic crown

While the Celtics, Raptors, and Nets fight for one of the bottom seeds in the playoffs, the Sixers are on a mission to pick off the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals. Embiid’s mission begins by locking up Philadelphia’s first Atlantic title since 2001.

Philadelphia 76ers -170
Boston Celtics +450
Toronto Raptors +525
Brooklyn Nets +575
New York Knicks +50000

According to the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, the Toronto Raptors are approximately 5/1 odds to win the Atlantic division for a third straight season. Overall, the Raptors are 50/1 odds to repeat as NBA champions.

The Raptors or Celtics won the NBA Atlantic division 12 times since 2005. The Sixers haven’t won it since the beginning of the century. The Raptors won the Atlantic five out of the last six seasons.

Sixers Big Starting 5

Joel Embiid (27.5 ppg). Ben Simmons (16.9 ppg). Tobias Harris (18.2 ppg). Al Horford (13.6 ppg). Josh Richardson (16.6 ppg). That’s one heck of a starting rotation.The Sixers starting 5 can bring it on both ends of the court.

The Sixers (51-31) were a bounce away from a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals. Kawhi Leonard’s shot of the century in Game 7 knocked the Sixers out of the playoffs.

With 55 projected wins this season, only the Milwaukee Bucks are expected to have a better year. The Sixers also no longer have a Kardashian curse upon them. Kendall Jenner broke up with Ben Simmons, so now he has more important matters to worry about, like hitting three pointers.

When Jimmy Butler skipped Philly for Miami, the Sixers avoided a potential exploding grenade. Butler played great in his brief time in Philadelphia, but it would only be a matter of time before he clashed with the coaching staff or his teammates like Joel Embiid.

The Sixers pulled off a sign-and-trade for Josh Richardson, who was the best player on a bad Miami Heat team last season. Philly also persuaded Al Horford to join the squad from the Celtics. Horford was kryptonite on defense, so the Sixers made a wise move by adding Horford to the mix.

The Sixers boast the best starting 5 in the NBA, but the big issue is their bench. The Sixers can’t afford any big injuries to their core starting 5. Rookie Matisse Thybulle from UW impressed folks during Summer League. Trey Burke, another new addition, is a capable backup point guard.

Projection: Philadelphia 58-24

Boston Reboot

The Celtics (49-33) were bounced by the Sixers in the Eastern Semifinals last season. The Celtics had a bad breakup with Kyrie Irving, and a disappointing courtship with the New Orleans Pelicans. Without Kyrie or Anthony Davis, the Celtics are looking to rebuild and move on.

The Celtics still have Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart. They added 7-foot-7 Tacko Fall to the roster, and drafted Romeo Langford (Indiana), Grant Williams (Tennessee), and Carsen Edwards (Purdue).

Danny Ainge added Kemba Walker (25.6) to the mix after Michael Jordan did not wish to re-sign Walker with a pay raise. He adds just as much firepower to the team, minus the drama. Will he be enough to push the Celtics over 50 wins and challenge the Sixers? The Celtics might have a better bench, but their starting five is no match against the Sixers.

Projection: Boston 45-37

KD and Kyrie Brooklyn Hipsters

The Brooklyn Nets (42-40) lost to the Sixers in the opening round of the playoffs. The Nets win total (50.5) was inflated by the free agent signings of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. KD is out for the season with an Achilles injury.

The Nets are still a team in flux and overvalued right now by too much free agent hype. A similar thing happened with the Lakers last season. When LeBron James joined the Lakers, money poured in on the Lakers to win the NBA title. Bookies were minting money by booking those foolish bets. Year after year, the public tends to swallow the bait.

The Nets will be good someday, and win multiple Atlantic titles, but not in this transition season. Irving is certainly an upgrade compared to D’Angelo Russell. The Nets added Taurean Prince (13.5 ppg) to a squad that already had Joe Harris, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Chris LeVert.

Projection: Brooklyn 44-36

Raptors Hangover

The Toronto Raptors (58-25) secured home-court advantage last season with the best record in the NBA. It will be tough to even win 50-plus games without Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Sure, the Raptors still have Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Kyle Lowry, and Fred VanVleet. Oh, and Drake too. How could we forget about superfan Drake as the supreme lord and commander of the Great White North?

Even without Leonard, Nick Nurse’s Raptors still have to fend off the inevitable NBA championship hangover and there’s a chance they finish in fourth place in the Atlantic.

Projection: Toronto 44-36

Basement Knicks… Again

The tanking Knicks (17-65) missed out on their master plan. They failed to land Zion Williamson in the NBA Draft, and then KD and Kyrie shunned them for nearby Brooklyn. Ouch, sick burn. Then again, why play for a universally-loathed billionaire owner who hates his own ex-players like Charles Oakley?

The Knicks are in rebuilding mode… once again. If they continue to tank, that translates into being one of the five worst teams in the NBA, as well as the perennial bottom feeder in the Atlantic division.

The Knicks braintrust drafted Duke’s RJ Barrett, who looked good in Summer League. Barrett joins other young players like point guard Dennis Smith, Jr., center Mitchell Robinson, and forward Kevin Knox. Maybe David Fizdale finally gets to coach for real this season and the Knicks make a run at the #8 seed? Ah, another pipe dream.

The Knicks are jinxed and doomed to miss the playoffs once again. If I keep spewing crazy talk about Knicks making the playoffs this season, the authorities will lock me up in Bellvue with all of the other crazies.

Projection: New York Knicks 25-57

If you enjoyed this NBA Atlantic division preview, check out more 2019 NBA division previews.

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