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Sunday, May 11, 9:39 a.m.
Sports

Atlantic Division outlook for 2013

The Atlantic Division in the NBA’s Eastern Conference is going to see some changes in rankings this season.

The Boston Celtics have dominated the division for years, including a string of five titles in a row before last season’s third place finish.

The New York Knicks moved into position as the best in the Atlantic last season, but things could be a little different this year with the additions of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets.

Look out for the Toronto Raptors this year as well. They could potentially snag the eighth playoff seed in the East, but let’s not go too far into the East as a whole just yet.

The Knicks will most likely win it again. The Nets will have to get used to their new roster and the way Jason Kidd, their new head coach, runs things and it could cost them some wins. Although I do see the Nets getting the better of their New York rivals come playoff time, assuming both reach the postseason, the Knicks have proven to be a formidable regular season squad and should hold off Brooklyn for the top spot.

The thing Brooklyn needs to watch out for is sliding in the standings when they rest their veterans in the regular season. Resting them could cost them some wins and that could make the Nets slide from a 3- to a 4-seed overall in the conference and give them a significantly harder matchup in the first round of the playoffs.

Third in the division will be either Boston or Toronto. For The Celtics, if Rondo comes back at a reasonable time and plays like the Rondo of old, they could make a run at the last playoff spot. Add Avery Bradley, Jeff Green and some more talent and they won’t be as bad as most fans are expecting.

The Raptors might actually be better than the Celtics this year — a shocker, I know — given all the changes to Boston’s roster this season. Again, it depends on how the Celtics cope with this new team and atmosphere, but Toronto’s squad with Rudy Gay at the helm may surprise teams.

If the Raptors best the Celtics and finish third in the division, it would be the first time they’ve cracked the top three in the Atlantic in three seasons. The last time was when they finished 40-42 in 2009-10. If the Raptors sneak in with a No. 8-seed, it would be the first time they’ve reached the postseason since they fell in five games to the Orlando Magic in the first round in 2008.

The 76ers will likely round out the bottom of the division. Philadelphia just has too much uncertainty and with what happened with Andrew Bynum last year and first-round pick Nerlens Noel sitting out the season, I don’t see it going well for the Sixers. Losing Jrue Holiday, who was without a doubt their best offensive player last season, to the New Orleans Pelicans doesn’t help their chances either.

The Atlantic Division will have some changes this year. Expect to see the Knicks and Nets battle it out for the division, with each likely will have a top five seed in the East playoff picture. Look for the Raptors to surpass the Celtics this year if Boston doesn’t figure it out. Both teams could be fighting for the last one or two playoff spots.

No matter what, this division will offer plenty of action and drama with the New York rivalry and the former Celtics playing in Brooklyn. A young and upcoming Raptors team adds to the mix.