Post NBA Season Review of Atlantic Division, 2021-22

Post NBA Season Review of Atlantic Division, 2021-22
Thu 7th July 2022

After a thrilling season, the NBA is officially over for another year. So, the team at SportsTips thought it would be a good idea to go through every team in the Atlantic Division, and have a look at the year that was!

Boston Celtics

The success of the 2021-22 season for the Boston Celtics came as a surprise to a lot of people but it makes sense when you peel the curtain back. They had all the right people in place making the personnel decisions behind the scenes to set this team up for a deep run into the playoffs and that’s exactly what this young and talented team accomplished. 

Former Celtics head coach Brad Stevens made the move to being in the front office and brought in first-time head coach Ime Udoki to run the team. Another big move made was bringing back veteran big man Al Horford after spending two seasons away with the Philadelphia 76ers and Oklahoma City Thunder

The start to the year was a slow one for Boston as they started the year 23-24 before making a few moves at the trade deadline to turn their season around. They went out and acquired Derrick White from the San Antonio Spurs and Daniel Theis from the Houston Rockets, and those moves helped them go 28-7 the rest of the way and lock up the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference. Jayson Tatum took his game to another level, averaging 26.9 points, 8 rebounds, and 4.4 assists a game. 

Jaylen Brown also did the same averaging 23.6 points a game alongside his backcourt mate Marcus Smart, who won Defensive Player of the Year. Their path to the NBA Finals was a hard road as they had to deal with the top-heavy and highly publicized Brooklyn Nets in the first round. 

The talent for the Nets however couldn’t overcome all the dysfunction and Boston was able to take care of them in 4 games. Next up was the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks who were without Khris Middleton. Despite his absence, the Bucks still put up a huge fight and took the Cs to seven games where Boston was able to prevail and move on to the Eastern Conference Finals. 

This is where they’d face the 1 seed Miami Heat, who also took them to seven games but didn’t have enough to pull it out against a determined Celtics team. Winning the East set them up for a date in the NBA Finals with the Golden State Warriors who had won three of the last seven championships. 

Boston won Game 1 and had their fans feeling like something special was on the horizon but in the end Steph Curry and the guys just had too much experience in the big moments and pulled it out in six games. 

Now heading into the offseason, Boston is up against the cap and because of that is expected to just run it back with the same core and hope to get back to the Finals again. I like their chances to do just that with two of the best young players in the game in Tatum and Brown, and an up-and-coming defensive minded coach leading the way. 

All in all it was a very good season for the Boston Celtics but for them to take that next step I think they’ll need a more natural facilitator to lead the offense alongside their stars instead of jamming Tatum into that role. It would have the offense flowing much smoother and would cut down on the costly turnovers. Expect to see Boston right back in the thick of things as one of the top contenders again in 2022-23. 

Brooklyn Nets

Coming into the 2021-22 season, the Brooklyn Nets were the top betting favorites to win the NBA Finals after taking the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks to 7 games in the second round of the playoffs. They were expected to have their full band back together of James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant, but that plan was halted before the season even started. 

The state of New York passed the vaccine mandate prior to the season started and that would prevent “anti-vaxxer” Kyrie Irving from playing in any of the Nets’ home games. This threw off the chemistry and cohesion of the team and their season got off to a slow start and never really got better. 

Around the trade deadline they ended up trading a disgruntled James Harden, throwing things even more out of whack. All of a sudden they had lost one of their best scorers on the roster and what they got in return (Ben Simmons) never even ended up suiting up for any games. 

They also received Seth Curry and Andre Drummond, which helped bolster their bench but it wasn’t enough to get them to the levels of expectations. Half way through the year a ruling was put out that let Kyrie play the road games and then later to play all games, but having him in and out of the lineup just never allowed them to mesh as a lineup. 

They hovered around .500 all season and had to win a play-in game to get in the postseason as a 7 seed where they were promptly swept out by the eventual Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics. 

If the Nets can get Ben Simmons back healthy for the 2022-23 season and get a full offseason in as a unit, they will definitely be one of the most dangerous teams in the league. A lot will have to be improved on the defensive side of the ball but Simmons will help with that. I like their chances if things go to plan but when these types of egos are involved, that’s never a guarantee. 

New York Knicks

After the New York Knicks made the playoffs a couple years ago, led by Julius Randle, a lot was expected of them in the 2021-22 season. It was believed that they were back as a fringe contender and the signing of Kemba Walker in the offseason was looked at as a solid piece that could help them get back to the playoffs again. 

All the excitement was elevated even more once the Knicks started the season 5-1. They then trailed off a bit to 11-9 before going on a complete downturn and only ended up winning 37 games on the season, missing the play-in tournament. Kemba Walker was benched halfway through the season and deemed “unplayable” by head coach Tom Thibodeau along with the Knicks trading away young wing Cam Reddish to the Atlanta Hawks

One of the main reasons for the disappointing season was the regression of Julius Randle’s play. He made his first All-Star team in 2021 along with winning the Most Improved Player but wasn’t able to keep that same level into 2022. He put up stats in bulk but a lot of them were meaningless and inefficient. 

RJ Barrett showed a lot of promise, even scoring a career-high 46 points against Miami in February but will also need to work on his efficiency going forward. Their main focus for the offseason should be adding some offensive firepower to their team and if things don’t improve halfway through the year then it may be time to replace Thibodeau as the head coach. 

Philadelphia 76ers

The 2021-22 season was a bit of a roller coaster for the Philadelphia 76ers that ultimately ended in disappointment. There was a lot of drama in the offseason surrounding Ben Simmons following their second round exit to the Atlanta Hawks last season. 

Simmons and head coach Doc Rivers seemingly had a relationship beyond repair after a few comments Rivers made in the media regarding the young star. He then decided to hold out and the Sixers started the season without him. 

The drama didn’t distract Joel Embiid, who put up his best season to date and one of the best seasons in recent history. He averaged over 30 points a game and 11.7 rebounds while finishing runner-up in the MVP voting to Nikola Jokic. He was holding it down for the team while Simmons sat out until Philly traded him, Seth Curry, and Andre Drummond to Brooklyn in exchange for former MVP James Harden. 

His arrival helped Tyrese Maxey blossom as a young player and the pick-and-roll with Embiid was deadly at times. For some reason though, Harden could never really put it all together scoring wise and it ultimately cost them their season. 

They went out in the 2nd round again, this time to the Miami Heat in six games. Their lack of depth and lack of shooters around Harden did them in and needs to be a top focus in the offseason if these guys want to maximize Joel Embiid’s prime and whatever is left in Harden’s career.

Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors rebounded from a down year to have a resurgent 2021-22 season. It all started in the offseason where they drafted eventual rookie of the year Scottie Barnes at pick number 4, who ended up being the perfect fit for their system. Fred VanVleet also had a huge tear for Toronto and was rewarded by being selected to his first ever All-Star team, averaging 20.3 points and 6.7 assists per game. 

Pascal Siakam was also much improved this year and led the team by averaging 22.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game. Siakam was widely regarded as one of the biggest all star snubs of the season with those numbers. 

The Raptors were led by head coach Nick Nurse into battle night in and night out and exceeded expectations by winning 48 games and securing the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference. Their run in the postseason was short-lived however as they ran into Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round. 

Philly quickly went up 3-0 in the series before the Raptors stormed back and got it to 3-2, but could not get that win in Game 6 to send it to a do-or-die Game 7. They don’t need to do much to the roster as it is an organically built group of guys that have a lot of potential. 

Maybe adding a few shooters to insert into the lineup for some more consistency and pop to the offense would be a good focus in the offseason, but I think other than that they have a good group to run it back with next season. This team can grow within and be a serious threat in the Eastern Conference for years to come.

Even though the season has finished, we’ve got you covered with all the latest information on the NBA! We keep you as up to date as possible, so you don’t miss any of the action this off-season.

Jeff has been a sports fanatic for as early as he can remember from the NFL, to the NHL, NBA, MLB and even tennis and soccer! A perfect night to him is a full slate of games and a cozy couch! He knows the ins and outs of all these leagues and will use his wealth of sports knowledge to bring you the best betting advice day in and day out.