Celtics, Knicks Early Favorites in NBA’s Competitive Atlantic Division

Carmelo Anthony, Rajon RondoAlthough much can change over the course of a campaign, the Atlantic Division seems like it will be one of the NBA’s deepest heading into the meat of the regular season. With three reigning playoff teams, and four of the five teams above .500 so far, competition is as thick as ever.

This weekend, the veteran Boston Celtics will look to take a stand against division rival Philadelphia, as the Sixers have emerged as a postseason-bound threat as well. They may not hold the clout that Boston does, but the Sixers represent the depth that’s made the division as legitimate as it is.

With both the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets putting up impressive seasons thus far, there’s little room for error elsewhere in the division. The Celtics, of course, have five years of contention in their favor, but the impact that has on their NBA futures has waned as their core players approach the twilight of their careers. With more age-related questions than answers, the C’s have just 25-1 odds of winning the NBA championship.

The Atlantic-leading Knicks, in contrast, have 18-1 odds, while the Sixers trail with 60-1.

This weekend, however, when Boston and Philadelphia clash in a home-and-home, all eyes will be on the teams that take the court. Even with a crowded Eastern Conference playoff picture, the Celtics and Sixers serve as plausible candidates to sneak into the bracket as one of the conference’s final seeds.

With superstar Rajon Rondo more or less officially taking the reins from Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, and with Philly’s trio of Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner finally starting to live up to their vaunted potential, maybe the Atlantic Division oddsmakers have been focusing on the wrong teams this whole time.

Regardless, whether it’s New York or Brooklyn, Boston or Philadelphia, all of them or some sort of combination of the four, there’s little doubt that the Atlantic is shaping up to be one of the NBA’s must-watch divisions. Now, if only somebody would pass that memo on to the Toronto Raptors.

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