With the season in full swing right now, it looks like the Atlantic Division will be a competitive race. The Raptors, Knicks, and Celtics all look poised to stay in the playoff picture all season long. Which team, though, will emerge as Atlantic Division Champions? Currently, Toronto has a three- game lead over New York and a four- game lead over Boston. It is a long season, though, and the gap can be bridged quickly. Let’s see how each team matches up and who has the Atlantic Division edge.

Point Guard

Photo Courtesy of The Boston Globe

On paper, this is probably the most fun match-up to look into. Kyle Lowry, Derrick Rose, and Isaiah Thomas have all been named All-Stars at one point in their career. For point guards, they all score at high rates. Isaiah Thomas leads the group with 26. 0 PPG. Kyle Lowry is in second with 21. 2 PPG and Derrick Rose brings up the rear at 17. 0 PPG. In assists, Lowry leads with 7. 3 ASG, while Thomas has 6. 2 and Rose has 4. 6. In efficiency, Derrick Rose is actually in first with 46. 5%, followed by Lowry at 45. 0% and Thomas at 42. 4%. This is tough to rank, but here’s how we place these starters:

  1. Toronto – Kyle Lowry
  2. Boston – Isaiah Thomas
  3. New York – Derrick Rose

Shooting Guard

Photo Courtesy of Raptors Rapture

This is tough to rank because two of the starters, DeMar DeRozan and Courtney Lee are offensive players. Avery Bradley, on the other hand, is a defensive player. Also, DeRozan and Bradley continue to improve in their careers. Both right now are at career highs, at 27. 9 and 17. 9 PPG, respectively. Also, DeRozan and Bradley shoot very well at 47. 4% and 47. 5%. Avery Bradley and DeMar DeRozan rebound effectively for guards. Bradley averages 7. 5 RPG while DeRozan averages 5. 3 RPG. It could be argued that both of these players are all-around the best players on their teams.courtney Lee, a former Celtic, is no slouch either, averaging 10. 0 PPG on 45. 4% shooting, but DeRozan and Bradley are still ahead of him. Taking all aspects into accounts, we will rank the starters in this way:

  1. Toronto – DeMar DeRozan
  2. Boston – Avery Bradley
  3. New York – Courtney Lee

Small Forward

Photo Courtesy of Hardwood Houdini

This is where New York ranks well against the two teams. Carmelo Anthony is still playing at an elite level, scoring 22. 4 PPG, and the driving force behind the Knicks. The battle for second place is closer. Jae Crowder and DeMarre Carroll are arguably mirror image players. Both are defensive- driven players with high intensity that can find their way on the scoresheet. On offense, though, Crowder is slightly ahead, averaging 13. 2 PPG and 4. 9 RPG whole Carroll averages 10. 3 PPG and 3. 6 RPG. The outcome:

  1. New York – Carmelo Anthony
  2. Boston – Jae Crowder
  3. Toronto – DeMarre Carroll

Power Forward

Photo Courtesy of Boston Globe

New York runs away with the power forward category. Despite only being in his second season, Kristaps Porzingis is more than tripling Amir Johnson in PPG with an even 20. 0 and almost doubling him in RPG with 7. 7. He has been another huge reason why the Knicks are off to a successful start. The race again is for second place between Amir Johnson and Raptors rookie Pascal Siakam. Neither one will post huge offensive numbers, but both fit into the team plan. Johnson is averaging 6. 3 PPG and 4. 1 RPG while Siakam is averaging 5. 7 PPG and 3. 7 RPG. With this position arguably being the weakest for each of these teams, we should give the slight edge to Johnson. Here’s where we land:

  1. New York – Kristaps Porzingis
  2. Boston – Amir Johnson
  3. Toronto – Pascal Siakam

Center

Photo Courtesy of Masslive.com

We would expect this to be a run-away for Al Horford, but an inside look shows that is not the case. Between Horford, Jonas Valanciunas, and Joakim Noah, he actually brings up the rear in rebounding at 6. 3 RPG. Valanciunas is having a strong season on the glass, averaging just under 10 RPG. While it has been a tough season scoring wise for Noah, only at 4. 4 PPG, he at least is rebounding at a clip of 7. 8 RPG. Still, Horford is at least leading in PPG with 15. 6 and has a big assist tally at 5. 4 APG. This may vary between what fans value more, but we will rank the starters this way:

  1. Boston – Al Horford
  2. Toronto – Jonas Valanciunas
  3. New York – Joakim Noah

Bench

Arguably one of the most underrated aspects of a team, bench play will prove to be important for these teams. Each team has several role players who can step up when called. As we know, Boston has Marcus Smart playing as a Sixth Man this year with Kelly Olynyk, Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, and Jonas Jerebko acting as key bench pieces this year. Toronto does not really have a set Sixth Man exactly with Patrick Patterson, Cory Joseph, and Terrence Ross all averaging high minutes off the bench. They also use Norman Powell in an important role and Lucas Noguiera has seen plenty of time, too. We cannot forget Jared Sullinger is also looking to play a role off the bench when he returns from injury. Finally, New York has seen Brandon Jennings act as their Sixth Man with guys like Willy Hernangomez, Justin Holiday, Lance Thomas, and Kyle O’Quinn being important off the bench. Benches can be hard to rank given that there are so many assignments and roles for bench players, with that said, we will tentatively go with this:

  1. Toronto
  2. Boston
  3. New York

Who has the Atlantic Division edge?

From the looks of it, these teams are more evenly tied than we think. Toronto and New York have elected to build around star players while Boston has aimed to build a more complete team. The difference, though, between Toronto and New York is that Toronto has much better complementary pieces to their star players. They have much better depth than New York and built a complete team despite centering on stars. Due to this, for now we have to rank Toronto in first. The question becomes who comes in second: Boston or New York? While Boston does not have a true superstar, they have a very complete team. They have one of the more underrated back-courts in the NBA with Thomas and Bradley and are consistent at the other positions. While New York has Carmelo and Kristaps, they still lack in the other positions to put them ahead of Boston. With these rankings, we will rank the Atlantic Division:

  1. Toronto Raptors
  2. Boston Celtics
  3. New York Knicks

This is a long season though, so things can change. There will be moves made by these teams that could alter the rankings. There is no doubt all will look to make moves to put themselves ahead of Cleveland. What do you think? Do you agree with the rankings? Leave a comment and give your opinion.