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The Atlantic, Week 3: Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard and More

Brandon Bass (AP Photo/

Welcome to “The Atlantic,” a weekly column where we ‘trend up’ and ‘trend down’ news and notes from the NBA’s Atlantic Division.

The rumblings of Kevin Garnett’s decline are getting louder. Are the 76ers or the Nets in a better position to land Dwight Howard? Is there anything to be excited about in Toronto? What’s noteworthy in the Atlantic this week?

Boston Celtics (4-8, Third Place)

Trending Up: Talk of Kevin Garnett’s decline

The local media has been talking about Kevin Garnett‘s declining play since the season started, but the national media is just beginning to notice. Garnett’s numbers are down, it’s not  hard to see that, but his mental lapses are even more really worrisome for the 16-year veteran. Garnett often looks lost on the court this season. He’s at his highest turnover rate since 2006, and he lacks the poise we’ve come to expect from him. Maybe he figures it out, maybe he doesn’t, but we definitely haven’t heard the last of Garnett’s struggles.

Trending Down: The shooting of Ray Allen and Brandon Bass

In the last four games, Ray Allen has shot 14-for-37 and Brandon Bass 14-for-35. Their angelic early-season shooting has since come back to earth. Were the Celtics a complete team, this wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, for the Celtics to compete this season, Allen and Bass have to be red hot every night. If the duo that started the season on fire can regain their heat, the Celtics’ offense should find its groove.

Philadelphia 76ers (10-3, First Place)

Trending Up: Trade Chips

Philadelphia is lurking behind Oklahoma City as the hottest team in the NBA, and the 76ers can upgrade their roster significantly without gutting it. If you’re looking for a team that would rent Dwight Howard for a shot at a title, look no further than Philadelphia. A package of Jrue Holliday, Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, Andres Nocioni (for filler) and draft picks is much better than what I see from any other team interested. Add Howard to the already-potent defense of the Sixers and they could become one of the best defensive squads the NBA has ever seen.

Trending Down: Doubt

The Sixers just have to win games to prove their doubters wrong. If the 76ers keep winning games and maintain their current, blistering +15 point differential, we’ll be hearing a lot more about them in June.

New York Knicks (6-7, Second Place)

Trending Up: Iman Shumpert

Iman Shumpert is the lone bright spot in the Knicks’ backcourt rotation. Landry Fields, Mike Bibby and Toney Douglas just aren’t cutting it for the Knicks, while the Knicks’ first-round pick is averaging 11 points, three rebounds and three assists a game. Shumpert is also third in the league in steals. Shumpert’s ups and downs have been plentiful in the young season, but the rookie’s charisma has been enough to capture the Madison Square Garden crowd. If you’re going to play for the Knicks, the fans have to like you, and New York loves Shumpert.

Trending Down: Offensive efficiency

The Knicks are 26th in the league in field goal percentage, 26th in assists, and 24th in three-point shooting. Mike D’Antoni teams are usually juggernauts on offense, but these Knicks aren’t. If the Knicks continue to play sub-par basketball, questions about whether or not D’Antoni is the right coach for this team are sure to arise again.

Toronto Raptors (4-10, Fourth Place)

Trending Up: Lottery odds

FACT: The Raptors need to land a superstar. FACT: The 2012 NBA draft looks to be full of potential superstars. FACT: Losing games improves an NBA team’s odds of a high draft pick. FACT: The Toronto Raptors are losing games.

Trending Down: Everything else

The Raptors gave the Washington Wizards their first win of the season. For an encore, Toronto lost to Sacramento, then lost their next three. Shooting is down. Rebounding is down. Their best player, Andrea Bargnani, is down with an injury. The Celtics and Raptors have both lost five in a row. Boston’s lone bright spot is that its next opponent is Toronto.

New Jersey Nets (3-11, Fifth Place)

Trending Up: Team health

There’s some good news in Newark/Brooklyn. Deron Williams and Kris Humphries are healthy and playing again. The boot on Brook Lopez‘s previously broken foot will come off later this week. The Nets don’t want to put a timetable on Lopez’s return, but if all goes according to plan, he should be on the court at practice sometime next week. The Nets may finally get to see what their full roster looks like on the court together.

Trending Down: Odds of winning Dwight Howard sweepstakes

Dwight Howard added the L.A. Clippers to the list of teams he would potentially like to play for. Every team Dwight Howard adds hurts the Nets’ leverage to acquire him via trade. A package built on Lopez, Morrow and picks can certainly be topped by the Clippers, Lakers, Sixers or anyone else who may care to enter the bidding. I’m starting to wonder how plausible it is that Howard ends up in Brooklyn next year.

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