#1 Boston Celtics – They’re still the best team overall in the East, there’s just too many variables with the Celtics. Of course age is always a question, but I think they’ll be driven this year…. enough to capture the top seed in the East again. They’ve got enough big bodies to let Garnett fade into the background (clearly it’s time), and as long as Rondo, Pierce, or Ray Allen is on the floor, they’ll be okay. They’ll come out on top in the regular season, but I don’t expect a similar result in the postseason.
#2 Atlanta Hawks – Quietly the second best regular season team in the East. The Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford core is good enough to contend with anybody, but they need to upgrade from Mike Bibby. Not saying he’s the weak link, but the aforementioned trio deserves a playmaker to run the floor with them. You know, someone that’ll rack up more than 4.5 assists per game. Do they even have a point guard on their roster? I guess Jeff Teague is the future. I bet they wish they still had Acie Law right about now!
#3 Orlando Magic – If basketball teams had middle names, Orlando’s would be Thirdseed. Consistency is key here. Vince Carter’s still old. Dwight Howard still has no offensive game. Rashard Lewis is still a fluke. And Jameer Nelson is still the best player on the team. They’ll surely rack up the victories in that crazy new arena.
#4 Miami Heat – I’m not trying to say they’re the fourth best team, but let’s be honest. Miami will just play well enough to clinch a home court in the first round and go from there. Wade will miss about 20 games, Lebron will miss 10 – although not at the same time. Or would they? They might have to take nights off together once Bosh grows tired of 8 point, 8 rebound games. These guys aren’t thinking about the regular season though. So this is really all irrelevant to them.
#5 Milwaukee Bucks – They made it last year, no reason they can’t make it again. Corey Maggette isn’t that big of a cancer. But with him and Salmons and Jennings, I don’t know if Bogut ever even SEES a ball he didn’t rebound. Jon Brockman and Larry Sanders sound like a helluva news anchor duo though.
#6 New York Knicks – Amare in New York has changed the forecast pretty significantly. The best part is that they’re almost completely rid of dead weight on the roster. There’s just that one last Eddy Curry in the room. They have some solid pieces and the East just isn’t that deep this year.
#7 Chicago Bulls – Picking up Boozer was huge since his presence on the IR usually allows young big men to step up in his absence, see Taj Gibson. The Bulls are still one more superstar away from being a contender. Anyone know of any superstars the Bulls might be trying to acquire? It doesn’t matter, it wouldn’t change their fortune much.
#8 Indiana Pacers – Here’s my sleeper pick for the year. The Eastern Conference always has at least one darkhorse team that no one really saw making the playoffs that gets in. Last year it was Charlotte. This year it won’t be. Philadelphia MAY challenge for this spot, but I really think this is the playoff debut of the Danny Granger-led Pacers. They gave up 122 to San Antonio and Roy Hibbert was their leading scorer in the opener, but I think the Pacers can accidentally go 37-45 and snatch the 8th spot. Just remember these words: Mike Dunleavy was MADE for the postseason.
#1 Miami Heat – I’m not really sure what to make of the Heat, but with Wade and Lebron you have to know they will figure it out at some point and rattle off 20 wins in a row. If Lebron can carry those crappy Cavs teams by himself, then he should be able to do it even if Wade gets hurt. Having Bosh and Wade he already has better teammates than he ever did, so who cares who else is out there. Will Lebron get butt hurt if you question what he should do? I just want him to stop caring what people think, and play ball.
#2 Chicago Bulls – Aside from Boozer, they picked up Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver to come off the bench. This team actually has some solid depth now. Noah is coming into his own, and Derrick Rose is the best player that isn’t a huge fantasy factor in this league. They are a real threat in the East! Maybe they won’t be the two seed, but playing Indy, Cleveland, and Detroit in the division a lot has to help. If they pull the trigger on a Melo trade, that could change everything in the confrence!
#3 Boston Celtics – Kind of like the Lakers, but their average age is 10 years older. They will make the playoffs, and are so deep and experienced it doesn’t really matter what seed they end up. It’s impossible to not love the size they added between Shaq and Jermaine. Rondo looks like he wants to average 20 assists a game this season and is completing more passes than Brady. The C’s got lucky having an old school PG with a bunch of old players!
#4 Atlanta Hawks – Sure, their playoff performance was bad, but does that mean this team is bad? I don’t think so. I think Larry Drew’s new offense will make them a lot better. It was a mistake to play the watch Joe Johnson do something offense, so I guess that’s why they promoted a new coach to the helm. They are athletic, and more importantly, are happy this year. This should be a fun team to watch this year opposed to last seasons team that looked like they were about to get their teeth drilled.
#5 Orlando Magic – Barely any moving parts from last season to this year, but I felt like they’ve over achieved. I need to see Dwight develop a little more. I think Jameer might give them a couple more wins if he actually stays in the lineup. Orlando is starting to feel like the Mavs of the West. They are good enough to make it to and sometimes deep in the playoffs, but ultimately aren’t a championship team. That being said, if Vince remembers how to play they could be a higher seed than five.
#6 Milwaukee Bucks – Did they get better adding more ball hogs to the roster? I’m not sure, but Bogut and Jennings showed they are the real deal, so why not put them at the 6th seed. They have a solid bench, so if they get struck with injuries this year they might be able to survive. I’m going to call them the Blazers of the East.
#7 Charlotte Bobcats – I’m not that high on them and their snail paced offense, but Larry Brown is a hell of a coach, so they could be one of the Eastern teams that gets stomped in the first round by the alpha teams. Will Gerald Wallace last all season? Will SJax bomb too many ill advised threes? Only time will tell, but we know they will be disciplined, and they do have the players to pile up some wins.
#8 New York Knicks – Somebody has to take the 8th seed. It was a coin flip between NY and Cleveland. I guess Cleveland loses once again. I would like to see if Randolph finally does something, but it sounds like he’s just as lost in NY. He needs to start showing he can retain some information, before he finally grows into his potential.
#1 Miami – So Miami loses their season opener and all the experts jump ship? They may not go 82-0, and they definitely have to work out some kinks, but there’s too much talent on this team for them not to dominate the regular season. I think the main question surrounding this team was, who was going to be the alpha dog? It seems we have an answer. Wade. And Bron don’t mind.
#2 Boston – This list isn’t based on overall ranking, if that were the case, Boston would sit atop the East. Instead, I have the C’s winning the Atlantic easily, earning them a second seed come playoff time. It’s no secret anymore, Rajon Rondo is the best player in Boston, and the way he dominates a game without scoring is unheard of. The question is, how do you slow him down? He’s got a mismatch against any point guard in the conference. Until a team finds an answer to that question, I have Boston as the team to beat out East (overall). By the way, I forgot the names of his other teammates, but I think they’re pretty good too. Old though.
#3 Chicago – The way Boston will run away with the Atlantic, Chicago will do so with the Central. No one in the division will be able to challenge the combination of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. I love those two as building blocks for a young team. Now add Carlos Boozer, and all of a sudden this team is a legit contender in the conference. Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, and the addition of Kyle Korver and Floyd Mayweather’s BFF, CJ Watson, round out a pretty solid unit. The Bulls can make a splash this season, no question.
#4 Orlando – Orlando will actually finish with a better record than Chicago, unfortunately they play in the toughest conference in the East. If Vince Carter was still Hedo Turkoglu, I’d consider Orlando the favorite out East. Unfortunately, Vince Carter is Vince Carter. What happened to Rashard Lewis? Doesn’t it seem like ages ago that he was good? Still, when you have a guy like Dwight Howard patrolling the paint, fourth place is the worse you can do in the conference. I have to say this though, as talented as the Magic look on paper, the reality of it is, JJ Redick is their second best player. They don’t sound like a top two team in the conference now, do they?
#5 Atlanta – Oh the poor Hawks. The way they’ve built their team is to contend for a top five spot out East for the next couple of years, nothing more. The Hawks have plenty of young talent, Al Horford, J-Smoove and Joe Johnson, but something about them doesn’t click. I just don’t see Atlanta over taking any team above them on this list. Add to that, learning a new offense this season, and it feels like regression as oppose to progression in Atlanta. I really like this team too.
#6 Charlotte – Charlotte gets in kind of by default. Once you past Atlanta in the East, the talent pool isn’t deep within the conference. But, Larry Brown is one of the greatest coaches to ever be involved in basketball, so the Bobcats will be well schooled. That alone should earn them a look out East. It’ll be interesting to see what Tyrus Thomas does with what woud be his greatest opportunity to shine. Gerald Wallace and Captain Jack are still in Charlotte, and when you add everything up, you got a decent team. They’ll be ousted in the first though.
#7 New York/New Jersey – This gets interesting. It’s almost a certainty that Melo’s coming to town. Which team is the question. I think Denver holds on to Melo for as long as they can, then deals him just prior to the trade deadline. That means Melo will have less than half a season to get in sync with his new team. The Melo/Stoudemire, or Melo/Lopez combination will be good enough to get them a seventh seed out East, but don’t expect anything more but a playoff appearance this season. Next season will be when Melo and NY/NJ do some damage. Of course, if there is a next season.
#8 Indiana? – I put a question mark because I literally don’t know who to throw in at this spot. I don’t like Milwaukee this season, especially if Bogut is not fully recovered. Who else is there out East? Philly, maybe? Cleveland … ? Of all the remaining teams, I like Indiana. Danny Granger is a scoring machine, and it finally looks as if Roy Hibbert is going to be a consistent factor for the Pacers. Add Darren Collison to the mix, and I kind of dig what they got developing out there in Indy. So yeah, I guess Indy’s in.