Well, we’re a week into the season, and like I said during our Western Conference predictions, we probably wouldn’t get these ones up until a few games in. None of us follow the Eastern Conference like we follow the Pacific Division, but it’s still fun to shed some of our expertise on the OTHER conference.
1) Miami Heat – Much has been made of Lebron’s newly found post game. Sure, that might help, but what is really going to help is having a better cast around the big 3 and a full season under their belt together. Battier might not be what he was a few years ago, but he’s going to be a great glue guy and help get everyone get on the same page. Udonis Haslem wasn’t an addition, but having him healthy will be a HUGE help. I actually think not having Dampier and Big Z slowing them down on the fast break is an advantage even if they are very thin up front with only Curry’s carcass and Joel Anthony.
2) Chicago Bulls – The Bulls pretty much stood pat during the offseason, and rightfully so. The reigning MVP should get even better than he was, because he seems to do that every year. I see Boozer playing better now that he knows the team philosophies and is more comfortable with his teammates.
3) New York Knicks – I’m not sure why I believe in the Knicks after going through a crap west coast run losing to the Lakers and Warriors, but they have a possibly great player in Baron if he’s in shape. When you can get him excited about basketball in front of a good crowd, he plays well. He sucked it up on the Clippers, and when he realized how good Blake Griffin was, he started getting in shape and playing hard (which pissed Sterling off to the point he exiled him to Cleveland when Baron was playing his best ball as a Clipper). Playing with Melo and Amare in MSG will motivate Baron to be good again, and he doesn’t even need to be great, just better than Tony Douglas, which shouldn’t be hard…
4) Boston Celtics – I’m not sure I believe they’ll be the 4th best team, so that’s two picks in a row I’m not sure I should’ve made, but at the same time this team is too talented to not be in the mix in one way or another with four all-stars on the team. I really liked the addition of Brandon Bass to the roster, dude’s going to be great at keeping KG’s minutes down this year. Their biggest question always seems to be Rondo. The emotional guy who is an amazing point guard, but has no offensive game. I hope all that negative energy towards him made him work on his jumper this off-season. I don’t think the 0-3 start is anything to worry too much about.
5) Atlanta Hawks – Feels about right for the Hawks. They didn’t improve the roster with the additions of McGrady and Pargo over re-signing Crawford, but they didn’t really regress that much either. Joe Johnson’s ridiculous contract is in year two. Josh Smith is a beast, but will they move him for some idiotic reason?!?
6) Orlando Magic – Remember last year how the whole Melo trade swirling around Denver hurt them? I see something like that happening this year, but they’re still a good enough team to make the playoffs with or without Dwight for half the season.
7) Indiana Pacers – There’s a lot of people on the Pacers bandwagon. I guess I can see why since they seem to fit well together. Collison left a lot to be desired at the point last year, but with West, Granger, and Paul George breaking onto the scene they should be a stout defensive team that can also score with the best of them.
8) Philadelphia 76ers – Not completely confident in why I’m picking them, but I feel like their pieces fit pretty well like Indiana’s. They have a solid mix of veterans and youngsters, that should mesh well as the season goes along. Everyone seems high on Jrue Holiday (rightfully so), but what I like most about this team is their team defense. They have scrappy guys all over the court, and on a given night it’s a good offensive game to score 90+ on them.
1) Miami Heat – They sure look pissed. I have no reason to believe they’ll go further in this year’s playoffs than they did last, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go 61-5 in the regular season. They’re out the gates at 3-0.
2) Chicago Bulls – They pretty much return the same team that went 62-20 last year. Derrick Rose is one year deeper into his prime. The guy’s still 23. If he follows his career season trends, he ought to average 30 and 8 this year.
3) Boston Celtics – I guess I have to go Atlantic Division team if we’re predicting playoff seeds. If these are just power rankings, move them down. The Celtics clearly need Paul Pierce back, but I think they’ll be more consistent than the Knicks and beat them out by a few games.
4) Indiana Pacers – David West’s addition makes them a playoff team. I’m going out on a limb putting them at 4th, but I may as well go all the way out on that limb. They really need to improve their backcourt, but maybe this is the year Darren Collison breaks out.
5) New York Knicks – Carmelo and Amare will be playing some motivated ball this year, but their success will depend on if they can get anyone to play with them. They don’t leave a whole lot of shots for other guys. They’re pretty thin as you go down the roster. They just added Jeremy Lin, for what that’s worth.
6) Atlanta Hawks – The Hawks can’t seem to get over the hump. They’re not old, but it feels like the window is closing for some reason.
7) Milwaukee Bucks – I’m pretty much just rolling the dice on everyone staying healthy. It won’t happen, but Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut, with a dialed-in Stephen Jackson would be a playoff team.
8) Orlando Magic – They’ll float around .500 for the first 2/3 of the year, then they’ll trade Dwight Howard and starting piling up the losses. They’ll back into the playoffs and get destroyed in the first round of the playoffs against Miami.