NBA Eastern Conference Preview and Predictions
Entering October last year, we all didn’t know whether or not there would be an NBA season to watch. After contract negotiations between the players union and owners, an agreement was reached that let play resume on Christmas Day. Even though the regularly 82-game season was shrunk down to 66 and the schedules were so condensed that teams had back-to-back-to-back games, the season was super exciting to say the least. Yes, the hated Miami Heat took home the title and Lebron James began his quest to prove that he is at least comparable to the great Michael Jordan, but the season threw a whole lot at us that no one expected. I can not express how stoked I am about this upcoming full length season that we have ahead of us. Here is a quick synapses of how I feel each team in the Eastern Conference will fair and why. Look for the Western Conference preview tomorrow, if Hurricane Sandy let’s my power stay on.
1st – New York Knicks (53-29)
There is no more Linsanity and the scapegoat known as Mike D’Antoni is no longer with the Knicks which means that it is Carmelo’s time to put up or shut up. The Knicks brought in a plethora of veterans, some obviously washed up, to build a team that will not only fit Melo’s game, but even give him a slight chance at his first ever NBA Championship. Do I think this team is better than the Heat?…No! Do I think that this team is capable of competing with every team in the league?…Yes! Bringing Raymond Felton back should be able to bring the Amare back that we all saw at the beginning of the 2010 season. Having Jason Kidd there to mentor not only Ray but also the Knicks up and coming defensive phenom, Iman Shumpert, should help this team improve immensely.
2nd – Boston Celtics (50-32)
There is no denying that the loss of Ray Allen to their rival Miami Heat was a painful occurrence but what the Boston Celtics were able to do over the offseason was pretty spectacular. They brought in sharp shooting veteran, Jason Terry, and drafted two potentially very good big men, Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo. I am going to say this now before the season starts; Rajon Rondo will win the NBA MVP this year. Rondo’s stats over the past few seasons ranks up there with the greats like Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson. Adding Courtney Lee to an already powerful roster will only give Rondo more options for his sweet dimes. The Atlantic Division has been the laughing stock of the NBA for almost a decade now, but I think that will change this year.
3rd – Brooklyn Nets (44-38)
New city, new stadium, new players and most importantly, a new attitude. The team formerly known as the New Jersey Nets have moved to Brooklyn and are looking to pick up some of that Brooklyn swag. The biggest move for the Nets was the fact that they were able to resign Free Agent point guard, Deron Williams, to a maximum contract, ensuring that they have a player to build around for years to come. They also signed coveted Free Agent Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks. The highly touted center, Brook Lopez, finally looks healthy and ready to help his team make a playoff run. Outside of sharp shooter, Marshon Brooks, and the inconsistent CJ Watson, I think the Nets will find a lot of trouble when their starters need some rest.
4th – Philadelphia 76ers (42-40)
Philadelphia was last years surprise team. They just squeaked into the playoffs and eliminated the injury plagued #1 seeded Chicago Bulls in the first round. The 76ers, like a lot of other teams, had an extremely busy offseason. They traded away fan favorite, Andre Iguodala, and lost Lou Williams to free agency. They brought in Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson and Nick Young, to build around their core stars Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young. While the 76ers had a great Cinderella Story season last year, their division got a hell of a lot stronger and deeper. I feel that the addition of Andrew Bynum will make Philadelphia a good team for years to come but I just don’t think there will be too much success from this year.
5th – Toronto Raptors (33-49)
So the Toronto Raptors were 6-1 in the preseason and looked pretty damn good with some new faces on their roster. That being said, the preseason is the preseason and everyone and their mothers knows that the Raptors stand absolutely no chance in the Atlantic Division this year. It is fair to say that the Raptors are clearly a work in progress and they are hoping that their first round pick, Terrence Ross out of Washington (8th overall), pans out as a successful one. The Raptors signed one of my favorite Knicks, Landry Fields, in the offseason which will definitely help them defensively but since Landry plays the same position as Ross, I don’t think he will be getting as much playing time as his 3-year $20 million contract deserves. The Raptors also have a talented young PG in Kyle Lowry, who will be backed up by long time Raptor, Jose Calderon.
1st – Chicago Bulls (49-33)
The Chicago Bulls finished last season with the best record in the Eastern Conference. All things heading into the playoffs was looking good for the Bulls until they ran into the Philadelphia 76ers. A season ending injury to their star MVP, Derrick Rose, didn’t help much and now the Bulls are entering the season without Rose. I put them in first in the Central division for a few reasons. The main reason is that outside of the Pacers, the Central Division is relatively weak and the Bulls still have a solid roster even without Rose. Another reason is that the Bulls have an almost identical roster to what they had last year where they showed signs of brilliance even when Rose was bench-ridden. They did lose CJ Watson, but the addition of Nate Robinson and Nazr Mohammed can help their bench out tremendously.
2nd – Indiana Pacers (47-35)
Indiana is coming off of a very successful season where they proved that they can compete in the East. They finished third in the East and easy manhandled the Orlando Magic in the first round of the playoffs. The Pacers are an extremely young team as they only have one player over the age of 30, David West (32), who is arguably one of their best and most important players. Roy Hibbert is coming off of his best season as a professional and he has now made it known that he can compete with any Center the NBA has. The acquisition of DJ Augustin from the Charlotte Bobcats, gives the Pacers one of the best one-two punches at the Point Guard position in the NBA, George Hill being the other.
3rd – Milwaukee Bucks (40-42)
If there has ever been a time where an NBA team has been solely dependent on just two players, it is now. The Milwaukee Bucks have one of the most talented offensive back courts in the NBA, Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, who can take over any game they play. Though both of these players are nearly unstoppable on the offensive end, neither of these players have a shred of defensive abilities. These two players will receive absolutely no offensive help from the rest of their starters, Samuel Dalembert, Drew Gooden and Mike Dunleavy,and the Bucks really do not have any help coming from the bench. Milwaukee’s first round draft pick, John Henson out of North Carolina, is supposed to play a big part in the rebuilding phase for the franchise. .
4th – Cleveland Cavaliers (33-49)
Kyrie Irving, Kyrie Irving, Kyrie Irving! The only thing that the team with the third worst record in the NBA last season has to talk about is the sophomore year for their young superstar Kyrie Irving. Kyrie’s strike-shortened rookie year was nothing short of spectacular as he finished the season with ridiculous statistics. Irving averaged 18.5 PPG, 5.4 APG, 3.8 RPG, 1.1 SPG and .4 BPG last year and literally filled that stat sheet on a nightly basis. It is fair to say that the Cavs were absolutely woeful last year and while the future looks bright, they still have a lot of building and improvement to go. The addition of Tyler Zeller from UNC and a full offseason of training for second year man, Tristan Thompson, the Cavs are slowly putting together pieces to a quality team.
5th – Detroit Pistons (28-54)
Hey Detroit fans, if you think the Tigers loss in the World Series was tough, wait till you have to suffer through this NBA season. There is not much good I can talk about the Pistons as they really didn’t change anything from a year ago where they were one of the worst teams in the NBA. Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey make up one of the weakest back courts in the league and while Greg Monroe looked decent last year, I don’t think he has much potential. The one question mark for Detroit is with their first round pick, Andre Drummond out of UConn. I truly beleive that Drummond can be in the running for Rookie of the Year, but like Irving last season, his lack of support will mean an overall failure for the season.
South East Division
1st – Miami Heat (62-20)
The returning NBA Champions found a way to take a perfect team and make it even better. The addition of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis makes the Miami Heat a nearly unstoppable team. Lebron James is coming off of winning his third NBA MVP and now that he has a Championship under his belt, the comparisons to Michael Jordan are only getting more frequent. On top of having the best team in the NBA, I would say that the Heat play in the weakest division in the league. Even though Mario Chalmers had a decent year last season, I still feel that if Lebron wants to win 6 or more Championships, he will need a better and more consistent Point Guard. As any Sports Debaters readers know, I still hate Erik Spoelstra and feel he needs to be replaced as well.
2nd – Atlanta Hawks (49-33)
The Hawks fans had a sad offseason as they lost one of their franchises best ever players, Joe Johnson, to the newly minted Brooklyn Nets. They did pick up a quality veteran Point Guard from Utah, Devin Harris, a sharp shooting guard from the Nets, Anthony Morrow, and 3-point specialist from the Bulls, Kyle Korver. It feels as if the Atlanta Hawks make some noise every regular season and enter the playoffs as the 4 or 5 seed. Once in the playoffs they never seem to do much of any significance. With Johnson gone, Josh Smith will have to take the reigns as the teams vocal and veteran leader. Their terrible division should help them pick up some easy wins.
3rd – Washington Wizards (36-46)
The Washington Wizards have had a rough stretch over the past few seasons as they are consistently on the bottom of the league. John Wall has been a nice addition over the past couple of seasons and there seems to be an uplifted spirit around the team of late. That being said, the Wizards will not be a winning team this season, but with the addition of Nene, Emeka Okafor, and Trevor Ariza, as well as the drafting of Florida star Bradley Beal, the Wizards are on the right track to be a playoff team once again. The key to all of their successes is whether or not John Wall can stay healthy and be at the forefront of his team all year long. They still need to solidify their bench, but I think the Wizards can be a playoff team as early as next season.
4th – Orlando Magic (32-50)
You would think with all of the Dwight Howard drama behind them that the Orlando Magic would have a stable and functional team. It turns out that isn’t the case and the Magic have the unfortunate situation of looking forward to nothing positive for years to come. Jameer Nelson is back but without Howard he really doesn’t have his safety net anymore. Their starting Center this season is a second year man named Gustavo Ayon. If you just asked who, you are justified because no one knows who Ayon is. The Magic do not have any star power whatsoever and their bench is basically nonexistent, unless you count Al Harrington as a good player still. The only consolation prize that the Magic will take from this season is that at least they aren’t the Charlotte Bobcats.
5th – Charlotte Bobcats (25-57)
The Charlotte Bobcats are one of the most pathetic teams not only in basketball but all of sports. Charles Barkley has called out Michael Jordan and said that he is a terriboo owner. Jordan fired back with some curses and more. The problem is that Barkley is right and Jordan has done nothing positive for a franchise that is going farther and farther in the shitter. They got veteran 2 guard Ben Gordon, who will do nothing for a team filled with nobodies. They lost DJ Augustin and even though they drafted a talented prospect Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, they don’t have enough to win games. I predicted they would win 25 games based solely on believing that no team can be that bad, but we will see starting tomorrow.
That is how I feel the NBA’s Eastern Conference will pan out and I would love it if you told us how you think the season will go and whether or not you agree with us.