Eastern Conference preview

Eastern Conference preview

With a compressed 0ff-season almost completed, it's time to break down the Eastern Conference.

11-15: The bottom of the barrel

15: Detroit Pistons

They basically swapped out Richard Hamilton for Brandon Knight. Knight joins the Pistons large but distinguished cast of short guards who fit in more as SGs than PGs. He's a high quality prospect, but the team still has no balance and an overall low talent level. Don't expect much out of this squad.

14: Charlotte Bobcats

I loved watching Kemba Walker in college, but it will be interesting to see how well his game translates to the NBA. Biyombo is a guy who's impressed with his athleticism and hustle, but he doesn't necessarily have a high skill level. The team as constructed has virtually no front court. They do have quite a few young players with potential for improvement, but I expect little this year.

13: Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers fell into tremendous fortune when the Clippers won the lottery giving them the first and fourth picks in the draft. Too bad that didn't happen in 2012 when the draft looked a whole lot more promising. Tristan Thompson and Kyrie Irving give them some reason to be hopeful, but they'll take time to develop and the rest of the cast stinks anyway. They'll be playing for ping pong balls and player development by the end of the year.

12: Toronto Raptors

Well they were terrible last year, and they added no one. Any improvement will come have to come from internal improvement. They have some young talent, but no one that looks likely to switch it into another gear this coming season. DeMar DeRozan is probably their best hope there, but they're still lacking too much talent on the team to go anywhere.

11: Milwaukee Bucks

I remember at the beginning of last season when people thought the Bucks could win 50 games. That was a quick drop back into the cellar. They have a bunch of solid players, but too many of them are new arrivals without enough time to put anything together in camp. If Bogut can sty healthy, and Skiles can pull a rabbit out of his hat they have the best shot of these five teams of climbing into the playoffs.

10-9 They probably stink too

10: New Jersey Nets

The roster is a pile of trash outside of Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, however, maybe that's enough to show build something. They also have the potential to trade for Dwight Howard mid season and turn this whole thing around real fast. If they aren't able to complete a Howard trade, then the rest of the roster probably drags these guys down.

I'm going out on a limb and guessing they don't land Dwight Howard and end up with around a pro-rated 30 wins.

9: Washington Wizards

I'm perhaps forecasting too much improvement on the Wizards not to simply expand my lousy group to seven teams. However, John Wall has star potential and will enter his second year. Nick Young, Jordan Crawford, Andray Blatche [foo!], and JaValee McGee give them young players potentially on the upswing at virtually every position. Rashard Lewis may be the most overpaid player in the NBA, but he's still a quality veteran.

I view them as the wild card of the low rung teams from last season. They could simply not improve as much as I think, or they could take very significant steps forward and become a .500+ team.

6-8: Happy to be there

No one expects these teams to win, but hey at least they're in the playoffs and fans can dare to dream.

8: Atlanta Hawks

They basically swapped out Jamal Crawford for Tracy McGrady last season, but their victory over the Magic covered up a fairly pedestrian season. The Hawks are good enough to consistently beat up on the lousy teams, but aren't good enough to ever fight against the good teams. I expect them to have a moderate decline from last year.

7: Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers didn't really do anything to get better transaction wise and will simply hope Elton Brand can hold things together for another season and that Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, and Thaddeus Young can take steps forward to improve the team. I like their odds of staying a bit over .500, but they aren't a real serious threat to improve considerably.

6: Indiana Pacers

The Pacers, as we know, played the Bulls tough in the playoffs and made one significant signing by adding David West. They look like a tough, physical, annoying team to go against, but ultimately, they're lacking the talent of the teams ahead of them to make it into the next group. Still making it up to the sixth seed and leap frogging a few teams should be viewed as steady progress for the fan base even if it's fools gold with no real way to jump ahead further.

3-5 Contenders in name only

5: Orlando Magic

They're dysfunctional right now, and Dwight Howard looked like he didn't give a rats ass in preseason. Of course, that doesn't mean he'll feel that way when the regular season starts, but he's pissed off and doesn't want to be here. The team hasn't added any real talent and will look to simply do better with the same pieces that failed last season. If things get really bad, the Magic might fall even lower than this, and of course if they trade Howard at the deadline, they likely won't even make the playoffs.

4: Boston Celtics

The loss of Jeff Green and Glen Davis decimates an already pedestrian bench. They're also a much older team not suited to playing in a heavily compressed schedule, and their core group of guys just got a year closer to retirement. The Celtics were somewhat between contender and pretender last year in my opinion, and they'll fall squarely into the pretender category this year. Some will still consider them an elite team, and they'll have their moments, but they won't be able to take out a top team in a playoff series and may not survive the first round.

3: New York Knicks

The Knicks have the star power to play with the big boys. Carmelo and Amare are legit star scorers who should be able to carry the offensive load. Tyson Chandler is a perfect complement to the team even if he's now overpaid by about 5 million dollars a year. They'll need to hope they get motivated Baron Davis and will struggle with depth, but they have the stars in place, and the role players will only need to hit open shots and play defense. I expect the Knicks to lose in the second round, but they'll give either Chicago or Miami a heck of a fight there.

2: Miami Heat

I think Miami wins the championship this season, but I don't think they win the East. They will likely drop a few games due to lack of depth in this compressed schedule, and I don't think they'll push an an absurd pace in order to get the #1 seed. They easily dispatched Chicago last year while playing from the 2 spot, and they're in the old Mavericks zone already where regular season means nothing. They either win a championship or they fail. I think they'll get it done this year.

They swapped some deck chairs in their role playing department, but the improvement this team has to make is getting LeBron and Wade to complement each other on offense rather than taking turns isolating against their opponents. If they can find a way to make their games complement each other rather than overlap so much, this team would become completely unstoppable.

1: Chicago Bulls

This number one ranking reflects regular season performance. I think the Bulls will likely lose to Miami in the playoffs again.

However, they improved the team with the best regular season record on the NBA last season by swapping out Keith Bogans for Richard Hamilton. They have several young pieces that will likely make incremental improvements and no one on the team who played a considerable role last season should be on the down swing. Their depth will allow them to cope with a condensed schedule better than many other teams as well.

Much like the Heat, it's championship or bust for this team. They'll have their shot, and they'll need health, but ultimately, I think the big three in Miami figure out how to play together and are simply too much for Chicago in the playoffs.

Comments

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  • The Eastern Conference looks like easy pickings. The Celtics and Orlando have lost their luster. The Knicks are the Tin Men with no heart(other then Chandler) and no defense D'Antoni. If the Bulls stay healthy and Joakim returns to form they should be able to beat all comers excluding Miami. I just don't think they acquired the offensive upgrades they need to beat the Heat.

    Many Bulls fans think the Bulls did the best they could. Either way, I will say if Thibodeau finds a way to keep the players all working together as they did last year they will be a tough out whether Bronald and Wade reach the next level or not. Hopefully Rip and Ronnie provide much more consistent production from the SG spot. Again, Ronnie, Joakim, Boozer, and even Taj all have had injuries derail them. If everyone stays healthy, the Bulls could win the East, but will be underdogs to South Biatch.

  • 1. I think Philadelphia is a threat in the playoffs. I am not saying they are going to win the East. But, they have playmakers(not at LeBron/Wade level) galore. Lou Williams, Turner, Holliday, Igoudala all can create which can duplicated only by Rose on the Bulls. They seem more professional and hardworking(like the Bulls) compared to Wizards or Orlando

    2. I think Miami has a mental edge on the Bulls and the feeling of over-confidence. They feel like no matter what happens during the reg season, they can come back in the 4th quarter and take it a little easy in the first three quarters. You can say all you want that they are hungry but that's probably one of the reasons LeBron hasn't won(he probably thinks his talent is so superior that it will overwhelm(it has mostly) opponents). Dallas stuck it to him when they were overcelebrating in the 2nd/3rd game as if they had won the series.

    For all the problems with the Bulls offense, if Rose and Noah develop that mental toughness(which Brewer, Asik showed), then the Bulls have a chance.

  • Any chance the Bulls or Heat can hold their loss column to 10? It's not comparable to the 95-96 Bulls because of the shorten season, however it could be close. Or does the condensed schedule make it near impossible?

  • In reply to Jmax:

    I think the record would have to be 58-8 to have a comparable winning percentage.

  • In reply to Jmax:

    If the bulls stay healthy, I could see the bulls doing that. Depth and the efficiency they will get from the roster continuity should mean that by February, the bulls are winning easily because most of the other teams are tired/bewildered/uninterested. Hopefully Rose and Deng can keep their minutes closer to 36 than 40 per night.

  • In reply to Jmax:

    No way. Prorated that's a normal 70-12 record. Plus the shortened schedule will allow some crappy teams to win a few more than they would normally, and the great teams to lose a few more.

    Everybody talks about the effects of a shortened season, about having to jump out of the gate early, blah blah blah. BS. It's 16 fewer games. That's less than 1/5 of a usually very long season. The only effect is the games are more condensed, and depth & youth will help.

  • ...and that Charlotte pick just keeps looking better and better.

  • In reply to ManOnNeptune:

    Except for the fact that Charlotte may suck so bad for so long that they might actually be good by the time the Bulls get the pick.

    Here' hoping that they are the new Clippers, at least until 2016

  • In reply to BigWay:

    As long as MJ is running the Bobcats, they could have the #1 overall pick in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 and STILL wind up with the most ping-pong balls in the 2016 Draft Lottery.

    Anyone who took Kwame #1 overall (ahead of Tyson and Pau) and traded a potential unprotected pick for Tyrus Thomas... well, nuff said.

  • I like Philly higher than the C's, and Atlanta could be the three seed because they are still relatively young and have been together for a while. Nobody in the East is going to be better than they are night in and night out except the Bulls and Heat.

    I'd predict Bulls, Heat, Atlanta, Philly, Pacers, C's, Magic, Bucks, and Nets/Wiz/Pistons hanging around at .450 trying to make the 8th spot. Frank will have the Pistons surprising (unfortunately). Outside of Miami and Chicago, any team in the East can be any other team on any given night.

  • NBA Fundamentals
    Richards Hamilton - Moving Without the Ball

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzLA78Qb3fg

  • Off topic, but has anybody been watching NBATV preseason games? Mavs Vs. Thunder the other night, both teams played their starters decent minutes, and the effort was there on both sides like a regular season game.

    While many have thought Westbrook and perhaps OKC as a whole overrated, they have a lot of shooters. At least if that game was any indication. James Harden can flat out shoot. I don't care what his percentages have been so far he looks that good right now. Every player on that team knows how to get to the line with Russell and Kevin leading the way. That takes a whole lot of pressure off of already talented/capable shooters. Cook, Maynor etc. the first round pedigrees are endless.

    Scott Brooks has these guys buying into roles and his ultra competitive hunger radiates from himself through his whole team. That rabid take no prisoners stare reminds me a bit of Chuck Daley in his heyday. I don't know where they ranked last year, but thier defense was very active. I'd say they have a real shot of coming out of the West if everyone stays healthy including Perk and Ibaka.

    How about a Bulls/Rose Vs. Durant/Westbrook Finals?

    (Side note: my pick at the time for the Bulls, Dominique Jones, who was buried in a deep rotation on a contender and scrapped to the D-League, looked like he's at least going to be a nice rotation player/contributor for Dallas. And Odom still can play. Too bad they lost Chandler for D/inatngibles.) Oh, and Vince Carter is the same old self-absorbed showboat. He is on that team for emergency scoring ability only.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    James Harden surprised me with his ball handling capability and also his ability to run the offense during the playoffs. That's why there are so many doubters about the Bulls. All the elite teams have a minimum of two top players in the rotation who can handle the ball.

    But, I don't know about Brooks's coaching though....He is good but he couldn't control Westbrook erratic play in the playoffs when he saw Harden, Maynor could have helped against Dallas. He hasn't proven that he can adjust the roles for his players. I also wonder if OKC can keep up with the big boys of spending when they are spending 30% of their cap on Durant

  • Jones was my pick for the Bulls that year also.

    I love Eric Maynor, and have wanted him as our second point guard since I first laid eyes on him.

    Also, I had hoped to trade Gordon before the Harden Draft to get into the 4 or 5 slot which were rumored to be available by trade to get someone like Harden or Demare Derozen.

    As long as the Bulls are starting Boozer(and Miami is still intact), I think that OKC is a more likely championship up & comer than are the Bulls.

  • "The loss of Jeff Green and Glen Davis decimates an already pedestrian bench."

    Um....Doug? Glen Davis was hot garbage last year. Brandon Bass is much better than him. How is subtracting the very bad Glen Davis and adding the good Brandon Bass part of a decimation of the Celtics bench.

  • Hollingers evaluation of the Magic, check out the info about Richardson(last paragraph). Makes it more likely that the Bulls were never that interested in him, and Hamilton was the top choice all along.

    Key additions: Glen Davis (trade), Jason Richardson (re-signed), Justin Harper (draft), Von Wafer (trade)

    Key subtractions: Gilbert Arenas, Brandon Bass

    The Magic had a pretty bad offseason. The question is, will it progress to Armageddon?

    GM Otis Smith continues to bumble his way through this job in a way that would make Peter Sellers proud. At one point the Magic had a team that looked like a Finals contender for the next five years. Now? It's a mess: Dwight Howard and a bunch of overpaid, underperforming role players.

    At the heart of this year's problems is the fact that Howard is pushing for a trade. The Magic are, rightfully, turning down lousy offers, but at this point it appears unlikely they'll be able to get the same haul for Howard that the Hornets got for Chris Paul.

    Right now the team's two best scenarios involve the Lakers (Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol) or the Nets (Brook Lopez and a plethora of first-round picks). Neither trade gives the Magic back fair value, but it's probably as good as they'll get.

    On the periphery are a number of recent head-scratching moves. The team brought in Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu at last season's trade deadline. A few months later, they regretted that $96 million indiscretion badly. The Magic gave amnesty to Arenas in December, choosing to eat the remaining three years, $62 million on his contract. And now they're insisting that whoever takes Howard takes Turkoglu and his $34 million contract with them.

    On top of that, the team re-signed the aging Jason Richardson to a reported four-year, $25 million deal despite the fact he didn't appear to have any other serious suitors. This, as Magic fans know, is a Smith special. He signs players to big deals without context. The second was trading Bass for Davis. Bass made less money and is a better player. Go figure.

    GRADE: F

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