After a tumultuous offseason, several teams in the Eastern Conference have gotten makeovers, setting the scene for what promises to be an exciting 2012-2013 campaign.
You have the reigning champion Miami Heat, bolstered by this summer's acquisition of Ray Allen. You have the Philadelphia 76ers, who just added the second-best center in the NBA. And you have the Dwight Howard-less Orlando Magic, who may as well wave the white flag before the season even begins.
Here are my projected division winners in the Eastern Conference for the 2012-2013 NBA season.
Atlantic: Boston Celtics
Yes, the Celtics lost one of the greatest shooters of all time in Ray Allen in the offseason, but they also added Jason Terry and Courtney Lee, and Jeff Green is back.
Kevin Garnett played out of his mind last season at center, and Boston still has one of the best point guards in the league in Rajon Rondo.
The only team I could see challenging the Celtics in the Atlantic is the Philadelphia 76ers, who landed Andrew Bynum in the offseason. But I think it will take some time for Bynum to adjust to his new team (and a new conference) and he's coming off knee surgery, thus giving the Celtics the edge.
Central: Indiana Pacers
Will the Pacers capture the Central in 2012-2013?
With Derrick Rose expected to be out until at least after the All-Star break, it's hard to see the Chicago Bulls taking the Central division in 2012-2013, especially with the rising Indiana Pacers waiting in the wings.
The Pacers captured the third seed in the East with a 42-24 record last season, and they made two important moves by re-signing center Roy Hibbert and guard George Hill. With a starting lineup of Hill, Paul George, Danny Granger, David West and Hibbert, you have to like this team's chances.
Indiana held opponents to 43.5 percent shooting last season. The defense, along with the development of young players such as George, should help the Pacers capture the Central in 2012-2013.
Southeast: Miami Heat
Surprise, surprise. I'm picking the Miami Heat in the Southeast.
Like practically everyone in the world.
When the Atlanta Hawks traded away Joe Johnson in the offseason, the message was clear: there needed to be some form of rebuilding after making the playoffs for five straight seasons, yet failing to get past the second round in any of those seasons.
I do like the pick of rookie sharpshooter John Jenkins, but the Hawks can't compete with the reigning champions.
As for the Orlando Magic, do I really need to explain? They lost the best center in the league and they came way with a few average players (with the possible exception of rookie Moe Harkless) and only two unconditional draft picks. If you thought last season was bad, it could be even worse this season for the Magic.
Oh yeah, and the Heat added Ray Allen in the offseason.