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Carmelo Anthony may challenge LeBron James in the MVP race, but Anthony's Knicks simply cannot match the talent of James' Heat.
While the East may be lacking for depth, it's certainly not hurting for talent at the top.
There are possibly as many as seven teams with at least outside hopes of competing for a championship.
That is, if they are able to get through South Beach.
8. Atlanta Hawks: Josh Smith and Al Horford give coach Larry Drew plenty of lineup possibilities given their versatility.
Spark plug Louis Williams has done his best (20.5 points through two games) to fill the scoring void vacated by Joe Johnson, while Jeff Teague has continued to evolve as a play-making point guard.
Between DeShawn Stevenson, Ivan Johnson and Zaza Pachulia, this team has the requisite toughness to be a tough out in its opening-round matchup.
7. Chicago Bulls: While Derrick Rose's return still lacks a concrete timetable, the simple fact that he will return at some point this season keeps Chicago in the playoff picture.
Joakim Noah and Luol Deng have led the charge for Tom Thibodeau's club, but Carlos Boozer may be the key to holding this all together.
Boozer's no a longer a 20/10 player, but even if he can approach the 17.5/9.6 line he averaged in his Bulls' debut season in 2010-11, that might be enough.
6. Philadelphia 76ers: Coach Doug Collins' squad had an injury-assisted (Derrick Rose) trip to the second round of the postseason, but with the arrival of Andrew Bynum they have legitimate thoughts of at least matching that performance.
But this is also a roster in flux.
Point guard Jrue Holiday and forward Thaddeus Young seem best fit to play an-up-down game, but how this team fares when the pace slows for Bynum will determine its conference positioning.
5. Brooklyn Nets: As the attention shifts away from the return of professional sports to Brooklyn and on to the Barclays Center hardwood, the excitement level should remain.
Why? Because the Nets are putting forth a strong product for the rabid fanbase.
Deron Williams and Joe Johnson may constitute the NBA's backcourt and are talented enough to keep Avery Johnson's team in the conference's upper echelon. But the play of Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez will determine just how far up the standings they can climb.
4. Indiana Pacers: Basketball pundits predicted this season to be the transition of this franchise to young stars Paul George and Roy Hibbert.
With Danny Granger reportedly out for three months with a knee injury (via Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star), that transition needs to happen sooner than later.
But even without Granger, this is a talented playoff roster.
3. Boston Celtics: Despite maintaining four-fifths of their 2011-12 starting lineup, the Celtics underwent a massive personnel change over the summer.
So Boston fans should anticipate a stumble out of the starting gate as the new players search to identify their roles and develop some chemistry.
Even still, this veteran-laden roster should handle these changes quicker than most, and it now has the depth to give aging stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce some needed rest over the 82-game season.
2. New York Knicks: Carmelo Anthony could make a serious push for the scoring title, but it's Mike Woodson's prolific perimeter attack that could earn the Knicks home-court advantage for at least the first two rounds of the postseason.
Raymond Felton should continue to improve as a playmaker under the direction of veterans Jason Kidd and (international veteran) Pablo Prigioni.
Ultimately, their successes will be tied to how well they adapt to the eventual return of Amar'e Stoudemire, but that's a challenge that most NBA franchises would welcome.
1. Miami Heat: Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis have (predictably) emerged as perfect complements to Erik Spoelstra's talented trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
The spacing created in Spoelstra's positionless system is almost unfair given the talent level of the players who take advantage of that spacing.
And don't expect James to be pestered with questions about his lack of closing ability if he looks for Allen late in games.