With some of the best free agents off the market and teams finally molding into the form that they may look like come October, here's a good opportunity to start off the predictions for the 09-10 NBA season.
I will start off with a team-by-team analysis with the position I expect them to finish in the upcoming season. These predictions are made on the assumptions that the teams will remain relatively healthy (lol)
(1) Orlando Magic (68-14)
True they have lost Hedo, his 18-5-5 and Alston but they have replaced him with Vince Carter, his 21-5-5 and Brandon Bass. Bass is pure energy and playing alongside Dwight, he will be the perfect role player that Orlando needed at the 4 spot.
This will help Rashard move back onto his natural position with Pietrus coming off the bench and VC manning SG. This team has improved dramatically and assuming Jameer can return back to his all-star form this team will be unstoppable.
(2) Cleveland Cavaliers (67-15)
LeBron James is unstoppable as it is. What happens when you add Shaq to this team? The team just becomes that much better.
Shaq might have an ego issue but remember he always starts off well, he just starts becoming a thorn the longer he is on the team. And that's why this is a one-and-done deal for the Cavs. Everything is about winning it all NOW. Not next year—now.
And I think Shaq and LeBron has what it takes to take it in the East. They have basically replaced Ben Wallace with Shaq and I think anyone would agree as nothing else has changed with this team...that is a tremendous upgrade. They have also added Anthony Parker who is an amazing defensive player with a really nice shot.
(3) Boston Celtics (60-22)
They get Rasheed and by the looks of it may also have Marquis Daniels in the bag but might end up losing Leon Powe and Glen Davis. This makes them really small in the forward and center spots and unless they manage to resign Glen Davis, any single injury to Garnett, Wallace or Perkins could really cause a major dent in their championship hunt. Their big 3 is the oldest among all the major powers in the NBA and it required the Glen Davis to save their behinds in the playoffs and with KG coming off a major knee injury, the Celtics will be careful with him and might not have not have enough firepower to withstand the grueling journey back to the Finals.
Yet Rondo gives them a chance, but there's apparently a storm brewing between Rondo and the Celtics.
(4) Washington Wizards (55-27)
They made all the right moves this off-season and assuming Gilbert Arenas can return as Hibachi, expect this team to make a huge turnaround with Flip Saunders manning the coaching duties.
They will become the new run-and-gun team of the East and a team that trades away their 5th round draft pick for Mike Miller and Randy Foye is looking at making some noise now.
(5) Toronto Raptors (52-30)
Bryan Colangelo has been nothing short of utter brilliance this summer. A major thorn in their team last year was missed defensive assignments and overall toughness of the squad. With Bargnani emerging as the next Nowitzki, a new signing in Hedo, the possibility of having Jarrett Jack as the backup to Jose, trading for Reggie Evans and Antoine Wright and the drafting of DeMarr DeRozan, the Raptors have finally surrounded Bosh with a supporting cast that can claim to be one of the deepest in the league. There's also a chance that Carlos Delfino and Rasho Nesterovic might return back to the team and this again will help out the psyche of this team a lot moving forwards.
It all depends on new head coach Jay Triano and he can't use the excuse of not having a proper training camp to implement his system anymore. For the Raptors, this is their one shot to redeem themselves and let the rest of the East know that the Raptors are not among the cellar dwellers but a rising team capable of contending for the NBA championship. If Triano fails to get off to a good start expect him to be replaced immediately.
(6) Miami Heat (45-37)
Miami is one of those teams that are really trying to upgrade their roster around Wade, with still keeping their options open for 2010. They are apparently in the Boozer and Odom sweepstakes and they better make a major move to land a good low post player that can complement Wade. I also fully expect Miami to sign Allen Iverson and that would be a backcourt combo teams would hate to face. If A.I. doesn't take his services to Miami, I would expect them to drop a spot or two.
(7) Atlanta Hawks (43-39)
They are bringing back the same team as last year.
(8) Charlotte Bobcats (42-40)
This is the year when the East finally stops letting under .500 teams make the playoffs and Charlotte will surprise a lot of teams this year. They have a solid nucleus and one of the best defensive coaches behind their bench. They are also apparently trying to lure Allen Iverson, which will be great due to Iverson's history with Brown. Larry Brown signed on to take this job for a reason and he will take this team to the playoffs.
(9) Philadelphia 76ers (40-42)
Philly will be fighting it out with the rest of the East underlings for the 8th spot. Just for everyone's notice, Elton Brand WILL be implemented into their system.
They are returning back with the same core but with a new head coach comes a new mantra and the East being the East will have a couple of teams make the playoffs who generally wouldn't deserve to do so, but if they do Philly would be one of those teams.
(10) Detroit Pistons (38-44)
Yeh...there's a chance they will probably acquire Carlos Boozer and Chris Wilcox apparently has also been nagged from the Free Agent List. A lineup that features Ben Gordon, Charlie V, Tayshaun Prince and possibly Boozer may be formidable but a rookie head coach needs time to learn the ropes of coaching and too many changes never bodes well for a team.
I don't see the Pistons making the playoffs this year and if they do it will be sneaking into the 8th spot.
(11) Chicago Bulls (35-47)
Losing Ben Gordon will hurt and unless Tyrus Thomas and Derrick Rose can somehow become the next Amare and Nash, I don't see this team pulling off a similar run to last year. They have added Jannero Pargo and are also trying to land Carlos Boozer on their team. If they manage to get Boozer without giving up too much in return, this team will be fighting for one of the last spots. If no big changes happen with the roster, it's just not good enough.
(12) Milwaukee Bucks (34-48)
They lost Charlie V and are continually hoping on Bogut to finally break through. Don't expect it to happen.
(13) Indiana Pacers (30-52)
When will the rebuilding begin?
(14) New York Knicks (25-57)
One more year of torture....
(15) New Jersey Nets (15-67)
Who else feels sorry for Lawrence Frank?
(1) San Antonio Spurs (67-15)
This team never dies. Just when it seems this team might succumb to rebuilding mode, RC Buford and Pop makes them relevant again.
They have traded for Richard Jefferson without losing out on any of their big three, retained their core group of reserves, acquired Antonio McDyess and drafted an All-American First team PF in the 2nd round—DeJaun Blair!!!!
This kid is the next Elton Brand in the making, and with George Hill emerging as a solid backup PG, the Spurs have two solid PG's to run the show. This is also the year when Ian Mahinmi, the much hyped up Spurs centre makes his debut, and the Spurs already have one of the deepest team in the league and assuming this team can remain healthy come playoff time, I fully expect them to plough through.
(2) Los Angeles Lakers (65-17)
With Millsap returning back to the Jazz, Portland should now focus their attention on Lamar Odom, which pretty much means that they can offer Odom the money that the Lakers are reluctant to give and that could result in a hasty goodbye.
Assuming this is the case, the Lakers have just lost both their SF's and have replaced the combination of Ariza and Odom with Artest. Now this might work out well for them or it might result in an early exit in the playoffs.
(3) Portland Trailblazers (61-21)
They tried Hedo...who bolted for Toronto, then they tried Millsap...who resigned back with the Jazz and they will probably make a run at Odom, who they should have tried to lure initially in my opinion.
I fully expect Odom to sign with this team and that being said they are the new up and coming superpower in the NBA. With a group that's just overflowing with talented young players, expect the Blazers to trade or sign for a veteran centre who can keep Oden and Aldridge in check.
(4) Denver Nuggets (59-23)
They are bringing back the same team as last year, probably without Kleiza. If Billups can still man the point efficiently, and JR Smith improves upon last year, this team could make some noise in the playoffs.
(5) Utah Jazz (56-26)
Let's show Deron Williams some love here. This guy is the ShiZzZ. The second best PG in the NBA still has the best crossovers and the Jazz still have amazing players surrounding him.
They have retained Millsap and are most likely going to trade Boozer. They made the playoffs last year without Boozer and with the team finally settled in with a solid core, Deron will lead this team to the playoffs.
(6) Dallas Mavericks (52-30)
The Mavericks signed Shawn Marion but they lost Bass and couldn't sign Gorcat. That's not good news. They will probably make a run at Glen Davis or one of the other available bigs with their mid-level, but not being able to make a move that will put a contender status on their team this summer has hurt this team bad.
Expect Dallas to pick up someone's contract by dangling Dampier's expiring contract at the trade deadline.
(7) New Orleans Hornets (50-32)
CP3 can't do it all and financially this team is suffering. Expect Tyson Chandler to finally get traded sometime during this season and this team will suffer in the long run because of it.
(8) Phoenix Suns (48-34)
They will be running their way into the playoffs and assuming Amare makes a full recovery and Steve Nash still has some magic left in him, they will be fighting for one of the last spots