Who's on Top?: NBA Eastern Conference Positions Itself in Offseason Rankings

Brandon RibakSenior Writer IAugust 18, 2009

BOSTON - FEBRUARY 08:  Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics celebrates a shot against the San Antonio Spurs on February 8, 2009 at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Spurs defeated the Celtics 105-99. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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Top Three Eastern Conference Offseason Rankings

1. Boston Celtics

Although the Celtics have aged, they seem to be 100 percent healthy for the upcoming season. With the recent additions of Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels, Boston finally has some insurance if one of their starters were to go down with an injury.

Rajon Rondo will continue to blossom into a top five point-guard in the league, Kendrick Perkins defensive abilities will persist and possibly enhance, and the re-signing of Glen Davis (after an outstanding postseason) proves that Boston believes he can get better.

Taking the Orlando Magic to a seven game series in the playoffs without Kevin Garnett on the court proves that Boston is undoubtedly the strongest team in the East when healthy.

The biggest concern for the Celtics will be whether or not the veterans of the team can remain on the court all season and playoff long. If so, this team is more than deadly, especially with Rasheed Wallace as their sixth man.

2. Orlando Magic

Even though this opinion is up for constant debate, the Orlando Magic have without a doubt improved after being defeated by the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.

The signings of young forward Brandon Bass, swingman Matt Barnes, and re-signing of Marcin Gortat gives Orlando arguably the deepest bench in the NBA today. Along with them, the Magic also have Mickael Pietrus and Ryan Anderson.

Jameer Nelson's impact will be one of the biggest keys to the Magic's success. If he can consistently produce and play with that All-Star caliber, this team is certainly a force not to be reckoned with.

Vince Carter is getting the opportunity of a lifetime to finally play for a contending team with the possibility of winning a championship. Regardless of his past, Carter is a born superstar with infinite talent, leadership, and determination. At the age of 32, VC can still get up there and will unquestionably grow an even bigger fan base from the outrageous breakout season that is ahead of him.

With all the commotion on the trade, signings, and Rashard Lewis scandal, many opposing NBA fans forget to distinguish the fact that Dwight Howard is still nowhere near his full potential.

At the age of 23, Howard will once again lead the league in RPG and BPG, with the expectancy and anticipation to emerge as the most dominate player in the game today.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers

After winning 66 games last season and improving during this offseason, how in the world can I rank the Cavaliers third on this list?

The reason is because if the Cavs faced up against either the Celtics or the Magic in a seven game series with the roster they have right now, they would lose to both teams.

Yes, LeBron James will get even better next season, but that does not necessarily mean the entire team will.

Shaq is entering his 18th season in the league and although he enjoyed a breakout season last year, you cannot bank on him doing it once again. At his age, injuries come easier, his arsenal becomes a bit slower, and his overall game declines.

I am not trying to hate on Shaq because he is a definite upgrade from Zydrunas Ilgauskas, but can he defend a young and upcoming Dwight Howard?

In addition to Shaq, the Cavaliers signed both Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon. Both of those players were signed to help Cleveland defend the versatile athletes on both the Celtics and Magic's team and it certainly should.

If LBJ or Shaq goes down, the Cavaliers have no insurance, that is the ultimate difference between them and the top two teams in the East.

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