This season comes with unique storylines for the Eastern Conference, from Shaquille O'Neal pairing with LeBron James, to the Boston Celtics hoping for a shot at another title with a healthy Kevin Garnett and the addition of Rasheed Wallace.
Like anything based on best guesses, predictions really don't mean much in the grand scheme of things, other than perhaps providing entertainment to those caught in this calm of the NBA off season. For those fans, these predictions may spark enough conversation to get them through the wait.
With that in mind, here's how the Eastern Conference may look this season:
- Boston Celtics 61-21
- Toronto Raptors 40-42
- New Jersey Nets 32-50
- Philadelphia 76ers 31-51
- New York Knicks 26-56
The East is much better, but other than the Celtics, the Atlantic Division is weak. The Raptors have quietly added some nice pieces to the mix, including Hedo Turkoglu. Keep a careful watch on newly acquired Marco Bellineli, as this could be the opportunity he's been waiting for. Andrea Bargnani should get better also.
The 76ers are hoping Elton Brand comes back healthy, but losing Andre Miller really hurts their up-tempo style of play. He was better than his stats ever indicated. Miller was a true winner and big game player. Think of him as a Chauncey Billups without the outside shot.
- Orlando Magic 58-24
- Miami Heat 48-34
- Washington Wizards 45-37
- Atlanta Hawks 44-38
- Charlotte Bobcats 21-61
Losing Turkoglu will mean the Magic won't have the dual forward of Turk and Rashard Lewis to create match up problems for opponents, but they were smart by not paying him the amount he was asking for. Adding Vince Carter will compensate for that loss with a more consistent (yes, Vince is more consistent) penetrator, who's willing to take big shots.
Miami is adding weapons to try to persuade Dwayne Wade to sign an extension which might not happen. Michael Beasley should get better this season, and the addition of Quentin Richardson will help spread the floor for the opponents' defense, which is something they've desperately needed for a while. The Wizards are expecting to have a healthy Gilbert Arenas this year, and have stockpiled perimeter depth just to be sure. The Hawks haven't lost anyone too significant, and even added Jamal Crawford. However, the division has improved and Crawford, like starting point guard Mike Bibby, is a shoot first point guard who plays little defense.
- Cleveland Cavaliers 63-19
- Chicago Bulls 43-39
- Indiana Pacers 39-42
- Detroit Pistons 36-46
- Milwaukee Bucks 19-63
Adding Shaquille O'Neal to the Cavs shouldn't hurt LeBron's game at all. After all, Shaq was able to win titles with Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade, neither of whom are as versatile as James. The biggest question for Cleveland is whether or not Coach Mike Brown can grow enough of a spine to coach James and Shaq at once. His authority, at times, was questioned this season. However, if he can take the reins of this team, and if he could limit Shaq's minutes to stay healthy so he can split with Zydrunas Ilgauskas, then both centers would likely be at full strength for the playoffs, which would spell danger for other teams.
2010 Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions:First Round:1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs 8 Toronto Raptors (Cavs in five)
2 Boston Celtics vs 7Chicago Bulls (Celtics in six)
3 Orlando Magic vs 6 Atlanta Hawks (Magic in five)
4 Miami Heat vs 5 Washington Wizards (Heat in seven)
Second Round:1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs 4 Miami Heat
2 Boston Celtics vs 3 Orlando Magic
Semifinal Round:1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs 2 Boston Celtics (Celtics in seven)