The Eastern Conference have quietly surpassed the big bad West in the overall power rankings throughout the past few seasons.
Teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, and Boston Celtics have taken over the NBA, emerging as the top tier leaders throughout the league.
While many might argue that after those three organizations no other team in the East comes even close to their supreme status, recent signings and trades do show that a few non-playoff contenders from last year are destined to improve during the upcoming season.
We start with Chris Bosh and the Toronto Raptors.
The Raptors have had once heckuva off-season thus far, acquiring
F Hedo Turkoglu from the Orlando Magic
G Marco Belinelli from the Golden State Warriors
F Reggie Evans from the Philadelphia 76ers
F Amir Johnson and G Sonny Weems from the Milwaukee Bucks
They also signed G Jarrett Jack, rookie DeMar DeRozan, G Quincy Douby, and C Rasho Nesterovic.
Toronto heads into the season with a revamped roster and high expectations. C Andrea Bargnani broke out last year posting career highs in virtually every category and is bound to break out into a potential All-Star candidate during the '09-'10 season.
The combination of Bargnani and Bosh in the front-court provides Toronto with extreme height (for rebounding, blocking, and overall defensive purposes) and shooting-ability from mid-range all the way out to three-point area.
The two together are arguably the strongest 4 and 5 duo in the East.
30-year-old Hedo Turkoglu will be another major part of the team's nucleus, supplying the young guns with much needed experience, leadership skills, and the Raptors first go-to-guy since the Vince Carter era.
Together, PG's Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack can certainly emerge as one of the elite guard duo's in the Eastern Conference, with Calderon's excellent passing ability and Jack's consistent defensive approach.
Aside from those established players, Raptors fans get the opportunity to cash in their checks on rookie and ninth pick overall F DeMar DeRozan.
If DeRozan can prove capable enough of handling a strong role on the Raptors squad, there is no doubt in any NBA fans mind that this Toronto team has an outstanding chance at contending in the playoffs next season.
Similar to Toronto, the Washington Wizards are another team that has made some noise around the league during the off-season.
The Wizards acquired via trade G Randy Foye and G Mike Miller from the Minnesota Timberwolves, giving up Etan Thomas, Darius Songalia and Oleksiy Pecherov and the No. 5 pick of the 2009 NBA draft.
Aside from a healthy Gilbert Arenas, the Wizards core consists of F Caron Butler, F Antawn Jamison, and C Brendan Haywood.
When at full strength, these four athletes are a force not to be reckoned with.
What makes this Wizards team even more attractive for the upcoming season are their young studs that are slowly emerging into exceptional basketball players, such as G Nick Young, C Andray Blatche, and C JaVale McGee.
In addition to those upcoming players, Washington can rely heavily on three year man Randy Foye to play the two spot aside of Arenas and to run the point when No. 0 is resting.
Along with Foye, the Wizards can depend on nine-year veteran Mike Miller for leadership, defense, and efficient shooting.
To top it off, the Wizards are now coached by the only head coach in the history of the NBA to coach for both conferences in the NBA All-Star game, Flip Saunders.
If all goes well, the Wizards are in for an extremely dangerous season, one that can sky-rocket their ranking all the way up to the cream of the crop.
New York Knicks
Whaat? The New York Knicks?? No way, right? Wrong.
Although many will strongly disagree, the New York Knicks do have a chance to make the playoffs next season (if and ONLY if they re-sign both Nate Robinson and David Lee).
With both back on the roster, the Knicks suddenly have an emphatic front-court consisting of both David Lee (who lead the league in double-doubles last season, ahead of DOY Dwight Howard) and 6'10" rookie Jordan Hill.
Lee and Hill will be depended upon to intimidate and dominate literally anybody they face, and from the signs of things, they look to be up to the task.
Side-wise, New York has a few rookies and youngin's that could shoot the team up in the Eastern rankings. Players like rookie G Toney Douglas, F/C Chris Hunter, and one year man Joe Crawford are three up-comers that have limitless potential in the league.
Along with them, G/F Wilson Chandler will be entering his third season in the NBA and has another breakout season written all over himself.
Since the Knicks are extremely young and inexperienced, the odds of competing for a playoff spot are not in New York's favor.
Although, if the team can consistently give it their all each and every night, they will be a definite sleeper team in the upcoming season.