A tell tale sign that a conference is doing well is when every player, coach, and fan believes that their team have a shot to make the post season. The 2009-2010 season may be the strongest the East has been in a decade or more and will probably be the most exciting.
A lot of you may disagree with these rankings, but I have compiled a list of the way the East coast may look at the end of the year.
#15 – New Jersey Nets
New Jersey is a team with a load of potential. Harris, Lopez, and Lee are all break out guys who can perform at a high level night in and night out. However, Courtney Lee at the moment is not a good alternative to Vince Carter. Unless someone like Yi Jianlian can have a break out year then the Nets will be going nowhere this season. (Last year #11)
#14 – Milwaukee Bucks
Milwaukee added some talent this off season in Carlos Delfino, Hakim Warrick, and a nice Rookie PG in Jennings. However those acquisitions cannot make up for the loss of Richard Jefferson and Ramon Sessions. In order for the Bucks to get out of the 14 spot then Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd are going to have to be 100% and have good solid years. (Last year #12)
#13 – New York Knicks
New York never made a splash this off-season, trading Quentin Richardson for Darko Milicic was about it. Of course this is all in the hopes of a big off-season. I’m going to bump New York up one position though, just because I believe in Mike D’Antoni and he will make this team improve even if it is just a little bit. (Last year #14)
#12- Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia is a team with a lot of young talent. Whether or not they will harness it or not is still to be questioned. The big question for this upcoming year is if Elton Brand will return to an elite form. Right now he is looking good, but even with Brand coming back; the loss of Andre Miller may cause Philadelphia’s offence to turn into jumbled chaos. 76ers fans better hope Lou Williams is up to the task. (Last year #6)
#11- Charlotte Bobcats
Charlotte made some good strides last year, and now should be a better team in transition with the addition of Tyson Chandler. There is still plenty of talent on Charlotte and the ‘Cats should still compete in more games than usual. But with the teams around them getting better and the Bobcats staying relatively the same they slip down to #11 on my list. Gerald Wallace is going to have to be an all-star for me to think otherwise. (Last year #10)
#10- Indiana Pacers
The Pacers lost, Jack but added Jones, and Watson. It seems to even out and maybe the Pacers have even improved. But, with Dunleavy out for at least the first month and in a tough central division it looks like the Pacers may spend another season knocking off the playoff door. That is of course, unless Danny Granger can have yet another massive year and have some help from TJ. (Last year #9)
#9- Detroit Pistons
As much as I hate to label the Pistons as a team who will miss the playoffs I believe it may happen for the first time in a long time. The days of being a top tier defensive team are over and the days of bringing in alternatives to their leader are still coming strong. I like Ben Gordon, but if Rip and Ben take time finding ways to complement each other on the court then the Pistons may have a hard time finding ways to win this year. Let’s just hope GM Dumars makes a move if it starts looking like an Iverson-Rip situation. (Last year #8)
And now.. My predicted playoff teams
#8- Miami Heat
The Heat should be able to sneak in. Probably downgraded from this time one year ago, but with a healthy year out of Jermaine O’Neal and some improvement out of Michael Beasley and the Heat should be able to have a .500 record or better. Oh, and a guy by the name of Dwayne Wade might help. Wade in my opinion is still the best natural scorer in the game and with it being a contract year then the playoffs are on Wade’s mind for sure. (Last year #5)
#7- Chicago Bulls
All I can say is watching Chicago in the ’09 playoffs tells me there are still big things to come for this team in the 2009-2010 campaign. Losing Ben Gordon is certainly a loss however Derrick Rose is more than capable of having an all-star campaign. John Salmons should step up and have a great offensive year along with solid years from Thomas, Miller, Deng, and Noah. This team will be fun to watch. (Last year #7)
#6- Toronto Raptors
Brian Colangelo was very busy this past off season with several key acquisitions including Hedo Turkoglu, Jarret Jack, Marco Belinelli, and Antwan Wright. It’s a contract year for Bosh and the Raptors will have a healthy Jose Calderon. Watch the entire Raptors team be harder to play against, and with more skill. Colangelo should be up for another executive of the year award after this year. (Last year #13)
#5- Atlanta Hawks
With Joe Johnson leaving after this year the Hawks have even more reason to win. The Hawks are just a solid team to the core. Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Marvin Williams, Mike Bibby, Jamal Crawford to name a few. The Hawks haven’t had much talk besides the announcement that Joe Johnson would seek a new team but it should be known that ATL will be a force to be reckoned with. (Last year #4)
I am very optimistic about the Wizards if the team can stay healthy. Arenas, Jaminson, Butler, Miller, and Haywood is one hell of a solid starting five when all are healthy. I wouldn’t bank on anything but this team will be in the top tier if there isn’t many games lost. Most improved, and most surprising team in the NBA. (Last year #15)
#3- Boston Celtics
The addition of Rasheed Wallace certainly makes the Celtics bigs more dynamic. Look for Boston to be able to spread the floor even more and have a more inside-out offence. The Celtics could easily be two if Garnett shows he is still the man he was pre-surgery; only time will tell, but I like Garnett’s chances. (Last year #2)
#2- Orlando Magic
Despite losing a guy like Turkoglu the Magic became more athletically inclined with the addition of Vince Carter. With Dwight Howard improving each year, I am actually scared to see what kind of numbers he can accomplish this campaign. The Magic have the taste of NBA Finals still in their mouth and expect to see another large season. (Last year #3)
And to no one’s surprise...
The Cav’s added Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, and Shaq during this off-season. Needless to say we could have a match in heaven. A contract year for LeBron and a last legitimate title shot for Shaq has the entire Cavs organization looking with the eye of the tiger and should march away with the Eastern Conference title. I am expecting Cleveland may even reach the 70 win plateau, this could be a historic season in the making. (Last year #1)
So, those are my predictions. Feel free to comment if you agree or disagree with any of those placements. Or you may feel free to further elaborate on my descriptions as they weren’t fully elaborated (Didn’t want to drag this out too long.)
The NBA season is fast approaching, and it can now at least be argued that West is no longer the best.
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