I'll be breaking down the teams that at first glance will make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Now that free agency is settling down, and Summer League is over, here's a look at whose in the playoffs.
PG- Devin Harris
Bench- Damion James-SF/PF, Jordan Farmar-PG, Travis Outlaw-SF, Courtney Lee-SG, Johan Petro-C
This is based on two things: I truly believe the Nets have made some moves here that will seriously pay of in the long run. Many believe Anthony Morrow could be the steal of free agency as he has shown flashes of stardom.
In the draft, the Nets made the best picks they could have in Derrick Favors. Favors has the highest ceiling of anyone in the draft not named John Wall. I think it's imperative that he starts early. People want to see a No. 3 pick play, not sit, and his defense is good enough to start right now. Damion James was one of the top players this summer in Orlando and looks like he could be a huge contributor. Terrence Wlliams also played exceptionally.
I think talent will begin to show in their first year in Newark, which is one of the top hockey arenas in the NHL. Why wouldn't it work for basketball?
Bench- Kelenna Azubuike-SG, Landry Fields-SF, Toney Douglas-PG, Andy Rautins-SF, Ronny Turiaf-PF, Eddy Curry-C
The Knicks didn't land the big prize in free agency, but they did make a lot of nice moves. Obviously Amar'e is a big time pick up, but its the next two or three best players on the team (Gallinari, Randolph, and Felton) that will decide how far this team goes.
I expect Raymond Felton to finally tap his potential, and I believe numbers close to 18 ppg and 8 apg isn't that out of the question now that he is in a style of offense that matches his skill set. Anthony Randolph could also have a big time breakout season; don't be surprised if he resembles Kenyon Martin circa 2002.
Gallo should continue to improve, but Chandler is an interesting player because he could play the two this season, but also play the four, much like Shawn Marion did for D'Antoni in Phoenix.
PG- Brandon Jennings
Bench-Luc Mbah a Moute-SF/PF, Corey Maggette-SF, Drew Gooden-PF , Chris Douglas-Roberts-SG
The Bucks made huge strides last season, and I expect them to build on that success. Jennings and Bogut should continue to improve, while they hope Michael Redd returns to his old self. John Salmons should continue his spark plug scoring role.
The key battle is between rookie big man Larry Sanders and undersized Luc Mbah a Moute - if one of the two can step up and have a big season, then we will see a much improved Bucks team.
Bench-Avery Bradley-PG/SG, Jermaine O'Neal-C, Glen Davis-PF, Nate Robinson-PG
Perkins will likely miss a good chunk of the season, and Jermaine O'Neal will step in if Shaq is not signed. The Celts made such a strong playoff run that its tough to put them this low, but the Big 3 are another year older and the Perkins injury will hurt worse than they realize.
Losing Tony Allen will hurt, but I think Avery Bradley could be one of the steals of the draft; expect him to fit right in with the disciplined and and defensive-minded Celtcs.
PG- Mike Bibby
SG- Joe Johnson
SF- Marvin Williams
PF- Josh Smith
C- Al Horford
Bench- Jamal Crawford-SG, Jordan Crawford-SG/SF, Jeff Teague-PG, Zaza Pachulia-C, Maurice Evans-SF
No big moves from the Hawks this offseason besides keeping swingman Joe Johnson. Jordan Crawford, could end up being the best steal of the draft as he is immensely talented.
Jeff Teague is a rising star in the league, and if Mike Bibby's play declines or if he gets hurt, expect Teague to never look back. Horford and Smith continue to improve and are as good of big man tandem in the East.
Bench- James Johnson-SF, Kyle Korver-SG, Acie Law-PG, Taj Gibson-PF
Carlos Boozer makes this team a legitimate top three team in the East and probably a top seven-to-10 team in the league. But the most compelling story to me is the apperant arrival of Derrick Rose's jump shot. According to the rising star, "I'd never expect it to have come this far, it's exceeded all expectations." If this is true, watch out, because were talking about a guy who had one hole in his game, that being no jumper.
Boozer and Noah make a very solid pair down low, but the arrival of Boozer may stunt the growth of sophomore, Taj Gibson. Ronnie Brewer is an interesting pick up; mark him under boom or bust.
The Bulls are the team to watch this season.
PG- Jameer Nelson
Bench-Chris Duhon-PG, Brandon Bass-PF, Ryan Anderson-SF,Daniel Orton-PF
The Magic are one of the most complete teams in the NBA, but losing a key player like Matt Barnes will hurt. I'd also consider starting Daniel Orton at the four and moving Lewis to the three.
Although no major moves were made, the threesome of Howard, Nelson, and VC is so talented, and you put Lewis's shooting and you got a scary team.
Bench-Mike Miller-SG, Juwan Howard-PF, Joel Anthony-C, Zydrunas Ilgauskas-C, Jamal Magliore-C, Carlos Arroyo-PG
I know, the easy way out; I'm one of the biggest non-supporters of this power trio, but until proven otherwise they're the top team in the East. Chris Bosh really has to step up and prove he can hang with these two superstars. The Mike Miller signing may come as one of the more important moves of the summer.
Did I mention I hope this whole thing back fires and they never win a title?
Bench-Matt Barnes-SF,Jose Calderon-PG,Marco Belinelli-SG,Amir Johnson-PF,Solomon Alabi-C
The Raptors, even though they lost their franchises' best player ever, they improved. The acquisitions of Leandro Barabosa and Amir Johnson give this team some grit and some much needed firepower. But the real test of this team will be the continued growth of young rising stars Andrea Bargnani, Jarret Jack, and Demar Derozan. Watch out this team could make the playoffs with ease.