Ahhh...the old, the East is a beast argument. The Eastern Conference has gone through several changes with teams like the Chicago Bulls and the Boston Celtics beefing up their lineups, and the Orlando Magic making personnel changes. So is the East as tough as is being reported?
In a word, no.
The Hawks don't have the depth, the Bobcats don't have the scoring, and the Raptors, Cavaliers, Nets, and Knicks are rebuilding.
So that leaves Orlando, Boston, and Chicago.
Orlando has Dwight Howard, who is continuing to improve, but can't beat the Heat by himself. The Magic are overmatched at practically every single position versus the Heat. I'm not saying they could not win, but they would have to figure out how to use their defensive liabilities in Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter.
The Bulls have made a lot of changes, and they will be better next year, but I disagree with those who predict that they will challenge for the East.
Yeah, they will be better defensively with the inclusion of Ronnie Brewer and the insertion of Tom Thibodeau as coach. But they still look like a primarily jump shooting team to me, and unless Kyle Korver averages more than seven ppg, and Brewer improves on his ghastly 26 percent from downtown and 63 FT percentage from last season, I don't know where this team will get consistent offense from.
I also don't think that Carlos Boozer is going to be the post-presence that some believe he will be. He is a good player, good for a solid 19 ppg and 11 rpg, but I've never seen him as a go-to guy. I think he would be a good third- or fourth-option on an already solid squad, kind of like Lamar Odom for LA, but not the go-to guy.
Derrick Rose will have another strong season, but he and Joakim Noah are still maturing and learning the game. I think they need more time to develop before they can knock off the Heat.
This leaves Boston, for me hands down the biggest threat to Miami, if Miami lives up to expectations. The Celtics have a great point guard, experience, motivation (this could be the last dance for this group), and a great coach. But I still wonder if their health will last throughout the season.
The point is: While there are some teams in the East that have gotten a bit better, don't be surprised if by January, we are talking about the title contenders consisting of about two, maybe three teams per conference, and several of the "beasts of the East" being largely considered after thoughts.