With the trade deadline now behind us, fans can focus on how teams are currently constituted for the most part. We have seen a major swing of talent moving from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference. The playoffs in the East will be more dramatic than ever. Ratings will look to be at an all-time high.
The New York Knicks are the new kids in playoff town. At the break, they were only two games above .500, but that all changed with the acquisition of Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups. Billups is the cog that will keep the machine running. His past playoff experience and his finals MVP will keep the Knicks dangerous against any team. Amar'e Stoudemire has carried this team with his newly found leadership. The team still has to figure out their roles and mesh within the offense, but with high caliber talent that comes quickly.
Many have questioned Carmelo’s desire on the defensive end; he made some great defensive plays against LeBron James in the win at Miami. Since Nuggets coach George Karl called out Anthony’s defense, the chip on Melo’s shoulder became evident.
The Boston Celtics are an older team that could show their age come May. They dealt one of their biggest role players in Kendrick Perkins. This left a bad taste in the mouths of the fans, writers and players. Some have said that if Perkins would have been healthy last season, his length and size could have helped them beat the Lakers in the finals.
They are counting on Shaquille O’Neal to be healthy down the stretch and newly acquired Troy Murphy to give them minutes. This is a big gamble that the Celtics will have to own up to if they go down early in the playoffs.
Derrick Rose has been carrying the Chicago Bulls since October and is looking at his first MVP trophy. They finally have all of their players together and healthy. Joakim Noah’s foot problems have simmered down. They need him in the post for put backs and defensive boards, because it seems that Carlos Boozer saves his energy for the offensive end.
Coach Tom Thibodeau stresses defense, but if that keeps Kyle Korver off the floor, it could prove to be fatal. He is a big three-point threat, which is great to have on the perimeter when Rose is slashing to the basket.
The inside-outside game has to be the bread and butter of the offense for the Bulls to make any noise in the playoffs. The team has to put all the pieces together and find a culture, not just Derrick Rose carrying the team and the rest of the Bulls finding their way.
The Miami Heat have proven that you can’t take great talent, throw it in a blender and pour out a title. With the addition of Mike Bibby, they now have a true point guard who has tons of playoff experience in his years in Sacramento. Now that Dwyane Wade and LeBron don’t have to switch off at point, this team might have better structure. Chris Bosh has shown he is one of the most unphysical big men in the league, but still can put up 25 points on any given night.
The East is up for grabs and it would not be surprising for the Knicks to be in the Finals. The Celtics have to stay healthy, the Bulls have to prove they are elite and the Heat need to develop an identity. Who will be the beast of the East?