1. Boston Celtics - While I highly doubt they scratch their 66 wins last year, they're still the best team in the East, even with the loss of Posey. I think Tony Allen could have a very good year as the teams 6th man and don't look past Rajon Rondo. I think he'll continue to improve on both ends of the court. He's already a very good defensive point guard and I think he'll be even better on offense this year. If he can start hitting his jump shot consistently, teams will have to think twice about doubling KG in the post or PP on the perimeter. Did I mention they'll still be the best defensive team in the league? Yea, they'll still be damn good.
2. Detroit Pistons - While they're getting older, that didn't stop them from racking up the wins last year, and it won't stop them this year. They still have one of the top starting fives in the NBA, despite the age, and their bench is just getting better. Rodney Stuckey will be even better this year, as will Maxiell. And if I'm correct, McDyess is coming off the bench this year as well, which will definitely help the bench depth as well.
3. Orlando Magic - I think the addition of Mickael Pietrus could be overlooked. He's a solid shooter, good defender and a great athlete. If he can keep his head on straight, he could really help the Magic. Also, look for Dwight to be even better this year. He's improved every year he's been in the league, and I don't see any reason to bet against him having an even better year this year. And as mentioned earlier, Rashard Lewis should be even better this year. He's now more accustomed to playing with his teammates this year, and I think that chemistry factor will help that tremendously.
4. Philadelphia 76ers - They were already a good, up and coming team last year, and this year, they'll be even better. The addition of Elton Brand should put this team over the top and easily help them to homecourt advantage. Despite what some think, I think his addition will do absolutely no harm to Iggy. I actually expect him to have an even better year this year because of all the attention Brand is going to demand in the paint. Also, good luck scoring in the paint. Dalembert and Brand should be one of the top defensive front-courts in the NBA this year.
5. Washington Wizards - I don't really see why some people are sleeping on this team. Sure, they lost Haywood for the year, at least in all likelihood, and Arenas is out for the first month and a half. However, this team coped with all sorts of injuries last year and still succeeded, so I don't see why they can't do it again. Butler and Jamison will have their regular outstanding seasons, and I wouldn't be surprised if Blatche has a breakout season. Also, Etan Thomas is going to be back, and by all accounts, he should do a solid job replacing Haywood, and if not, the aforementioned Blatche could potentially fill that void as well. The biggest issue I could see with this team is, if they're playing well come December when Arenas is due back, could him coming back actually hurt this team? I doubt it, but ya never know.
6. Toronto Raptors - While some people doesn't like the addition of O'Neal, I love it. I think that gives them one of the top front-courts in the Eastern Conference and it also prevents them from having to find minutes for both point guards. I also think Bargnani is in for a breakout season. No real reason why, I just can't see him digressing again this year. He's got too much potential to have another rough season. I think the only thing that could prevent this team from making the playoffs again is defensive struggles, but again, I think the addition of O'Neal will help them on that end tremendously.
7. Cleveland Cavaliers - Their window is closing pretty quickly. They made a relatively lateral move in bringing in Mo Williams. He's not much of an upgrade over Delonte West or Daniel Gibson, at least not in my book. While people are thinking he's going to be that complimentary scorer that the Cavs have wanted, I don't think he will be. Sure, he'll put up solid scoring numbers, but he's far too inconsistent to be relied on completely. Oh yea, and they might have one of the worst offensive front-courts in the NBA. Big Z is nothing but a face up shooter now, Big Ben is worthless and Varejao is an offensive liability. To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if they actually slip out of the playoff picture this year.
8. Miami Heat - They have tons of talent, it's just a matter of staying healthy. Wade has had injury issues for the last couple of years, and if he misses more than 10 games or so, that could seriously hurt their playoff chances. I also think their playoff chances hinge on what they do with Marion. If they keep him, I see no reason why they can't make the playoffs. He'll be a great complimentary player to Wade and will provide a lot on both sides of the ball. If they trade him though, they need to get someone that can come in and score, because as much as I love Michael Beasley, I don't know how smart it would be to rely on a rookie to be your 2nd scoring option. He is great and all, but he's going to have his really good games and his really bad games, and you may not know when, and that's what comes with being a rookie.
9. Atlanta Hawks - I still think they could make the playoffs again. I don't really look at the loss of Childress to be that huge. I think Marvin Williams is finally going to have a huge season for them, and having Mike Bibby for a full season should definitely help as well.
10. Chicago Bulls - I love what Derrick Rose brings to this team. He's super quick, has great vision on the court and can get to the rim whenever he wants. However, Chicago still has too many front court questions and still have a cluttered back court. I also don't like the idea of having a rookie coach. While I think Chicago has the talent to make it back to the playoffs, I still think they might just be a year or two away. Regardless though, they should be a very fun team to watch this year.
11. Indiana Pacers - I like the talent, but I don't know if the addition of TJ Ford is going to be quite enough to vault them in to the playoffs. However, they did show some flashes last year, and if Mike Dunleavy and Danny Granger can provide to be as good of a 1-2 punch as they were last year, they have the ability to sneak in.
12. Charlotte Bobcats - They have a good coach now, but they'll still have issues staying on the court. Okafor and Wallace have been injury plagued for the last couple years, and if it happens again this year, I can't foresee them making it too far. Having a point guard controversy won't help chemistry matters either.
13. New Jersey Nets - Another team with good talent but not even close to playoff ready. Their best player is going to be exiting the prime of his career and aside from Devin Harris, I'm not sure how ready some of their players are to be big enough contributors for a playoff push. This team is still at least a year or two away from the playoffs in my book.
14. Milwaukee Bucks - Moving Mo Williams was a good move. However, now they'll be leaning on basically a rookie in Ramon Sessions to run this team and they lost their second best scorer. If they're going to do anything this year, Redd has to be spectacular and Bogut needs to have a huge year and live up to the huge contract he just got.
15. New York Knicks - Do I need to explain? They have too many headcases on this team. Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph are absolute wastes of cap space that need to go. They're bringing in an entirely new coaching system that's going to take time to adapt to. And, in reality, the only players on this team fit to run in that system are probably Nate, Duhon and QRich. This team is a mess, and it's going to take a lot to fix it. I hope D'Antoni is prepared for a really rough season.
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