Eastern Conference Contenders!

Taylor LunemannCorrespondent INovember 11, 2008

In my previous article, I threw out my predictions of the NBA's Western Conference contenders, teams that are on the bubble, and others that have fallen off the charts.This week, I will move to the Eastern Conference, where there are many teams looking to reach that top spot.

I will start out with the heavy favorites and NBA champions, the Boston Celtics. This team played amazing last year after having a complete overhaul of basically the whole roster last season. They are returning all of their starters, and have many bench players coming back with more experience. Rajon Rondo was by far their biggest question mark last year, and he played effective enough to win a title for them, so there is no reason to believe that he will not improve off last season’s performance. They did lose James Posey to free agency, and PJ Brown to retirement, which will definitely hurt them, but they also have solid backups in Tony Allen and Leon Powe. People may argue that Eddie House benefits them, but he is extremely short and does not benefit the team to warrant any recognition.  
            Next we move to Cleveland where the Cavaliers look to improve off another season where Lebron James came up short. This team has been in need of another scorer to take the load off of Lebron and they have tried bringing in many players, none have came out as effective as they had liked. Their newest signing is Mo Williams, who played for the Milwaukee Bucks the last couple of years. Although he is a good all around player, I do not believe he will bring enough help to get this team past a team such as the Celtics. They have an average bench with Daniel Gibson being a solid sixth man, but in a lineup that includes both Ben Wallace and Delonte West, the team will be hurting on the offensive side of the court as neither of them are capable of doing much. Anderson Varejao can provide a spark at times with his hustle, but his hair is ridiculously bad, and until he cuts it, he should not see the floor.

One of the hottest teams in the NBA right now is the Atlanta Hawks. They played the Celtics as the eighth seed in the playoffs last year and almost upset them as they forced them into seven games. Now they have started out the regular season with six straight wins. This team is extremely young and it is hard to believe they will be able to keep up this pace. However, I think that it depends heavily on how well second year man Al Horford improves from last year. If he can take it to the next level, it will give the team a solid post presence to open up more looks for their star Joe Johnson, as they get virtually nothing from their starting center Zaza Pachulia. In the end, the Hawks will probably get the four or five seed in the playoffs, as their play will most likely drop throughout the season, especially with one of the better players Josh Smith sidelined with an injury for a month.

Another team I expect to contend again is the Orlando Magic. This team is built around the beast of a man Dwight Howard. He continues to improve every year as he has become one of the elite players in the NBA. Put in a much improved Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis and this team can be very scary at times. Their bench is very weak as it contains JJ Redick, another Duke bust who is not suited for the NBA, regardless of what Dick Vitale says, and other players such as Anthony Johnson, a lifetime backup, and Tony Battie, who has never been a factor in any way throughout his whole career. So they are lucky they play in a relatively weak division as they still have a good chance of getting a higher seed in the playoffs.
            The Detroit Pistons recently broke up their team chemistry by trading away their star point guard Chauncey Billups, and forward Antonio McDyess for all star guard Allen Iverson. This is a gutsy move but it could prove to be a very beneficial one in this team’s success. The team has been playing at a high level for many years as they formed a great chemistry from many years of playing together, but getting a player of AI’s caliber will almost certainly benefit them, so assuming he plays up to expectations, this team could be very dangerous in the future.

The one team that has clearly fallen off the charts is the Washington Wizards. Their failure to keep their players healthy, Gilbert Arenas, Brendan Haywood, and inability to keep players that could back them up nicely, such as Roger Mason, have caused this team to plummet to the bottom of the standings and it is likely they will stay there for some time.

So as the season progresses, I predict that you will see a lot of playoff talk about the Celtics, as they are the huge favorites in the East. However, you cannot count out other teams that will be knocking at their door such as Lebron’s Cavs and possibly a surprising and exciting Atlanta Hawks team. Either way, this season is looking to be a very exciting one in the Eastern Conference.