NBA Power Rankings: Miami Heat Clear Favorite in Eastern Conference

Michael MillSenior Analyst IIIDecember 24, 2011

ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 21:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat looks on during a preseason game against the Orlando Magic at Amway Center on December 21, 2011 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

With the NFL regular season coming to a close and the NBA season ready to tip off, the focus across the nation is beginning to shift towards basketball.

Although the offseason was shortened due to the lockout, there has still been plenty of action and moves in the limited time teams have had to make moves.

Some of the moves made were done by top teams in the league, shaking up the power rankings heading into the season.

Here is a look at the Eastern Conference heading into the regular season.

5. Philadelphia 76ers

The injuries that are already building up in Boston allow for Philadelphia to squeak into a top five spot that they may not deserve.

Right now, it's a toss up between Philadelphia and Indiana to round out the top five.

The difference maker here is Evan Turner. In the two preseason games he looked much more comfortable on the court. If he keeps playing that way he is going to have a big season.

4. Orlando Magic

As long as Dwight Howard remains on the roster, the Orlando Magic are going to stay in the top five in the Eastern Conference.

If somewhere along the way Howard leaves the city, then the Magic could take a back seat to a team like Indiana or Philadelphia who are waiting for an opportunity to play with the big boys.

Then again, if Howard plays like he did last weekend against the Heat then the Magic are done either way.

3. New York Knicks

The addition of Tyson Chandler and Baron Davis make the New York Knicks the team to beat in the Atlantic.

We will find out right away if the Knicks have made the improvements they needed this offseason.

They lost every one of their meetings against the Boston Celtics last season. They kick off the season against them tomorrow.

2. Chicago Bulls

Bulls fans had been hoping all offseason that the team would go out and trade for Dwight Howard.

However, Howard isn't interested in heading to Chicago.

The team didn't make many upgrades other than Rip Hamilton. It's actually a big enough upgrade to help the team out.

Rose will still be the majority of the offense, but at least he won't have to do it alone.

1. Miami Heat

They had a season to get accustomed to one another. Now it's time for the Miami Heat to go win one of the many championships they promised to the fans.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are still the only big three in league after a crazy offseason.

The additions of Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier give the team some much needed depth on the bench.

The Heat aren't just the team to beat in the Eastern Conference, they are the team to beat in the entire league.