Posted by: Jeremy | October 25, 2009

Crystal Ball: Sizing up the Eastern Conference


Last week I checked in with my Raptors season prediction and listed where some of ESPN’s basketball bigwigs picked them to end up. Anyway, with the regular season tipping Tuesday, it’s time to publish my full Eastern Conference prognosis (with the West to follow tomorrow):

LeBron and the Cavs should edge Paul Pierce & co. for the East's best record

LeBron and the Cavs should edge Paul Pierce & co. for the East's best record

1. Cleveland (62-20): This isn’t because the Cavs added Shaq — it’s for the same reason they were the best team in the East last year: LeBron. It’ll be interesting to see how The Big Aristotle compliments King James, but I’m guessing at this point in his career he’ll be doing willing to do anything to come out with another ring. He’s tied with Kobe, after all.

2. Boston (59-23): Rajon Rondo’s emergence in 2008-09 turned The Three Musketeers into The Fantastic Four, and the addition of world famous shit disturber Rasheed Wallace only makes the Celtics all the better. Like Shaq, Wallace will be willing to accept a lessened role on a championship contender — after all, he wouldn’t signed with Boston if he wasn’t. He’ll join fellow new addition and ugly man Marquis Daniels (click the link to see my all-time favourite post from my previous blog) to give KG & friends a much deeper bench.

3. Orlando (55-27): I’m probably going to sound like the biggest Raptor homer and all-out Vince Carter hater, but I think the addition of Vinsanity makes the Magic a worse team than they were last year with Hedo Turkoglu. Yes, Carter is easily more of natural talent (that’s the one thing he’s never lacked), but Turkoglu’s style of play fit perfectly alongside Superman and Rashard Lewis and Carter’s hasn’t really done anything to make anyone better since 2001. That said, Turkoglu decided to leave and the team needed to address to hole left, so they could’ve done worse.

4. Atlanta (48-34): When Joe Johnson left Phoenix for a rich contract with the Hawks a few years ago, I figured he’d be the type of guy that puts up 20 on a bad team for the rest of his career. For a couple years it looked that way, but with the help of Josh Smith, Mike Bibby and Al Horford (amongst others), Johnson has transformed this team into one of the strongest in the East, establishing himself as a solid team leader in the process. Here’s something of concern, though: Atlanta picked up Jamal Crawford — owner of the league’s worst career win percentage and reputed team killer. He’ll come off the bench, where Hawks fans better hope he can’t do much damage.

5. Toronto (45-37): Is Bryan Colangelo the mastermind everyone makes him out to be? We’ll find out over the next few months. To his credit, Colangelo did a nice job of overhauling last year’s ineffective roster — now we see if the guys he brought in can do some work. Turkoglu, of course, is the biggest name, while Jarrett Jack, Marco Belinelli, Reggie Evans and Rasho Nesterovic were all brought in to shore up the second unit. Evans will bring some much-needed toughness, but will it be enough to make a difference?

Derrick Rose is only getting better

Derrick Rose is only getting better

6. Chicago (43-39): In case you forgot, the Bulls pushed the Celtics to the brink in the first round of the playoffs last season, albeit sans Kevin Garnett. They did, however, lose sixth man and top scorer Ben Gordon to Detroit via free agency, though that may be a blessing in disguise with their loaded backcourt. Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose will again take the reigns, looking to lead a young, talented Chicago team back to the postseason.

7. Philadelphia (42-40): The Sixers added Elton Brand last season, then got off to a nightmarish start when he failed to mesh with their offense, which had been built around swingman Andre Iguodala. After Brand was shut down with a shoulder injury, Philly started to come around, eventually finishing 41-41 and in the playoffs. Expect Brand to fit in a bit better this year, though the Sixers will be set back with the loss of point guard Andre Miller, who signed with Portland. Shot-happy former sixth man Lou Williams steps in his place.

8. Miami (41-41): Two words: Dwyane Wade. In Miami, it starts and ends with the band-aid man. Wade’s potential sidekick, Michael Beasley, showed promise as a rookie, but his off-season stupidity has a lot of people questioning whether he’s mature enough to be a contributor on a good NBA team. Aside from Wade and Beasley, veteran big men Jermaine O’Neal and Udonis Haslem are back in the mix, though neither are the type of difference maker needed to take this team to the next level.

9. Detroit (40-42): What was Joe Dumars thinking trading Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson? I know, I know — it was mostly done with the idea of Iverson’s contract coming off the books, which it did. But then Dumars went out and spent the money on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva — two guys that haven’t won a thing since their days at UConn. Meanwhile, Billups, who Dumars believed was on his last leg, turned Denver into one the strongest teams in the NBA. Expect much of the same from the Pistons as last year — a record of around .500 and a fringe playoff team at best.

10. Washington (39-43): Gilbert Arenas is back in the mix, shooting the Wizards back to the upper echelon of the East again, right? I’m not so sure. First off, he’ll have to prove he’s healthy after playing 15 games in the past two seasons. Secondly, he’d benefit his team if he spread the ball around a little. It’ll be interesting to see how this team comes together with Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison back after two seasons apart.

11. Charlotte (33-49): Last season, for the first time in their five-year existence, the Bobcats made a playoff push. They came up short, finishing 35-47, and didn’t do much to get better this summer. Out is former second-overall pick Emeka Okafor, in is Tyson Chandler. Leading scorer Gerald Wallace is a nice player on any team, but he’s not exactly the number one guy you want to build your team around. Unfortunately, the Bobcats don’t have much choice.

Granger can fill it up, but can we win games?

Granger can fill it up, but can he win games?

12. Indiana (32-50): Danny Granger had a breakout year in 2008-09, but it didn’t do much to turn the Pacers into a playoff team. Then again, he didn’t have much help. Mike Dunleavy Jr. was injured much of the season and is out indefinitely after summer knee surgery. Jarrett Jack, who platooned at point guard with T.J. Ford last year, signed with the Raptors, giving Ford the minutes he’s desired for some time now. Still, with a bunch of question marks, don’t expect the Pacers to do much damage.

13. New York (27-55): Isiah Thomas and Stephon Marbury are gone, but I still can’t bring myself to stop hating the Knicks. Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo offense helped New York put more points on the board last season, but it didn’t really make them a better team. Not that it matters — the Knicks’ true fate will be determined next summer when King James hits the market. I’m betting he doesn’t sign.

14. Milwaukee (26-56): Surprisingly, the Bucks held tough last year despite season-ending injuries to Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut, hanging in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt until a second half slide wiped them out. Redd and Bogut are back in 2009-10, but out are Richard Jefferson and Villanueva, who shouldered much of the scoring load in their absence. It’s a rebuilding year for Milwaukee, so rookie point guard Brandon Jennings will get a shot. Hopefully for them he’ll stop being a moron and just play basketball.

15. New Jersey (25-57): The Nets’ young core of Devin Harris and Brook Lopez could turn some heads in 2009-10, but this team is still at least a couple years from making a playoff push. Courtney Lee, who was picked up from Orlando in the Carter trade, could develop into a solid scoring option, having played well during the Magic’s run to the Finals last season.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. […] Here is the original:  Crystal Ball: Sizing up the Eastern Conference […]

  2. Everything looks good here in the East, but I think Boston is going to pull off top seed in the East. If KG can stay healthy throughout the whole season and the addition of Rasheed. I def see Boston ahead of the Cavs.
    Your right on Carter not making the Magic a better team. VC career is over too many injuries and hasnt had a full season since the Raptors days.
    As for the 4th and 5th seeds I see both the Raptors and the Hawks in those spots.
    You never know with the Raptors, if they can play D, then they got 4th locked, if not then you may see them slip to 5th possibly 6th.

  3. True, Boston could very well push for that top spot — they’re definitely stronger with Rasheed and Daniels. A lot of it depends on how quickly Cleveland meshes with Shaq daddy and co.

    I’m hoping my Raptors prediction holds up, but their D is a huge “if”. Still, something has to go really wrong if they can’t sneak into the playoffs this year.

  4. […] actually had the Gilbert Arenas-led Wizards pegged for a rough season, so I’m not too surprised to see them at 5-10 a month in, though that has a little to do with […]

  5. […] (25-57): Last year, I predicted a Nets team led by up-and-comers Brook Lopez and Devin Harris could push for a back-end playoff spot in the East. They responded by going 12-70, narrowly escaping the NBA’s worst-ever recond. I still do, […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: