Now the Eastern Conference is a little harder to predict, believe it or not.  See, the Eastern Conference is significantly better - Kevin Garnett, Jason Richardson, Ray Allen, Ricky Davis, Zach Randolph have all joined.  But keep in mind that it mostly effects the middle and bottom parts of the Eastern Conference.  The top three teams, for example - the
Bulls, Cavs and Pistons, in terms of record - have all stayed relatively stable.  For better or worse.

So the Eastern Conference is one big messy clusterf*ck that needs to be sorted.  Let's give it a shot:

Not Making the Playoffs:
15.  Indiana Pacers 25-57:  Let's see... their second half last season, after the trade was made, was atrocious.  Jermaine O'Neal remains the most likely player to be traded this season, if anyone is willing to pick up his salary.  This team has no real backcourt, and only Danny Granger seems to hold any real potential.  Yeah, it'll be at least two more seasons before Larry Bird can dig his way out of this mess.  On the plus side:  Good character people!  Let's bring in more untalented white players!  Can we get Keith Van Horn to unretire?
 
14.  Milwaukee Bucks 33-49:  The Bucks will improve a bit.  Charlie Villanueva and Yi Jianlin will help solidify the team.  In fact, when you add in Mo Williams, Michael Redd, and Andrew Bogut... it's actually a really talented starting five.  I guess it's just the downside of being in a division with the top three teams in the East.

May Surprise Me/You:
13.  Philadelphia 76ers 35-47:  They had a monster second half (20-19) after trading Iverson.  But still, this is a young team, and there will be hard times ahead for them. 

12.  Atlanta Hawks 38-44:  The stylish pick to be most improved this season.  Hey, I believe in Acie Law IV.  Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford... there is a lot of talent on this team.  Talent takes time to mesh, though.  I think this team will just fall a little short of the sleeper expectations people are placing on them.

11.  Orlando Magic 39-43:  Speaking of falling short of expectations... yes, the Magic made the playoffs last season.  Barely.  They only won 40 games.  Adding Rashard Lewis is good, but losing Darko and Grant Hill isn't that easy of a write-off.  Nope.  This team is going to just fail to repeat last season's 40-win year.  Unless, of course, Dwight Howard blows up.  Then I might be a moron.

10. Charlotte Bobcats 39-43:  Speaking of blowing up... Okafor.  The time is now.  He's going to have a monster year.  Jason Richardson and Gerald Wallace will do work.  If Raymond Felton can progress well (and I think he will), this is your sleeper team. If only their depth wasn't being absolutely crushed by injuries right now.

Competing for the playoffs:
9.  Washington 39-43:  Yes, they'll have the same record as division rivals the Magic and Bobcats.  But more people expect them to make the playoffs, after last season's 41 win (would have been much higher if not for injuries) season.  The thing is this team is built on three players, and you saw how quickly things fell apart when injuries knocked out one (or two) of the Big Three.  Oh wait... this isn't the Boston preview.  Oops.  Anyway, yeah... by the end of the season Gilbert is going for self, and dropping 35 a night while the season falls apart.

The Atlantic Division:
4 out of the five teams in the division are making the playoffs.  They aren't winning less than 45, or more than 47/48 games.  This is going to be tight, people!

8.  NY Knicks 45-37: All preseason they have shown they can beat bad teams, and even hang with good teams on occasion (the Celtic game they won).  They have shown heart and hustle and focus... on occasion.   They have also shown they are prone to playing poorly (see the 40 point loss to the Celtics), then rebounding.  The Curry-Randolph tandem still has a bit to go until they get it together.  The Knicks will start the year hovering around .500 for most of the 1st half, maybe going 21-20 over the first 41 games.  Then they will start to mesh a little more, with Isiah finally figuring out his optimal rotation.  Expect a strong finish (24-17), and a playoff spot.  Injuries are less likely to deflate the Knicks than any other team in the Atlantic, thanks to their bench depth.

7.  Toronto Raptors 45-37: Chris Bosh just seems likely to get injured this year.

6.  Boston Celtics 46-36:  Most people think I am crazy for not pen-ning in the Celts for 50 wins and the title.  Um, yeah... first guarantee me that the Big Three won't get injured this season.  See, I think a serious injury will derail their season, especially since they don't exactly have much depth there.  This is going to go south faster than Washington did last year.  Best bet: Ray Allen misses a bit of time this year.

5.  New Jersey Nets 48-34:  The Nets just handled their business this preseason, without much fanfare.  They looked good.  Kidd showed at the Olympics what he can do with talent.  Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson, Jamaal Magliore and Nenad Krstic are the most balanced starting five in the division.  And Boki, Sean Williams, and Marcus Williams gives the Nets good depth.  One last run is in store for the Kidd Nets, before he gets traded in the offseason.  Your Atlantic Division champion New Jersey Nets.

The Winner of the Southeast:
4. Miami Heat 48-34:  I want to write them off, too.  Believe me, I do.  But they won 44 games last season, despite Shaq missing like 20 plus games, and Wade dislocating his shoulder.  And Ricki Davis will improve this team more than you might think.  They'll win the division by default, but should still net around 48 wins.

The Big Three (for real):
3. Chicago Bulls 47-35:  Not much as changed since last season.  Still looking for a starting PF.  I can't say Joe Smith (or Tyrus Thomas, or Joe Kim Noah) are much of an upgrade over PJ Brown.  I can't say Ben Wallace is going to do better, or Hinrich.  So it comes down to Ben Gordon and Luol Deng making a huge improvement.  I can't say that I see that happening, either.  Even though I put them down as one of the big three, note that the Heat and Nets both will finish with better records, and don't rule out the possibility of another Atlantic team (the Celtics?) also finishing ahead of them, too.  In other words: a fifth or sixth seed.

2.  Cleveland Cavs 48-34:  Almost the same scenario as the Bulls.  They are less talented this year, and still have some personnel issues.  Of course, the big difference is that LeBron might play even better this year.  Still, same deal - anywhere from a #2 to a #5 seed.

The Favorite:
1.  Detroit Pistons 52-30:  They may have looked old getting spanked by the Cavs in the 2nd round, but they still managed 53 wins last season.  They did that without any contributions from their youth.  This year Amir Johnson, Jason Maxiell, and Rodney Stuckey (when healthy) are going to help the Pistons with their youth and energy.  Add to it a new focus on proving they are the best, and the Pistons are my bet to finish the season with the best record in the East.


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6 Comments

Comments

[October 30, 2007 2:13 PM]  |  link  |  reply
Rickhouse said

Good work once again, I've been waiting for these previews. I think the Bucks can more then 33 games, but it all comes down to Bogut. He was the first pick, he's gotta average 18/8 for this team to be good. I don't know about Cleveland winning 48 games either, LeBron could pull a Kobe with how talentless that roster is right now.

[October 30, 2007 2:54 PM]  |  link  |  reply
Jack Cobra said

I just don't see how the Heat can do it with Wade out until December. I'm thinking the 8 seed will be a lot closer to .500

[October 30, 2007 3:24 PM]  |  link  |  reply
stopmikelupica said

Wade is out until November, which isn't too long... maybe he misses 8-12 games. Ricky Davis can help pick up the scoring, and the Heat won't do worse than 5-7, 5-8 to start the year.

Then the three of them start meshing, and play .500ish ball for a month, until it comes together. I can see them finishing off strong, and ending up at around 45-48 wins. Either way, they win the SE division - the other teams (Magic, Bobcats, Wizards, Hawks) just don't seem as complete, believe it or not.

As for Bogut... yeah, that Bucks team should do better. But something about that team, and in particular Bogut, makes me think of chemistry problems. I don't know why they wouldn't be a playoff contender - they have a solid starting five.

I think it's the fact they are in the toughest division (playing the Bulls, Cavs and Pistons four times means maybe a 2-10 record, though I guess the Pacers means they should go no worse than 5-11 against the division) is a big factor, and the injury potential for the entire team (Mo Williams, Redd, Bogut and Villanueva have all had big injuries over the past year) make it a hard sell.

[October 30, 2007 4:17 PM]  |  link  |  reply
goathair said

KEITH VAN HORN IS A GIFT FROM THE HEAVENS

[October 31, 2007 10:26 AM]  |  link  |  reply
Jack Cobra said

November will turn into December just as quickly as the Summer turned into October....

[August 8, 2010 11:00 PM]  |  link  |  reply
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