BEASTS OF THE EAST
THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
I expect the Eastern Conference to be more competitive this year, although there is still no denying who the front runner is…..the Cleveland Cavaliers. But there are a few intriguing teams that could challenge the Cav’s for the Conference title. Pat Riley has managed to quickly build a contender again and Chris Bosh is back healthy, this provides the most intriguing foe for LeBron James and if they heat in the playoffs there is plenty of back-story to provide motive. So let’s look at the east.
15th Philadelphia 76ers 18-64
Nobody knows what Philly is doing accept Philly, and maybe they don’t even know. But it looks like they will continue to stack draft picks in hopes for the elusive big deal that will supposedly one day come. They have no marquee players besides two very young centers that have yet to prove anything. It’ll be another disaster year in Philadelphia.
14th Brooklyn Nets 20-62
The Nets are financially handicap due to their GM’s all in attitude that ended horribly with all but Joe Johnson being shipped off, and even he still might get sent away. Brooklyn is not a good team but more importantly, they need to be a bad team so they can get some draft picks and try to rebuild. They also need to create cap space as they will be an under the radar destination for free agents come summer time. But their season will be ugly.
13th The Orlando Magic 23-59
The Magic have a lot of guards who can’t shoot very well and they really have yet to develop an identity to what type of team they are going to be. Orlando hasn’t been able to land a big name since Dwight Howard left and they will continue to struggle relying on young talent.
12th Detroit Pistons 26-56
The pistons have made some necessary moves and got rid of problem children and the clutter at the big positions. They have some talent but they are going to need some coaching and learning by trial and error this year. Stanley Johnson is an interesting rookie and Marcus Morris adds some shooting that will help this team move in the right direction, but they are still a good ways away from being good.
11th New York Knicks 28-54
Carmelo will be Carmelo, which gives this team a chance to win more games than the ones listed already. He doesn’t have much around him, but there could be a few surprise performances and I like Afflalo to contribute on the wing. The big question here is just that, the Power Forward and Center positions and what kind of production they can get out of that. The Knicks will be better, but still not really good.
10th Boston Celtics 31-51
Say what? The Celtics miss the playoffs? Yep, they do. The Celtics made it in the playoffs last year as a result of an extremely weak east but they will not be that fortunate this year as other teams have improved and also got healthy. They will look more like a team rebuilding this year, but Brad Stevens will get the most out of his guys and win some games. With no true star the team will be relying on a group effort, something Stevens has proven he can get.
9th Charlotte Hornets 37-45
The Hornets have a good team but the loss of MKG is a problem. Not just because he is their best wingman, but because he affects how the Hornets would have liked to use their depth. They should challenge for the 8th position and if any team has an injury they could find their way in there.
8th Indiana Pacers 40-42
Paul George is back, and he could be at full health and ready to go. The addition of Monta Ellis takes some of the scoring off of him and gives them a nice wingman 1-2 punch. But their main issues will come in the form of leadership and more directly the loss of David West. George will be the unquestioned leader of this team but the lack of skill at the big positions will be troublesome in a conference filled with rebounding big men. They could easily slip to 9th and let the Bobcats pass them.
7th Hawks 44-38
I can’t be the only person who thinks the Hawks last season was a total fluke right? They have talent, that is for certain. But I think they will come down to earth a bit this year as they are the only team in the east that didn’t really get better. If anything they got worse with the loss of Demarre Carroll. They’ll still have a solid year and remind me a lot of the Memphis Grizzlies relying on their bigs to lead the way.
6th Milwaukee Bucks 46-36
The Bucks are a very interesting team. They shocked a lot of people last year and now they added Greg Monroe and at some point will get Jabari Parker back as well. Jason Kidd is leading a young but talented team that will no longer be under the radar this year and it will be interesting to see how they react to the added pressure of being a good team. I look forward to seeing how much they can progress.
5th Wizards 48-34
I wish I could put them higher, but I can’t. John Wall is fantastic and Beal when healthy is just as good. But they can no longer rely on Nene to be there consistently and they still act like a young team and not a seasoned team with higher expectations. Scary to say, but this team will go as far as Otto Porter can take them. He has to bring in more production value and step up his defense at the key small forward position. They stay a borderline middle team.
4th Raptors 52-30
This is a team that could go far or could implode, but the addition of Carroll seems to be the missing piece for the Raptors. It allows Terrence Ross to come off the bench where he should be and gives them a deeper team. Lowry is lighter and looking good and I expect Jonas Valanciunas to look to be more aggressive in the paint and get touches. If Demar DeRozan can get back to top SG form and aspire to the next level of stardom, they could have something special.
3rd Miami Heat 55-27
The heat are loaded and they are healthy, but to stay that way I expect Wade and Bosh to get rest at times that will keep them at third in the rankings, which I think they are perfectly fine with. This team has championship caliber leaders on the floor and coaching. Bosh back and the emergence of Whiteside makes them solid at every position and the addition of Gerald Green and Justice Winslow gives them one of the better benches in the east with Chalmers serving as the knowledgeable back up point. If they go into the playoffs healthy I expect them to get to the Eastern Conference Finals.
2nd Chicago Bulls 58-24
The Bulls are no longer under the tyranny of Tom Thibodeau and they have all the pieces to be great. It’s all up to Derrick Rose. Even if Jimmy Butler is the star of this team, they will only go as far as Rose’s legs can take them. His presence on the floor alone changes the game and how teams play defense. Unlike everyone on earth I feel he will make it through the season healthy this time around, I mean how long can this bad luck go on right?
1st Cleveland Cavaliers 64-18
LeBron James. Enough said right? Kevin Love is healthy, they restocked the bench, and they will be just fine until Kyrie gets back.