NBA Eastern Conference: Season Preview

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Photo Credit: Andrew Nappi

With the 2013 season approaching, it’s time to look at the rankings of the different teams.

by Andrew Nappi, Staff Writer

The NBA season is a month away and fans everywhere are growing excited. With a thrilling ending to last year’s playoffs, fans do not know what to expect this season. Listed below are my predictions for each team in the Eastern Conference.

 

15. Philadelphia 76ers 19-63

Sixer’s fans don’t have much to look forward to this season. Considering they traded away their best player (Jrue Holiday) for fifth overall pick Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first-round pick. Sixers have moved into a lengthy and stressful rebuilding period.  Philadelphia is the youngest team in the NBA and will have no problem with running up and down the court. The rebuilding process around Noel will take a couple of seasons to be completed and we will not see the Sixers in the playoffs for some time.

 

 

14. Milwaukee Bucks 23-54

The Milwaukee Bucks are going to be one of the worst teams in the NBA this season. They traded away their best player (Brandon Jennings) for a young Brandon Knight who will never be as good of a player as Jennings. They also lost their second best player (Monta Ellis) to the Dallas Mavericks in free agency. This team is young and inexperienced and will not do much in the East this season.

 

13. Charlotte Bobcats 24-58

The Charlotte Bobcats have been the punching bag of the NBA for the past few seasons. Since the Bobcats entered the league in 2004, they have only made the playoffs once. And in that playoff appearance they got swept by the Orlando Magic. The Bobcats did improve from last season, but they did not improve enough to make the playoffs, or win 30 games. Charlotte did sign Al Jefferson for a three-year, $40.5 million deal. Don’t get me wrong Al Jefferson is an above average player; however, he does not deserve to make this amount of money. Charlotte will be irrelevant for a while.

 

12. Orlando Magic 27-55

Magic fans do not have much to look forward to this season. In fact they do not have much to look forward to for a few years. Ever since Dwight Howard ‘slapped Magic fans in the face’ and demanded a trade to the Lakers, it hasn’t been the same in Orlando. The Magic are moving in the right direction toward returning to the playoffs, though. They have a great General Manager in Rob Hennigan. The Magic also had an excellent draft this season in picking up Victor Oladipo, who will be teaming up with returning star Arron Afflalo.  Other players on the Magic include Tobias Harris, an up-and-coming small forward, and rebounding machine Nikola Vucevic. If the Magic can make some additional intelligent moves over the next couple of seasons, they will have a bright future ahead of them.

 

11. Toronto Raptors 36-46

The days of Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady in Toronto are long gone and they have had a hard time moving on from that. Rudy Gay, who is currently the Raptors’ best player, is not good enough to bring them to the playoffs. If the Raptors can make a trade for someone by the trade deadline (Like Rajon Rondo), then next season they could make the playoffs. As for this season, I don’t expect much from the Raptors.

 

10. Washington Wizards 38-44

The Washington Wizards will be turning some heads this season.  Although they will fall short of making the playoffs, it will only be a matter of time before the Wizards return to the playoffs to make a deep playoff run. John Wall who just finalized a 5-year 80 million dollar deal will be the face of this young Wizards team. Washington also has Nene and Bradley Beal returning to the team, two players that played well for the Wizards last season. One thing most fans don’t realize about the Wizards is that they beat a lot of Championship caliber teams last season at home like the Heat, Thunder, Bulls, Clipper, Knicks, Nets, Nuggets, Grizzlies, and Pacers.

 

9. Boston Celtics 40-42

I feel bad for Rajon Rondo. The Celtics have entered a stage of rebuilding. They will be receiving multiple first picks from the Brooklyn Nets and other teams over the next few seasons. The Celtics at best are a .500 team with only one star in Rondo and in today’s NBA; one star will not win you anything. It would not surprise me if Boston decides to trade Rondo before the trade deadline for more draft picks. For Celtics fans, they can only hope for good draft picks over the next couple of seasons. Boston will be competitive for the seventh or eighth seed in the playoffs. Boston’s team, though, is just not what it used to be and will likely not be making the playoffs for the first time since the 2007 NBA season.

 

8. Detroit Pistons 41-41

It’s going to be good to see the Pistons be relevant in the playoff race in the Eastern Conference this season. Detroit made some big moves in the off-season by signing free agent Josh Smith and trading for an underrated Brandon Jennings who can very easily fill up the stat sheet. Detroit also has returning center Greg Monroe who could be having a breakout season this year. This Pistons team should have no problem scoring 100 plus points per game, but they will struggle against defensive teams that pack the paint and make it hard to drive (Indiana, Brooklyn, and Chicago). And just as the Pistons can easily score 100 plus points, they will also let teams score 100 plus points on them. It will take a couple years for the Pistons to be at the top of Eastern Conference like their glory days of 2004.

 

7. Atlanta Hawks 43-39

Everyone seems to forget about the Hawks year in and year out. The Hawks lost their best player in Josh Smith to Detroit in free agency. However, they still have enough players on their team to stay relevant in the Eastern Conference playoff race. With center Al Horford, power forward Paul Millsap, an underrated point guard in Jeff Teague, and the three point specialist, Kyle Korver, who will be coming off the bench, the Hawks are not to be written off. Atlanta also has backup center Johan Petro who averaged 3.5 points a game in 11 minutes per game last season. It will be a while before Atlanta will be back at the top of the Eastern Conference. All this Hawks team is missing is a superstar player (Like a Rajon Rondo) and they will be one of the top teams in the East once again.

 

6. Cleveland Cavaliers 44-38

The Cavaliers took a role of the dice and decided to take a huge gamble by signing free agent center Andrew Bynum. Cleveland and Bynum agreed on a two-year, $24.8 million deal with just $6 million of the first year’s salary fully guaranteed. However, NBA analysts all agree that Bynum, with his knee problems, is nowhere near ready to play basketball, Cleveland will still be relevant in the Eastern Conference.  With a young line up (in Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thomson and rookie Anthony Bennett) and some veteran leadership (in Jarrett Jack), Cleveland will be back in the playoffs for the first time during the “Post LeBron” era.

 

5. New York Knicks 50-32

Knick fans: don’t expect much this season. The Eastern Conference has vastly improved from last season and the Knicks are just not good compared to the top four teams in the East. Knicks have a super star in Carmelo Anthony who is debatably the best offensive player in the NBA. Besides Carmelo, though, they are a very average team.  J.R Smith who is perhaps the best sixth man in the NBA, will be suspended the first five games of the season for violating the league’s drug policy. J.R is also coming off knee surgery and might not be able to perform at the same level as last season. Amar’e is injury prone and, due to past injuries, cannot perform like he did when he was in Phoenix. Not to mention the fact that Carmelo and Amar’e cannot play well together on the court at the same time. In addition to that, Tyson Chandler is an overrated center: while he is a good defender and rebounder, he has a very poor offensive game. The Knicks also do not match up well to Indiana and Chicago, teams that they will most likely have to play in the playoffs in order to reach the NBA Finals. The Knicks are just not good enough to win a championship and Knicks fans just have to face the facts.

 

4. Chicago Bulls 54-28

Ever since Derrick Rose went down with an injury in the first game of the 2012 NBA playoffs, the Chicago bulls have not been the same team. This team was built to win a Championship. Last season was a great season for Chicago despite (or perhaps due to) its circumstances. They made it to the second round of the Playoffs without their best player Derrick Rose. Chicago is debatably the best defensive team in the league, and will use this to their strength. However, if Derrick Rose cannot return to the level that he was playing at before he went down with his injury, the Bulls will be a second round playoff team at best. It’s Rose’s time to prove to the NBA that he can still play at an MVP type level.

 

3. Brooklyn Nets 56-26

The new look Nets are one of the biggest question marks in the NBA. They have a first year coach in Jason Kidd who had one of the highest basketball IQ’s in NBA history during his Hall of Fame NBA career. The Nets are a championship caliber team with an all-star starting lineup of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez. Off the bench the Nets have three point specialist Jason Terry, Andrei Kirilenko, Andray Blatche, and bad boy Reggie Evans. The only thing that will hold this team back from getting 60 plus wins is age. The Nets are the oldest team in the league. They will have to play a more half court style offence with this starting line up and can look to play more full court offence with the second unit. Teams that have good half court defenses will give Brooklyn a lot of trouble. The time to win for Brooklyn is now. The sky is the limit for this Nets team. It’s a championship or bust mentality in Brooklyn.

 

2. Indiana Pacers 58-24

Pacers fans, prepare yourselves for a deep playoff run this season. The Eastern Conference has improved dramatically from last season and the Pacers have gone under the radar. Indiana matches up really well against the Knicks, Bulls, and Heat. The only top team in the East that will give Indiana some trouble is Brooklyn. As Brooklyn’s slow style offence will give the pacers defense trouble. A starting lineup of Paul George, David West, Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert and George Hill with bench players in Lance Stevenson, CJ Watson, Chris Copeland and Luis Scola, Indiana will be winning a lot of games this season.

 

1.     Miami Heat 64-18

The Miami Heat should have no problem retaining their throne as the kings of the Eastern Conference. Dwyane Wade’s health seems to be a big concern to the Heat and a big concern for LeBron James. Word on the street is that LeBron’s free agency decision will be based on Dwyane Wade’s health. This could possibly be the last season of the “Big Three” in Miami. The Heat took two big gambles in the off season singing their former second overall round pick in 2008 Michael Beasley who was released by the Phoenix Suns earlier in the summer. The Heat are also take a gamble on former overall number one pick Greg Odem who has been battling with knee injuries his entire NBA career. The Heat also have returning Game Six finals hero Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers, Chris Bosh, Chris the “Birdman” Anderson and sharp shooter Shane Battier. It is very hard to win back to back to back championships, it will even harder for Miami this season due to the fact that the Eastern Conference is a stronger conference than last season. With all that said Miami has the leadership and drive to win back to back to back championships. It is going to be a fun an exciting season of basketball and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I will.