Basketball is my favorite sport to watch. I love the fast paced nature of the sport, the way 1 player can make a difference, the intense strategy, both in the playbooks and how coaches play their guys, and the insane displays of athleticism. I also like how there are only 12 guys to keep track of on each team, making it easier to break teams down. Shortened season and trade conspiracies aside, I do love this league and the sport itself. So with the craziest offseason I can remember almost behind us, I decided to make some predictions. I will rank the Top 8 teams from each conference (one for each playoff spot), focusing on the Eastern Conference today and the Western Conference tomorrow 12-22.
1.) Chicago Bulls– Another year older and wiser, and with ring-bearing Rip Hamilton now providing veteran leadership. The Bulls should improve their win percentage from last year (.756).
2.) Miami Heat– The Heat were a great team last year, as much as we all hated them (and loved watching them lose in the Finals), and now they have added Shane Battier for improved distance and shooting.
3.) New York Knicks– The addition of Tyson Chandler will make both Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire better, and Baron Davis can be one of the best PGs in the game when he wants to be.
4.) Boston Celtics– Age is a big concern for the Celtics, as the compressed season will wear out the players before the playoffs, and one injury (the Celtics are haunted by them) will make a larger impact than in a normal season.
5.) Orlando Magic– This is solely dependent on Dwight Howard remaining with the team. Depending on who the Magic get in return if they do decide to send him away, they could be a lottery team. Plea to Magic: Please keep Dwight, but if you trade him, please don’t sent him to the Lakers.
6.) Atlanta Hawks– A young, energetic team which has seen itself in the playoffs for the past 4 years, and past the first round for the past 3. The shortened season will help this team.
7.) New Jersey Nets– Deron Williams will lead the Nets to enough wins to get in, but if they get Dwight Howard they could be scary.
8.) Philadelphia 76ers– The 76ers have a young team with enough energy to do well in a compressed season, but they are still too young to make a run in the playoffs.
What are your Eastern Conference picks for this year?