NBA Eastern Conference Preview

The NBA’s 68th season is just around the corner with the first game taking place on October 29 featuring the Heat and the Bulls. The Heat will look to defend their championship from last year, as eyes will be on the Bulls to see if superstar Derek Rose is healthy and ready to lead them after missing last season. I’ve decided to preview the NBA season in two pieces by giving a small preview for each NBA team broken down into the two conferences. The part 1 preview is going to break down the Eastern Conference of the NBA.

Atlanta Hawks –The Hawks are going to have a much different look than the Hawks of the past as franchise player Josh Smith is gone and Paul Millsap is the new player in town to watch. The Hawks probably lack the depth and talent to compete for a title in the Eastern Conference, but they will finish in contention for the playoffs. I believe they have assembled a team full of smart basketball players and that will lead them to making decision on the court to win games.

Boston Celtics – This team is going to look nothing like it did last year, from the players to the coaching staff everything has changed just about. Rajon Rondo may not start the year playing for them as he’s coming off ACL surgery. The Celtics made a splash coaching hirer by bringing in Butler’s Brad Stevens to run coach the team at only 36 years of age. The Celtics are going to have a different image than anything we’ve seen from them in the past and it’s going to take a while for them to build that image into a championship contender.  

Brooklyn Nets – The most of us have grown up enjoying Jason Kidd’s play on the court for many years, well now we will watch him as a coach as the Nets have hired him right off his first year of retirement to coach the team. The Nets made more moves that I can list in this preview, but they are going to make a run right now. The owner spent a ton of money to make them a winner and they should be able to contend this year.

Charlotte Bobcats – The Bobcats are not going to be much better, but they did throw a ton of money at Al Jefferson to get him to sign with them. Jefferson will probably put up huge numbers and be an all-star like center for the team, but he doesn’t have much help outside of Kemba Walker. This season should be about the Bobcats again working to develop young guys like Cody Zeller and attempt to build something for the future.

Chicago Bulls – Derek Rose is back or at least he should be if he decides to suit up this year after missing all of last season. The Bulls have one of the most talented starting 5’s in the league, but I really think the bench could be a problem outside of Taj Gibson. The Bulls should win a ton of games this year, and do some damage in the playoffs. It will be interesting to see what they do with Deng whose contract is expiring and Boozer who is highly overpaid for his productions.

Cleveland Cavaliers – No Lebron James is not back, but Mike Brown is and Cleveland fans have reason to be excited about this year’s Cavaliers team. They spent some money this season on free agents and the biggest addition may be Andrew Bynum. If Bynum is healthy and Kyrie stays healthy with the other pieces this team has, they may not only make the playoffs, but do damage in the playoffs. This season in Cleveland is one in which they must make the playoffs after the excitement of the offseason anything other than would be considered a failure.

Detroit Pistons –Brandon Knight and Jose Calderon are gone from last year’s team, but look who they’ve brought in in Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings. This team will take a few games to figure out a rotation of how new coach Maurice Cheeks will want to play the guys, but when he figures it out they have enough talent to string together the wins. I look for the Pistons to compete in just about every game this year and find a way to get into the playoffs.

Indiana Pacers –The Pacers best offseason move may be one they didn’t have to make in getting Danny Granger back healthy. The Pacers gave the Heat everything they could handle and came up a just a bit short in making the NBA Finals last year. The Pacers did not win 50 games during the regular season and no NBA team has returned the next year to the conference finals after being there the year before and not winning 50 games. This team is extremely talented though and last year to me was no fluke. They will make the playoffs in the 2-4 seed range and again make a run with this talented roster.

Miami Heat – They are gearing up for a repeat of last year championship season and there is no other player than Lebron James you want on a roster to defend that title. The Heat did add two bench players that are well-known names in Greg Oden and Michael Beasley. I would say if Oden is healthy he would take over in the starting lineup as the Heat have always lacked a true starting center. Beasley should be a nice addition to the one part of the Heat that people have always questioned and that would be the bench. The saying goes “TO BE THE CHAMP YOU HAVE TO BEAT THE CHAMP” and until someone does that Heat are the champions.

Milwaukee Bucks – The Bucks are going to go from a back court of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis to Brandon Knight and OJ Mayo. That is a major step backwards, but neither of the other two was going to stay in Milwaukee much longer as they were very unhappy with the franchise. The rookie I’m most anxious to see did go to the Bucks in Giannis Antetokounmpo and what he develops in to. The Bucks signed several free agents for some good value moves to have trade pieces to get better. It’s up in the air if they are able to do that, but it will be exciting to watch Larry Sanders on this insider this year to see just how good he turns out to be.

New York Knicks – The Knicks have one of the NBA’s best offensive players in Carmelo Anthony and their offense needs to run through him. They got better on defense with the additions of Metta World Peace and Andrea Bargnani and they already have a ton of talent. The key for the Knicks to make a serious run is going to be Tyson Chandler staying healthy all year. I may be in the minority, but I feel once this team gets the roles all figured out and if Chandler stays healthy they could become a legit threat in the eastern conference this year. The Knicks will win over 50 games this year and will be in the top 4 seeds of the playoffs.

Orlando Magic – The Magic aren’t interesting in winning much this year after coming off the most losses in the NBA last year. They instead are looking to keep developing a ton of young talent they have and get better for the future through draft picks and young players already on the roster. The Magic may have the worst record in the NBA again this year, but if they feel their young guys have improved they will probably consider the season a success.

Philadelphia 76ers – I really don’t know what to say about this team as they sent Jrue Holiday to the Pelicans for Nerleans Noel who may not even play half the season this year. The 76ers seem to be in full tanking mode to get the best pick they can in the 2014 draft. The outlook is not bright for this team and if you are a fan of them then get ready for a miserable year. The only competing they will do is probably for the worst record.

Toronto Raptors – The Raptors will be led by Rudy Gay whom they acquired at the deadline last year. He’s a close to an all-star talent who could be explosive on offense with Demar Derozan. The key for a Raptors run will be to see if second year big man Jonas Valanciununas can take the next step and become a threat on the inside. The Raptors added some depth this year that should make their bench a little better than last year. The team will probably play about .500 ball this year and flirt with just getting into the playoffs as an 8 seed. At the end of the day I don’t see them getting in as Rudy Gay is not the type of guy I see taking over a team and carrying them.

Washington Wizards – The Wizards paid John Wall to be a max guy and now it’s time for him to show why they paid him that kind of money. The Wizards have a good young nucleus in Wall, Beal, and now Otto Porter to work with this season. They have to keep newly acquired big man Al Harrington along with Emeka Okafor healthy all season, however that is already off to a bad start with Okafor out for an unknown time period. The Wizards don’t stand a chance at a division title as they won’t beat Miami, but they should get into the playoffs if they stay healthy. The key of course to the Wizards whole season is going to be if they can keep the big guys healthy.

MY PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

1)       Miami Heat

2)       Chicago Bulls

3)       Indiana Pacers

4)       New York Knicks

5)       Brooklyn Nets

6)       Detroit Pistons

7)       Cleveland Cavaliers

8)       Washington Wizards

My eastern conference champion is the Chicago Bulls.

Watch for part two of my NBA preview coming soon for the western conference.

By: @mattbell211

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