Eastern Conference Breakdown

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Boston Celtics

Last Season: 39-27

Coach: Doc Rivers

Celtics fans should be excited about: A revamped, retooled roster, with scoring off the bench (Jason Terry), depth at the small forward position (Jeff Green), and news that Rajon Rondo has been working on his jump shot.

Celtics fans should be worried about: Potential injuries to Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce (as always), Darko Millicic getting significant minutes, and whether defensive-stopper Avery Bradley gets healthy in time to have a significant impact on their season.

Highest Ceiling: If Miami takes their customary nights off during the regular season, the Celtics are deep enough to win the East.

Lowest Floor:The Atlantic Division might be the toughest in the NBA, andif injuries take their toll on Boston’s ageing stars, and Jeff Green proves a bust in his comeback season, the Celtics could slip to 4th or 5th in the conference.

Prediction: 1st in the Atlantic, 2nd in the East.

 

Brooklyn Nets

Last Season: 22-44

Coach: Avery Johnson

Nets fans should be excited about: A new city, a new stadium, cool new uniforms, and a general buzz around the team not felt in a decade; not to mention, a motivated Deron Williams, finally surrounded with decent talent.

Nets fans should be worried about: Defense! Wallace and Johnson aren’t bad, but Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries are going to get exposed. There is also a lack of scoring depth on the bench.

Highest Ceiling: If they ride the wave of an enthusiastic crowd, and the general good feeling in Brooklyn, they could win the Atlantic. But much depends on whether Deron Williams can recapture his form of 3 years ago.

Lowest Floor: Any significant injury to the starting 5 will expose a team that isn’t as deep as it appears at first glance. The defense is already suspect, so if things fall apart on offense they could slip down to 7th or 8th in the East.

Prediction: 2nd in the Atlantic, 4th in the East.

New York Knicks

Last Season: 36-30

Coach: Mike Woodson

Knicks fans should be excited about: A rivalry with Brooklyn, which they should embrace, coupled with a now-or-never season for Carmelo Anthony, who has been given the keys to the offense.

Knicks fans should worry about: A lot, starting with the lack of on-court chemistry between Anthony and Stoudemire, who are both best suited to the power forward position. There are major issues at point guard, with Raymond Felton only playing one good season in his career (2010), and of course, the bizarre decision to load up on over-35 has-beens.

Highest Ceiling: If Melo is focused, and he and Amar’e can find some on-court cohesion, the Knicks could be good enough offensively to make a run at winning the Atlantic Division.

Lowest Floor: With Felton and Kidd at point-guard, lots could go wrong. The Knicks will be relying on Iman Shumpert, once he returns, to steady the perimeter defense. If he can’t return and be effective, the Knicks will struggle at that end, and could fall to 7th or 8th in the conference.

Prediction: 3rd in the Atlantic, 5th in the East.

Philadelphia 76ers

Last Season:
35-31

Coach: Doug Collins

76ers fans should be excited about: Possessing the 2nd best centre in the NBA, and best in the East, in Andrew Bynum. There are also high hopes that Evan Turner can make the jump to that next level this season.

76ers fans should be worried about: Andrew Bynum. He’s already missed the entire pre-season, and is set to miss the start of the regular season as well. When he does return, how he gets along with Doug Collins will also be of concern. Bynum doesn’t exactly have a track record of being a mature, team-first kind of guy.

Highest Ceiling: If Jrue Holiday and Turner can make the jump, and Bynum gets, and stays, healthy, this team has the potential to seriously challenge for a high seed in the East

Lowest Floor: If the worst-case scenario is realized, meaning Bynum has an injury-riddled season, Jason Richardson and Nick Young kill the team on defense, and Turner stagnates, this team could fall out of the playoffs entirely.

Prediction: 4th in the Atlantic, 8th in the East.

Toronto Raptors

Last Season: 23-43

Coach: Dwane Casey

Raptors fans should be excited about: New Arrivals, notably Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas, who will become vital parts of the offense, and more importantly, defensive stalwarts in Casey’s system.

Raptors fans should be worried about: The health of Andrea Bargnani. When he’s healthy, he’s a borderline all-star, and the Raptors will need him at100% in order to make a playoff push.

Highest Ceiling: If the aforementioned Bargnani plays close to a full season, and the Raptors can get something more out of Demar DeRozan (questionable), they could be knocking on the door of that 8thspot.

Lowest Floor: The East got tougher this year and there are still many questions about the defense in Toronto. They could still fall to the basement of the conference if they’re hit by injuries and/or fail to adhere to Casey’s system

Prediction: 5th in the Atlantic, 10th in the East.

Central Division

Chicago Bulls

Last Season: 50-16

Coach: Tom Thibodeau

Bulls fans should be excited about: Witnessing a potential ‘no one believes in us’ season, as one of the best NBA’s coaches maintains his sides stifling team defense.

Bulls fans should be worried about: Their team trying to generate offense without Derrick Rose, and watching Luol Deng burn out in the process. Also, they won’t be so much worried, but angry, about the continual ‘blah’ performances of Carlos Boozer.

Highest Ceiling: The Bulls will continue to play solid defense and if Rose returns before March, and is close to his old self, this team could surprise many and grab the 4th seed.

Lowest Floor: The Bulls are nowhere near as deep as they were last season, and will continue to struggle on offense. An injury to Deng or Noah could result in them narrowly missing the playoffs

Prediction: 2nd in the Central, 7th in the East.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Last Season: 21-45

Coach: Byron Scott

Cavaliers fans should be excited about: Kyrie Irving, Kyrie Irving, and more Kyrie Irving!! He’s already a top-25 player in the NBA, and could make an even bigger jump this season.

Cavaliers fans should be worried about: The lack of support around their aforementioned superstar. Tristan Thompson is still developing, while there is a lot of apprehension surrounding rookie Dion Waiters, and how ready he is for the NBA.

Highest Ceiling: For a time,the Cavs were hanging around in the hunt for the 8th seed last year, and if Irving can play lights-out they may be able to challenge again.

Lowest Floor: Management is expected to trade Anderson Varejao before the deadline, which will significantly weaken their short-term prospects. If Thompson and Waiters don’t step up—admittedly, a big ask—they could be near the basement of the conference.

Prediction: 5th in the Central, 13th in the East.

Detroit Pistons

Last Season: 25-41

Coach: Lawrence Frank

Pistons fans should be excited about: The continual development of borderline all-star Greg Monroe, and his potential pairing with explosive rookie Andre Drummond. The two, in theory, complement each other perfectly.

Pistons fans should be worried about: A lack of presence in the backcourt, with Rodney Stuckey not exciting anyone in Motor City, and Brandon Knight’s first season failing to inspire much confidence.

Highest Ceiling: If Drummond can amass rebounds, block shots, and generally be a beast in the frontcourt, complementing Monroe’s offensive skills, the Pistons could be a handful for anyone. If that scenario plays out they could hover at the door of 8th place for a while.

Lowest Floor: The Pistons aren’t exactly explosive in the backcourt, while Andre Drummond does still have major bust potential—check out his free-throw numbers! If Monroe is once again left on his own, the basement of the East beckons for the Pistons.

Prediction: 4th in the Central, 12th in the East.

Indiana Pacers

Last Season: 42-24

Coach: Frank Vogel

Pacers fans should be excited about: Watching a very solid team top-to-bottom, with depth at every position. The additions of D.J. Augustin to back-up George Hill, and Ian Mahinmi to deputize for Roy Hibbert, were very shrewd moves by the Pacers management.

Pacers fans should be worried about: A lack of a go-to guy in the clutch. Danny Granger is overrated, and the Pacers lack that reliable scorer who can consistently create his own shot against the better teams in the conference.

Highest Ceiling: If Roy Hibbert continues his upward trajectory, and Paul George makes the jump that everyone expects of him, the Pacers could challenge Miami and Boston for the top-seed in the East.

Lowest Floor: The Pacers got very lucky with injuries last year—you might say that they’re due a couple. If Granger or Hibbert get injured during the season, the Pacers might struggle on offense and could slide down to the 5th or 6th seed.

Prediction: 1st in the Central, 3rd in the East.

Milwaukee Bucks

Last Season: 31-35

Coach: Scott Skiles

Bucks fans should be excited about: The potentially explosive backcourt duo of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis playing together for a full season. Ersan Ilyasova, if last season wasn’t a fluke, should also be entertaining to watch at both forward positions.

Bucks fans should be worried about: The chemistry between that same backcourt duo, unfortunately. Neither Jennings nor Ellis are true point guards, and both are too small to play effective defense against bigger 2-guards. There are question marks as to whether the two can co-exist.

Highest Ceiling:
If Jennings can morph into a better playmaker, complementing Ellis’ explosive offensive talents, the Bucks could be a nicely balanced team. With the Bulls expected to struggle, they could make a run at 2nd place in the division, and 7th or 8th in the conference.

Lowest Floor: If the backcourt fails to mesh, and the Bucks get little from their forwards on offense—expected to be the case, with the exception of Ilyasova—the team could struggle, and up in mid-lottery pick mediocrity.

Prediction: 3rd in the Central, 9th in the East.

Southeast Division

Atlanta Hawks

Last Season: 40-26

Coach: Larry Drew

Hawks fans should be excited about: Surprisingly, quite a lot, starting with the freedom of being without Joe Johnson’s crippling contract, and his isolation plays on offense. The promising Jeff Teague will be given more ball-handling duties, while management has surrounded him with shooters like Kyle Korver, Lou Williams, and Anthony Morrow.

Hawks fans should be worried about: Josh Smith’s state of mind. Smith is an exceptional talent and was robbed of an all-star spot last year, but he’s in a contract year. That sounds good in theory, but it’s hard to predict whether he start to mentally checkout as the inevitable trade rumours begin to swirl.

Highest Ceiling: The Hawks won’t challenge Miami in the division, but with Smith (an engaged non-18 foot jump shooting version) and the super-talented Al Horford, surrounded by secondary scoring, the Hawks could repeat their 4th seed finish of last season.

Lowest Floor: The Hawks will rely on 3-point shooting, and a focused Josh Smith. If theirs hopes in those departments fall flat, Atlanta could be at risk of falling out of the playoff picture.

Prediction: 2nd in the Southeast, 6th in the East.

Charlotte Bobcats

Last Season: 7-59

Coach: Mike Dunlap

Bobcats fans should be excited about: Not a whole lot to be honest, but Michael Kidd-Gilchirst should be a bright spot in what promises to be another dismal season in North Carolina. He’s NBA-ready, and should fill up the box score from the get-go.

Bobcats fans should be worried about: Being the laughing-stock of the NBA once again. They will win more than 7 games, but this is still the worst team in the league, and I’d be especially worried about a gunner like Ben Gordon stealing minutes from Kemba Walker.

Highest Ceiling: If Orlando are even worse than we expect, they might not finish bottom of the conference. But the Magic would have to make a conscious effort to tank for that to be the case.

Lowest Floor: Can’t get any lower than their expected spot—the foot of the conference.

Prediction: 5th in the Southeast, 15th in the East.

Miami Heat

Last Season: 46-20

Coach:
Erik Spoelstra

Heat fans should be excited about: Another season witnessing the greatest player on planet earth, LeBron Jones. Also, the Heat should be even deeper this year with the additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. Double-team LeBron or Wade, if you dare.

Heat fans should be worried about: Not too much if LeBron stays healthy, although how long Dwyane Wade’s body holds up should be a concern for Heat fans. Injuries have started to catch up with him, and his reckless playing style doesn’t help.

Highest Ceiling: If LeBron James continues his transcendent play, and Wade and Bosh stay healthy, the Heat should win the East fairly comfortably. They’re simply the cream of the crop.

Lowest Floor: An injury to Bosh may expose the Heat in the frontcourt—Dexter Pittman anyone? Spoelstra may also decide to rest both Wade and Bosh for periods during the regular season. If that happens, the Heat could fall to 2nd in the East.

Prediction: 1st in the Southeast, 1st in the East.

Orlando Magic

Last Season: 37-29

Coach: Jacque Vaughn

Magic fans should be excited about: Not a whole lot, just like the Bobcats. But finally getting over the corrosive Dwight Howard-saga should be refreshing for both fans and players.

Magic fans should be worried about: A team that got rid of its best players, but didn’t get any young promising pieces in return. This is going to be a long season, watching players that thrived on offense when Howard was double-teamed, struggle to score without him.

Highest Ceiling: If the likes of Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington are engaged, this team will have some pride and remain competitive. If they can generate offense, they could gain some respectability in the 11-13th place range.

Lowest Floor: As the season wears on, the Magic may go into tank-mode, which would actually be a smart thing to do. If that happens, they could be the worst team in the league—although the Bobcats are still the favourites in that category.

Prediction: 4th in the Southeast, 14th in the East.

Washington Wizards

Last Season: 20-46

Coach: Randy Wittman

Wizards fans should be excited about: A John Wall-Bradley Beal backcourt that should be potent in the years to come. Wall can penetrate and dish, while Beal is a great shooter. It will also help that the Wizards have finally got rid of most of their knuckleheads.

Wizards fans should be worried about: The fact that Wall is injured for the start of the season and his return date is uncertain. Factor in the absence of Nene, a player expected to provide a large chunk of the offense, and the Wizards may struggle to stay afloat early on.

Highest Ceiling: If Wall can get healthy, and improve his shaky jump shooting, the Wizards could challenge for a playoff place. They will also need solid contributions on defense from veterans like Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor, however.

Lowest Floor: It’s unclear how many games Wall will miss, and there might be unfair pressure on Beal to score. The wheels could come off early in the season for this team, and if they do, expect them to miss the playoffs by a mile.

Prediction: 3rd in the Southeast, 11th in the East.

 

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