Posted by Andrew Shi
The 2013-14 NBA season is upon us! Here are the predictions for the final Eastern Conference standings:
1. Miami Heat
They're the reigning champions with the best player in the world. Not much has changed with their roster (so perhaps their relative power has diminished in respect to several other title-contenders) but they have brought on two players with high potential: Greg Oden and Michael Beasley. The two have been plagued by injury and immaturity respectively, but Oden was the No. 1 pick for a reason and Beasley the No.2 for a worse, but still valid evaluation. The loss of sharpshooter Mike Miller may have consequences, but if Beasley and James Jones can step up the absence will be mitigated.
2. Indiana Pacers
They had the best defense last year and nearly took down the Heat in the conference finals. Now they're returning with healthy-but-rusty all-star Danny Granger as well as a fitted-out bench with Luis Scola, Chris Copeland and C.J Watson. If Granger can achieve his former glory, the Pacers will have a formidable offense to complement an impregnable defense.
3. Chicago Bulls
The return of Derrick Rose-need more be said? He's back and, according to him, he's added another five inches to his already superman vertical. Without Rose, the tenacious Bulls ended last season in fifth and took down the Nets to reach the conference semi-finals. The signing of sharp-shooter Michael Dunleavy and the rise of Jimmy Butler will also factor into a successful season.
4. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets added two future Hall-of-Famers (Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett), should-be-starter-but-to-come-off-the-bench Andrei Kirilenko and previous sixth man Jason Terry. Every starter is an all-star, but their ages, bar Brook Lopez's, may wear them down in the long-haul. Jason Kidd may also prove to not be the right coach for a team that is looking to win immediately; he lacks coaching experience and must deal with players nearly his age and who, just last year, he was competing against and losing to.
5. New York Knicks
On paper this team sounds deadly. They acquired former first pick Andrea Bargnani and defensive specialist Metta World Peace. They re-signed reigning sixth man J.R Smith, productive point guard Pablo Prigioni and added Beno Udrih and Cole Aldrich. But too much of this team's success rests on perennial disappointment Bargnani and injury-prone Amar'e Stoudemire.
6. Detroit Pistons
The additions of Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Chauncey Billups and rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope automatically propel the team into the playoffs. They have a young but ridiculously talented front-court which will dominate the boards, but their lack of outside shooters will hinder their offensive game.
7. Cleveland Cavaliers
If-and this is such a big if-the Cavaliers can stay healthy this team can be moved up another slot or two. Andrew Bynum is, perhaps, the second-best center in the league. Expect to see Kyrie Irving in the all-star game this year. First-pick Anthony Bennett has much to prove, but newcomers Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark are proven assets. Anderson Varejao is another great center worthy of starting, but he is instead coming off the bench (assuming Bynum plays). They have many talented young players in need of development (Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller, Tristan Thompson), but in another year or two this team will be among the best.
8. Atlanta Hawks
The loss of Josh Smith has for the most part been assuaged by the addition of Paul Millsap. Elton Brand still has the gusto to make an impact off the bench and the eventual return of Louis Williams, as well as the re-signing of Kyle Korver, will give the Hawks the three-pointers needed to stay competitive. Rookie Dennis Schroder also looks like a guard capable of giving Jeff Teague a run for his money in another year or two.
9. Toronto Raptors
A full season with Rudy Gay will see them threatening the aforementioned teams for a playoff berth. Kyle Lowry remains a productive but second-tier point guard who is lingering at his prime. Demar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross are already formidable and will only improve this season and Amir Johnson is coming off of his best season. Yet in this newly top-heavy Eastern conference and with players who have questionable upside, a star that is overrated and a wanting bench, they will be hard-pressed to see action in May.
10. Washington Wizards
They could easily enter the playoffs with a healthy team. With John Wall for a full season, they'll see their ranking rise a few slots from where they ended last year, but with injuries to Emeka Okafor , Nene and rookie Otto Porter Jr. already, their season does not augur well. A stronger bench will also be needed to give them that eventual push to become a true contender
11. Milwaukee Bucks
This team lost Brandon Jennings and Monte Ellis and should have just tanked the season. Instead they re-equipped with decent players that will keep them out of the dregs of the conference but that are not good enough to get them into the playoffs. It will be a good season for Larry Sanders, Brandon Knight and O.J Knight to improve their game.
12. Boston Celtics
Another team that is half-heartedly tanking (or whatever GM Danny Ainge wants to call it). Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are gone and Rajon Rondo is out at least until December. Ainge will undoubtedly look to deal several players (Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Brandon Bass and Courtney Lee, for starters) as soon as possible. They have the role players for a play-off team but no longer the stars.
13. Charlotte Bobcats
The addition of Al Jefferson and Cody Zeller will make a formidable front court. The retention of Gerald Henderson to start alongside Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will complete a competitive starting line-up but there is much need for development. Another definite lottery year.
14. Orlando Magic
A team with a lot of young, talented players including draft pick Victor Oladipo, all continuing to improve their game and still a few years removed from the playoffs.
15. Philadelphia 76ers
A team that makes no effort to hide their tanking efforts. They traded away their best player, all-star Jrue Holiday, for a 2014 first-round pick and once-vaunted first pick Nerlen Noels who is recovering from a torn ACL and won't see action for quite some time. Any team that loses to these misfits should be ashamed.