When you look at the Eastern Conference, you are starting to see that they are becoming more relevant to their counterparts in the Western Conference. Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls are the head of the Eastern Conference. I already broke down each individual division in the east, so now it’s time to look at the Eastern Conference as a whole and give my playoff picks and which team will make it out of the east this season.
1. Miami Heat – The “King” team in the Eastern Conference, got stronger this past offseason with the addition of Shane Battier, who plays better defense than anybody who came off Miami’s bench last season. The “King” and D-Wade will snatch the #1 seed from the Bulls this season.
2. Chicago Bulls – The Bulls are the best defensive team in the east. They play better team defense than Boston and Miami, but they don’t have the offensive talent that Miami has. That’s why Chicago gets the #2 seed. If they had a Robin to go along with Batman (Derrick Rose), I might put them above the Heat. But they don’t.
3. Boston Celtics – I know they are one of the oldest teams in the league. But I feel that the “extended” offseason will help the Celtics. What hurts them is the fact that they will be without Jeff Green for the entire season because of a heart condition. Maybe rookie JaJuan Johnson will step up, if he is given a chance. The Brandon Bass-trade is an upgrade over Glen Davis. This is Boston’s last season to get back to the NBA Finals.
4. New York Knicks – Acquiring Tyson Chandler was a big. He gives them a defensive presence that they didn’t have before. But I think the addition of Baron Davis will have a bigger impact than Chandler. The Knicks let go of Chauncey Billups early last week, leaving themselves without a point guard. Davis now fills that void. He will help them immensely.
5. Atlanta Hawks – It pains me to put the Hawks here, but after losing Jamal Crawford, I have to. He was lightning off the bench for the Hawks. Now the Hawks will turn to Jeff Teague, more than likely, to be that spark off the bench. This team is still solid with Al Horford, Josh Smith, and Joe Johnson.
6. Orlando Magic – If they keep Dwight Howard for the entire year, I still think the Magic are a playoff team. If they trade him, then they are playing for a high lottery pick. Getting rid of Gilbert Arenas and his outrageous contract was a good thing. Trading Brandon Bass will hurt them once they find out that Glen Davis is not that good.
7. Philadelphia 76ers – They are a young, talented team that is just waiting to break-out. They still lack a true “star”, even though they have a lot of solid players. Andre Iguodala is their best player, but they are in need of someone who can score in bunches and help the team win games. This team will be very competitive and should make the playoffs for the second straight season.
8. Indiana Pacers – If you look at all the teams that were in the playoffs last season, you will find out that I picked the same teams to make the playoffs this season. I expect the Pacers to be above .500 this season though, not 8 games under the watermark. Adding David West gives the Pacers a proven power forward that can help any team. I think the Pacers can be a dangerous team come playoff time.
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
Miami Heat v. Indiana Pacers – Miami beats Indiana in the first round simply because the Heat are better and more talented than the Pacers.
Chicago Bulls v. Philadelphia 76ers – Two good defensive teams go at, but Derrick Rose is the difference. Rose leads the Bulls over the 76ers.
Boston Celtics v. Orlando Magic – With or without Dwight Howard, the Magic will not beat the Celtics. The Celtics have more talent and are more proven veterans.
New York Knicks v. Atlanta Hawks – Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire are too much for the Hawks.
Eastern Conference Semifinals
Miami Heat v. New York Knicks – A very intriguing matchup of two teams that have multiple scoring options. Amar’e is better than Bosh. Melo is a more efficient offensive player than LeBron, but LeBron is the better overall player. Still, they cancel each other out. New York has no one that can guard Dwyane Wade. I don’t have enough faith in Landry Fields to get the job done. This will be a great series. Miami wins the series in seven games
Chicago Bulls v. Boston Celtics – Another intriguing matchup of great defensive teams. If I had to put money on which team I think would win, I would take Boston. They have been there before and Chicago lacks a consistent second-scoring option. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett are too much for Chicago. Rajon Rondo does his best on Derrick Rose, but he goes off. The problem is that Chicago has no one but Rose. The same thing that happened to Chicago in last year’s playoffs against Miami, happens against Boston this season.
Eastern Conference Finals
Miami Heat v. Boston Celtics – LeBron James faces a team that he knocked out of the playoffs last season. He brings his “A” again and gets help from his buddies (Wade and Bosh). Boston doesn’t go quietly though. In the end, Miami beats Boston in six games. But it’s anything but easy for the Heat.