BaB official (and a couple days late) Eastern Conference predictions

For entertainment purposes only, here's my informal analysis regarding how I see the Bulls' conference shaking out. Tried not to cheat looking at the results of the first couple games of the season:

  1. Orlando Magic - Instead of overpaying for someone, they let him go. Wait, they also traded for someone who's even more overpaid...and better. I love the Turkoglu-for-Carter upgrade, and the Magic have the characteristics of teams that rack up a ton of regular season wins: plenty of depth (Bass, Gortat, Anderson, Pietrus) and a coach that won't tolerate nights off on defense.

  2. Boston Celtics - The cult of the-greatest-first-round-exit-ever may differ, but having Kevin Garnett back is a pretty big deal. If he's healthy, the Celtics have the best defense in the league, and with Rasheed Wallace helping to keep that defense to a similar level when Garnett is on the bench. I also liked adding Daniels as someone to spell both Pierce and Allen.

  3. Cleveland Cavaliers - Obviously this is all one tier between teams 1-3, I just see the Cavs winning slightly fewer regular season games. But they'll be right there. The Shaq acquisition was for not only nothing, but better than nothing, as having Ben Wallace off your roster is the only way to guarantee he won't hurt you anymore. I could see them trying to work Shaq in too much at the expense of better options in Z and Varejao, but they really just added more talent in the offseason, even compensating for whatever keeps Delonte West off the court during the year.

  4. Atlanta Hawks - Jamal Crawford was another 'flawed player, but something for nothing' acquisition, and I think him knowing from the outset he's the 6th man will help him finally get to the playoffs. Joe Smith was another solid ex-Bull addition, and the rest of the 46-win team of last season is not only intact from last year, but with several main pieces still approaching their prime. On the other hand, there's also the possible coach-fatigue collapse looming.

  5. Washington Wizards - It's one thing to look forward to the return of Luol Deng, but the Wizards getting back not only Gilbert Arenas but Brendan Haywood (their most important defender) is a whole 'nother level. Though it needs to be given their record last year. It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Flip Saunders, and he has a full roster of veterans (even the young players have a lot of minutes due to the star injuries) to get the most out of, especially offensively.

  6. Philadelphia 76ers - While the Wizards get a coach-bump from Eddie Jordan to Flip Saunders, that doesn't mean Jordan won't also help the Sixers. They still won 41 games after a lot of turmoil last season, and just because they had a bad record with Elton Brand doesn't mean his return makes them worse.

  7. Chicago Bulls - A talented top-7, even if they lack star power outside of Rose. I think it especially hurts the  Bulls not having upper-tier talented individual players, because I don't see that deficiency being compensated for by being well-coached. On the bright side, I know we've been fooled before, but I really think this is the year for Thomas and Noah to finally at least have the Bulls frontcourt match their opponents, with Brad Miller being their perfect complement. Rose will take a step up, but this feels like a team needing many things to work simultaneously to be successful, and that's hard to accomplish much more than half the time.

  8. Toronto Raptors - Considering what he had to work with (not that the situation wasn't his fault in the first place), I think Bryan Colangelo really did a great job this season re-tooling the roster. They'll be a nightmare to guard on nights when they're shooting well, but they're still going to have rebounding problems, and specialist Reggie Evans can only slightly help that. Maybe they are even lower than this and the Raps feel the need to trade Bosh before he leaves, and the Bulls should be right there, because he really is a great player. I don't think it was as much of him becoming an outside player last year as it was him knowing it wasn't worth going inside with that crew around him. He has more help this year, but they had a lot of ground to make up too.

    After the jump, the lottery teams...

  • Miami Heat - Wade and a bunch of crap, as his supporting cast is even worse than last season given that Jermaine O'Neal may be completely finished, and who knows what ups and downs Michael Beasley will go through this year. Plus Wade's sure to miss a week or two during the season the way he plays. I'm not sure this will be a bad enough result to make Wade want to leave, but it'll at least make him think. But then Pat Riley will get him to stay and bring another max player to join him, because he's Pat Riley armed with a fairly spend-happy owner.
  • Detroit Pistons - That Rip Hamilton trade has to be coming eventually, and until then this team is just way too thin up front. Ben Wallace hate continues to effect these subjective rankings, as I think any minute he plays could've been taken by someone from the DLeague that would provide more. And with Charlie V, Kwame Brown, and Jason Maxiell as the other principals in the frontcourt, their interior defense will have trouble, and it's not like their guards are known for keeping guys in front of them either. Yes, even my guy BG.
  • Milwaukee Bucks - This is where the bottom tier of the conference begins, and the Bucks get my nod as the best of that class because they'll be especially well coached. It does make a major difference that Redd and Bogut will be back, but they simultaneously lost too much in the offseason to make it much of a net positive. But they'll defend way better than they should, and as a result stay close enough to steal a few extra wins.
  • Indiana Pacers - I think Jim O'Brien is a solid coach as well, but this team has too much of with a talent deficit only made worse by the injuries (and ones without timetables at that) to Mike Dunleavy and Tyler Hansbrough
  • New York Knicks - This is like some weird social experiment, where every player is in their contract year, or eligible to be dealt for the need for more guys in their contract year. D'Antoni gets a bad rap for his teams being bad defenders (they were actually average), but it helped when his players knew they were playing for something. This team has to know they're on borrowed time, so why bother even trying to defend?
  • Charlotte Bobcats - Actually has a fairly deep (with mediocrity, of course) roster of veterans, but manages to have absolutely no way to score easy points on offense. If only Michael Jordaon could come up with a perceived slight to DOMINATE GM-ing. 
  • New Jersey Nets - Not just a team in too much of a transition, but an entire franchise. In between owners and locations with a very young team and a coach who doesn't usually like to play them...this year will just be some odd footnote in Nets history.
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