Official BaB 2011-12 Eastern Conference standings predictions

This is a yearly tradition, including the part where I don't get them up until a couple games have already passed. And thus they're probably a bit tainted after seeing some inter-conference matchups. But honestly, the best predictions are the ones done after the season's over. You're way more likely to be correct! That's the point of these, right?

As usual, totally informal and lacking much real analysis. My (and later Alex's) predictions after the jump.

  1. Miami Heat - Just think they're going to be the juggernaut that was predicted last season, and sort of were for spurts of last season. No groundbreaking rationale as to why: they have the best team, with more familiarity with eachother than last season, and some upgrades around the margins that can make a difference considering how many awful players received significant minutes for them last season.
  2. Chicago Bulls - Have a tremendous depth and continuity advantage nearly every night. Not sure it's possible to exhibit the consistently intense effort that was on display all of last season, but their defense+Rose formula beats a lot of teams.
  3. New York Knicks - It's a big dropoff from #2 to here, and I was looking for anyone else to put in this spot as I do worry about injuries with their entire frontcourt. But the recent histories of Melo/Amare/Chandler have actually been alright in that department. Depth isn't that big of an issue with Mike D'Antoni historically not using a bench, though I guess that could change in this type of schedule.
  4. Indiana Pacers - The kind of team that really isn't as good as their record, but sort of like the Skiles-era Bulls, they have a lot of good players and will always play hard. That is enough on a lot of nights, especially against the dreck of the league. They had a great offseason with the caveat that they've still yet to make the most challenging move from being a true contender, which is getting a go-to player better than Danny Granger. But they were a fun, if annoying, out in the playoffs and I don't fault them from building on that instead of worrying too much about the ultimate ceiling they'll encounter.
  5. Boston Celtics - Just so thin combined with their big four being prone to injury/rest this season. They did make a great trade in getting Brandon Bass for Big Baby Davis, and I've always had an irrational like for Keyon Dooling (same with Chris Wilcox, actually). But when Jeff Green, who's not even any good, is a crippling loss for the bench, that's a danger zone. They're playing for one last playoff run and their regular season record will reflect that.
  6. Philadelphia 76ers - Not really on my mind because they didn't do anything all offseason, but this team had an expected 46 wins last season and are pretty loaded. Not with anyone great, mind you, but a pretty solid roster and maybe the patented Doug Collins burnout is averted in a shortened schedule. A significant leap from Evan Turner is so necessary for this team to try and really turn it around, and as a nice side benefit it could grease the wheels of an Iguodala trade to the Bulls.
  7. Orlando Magic - Even if they don't trade Dwight Howard, they needed to do something to keep from further sliding from their finals appearance, and they just didn't do it while simultaneously putting themselves in a worse position in a post-Dwight world. There's a reason he wants to leave and it isn't because of marketing, they've made too many poor moves, happening again in downgrading from Bass to Davis for little reason (though simply playing Ryan Anderson more will help). This team also wins based on their defense and demanding coach, and it's tough to see that working as well when there's that much uncertainty with the franchise.
  8. Atlanta Hawks - They're very thin themselves, but have a very good core group of players who've been together a while and know how to beat up on bad teams. This could be the year that it falls apart for that group, they quit on another coach, and Josh Smith is traded for scraps midseason to help their constant payroll issues. I had them above Philly until I remembered they signed Jannero Pargo.
  9. Milwaukee Bucks - Skiles teams just can't score, to the point where you almost wonder if he just has a fetish for low-scoring offense simply as a way to somehow emphasize defense even more. Which is too bad because I actually like a lot of the roster moves they made, adding Jackson, Dunleavy, and Udrih. But even if you buy into the edge Jackson can bring as a late-game shotmaker, overall he's way too inconsistent, as is Bogut and Jennings.
  10. Detroit Pistons - As much as their long-term plan is completely nonsensical, I think they have talent, and the swing from John Kuester to Lawrence Frank will be significant. If you're one who thinks it's just incredibly unlikely that the same 8 teams make the playoffs as last year, I'd probably say Detroit has the best shot, outside of some Dwight Howard trade.
  11. New Jersey Nets - I just can't fathom how they pull off the mentioned Howard trade with how few assets they have. Maybe they can do something interesting in the offseason when the Magic have officially given up all hope (even LeBron was technically signed/traded, remember), but for now it'll be a lot of uncertainty as they lose a lot during their final season before Brooklyn and hope Deron Williams doesn't leave before they even have a chance at Dwight.
  12. Washington Wizards - I think Flip Saunders is a really good coach, but if anyone is the type to get through to the fabulously talented yet space-headed frontcourt duo of Blatche and McGee, he's probably not it. Nor can he really do much with Nick Young or Jordan Crawford. He has a potentially great young point guard and a history of implementing great offenses, but that's just too many guys who wouldn't recognize a good shot even if you drew one up perfectly.
  13. Toronto Raptors - Really doesn't matter with the bottom-3, I give the Raps a slight edge because of their hiring of Dwane Casey.
  14. Charlotte Bobcats - Still miss you, Tyrus Thomas. This is another team that will just struggle too much to score most nights, and that's before Corey Magette undoubtedly gets hurt.
  15. Cleveland Cavaliers - The Cavs had a bit of a bummer having two high lottery picks in a crappy draft (see Bulls, '00 and '01) but on the bright side they should have another one soon!

  16. [Alex's predictions are below -yfbb]

    So many games crammed into a short time widens the gap between every team's upside and downside. The teams who'll come out on top will be the most healthy, with better managed rotations, and the least questions entering the season.

  1. Miami Heat - They're who they are and though the formula isn't perfect, there are less variables to decide their wins and losses than any other team in the East and the foundation is very, very strong. You can play devil's advocate with their lack of offense down low, but every team in the NBA is flawed to some degree. The aggressiveness and efficiency of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade more than make up for it.
  2. Chicago Bulls - No team in the East can match the Bulls' depth in the frontcourt. Though it's devoid of a superstar and we're still unsure what Carlos Boozer is, the overall production makes every win difficult for opponents without hall of fame levels of isolation play and ridiculous ball movement that somehow doesn't constantly get intercepted by the aggressive wings. The youth adds to the speed, Derrick Rose's skills make people's heads spin; this is a league where size, speed, and stars kill. They're still the only other safe pick to be an East powerhouse.
  3. New York Knicks - This is more a statement to the time it will take for the Celtics to get their defense and rotations in order. That said, Tyson Chandler just flat out makes you better. They lack a point guard, but Carmelo Anthony's evolving into someone with point forward elements and they'll shoot you out of the gym on any given night. Melo running the pick n' roll with two of the best in the biz at the two-man game -- Chandler and Amare Stoudemire -- will make them unguardable. They don't defend well, but Chandler anchoring the paint and Stoudemire's raised aggressiveness in spurts will force a lot of opponents into lazy, brick-tastic jump shooting. The defensive efficiency won't be great, but it'll be enough to land the 42'ish wins it might only take to win the Atlantic.
  4. Boston Celtics - The lack of a powerhouse in the Atlantic doesn't make it devoid of drama. Frankly, there every team in the division has the potential for 30-to-35 wins -- which should be good to get into the playoffs. Their core is getting older, but the skills are still there. Brandon Bass only makes them better. They're smaller than the more dominant Cs squads of the last couple of years, and they're going to swing heavily due to the age of their core players and the way the schedule is formatted. But I'm not counting a team out of the top four with that much talent and I'm not giving up on any defense anchored by Kevin Garnett.
  5. Atlanta Hawks - Yes, they're better than the Magic. I said it. There are a ton of questions surrounding this team from perimeter defense to inconsistent shooting, but those questions aren't in the frontcourt. It keeps them in games and will pull off so many wins against mediocre and bad teams. On paper, other teams look more impressive; but in reality they may have the least scary amount of downside other than the top four.
  6. Orlando Magic - They have to be evaluated under the impression that, at worst, there will be some sort of equitable deal for Dwight Howard that accumulates wins. The fact is that they can be great or awful on any given night. They can win 45 games and grab the four seed just as easily as they can lose 35 and battle for the eight seed this season.
  7. Milwaukee Bucks - Skiles makes mediocre teams look really good, but his well generally managed teams tend to under-perform. Trusting Skiles to put forth a scheme that utilizes some very underrated talent on the roster is difficult; trusting Andrew Bogut to be the focal point he should be is difficult. But the pieces are there and defense like that finishing under .500 like last year is a blip. Though their basement is higher than Orlando's (at probably 33 losses), their ceiling is significantly lower (probably 38 wins).
  8. Indiana Pacers - They play well, but the talent just isn't there. That said, Frank Vogel implements a scheme that maximizes his players' strengths and covers up their weakness so well that I'd be shocked if they finished below .500. But that scheme will rely on perfect health and the better teams in the East also have very good coaches to counter Indy. They're not gonna win three of every five, but they're surely not gonna lose more than they win. They're just less talented than Orlando and Milwaukee, but could very well finish as high as the four seed, because the Cs, Magic, and Bucks are more likely to go on awful stretches. I trust Indy's consistency and coaching; but not the players on the court to rise high. Their upside is fully dependent on others' failures.
  9. New Jersey Nets - Deron Williams is who we think he is and Brook Lopez is only getting better. They're a lot faster and can be very aggressive, but other teams are just deeper and fit within their schemes better. A perfect storm can sneak them into the playoffs, but 35 wins is a realistic ceiling; and that just isn't high enough.
  10. Philadelphia 76ers - They're a lot like the Pacers with some more talent at the top of their depth chart, but it still comes together as very mediocre. You never know what you're going to get out of anyone in their rotation on any given night. The rotation clicked last season, as every night two or three different guys stepped up every night, but that's simply a bunch of things being perfect at the same time. That formula is seldom repeatable.
  11. Washington Wizards - They finally look better than the Bobcats and can out-run most teams in the leagues on any given night when they want to. They just don't have the consistency and teams like this will have consistently embarrassing outings on the tail-ends of the many back-to-backs in this year's NBA schedule.
  12. Toronto Raptors - Fun to watch, but the talent just isn't there. They may pull out crazier wins against strong teams more often than the Wizards, but they're gonna also be sporadic wins for awful teams.
  13. Detroit Pistons - Awful. The coaching change will make them tougher to score against, but they're destined to lose a lot of 90-81 games at their best this season.
  14. Cleveland Cavaliers - This is a year where great teams will look more human and mediocre teams will show more promise, but bad teams are going to look horrendous. They just have more hope than Charlotte.
  15. Charlotte Bobcats - There's just nothing here. I'd be surprised if Detroit, Cleveland, or Charlotte win ten games, so there are a ton of variables that'll decide the bottom of this barrel. Charlotte's whole damn team is a variable though.
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