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BaB Official 2010-11 Eastern Conference predictions

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Informal and subjective, here is how I see the Eastern Conference regular season shaking out this season. It's a bit of a tradition, didn't you know?

  1. Miami Heat - I know we all hate them. I do, too. But it's one thing to be repulsed by their phony act, and another to not respect how tremendous they're going to be. LeBron has proven he can carry a team already, and despite whatever damage he's done to his legacy is the best player in basketball. Dwayne Wade is arguably the second best player in basketball. Chris Bosh is disparaged as the 3rd banana because he's not in the same tier as the other two, but he's one of the top 15-20 players in the league. They're going to be great, and the news will be whenever they lose a game. I'm convinced the only reason this isn't said more often is that it's a bit depressing to concede in October. They won't win 72 games but they'll win the most in the conference.

  2. Orlando Magic - They may actually give the Heat a run for the top record, because they are a great regular season team. Not only never take a night off, but rarely even play down to their competition to where games against lesser opponents are competitive. Bringing back essentially the same team as last season (though they lose a couple wins because Chris Duhon is now involved). Will continue to be a top defensive team as long as they have Dwight Howard and SVG, and any decrease in performance from Carter and Lewis will be offset by improvements from Howard and Redick, plus they should be better used to whatever rotation concerns come up in their deep frontcourt. If Jameer Nelson is hurt again and Chris Duhon has to play a lot, they're out of the playoffs (ok maybe not, but close.)

  3. Boston Celtics - The opposite of a good regular season team, I'd consider putting the Bulls in this spot if it wasn't for that pesky Boozer injury. It actually seems like, in spite of coasting last season, being validated in that coasting, and acquiring the ultimate coasting player in Shaq, that they may have a more consistent effort this season. But with so many older players, they still won't be fully healthy, plus Kendrick Perkins' extended absence. But they did a good job in building out their depth, and there's a bit of a 'last hurrah' feeling that could keep the Big 3 and Doc Rivers going throughout the season.

  4. Atlanta Hawks - Left a sour taste in everyone's mouth due to another playoff flameout and a dormant offseason, but they still won 53 games last year. I think it was the right move to get a new coach, but I worry that while they may be better off in the long run without Mike Woodson, it does bring a bit of uncertainty to a team that's thrived on consistency, and Woodson and his system was at least well-liked. Maybe because his system involved letting Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford do what they wanted, but there still will be a transition period.

  5. Chicago Bulls - I think this Boozer-less month will be pretty trying (especially with how Taj Gibson's preseason has looked), but also can see the Bulls make a hell of a run to end this season, playing their best ball before the playoffs. The Thibodeau hire has given the Bulls actual offense, and this is a roster that at the least will always play hard and play defense, and that wins plenty of games in and of itself. They'll also be able to steal some wins during the season through Rose's brilliance, even if for the initial 46 minutes of the game the lack of scoring efficiency keeps victory in doubt.

  6. Milwaukee Bucks - It's tempting to pick them ahead of the Bulls, as in spite of whatever improvements the Bulls made, the Bucks do have a 5-win head start. But I'm worried about Bogut's return, and the loss of Luke Ridnour as Brandon Jennings' security blanket. And while this won't be the year of the great Skiles flameout (maybe next year), I could see him costing the team a few wins as he weirdly adjusts to coaching Drew Gooden, Corey Maggette, and John Salmons. But this team is pretty deep (I liked their end-of-rotation pickups in CDR, Keyon Dooling, and John Brockman) and they could actually make a move at the trading deadline with Michael Redd's expiring deal.

  7. New York Knicks - A pretty huge dropoff after teams 1-6, but someone has to take the last two spots. I love Mike D'Antoni and I love Amare Stoudemire, and I think this is a team that will not only be fun to watch but they'll want to play for eachother and out-run many of the bad teams in the league. That's enough to get to sortof-average, and that's all that's needed to get to this spot in the conference.

  8. Philadelphia 76ers - I think this is a huge coach-bump for them, not just because of Doug Collins' history as a quick turnaround-artist (until he goes weepy and crazy), but because not only was Eddie Jordan a bad fit for that team, it seemed as if they openly hated him. But they do have some talent, and won 41 games just two seasons ago. I'd feel more confident if they still had Dalembert at center instead of Spencer Hawes, but this seems like a group good enough to barely get in.

    Note in that above scenario, the Bulls would be the #4 seed because they'd win the Central Division. But they'd be matched up with the #5 and if the Hawks had a better record they'd have home-court, so I'm sticking with this as a record-only prediction. Non-playoff teams after the jump...

  • Indiana Pacers - They are always not as bad as it seems, maybe the sheer sub-mediocrity-ness of them as a franchise makes it feel that way. But they won 32 last year, and getting a full-time PG alongside Danny Granger is huge for them. But oh, that frontcourt.

  • Washington Wizards - Speaking of bad frontcourts, yuck. I understand the need to give it a try, but the Wall-Arenas-Hinrich lineup will not work, and ultimately they'll decide that Arenas can't work with them at all anymore. Either he'll do something strange, get hurt, or both; and whether it's fair or not, the franchise will expedite the process of moving him, the only thing slowing them down being how hard it will be to find a taker. But whether it's done or not, it'll be another season of distraction and transition for the Wizards, and even though I really like Flip Saunders it'll ultimately keep them out of the playoffs.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers - Not only did they go the wrong route in the wake of the LeBron departure by sticking with the Lebronairres instead of dumping them at relatively high value (playing on back-to-back 60-win teams and all) to get younger, they hired a coach who'll see to it that the younger players won't get better anyway. That said, it may actually get them to win a few more games than they otherwise would, but it's ultimately meaningless as they look for another franchise player.
  • Detroit Pistons - Even if they're much healthier, they had such a bad frontcourt last season and that was with a surprising Jonas Jerebko rookie campaign and a completely dumbfounding renaissance season from Ben Wallace. We already know Jerebko's season won't be as good, and of course as a Bulls fan I think the next Ben Wallace tank job is right around the corner. And the usual complaint is usual because it's true: too much on the perimeter to keep everyone happy or even cohesive.
  • Charlotte Bobcats - I think this is the time of the Larry Brown thing where he gets fed up and wants to leave, and then Stephen Jackson will soon follow, and it could soon implode. Their offense has a chance to be horrifically bad, and even my unbound love of Tyrus Thomas admits that such a potentially unstructured environment won't be very good for him. I will still watch every game on League Pass. Go 'cats!
  • New Jersey Nets - Yes, they have nowhere to go but up, but they started from so low there's only so far they can actually go. Their roster remains pretty thin and even considering Avery Johnson's ability to coach up a team, there's not much to work with.
  • Toronto Raptors - For years their fans complained that Bosh wasn't a true star, and a ballhog, and they'd be better off without him. Well, no, they'll suck. Maybe it'll ultimately work better in the long run, but it'll be more due to lottery luck than any mad scientist work from Bryan Colangelo. Does he still keep that title?