Tuesday, October 16, 2012

NBA East Preview: Who makes the Playoffs?

The East has been a step behind the West in terms of quality teams. While it houses the reigning NBA champions, achieving a playoff spot in this conference is slightly easier. The competition is lackluster, besides the few notable powerhouses, the rest of the teams are the butt of the NBA. This summer, a lot of new faces arrived in the East. Some soared in the power rankings, where as some dropped. Here are my predictions for the 2012-2013 eastern conference playoff spots.

1. Miami Heat
With the Bulls now out without Derrick Rose and their bench mob, the Heat will take over at the top. The addition of sharp shooters Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis will make this team even deadlier. Especially in the small ball offense that they like to run. Look for LeBron to post up more often. He can wreak havoc in the paint by himself, and if you dared to double, his court vision will find an open man, which will result in 3 points. Miami's defense will remain just as irritating, but they will have to come up with a solution for the skilled Big Man (Hibbert and Bynum). It will not be a problem for this team to make it back to the finals this year, but whether they will repeat depends on Wade's pending health.

2. Indiana Pacers
How good Paul George will get this season will define what the Pacers can achieve in the post season. Otherwise this remains a solid team that plays great defense and suffer from occasional offensive droughts.

Granger hasn't improved into the offensive threat they would like, he needs to find consistency, as with much of the other players on this team. Hibbert has to demand the ball into the post more often, he is too skilled to not get more touches. Note to Vogel, please tell me you worked on getting the ball into the post over the summer, there is no reason why Hibbert should not be your go to scorer.

Coming back from this summer, they gain more depth with D.J. Augustin, Gerald Green, and importantly Ian Mahimi to back up Roy. To get past the Heat they must improve offensively, they have the basic tools but the players are just outmatched in some positions.

3. Boston Celtics
If there is anyone that can take the Heat down before their return to the throne, it's the Celtics. Losing Ray Allen might seem detrimental at first, but adding Jason Terry, who will be more than happy to be the sixth man can turn out for the better. Terry is a streaky shooter, but he is able to create for himself, which will be needed for instant offense that Boston is really short of. Courtney Lee is a bonus, gives them another streaky shooter that can defend the wing.

The Celtics are a  heavily loaded defensive team, if they can stay healthy, any team they play will have a tough match up. With excellent depth at Doc's disposal, the elders will get enough rest to be effective in late game. The struggles on offense has to be cured by Rondo, he has to put points on the board, giving up shots frequently hurts the team more than often.

4. Brooklyn Nets
I know this might be a stretch, but this Nets team looks promising. Offensively, they are a juggernaut, a starting group of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez will light up the score board. The key factor for the team is for Joe Johnson to find his place. With Deron beside him, there should be no circumstances, where he should play as iso-joe.

Kris and Brook will sweep the glass and should give them double doubles every game. They have a decent bench in C.J. Watson, Marshon Brooks, Reggie Evans, foreigner Mirza Teletovic, and Josh Childress. Oh, I forgot about Andray Blatche. Sorry, can't even write that without laughing.

The biggest problem will be on defense, they are lacking in basically every position, Gerald Wallace is not as young as he used to be. If they figure out a way to cover up their defensive woes, this team should give New York something to talk about.

5. New York Knicks
Adding a bunch of players that you recovered from fossils do not make them better defensively. I don't understand what James Dolan and Glen Grunwald was thinking, letting go of Jeremy Lin could have cost them a lot more than the poison pill contract. Off the record, I am not caught up into the Linsanity hype, but I do think he is an average point guard and by far better than the always chubby Raymond Felton.

The issue lies with Carmelo and Amare, if they don't find a way to mesh, the Knicks will never get anywhere. Their defense has already improved under Mike Woodson, I just don't see it can any better with the veterans they added. This team remains a solid playoff team, other than that they are no where close to contention.

6. Philadelphia 76ers
This young team has all the potential in the world, right now it is just waiting on Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner to get up to the next level. They need to provide consistent performance for this team to improve.

Andrew Bynum is now the face of the franchise, free from Kobe's grasp, he should be a terror for any team that he plays against. He has to put up big numbers every game to push Philadelphia up the seeding chart to avoid an early playoff exit. (Which should have happened last year if it wasn't for a certain knee that gave out.)

Doug Collins have done a wonderful job with this team, assembling a surprising third best defense in the league. Losing Andre Iguodala might take a toll on this team against opposing Superstars, hopefully putting Bynum in the paint will slow them down.

7. Atlanta Hawks
So long are the days of Atlanta's boring isolation offense. Let's welcome a new running game. Jeff Teague has been spectacular, finally discovering his role. He has to improve on his passing game with the new shooters Danny Ferry has put on this team. Anthony Morrow and Kyle Korver will be a huge boost to the offense.

Al Horford comes back this year at complete health, he and Josh Smith combining down at the low post will put up big numbers. This all comes down to Smith, he has to stop settling for jumpers, this is his contract year, it is time for him to play at an All-Star level. Which he is very capable of doing, the fate of Atlanta is in his hands, if he can break out from this Joe Johnson absent offense, Hawks will crack the playoffs easily.

8. Chicago Bulls
As a Bulls fan this is heart breaking, without Derrick Rose this year, they will play for an early exit in the playoffs. This again, prevents them from getting a good lottery pick. In honesty, they should tank and see if they can pull what San Antonio managed to do in 1997 (David Robinson got injured, Spurs tanked and got Tim Duncan). That's enough of my rambling, because I can go on forever, but let's just stop here.

The best chance Bulls had at a championship was last year, who knows what would have happened if Rose didn't tear his ACL. Losing the bench mob is a huge hit for the Bulls, their depth was the only thing that kept them from losing. Without them, even with Rose back they can't compete with the Heat. It will take some time before they re-insert themselves as a contender, most likely in Rose's prime (Yes, I believe his knee will be fine) or when LeBron's age catch up to him.

The Others:
Milwaukee Bucks
Don't Sleep on this team yet, they might sneak on into the playoffs. They have been stuck at the 9th seed for quite a while now, but with the Bulls and Hawks feeling the void left behind by their superstars, it lays out a perfect opportunity for Milwaukee. I am still perplexed by the Ellis and Jennings combo, which have yet to work out. Ilyasova is a promising player whose production will be necessary to clinch playoff berth. With all that said, defense remains an issue and it just seems like they are a few pieces short for any future success.

Toronto Raptors
This team has been frustrating, they have the talent, but are having a hard to time to find it. The Raptors are a team in progress, Bryan Colangelo is beginning to build an impressive team, it is just going to take a few years before they get out of the missing playoff slump. Their future relies on DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry,  Andrea Bargnani's health, the Jonas Valanciunas project and a surprise in Terrence Ross.

Cleveland Cavaliers
Kyrie Irving is ridiculously good, but that is all this team has going for them. Tristan Thompson has been disappointing so far, let's hope Dion Waiters doesn't follow that trend.

Washington Wizards
Nothing is going right for the Wiz, John Wall is injured, and Nene is still unclear when he can comeback. Next year Washington, next year.

Detroit Piston
They a potential star in Greg Monroe, if he can fit with Andre Drummond, they can put in a devastating front court. Give this team some time for their draft picks to develop, Joe Dumars might finally be on track.

Charlotte Bobcats
They can't get worst than last year. Ben Gordon, Gerald Henderson and Kemba Walker should be able to pick up the load on offense. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is still a work in progress, he does provide a bright future for the Cats but still, defensively this team is a disaster. Maybe Brendan Haywood and Bimack Biyombo can fix that?

Orlando Magic
If your offense depends on Jameer Nelson, your team is likely not going to do so well. Orlando created a huge mess this summer, getting Arron Affalo out of a 4 way trade that lost Dwight Howard. It will be some time for this team to be any good, and it starts with getting rid of those heavy contracts.

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