2012 Eastern Conference Preview and Predictions

Last year’s NBA season was extremely profitable – particularly in the playoffs.  When the Miami Heat took out the Oklahoma City Thunder, we won big after a Game One loss put the series odds heavily in out favor.  This year, I don’t think anyone can compete with the Heat in the Eastern Conference.  Here is a 2012 conference preview:

1.  Miami Heat: LeBron James had one of the greatest postseasons in history and finally got his ring.   With the pressure off, will he actually take a step back?  The Heat are the best team in this conference by far.  As long as they stay hungry, there isn’t a team in the East that can even compete with their talent level, athleticism, and balance.  Playing in the weakest division in basketball doesn’t hurt either.

2. Chicago Bulls: Injuries derailed the Bulls last season, but they’re still the deepest team in the Eastern Conference.  They lack the top-end talent that the Miami Heat have, but chemistry and depth will carry them to another excellent season.

3. New York Knicks: I don’t think the Knicks are that good.  They invested their maximum contracts poorly, have a team with limited chemistry, and lost arguably their most productive player when Jeremy Lin went to Houston.  Still, the Atlantic is so mediocre, they might actually compete for a division title.  Why not?

4. Boston Celtics: They’re old and they’ve lost pieces, but they still have the best healthy point guard in the conference.  That should be enough for another playoff berth, but the Boston Celtics have their work cut out for them if they’re going to catch the Knicks in this division.

5. Philadelphia 76ers: Andrew Bynum is quite a commodity and the 76ers got a steal this offseason.  Built from the inside out, young and talented, the 76ers will be even better than last year.  They’re scrappy, and they’re headed to the playoffs again this year.

6. Brooklyn Nets: The middle of the NBA pack is so terrible, that a new arena and some superstar talent could propel the Nets to a playoff berth.  Mostly, it would be awesome if the Nets could draw the Knicks in the first round.  It’s a competitively mediocre division and conference, so a 6 Vs 3 matchup is certainly possible.

7. Indiana Pacers: Roy Hibbert could help the Pacers compete this year and hold off the bottom of the conference.  The big man gives them a consistency that will make the Pacers a slightly above .500 playoff team with the right complementary pieces.

8.  Atlanta Hawks: They lost Joe Johnson to the Nets, but playing in a miserable division could keep the Hawks in the hunt just long enough to sneak into the playoffs.

9. Milwaukee Bucks – There’s something about this team where they always seem to fall short.  Why should this year be any different?

10.  Cleveland Cavaliers – It’s funny, but the Cavs have actually assembled a pretty decent roster.  They could be competitive this year.

11. Toronto Raptors – Remember when Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady played here? How long until Il Mago brings the excitement back to Canada?

12. Washington Wizards – John Wall is solid, but the rest of this team is a disaster.  Things could have been different in DC if Gilbert Arenas didn’t love playing with guns so much.

13. Detroit Pistons – Is Rip Hamilton still on this team?  Ben Wallace?  The guy who yells “DEEEETROIIIIT  BASSSKEEETBBALLLL”?

14. Orlando Magic – No Dwight Howard – no chance.  Let the rebuilding efforts begin.

15. Charlotte Bobcats – This team is so bad that if Michael Jordan came down from the owner’s box to play again, he’d be one of the best three players on the court.

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