After decades of having the NBA's best players playing in the Western conference the balance of power has shifted. The Eastern conference is the one with all the marquee names drawing all the attention. Lebron James, D-Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, and Derrick Rose almost sounds like the all NBA 1st team. The conference is top heavy though and after the first four teams the fall off in talent is pretty dramatic. Nonetheless the battle for the championship will be hard fought. Here is how the Eastern conference will shake out.
8. Philadelphia 76ers. Evan Turner has improved his shooting touch and Jrue Holiday is expected to make a greater contribution in points and assists, but the Sixers lack an impact player. Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala are both good complimentary players that need someone else to do the heavy lifting.
7. Indiana Pacers. Danny Granger is on the verge of becoming a perennial all star and Roy Hibbert gives them a solid presence in the middle. the free agency acquisition of David West should also pay dividends. If someone slips up this year the Pacers will be the team to take advantage.
6. Orlando Magic. The Dwight Howard saga has drained the franchise of all its energy, but their roster (for the time being) still includes him. For that reason the Magic will feast on weaker opponents and struggle against .500 teams or better.
5. Boston Celtics. The old legs are going to take a while to get in motion so they will struggle to start the season. The nucleus of Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Rajon Rondo have played together long enough to flip the switch when the time is right though. The Celtic are still a dangerous team.
4. Atlanta Hawks. Joe Johnson is a bonafide scorer, but he has never fully embraced the role of superstar. Fortunately Josh Smith and Al Horford are there to pick up the slack. The young legs should help them get out of the gate strong and hold on to a high seed.
3. Chicago Bulls. The acquisition of Rip Hamilton provides leadership and a championship attitude for a team desperately seeking an identity. It doesn't hurt that the have the league's youngest MVP on their squad as well. I like the direction they're going in, but they need one more scorer to get over the hump.
2. New York Knicks. Carmelo got his wish last season and now he has a few more weapons in his arsenal to accomplish his objective. Tyson Chandler is a nice pick up, but I really think Baron Davis will get in shape and stay motivated under the bright lights. Their defense got a little better and their offense should be much improved over last year.
1. Miami Heat. D-Wade, Lebron, and Chris Bosh are too much to handle over a 7 game series. The addition of Shane Battier was huge and the dormant Eddie Curry may even be ready to throw his body around for a few minutes per game. Too talented, too young, and too much to prove. The Heat cruise to the finals.