2013-14 NBA Preview and Predictions: The Eastern Conference

NBA 2013-14 Eastern Conference Predictions

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Atlantic Division

NY KnicksNew York Knicks Predicted: 56-26 (2012-13 Record: 54-28)

Key Losses: Chris Copeland, Steve Novak, Jason Kidd
Key Additions: Andrea Bargnani, Beno Udrih, Metta World-Peace, Tim Hardaway, Jr
My 5: Ray Felton, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony, Andrea Bargnani, Tyson Chandler

The Knicks have been trying to be relevant again in the NBA since the Ewing Era came to a close. Now, they are fighting just to be relevant in the city they call home. New York has been engaged in an arms race with their inter-borough rival the Brooklyn Nets, and this off-season they continued to add improving pieces. Former #1 overall draft pick, and Italian import, Bargnani will find success in the Big Apple, and the Knicks will limp across the finish line as Atlantic Division champs.

BK NetsBrooklyn Nets Predicted: 54-28 (2012-12 Record: 49-33)

Key Losses: Gerald Wallace, Marshon Brooks, CJ Watson
Key Additions: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, Andrei Kirilenko, Mason Plumlee
My 5: Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez

The Nets authored the biggest summer deal, when on draft night they traded for future Hall of Famers Garnett and Pierce. Some speculate the new members in Brooklyn are past their prime, but they were not brought in to carry the team. As role players, they have more than enough fire power left in the tank. The biggest key to the teams improvement, was where they added depth to their roster. The rookie Plumlee will surprise many this season, and come across as a steal for the organization. While other “super teams” have failed to initially gel, the components the Nets acquired are too seasoned to fail in their Brooklyn debut.

PHI 76'ersPhiladelphia 76’ers Predicted: 32-50 (2012-13 Record: 34-48)

Key Losses: Jrue Holiday, Andrew Bynum, Nick Young
Key Additions: Nerlens Noel, Michael Carter-Williams, Royce White, Tony Wroten
My 5: Michael Carter-Williams, Evan Turner, Thadeous Young, Nerlens Noel, Spencer Hawes

Philadelphia management shook up the basketball world, when on draft night they dealt up and coming All-NBA Point Guard Jrue Holiday, for the rights to Rookie Nerlens Noel. While Noel is still recovering from leg injuries, he is slated to be the corner stone for a rebuilding team. The biggest piece to this transformation was the less heralded draft pick, Point Guard Carter-Williams. He poses tremendous size (6’6”) for the position, and is a pure pass first point guard. The 76’ers have set themselves up nicely with some key complimentary pieces. Adding a bona fide scorer to this mix will make for a promising future.

TOR RaptorsToronto Raptors Predicted: 30-52 (2012-13 Record: 34-48)

Key Losses: Andrea Bargniani, John Lucas
Key Additions: DJ Augustin, Steve Novak, Austin Daye
My 5: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas

Toronto has been mired in mediocrity for some time now, and that does not change with the upcoming season. The pieces they have tried to bring in, mostly from overseas, have yet to pan out. Rudy Gay is a solid building block, but there is not enough surrounding him to make this team a winner. They have great substitutes, who unfortunately, are in a starting role for the Raptors. With not much youth, management should consider overhauling the entire franchise.

BOS CelticsBoston Celtics Predicted: 28-54 (2012-13 Record: 41-40)

Key Losses: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, Fab Melo
Key Additions: Kelly Olynyk, Gerald Wallace, Marshon Brooks, Kris Humphries
My 5: Rajon Rondo, Marshon Brooks, Gerald Wallace, Jeff Green, Kelly Olynk

The C’s dealt away the faces of the franchise, as well as their highly regarded Head Coach. Although they did not bring in much youth, they did acquire veteran performers who know how to win in the league. Green, who is fully recovered from a heart ailment, showed he can potentially become an All-Star and should improve with the team built around him. Olynyk showed flashes in the summer league that his days on the big stage at Gonzaga may not have been exaggerated. When Rondo returns from injury, the reigns of the franchise will be his to steer. It will be then that the direction of this team will be better known.

Central Division

IND PacersIndiana Pacers Predicted: 52-30 (2012-13 Record: 49-32)

Key Losses: DJ Augustin, Gerald Green
Key Additions: Luis Scola, Chris Copeland, CJ Watson
My 5: George Hill, Paul George, Danny Granger, David West, Roy Hibbert

The darlings of the 2012-13 Playoffs, Indiana did not lose any of its core pieces, and gained some added depth. George is emerging as an MVP candidate, while Granger is a former All-Star that was missing all of last year. Add Scola for some interior defense and scoring off the bench, as well as Copeland who emerged in New York as a long range threat, and the Pacers are in line to make a strong push for Eastern Conference supremacy.

CHI BullsChicago Bulls Predicted: 52-30 (2012-13 Record: 45-37)

Key Losses: Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli
Key Additions: Mike Dunleavy, Jr, Mike James, Tony Snell
My 5: Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah

Even though the former MVP, Point Guard Rose, missed the 2012-13 campaign, the season was not entirely a loss for the Bulls. Butler was able to emerge as a solid NBA wingman, and Noah blossomed as a complete Center on the low blocks. Now with Rose fully recovered, the team looks to return to the top of the Conference and challenge for an NBA Title. Doubts remain about the condition of the Point Guard, but that is added fuel to the fire he uses for motivation. If the pre-season has been an indicator, the Windy City has blown off any lingering dust.

DET PistonsDetroit Pistons Predicted: 48-34 (2012-13 Record: 29-53)

Key Losses: Brandon Knight, Jose Calderon, Jason Maxiell
Key Additions: Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Kentavious Caldewell-Pope
My 5: Brandon Jennings, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond

Perhaps the busiest teams in the off-season, the Pistons used Free Agency to retool their roster. Smith will be allowed to move to the wing full time, where his added three point prowess will be on display. Jennings will become a distributor for the first time in his career, as there are more finishers than he has ever played with on one team. The Pistons will be a staunch defensive team, and points in the paint will be hard to muster against them. Unfortunately, they play in what has become the most competitive division in the league.

MIL BucksMilwaukee Bucks Predicted: 44-38 (2012-13 Record: 38-44)

Key Losses: Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings, Mike Dunleavy, Jr
Key Additions: Brandon Knight, OJ Mayo, Carlos Delfino
My 5: Brandon Knight, OJ Mayo, Ersan Ilysova, John Henson, Larry Sanders

Out goes a young and explosive backcourt, replaced by one just as competitive and maybe better balanced. The Bucks frontcourt is quickly becoming one of the better units in the league. Sanders is on the verge of dominating the middle defensively, and Ilysova has an improving all-around game. Milwaukee has a nice nucleus, but its immaturity prevents them from capitalizing their potential this season.

CLE CavsCleveland Cavaliers Predicted: 38-44 (2012-13 Record: 24-58)

Key Losses: Marreese Speights, Omri Casspi
Key Additions: Anthony Bennett, Andrew Bynum, Jarret Jack
My 5: Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson, Andrew Bynum

Owning the #1 overall pick in the draft, the Cavs surprised many by selecting UNLV’s Bennett. Not nearly as dominant in the paint as Larry Johnson was, the former Runnin’ Rebel has a much more advanced outside game for a big man. That balance should allow Irving to have an accomplice to his offensive attack. If Bynum can return to form, the Cavs have a real shot to compete this season, but that is a big if. Jack was a great pick up for added depth at Point Guard, but a Shooting Guard was more of a pressing need. Cleveland is still a piece away, but they are headed in the right direction.

Southeast Division

MIA HeatMiami Heat Predicted: 62-20 (2012-13 Record: 66-16)

Key Losses: Mike Miller
Key Additions: Michael Beasley, Greg Oden
My 5: Norris Cole, Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Greg Oden

The back-to-back NBA Champions are now a quarter of the way thru LeBron’s bold prediction of eight titles. The team did not lose any major components, but did add a former #1 overall pick in Oden, along with a former #2 overall pick in Beasley. At 28 years of age and 10 years in the league, James is playing his best ball ever and making a strong case for greatest of all time. While many might regress after winning a Championship, yet alone two, this group is not in that category. The Heat will again be one of the last teams standing, if not the only one.

WAS WizardsWashington Wizards Predicted: 42-40 (2012-13 Record: 29-53)

Key Losses: None
Key Additions: Marcin Gortat, Otto Porter, Jr, Glen Rice, Jr, Eric Maynor
My 5: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Jr, Nene, Marcin Gortat

While Beal was having a stellar rookie season, former #1 overall draft pick Wall decided to play like the guy who was so highly regarded coming out of Kentucky. The Wizards drafted Porter out of local Georgetown, and he can potentially be a Point Forward allowing Wall to be more of the natural scorer he is. Add Gortat to the mix, and Washington has the pieces for a balanced and competitive team. The Playoffs might be out of reach this season, but the Wiz will be one of the most improved teams this year.

CHA BobcatsCharlotte Bobcats Predicted: 34-48 (2012-13 Record: 21-61)

Key Losses: Byron Mullens, Reggie Williams
Key Additions: Al Jefferson, Cody Zeller
My 5: Kemba Walker, Alan Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, Al Jefferson

The laughing stock of the league may have finally turned the corner, now that some of their recent draft picks are panning out. The undersized Walker proved he belongs with the big boys, while Kidd-Gilchrist is still developing into his physical gifts. Jefferson will provide an interior presence which will allow Zeller to develop to the pro game. The Bobcats are another team which will improve upon last year’s record, as their growth continues in the right direction.

ATL HawksAtlanta Hawks Predicted: 26-56 (2012-13 Record: 44-38)

Key Losses: Josh Smith, Devin Harris
Key Additions: Paul Milsap, Elton Brand, Dennis Schroeder
My 5: Jeff Teague, John Jenkins, Kyle Korver, Paul Milsap, Al Horford

The Hawks are a team that find themselves headed in the wrong direction. Teague surprised many, and has positioned himself as one of the better young Point Guards in the league. Horford remains a solid borer-line All-Star at the Center position, and Milsap is an above average Power Forward. That is about all the Hawks can offer. Severely lacking help at Shooting Guard and Small Forward will be the primary reason Atlanta falls well short of its win total from last year. Schroeder will be a solid player down the road, but this season is too early to expect anything from him.

ORL MagicOrlando Magic Predicted: 28-54 (2012-13 Record: 20-62)

Key Losses: Beno Udrih, Al Harrington
Key Additions: Victor Oladipo, Jason Maxiell
My 5: Jameer Nelson, Victor Oladipo, Moe Harless, Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic

While much credit is given to the Magic’s front office, the bottom line is they are still not that good of a team. Marginal improvement can be expected, but they lack a true go-to guy and rookie Oladipo is not that type of player. Tremendous athleticism, and a natural hard worker, projects him into more of a Bruce Bowen type than anyone who can carry a team. The Magic have assembled nice young complimentary pieces, but are a few drafts away from serious contention.

Projected Eastern Conference Playoff Picture

First Round
1. Miami Heat
8. Washington Wizards
Miami Wins in 6 Games

2. New York Knicks
7. Milwaukee Bucks
New York Wins in 4 Games

3. Brooklyn Nets
6. Detroit Pistons
Brooklyn Wins in 7 Games

4. Indiana Pacers
5. Chicago Bulls
Chicago Wins in 7 Games

Conference Semi-Finals
1. Miami Heat
5. Chicago Bulls
Chicago Wins in 7 Games

2. New York Knicks
3. Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Wins in 6 Games

Conference Finals
3. Brooklyn Nets
5. Chicago Bulls
Brooklyn Wins in 7 Games

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