October 29, 2012
The 2012-2013 NBA season is just a week away. While the Heat are clearly still the favorite in the Eastern Conference, a lot of teams in the conference got better this offseason. The Eastern Conference has become better than it has been a while. Here’s a preview of what the standings should look like this season.
1. Miami Heat (58-24)
The Miami Heat are riding high into the 2012-2013 season. The “big three” won their first NBA title together beating the Oklahoma City Thunder in just five games. They did it in a 66-game shortened season. Their record is only going to be better in a full 82-game season. As good as the Heat were last season, they only got better this offseason. Adding future Hall of Famer Ray Allen and former All Star Rashard Lewis to the bench just makes the Heat a better team. Miami needed a little more depth on the bench and they get that with Allen and Lewis. They get two more guys off the bench who can knock down the three ball and give their superstars Lebron James and Dwyane Wade some rest. Expect the Heat to win the South division and have another impressive season finishing 58-24 and first in the Eastern Conference.
2. Boston Celtics (54-28)
While the Celtics lost Ray Allen this offseason, they brought in enough key pieces to make them the second best team in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics signed free agent guard Jason Terry to a 3-year deal to replace Allen at shooting guard. Boston also traded for guard Courtney Lee to provide some more depth at the guard position. Terry and Lee join All Star Rajon Rondo in a very solid backcourt. The Celtics also drafted Ohio State star Jared Sullinger and Syracuse 7 footer Fab Melo. Jeff Green also returns this season after missing all of last year with a heart condition. Oh yeah and they also have two guys named Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Rondo, Lee, Pierce, Brandon Bass, and KG is a formidable starting lineup. Look for the Celtics to win the Atlantic Division and finish the season 54-28 and second in the East.
3. Indiana Pacers (50-32)
The Pacers are coming off a breakout season last year where they went 42-24. The young Pacers only got better this offseason signing small forward Gerald Green and point guard D.J. Augustin. They add these pieces to an already impressive squad. Their starting lineup remains the same with George Hill, Paul George, Danny Granger, David West, and Roy Hibbert. The Pacers now have the depth to be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. Look for this young team to win the Central Division and finish 3rd in the East with a 50-32 record.
4. Brooklyn Nets (48-34)
This season brings a new beginning for the Brooklyn Nets. They have a new start in a new state, brand new arena, new jerseys, and most importantly a new team. The Nets open the Barclays Center with a revamped roster. GM Billy King did an incredible job of turning one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference into a perennial contender. The Nets resigned star point guard Deron Williams and traded for All Star shooting guard Joe Johnson. Brooklyn also resigned their center Brook Lopez to a max deal and resigned their forwards Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries. The formerly depleted Nets roster now has some depth off the bench as well. The Nets added C.J. Watson, Keith Bogans, Josh Childress, Reggie Evans, and Andray Blatche joining MarShon Brooks providing the Nets with a formidable bench. The Nets are going to be a fun team to watch this season as they join the Knicks in New York City. Expect the Nets to finish ahead of the Knicks as the 4 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 48-34 record.
5. New York Knicks (46-36)
After Jeremy Lin came out of nowhere to turn the Knicks season around last year, New York will now be without “Lin-sanity” as they enter the 2012-2013 season. The Knicks let Lin sign with the Houston Rockets and brought back their former point guard, Raymond Felton. This will be Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire’s first full season together, but those plans were hampered when Stoudemire injured his knee in preseason and will miss the first month of the season and possibly more time. Anthony is coming off an Olympic gold medal and is expected to have a huge season this year. The Knicks added some depth on the bench bringing in their former big men Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas. New York also added future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd and guard Ronnie Brewer. The question is how Stat and Melo will gel over the course of the season. The Knicks got better, but not by much. Look for the Knicks to finish 5th in the East with a 46-36 record.
6. Philadelphia 76ers (45-37)
While the 76ers lost Lou Williams and Elton Brand this offseason, they made a big splash acquiring Andrew Bynum in the Dwight Howard blockbuster deal. They also acquired shooting guard Jason Richardson in the deal, who becomes the starter at SG. The Sixers also signed Nick Young to split time with J-Rich. That is enough to make this team better than they were last season. Doug Collins is one of the best coaches in the NBA and will lead this team in the right direction. With that being said, this team is still young and needs a couple more pieces to work their way up the standings in a much improved conference this season. The 76ers will finish 6th in the East with a 45-37 record.
7. Chicago Bulls (44-38)
The Chicago Bulls were the best team in the Eastern Conference last season finishing first with a 50-16 record. Their 2012-2013 season will be a lot different due to their superstar point guard Derrick Rose being out for a majority of the season as he recovers from a torn ACL. Rose’s injury drops the Bulls from first to 7th in the East this season. Signing Nate Robinson and Nazr Mohammed are not big enough moves to keep the Bulls atop the conference without their star point guard. Losing sharpshooter Kyle Korver, Rose’s backup C.J. Watson, and big man Omer Asik also were big departures. Chicago will get to the playoffs, but it will be with a 44-38 record and the 7 seed in the East.
8. Atlanta Hawks (42-40)
The Atlanta Hawks seem to be in a rebuilding state as they revamped their roster this offseason. The Hawks traded their big contract and their star shooting guard Joe Johnson. They also traded their guard/forward Marvin Williams. They replace those guys with point guard Devin Harris, shooting guard Anthony Morrow, guard Lou Williams, and guard/forward Kyle Korver. The Hawks are still good enough to make the playoffs this season as they brought in some nice pieces, but they don’t have the talent as the other contenders in the conference. Atlanta should finish 8th in the Eastern Conference just sneaking into the playoffs with a 42-40 record.
Eastern Conference Playoffs
(1) Heat over (8) Hawks
(2) Celtics over (7) Bulls
(3) Pacers over (6) 76ers
(4) Nets over (5) Knicks
(1) Heat over (4) Nets
(2) Celtics over (3) Pacers
(1) Heat over (2) Celtics
Miami Heat over Los Angeles Lakers
The Heat are just too good. They have too much talent. The NBA Finals will go to 7 games, but LeBron James will hold his second Larry O’Brien Trophy come June 2013.