#1 – Detroit. The starting five and Antonio McDyess are back – which makes them the preseason favorites. The road to the conference championship goes through Detroit. Arron Afflalo, a physical guard out of UCLA, will fit right in with Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups.
#2 – Miami. Shaq and D-Wade give any team a chance for a title. Will this be their last opportunity for awhile with Shaq aging and Alonzo Mourning leaving after this season?
#3 – Boston. The Celtics did more for themselves than any other NBA team in the off-season, but we haven’t seen them on the court yet. Many are crowning them champions already. Hold on just a minute. While Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett are great players, chemistry, staying healthy and playing defense are key components to winning basketball in May and June. No matter what, the Celtics will be far improved from last season.
#4 – Cleveland. Lebron James looks like a clutch player with good weapons around him. The expectations have been raised to NBA title-level after their surprise season in 2006-2007. Their lack of depth and the three above-mentioned teams will keep them from the promise land this year.
#5 – Chicago. Not getting Kevin Garnett has to leave Chicago with a hangover. They have a good nucleus of quality, young talent but are a notch below the top teams in the East.
#6 – New Jersey. Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter have seemingly played together forever without much to show for it. They have playoff-level talent, but getting older by the day. They need an inside presence – like most teams in the NBA outside San Antonio and Miami.
#7 – Washington. Gilbert Arenas can carry a team to the post-season, but that’s where it ends for the Wizards. Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison are solid at the forward position.
#8 – Toronto. Chris Bosh is the headliner, but the show stalls after that. Anything above .500 for Toronto will show the weakness of the Eastern Conference.
#9 – Orlando. Other than Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis, can you name anyone on the Magic? Okay, next.
#10 – Indiana. Jermaine O’Neal is great when he’s healthy for a long stretch, but this team sure misses Ron Artest’s on-court presence (outside of the fighting with fans part of course).
#11 – New York. After the hoopla of Isiah Thomas’ incident, the Knicks actually have to field a team and play basketball this season? That’s a shame for the city of New York and the level of competition in the NBA. They need John Starks and Patrick Ewing, but they have Stephon Marbury and Eddy Curry. Oh well.
#12 – Milwaukee. Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd are nice, but where are they going to get wins from? Go Brewers!
#13 – Atlanta. Good young talent, but that leads to talking about potential in the NBA more than results on the court. Marvin Williams, Josh Smith and Al Horford will be a good trio in a couple years if they stay together on the Hawks.
#14 – Philadelphia. Now that Allen Iverson is gone they can sit back, relax and lose while not talking about practice. Hello Draft Lottery, I’m the 76ers, nice to meet you.
#15 – Charlotte. They are so young, point guard Raymond Felton looks like a veteran on this team. Charlotte has been one of the worst franchises in the NBA and that doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon.