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Predicting the 2009-2010 NBA Season – Eastern Conference

Here it is – my attempt at predicting the future. Last season I was too busy to write a post, but not this year.

First, some assumptions:

  1. All the important players stay (mostly) healthy.
  2. There aren’t any major trades. Obviously this will change, but when it does the rankings will be updated (if I have time).
  3. When I get one or more of these predictions wrong, some lame-wad who isn’t bold enough to make his or her predictions publicly BEFORE the season will ridicule me. So be it.

In order of how they’ll finish…

1) Boston Celtics

Possibilities: Eastern Conference Finals (ECF) or NBA Finals

Problems: Father time and a need for a backup PG.

Prognosis: Boston matches up nicely with Cleveland and Orlando, not to mention LA and San Antonio. This team is better and deeper than the team that won a championship two years ago. If anyone can knock off the Lakers, the Celtics are it.

2) Orlando Magic

Possibilities: ECF or Finals

Problems: Chemistry is a question mark. Can Vince complement this team the way that Turkoglu did? Will Jameer Nelson be as effective leading the Magic as Rafer Alston was? Can all of these supremely talented players share minutes and scoring?

Prognosis: In a hard-fought series, Orlando loses to Boston.

3) Cleveland Cavaliers

Possibilities: ECF or Finals

Problems: Aging frontcourt.

Prognosis: The Cavs win a lot of regular season games, but Shaq and Big Z are too immobile to keep up with their counterparts in Boston and Orlando. After just barely missing the ECF or Finals, Lebron refuses to shake hands (again).

4) Washington Wizards

Possibilities: 2nd round.

Problems: Defense, lack of team chemistry.

Prognosis: The Wizards have a great coach, one of the best starting lineups in the conference, and a very deep bench. Look for them to shock most NBA observers and beat out Atlanta for the 4th seed.

5) Atlanta Hawks

Possibilities: 2nd round.

Problems: Maturity, lack of team leadership, coaching questions, and the fact that everyone in the East got a little better this summer.

Prognosis: Many of their young players will improve, a healthy Marvin Williams will be a nice addition, and Jamal Crawford will prove to be a suitable backup for both Bibby and Joe Johnson. However, coaching questions cast a shadow over this team and only serve to prolong Josh Smith’s chronic lack of maturity. Maybe next year.

6) Chicago Bulls

Possibilities: 1st round exit.

Problems: Chicago needs their young frontcourt to step up if they want to make any noise in the playoffs. They also need someone inside who can score.

Prognosis: The Bulls are going to take a step forward this year with the return of Luol Deng. They have good depth and they’re tough. With a little bit of luck, Chicago can snag the 4th or 5th seed and avoid Cleveland, Boston, and Orlando in the first round (but that’s not very likely).

7) Toronto Raptors

Possibilities: 1st round exit, lottery.

Problems: No defense, no toughness, poor rebounding, and questionable depth.

Prognosis: It’s going to be a tough year in Toronto. After a mediocre season and a brutal playoff exit, Bosh seems like an ideal candidate for a sign-and-trade.

8 ) Detroit Pistons

Possibilities: 1st round exit, lottery.

Problems: Poor perimeter defense, uncertainty with Rip and Tay, and a general lack of identity following the departure of Billups.

Prognosis: If Charlie V takes a step forward and Gordon accepts being a bench player, this team can do some damage. If not, they’ll be lucky to squeak into the playoffs. NOTE: All bets are off pending the likely trade(s) of Rip Hamilton and/or Tayshaun Prince.

Just barely missing the playoffs will be…

Miami Heat

Possibilites: 1st round exit, lottery.

Problems: Shaky bench, problems at the 5 position, Haslem is a backup at this stage of his career, and Beasley isn’t ready to help Wade carry the load.

Prognosis: Wade is good, but so what? This team is incredibly lacking in talent. Last season Miami won the 5th seed after going 2 games above .500. That won’t get it done this year.

Indiana Pacers

Possibilities: 1st round exit, lottery.

Problems: Youth, a mediocre point guard, and mediocre defense.

Prognosis: This is a solid young team with good pieces, but are they good enough to crack the playoffs ahead of Miami? Let’s face it – Charlotte, Indiana, Miami, Philly, and the Knicks are all pretty equal…but only one of these teams will make it into the first round.

Charlotte Bobcats

Possibilities: 1st round exit, lottery.

Problems: Like the high school chess club, the Bobcats need help scoring.

Prognosis: Great coaching, solid depth, and good defense can take you far…but not far enough. Playoff teams need individual talent too.

Philadelphia 76ers

Possibilities: 1st round exit, lottery.

Problems: They have no PG! No disrespect to Lou Williams, but he’s not a facilitator. Since Iguodala and Elton Brand can’t play in the paint at the same time, and since the team has a surprising lack of outside shooting, they’re going to struggle to score in a half-court set.

Prognosis: On the run the 76ers will kill, but in the half-court below-average defenses are going to stymie them with a simple zone. Look for Philly to ponder trading Elton Brand or Iguodala next summer.

Milwaukee Bucks

Possibilities: Lottery.

Problems: 3 of the 5 starting positions are filled with young players and/or mediocre talent. Michael Redd is 31. Bogut has yet to live up to his paycheck. Scotty Skiles (my man) will start to annoy his players.

Prognosis: Lottery bound, but don’t be surprised if it’s a squeaker (tough defenses always have a chance).

New York Knicks

Possibilities: Lottery

Problems: Not enough talent, not enough depth, no defense.

Prognosis: The only way a D’Antoni team makes the playoffs is with loads of talent. Dano Galinari is the most exciting player on the team…and he’s basically a rookie.

New Jersey Nets

Possibilities: Lottery

Problems: Youth.

Prognosis: A solid year for Courtney Lee and Brook Lopez, a great year for Devin Harris, and Yi Jianlin will be a nice surprise. Still, it won’t be enough to even sniff the playoffs. There’s a very good chance that NJ is a player for Amare at the trade deadline. If that happens, they might be a playoff team.

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