Tuesday, July 22, 2014





EASTERN CONFERENCE


February 19. 2013 2:47PM
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1. MIAMI


2011-12 finish: 46-20, No. 2 in the East.



Coming: Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis.



Going: Eddy Curry, Juwan Howard, Ronny Turiaf.


LeBron James has won an NBA title and an MVP award in his two seasons with the Heat. Something he hasn't done is lead Miami to the top seeding in the East, which seems almost a given with Chicago's Derrick Rose sidelined until at least midseason because of a torn knee ligament. The Heat addressed its biggest weakness, depth, with the acquisition of three-point specialists Allen and Lewis.


2. BOSTON


2011-12 finish: 39-27, No. 4.



Coming: Jason Collins, Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, Leandro Barbosa, Fab Melo, Jared Sullinger.



Going: Ray Allen, Ryan Hollins, Greg Stiemsma, E'Twaun Moore, Sasha Pavlovic.


The Celtics' Big Three has finally broken up, leading to a sleeker, deeper team still featuring Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Terry should offset the loss of Allen, and Jeff Green appears poised for big things after sitting out last season because of heart surgery.


3. INDIANA


2011-12 finish: 42-24, No. 3.



Coming: Blake Ahearn, D.J. Augustin, Gerald Green, Sundiata Gaines, Sam Young, Ian Mahinmi, Miles Plumlee.



Going: Darren Collison, Dahntay Jones, A.J. Price, Leandro Barbosa, Louis Amundson.


The Pacers don't have any stars capable of moving $270 Nikes, but they could win the Central Division on the strength of having so much quality depth. Danny Granger, David West, Roy Hibbert and Paul George comprise a core four that has been largely unappreciated outside of Indianapolis.


4. BROOKLYN


2011-12 finish: 22-44, No. 12.



Coming: Joe Johnson, Jerry Stackhouse, C.J. Miles, Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans, Donte Green.



Going: Jordan Farmar, Sundiata Gaines, Gerald Green, Anthony Morrow, DeShawn Stevenson, Johan Petro.


New name. New home. New superstar. Same results? Probably not. The Nets essentially added two stars by acquiring Johnson and getting back Brook Lopez, who missed all but five games last season because of foot issues. Point guard Deron Williams suddenly finds himself surrounded by plenty of options on a roster whose starters will make $72 million, more than the projected payrolls of 23 NBA teams.


5. PHILADELPHIA


2011-12 finish: 35-31, No. 8.



Coming: Andrew Bynum, Nick Young, Kwame Brown, Dorell Wright, Jason Richardson, Royal Ivey.



Going: Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams, Elton Brand, Jodie Meeks, Nikola Vucevic, Sam Young.


The 76ers' fortunes are largely riding on Bynum's knees, meaning their season could buckle at any moment. Another worry: Will anyone play defense with Iguodala gone?


6. NEW YORK


2011-12 finish: 36-30, No. 7.



Coming: Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Ronnie Brewer, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace.



Going: Jeremy Lin, Landry Fields, Mike Bibby, Baron Davis, Toney Douglas, Jared Jeffries.


The suddenly chintzy Knicks could soon regret their decision to go with Felton over Lin at point guard, particularly if Linsanity hits Houston and Felton resembles his out-of-shape form from last season. Amare Stoudemire's left knee injury will keep him out a few weeks, limiting front-line depth.


7. CHICAGO


2011-12 finish: 50-16, No. 1.



Coming: Kirk Hinrich, Marco Belinelli, Nazr Mohammed, Vladimir Radmanovic, Nate Robinson, Marquis Teague.



Going: Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, John Lucas III, C.J. Watson, Mike James, Brian Scalabrine.


Bulls fans haven't been this depressed since Michael Jordan departed. Hinrich taking over for the injured Derrick Rose figures to work out as well as Pete Myers starting at shooting guard the season after Jordan first retired.


8. ATLANTA


2011-12 finish: 40-26, No. 5.



Coming: Devin Harris, Lou Williams, Kyle Korver, Anthony Morrow, DeShawn Stevenson, John Jenkins, Mike Scott.



Going: Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Kirk Hinrich, Jason Collins, Jerry Stackhouse, Willie Green, Vladimir Radmanovic.


Before dismissing the remade Hawks as the biggest dud to hit Atlanta since New Coke, consider the upside to losing prolific scorers Johnson and Marvin Williams: This team is faster and deeper than the version that endured a first-round flameout in last season's playoffs. Harris could recapture the form that made him an All-Star in 2009 and Lou Williams, a former Mr. Basketball in Georgia, is eager for a happy homecoming.


9. MILWAUKEE


2011-12 finish: 31-35, No. 9.



Coming: Samuel Dalembert, Joel Przybilla, John Henson.



Going: Jon Brockman, Kwame Brown, Carlos Delfino, Jon Leuer, Shaun Livingston.


Visions of a .500 season were dancing in fans' heads after the Bucks acquired Monta Ellis at the March trade deadline and went 12-9 the rest of the way. Good luck with that. While the backcourt of Ellis and Brandon Jennings may be able to match up with just about anyone else's, a retooled front line centered around Dalembert needs more tinkering. On the plus side, Brown is no longer around.


10. TORONTO


2011-12 finish: 23-43, No. 11.



Coming: Kyle Lowry, Dominic McGuire, Landry Fields, John Lucas III, Terrence Ross, Jonas Valanciunas.



Going: Jerryd Bayless, Gary Forbes, James Johnson, Ben Uzoh.


The arrival of Lowry relegates Jose Calderon to backup status after five seasons as starting point guard. DeMar DeRozan, who enters the season without a long-term commitment from the only NBA team he has known, needs to play like an All-Star or risk having to look for work stateside.


11. ORLANDO


2011-12 finish: 37-29, No. 6.



Coming: Coach Jacque Vaughn, Arron Afflalo, Gustavo Ayon, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic, Josh McRoberts, Andrew Nicholson.



Going: Coach Stan Van Gundy, Dwight Howard, Ryan Anderson, Jason Richardson, Chris Duhon, Earl Clark.


Some might describe as ludicrous a Howard trade that didn't involve the Magic's landing Andrew Bynum . . . and they would be correct. Orlando obtained six players with nary an All-Star in the lot, plus a slew of draft picks who may not include the franchise's next superstar. Losing Anderson as well potentially leaves Jameer Nelson as the face of a franchise in flux.


12. DETROIT


2011-12 finish: 25-41, No. 10.



Coming: Corey Maggette, Andre Drummond, Slava Kravtsov, Khris Middleton.



Going: Ben Gordon, Ben Wallace, Damien Wilkins.


The Pistons are so young that all team correspondence should be written in crayon and include pictures accompanying big words. Rookies Drummond and Middleton may need to arrange a few play dates before the training wheels come off. Coach Lawrence Frank is preaching effort, sacrifice, persistence and time. That sounds about right, so long as no one expects much before 2015.


13. WASHINGTON


2011-12 finish: 20-46, No. 14.



Coming: Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor, Martell Webster, Jannero Pargo, A.J. Price, Bradley Beal.



Going: Andray Blatche, Rashard Lewis, Brian Cook, Maurice Evans, James Singleton.


The Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles made the playoffs out of nowhere, giving hope to another sad-sack franchise in the nation's fleeting sports capital. Then again, these are the Wizards we're talking about. They were already hurting before the opener, with Nene having plantar fasciitis in his left foot and star point guard John Wall expected to miss another month with a stress injury in his left knee.


14. CLEVELAND


2011-12 finish: 21-45, No. 13.



Coming: C.J. Miles, Jeremy Pargo, Jon Leuer, Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller.



Going: Antawn Jamison, D.J. Kennedy.


Hello, Cleveland? It's been more like one extended goodbye since LeBron James left. The plan is for the Cavaliers to build around star point guard Kyrie Irving with draft picks Waiters and Zeller. It's a start, but it's going to take a lot more lottery luck for Cleveland to be relevant again.


15. CHARLOTTE


2011-12 finish: 7-59, No. 15.



Coming: Coach Mike Dunlap, Ramon Sessions, Brendan Haywood, Ben Gordon, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.



Going: Coach Paul Silas, D.J. Augustin, Corey Maggette, Jamario Moon, Eduardo Najera, D.J. White.


Who's running things around here, Barney Fife? The NBA's closest thing to a country bumpkin operation hired a former Cal Lutheran coach in Dunlap, who might find the talent level on the Bobcats rivaling some of his former NCAA Division III rosters.




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