Ill-Advised NBA Eastern Conference Preview.

Like the prior preview entry, playoff teams have asterisks by their names.

Atlantic Division:

  1. Boston Celtics* – If Allen, Garnett, and Pierce can all avoid long stretches on the injured list, then this team can compete for a title. Whether they make an NBA Finals rides on whether Rajon Rondo is ready to be the point guard and whether Doc Rivers can get out of his own way as a coach.
  2. Toronto Raptors* – Adding an outside shooter like Jason Kapono to Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani (with T.J. Ford dishing to them) is a great get.
  3. New York Knicks – I think the Knicks miss the playoffs by the skin of their teeth. Be very, very afraid if Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry can get going down in the post.
  4. New Jersey Nets – Jason Kidd is still a marvel to watch, but Vince Carter isn’t what he used to be and Richard Jefferson isn’t utilized enough.
  5. Philadelphia 76ers – There is a nucleus to build around with the Andres (Iguodala and Miller), plus a couple of decent role players, but there’ s no consistency here.

Central Division:

  1. Detroit Pistons* – Despite losing to the Cavs in the playoffs, they’re still the dominant power in this division, and adding guys like Rodney Stuckey and Arron Afflalo to back-up Chauncey and Rip might be the steals of the draft.
  2. Chicago Bulls* – Yeah, they need someone to bang inside, but I wouldn’t have dealt Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, or Kirk Hinrich for that body inside.
  3. Cleveland Cavaliers* – LeBron and everything after. What has Danny Ferry done to help him get back to the Finals?
  4. Milwaukee Bucks – Another year and maybe we’ll see some payoff from Andrew Bogut and Yi Jianlian.
  5. Indiana Pacers – You know it doesn’t look good when marketing is trotting out your coach.

Southeast Division:

  1. Washington Wizards* – I know they don’t play a lick of defense, but Miami’s aging, the Magic are too green, and I can’t imagine them losing the way they did to Cleveland without Agent Zero and Caron Butler out with injuries.
  2. Miami Heat* – Sending away Antoine Walker for Ricky Davis was a good move, as an energy guy.  Dwyane Wade will be carrying Pat Riley’s wound on his separated shoulder.
  3. Orlando Magic* – If Jameer Nelson can get the ball to Rashard Lewis (overpaid) and Dwight Howard (soon to become the ish as far as Eastern big men go), maybe they just might take a game in a serioes.
  4. Atlanta Hawks – Too many self-proclaimed jacks of all trades to get rid of down the line. Billy King cornered the market on combo guards, I guess. I do think Acie Law is the answer for them at point guard.
  5. Charlotte Bobcats – Raymond Felton isn’t an NBA point guard to me, and while gaining with acquiring Jason Richardson was a good step, it’ s not going to get them out of the cellar yet.

Photo: AP/Steven Senne

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