Saturday, August 11, 2007

The East is Competitive Again

Finally fans of the NBA Eastern Conference teams can rest easy. This season it will be hard to believe if any analyst calls the East a weak conference. There are a legitimate 5 NBA Conference Title and NBA championship contenders. The teams of Cleveland (last year's Finals runner-up), Detroit and Miami (the most recent East champs), Chicago and yes, now the Boston Celtics all have a good shot to win it. There are also several teams who are on the brink and looking in as spoilers for the playoffs. I'd count Orlando, Indiana, New York, New Jersey, Atlanta, Milwaukee and even Charlotte as contenders for a lower playoff spot. And as the basketball world saw last year, even the most unlikely and low of seeds can dethrone a top notch team such as the Dallas Mavericks.

The Eastern champ will be tough to predict this year. The Celtics team will definitely be wearing down opponents night in and night out. Boston has thrown the wild card into the mix by making a dominant 3 star monster in Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. You wonder who will be their scoring leader and who will defer to who? Boston has also been picking up more pieces to increase their depth. An injury to Garnett or Pierce could possibly ruin the team's chances.

The same goes for Cleveland. THey made the finals thanks mostly to Lebron James. While they have kept a solid nucleus in place, he is the man, and their success rises and falls with him. But even Superman needs a supporting cast. The main problem the Cavs had after disposing of the Pistons, was trying to match the experience and depth of San Antonio. The Cavs have now tasted the Finals and know just how hard it is. Will the inner drive of Lebron be enough bring them back?

The Bulls and Pistons were considered 2 of the biggest possible Eastern Conference title winners last year. I'd give the Bulls the edge in this debate. They seem to have far more talent and fresher legs. (although maybe the younger guys they have will hold them back). Having a balanced scoring team is exactly what the Pistons' championship teams had and the Bulls now have the defensive presence of Ben Wallace as well.

That leaves the last champions to emerge from the East, the Miami Heat. You have to face the music that Shaquille O'Neal keeps getting older. While still imposing, his health status and his being prone to injury are definite problems. They also have older veterans in Walker, Payton, Mourning and now even Anfernee Hardaway. You have to believe like the Cavs, the Heat's success will be carried on Wade's back this year, again. Will he have it in him?

Many are quick to crown the Celtics as the Eastern Conference's best team, but you'd have to believe it's goin to be a very interesting and competitive year in the East. WIth the 5 teams mentioned above that leaves just 3 playoff slots for the likes of New Jersey, New York, Orlando, Indiana, Charlotte, Atlanta and Milwaukee. While those teams don't necessarily look to be NBA title winners, they definitely might have what it takes to dethrone a top Eastern conference seed.

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