October 18, 2012 by shivusharma
Below I’ll go through my predictions for how I think the Eastern Conference will shake out in the regular season and playoffs. Remember that the way teams are seeded in the playoffs does not necessarily reflect how they rank in the conference. The NBA playoff seeding method is done in such a way that it rewards division-winning teams by guaranteeing them at worst a 4th seed.
1. Miami Heat – No explanation needed, but I’ll just say one thing. Even if they are missing Bosh or Wade for an extended stretch, Lebron makes this team a finals threat all on his own.
2. Indiana Pacers – I talked about Paul George’s potential breakout in my emerging players post yesterday. His improvement along with more offensive focus on David West and Roy Hibbert will get them to the 2nd best record in the east. I’m really tired of Danny Granger jacking up threes and thinking he is the #1 scoring option on this team.
3. Boston Celtics – The Celtics could easily have the best record in the eastern conference, but I am almost certain Doc Rivers will try and rest his older players to keep them fresh for the playoffs. Rajon Rondo will need Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to be at their best if they are going to get past Miami.
4. Brooklyn Nets – Now that Deron Williams actually has respectable players surrounding him, I think we will all be reminded of how great a PG he really is.
5. New York Knicks – Amare Stoudemire worked with Hakeem Olajuwon this summer, which is usually a good sign. Tyson Chandler always makes you a threat on defense, and Carmelo Anthony is going to get buckets. The question is still whether the Amare-Melo combo will work? Last year they were like oil and water, but I think they can figure out a way to co-exist in the coming season.
6. Philadelphia 76ers – It will be really interesting to see how Andrew Bynum gets along with Doug Collins. Those two personalities seem like a match made in hell. If Bynum stays healthy and the 76ers young guys improve as they should, this team can do some damage.
7. Chicago Bulls – I’d have them much higher, but I just don’t know when Derrick Rose will be back. It might be best for them to take his rehabilitation very conservatively. After all, he is the franchise. Even without Rose, Thibodeau proved his team’s defense and execution are good enough to get them to the playoffs.
8. Toronto Raptors – I don’t know. When I look at this team on paper, I kind of like them to sneak into the playoffs. By all accounts, Jonas Valanciunas is going to be a productive center. The combination of Jose Calderon and Kyle Lowry provides a nice contrast of power and finesse. I also like rookie Terrence Ross as a kind of less-boneheaded JR Smith. Don’t be surprised if the Raps beat out the Bucks and Hawks for the 8th seed.
Playoffs (# of games)
MIA over TOR (4) – Toronto simply can’t handle Lebron-Wade-Bosh. This should be a cake-walk for Miami.
IND over CHI (6) – If Derrick Rose is 100% and playing the way we know he can, this series goes to the Bulls. However, having been through the same injury as Rose, I am not confident he can be what the Bulls need him to be in order to beat the Pacers.
BOS over PHI (5) – Rondo, Rondo, and more Rondo. Philly will have a lot of trouble containing Rajon Rondo.
BKN over NYK (7) – I wish I was living in NYC to witness this series. Holy crap. Gangs of New York part 2. I think Jay-Z and Co. pull this one out because of Deron Williams, but it will certainly be close.
MIA over BKN (5) – It will be interesting to see how the individual matchups go in this game. I suspect that LeBron will have to guard Deron Williams in the 4th quarter. The Nets probably rotate Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace on Lebron and Wade. The difference for the Heat will be Bosh. I think Bosh’s shooting moves Brook Lopez out of the paint and creates driving lanes for Wade and James to either finish at the rim or kick it to Ray Allen for open threes.
BOS over IND (6) – This will be a gritty physical series. The Pacers will get two games because I think Hibbert and West can be effective inside. Rondo’s penetration and ability to find open shots for his teammates will be tough to offset, and ultimately the Celtics get the win. In case you couldn’t tell, I really like Rajon Rondo this season.
Round 3, Conference Finals
MIA over BOS (7) – These are two teams who really don’t like each other. I love it. Lebron guarding Rondo in the 4th quarter will be intense. Will Rondo be confident enough to hit open jumpers? I give this fight to the Heat, but just barely. We may be in for a lot of Lebron low-post action against Jeff Green/Paul Pierce in this series. Ray Allen should be advised to walk around with two bodyguards at all time when in Boston.
…Be on the lookout for tomorrow’s breakdown of the Western Conference regular season and playoffs…