Where Do The Celtics Rank In The East?

June 5, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce (34) drives to the basket as Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) defends during the first half in game five of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2012 NBA playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

The Celtics were a game away from returning to the NBA Finals last year and they improved this offseason. Then again, so did the Heat and they happen to own the last two Eastern Conference crowns and will raise their own banner in front of the Celtics to open the season. I think headed into the season the Heat are the better team until proven otherwise.

Don't get me wrong. Put down your pitchforks and bottle that "you aren't a true believer" business. Just because I think that the Heat are the better team on paper doesn't mean that I don't believe that we have a shot at beating them. In fact, I think we've got the best shot of anyone in the East. This Zach Lowe blurb states it pretty well as far as I am concerned.

Seven teams with intriguing offseasons | The Point Forward

The Celtics have clearly given themselves a puncher’s chance at winning the 2012-13 title and the ability to put out much better small lineups against the Heat. They will be massive underdogs as long as Miami is healthy and motivated, but they are much better equipped now to take advantage of a tiny break, such as some chemistry malfunction among the Heat stars or a poorly timed tweak to Dwyane Wade’s knee. But as things stand now, they need that kind of break.

So at the end of the day, that's all that matters. Regardless of where we are seeded or which team is "ranked" above the other - one team walks away with the hardware at the end of the year and the Celtics have a chance.

With all that said, we've got the whole offseason to debate silly things like "Where do the Celtics rank in the East?"

After the break (and poll) let us look at some of the other contenders, shall we?

Indiana Pacers

It seems kind of weird saying this, but I think the Pacers might be the Celtics biggest contenders for the 2 spot. Bird and company put together a very solid team. I like a lot of their players and they'll be a tough out for anyone, but they seem to be a team without a lead star. Of course, that isn't going to stop Danny Granger from talking like one.

The Indianapolis Star | IndyStar.com

"It’s going to be tough," he said. "Brooklyn, they are going to be a threat. Obviously Miami is going to be there, but I think we still view ourselves as a top-2 team in the East."

Brooklyn Nets

This is the best team that a Russian billionare could buy, though I'm not sure that's going to be anywhere good enough to be more than a 4 or 5 seed. This has a high probablitiy of becoming a "whole is less than the sum of the parts" situation. Oh, and they'll probably have to live with a half a year or more of Dwight Howard rumors. So there's that too.

New York Knicks

Lin might have been the most effective player they had, despite being a bad fit for Carmelo Franchise. Letting him walk for nothing is curious at best and dumb at worst ...and don't bet against dumb with this team from top to bottom. Still, they have talent and talent wins a few games in this league.

Chicago Bulls

Clearly, obviously devastated by the Rose injury. Then again, with Thibs working the defense and the team holding out hope to get Rose back in time for the playoffs, let's just say you wouldn't want to draw them in an early round should they sneak into the playoffs.

The Others: (76ers, Bucks, Hawks, Magic, Wizards)

All these teams appear to be either building up or tearing down but I can't really picture any of them finishing in the top 5 next year. Which of course means that at least one of them will, just to make me look silly. Every year I think the Wizards are going to make some kind of progress and maybe this is their year ...to get bounced in the 1st round. Progress!

So elaborate on your poll answer. Where do you see the Celtics? Who's ahead of us (if any)? Who's right behind us? Any sleeper picks for the playoffs?

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