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Eastern Conference Predictions 2010-11

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Here are my annual pre-season predictions - a little late again. To repeat, the win/loss total equal 1230, just like the real season. I am almost always more optimistic about teams to start and always have to take wins away after my initial predictions. This time I had to whittle over 45 wins off before I got to the final predictions - which start below.

Like every year, most are in line with conventional wisdom, but I have a few that depart from that each year as well. See if you can find which teams I depart from the general consensus. As always, feel free to disagree with my choices and let us know why you do.

Atlantic Division

Celtics – 58-24

While I have most of my predictions set before the season starts, 63-19 for the Cs, the 1-1 start made me take away 5 wins, still a solid record. They will play harder for some HC advantage and will be deeper than last season at center and PG. The Celtic train might rattle a bit but it will be pushing ahead at full speed this year. The O’Neals will have bumps and aches along the way, but they will give the bruises to the other teams.

Knicks 37-45

Amare, Raymond Felton and Anthony Randolph added. David Lee and Chris Duhon removed. That is a net plus, right? I like Landry Fields so far. They will play more defense this season. Turiaf and Mosgov will man the middle, allowing Stoudamire to play the 4, his natural position.

This is the season where D’Antoni can no longer be said to not have the players though Raymond Felton is a solid player but not a great point guard. Danilo Gallinari must expand his game, Anthony Randolph must figure just what his game is, and versatile Wilson Chandler can play much better defense than he has been asked to. These are all part of D’Antoni’s responsibilities.

Nets – 34-48

The Nets added talent with Troy Murphy, Derrick Favors, Travis Outlaw, Anthony Morrow, and Jordan Farmar. Coupled with a solid core of Devan Harris, Brook Lopez, up and coming Terrance Williams and Avery Johnson a coach known for his ability to motivate I look for a big move forward this season from the underachieving 12 wins of last season. If Carmelo Anthony ends up here, and he might, this franchise moves right into the playoffs

76ers - 33-49

Really can’t figure this team out. There are young and talented players here. Jrue Holiday, Louis Williams, Thaddeus Young, Marreese Speights and rookie phenom Evan Turner all can play. Iguodala is a 2nd tier star. They haven’t played very well since the Larry Brown/Allen Iverson years. Apparently no one wants to guard the perimeter. Philly 3 FG% defense was league worst at 39.3%.

Incorporating Elton Brand has been a bust. They went from a fast break team with some success 2 seasons ago to a complete mess last season. Now new coach Doug Collins is a bit perplexed as to how to fit the parts together. Finding chemistry and the right mix is an unsolved puzzle right now.

Raptors – 17-65

This team takes a hard fall without Bosh and Turkoglu, the team’s most talented players last year. 25 year old Bargnani doesn’t appear to have enough talent or toughness to really soften the defections. Rookie Ed Davis is out indefinitely so team ball and hustle will be necessary for this mediocre roster to scrap for wins. It has been written that Jay Triano gets a chance to really coach this season. I thought that was what he was supposed to be doing last year. A defensive culture has never been instilled in this team since Sam Mitchell was let go. Does Triano make it through the year?

See the rest after the jump.

Central Division

Milwaukee Bucks – 48-34

Is this really a 50 win team? It can be if Bogut stays healthy. Everyone has the Bulls ahead of the Deer. I’m not so sure. They are short on depth at center which makes this team dangle on the precarious health of Bogut. As much hinges on Brandon Jennings continued development as Bogut. But they added Maggette, Dooling, Brockman, Douglas-Roberts, and continuing his NBA tour (9th team) Drew Gooden, while losing Bell, Gadzuric, Ridnour, and K. Thomas.

Basketball Reference says they were the 2nd best defense in the NBA last season. They are talented. They play hard. They be good.

Chicago Bulls – 47-35

Does Boozer change this team into a contender? Not really, but definitely better. Paul Pierce says it is not normal how intensely focused new head coach Tom Thibodeau is. Can that work as a head coach? I only added 6 wins because Boozer will be out 6 weeks. We know they will be better defensively. Joakim Noah is a favorite of mine. Rose must continue to develop his game. I like C.J. Watson. Kurt Thomas helps.

Indiana Pacers – 33-49

Hopes are pinned on Darren Collison making good on the promise shown last season when Chris Paul was out. There is no reason why he shouldn’t, if O’Brien unleashes him a bit. Danny Granger is still the man. Little inside game for this team. Fouled too much without getting to the line enough themselves (2nd worse differential). Terrible rebounding team (2nd worse rebounding differential) More development from Hibbert in all areas will help. Paul George looks like a solid addition. Are McRoberts or Hansbrough solid pros? We find out this season.

A three point shooting, defensive oriented team that didn’t do either all that well last year.

Detroit Pistons – 32-50

Decimated by injuries last season, I’m not sure they are all that good when healthy. Rift between Stuckey and Kuester doesn’t bode well. Very few roster changes, so they are counting on a healthier year from all. I see mediocrity unless ‘Big Game Ben’ Gordon returns to his Bulls playoff form. 

Same as last season, they need help in the middle. Best offensive rebounding team (differential), but 5th worse defensive rebounding (differential) team in the league. Charlie Villanueva has game but has to learn to play nasty. Doesn’t seem to be in his personality. Once venerated Joe Dumars doesn’t look as smart lately with the big dollar signings of the UConn boys. I’d love to see Tayshuan Prince as Celtic, he’d be perfect for this team. But I can’t see how it could happen.
Cleveland Cavaliers – 31-51

Losing Lebron was huge. They also lost Shaq and Z, handing over the center position to Ryan Hollins and Anderson Verajeo. Hickson will take the next step developmentally and Antawn Jamison and Mo Williams must carry a heavy scoring load. Gibson could surprise and Sessions will score but isn’t a good floor general. Byron Scott gets my respect for taking over whether Lebron was coming back or not. 

Southeast Division

Miami Heat – 64-18

Talent-wise, there is no reason why they can’t win 64 games or more. It may take a while to get it together, but this team is a monster – yes solely based the three stars. They have Haslem, House, Ilguaskas, Arroyo, Chalmers, Jones and will have Mike Miller...eventually.  That is not bad support, though they can be exploited at times.

Orlando Magic – 56-26

The forgotten contender. Not much changes here unless Howard shows an improved offensive game. The big question is who hits the big shots on this team? Jameer Nelson is the most likely suspect. Carter was supposed to be the 4th quarter creator. Lewis hasn’t been that guy. Can Redick keep improving his game? Barnes has limited skills but gave them toughness and he’s gone. I like Pietrus. Are they showcasing Bass or plan to use him? Another ‘close but no cigar’ year.

Atlanta Hawks – 50-32

A slight move back? Maybe I’m wrong. New coach Larry Drew will open up the offense and change the switching defense. Will the players respond with a better season? They should. But it is tougher division and conference than a year ago. There is a reason why Shaq chose Boston for less money. Young athletic group that needs something to get to the next level – perhaps a frontline center or Jeff Teague taking a big step forward? That the offense won’t revolve around Joe Johnson as much may take a while, but should be a good thing.

Charlotte Bobcats – 36- 46

You have to remember where this team was before you criticize Larry Brown. He finally put together something resembling a competitive team with a real (slow down) plan. They not only played well, they made the playoffs for the first time in their 7 year history. They will take a step back this season. You also have to remember that the PG that Brown is ‘stuck’ with (Augustin) is the same point guard he personally asked the Bobcats to draft as he arrived, a common theme for Brown.

That they could have had Brook Lopez instead doesn’t matter now. To keep away from the luxury tax Felton and Chandler were sent packing. Now they are weak at center and point guard. But Brown will make the best of what he has, as he usually does. Here comes that word – scrappy. Yes ‘s’ is the first letter, not ‘c’.

Washington Wizards – 31 – 51

Well, there is talent here in super rookie John Wall, Gilbert Arenas, Andray Blatche, Josh Howard, Kirk Hinrich, and Al Thornton. Arenas and Howard have spent a lot of time off the court the past few years. Can Arenas play second fiddle to Wall? Can Flip Saunders mold this into a competitive team? It may take a while for this team to find itself.

There you have the East. Tomorrow the West. Let me have it. Where am I wrong... or right? Feel free to add your own thoughts.

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