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Final Look: Eastern Conference Predictions

I know this is a bit late. I had a request to put it up anyway. It is my pre-season predictions (Eastern Conference) including the original comments – with the final won/loss records and brand new thoughts in italics right after each team. Some hits. Some big misses. Go ahead and laugh. I did. It was an interesting (good and bad) season for many teams. Here they are….

Atlantic Division
1) Boston 63-19  - The Celtics’ adrenaline is up. Can they sustain it? The answer is yes, but… I expect the team to add to the roster again this season. Tyronn Lue is the obvious choice, but some teams may offer up good players by the half way point, and Danny will be watching.

Final: 50-32 Well, we all know now they couldn’t/didn’t sustain it. Lue is truly just a coach, but they did add Michael Finley and Nate Robinson, so I got that right. We were all told and were expecting KG to be ‘back’, but ‘back’ meant at about 80% for most of the year – and that meant less wins…50 to be exact, even with injuries and a surprisingly indolent Wallace. Thankfully, the team is looking better now.

2) Philadelphia 41-41
Eddie Jordan has the same problem that DiLeo did – incorporating Elton Brand. But Jordan can offer his version of the Princeton offense as a remedy. The team is capable of better outside shooting than it has shown. Without an established point guard, Iguodala and Brand can be facilitators in the Princeton O. Jordan, not known for defense, must establish more team discipline than DiLeo did.

Final: 27-55 Ouch. I have to say that the past two seasons feed my suspicion that Eddie Jordan isn’t as good a coach as his reputation suggests. Brand’s career is in decline. Andre Miller was more important to their success than they realized. They never really incorporated Eddie’s version of the Princeton offense. I still believe that with the right coach, system and attitude this is a .500 ball club. A team with a number of talented young players in search of an identity.

3) Toronto 35-47 – re-made roster. very skilled team. Let up on them and they will hurt you. Team reflects Chris Bosh. Strong wing and outside play without much inside. Bosh has bulked up to help out more in the post. Hedo helps. Bargnani continues to improve. DeRozen is a player to watch. Calderon is healthy and Jarrett Jack is a solid back up. Rasho is better than you think in this system. Lacking in toughness and defense, especially inside.

Final: 40-42 Solid offensively, poor defensively. Even with a disappointing Hedo Turkoglu, the Raptors generated 5 more wins that than I thought they would. Bosh’s offense was 10% more inside (46% vs 36% LY). He had a career year in scoring, FG%, and rebounding. It couldn’t offset a basically soft, but talented team. Calderon didn’t have the year some thought he would and he didn’t stay healthy. Rasho rarely played. With Bosh possibly leaving, an ever improving Andre Bargnani says he is ready to assume the role of franchise player. Hmmm…

More after the break....

4) New York 31-51
– D’Antoni continues to coach a temporary line-up. With Curry still a mess,
David Lee will play center again. As expected the D’Antoni Knicks were 2nd in pace, terrible defensively, and 2nd only to Orlando in three point shooting as a part of their offense (32%). Unexpectedly, they were 21st in fast break points (behind the Celtics), and 8th best in ‘points in the paint’ (ahead of the Celtics). Go figure. Talented Wilson Chandler needs to be reigned in on shooting. Gallinari will be a good player with time.

Final: 29-53 Some think D’Antoni is doing the best he can with the talent he has. I lowered my expectations after seeing 08-09. His team still under performed by two wins. D’Antoni’s ‘offense first’ approach is supposed to get help from a defensive coach for next season. Yet, Eddie House shot a career low (25%) from the arc. Bill Walker may have found the perfect place to be. Curry was a mess and Lee did play center. I know. That wasn’t hard to predict.

5) New Jersey 26-56Devin Harris and Brook Lopez make a good axis to build from. Who replaces Vince Carter’s numbers? Courtney Lee and Yi Jianlian will get every opportunity to produce. Good cast of support players. Lawrence Frank’s job is on the line. Terrence Williams will impact this team this season.

Final: 12-70 Ouch again. – No one replaced VC’s numbers. Hence, the lowest scoring team (92.4)  in the NBA. Cheer up, their defense was bad, too. Still, this team could have been closer to the 26 wins than they ended up. Franks was fired early and I’m sorry, but Kiki Vandeweghe was a poor caretaker. They stayed in free fall. Injuries and ‘indifference to winning’ helped do this team in. Terrence Williams? It took a while, but over the last 22 games he averaged 44% fg, 14.1 pts., 6.8 rebounds, and 5.4 assists as he helped the Nets avoid history.

Yi is not the answer, but Derrick Favors, Amare Stoudamire, Carlos Boozer, and David Lee may all be on the Nets radar this off season.

Central Division

1) Cleveland  60-22 – Like Boston, the Cavs improve with Parker, Moon, and Shaq. Offensively Shaq and LeBron attacking the rim is a scary thought. Defensively, Shaq can be had. The additions have, yet again, improved the level of role players around James. Have they finally reached the threshold to put them over the top? If not, it is time to scrap the role player thing and find a bona fide prime-of-career all star to play along side of LeBron.

Final: 61-21 One off. Not too bad. The big trade for Jamison was unexpected and helps balance the offense. ‘Tawn is the true second option on offense the Cavs have longed for. They stayed true to prediction. Is this the season? Those darn pesky Celtics match up fairly well.

2) Chicago 40-42 – they gained Boston’s respect. Can they build on it? Tyrus Thomas wants to go restricted next season. Rose and Noah will continue to get better. They must find a way to get a healthy Luol Deng involved more. Hinrich and Salmons will help make up for the loss of Ben Gordon. Talented club, but missing a true post presence. Johnson and Gibson solid draft choices.

Final: 41-41 Another close one. Tyrus Thomas was traded and Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah did get better. Deng is more involved (17 pts per) as predicted, but they never really replaced Ben Gordon’s shot making ability and eventually traded John Salmons who was hoped to do that. Salmons is now thriving in Milwaukee. With all the internal drama, this team refused to die and went 7-2 to close the season and the right to be beaten by Cleveland in the first round. Vinny Del Negro hasn’t left the building…yet.

3) Milwaukee 35-47 – Skiles will get the most from this club. Brandon Jennings will make you forget Sessions and is a future star. A healthy Bogut and Redd make this team dangerous. Some think Redd will be shopped before the year is out. Delfino is a Skiles type player and Warrick is a nice addition. OK. You know this is coming…they will be scrappy.

Final: 46-36 One of the teams that blew out everyone’s predictions on the plus side. I had it right on Jennings. Warrick was a non factor. Scrappy was easy to predict. I wanted to say they get 41 wins, but I was afraid to go that far out. A lesson in ‘buying in’, and as Jerry Stackhouse told me, some solid talent. Personally, I give Skiles some credit for Bogut’s improved game and confidence.

4) Detroit 34-48 – I don’t hold out the hope that some do about Dumars use of his freed up money. Even though I can root for three UConn alumni in Hamilton, Villanueva, and Gordon, I see this team having problems. Kwame Brown as your starting center is a warning sign. Chris Wilcox is a talented under achiever (i.e.- lazy). Villanueva needs to have a break out year, or Stuckey and Prince both need to have great years to change things.

Final: 27-55  General Motors isn’t Detroit’s only disappointment. Unlike most, I was pessimistic to begin with. But injuries just compounded the problems. They are not a 27 win team, so it is hard to judge this team on this season. Ben Wallace played well, but they need help in the middle, among other places. Just staying healthy will improve their record next year, but they are a middling team right now. Underperformers? Charlie Villanueva…I’m looking at you.

5) Indiana 30-52T.J. Ford is finally supposed to take over, but I bet that Watson gets his share of minutes, as he always seems to do. Granger is a stud on a bad team. Murphy, and Dunleavy when he is healthy, flourish in this system. Hibbert will improve, but not enough to make a difference. Brandon Rush is solid and improving. Dahntay Jones replaces Marquis Daniels with less talent. Tyler Hansbrough will have to prove himself. We can use the term ‘scrappy’ again here.

Final: 32-50 Darn…close again. I picked a regression in wins. I called the Ford problem and Watson’s rise (pats self). Hibbert did improve, but team regressed and Larry Bird says so did Danny Granger. Dunleavy disappointed after return. Rush really did not improve either. For most teams, this would be time to seek a new coach. Either way, this is not a great roster. Nondescript… and what is the plan? Division title? You can’t get there from here.

Southeast Division
1) Orlando 60-20 – The Magic didn’t sign every available free agent. It just seemed that way. They are bent on winning a title as evidenced by matching for Marcin Gortat at a large expense. Hedo’s gone. Vince is in. Carter will be able to create his own shot in 4th quarter situations, something Turkoglu couldn’t. Brandon Bass, and Matt Barnes are solid pick ups. Pietrus surprised me in the playoffs with his clutch shooting and solid play. Poodles or pit bulls? Some see them as worse with Carter. I see them as more dangerous in 4th quarters.

Final: 59-23 I’m on a roll. But this wasn’t hard to predict. A mouthy and feisty Matt Barnes has over taken Pietrus in the starting line up. They are so deep that Bass is rarely used. Having Vince Carter relieves Howard of a lot of pressure offensively and as a leader on the floor. Dwight loves that. An identical record to the previous season, but a better team. Yes, Jameer Nelson is a huge key to how far they go and he is healthy now. They have a lot of answers, but Nelson and Carter are the biggest differences from 2009 playoffs.

2) Atlanta  48-34 – This is a very interesting situation. The time for talk is over. Joe Johnson would not go for an extension. Woodson gets no respect and this is the season he must earn his new contract. I see his future largely tied to Josh Smith’s ability to fit into the team concept. The Hawks also are committed to making that next jump and it won’t be easy. Getting Crawford and Joe Smith helps this team. Jeff Teague has talent. Will he play? This could be a 50 win team.

Final: 53-29
   50 plus wins it is. After beating the drum for Woodson extension earlier in the year, Woody’s hasn’t disappointed. Josh Smith grows up and loses the three ball. How many of you thought Jamal Crawford wouldn’t help because he doesn’t play defense? 82games say they are slightly better with him on court than off. That was a real problem with the bench players last season. Though they had the Cs number this season, I don’t see them breaking into the Top Dawgs Club in the East. But they are close and they believe in themselves.

3) Washington 41-41 – everyone’s favorite ‘move up’ team. Flip Saunders will have a lot of talent to work with and a ‘mini big three’ in Arenas, Jamison, and Butler. Lots of good supporting players here and Haywood is healthy, too. Jamison’s out for a few weeks, and Blatchely will start in his place. Miller, Foye, McGuire, McGee, Oberto, James, Young make a talented bench.

Final: 26-56
  OK. Have you stopped laughing yet? I know. I know. Well, no one else saw it coming either. When Washington asks, "Is he a shooter?" it means a whole different thing, doesn’t it? Now I know what was wrong here. The inmates were (are?) running the asylum. Andre Blatche is another character who has moved into the spotlight. After a 16 game losing streak, they finished 5-5 with wins against bad teams (except Boston). Does the fun ever stop?

4) Miami 38-44 – I became a believer in Dwyane Wade last season. Huge player. Unfortunately, the Heat only added Quentin Richardson. There is talent here but keeping Jermaine O’Neal healthy is a problem. Micheal Beasley should improve and Haslem is solid, but he shouldn’t have to play center. The three teams picked ahead of them all added pieces.

Final: 47-35  OK. I underrated Wade and the Heat again, didn’t I? Jermaine O’Neal is in decline. Michael Beasley is a paper tiger so far. Udonis Haslem played mostly power forward, but could be gone next season. After a strong finish, they are looking like the worst 47 win team in the league right now. While they beat the Hawks, Lakers and Bucks, the rest of the 18-4 flurry to end the season was against a lot of weak teams. If the Celtics continue to pound the Heat, will Wade start to look elsewhere this summer?

5) Charlotte 34-48 – hard to mark down this team after Larry Brown got them to finally play to their abilities. But Tyson Chandler in for Okafor and Raja Bell out with injury makes it hard to give them more wins. Felton is in a contract year and Augustin is a player. Gerald Henderson should play well for them. Well coached, solid starting five, little depth.

Final: 44-38 Another surprise team to the good. D.J. Augustin played himself into Brown’s doghouse and never really got out. Chandler disappointed. Raymond Felton did play rather well. But it was the trade for Stephen JacksonGerald Wallace’s incredible season that propelled this team forward. Without much help from the center position, Larry Brown does another fine coaching job. and

There, I laid out all my hits and misses. Go ahead and slap me around. What surprised you most this season in the East?