Everyone is handing the Eastern Conference championship to the Cleveland Cavaliers already but can anyone surprise them? Here are four sleepers in the Eastern Conference.
Chicago Bulls: Sleepers To Be…: An Eastern Conference Contender
The Bulls are as talented as anybody in the NBA but last year proved that their system and the coach simply weren’t working. A coaching change could very well be the difference. Remember that the Golden State Warriors were a very-good-but-not-great team too under Marc Jackson but then they still fired him, brought in Steve Kerr and then he pushed the right buttons to get them over the top. Fred Hoiberg could be the man to do the same in Chicago. This is team is actually deeper than the Cleveland Cavaliers, stronger inside and possibly just as talented – if Rose stays healthy. Don’t sleep on them in the East; they’re offering good value on the NBA odds.
Miami Heat: Sleepers To Be…: An Eastern Conference Contender
While the East is already being handed to the Cavaliers, one team that could give them a run for their money is the Miami Heat. For starters, they still have some experience. Secondly, with Dragic around and Bosh back, they again have a Big Three. Beyond that, they reloaded on the bench to get some help and picked up Amar’e Stoudemire and Gerald Green on the cheap. They also added a potential Rookie Of The Year candidate in Justise Winslow. A lot has to go right for the Heat but if Winslow is ROY-caliber, if Hassan Whiteside can continue to play like he did last season, if Bosh is back healthy and at All-Star-caliber and if Wade can stay healthy, this team could be a big surprise in the East.
Charlotte Hornets: Sleeper To Be…: A Playoff Team & A Young Team On The Rise (Again)
When I say sleeper here, keep in mind that I’m saying a sleeper simply to make the playoffs and again be a young team on the rise. I’m saying take them with your NBA picks to win the conference (or even remotely challenge for it).
There are a few reasons why I think Charlotte could get on the right track. For starters, this was a team on the rise before last season but Lance Stephenson came in and ruined their chemistry. He’s gone now. Secondly, they’ve got a lot of young talent. Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker are the centerpieces, but Nicolas Batum should improve the starting five, Jeremy Lamb should help the bench and Frank Kaminsky could finally fill the void at power forward. Beyond that, this is a team that went 7-1 in the preseason and is playing with confidence to enter the year. They could turn out to be better than people think.
New York Knicks: Sleepers To Be…: Significantly Improved
I’m not expecting much from the Knicks in terms of the playoffs – other than possibly making them – but I see this as a team that could be significantly improved. For starters, they had to cycle out a lot of trash last season. Now they seem to have a core of players that they’re working with: Carmelo Anthony, Robin Lopez, Kristaps Porzingis, Jerian Grant and Arron Afflalo. It’s not great but remember that this was a 16-win team last year. What they have now should get them to in and around the range of .500 – although likely just under it. This team was bad but now they’re decent. However, not many people are expecting much – if anything – from them.