The 2014-15 NBA season is right around the corner, so it’s time for some projections. Here’s our NBA picks for how the eight playoff teams in the Eastern Conference will look.
1. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls should be the best team in the conference assuming Derrick Rose stays healthy. The Cleveland Cavaliers will be awesome but there’s a ton of transition on that team, including a remade roster and a new head coach. That’ll take some time to adjust whereas the Bulls will hit the ground running.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
This team is a lock to make the playoffs and quite likely to be the last team standing in the East come playoff time. However, in the regular season, they should finish behind the Bulls.
Keep in mind that the Miami Heat vaulted from fifth up to second the first year Lebron James arrived. We should see the Cavs finish in a similar position in the regular season.
3. Washington Wizards
A number of previous head coaches couldn’t get the Wizards playing defense but Randy Wittman did. This team finished ninth in the NBA in points allowed per game (99.4), which was a big surprise. After gathering some valuable playoff experience and adding Paul Pierce, they should be even better.
4. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors vaulted up the standings last year because they bought into Duane Casey’s defensive preaching. They went from being 17th in opponent points per game all the up to seventh (98.0 PPG). They just need to find a way to be more efficient from the field as their .445 field goal percentage was 22nd in the NBA.
5. Miami Heat
The Miami Heat should still have enough pieces to get a reasonable seed. Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Josh McRoberts, Shabazz Napier and Luol Deng make up a decent corps. They’ll miss LeBron James, of course. Now we’ll find out just how good of a coach Erik Spoelstra truly is.
6. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets lost Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston, but the tandem of Deron Williams (assuming he’s healthy) and Brook Lopez (same thing) is good enough for a bottom playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. They went to the second round of the playoffs even without Lopez, who was their leading scorer. They still finished 11th in points allowed (99.5) and with a healthy Lopez, they’ll be top 10.
7. Atlanta Hawks
Atlanta made noise down the stretch and in the playoffs, and they did so without all-star Al Horford. They actually follow the San Antonio Spurs philosophy: share the ball, get everyone involved. They finished second in the NBA in assists per game (24.9). With a healthy Horford, they’ll be back in the playoff mix.
8. Detroit Pistons
This NBA pick will probably surprise you but I have them making it and the Indiana Pacers missing the cut. The Pacers finished the season just 17-16 in their final 33 games, proved to be a head case in the playoffs and then lost Lance Stephenson and Paul George off the roster. The Pistons have plenty of talent and now a seasoned, intelligent coach like Stan Van Gundy will guide them back to the postseason.