By Jonathan Lee
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Miami added Shane Battier as a quality shooter and veteran off the bench, and are hopeful to get a healthier Mike Miller this season. The Heat are projected for 47.5 wins, three games better than their closest competitor in the league.
The rest of the Eastern conference projects to be nearly the same with only one new playoff team forecasted to make the top eight at the start of this season. Chicago is the second best projected team in the East with 44.5 wins. Derrick Rose is poised for another stellar season after winning the MVP a year ago. The Bulls were able to replace Keith Bogans with Richard Hamilton at the shooting guard spot, and have a full year to integrate Carlos Boozer.
Chicago is followed by Orlando in the current pecking order as long as Dwight Howard remains on the roster. Obviously their status as the third best team is contingent entire on Howard staying for the entire season. The earlier he is traded to another season the likelier it is that the Magic miss the postseason entirely. For now Boston is projected as the final team to earn homecourt in the playoffs. The Celtics are still talented, but are one of the oldest teams and may be most affected by the compressed schedule due to the lockout. They will also be relying heavily on the injury prone Jermaine O’Neal especially because of the season-ending injury to Jeff Green.
The Knicks have plenty of potential with the addition of Tyson Chandler to the frontcourt. The backcourt is a question mark, but Baron Davis, if healthy, could be a big factor down the stretch. Right now New York is forecasted for about 39 wins and an 84.7 percent chance at the playoffs.
Milwaukee is the one team to not make the playoffs last season currently projected to do so. The Bucks really need Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings to become one of the better inside-out duos in the East, and for Stephen Jackson to help create offense. The Bucks and Sixers have very similar projections both being young teams with some talent and flaws. Atlanta is forecasted to grab the final playoff spot. The Hawks could easily slide out of the top eight as they did not make any major moves to upgrade this season, and are really depending on Jeff Teague making a significant leap in production.
The Pacers and Nets are probably the two most likely teams to beat their current projections at the end of the year. Indiana has a nice collection of talent that should improve with another season of experience, and also with the addition of veteran forward David West. New Jersey lost center Brook Lopez for two months, but is one of the most likely landing spots for Dwight Howard. If Howard doesn’t join Deron Williams however it could be another long slog of a season before the move to Brooklyn.
The Pistons, Bobcats, and Raptors are all projected for somewhere between 24 and 26 wins this year with less than a 1 in 4 chance at the playoffs. Washington and Cleveland are projected as the worst two teams in the East. The combined projected win total for the Wizards and Cavs (37.9) doesn’t match the individual totals for the top five teams in the East.
|New York Knicks||38.9||27.1||58.9%||37.9%||84.7%|
|New Jersey Nets||28.6||37.4||43.3%||3.2%||35.9%|