Summer Rankings: Eastern Conference
1. Boston Celtics
The Celtics lost a couple of key reserves but I still don't see any teams that are going to take down a focused Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen.
2. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons are getting older and they should probably think about revamping their lineup but they are still a very talented team and have some nice young talent coming off the bench. My only concern is that they are overrating the talent of Jason Maxiell and Amir Johnson. Kwame Brown's defense in underrated but I'm not sure how bringing him in helps a team that was already shockingly unenthused during the playoffs.
3. Orlando Magic
Mickeal Pietrus was a great signing and Courtney Lee seems like he should be able to deliver everything J.J. Redick failed to bring. I still think the team has flaws come playoff time, particularly at the point.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
I'm not wowed by either the selection of JJ Hickson or the addition of Mo Williams but I just can't imagine a LeBron James team is going to finish without home court in at least playoff series. Losing Joe Smith weakens their post play. If they can trade Wally Szczerbiak for a legit PF, they could move up to #2.
5. Miami Heat
This team could easily fall apart. Dwyane Wade's been injury prone, Shawn Marion is playing for a contract, Michael Beasley is a bit looney, a rookie (Mario Chalmers) appears to be their starting point guard and their bench is weak. All that being said, I actually love the Chalmers, Wade, Marion, Beasley quartet and wouldn't want to bet against them. Then again, I wouldn't want to bet on Wade staying healthy either.
6. Philadelphia 76ers
I've never been a fan of Andre Miller and the last time he and Elton Brand played together, it was an utter disaster. Still, I'm a fan of Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young and think a smaller lineup with Brand in the middle could be very successful (and needs to be now that Jason Smith is injured).
7. Washington Wizards
93 games. That's how much time was lost due to injuries to Washington's duo of Gilbert Arenas (69 games), and Caron Butler (24 games) and the Wizards still made the playoffs. If these guys could stay healthy and some of the young guys could ever show improvement, they might actually make it to the second round again. I'm not really banking on either happening though so it'll be another 40+ wins and a first round L.
8. Toronto Raptors
I think Jermaine O'Neal could be Comeback Player of the Year candidate and Jose Calderon will emerge as one of the best point guards in the NBA however after them and Chris Bosh, the Raptors don't really have much. Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon are solid enough and perhaps Andrea Bargnani can develop now that the pressure is off but Bryan Colangelo is still keeping the pressure on Sam Mitchell to perform with a shallow roster.
9. Atlanta Hawks
Should anyone falter, the Hawks will be ready, willing, and able to take their playoff spot. Mike Bibby should be healed, Al Horford will improve, and the loss of Josh Childress was more of a PR-setback than something that will hurt too much on the court. The key is Marvin Willliams. If he continues to improve, the Hawks
might not need anyone to falter, they could earn their spot themselves.
10. Indiana Pacers
If there are two people that can make a mediocre team outperform expectations, it's TJ Ford and coach Jim O'Brien. Larry Bird still needs to make some moves to get the roster into game shape but I'm expecting Ford, Dunleavy Jr., and Granger to keep the Pacers competitive.
11. Milwaukee Bucks
This season pretty much rests on the shoulders of Ramon Sessions. If he can show that his end-of-season flurry wasn't a complete fluke, the Bucks could compete for a lotto spot. If not, the team has too many holes for even Scott Skiles to cover up.
12. New Jersey Nets
Yes, the Nets have blown up their roster but while they've lost their superstars, they've gained an edge. Vince Carter was a man on fire after the All-Star break and Devin Harris is emerged as a legit PG. I'm sure both of them will find some inspiration in the fact that so many people are counting them at. Add in Chris Douglas-Roberts looking to prove he should have been a first round draft pick and some hard-working role players and the Nets could surprise some people. Still, they probably won't have enough to really succeed and if Vince Carter has a great first half of the season, I can't imagine he won't be traded at the trade deadline.
13. Chicago Bulls
I'm not sure Derrick Rose is going to be ready to play NBA-caliber point guard from Day 1 and nobody knows if Ty Thomas is going to be willing to give in even the old college try in terms of effort. After that, the roster is a bit of a mess. As it stands now, they are relying on Kirk Hinrich as their perimeter threat and Drew Gooden as their best post offensive option. If this roster doesn't change, Bulls fans should start keeping tabs on Blake Griffin, BJ Mullens, and the other top big man prospects in the NCAA.
14. Charlotte Bobcats
I wanted to put the Bobcats higher but there's one problem: they aren't that good. Jason Richardson is a solid SG, Gerald Wallace is a solid SF, and Emeka Okafor is a nice big man. I don't even mind Raymond Felton. But after that the roster is thin and it seems loaded with people whom Larry Brown will quickly grow to loathe. Wasting their first round pick on Alexis Ajinca didn't help matter any either. I'm not a fan of the DJ Augustin pick either but I'm not ready to write him off yet. Unless Sean May and Adam Morrison can prove their critics wrong, the Bobcats will again be one of the worst teams in the East.
15. New York Knicks
I'm not sure how adding the biggest partier from the Bulls, Chris Duhon, is supposed to solidify the point guard situation or help locker room chemistry any. The Gallinari kid sounds like a project, at the very least so I don't see how the Knicks are really going to improve.