Top 4 Teams in the East
By: Steve Rawnsley
With the rosters mostly set, now is a good time to start evaluating where each team can finish. Now, it is time to look at the Eastern Conference. Really, outside of Boston and Miami, the East is much weaker than the West. It will be interesting to see how the East shapes up. Here are my top four teams in the East.
The NBA champions probably got better in the offseason. The signing of Ray Allen was great for them. However, he does come with some concerns. The biggest concern is the adjustment coming off the bench. The reason why guys like Jason Terry are such a hot commodity in the league is because it usually takes a player a while to get into the rhythm of the game after sitting for a long period of time. As a starter, you just come off warm-ups. This is not really a skill you can develop. We will see if he has it. He also battled some injuries last year, and he is not getting any younger.
However, he will not be asked to do nearly as much. He will be mainly asked to stand in the corner and spread the floor. He should still demand a guy stay glued to him. That opens up the lane for the freight trains, LeBron James, along with D-Wade. The signing of Rahsard Lewis, along with not signing a center means the Heat will not use the traditional positions. At times, you could see LeBron as the “center.” He is the perfect player to build this strategy around, because he is the ultimate all-around player.
The Celtics made a ton of noise in the offseason to retool their team. They still have a big 3 of Rondo, Pierce, and Garnett. (Let’s be honest, Rondo has been better than Allen for at least a year now.) Their Achilles Heal has been fixed, with the players they brought in to come off the bench. Jason Terry has been the ultimate sixth man of this generation.
With Avery Bradley as the starting SG, you can make the argument that Boston got better with losing Allen, but getting Terry. Courtney Lee was also signed. Let’s not forget he was a starter for the Magic his rookie year. He is a very solid piece off the bench. Jared Sullinger had red flags going into the draft about his long-term health, and he fell.
All Boston cares about right now is building the best team for the next few years, and Sullinger could be a good PF off the bench. Getting a healthy Avery Bradley back will be a nice addition. These pieces should help negate the negative effects of aging for Pierce and Garnett.
The Pacers made big strides last year by getting to the second round, and giving the Heat a run for their money. The Pacers will look to build upon that foundation set.
The Pacers kept their two important free agents, Roy Hibbert, and George Hill. Now, we can debate whether or not they overpaid for them, but that is a different subject for a different time. The core of this team is young and improving, outside of David West, who is 31 years old. He is getting close to falling, but not quite there yet. They also got DJ Augustine and Ian Manhimi. Manhimi will be an upgrade over Lou Amundson, and DJ Augustine is probably a better fit then Darren Collison was. Collison is a scoring PG, where Augustine is a passing PG. The Pacers already have a scoring PG, in George Hill.
The one player to keep an eye on is Paul George. He is probably played out of position at SG, but he still had a very good sophomore season. He might be the most important piece for the Pacers going forward. Not many wings have the talent he has.
Before the Dwight Howard trade, there might not have been a team that had made more noise than the Nets did. The Nets needed to make some moves to keep Deron Williams happy. Joe Johnson was thought to be untradeable due to his $69 million remaining for the next three years. However, the billionaire owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, showed he is willing to spend whatever he needs to in order to turn this franchise around.
The Joe Johnson acquisition convinced Deron Williams to resign. They also kept Gerald Wallace, and Kris Humphries. Both of whom made news by getting dramatically overpaid in most people’s opinions. However, Prokhorov has said he is not worried about the luxury tax, so the GM Billy King basically has an limitless checkbook.
The Nets look good on paper 1-6, but after that they are in trouble. Not many teams will have a better starting lineup than Dwill, Johnson, Wallace, Humphries, and Lopez. Marshon Brooks turned in a solid rookie year, and is slated to be the 6th man. The team will most likely keep growing as time goes on, and Prokhorov keeps spending.
The rest of the East will shape up, so keep an eye on New York, Philadelphia and Chicago.