Finally, basketball season is upon us. Training camps are underway, and preseason is a week in. This is part one of my 4 part series of NBA predictions for the 2012-2013 season. Last year had plenty of awesome moments, and this season should be just as good, if not better. Every team seems to be growing and getting more competitive. Part 1 will be my predictions for the Eastern Conference top to bottom, part 2 will be my predictions for the Western Conference, part 3 will be my award predictions, and part 4 will be my playoff predictions.
For each conference I will say who I think makes the playoffs this year. Starting at #1 going to #8, and the 2 teams that will barely miss. Now let's get started
1. Miami Heat
No question who's the best team in the east. The reigning NBA champs are going to be just as good if not better. Being able to sign Ray Allen away from the Celtics is going to be a huge boost this year. He's a more reliable scorer off the bench, and he's another leader for this team. I think as long as D-wade stays healthy this year this team has the potential to win at least 65 games.
2. Indiana Pacers
Indiana is one of those teams that doesn't really have much star power, but they play so well together. They're a well coached team, and they never quit playing. Needless to say they almost upset the Heat last year. The needed to bring back Roy Hibbert which they did. A little puzzling that they traded away Nick Collison and Dahntay Jones, but they still have a great roster. Watch for Paul George to really break out this year and show some of his superstar potential.
3. Boston Celtics
I think everyone would agree that Boston had a great offseason, adding 2 players late in the draft that will be greatly involved in the rotation in Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo. Also signing Courtney Lee, Jason Terry, and now Leandro Barbosa, will be huge in them winning the division again. Will be a tough battle with the Knicks for the division title, but Boston's just so consistent it's hard to pick against them.
4. New York Knicks
If anyone in this conference is hard to predict, it's the Knicks. They have the roster to be a really good basketball team, but it's we're still waiting for them to gel, mainly Melo and Amare. It's year 3 of this experiment, and this will be the breaking point. They'll have to have regular season success, and win a playoff series or else I see them blowing this up. I do think they'll have success, they have 2 legit point guards that can run this offense efficiently. Felton was horrible in Portland, but his return to NYC should be good, he had success when he was there before. The Knicks just miss out on the division title, but still hold home court advantage for the 1st round of the playoffs.
5. Philadelphia 76ers
Yes 3 atlantic division teams in a row. I really liked what they did this off-season. Getting Andrew Bynum was huge for this team, now they're going to want to prove that they can win with him here so he'll stay and I believe they can. Philly has talented parts around Bynum in Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner. With Bynum in the paint it will allow Hawes to play his game around the perimeter. Losing Iguodala will have it's effects, but now they can play a legit inside out game, and they will win a lot of games doing it.
6. Brooklyn Nets
I'd like to believe that the Nets will finish higher than 6, but they've added a lot of pieces in the offseason and we all know how long it takes for teams to gel. Being able to get Joe Johnson was a great thing for the team, but I don't think it automatically makes them a contender. Joe Johnson has been so used to him controlling the ball and playing an isolation offense in Atlanta, it'll be interesting to see how he plays most of his time off the ball as a spot up shooter/slasher. This team takes a good amount of the season gelling, and they'll be a potential force come playoff time.
7. Chicago Bulls
Not having Derrick Rose potentially for the whole year will be tough for the Bulls, but even without him last year they had the best record in the east. But they did lose a lot of that depth this off-season. Losing Asik will be big for them. He was a good guy to come off the bench and have an impact inside. They're a greatly coached team, and really good defensively, the only question is who's going to score the points.
8. Toronto Raptors
Yes you are reading this correctly, I have the Raptors making the playoffs. I really think they made great moves this off-season and have put themselves in great position to make a run at the playoffs. Say all that you want about the contract they gave Landry Fields, but he brings alot to the table that the Raptors need. He's a good wing player, plays good defense, and is a good offensive player as well. His stats dipped once Melo got there, but now that he's got a change of scenery he'll perform like he did his rookie year. Also being able to trade for Kyle Lowry was huge, he's an underrated 3point shooter, and one of the best rebounders and defenders at his position. Calderon is more suited to lead the second unit anyways. I'm also really excited to see how Jonas Valanciunas plays. Remember he was the #5 pick in the 2011 draft, and almost every GM said he would've gone #2 after AD if he waited until the 2012 draft. His presence down low will allow to Andrea Bargnani to play more naturally on the perimeter. The Raptors also jumped from dead last in defensive efficiency 2 years ago to #12 last year. They also won more games in a lockout shortened season then they did the year before. Watch out for the Raptors this year.
Just Missing The Playoffs
Atlanta Hawks: A decent amount of roster turnover this off-season. They'll play more of a team game, but I don't see enough firepower to get them to the playoffs.
Milwaukee Bucks: A good amount of excitement in Milwaukee for this team, but I don't think the depth needed to make a playoff run. They'll be a very exciting team with a Jennings and Ellis backcourt, but I don't think it'll be enough
There ya have it, there's who I think will make the playoffs this season in the east. Feel free to leave comments, tell me what you think!