Ranking the East

The league has been kind of quiet for a couple of days now, so I thought it may be a good time to see where teams rank for the coming season. These rankings are an indication of where I think teams will finish, not an indication of how well they did in the offseason. Today, I’ll look at the East, and tomorrow the West.

1.  Miami – there is no reason to have them at anything but number 1 after getting LeBron James to play alongside Dwyane Wade, all while bringing Chris Bosh to town as well. There is a big-time drop-off in talent after those guys plus Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem, but it should hardly matter. These guys will be playing with a target on their backs all season.

2. Orlando – the Magic are still stacked, adding solid role players Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon to the proven core of Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis and Dwight Howard. Keeping J.J. Redick was a great move, as he improved dramatically last season. Capable of winning 60 games next season.

3. Chicago – should rocket up the standings after grabbing Carlos Boozer to play alongside Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. Also scored a couple of other ex-Jazzmen in Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer with reasonably priced deals and picked up C.J. Watson on the cheap also. Luol Deng and Taj Gibson are still around so there is no reason they shouldn’t rise in the standings after finishing as the 8th seed in the past two seasons.

4. Boston – have to give the old guys the benefit of the doubt, with the Celtics surprising, well, everyone by making it to the Finals this year.  They kept everyone in the fold, handing Paul Pierce and Ray Allen new deals to continue playing alongside Kevin Garnett and giving the fading stars a couple of final goes at winning it all. May fall from the top 4 seeds if…

5. Atlanta – has a really good season. A lot has to go right for the Hawks to remain in the Eastern elite. Giving Joe Johnson the maximum was an awful decision and severely hinders management’s ability to put a star cast around him. Furthermore, he has never really shown the ability to be a true franchise player, fading horribly against Orlando in the postseason. With the guys they have currently, however, they’ll have no trouble making the playoffs.

6. New York – I really, really like what New York did in the off-season. No, they didn’t get LeBron, or Wade or Bosh. But they still got one of the big fish in Amar’e Stoudemire and surrounded him with quality pieces at reasonable prices. They picked up Raymond Felton on the cheap, who still has time to be a high-quality guard in this league – in fact, his career looks similar to Chauncey Billups’ to this point, and we all know how Billups improved once he found a home in Detroit. Similar to Felton finding the Knicks, perhaps? Also, they got Anthony Randolph from Golden State, and the kid has immense potential. With proper coaching, he could absolutely explode. Keep an eye on him. So despite missing the main prize, they didn’t panic, they added good pieces at reasonable prices and maintained financial flexibility for next year. Well done, I say.

7. Milwaukee – added Corey Maggette for nothing, retained John Salmons and for some reason gave Drew Gooden a ton of money. Overall though, the moves should make the Bucks better and give them a decent shot in the playoffs. Brandon Jennings should be a year better and Andrew Bogut improved immensely last season. They have a shot at 50 wins.

8. Detroit – after the first seven, it’s a bit hard to see who might sneak into the 8th spot. I gave it to Detroit over Philadelphia (new coach, rotations need to shake out and plays need to be learned) and Toronto (despite still having some solid pieces, could take a while to recover after the Bosh departure). With Ben Gordon on board, along with Rodney Stuckey and the newcomer Greg Monroe, this team should surprise a few people provided they can avoid injuries.

Here’s the rest:

9. Philadelphia

10. Toronto

11. New Jersey

12. Charlotte

13. Washington

14. Cleveland

15. Indiana

That’ll do it for now. Stayed tuned for the West rankings.

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