2014-2015 NBA Season Preview: Eastern Conference

254px-NBA_Logo.svg_The 2014-2015 NBA season is almost here!

Lots of storylines are abound this season.  Will LeBron James’ return to Cleveland be a successful homecoming?  Will Derrick Rose stay healthy this season?  Ditto for Dwyane Wade?  Will the Oklahoma City Thunder remain in the thick of things while Kevin Durant rehabs his injured foot?  Will Kobe Bryant be the Black Mamba of old (no pun intended)?

All in all, this should be one memorable season in the National Basketball Association (and it’s good to have the Hornets back in Charlotte).

Today I will preview the Eastern Conference, tomorrow the much more competitive Western Conference.  So without further ado…

Atlantic Division

  1. Toronto Raptors
  2. New York Knicks
  3. Brooklyn Nets
  4. Boston Celtics
  5. Philadelphia 76ers

Analysis:  Toronto is by far the class of this division.  Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross, and Amir Johnson and Co. are back after leading their Raptors to a 48-win season.  After having a taste of the postseason in last year’s playoffs, I expect the Raptors to be improved – and hungrier.  My Knicks will be much-improved under the tuteledge of first-time coach Derek Fisher, a protege of Head of Basketball Ops Phil Jackson.  The Triangle Offense worked for Michael Jordan and later Kobe Bryant.  I expect it to do wonders for Carmelo Anthony.  The rest of the division are trending down a bit.  Brooklyn is a mess, from the top down.  Shaky front office + overrated, overpriced roster = bad news.  Boston and Philly are still young, and both these once-proud franchises will be getting their ass kicked again.

Central Division

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers
  2. Chicago Bulls
  3. Indiana Pacers
  4. Milwaukee Bucks
  5. Detroit Pistons

Analysis:  This should be one fun division race to watch. A lot of people think that the Cavs and Bulls will rule this division, but I think that the Pacers will have a say on how this division will be settled – with or without Paul George.  Indiana is a well-coached team that was unfortunately doomed by poor chemistry.  I think Lance Stephenson got a bad rap, as he and David West by far were the heart and soul of the team.  The Pacers need better point guard play, and George Hill is not a damn point guard.  As for the Cavs and Bulls, we are looking at the two best teams in the East.  The new “Big Three” in James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving makes the Cavs the team to beat in the Central and the East.  However, if Rose could stay healthy the majority of the season, Chicago will have a lot to say about that.  As for the Bucks and Pistons, why bother showing up?  Both sucked last year, and both will stink up the joint again this season.

Southeast Division

  1. Charlotte Hornets
  2. Miami Heat
  3. Washington Wizards
  4. Atlanta Hawks
  5. Orlando Magic

Analysis: In what may be a surprising – and frankly, head-scratching – pick, I think the Hornets are going to win the Southeast division. Hear me out on this. I liked the acquisition of Stephenson – A LOT. As I mentioned earlier, I thought he was one of two players who showed the most heart for the Pacers last season. His feistiness on both ends of the floor will be infectious on an up-and-coming team in Charlotte. The Hornets already have studs in Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker, and have a good coach in Steve Clifford. And one more thing about the Hornets, it feels good for me to see the nickname back in Charlotte. The vibe and energy has picked up around the Queen City, something I have not seen since growing up in the state. One could make the case for the Heat and Wizards for winning this division. If both teams are relatively healthy, they could win over 50 games. However, Wizards sharpshooter Bradley Beal will not play the first few games of the season. And I do not trust Wade’s health. The Hawks are a playoff contender with a healthy Al Horford. They already have studs in Jeff Teague (go Demon Deacons!) and Paul Milsap. As the case with Miami and Washington, it’s just a matter of Atlanta staying healthy. As for Orlando, not only does that team sucks – it SWALLOWS.  Nothing more needs to be said…

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