Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Summer Breeze Thru the East

The venerable Henry Abbott of True Hoop asked a bunch of bloggers, journalists, & other basketball dignitaries to provide a quick mid-summer assessment of the new & improved Eastern Conference. I was lucky enough to be asked to provide my input on the topic, and you can see an excerpted summary over on True Hoop right now. Below is my full response to Henry's queries about how the East will shake out in the '07/'08 season:

Think 5 teams are pretty much locks for the playoffs
in the East right now: Celts, Nets, Bulls, Cavs, &
Pistons. I'm having a tough time getting a good read
on the Southeast Division right now, but I guess I'm
leaning toward the Heat taking the SE. But don't feel
confident about that since Wade looks like he's
missing the first month or two, & you can always
pencil in Shaq for missing 20-25 games either by legit
injury or just self-imposed rest.

That leaves 2 spots left which I think can be had by
anyone else besides the Sixers, who should be
challenging the TWolves for most ping-pong balls next
May. I'm leaning toward the Wiz & the Raps for the
last 2 spots right now, but think the Knicks, Bobcats,
Pacers, & Magic have a legit shot to compete for the
last 2 spots as well, and even the Hawks have a slim
shot in my mind. Not that high on the Bucks, but
can't totally count them out of a 8-seed, & think they
have a slim chance.

Not really sure who I'm picking to make the Conf
Finals because I don't think much separates the Celts,
Nets, Bulls, Pistons, Cavs, & Heat (if healthy) right
now. For some reason, I'm feeling the Bulls at this
present time to emerge from the East, but it's a very
tenuous choice & could change by Halloween. Even
though they didn't add a low-post scorer, they have
great depth & defense, and the Cavs have done nothing
to really improve themselves so far.

The Celts would probably be the obvious answer for
most improved. But then again, their depth has been
decimated & I don't see how they're that much better
than the Nets, if at all. Think Charlotte has done a
very fine job this off-season upgrading their wing
spots, and with the natural maturation of Felton,
Okafor, Herrmann, May (if he can stay healthy) &
Morrison, they have a legit shot at the playoffs.