With all the action going on this offseason in the NBA, I feel like it is time to start making predictions for the 2011 season. Many have said that this free agency period will heavily affect the League for the next decade. And they are right.
So I figure it is never too early to start predicting what is going to happen next year. Most of the big moves this summer have occurred in the East. Here is my super early 2011 Eastern Conference top five:
1. Orlando Magic
2. Boston Celtics
3. Miami Heat
4. Chicago Bulls
5. Atlanta Hawks
So I am sure you are asking, how can’t you rank the Heat number 1? I will state that the Heat definitely have the potential to be the top team in the East next year. And the pick up of Mike Miller was definitely a good start on adding to the star trifecta. But I am very curious to see who else gets filled in on this roster. They need to grab a physical center and some role guys off the bench. It remains to be seen if this will happen. We will learn a lot more in the next few weeks. Can guys like Da’Sean Butler and Dexter Pittman make an immediate impact? The way things are looking they will get a chance to.
Then you got the Magic. They have been to the Conference Finals 2 consecutive years. They are determined to grab a title. This team won 59 games last year. They look pretty much the same. Dwight Howard is the most dominant physical presence in the League. Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis are great coming off the wings. Then you have the steady play of Jameer Nelson. This team has been through the fire, and will be determined to get back to the NBA Finals. Though letting Redick go to the Bulls would be a big mistake in my eyes.
At number 2 I have the Boston Celtics. Now I did not think Doc Rivers was going to return for another year. But with his return to the sideline, the team will be kept together. A team that arguably could have won the title last year had Kendrick Perkins been healthy in the Finals. Though the trio is getting older, they still can play, not to mention Rajon Rondo has emerged as the best all around player on the team. Rondo fills up the stat sheet better than any player in the League and is definitely one of the game’s elite point guards. Lastly, the quite pickup of Jermaine O’Neal will pay dividends. Though O’Neal is not as good as he once was, he is only 31 and could really get re-energized playing alongside Kevin Garnett. These two could be a very dangerous threat up front. So do not sleep on this team.
Then as I mentioned before, the Heat are my number 3. And this is definitely subject to change. It remains to be seen how they fill out the remainder of their roster. It has been highly publicized the past couple of days that they have been having talks with 5 time NBA Champion Derek Fisher. This would be a huge pickup and definitely leapfrog them into my top 2. But I feel like the Lakers in the end will cough up the cash and keep their clutch, veteran performer.
At number 4, I have the Chicago Bulls. This is a team that many are overlooking entirely. So what if they did not get Lebron. I mean with Lebron, they probably would have been my number 1 team, but they have Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Kyle Korver, and possibly the up and coming J.J. Redick. This team is well-rounded, young, and hungry. I feel this is a definite team of the future. But will be in the upper echelon of the East still. They do not have a player over the age of 30 and are extremely talented. The ability of Derrick Rose to drive and kick will pay huge dividends with Korver and possibly Reddick camping out on the perimeter. Not to mention they will be very tough on the boards with the bash brothers, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. They will be fun to watch.
Finally at number 5, I have the Atlanta Hawks. This has been the team of the “future” for over 3 years now. They are very talented and fun to watch. Unfortunately, they did not really improve this offseason and will not be able to leapfrog the East’s elite in my eyes. They also spent entirely too much money on Joe Johnson. Joe should have taken less money and given the Hawks an opportunity to get a Carlos Boozer type player. Joe is a great player, but the team gave him money as if he was one of the League’s top 3 players. Still the Hawks will be tough in 2011.
So that is my Super Early top 5 for the Eastern Conference next year. Much of this could change depending on where a couple of players end up over the next few weeks.
I know I am already excited for next season with this new look Eastern Conference.
Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.