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Last week I posted my Western Conference preview. It took me a while to gather my thoughts for the East preview because I've been going back-and-forth with my buddy in Canada and our convo was almost exclusively about the East. So I kinda exhausted all my East energy.

But now, I'm recharged and ready to take on the very confusing East. Off the top of my head, there are probably 10 teams with a realistic chance of making the Playoffs... That's not counting the Bobcats and New York, who could really surprise us all.

But enough talk, here's my thoughts on all the East teams.

1. Detroit Pistons - Basically the same roster as before. They supposedly have some young players waiting in the wings, but I doubt they'll make that big of an impact. This team still heavily relies on their starting lineup, but losing C-Webb (for the time being) will be a big blow. I really cant figure out why Mohammed doesn't fit the Pistons, but oh well. This is still a very solid team, although I believe the window has closed the moment Ben Wallace left for Chicago.

2. Miami Heat - The Heat!!! I can't believe what's happened to this franchise... I know they won a championship then, but I just knew that acquiring Antoine Walker and Jason Williams would blow up in their faces somewhere down the road. And this season might be that. Dwyane Wade's injury seems to get worse with every report I read, and Shaq recently suffered an injury of his own. If your healthiest player right now was once a new kidney recipient, you know there's trouble. Losing Kapono was huge, but I dont think he justified the money given to him, anyways. I don't really hate the Heat, but I have a really hard time liking them. This is a confused franchise... They are good enough to be considered contenders (mostly because of the "name" of their players) but are really mediocre. All hope rests on Wade's (aching) shoulders. Note: What if they somehow acquired Damon Stoudamire?

3. Boston Celtics - There are lots of people out there who took the conservative route and were slow in giving them credit, choosing instead to focus on their thin bench. But any time you put three HOF-qualit y players on one team, they will be good. Really good. People tell me to look at what happened to Lakers in '04. But remember, they had a Karl Malone nearing retirement, a Gary Payton that was nowhere near what he was in Seattle, and a feuding Kobe and Shaq. That will not happen in Boston, as KG and Ray Allen are two of the most professional guys out there. And please, don't forget that they are still in their primes! And in Ray's case, you dont lose your shooting touch with age. I dont think they can finish atop the East because they will obviously have to go through growing pains, but by the end of the season, we shall recognize them as the best in the East.

4. Toronto Raptors - From top to bottom, this is one of the best-built teams out there. When Jose Calderon (who could start for half of the teams in the L) is your back-up PG, you know you've done a great job. Not that Colangelo needs my seal of approval. Once again, they will depend on Bosh to lead them to the playoffs. I have no problem in believing that... But I am concerned about his health. Seems like he just cant stay completely healthy. And for a team that is really young when you think about it, they will need a leader. Signing Jason Kapono and Carlos Delfino was smart, but they aren't franchise-changing. In some ways, I think of them as somewhat similar to the Bulls. Very solid all-around, but you have to wonder how far they can take it. Good thing they have Chris Bosh, though.

5. Charlotte Bobcats - Is Jason Richardson really the go-to guy they were looking for? In my opinion, no. The guy is nice and exciting, but I just can't see him as someone who you can expect to lead a team. He's sort of like a poor man's Vince Carter, and that's not really good. It's more of a "best player available" scenario, and they were just the team with the money to spend. And I don't really get the signing of Matt Carroll when you already have Ammo. Have they given up on him already? But they have a pretty good foundation in place. Re-signing G Wallace was nice, and Felton should break out this year. Okafor is a beast down low, and it's so hard to find one of those right now. Maybe not this year, but I expect them to make the Playoffs next year.

6. Washington Wizards - First off, just want to wish Etan Thomas a speedy recovery. As for the Wiz, it's still a three-man show, although I have been hearing a lot of good reports about Andray Blatche lately. If he can develop into a Gerald Wallace-type of player, they should be very happy. Gilbert Arenas will continue his dominance (in a contract year, no less) and we can expect consistent production from Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. All in all, this team is basically the same as last year's. Which is good, in a way. But not enough to get them anywhere near a championship. Still, though, it should be a fun ride.

7. Chicago Bulls - Welcome to Kobe Bryant's next home!!!! I know I may be getting ahead of myself over here, but Bryant going to the Bulls would be a match made in heaven. As for this season, they should also be (almost) the same team like before. They have a really good set of players, but I dont know... Something about them screams "Not good enough to be champs!!!". I think it was pretty stubborn of the GM (John or Jim?) to not trade for KG. So I hope they don't miss the opportunity to land KB24. Ben Gordon is good, but he's very streaky, although he is becoming more consistent. Kirk Hinrich is a pretty good PG, but I can't see him leading his team a la Deron Williams. Ben Wallace is slowing down, but it's nice to have backups like Noah and Ty Thomas. But I wonder: Are the Bulls silently regretting trading away LaMarcus Aldridge?

8. Orlando Magic - WTF?!?! 118 million $ for Rashard Lewis?!?! Cot damn, what was that all about? You would think the Magic would be happy to chill for now and use the newly-created cap room to build around Dwight Howard. Instead, they signed oft-injured forward Shard Lewis to a ridiculously expensive and long deal. He's not Allan Houston, but he's not exactly LeBron either. And as a result, they had to let go of Darko Milicic. You really have to question this franchise-crippling move, as they will now have no flexibilty at all. I just don't know what came over them. They better hope Lewis stays healthy (which he isn't right now) and plays to his "max player" (HA!!!) status. Jameer Nelson is a good point guard, but a part of me thinks this is as good as he can get. In 2 years, they will regret signing Lewis the same way they did with Grant Hill. Stupid.

9. Cleveland Cavaliers - It's still all about LeBron. And now, more than ever, he will have to carry the team for a full season. The Cavs are a really good defensive team, but they can't hide the fact that they are offensively-limited. Zydrunas is quickly aging before our eyes, and Gooden somehow can't stay consistent. Add to that the fact that Varejao and Pavlovic may not come back at all, and you have a team that could go from East Champs to not being mentioned as contenders. Daniel Gibson must prove his worth now that he is expected to play more, and Devin Brown was a good signing. Why can't he stay in one team, I will never know. Other than that, I can't get too excited about them. Not saying LeBron will go to New York, but he will definitely leave if things don't change.

10. Indiana Pacers - You know, this is actually the hardest-working team in the League. Why? Because they never seem to leave the treadmill they're on. Seriously, though, I dont really know what direction they're going. As a team, they are good enough to make the playoffs year in and year out, yet doesn't pose much of a threat to really challenge the big boys in the East. And with the East getting stronger, a first-round win is not expected anytime soon. Individually, they are facing the same dilemma. Jermaine O'Neal is good, but not elite. As good as he is, maybe it's time to anoint him as a very good role player instead of franchise player. Their second-best player, Danny Granger, is the same. Jamaal Tinsley is very good sometimes, sometimes not. The Pacers should make a decision now. Rebuild and tear down the core of the team or be satisified with semi-mediocrity? They should trade JO while he still has value.

11. Atlanta Hawks - This would be a very good team if only they had a Point Guard. Really. Just one really good point guard, and this team is a threat to make the Playoffs! Josh Smith is primed for a breakout year, although this is still (and should remain) Joe Johnson's team. Getting Al Horford was nice, and it was smart of them to not draft for need. He should be a great player down the line, but will probably struggle early. What can I say... This is a team with loads of potential, but it remains to be seen what will happen. I wish them success, if only because I like Joe Jo... But they still have a long way to go. Note: What if they traded for Luke Ridnour?

12. New Jersey Nets - They had to re-sign Vince Carter. Fail to do so, and you extremely limit Jason Kidd's options. It seems like Kidd will never age, so I expect the same numbers from him. The key here is health. If Richard Jefferson and Nenad Krstic all get to 100%, they should be a very scary team. And that's not counting Josh Boone, who showed last year that he is a decent ballplayer. Not re-upping Mikki Moore was very smart, and he won't be missed at all. Boston Snackbar seems to improving a lot, so he will be the first guy off the bench for the Nets. This team is exciting in the sense that they have highlight reels in Vince, Kidd, and Jefferson. Boring in the sense that I expect them to finish in the same way they did last season. But it got me to thinking, now might be the perfect time to trade Richard Jefferson for JO.

13. New York Knicks - What else is there to write about them, really? Just thinking of this team makes my head hurt, so I just have this to say... Please give David Lee the minutes he deserves.

14. Milwaukee Bucks - What is up with the Bucks getting players that have publicly declared their unwillingness to play for the franchise??? First, they draft Yi Jianlian, then they re-sign Charlie bell. Good thing Mo Williams decided to stick around, otherwise this might be the one of the most chaotic teams heading into the season. I actually applaud them for not giving into Yi's demands, but I seriously question re-signing Bell. Why sign a guy who didn't want to be there anymore? And more to the fact, why give Bell an 18.5 mil contract? Is he even worth that? Anyways, this is a good team, with enough versatility and firepower to make the Playoffs. Redd has shown he is capable of carrying the scoring load of the team, and Andrew Bogut should improve again. However, there are major questions regarding the team's health. No Playoffs this year, although the future looks bright.

15. Philadelphia 76ers - The worst team in the East. Andre Iguodala will put up great numbers, but you have to wonder how he will respond to defenses focusing on him extensively. Good thing he can pass it out to Kyle Korver, and better that Andre Miller is there to feed him easy baskets. However, Sammy Dalembert will probably never justify his enormous contract. The time is now to trade Andre Miller, so they can go full-blast on their rebuilding plans. It's going to be a long season in Philly...

Here are my picks to make the Playoffs.

1. Bulls
2. Celtics
3. Wizards
4. Pistons
5. Raptors
6. Cavaliers
7. Washington
8. Magic

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Here's my thoughts on the West teams. I just really wanted to put it out there this early. It's always fun to look back and see how we did with our predictions, so let's do this!

1. Dallas Mavericks - It sucked what happened to them last year, so you have to wonder how they'll respond. Or more appropriately, how Dirk will respond. He's never been known to have that tough mentality, so you have to be worried about him. Other than that, it's more of the same for them. They won't dominate the League like last year, but they will still be in the Top 4. The X-factor here is Devin Harris. He just signed a contract extension and looks to breakout in a big way this year. I have a feeling he will, although the Mavs really could use Darrell Armstrong's steady presence.

2. Phoenix Suns - This will be the team to watch in the West. So many underground stories that could possibly surface during the course of the season. I fully expect Marion to remain in Phoenix, though. Amare's little injury scare last week will probably not matter much, and will continue to be the best center in the West. It's been years now and the Suns' playing style still hasn't netted them a title, but last year's was theirs. This year, they should take the next step. But Kurt Thomas will be greatly missed, and they need another veteran big man (Charles Oakley or PJ Brown). But Skinner is more than capable, and will end up a great signing. Nash will be his usual excellent self, while Barbosa could improve a lot. They're my early pick to win the Championship.

3. GS Warriors - I not only expect them to make the Playoffs again, but I expect them to improve in their regular season record. Whether that will translate to higher playoff seed is unknown. But I'm liking this team by the minute. They are quietly stocking up on very effective players (Ellis, Biedrins, Belinelli) and have one of the best PGs in the game in Baron. Though I somehow think that this "teamwork" they seem to have now will disappear once the going gets tough, I still half-expect them to overcome the odds when it all comes down to it. Belinelli is looking like the perfect fit in Golden State. Losing J-Rich was a blow, but not something they can't recover from.

4. San Antonio Spurs - Still the same old Spurs. What I write here now may very well be applicable next year. But the only concern is that the team doesnt seem to get any younger. They recently waived James White and traded Luis Scola (who could've made a HUGE impact), so I dont really know what they have planned for the future. It's not wise to doubt the Spurs, though... Tiago Splitter could be a Pau Gasol-type when he eventually comes to the NBA, and that is just another problem solved. Still, this current team has at least three more good years on it, so that's plenty of time to make the necessary roster adjustements. Solid all the way.

5. Houston Rockets - I dont really think this team will make it past the 2nd round (injuries will still kill them, like they do every year). But during the regular season, they will be a tough matchup. It all depends on Tracy and Yao, though. Although, to be honest, they have more capable role players this year. And also, I believe Rick Adelman will be a very good coach. They stole one in Luis Scola, and the returning Steve Francis should be a good fit. Bonzi Wells will also return, and they have Chuck Hayes as their backup PF. Not bad. There's a logjam at the PG slot, and that's where they have to really get better. With so many offensive options, they really need a pass-first PG. Getting Steve Blake would've been nice, but oh well... Right now, the best PG on their team is an SF (Battier), and that will be a problem. But I trust Rick to do the right thing.

6. Memphis Grizzlies - A very promising team. Pau Gasol is constantly improving, and now he has his running buddy JC Navarro with him. It's hard to see them getting to the playoffs with a lineup of mostly young players (Conley, Lowry, Darko, Navarro, Gay, Warrick) and no legit banger to take the load off Pau. But they will be fun to watch. Rudy Gay should improve, but not by much. He has a lot to competition. Damon is the odd man out and will probably be waived, bought out, or traded soon. Mike Miller should still be a sharpshooter, but his looks will probably decrease now. The Darko signing seems smart, but I'll take a wait-and-see approach on him.

7. LA Lakers - The Lakers are going nowhere. If Phil Jackson wasn't the coach, it would be very tough to say that they will make the Playoffs. Good thing Kwame's contract is expiring. I dont know how low his trade value has gotten, but if the Lakers can still find a good trade partner, they should pull the trigger. Otherwise, it's not so bad to let his contract run out. Lamar Odom has been the subject of many rumors, but I doubt they can get anything of equal value in return. Derek Fisher doesnt really do much for them. Remember when Fisher played for the Warriors a few years back? He was labelled a bust then. The minute he went to Utah, he suddenly was a "big" piece of the puzzle. Therefore, I'll conclude that Fisher is ony good on good teams. And this Laker team isn't. It's nice that he'll be reuniting with Kobe, but I doubt that means a hell of a lot of Ws. Next season, Kobe will pull a KG and get traded to the Bulls after both teams realize that they ain't going nowhere.

8. LA Clippers - Assuming the role of last year's Grizzlies will be the Clippers. Think about it... All-Star Forward goes down and is expected to return after the Break. Therefore, I expect the same results. No team will be as bad as the Clippers, and that may not be such a bad thing. They could land the top pick next year, and are in a good position to draft a top PG. They need that what with the current state of the position. Knight and Cassell are both injury-prone and approaching retirement ages, and Livingston's knee was completely destroyed last season. Tim Thomas still wont amount to much, and we dont know if Ruben Patterson will play the same way he did last year. I expect Kaman to improve, though. He will be the # 1 low-post scorer, and he was just really battling through injuries last year. Cat Mobley and Maggette will provide the offense, but in the West, that's not much.

9. Portland T'Blazers - We all know Oden's story. And I discussed (in-depth, actually) what positives that might entail. But focusing on this season, they will be really bad. Not as bad as the Clips, but they will be right there. Unless Aldridge makes people forget about Zach Randolph, expect even worse numbers than last year. Roy's already considering surgery this early in the season, which is never good. But still, this is a franchise that is clearly in the right direction. Let's just hope Lady Luck permits it to stay that way.

10. Denver Nuggets - Fun team to watch, looks great on paper, but very, very delicate. One (or two or all) injuries to their frontcourt will instantly keep them out of the Playoffs. And knowing Camby, Nene, and Kenyon, that is a very real possibility. Camby played tons of games last year, but you have to wonder whether he can repeat that this year. Nene came on strong last year, and should increase those numbers even more. However, he already has some little injury concerns in training camp. Getting Chucky Atkins was good, but he's not a true PG. Steve Blake was a true PG for them, and it's a shame they didn't, couldnt or wouldn't sign him. His loss will be felt. J.R. Smith has quietly regressed into a designated shooter. I cant believe how that happened, but it's a shame. He's very talented and could be a true spark off the bench if he improves his all-around game. Anthony and Iverson proved they can co-exist, let's hope it stays that way. As long as they dont meet the Spurs in the 1st round again, they should make it to the 2nd round.

11. Utah Jazz - For now, the Andrei Kirilenko fiasco has cooled down. I dont really know how the Jazz can trade him and his enormous contract, so I guess he'll stay. Deron and Boozer will continue to improve, and will lead the Jazz to several victories. Okur is a center only in height, so they will need another low-post presence. Not really to score, but to just bring the pain. I think Millsap is up to the ask, and people consistently forget his offensive skills. The Jazz are a well-oiled machine, and will get to where they got last year. The West is wide open this year (especially due to the Spurs' dislike for consecutive titles), so they can realistically beat any team. The only problem is the guard position, a spot that could've been filled nicely by Mo Pete. As it is, it will be a rotation of Almond, Giricek and Brewer. Losing Dee Brown is not big, but he had the potential to be great and seemed to have that "cold" demeanor. Losing Fisher was big, though. He's very effective in solid teams like the Jazz, so they will have to look for that championship experience elsewhere.

12. Seattle Supersonics - Looks like Kevin Durant will run away with the ROY this year. Some might question his strength, and that really is a concern, but he should be fine. All young players who entered the League once looked like sticks (KG, T-Mac, etc.), so KD has the time to bulk up. Who I'm excited about is Jeff Green. I never saw him play in college, but I like what I've heard about him. I expect him to start after awhile, and he will be a great complement to Durant. It's nice when you can team up your foundation this early in their careers, and it will be fun to see them lose (and win) together. The center position is still a question mark, though. Everybody's raving about Robert Swift (must be the tattoos), but he doesnt seem special. Long story short, they will be one of the worst in the league, but Durant should single-handedly win them quite a few games.

13. Sacramento Kings - Kevin Martin looks ready to take the next step to stardom. The Mike Bibby we saw in the C-Webb era looks gone, as he has turned into a near-chucker. He also doesnt hand out to many assists and seems to have lost that intensity he had years ago. He will still be good, though, and will probably be traded as the Kings clean house. Ron Artest is as crazy as ever, and he should provide the same numbers as last year. I dont really see this team improving that much, as they mostly kept the same roster. Spencer Hawes is done for the season, so that's not good. Another Lottery appearance seems about the right prediction.

14. New Orleans Hornets - This will be a surprisingly good team. Last year, injuries ruined their playoff hopes, but I'm not too worried because they're still young. So the main thing this year is to avoid injuries like hell. Not really promising when you're fielding David West, Peja Stojakovic, Bobby Jackson and Chris Paul. Peja's signing seems like a big mistake in hindsight, but he should still provide about 15 ppg. The signing of Mo Pete is really big, because he is a very good team player. Paul will improve as expected, and Tyson Chandler's run with Team USA will only help him. I like this team. They're due for some good luck after all.

15. Minnesota T'Wolves - If the Boston Celtics (with Paul Pierce) had a horrible record in the East, how worse would they be in the Land of the Giants? This is a very, very young team. It's too early to tell who really got the better end of the deal, but the Wolves got some pretty good prospects. Al Jefferson seems like a sure thing, so it will be up to Ryan Gomes and Gerald Green to determine the result of the trade. Foye is expected to be the starting PG, and I hope he succeeds. Ricky Davis will play the vet (until he gets traded) and Juwan Howard should be gone soon. This team will struggle this year, as I dont think Al Jeff will dominate the way people think he will. They still have some bad contracts (Ratliff, Jaric, Blount) but it's a start. KG will be missed, though.

So there you have it, my thoughts for every Western team. Here's my playoff predictions (record-wise):

1. Phoenix
2. San Antonio
3. Dallas
4. Houston
5. Utah
6. Denver
7. Golden State
8. New Orleans Hornets

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