NBA Eastern Conference Predictions

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The long-awaited 2011-2012 NBA season tips off today… Merry Christmas!  Five games are on the schedule but before you plop yourself in front of the TV, check out my Eastern Conference predictions.

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Will the Bulls have the Best Record in the NBA Again?

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The Chicago Bulls led the NBA in wins last year, but like their #1 seed counterpart in the West, the San Antonio Spurs, they failed to reach the NBA Finals.

Chicago returns the same nucleus as last year, with some upgrades. On paper, they should be better. Then again, so will the Miami Heat, who eliminated them last year.

“I think the longer you are together, everything improves. Our goal is to be a well balanced team, those are the teams that do well in the playoffs, I believe we finished 11th in offensive efficiency, we were first in defensive efficiency, we can’t be one-dimensional,” Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau said.

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2012 Chicago Bulls Look to Avoid Glass Ceiling

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Of all the questions surrounding the Chicago Bulls this season, only one truly matters- can they get past the Miami Heat this year? Because of what happened last season (4-1 Eastern Conference Finals loss despite the Bulls having home court advantage), what could happen this year (many NBA experts predict the same outcome this year) and how this script could occur repeatedly in the future, that’s what this season is all about.

Only breaking through that playoff “glass ceiling “matters. Miami will probably have their big three in place for awhile, and that could create a situation commonly referred to as “NBA Hell” for the Bulls and everyone else in the Eastern Conference.

“NBA Hell” and the “glass ceiling” are kind of the same thing.

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Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat: Eastern Conference Finals THROWDOWN!

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In the NBA Western Conference, we have a “broken bracket.” The San Antonio Spurs and L.A. Lakers (thank goodness!) went down. But in the East, we have #1 vs. #2, the match-up everyone in the media and the league wanted. The match-up we all expected, a re-match of the 1997 Conference Finals.

A match-up like requires the old NBA on NBC them from the ’90s. You know it, it’s composed by John Tesh, did you know that? And then in 2004, Nelly sampled it for the opening track on his album entitled “Sweat.”

Well, that’s enough hype for now, let’s get to the preview. “It’s getting hot in here,” so I hope you’re reading this shirtless, cause I’m certainly typing it that way.

By Paul M. Banks

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Miami Heat are an UNFAVORABLE Match-up for the Chicago Bulls

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The Chicago Bulls might have owned the Miami Heat this regular season, but Chicago fans shouldn’t let that 3-0 mark versus the NBA signature villains fool them into complacency. And that’s especially difficult; given how the last time the teams met, the Bulls literally made them cry.

The cliche is true; NBA playoff basketball is a totally different animal (especially this year since the East has gained so much strength). Bulls fans don’t have to look back any further than the last time (prior to this season) that they won a playoff series.

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NBA Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

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Well, it appeared the Boston Celtics threw in the white towel last night and gave the Big 4 the night off. The subs then promptly lost in overtime to the lowly Washington Wizards. With that loss, and Miami’s win over the Atlanta Hawks, the playoffs are now set in the Eastern Conference.

This year’s playoffs are going to very hyped up and rightfully so. There are four or five contenders in the East and many questions that will be answered in the coming weeks. The Chicago Bulls have won 60 games to date and are the top seed while the Heat are second and Boston third. Many would say one of those three teams will represent the East in the Finals but watch out for the Orlando Magic and maybe even the New York Knicks.

I’ve broken down each first round matchup and predicted the winners starting with the Bulls vs. Pacers so let’s take a look…

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Chicago Bulls Major Player in the Eastern Conference Again

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So the Chicago Bulls didn’t get LeBron James. Or Dwyane Wade. Or later, Carmelo Anthony.

It doesn’t seem to matter.

Sitting pretty atop the NBA’s Central division at 12-8 heading into Friday’s huge 8 p.m. match-up with the Los Angeles Lakers at United Center, the Bulls should be right in the thick of things for the Eastern Conference championship despite not landing one of the biggest names in basketball in the off-season or via trade.

Let’s take a look at some things to like about Chicago:

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NBA Power Rankings East 12-3

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1.Boston Celtics (14-4)

Center Kendrick Perkins has a higher FG% on the season than FT%. A rarity in this league. Also a complement and an insult at the same time.

2. Orlando Magic (15-4)

Everyone talks about the big three of Carter, Howard and Lewis, but the true keys to them winning the conference again lie in Mickael Pietrus and Matt Barnes

3. Atlanta Hawks (13-5)

How far they can do depends on how fast their young bigs Al Horford and Marvin Williams develop.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers (13-5)

Seven different players scored in double figures last night versus Phoenix (arguably the league’s best team). This practice is how the supposedly “Cleveland LeBrons” will shed the practices holding them back from winning a title

5. Miami Heat (10-7)

Michael Beasley is showing a lot more self-assuredness and attacking the rim often this year. He’ll need to keep that up, in order to draw doubles off D. Wade.

6. Chicago Bulls (7-9)

When seeing Derrick Rose touch the sky like Kanye on numerous dunks last night, I noticed his ankle is finally 100%. Then I heard Tim Legler say it on ESPN’s “NBA Fastbreak” so only now is this truth confirmed.

As for Ben Gordon’s return to Chicago as a Piston, Bulls C Joakim Noah had this appropriate soundbite “It’s a business. It’s not like college, that’s for sure. There’s just so much money involved. That’s just the way it is.”

7. Milwaukee Bucks (9-8)

Like TSB’s Jake McCormick said Andrew Bogut’s absence and return can be likened to the Crystal Pepsi fad of the early 1990s; people didn’t realize the little things they loved about Pepsi (like its color) until they were taken away. Now clear cola is celebrated as if it were a walk of shame, and Bogut’s presence on both sides of the ball should help the team understand just how long of a walk that can be.

8. Charlotte Bobcats (7-9)

Don’t look now, but they actually won 4 in a row. But don’t get too excited, inconsistency is to this franchise what infidelity is to Tiger Woods.


9. Indiana Pacers (6-10)

By far the least inspiring and interesting team in NBA history to garner a #9 in a power rankings segment

10. Washington Wizards (7-10)

Gilbert Arenas exploded publicly saying “what do they expect me to score 30 every game”. Well yes, when you’re a narcissist and play for one of the league’s worst teams, that’s exactly what’s expected of you.

11. Detroit Pistons (5-7)

Ben Gordon on getting massively (and I think grossly unfairly) booed in his return to Chicago. “It’s not like I won the championship while I was here or anything. I just had a couple good years so I wasn’t surprised at all”

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12. Toronto Raptors (7-13)

What a disappointment! At least try and give Chris Bosh an incentive to stay

13. Philadelphia 76ers (5-14)

A.I.’s playing a Brett Favre is the EXACT reason I was so IRRITATED by all the Tiger Woodslike media overkill of Iverson’s “retirement”. I knew the answer wasn’t done. Now he can join MJ, Clemens, Favre and Jay-Z in that “I’m going to fake my retirement so you can PLEASE LOOK AT ME” club

14. New York Knicks (4-15)

Who exactly is Danilo Gallinari? Not just a one trick pony, I guess. He followed up his breakout game vs. Phoenix with 20 against Orlando.

15. New Jersey Nets (0-18)

One of the most embarrassing records in NBA history? Check! The 1972-73 76ers 9-73 awaits. With a new coach in place, and Devin Harris and Courtney Lee back, they’re running out of excuses for this horrible losing streak.

NBA East Power Rankings 11-19

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By Paul M. Banks

The Milwaukee Bucks and their hot start led by uber-rookie Brandon Jennings are the talk of the NBA. So how far did they move up in this week’s power rankings?

1. Boston Celtics (9-3)
Kevin Garnett is their centerpiece, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce the main sidekicks. But if you really want to see the barometer of the Celtics, look at Rajon Rondo. His statistical measures of productivity correlate best with their record.

2. Atlanta Hawks (10-2)
They are for real, even though they don’t get the national publicity the deserve. Hawks basketball would be a bigger brand if they didn’t seemingly change their logo and team colors every three seasons. In Joe Johnson they have a closer, and in Josh Smith they have a go-to defender.

3. Orlando Magic (9-3)
I guess we’ll really see what they’re made off now that Jameer Nelson is out 4-6 weeks with a knee injury.

4. Miami Heat (7-4)
I couldn’t agree more with this insight from a Heat blog entitled “Hot Hot Hoops” “Unfortunately, the guy who gets lost in the Wade fray is Udonis Haslem, who has absolutely taken to his sixth-man role.” Haslem is an underrated gem.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers (8-4)
The Suns’ Jason Richardson has taken up Lebron’s cause to retire #23 for every NBA team. I don’t think it will ever happen, but I do agree with the idea. Shaq will miss a few games with a shoulder injury…well, you knew when they made this deal he was inevitably going to miss some time.

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6. Milwaukee Bucks (6-3)

Despite the hot start, they are still the Bucks right? Maybe not now that they have that Brandon Jennings guy. You might have heard a thing or two, or twelve about his 55 point game last Saturday. And don’t look now, but Andrew Bogut has 5 double doubles already.

7. Chicago Bulls (6-4)
Derrick Rose is clearly not 100%. His injury is worse than the league is leading on. Joakim Noah is indeed making “the leap” this year he’s been a double-double machine so far. And it’s believably hilarious that he didn’t know why the current Bulls road trip is called “the circus trip”

8. Philadelphia 76ers (5-6)
How awesome is it that they went back to their retro 80s logo? How mediocre and inconsistent will they be this season due to their up-and-down guard play? Answer to both: VERY

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9. Detroit Pistons (5-7)
I’ll admit it: the signings of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva are working well for the Pistons…so far.

10. Indiana Pacers (5-4)
A summation of Indiana’s season can be found at the Pacers blog 8 points, 9 seconds. “In a larger sense, Tyler is already the teams fourth-best non-injured player after Danny, Roy and Dahntay. Luther Head is ineffective, and I’m being polite here.”

11. Toronto Raptors (5-7)

Chris Bosh might have to have 20-15 every night if they’re going to reach the postseason

12. Charlotte Bobcats (3-8)

Under Larry Brown, they’ll figure some type of rotation that works out. Or maybe he’s finally nearing the end of his storied career?

13. Washington Wizards (3-7)
Things should get a lot better now that they have Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, and Gilbert Arenas all on the floor at the same time now. Jamison is especially crucial because he can play both the three and the four so well.

14. New York Knicks (2-9)
They have a grasp on the concept of defense…it’s right up there with Sarah Palin’s stranglehold on reality; and knowledge of basic science. How much longer can they blame Isaish for this mess? A while actually.

15. New Jersey Nets (0-12)
Closing in on one of the most embarrassing records a NBA team can have. But they will get healthy, and be better, eventually. Someday soon they won’t have to take the floor with Brook Lopez and CDR as their “go-to-guys.”

NBA Power Rankings Eastern Conference

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By Paul M. Banks

1.  Boston Celtics (7-1)
Historians will call this era the “Golden Age of Point Guards,” and Rajon Rondo is telling everyone with his play: “don’t forget about me.” Fast start for Beantown, conjuring up memories of 2007-08.

2.  Orlando Magic (5-2)
We know EA Sports cover boy Dwight Howard is pretty much as good as it gets at his position in this league. The bigger question mark is Vinsanity. If Carter is on his A game this season, they could easily be back in the Finals.

3.  Miami Heat (5-1)
Off to a hot start, and looking good in what is no doubt one of the league’s toughest divisions. But next year could be the year they really make some noise, as they could make a major splash in free agency. You might have heard a thing or two about some decent FAs becoming available next summer.

4.Chicago Bulls (4-2)
Record is pretty good considering they’ve shot above 42% in a game just once this season. Derrick Rose is obviously their headliner, but the guy making the leap this so far is Joakim Noah. His version of making the leap isn’t scoring, it’s more defense and rebounding. His numbers on the glass don’t lie; and did you see the way he forced LeBron to his left on the final possession in the big win at Cleveland? That’s getting a stop when it’s absolutely necessary.

5. Atlanta Hawks (5-2)
Of all the teams in the NBA that warrant national publicity, but fail to garner it, this team is likely the most talented. I could have said the “Hawks fly under the radar,” but I thought that it would have been a bit tacky and shopworn.

6.  Cleveland Cavaliers (4-3)
Even with Shaq in the house, they still look way too overly dependent on LeBron. And what’s up with them not getting out and running? They will have more success this season if they quicken the tempo at Quicken Loans Arena, and utilize the King’s athleticism more.

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7. Toronto Raptors (3-4)
They’re a good team, better than the lackluster start they’ve gotten off to. But they should win be in “win now” mode more than any other team, just in case they can’t keep Chris Bosh after this season.

8.  Charlotte Bobcats (3-3)
The off-season was uninspiring, and having Gerald Wallace as your top gun doesn’t sound very exciting or intimidating on paper, but their depth and balance will surprise you. And they’ll win more games than you think they will.

9.  Philadelphia 76ers (3-4)
The Phillies and Eagles have had a lot of success in 2009, but don’t expect the Sixers to join in. They have backcourt issues, and the frontcourt isn’t good enough to compensate for those issues.

10.  Detroit Pistons (3-4)
Could this be the year? Well, yes if you’re defining “the year” as the season in which Detroit misses the postseason for the first time in quite a while. They were under .500 yet a #8 seed last year, and all the moves they’ve made since then did nothing to address their problems.

11.  Washington Wizards (2-5)

They still need a beast down low. More athleticism and higher skill sets from their bigs is crucial. It would help if the forwards could stay healthy more often too.

12. Milwaukee Bucks (3-2)

The annual Michael Redd injury came early this year. How will they fill the scoring void? Possibly Brandon Jennings, the early favorite to win Rookie of the Year. Jennings and last year’s ROY, Derrick Rose are on their way to developing a phenomenal Central Division rivalry.

13.  Indiana Pacers (2-3)
The last time the NBA had a team this white, it was the 1950s. Funny that this lily team is located in the “Hoosier” state too. Maybe Larry Bird should hire Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper to coach them?

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14.  New York Knicks (1-7)
If team marketing slogans were actually honest, (and in this case brutally honest) you’d have “Knicks basketball: just one more season till our contracts expire!” Seriously, most of that wasted money comes off the books after this year, so hold tight: change you could possibly believe is on its way.

15.  New Jersey Nets (0-7)
I’d use one of 2008’s biggest buzz words, “a hot mess” to describe New Jersey’s roster, but that is truly an insult to hot messes everywhere.

NBA Power Rankings

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By David Kay 

1. Los Angeles Lakers
Ron Artest knows he will a complementary player, right? I mean he has to, or else he wouldn’t have signed with the Lakers, right? If Lamar Odom is brought back, this team could win 70 games. Seriously.
 

2. San Antonio Spurs
The only thing preventing the Spurs from finishing behind the Lakers is their health. Love the Richard Jefferson trade, by the way.

 3. Denver Nuggets
Was last year’s playoff run a flash in the pan? I say no, especially with Chauncey Billups running the show.

 4. Dallas Mavericks
If Jason Kidd still has some gas in his tank and Shawn Marion can show a re-birth of sorts, Dallas will be a step or two behind the Lakers and Spurs.

 5. Utah Jazz
Even with the likely Boozer trade, the Jazz should be a solid playoff team.

For the rest of the West, click here

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 1. Boston Celtics
If their 30-somethings can stay healthy for the majority of the season, the Celtics should be the team to beat in the East. The additions of Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels should help keep their older guys fresh. If Rajon Rando continues to improve as a point guard, watch out.

 2. Cleveland Cavaliers
Over/under on the number of times LeBron James is asked if he is staying in Cleveland this season: 918,274.

 3. Orlando Magic
They ultimately swapped Hedo Turkoglu for Vince Carter, which is a bit of a question mark. If Carter can play up to his potential, the Magic will be back in the Eastern Conference title hunt.

4. Atlanta Hawks
Bringing back Mike Bibby, trading for Jamal Crawford, and drafting Jeff Teague gives Atlanta one of the deepest backcourts in the league. The depth up front is a different story though.

5. Chicago Bulls
Losing Ben Gordon isn’t the end of the world as Derrick Rose should only get better based off his play in the postseason.
 

 

For the rest of the East click here