If I Got To Choose A Coast I Got To Choose The East

I live out there, so don't go there. Eastern Conference represent!

On Tuesday I posted our preview of the Western Conference Playoffs, so it's only fitting to preview the East, even though it seems like no one cares. They might not be as good, they might not even have a chance against the Top Three in the West, but they're still going to be playing the games and I'm still going to watch them. It's what I do.

Heading into Wednesday night, the two seed in the East was up for grabs. A Cavs win and a Bulls loss sealed the deal for Cleveland. So with the eight seeds all locked into place, here's a poorly constructed and poorly thought out preview of the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

1. Detroit Pistons

After last season it looked like the door was closing on this Piston's team and their shot at another Championship was all but over. But a mid-season trade for Chris Webber - not unlike the move for 'Sheed in 2004 - has rejuvenated this team.

They haven't been dominant, but then again who in the East has? They're playoff tested and they've got a player in Chauncey Billups who can take over a game in the clutch. Right now, I'd say they would be the favorites to win the East, which means there's a good chance we can see a rating boom in a Spurs/Pistons NBA Finals. The Pistons win ugly, but they still win.

Oh, and one last thing, they've called up Amir Johnson from the D-League. I don't know if he's going to see any minutes in the post-season, but he's the truth. He's going to be a beast. Seriously.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers

Not so much a 'team' preview as it is a LeBron preview. Much like the Heat, LeBron has seemed to be on cruise control for parts of this season, but you can't really blame him. He's got one of the worst supporting casts in the entire league around him, which isn't the best motivation to go out and carry an entire franchise night in and night out. Locking up the two seed is pretty big in that they avoided dropping down to face the Heat, who many think still look like a contender.

During the 2006 Playoffs, LeBron put in an impressive performance coming up just shy of the Eastern Conference Finals. Can LeBron match that run again this year? He's looked tired a lot of the season because he hasn't had a break since the beginning of the 2005-2006 season, so there’s a good chance he might not have the energy to carry Ira Newble and the rest of the Cavs deep into the playoffs. Also this season his ability to close out games in clutch situations has once again been called into question.

Look for LeBron to raise his level of play starting this weekend when they go up against a depleted Wizards team and cruise into the second round.

3. Toronto Raptors

The biggest surprise of the year and by far the best story line (not involving Agent Zero) in the East all season long was the Dinos. It's just further proof that Bryan Colangelo is a genius. Chris Bosh has established himself as one of the best forwards in the league and a legitimate franchise player. Andrea Bargnani his surpassed all expectations (and by that I mean Jason and I calling him out after piss poor performances in the summer league last year) and has proven to be worthy of that No. 1 pick. You win this round, Colangelo.

The main factor in how Toronto will fair in the playoffs comes down to one thing: experience. The Raptors are a young squad with pretty much no playoff experience so their success will come down to how they handle themselves in the post season. They’re a few years away from being any kind of powerhouse, but that doesn't mean they can't win a series or two in such a watered down conference.

4. Miami Heat

Year's ago Shaq evolved past the need to workout in the off-season. His idea was simple, get fat, show up at camp overweight and then play himself into shape by the time the playoffs rolled around. This year the defending champs turned this idea into a team concept as they slept walked through the regular season. Even though they're the four seed, they still seem to be the sexy pick to make it back to the Finals, based on the assumption that Wade and Shaq will be unstoppable over the next two months.

But all is not well in Miami. They got several lucky breaks in last year's championship run (not to mention some favorable calls in the Finals), which might not happen this year. Wade is back, which could actually hurt the team in the long run. They were barely in the running for the eight seed when Wade went down and it was Shaq that carried them to the 4th seed over the last six weeks. In addition, Wade isn't 100%, publicly stating that he's having trouble jumping. Hmm, you think that might hurt your game.

It could be Miami's role players who have the biggest impact, as they'll need to step up to get deep into the post season. Then again, with Wade getting to the foul line 326 times a game, they might have a good chance to return to the Finals.

5. Chicago Bulls

They could have had an opening round gimme against The Wiz, but dropped to the five seed after Wednesday night. Now they actually have to try in the first round against the defending champs. They're a young, but they've got a lot of talent and they've got a guy in Wallace that has a ring. Luol Deng has become one of the most overlooked forwards in the game. Tyrus Thomas, while not racking up the minutes, has become a human highlight reel. And there's also the matter of Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich.

They've got great offensive balance and can play some D. They can take Miami in seven games and might emerge as the dark horse in the Eastern Conference. Even though they don't have a ton of playoff experience, they're the kind of team that just might heat up at the right time and roll through the post season.

6. New Jersey Nets

Do the aging Nets have a run left in them? It's tough to say, but the first round against Toronto will tell us a lot. For them to put together a Finals push, they'll have to play damn near perfect and avoid any injuries. Jason Kidd has to keep doing what he's been doing and put up a couple triple-doubles. Carter can't have up and down games; he's going to have to put in close to 30 every night to have any sort of shot.

Their first round match up should be an interesting one not only because it's VC going up against a franchise that he gladly threw under the bus, but also because the Dinos spotty defense could very easily be exploited by the more experienced Nets.

Bottom line is that outside of Carter (who has never won anything and never been on a 50 win team) and Kidd, there's not much else on the roster. For them to make any sort of playoff run VC and Kidd are going to have to be lights out every night for two months, and I just don't think they can keep that up.

7. Washington Wizards

Dead man walking. What looked like such a promising team heading into the playoffs fell apart way too quickly. As we all waited for an Agent Zero playoff run and the fun that would accompany it, our hopes were dashed when he and Caron Butler suffered season ending injuries days apart. Although they haven't gone down without a fight, we're not likely to see a repeat of last year's thoroughly entertaining Cavs/Wiz series.

Antawn Jameson his been trying to carry the team all by himself, but there's no way they're getting past the first round. There's a chance the Cavs might be looking past Washington already, which could give them a win a game at home, but don't expect much more out of Les Boulet. Expect them to get bounced early and come back strong for their 2007-2008 campaign.

8. Orlando Magic

Much like LeBron in Cleveland, Dwight "Dr. Thunder" Howard isn't getting much help from the players around him. Even though the 2006-2007 season has made a star out of The Doctor, Orlando's 40-42 record has proven that he can't do everything himself. That's not to say that he isn't trying, as he's leading the team in points, boards, FG% and blocks.

There's not much of a chance for the Magic to do any sort of damage, not with the cast of characters surrounding The Good Doctor (Hey, look! J.J. Redick!). Going up against the Pistons in round one doesn’t help much either.

Odds are they get swept, but there's an outside shot they can win a game. As good as Howard is, Orlando is going to have to get some serious talent around in the future if they want him to stick around.

So there it is: The Eastern Conference Playoffs in a nutshell. Unlike the West, there doesn't seem to be any Team to Beat. The favorites look to be Detroit and Cleveland, with Chicago having a chance to sneak up on somebody. So tune in this weekend as we start the 46 week long event known as the NBA Finals and my predications are called out for being horribly wrong.

4 Responses to “If I Got To Choose A Coast I Got To Choose The East”

  1. # Blogger J Cramer

    The Raptors are the Clippers of this year. I think Bosh gives himself a proper introduction to the world. I'm also looking for LeBron to get the Cavs to conference finals again.

    No way an East wins again this year.  

  2. # Blogger J Cramer

    Oh and I would also like to apologize to Bryan Colangelo. I was wrong and you were right with the No. 1 pick. But shit did he look bad in the summer league.  

  3. # Blogger David

    nba sucks.  

  4. # Blogger B. Marcks

    Dave, bringin' the meat to the table.  

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