Tuesday, October 28, 2008

NBA Pre-Season Power Rankings - Part I: Eastern Conference

Garnett: Impossible was defense before his arrival in Beantown
Credit: ESPN
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first of a 3-pack of pre-season power rankings. Parts II and III will be posted on Wednesday and Thursday. These power rankings will then be used to determine draft order for our first NBA Mock Draft. Yeah, that's how we do.]

Atlantic Division
1. Boston
2. Toronto
3. Philadelphia
4. New Jersey
5. New York

It's a case of the rich staying rich, but distributing some wealth along the way. Philadelphia and Toronto scored major off-season acquisitions in the form of Elton Brand and Jermaine O'Neal. However, the champions remain the favorites to win the Atlantic Division (and the Eastern Conference). It'll be another depressing year for the Nets and Knicks. Expect more wins from the latter, but the Knicks are at least a year until they can effectively purge their roster of horrific contracts. Let the countdown begin, Coach D'Antoni.

Central Division
1. Cleveland
2. Detroit
3. Chicago
4. Milwaukee
5. Indiana

To say this is a defining season in the career of LeBron James is a major understatement. Ownership has emptied its pockets to build a team around the superstar, bringing in Mo Williams from Milwaukee. Detroit will need steadier contributions from younger players in order to vie with Cleveland for top spot in the Central and to hold off the upstart Chicago Bulls, who won't tank it for two years straight. As for Milwaukee and Indiana, I expect both to win at least 35 games, but neither will be in the playoffs.

Southeast Division
1. Orlando
2. Miami
3. Atlanta
4. Washington
5. Charlotte

Though I'm not in love with Orlando, they won the division last year and no one in the division can defend Dwight Howard (okay, perhaps Emeka Okafor can). When they try, they realize quickly that the Magic can sink the trifecta. Future ROY Michael Beasley will stuff the stat sheet in Miami and get some Ws. D-Wade and Shawn Marion won't disappoint either. Atlanta will remain talented but unfulfilled (Thank you, Josh Childress). And yes, Wizards fans, the season is not in good shape when it hasn't started and two of your three best players have injuries. I'm calling for Mike Woodson to relieved of his job by February and for the Wizards to struggle due to having no Arenas. Stan van Gundy will continue to look like this man.

Conference Rankings
1. Boston
2. Cleveland
3. Detroit
4. Orlando
5. Chicago
6. Toronto
7. Miami
8. Philadelphia
9. Atlanta
10. Washington
11. Milwaukee
12. Indiana
13. New Jersey
14. Charlotte
15. New York

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