The defending NBA champions are coming into the new season as favorites to win the Eastern Conference again and with good reason. The Celtics return Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, but the player to watch out for just might be point guard Rajon Rondo. With Allen at 33 years old, it's smart to recognize he is statistically and physically declining, so the offensive production lost from him must be picked up. Rondo can be that guy to step in and fill the void after averaging nearly 11 points per game last year along with five assists. The bench took a big hit with the departure of James Posey, but the team added youth in the draft by picking up J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker. If the bench produces as it did last year, Boston will be back in the finals.
Many people wouldn't predict the Cavaliers to finish this high in the standings, but if you happened to watch LeBron James in the Olympics, then you shouldn't disagree.
The addition of point guard Mo Williams adds desperately needed scoring help to go along with King James.
The frontcourt of Ben Wallace and Zydrunas Ilgauskas doesn't look too dominating, but the Cavaliers have youth on the bench to help out with Anderson Varejao and rookie J.J Hickson. As long as LeBron's teammates don't get caught up watching him single handedly carry the offense, the Cavaliers have the ability to be a contender.
This team is extremely consistent, always with the potential to win the East, but Detroit is beginning to age and it may show this year. With Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton all in their thirties, staying healthy for the duration of the season will be key. The Pistons made no off-season moves to improve the team -- and it's debatable as to whether they needed to. Instead, they'll rely heavily on a bench that really only has three proven players. Rodney Stuckey has big scoring ability, Jason Maxiell is a rebounding force, and Antonio McDyess is a valuable back-up center. But with slim pickings on the bench, avoiding injuries is the key to this season.
Toronto has a big "what if" factor this season. That is, what if Jermaine O'Neal can actually play the majority of the season at a high level? Having a front court featuring Chris Bosh and O'Neal looks great on paper, but imagine if this all works out for the best. Last season the Raptors were tied for second in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage, and with Bosh seeing doubleteams this year, the guards should have many wide-open opportunities. The addition of O'Neal will only enhance their shooting and make the Raptors that much more deadly on the offensive side of the ball. This sounds all great, but it ultimately depends on whether O'Neal can spend more time on the floor than on the disabled list.
There's a lot to like about the Magic going into this season, but when Tony Battie and Adonal Foyle are your backup forwards, you have big issues with front court depth. The addition of Mickael Pietrus at shooting guard could possibly pan out as a big signing for the Magic, since Pietrus was never able to grab consistent playing time while he played for Golden State. Dwight Howard will continue to play as the freak of nature he is, but will Hedo Turkoglu be able to match his All-Star performance of last year? The Magic must find some more help in the front court with Howard because power forward Rashard Lewis is in position denial and refuses to recognize that averaging only five rebounds a game last year is awful for any power forward in the league. More help for Dwight Howard will lead to more wins for the Magic.