Eastern Conference Projected Playoff Seedings
By Josh Cohen
December 2, 2010
Throughout the course of the NBA season, I will provide my projected playoff seeds for the Eastern and Western Conferences.
|1|| After their prevailing performance against the burgeoning Bulls, the Orlando Magic look like a team that is gradually blossoming into the most complete team in the Eastern Conference.
Dwight Howard has been the MVP in my eyes, Jameer Nelson is substantiating his value as one of the elite NBA point guards and reserves like Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus are providing significant contributions.
Even after missing three straight games with a sprained left knee, Vince Carter has some bounce to his step and Rashard Lewis appears to be overcoming his dismal start to the season.
|2|| The Boston Celtics learned something very essential during their improbable playoff run last season: It’s imperative to have home-court advantage in the NBA Finals.
Although not needing the home-court edge in the previous rounds, the Celtics couldn’t overcome the Lakers in Los Angeles in Games 6 and 7. Since 1999, only twice has a team won the NBA championship (2004 Pistons, 2006 Heat) without the home-court advantage in The Finals.
As a result, unlike last season when Boston kicked back in the regular season, it recognizes how important it is to get the highest seed possible to assure home-court in the NBA Finals should it advance that far.
|3|| It’s been one of the most fascinating starts to the most absorbing assemblage in sports history.
The Miami Heat continue to demolish the substandard teams in the NBA (ex. Pistons, Wizards, Nets), but have struggled against quality opponents (ex. Magic, Celtics, Hornets).
Especially with the unvarying criticism facing them every night, I wouldn’t be surprised if this kind of trend persists for the entire season.
|4|| Carlos Boozer is back, Derrick Rose continues to play extraordinarily well and Taj Gibson is looking more and more like the steal of the 2009 NBA Draft.
But something still doesn’t look right in Chicago.
After their unsatisfactory effort against the Magic, the Bulls are hit-or-miss every night. Occassionaly, they look like they are ready to challenge the super teams of the East, but other times they look like they are ready to destroy their opportunity to take advantage of LeBron James leaving the Central Division.
|5|| The Indiana Pacers appear to be the most improved team in the NBA. Roy Hibbert has elevated his game by leaps and bounds, acquiring Darren Collison was a brilliant front office decision and Danny Granger is transforming into one of the most dynamic players in the NBA.
Although perhaps still too inexperienced to make a significant run at a top four playoff spot, the Pacers will challenge the Bulls for the Central Division crown.
|6|| Joe Johnson will have elbow surgery and will miss the next four to six weeks. Jamal Crawford will have to play even more minutes off the bench and as a result, the Atlanta Hawks will likely struggle to find further depth.
There has never been any doubt that the Hawks have one of the most talented starting lineups in the league, but the constant scrutiny on them is their lack of versatility in their second unit.
Atlanta will have to endure Johnson’s absence and that will certainly be an arduous task.
|7|| Amar’e Stoudemire deserves to be in the conversation as a legitimate MVP candidate this season. In addition to being the best offseason signing in the league, Stoudemire has shown that he can tally outstanding statistics and be a leader on a young team with playoff aspirations.
Wilson Chandler may be the leading candidate for Sixth Man of the Year and Landry Fields is proving to be the steal of the 2010 NBA Draft.
|8||The final seed in the Eastern Conference is virtually impossible to predict. It could be any of the remaining teams.
At this particular time, I like the way the Toronto Raptors are playing. Andrea Bargnani should be an All-Star and DeMar DeRozan is a stud in the making. I also liked the trade that sent Peja Stojakovic to the club.
It’s very impossible that the Raptors, and not the Cavaliers, will more rapidly recover from losing their former franchise player.
Who do you think will end up as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference?