This is the moment you have been waiting for, the top five teams I predict to fight for the top 2014 NBA Playoff positions. This following list is based on each teams roster as of 8/13/2013, this prediction is also subject to change at anytime.
Many of us can agree that several of the top tier eastern conference teams of the 2012 – 2013 NBA season may take a backseat to a few emerging teams that have a legitimate shot at advancing deep to the eastern conference playoffs. Here we go!
Top-5 Eastern Conference Playoff Contenders
5. Chicago Bulls
2012 – 2013 Reg Season Record: 45 – 37
2012 -2013 Eastern Conference Rank: 5th
Key Acquisitions: Mike Dunleavy, Jr. & Derrick Rose returning from injury
The Bulls are one of the top defensive teams in the league and with Derrick Rose returning to the helm, the team appears to be prepared for battle. Rose is an obvious upgrade with his return to the starting lineup but surprisingly the Bulls didn’t make any huge transactions during the off-season.
From a team perspective, the acquisition of Mike Dunleavy improves the Bulls outside scoring ability, unfortunately his addition to the roster doesn’t offset the loss of Nate Robinson. Robinson was the spark off the bench for the Bulls and he was a major reason behind the teams success during the 2013 NBA Playoffs.
The most important question to ask is, how healthy is Rose and will he return to the same level of play after recovering from such a serious injury? The Bulls have been one of the better teams in the east for years, but without seeing Rose in action I’d have to give them the fifth seed for now.
Nonetheless, I expect the Bulls to move up into the third seed but only if Rose can return to play with his same explosiveness prior to injury.
2012 – 2013 Reg Season Record: 54 – 28
2012 -2013 Eastern Conference Rank: 2nd
Key Acquisitions: Metta World Peace, Andrea Bargnani
The Knicks got out-bullied by the Indiana Pacers during the 2013 NBA Playoffs, as a result they went out and signed a bully of their own with the acquisition of Metta World Peace. If Amar’e Stoudemire can return healthy, both he and Metta could help the Knicks emerge as one of the tougher more physical teams in the eastern conference.
J.R. Smith’s streaky shooting issues appear to be resolved by the teams signing of Andre Bargnani. The only problem is, there’s only one basketball. Carmelo Anthony will continue to be the focal point of the offense and he isn’t exactly the guy you expect to pass-up a shot.
If Stoudemire manages to stay healthy and somehow get more touches, he could be the number two guy for the Knicks but the teams fate will ultimately be decided by Melo and whether or not he can fully commit to defense and team basketball. The Knicks are one superstar away from being deep playoff team.
2012 – 2013 Reg Season Record: 49 – 32
2012 -2013 Eastern Conference Rank: 3rd
Key Acquisitions: Luis Scola, C.J. Watson, Danny Granger (returning from injury)
The Pacers were within arms reach of defeating the Heat and advancing to the 2013 NBA finals, unfortunately a few bad coaching decisions in conjunction with a lack of playoff experience caught up with them in the end. Roy Hibbert and Paul George emerged as the best players on the team and now appear to be the future of the Pacers franchise.
Granger isn’t exactly fond of the Miami Heat, Lebron James specifically, meaning he would prefer nothing less than to dethrone the king and all his men. Basketball logic tells me he will avoid any attempts of jumping ship to a team of lesser value. Although I like the idea of him in a Celtics or Bulls uniform alongside Rajon Rondo or Derrick Rose.
Overall, the Pacers have upgraded their roster when compared to the 2012- 2013 team. Lance Stephenson’s inconsistent scoring during the 2013 playoffs should be offset by the addition of six year veteran C.J. Watson.
Watson is a very capable shooter who can penetrate and create his own shot, his addition solves the Pacers back-up guard issues but the most significant move by the Pacers is the signing of Luis Scola.
Scola is a major upgrade for the Pacers after losing Tyler Hansbrough to free agency. Scola is a highly efficient scorer (career .504) who also brings instant offense, rebounding, and energy to a team that likes to share the ball. The Pacers look to improve on their post season success by adding more experienced players to the roster, they are number three in the east according to my prediction.