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One blogger's complete NBA musings

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I know we have all the competition discussions for this, but just so we have everything in one place, here's one blogger's NBA preview.  Take it with a grain of salt, since I am just one dude on his soapbox.

Eastern Conference:

15.  Indiana: 24-58. Honestly, I could see a Jim O'Brien-led team play good defense, hit some outside shots, and grind to 30 victories, so this is very much on the low end of the Pacers' range.  At the same time, JO always gets hurt, Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy keep getting worse, and Jamaal Tinsley isn't turning a corner anytime soon.  Their youngsters aren't really that amazing to me; Danny Granger strikes me as a nice fourth wheel, and Ike Diogu will never develop as long as Murphy is there.

14.  Philadelphia: 27-55. Andre Iguodala can play, and Andre Miller has patented the art of playing point guard on mediocre teams, but they still feature too many replacement-level players in their primary rotation (hello, Calvin Booth!).  I don't know how they're going to score, which is why the Reggie Evans trade was kind of confusing.  Their strong finish was spurred by career years from Samuel Dalembert, Joe Smith, and Kyle Korver.  Smith is gone, Dalembert has never been consistent, and Korver's percentages have to fall back to earth.

13.  Milwaukee: 33-49. When healthy, this is one of the more dangerous teams in the East, because they can light it up offensively.  The other side of the ball is the problem, because an Andrew Bogut/Charlie Villanueva/Yi Jianlian frontcourt couldn't stop my high school team.  I also get this feeling Larry Krystkowiak will play Michael Ruffin even more than Eddie Jordan did, seeing as how they need anyone who can grab a rebound.

12.  New York: 34-48. If this team somehow makes the playoffs, I promise to blog on Posting and Toasting for a week.  Tell me how a Zach Randolph/Eddy Curry post combination will work together, especially when the team's two starting guards (Jamal Crawford and Stephon Marbury) pound the ball into submission.  Tell me how it makes sense to block David Lee, not harness Nate Robinson, and not find minutes for Renaldo Balkman.  Just a mess of a team.

11.  Charlotte: 35-47. I thought they might be frisky, because Jason Richardson gives them exactly what they need, and while they still had too many guards, an Emeka Okafor/Walter Hermann/Sean May frontcourt rotation could work.  Now, without May, they have absolutely no frontcourt depth, which will kill them if Okafor goes down.  I'm also dubious that Raymond Felton can be a competent point guard, or that Sam Vincent can be a decent coach, but they have enough talent to remain frisky even without May.

10.  Atlanta: 38-44.  Even if Acie Law and Al Horford disappoint (which I think they might, well at least Law will), they were so banged up last year that they have to improve simply by being a little bit healthier.  They still lack good point guard play and interior defense (though Zaza Pachulia will continue to kill the Wizards), but I see them being on the fringes of the playoffs under a late Josh Smith boneheaded play kills their chances.

9.  Miami: 40-42. I'll give them a two-game improvement for the Ricky Davis trade, because I'm kind of dubious that Davis can match his strong percentages from last year.  He'll help, for sure, because he's a major upgrade over Antoine Walker, but I could see there being many of the same problems with shot selection and holding the ball.  Dwayne Wade is still hurt, and Shaquille O'Neal is still old, so I see them out of the playoff picture.

8.  New Jersey: 41-41. This is simply based on the opinion that there's no way Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, and Vince Carter can perform any better than last season, Kidd because of his age, Carter because it's not a contract year, and Jefferson because he always gets hurt.  The injury to Marcus Williams hurts, and while it'll help some to have Nenad Kristic back, let's not get too  crazy about the return of a jump-shooting center on a team desperately needing a post-up guy.  Sean Williams might be the key to the season.

7.  Orlando: 43-39. I do think they'll be a pretty good team, and I'll happily admit this is a worst-case scenario in a lot of ways.  Rashard Lewis, though overpaid, will help a lot, because he can create his own shot in the halfcourt in a variety of ways, and I'm sure Dwight Howard will take another step forward.  It's the rest of the team I worry about, especially Jameer Nelson.  He strikes me as too erratic and turnover prone for Stan Van's offense, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him benched.  They also need to find a way to play Trevor Ariza more, because the dude can absolutely play.

6.  Toronto: 44-38. I'm not of the opinion that last year was a fluke, but I struggle to see how they got any better.  Their biggest weakness was rebounding on both ends of the court, and instead, they got another shooter as their marquee acquisition.  They seem to be hoping for internal development, but T.J. Ford doesn't have the best track record as far as consistent success (though Jose Calderon is a nice backup option), and summer injuries to Chris Bosh and Jorge Garbajosa aren't good omens.  They had the victory margin of a 44-win team last year, so I see them treading water for a year before they really emerge in 2009.

5.  Us: 46-36. It's all here.

4.  Cleveland: 47-35. They locked up Pavlovic, but I still think that supporting cast takes a step back, especially if Varejao continues to hold out.  I'm thinking Daniel Gibson is more B.J. Armstrong/Steve Kerr than Scottie Pippen (ok, bad example), and it'll take time to get Pavlovic and Varejao back into the swing of things.  LeBron should be much better in the regular season, but there's no upside anywhere else -- do you see Donyell Marshall, Big Z, Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes, and Eric Snow getting any better?  Honestly?

3.  Boston: 50-32. The Garnett/Pierce/Allen trio will work beautifully when they play together, which they won't every game of the season.  I like James Posey off the bench, and I'm starting to change my opinion slightly on Kendrick Perkins, but the lack of frontcourt depth will really hurt.  It's like Minnesota all over again for Garnett, who's going to have to play more in the trenches than he wants.  Then, there's Rajon Rondo, who's a phenomenal talent, but will probably be wasted in Boston's methodical isolation offense.  But you don't accumulate three stars who complement each other so well and don't win 50 games.

2.  Detroit: 53-29. I see them self-combusting in the playoffs against the Celtics, but I like their bench a lot now, even with Rodney Stuckey out for six weeks.  Antonio McDyess has one good year left, Amir Johnson, despite the insane hype, can play, and Jason Maxiell is an upgrade on a gimpy Chris Webber.  I'm also not worried about the starters declining much, because they all rely more on their skills than their athleticism.  All will be smiles in the regular season, but in the playoffs, I don't see them stopping the Celtics.

1.  Chicago: 56-26.  Consider that they had the victory margin of a 57 win team, and they're all so young, except for Ben Wallace.  Even if Ben Gordon doesn't become more efficient, even if Tyrus Thomas remains in Scott Skiles' doghouse, and even if Luol Deng doesn't develop a post-up game to go along with his spectacular mid-range shooting, they should be better simply because they won't get as unlucky.  Add all those elements in, plus a solid vet in Joe Smith (who proved he could still play last year) and rookie Joakim Noah (who's so overrated he's underrated), and the frontcourt is even better, even if they lack the "low-post scorer."

West coming later.  Until then, enjoy.