Monday , Oct , 27 , 2008 Oly Sandor

The Eastern Conference’s Top 5: Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, and Philadelphia 76ers

Ray Allen, Garnett, and Paul Pierce are all back, while fast-developing Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins round out the starting unit. Losing super-sub James Posey hurts. Coach Doc Rivers is expecting Tony Allen and a platoon of others to fill the void. Of course, the Celtics can pull another P.J. Brown and sign a veteran free agent for the stretch run …

The Eastern Conference's Top 5: Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, and Philadelphia 76ersEvery week, HoopsVibe The Blog drops a basketball related list for fans to debate. We call it ‘Listed’ …

I don’t spend money in casinos, purchase lottery tickets with dreams of quitting work and middle-fingering my editor (CYE is a good dude), or invest in the stock market.

So preseason picks just aren’t in my conservative nature. Sorry, I don’t do them. Too many unknown variables, I guess. Take Los Angeles. How many of you thought the Lakers would contend last season?

Be real …

I didn’t. Surprisingly, the dysfunction stopped and the X-factors kicked in. Kobe started facilitating, Andrew Bynum had a great three-month audition, star post Pau Gasol was acquired, and the reserves became a top bench.

Besides, the talented Chris Sells has the preview thing on lock. So I’m focusing on the ‘best of the best’. And yes, I’m aware that’s the title of a terrible karate flick from the eighties. Pun intended.

The regular season starts soon, so this edition of ‘Listed’ drops the Eastern Conference’s top five teams. No over-the-top declarations or rock solid predictions of championship parades. Just a pre-season glimpse at the east’s best.

As always, read the post, and get at us with thoughts in the comment box below.

1) Boston Celtics

"Anything is possible". Ah Big Ticket, I think Adidas wanted you to say ‘impossible is nothing’.

Kevin Garnett’s slip was understandable given the emotional moment. It was also his biggest blunder all year. From training camp to the NBA Finals, the forward set the pace and helped Boston win their 17th championship banner.

Winning number eighteen is a real possibility. Ray Allen, Garnett, and Paul Pierce are all back, while fast-developing Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins round out the starting unit.

Losing super-sub James Posey hurts. Coach Doc Rivers is expecting Tony Allen and a platoon of others to fill the void. Of course, the Celtics can also pull another P.J. Brown and sign a veteran free agent for the stretch run.

Anyway, Garnett should practice saying ‘impossible is nothing’. He may get another chance at saying it right come June.

2) Detroit Pistons

No major changes in Motown. Once again, top suit Joe Dumars will live and die with the big four of Chauncey Billups, ‘Rip’ Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace.

The reserves have changed, though. Star-in-waiting Rodney Stuckey will excel as sixth man. The young pro will make a nice pick-and-roll duo with Antonio McDyess, who moves to the bench with Amir Johnson now starting.

The biggest change is on the sideline. Flip Saunders is out; Michael Curry is in. Curry, a rookie bench boss, has his team’s ear after serving as an assistant and having a fine playing career.

When focused, these Pistons are still capable of greatness. However, the window for winning a second NBA Title is closing and significant changes  –like dealing with Rasheed Wallace’s expiring contract-  are closer than most realize.

3) Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James’ supporting cast is much improved. Newly acquired Mo Williams headlines a solid backcourt, while Ben Wallace and Wally Sczcerbiak will be more comfortable in their first full season with the Cavaliers.

But Cleveland must re-establish Zydrunas Ilgauskus down-low. For whatever reason, they don’t use him. The Lithuanian has that rare combination of size and skill, which makes him the natural second option to King James. Instead of searching for a perimeter star to fire up jumpers, the Cavs should regularly feed ‘Big Z’. 

4) Orlando Magic

Is this rising power capable of hanging with conference big dogs like Boston and Detroit?

Not yet. The Magic have the game’s premier five-man in Dwight Howard, but the 22 year old still takes the odd night off. Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu man the forward spots giving Orlando an excellent frontcourt.

Jammer Nelson aside, the backcourt and bench are shaky. Orlando must upgrade all supporting pieces to move forward in an increasingly competitive conference. 

5) Philadelphia 76ers

Philly got busy this summer. They showed love and money to Andre Igoudala and Elton Brand, inking the duo to multi-year pacts worth more than 160 million dollars.

But lower profile moves will boost the second-unit. Lightning-quick Lou Williams was extended long-term, Kareem Rush was signed to spread the floor, and wily Donyell Marshall brings professionalism.

If they re-sign Andre Miller, the 76ers could be pretty decent for a few years. Perhaps, the fans that once booed Santa Claus will have something to cheer.

Agree or disagree with our take on the Eastern Conference? Either way, let us know in the comment box below and give us your own rankings and reasons. Come back to HoopsVibe The Blog for more NBA tidbits. Photo courtesy of Gregor Pawlak.