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NBA Preview: Eastern Conference Capsules

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Listed in predicted order of finish, along with predicted finish in division, last season's record and head coach.

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[1] BOSTON CELTICS

1st Atlantic | 66-16 | Doc Rivers

With P.J. Brown retiring and James Posey in New Orleans, the Celtics will need reserve Leon Powe to provide more than just offense off the bench. Powe also will have to improve defensively to limit the drop-off whenever Kevin Garnett rests.

[2] CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

1st Central | 45-37 | Mike Brown

After whiffing on Jason Kidd and Mike Bibby, the Cavaliers finally got LeBron James a point guard in Mo Williams. Williams averaged more than 17 points and six assists the past two seasons, and he should benefit from James drawing double teams.

[3] ORLANDO MAGIC

1st Southeast | 52-30 | Stan Van Gundy

With Carlos Arroyo and Keyon Dooling gone, Jameer Nelson is the starting point guard in Orlando. But the undersized Nelson will have to be a better facilitator and decision-maker for the Magic to reach its first NBA Finals since 1995.

[4] DETROIT PISTONS

2nd Central | 59-23 | Michael Curry

The Pistons have the most consistent back court in the East in all-stars Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton, but there are still enough minutes for combo guard Rodney Stuckey to have an impact. If his jump shot improves, Stuckey could be a star.

[5] PHILADELPHIA 76ers

2nd Atlantic | 40-42 | Maurice Cheeks

Elton Brand isn't used to playing on a team with great expectations, but after escaping from the Los Angeles Clippers and recovering from a ruptured Achilles', the two-time all-star has Philadelphia eyeing much more than a first-round flop.

[6] TORONTO RAPTORS

3rd Atlantic | 41-41 | Sam Mitchell

Jermaine O'Neal wanted a new start, but the trade from Indiana didn't come with new legs. After three injury-plagued seasons, O'Neal isn't expected to return to all-star form; he just has to defend, rebound and make life easier for Chris Bosh.

[7] WASHINGTON WIZARDS

2nd Southeast | 43-39 | Eddie Jordan

With the uncertainty surrounding Gilbert Arenas's knee and Antawn Jamison getting older, the Wizards will rely more on Caron Butler to provide an all-around game. Butler needs another all-star caliber season -- and to avoid serious injury.

[8] MIAMI HEAT

3rd Southeast | 15-67 | Erik Spoelstra

Dwyane Wade hasn't been able to stay healthy since winning the NBA Finals MVP in 2006. His stellar performance at the Beijing Olympics showed that he is back. But Wade will have a heavier burden with the Heat lacking a proven point guard or center.

[9] ATLANTA HAWKS

4th Southeast | 37-45 | Mike Woodson

Mike Bibby arrived late last season and helped the franchise end a nine-year playoff drought. In the last year of his contract, Bibby can help Atlanta either by playing for a new deal or by being traded at the deadline if the team struggles.

[10] CHICAGO BULLS

3rd Central | 33-49 | Vinny Del Negro

Derrick Rose is a rookie point guard playing for a rookie coach in a crowded back court, so the Chicago native is bound to struggle. But the faster the speedy Rose adjusts to the NBA, the sooner the Bulls return to relevance.

[11] MILWAUKEE BUCKS

4th Central | 26-56 | Scott Skiles

Richard Jefferson left Vince Carter in New Jersey to form another high-scoring perimeter tandem with Michael Redd. Initially unhappy over being dealt to Milwaukee, Jefferson should fit in with Skiles's defense-oriented, up-tempo style.

[12] INDIANA PACERS

5th Central | 36-46 | Jim O'Brien

The Pacers traded for T.J. Ford mostly to get rid of Jermaine O'Neal, but Ford also replaces Jamaal Tinsley. Ford won't have to worry about fighting for minutes as he did in Toronto. If Ford can stay healthy, the Pacers are his team to lead.

[13] NEW YORK KNICKS

4th Atlantic | 23-59 | Mike D'Antoni

No longer the energetic sixth man, David Lee is the starting center under D'Antoni. With his speed and athleticism, Lee should flourish in a fun-and-gun offense. In a contract year, Lee could be Shawn Marion Lite.

[14] CHARLOTTE BOBCATS

5th Southeast | 32-50 | Larry Brown

Sean May missed all of last season with a knee injury and has been limited to 58 games since he was drafted in 2005. With few options at power forward, the Bobcats need May to get in shape, stay healthy and take some pressure off Emeka Okafor.

[15] NEW JERSEY NETS

5th Atlantic | 34-48 | Lawrence Frank

What is Vince Carter playing for? He already has his big contract. With the Nets rebuilding, he will have all the shots he wants, but no chance of winning. How soon before the 31-year-old Carter asks to be traded to a contender?


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