The NBA season is fast approaching and with the summer starting to wind down and teams completing their rosters, it's time to look at some predictions for the season and ESPN was kind enough to start off early and predict where the Eastern conference will shake out this season.
The Miami Heat were selected to win the East and 60-22 and this comes after the team went 66-13 last season. ESPN likely is thinking that the team won't go on another 25-game plus winning streak and while they could end up with less wins than last season, it doesn't mean they won't be as strong. LeBron James returns after winning his second straight championship and MVP and with Greg Oden being added to the roster, there is a chance the Heat could be even better.
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Dwyane Wade is getting older and Chris Bosh is coming off a tough season, but after making the run to the finals and winning in Game 7, the team will be ready to try the three-peat. Mike Miller will not be along for the ride this time and that could hurt the team down the line, but they feel they have enough on the bench already to keep things going next season. The Heat could end up with a worse record, but without the long streak James and others may not have so much wear and tear and that could come back big in the postseason.
The obvious choice at number two are the Chicago Bulls since they are getting back Derrick Rose and while that is like adding an MVP to an already good lineup, the team also brought in Mike Dunleavy to help their three-point shooting, which was awful last season. The Bulls won 45 games last year and ended up beating the Brooklyn Nets in the playoffs without Rose and now that they have him back, they likely will improve and ESPN calls it at 55 games and that would be enough to get one of the top spots in the East. The Bulls were tough on the Heat in their series and despite losing in five games, they could challenge them next year with Rose.
This area is the most interesting part of the East, as the Indiana Pacers could easily be the number two team in the conference depending on how things shake out. Last season the team made it to the Eastern conference finals without Danny Granger (and all season) and now they have brought back David West and added Luis Scola to a team that won 49 games and now they are predicted at 54 and that is good for number three on the list. Paul George and Roy Hibbert give the team two elite stars and now with Scola in the fold and Granger back they could be even better.
The Nets come in at number four and while many will be knocking them for bringing them in higher than the Knicks, both are listed close on the list. The Nets won 49 games last season and are now predicted at 53 after adding Kevin Garnett and Paul Pirece in a the trade with the Celtics and having Andrei Kirilenko will help depth as well. Thwe Knicks signed Metta World Peace and brought back Kenyon Martin, Pablo Prigioni and JR Smith and that could add up to a very nice season for the team in the East, but they will have to take down the Pacers, Heat and Bulls to advance.