So, while everyone waits to see how the East shakes out, I'm going to do my 2nd annual Way Too Early to Predict 2010-2011 standings.
1. Orlando (SE Division Champ)
3. Boston (Atlantic Division Champ)
4. Chicago (Central Division Champ)
5. Milwaukee (Updated: Michael Redd is not planning to return until Feb. 2011, so this may be adjusted soon.)
8. New York
And the rest of them...
Now, before folks start going wild like they did last year when I suggested that the Hawks could end up fighting for the 7th or 8th seed. These standings are made with the thought that all players on these teams will be healthy during 90% of the season. It all presumes that the teams will do what they normally do to keep their teams viable during the season.
So, without any further ado, yes - we expect the Magic to continue to rule the roost. We can't say we are sure that they will win a title, but they will be motivated to get back to the NBA Finals and have the purse strings to add whatever components necessary to stay ahead of the Miami (Super) Heat. In filling out the rest of the standings, we do believe that the role players of the NBA are going to line up to play with the Heat (why wouldn't they?), so while they have no team now - we're not really concerned about it in a way that says they won't be a title contender by season's end the way that the Celtics were in '08. Boston has secured another veteran led campaign and while we don't believe they can win a NBA title again - they certainly can win their division once again.
Which leaves us with the push for the 4th seed - 6th seeds and personally, I am not optimistic about our ability to hold off the Bucks and Bulls as we are presently constituted. The Bulls added Boozer and subtract Hinrich...but still have Noah, Deng, Rose, and a defensive-minded coach. A Bucks team that was pushing hard down the stretch now has a tested Brandon Jennings and adds Bogut as well as Michael Redd back to the roster will be battling for supremacy in the Central Division.
Which leaves us with the Hawks fighting to keep pace in an Eastern Conference that just shifted the balance of power significantly. Now, as was the case last year, many things can change (Arenas and guns, Redd/Bogut injuries, Bulls giving away Salmons, etc) and so, I am not sentencing the Hawks to 6th or wishing it, but the Hawks have made no improvements unless (again) you determine that the core will get better by virtue of playing together another year and that Jeff Teague is the answer that Mike Bibby was not last year. I have rejected the core getting better answer for the 2nd straight offseason (and to be clear, winning 1-2 more games is NOT our answer to whether or not a team is better - as we always say there are a lot of bad basketball teams out there) contrasted against adding an asset like Boozer or getting Redd/Bogut back or adding two top 10 talents to the Heat.
While this will be more useful in about 2 months, we are ready to hear your thoughts. After another Hawks playoff implosion, what specific players do you think the Hawks should sign or trade to address their weaknesses? Do you believe the Hawks will lose ground, maintain status quo, or improve their record and playoff prospects next year?
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