White Hat Sports Headlines

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Road to the Playoffs

I've decided to do the first half of my Eastern Conference projections today rather than waiting till early next week. If you missed them, you can read part one of the Western Conference projections here, and part two is here. I'll do teams 1-4 in the East now, with the bottom part to come the middle of next week. Lets DO this.

1. Boston Celtics (final projection 64-18): This team has been the best team all season, and I see no reason why that shouldn't continue into the playoffs. It's amazing that they have been relatively healthy, and they really have clicked as a team. Sure, the big three are great and work well together, but it is the role players that are making the difference. Kendrick Perkins looked like the best player on the court at times in both Celtics games I saw live this year, and Rajon Rondo has been a jack of all trades for most of the season. Add in veterans like Eddie House and Sam Cassell and you've got a really good mix of players. If they continue to play like they have all season they could very well have an easy path to the finals.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers (final projection 47-35): As I've stated before, this ranking is a mix of my personal thoughts and what has actually occurred this season. It isn't necessarily a strict ranking of which teams I think will have the best regular season records (although that does absolutely factor in). It's an overview of which teams I think will be the most dangerous in the playoffs. That is why I have the Cavs here. They won't win their division, and will likely be the 4 seed come playoff time, but they have one thing no one else in the East has. Lebron James. He is clearly the best all around player in basketball, and showed last year that he can get it done in the playoffs. They have a good nucleus of players around him, and they are the reigning Eastern Conference champs. I believe they have the best chance of any team in the East to take out the Celtics.

3. Detroit Pistons (final projection 57-25): After the Spurs you could make a case that this Pistons team has the most playoff experience as a group. They have had the same nucleus for the last few years, and are certainly expected to be major factors in the Eastern Conference playoffs. I put them as the third best team despite their regular season record because they don't have the one guy who can take over games. Say what you want about Chauncey Billups, but the fact is that since they won the NBA Championship he hasn't been Chauncey "big shot" Billups. He could return to form this playoffs, but I don't see it happening. I expect a second round playoff exit is where this team will end up when it is all said and done.

4. Orlando Magic (final projection 52-30): This is a team that could definitely make some playoff noise. Everyone knows about how dominant Dwight Howard is, but it's the other guys there that will make the difference. Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis need to play good defense, and they need to be efficient on the offensive end. They also need Jameer Nelson to step up and play the best of his career to make it past the second round. To me, they are one or two players away. They could've used Jason Kidd or Mike Bibby, but I think they are taking the philosophy that they have a rather large window to work with, and don't need to push in all the chips quite yet. At this point anything past the second round would be considered a huge success for them.

Part two of my Eastern Conference projections to come.

~Aaron Jackson

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