Well this is unfinished, but it's getting later and later in the year so eventually these will look just dumb.
1. Boston - I thank the crappy economy and Aingegenious for resinging Rondo at a reasonable cost. $11 mil/year is solid. Bringing on Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels is solid. And to top if off he signed Ken Griffey Jr. after drinking too much nerve tonic. Big moves. Big team. The only question is KGs knee, but God is a Celtics fan, so this won't be a problem. The C's are going to the finals. Unless God isn't a Celtics fan that is.
2. Cleveland - Lebron on five is a good, not great offense. Shaq brings the muscle to mess with Howard, but he's very, very specific for that match up. If Cleveland's road goes through Boston (which it will) they are going to be out. Another year of dissapointment from Lebron, who is pretty fantastic given the poorly constructed teams he's lead to, and close to the NBA finals.
3. Magic - If Vince Carter steps up, I like the offseason moves a lot. Hedo was getting old, even though he lead the team to the finals. That was the best Hedo performance everyone is ever going to get and it's all down hill from here. The Magic have an outstanding young nucleus, and I will be very curious to see what moves Howard has added in the offseason. If it's none, these guys have a conference finals ceiling. IF he has jumpers and semi-reasonable post moves, they could upset the C's.
4. Heat - The Lebron theory applies. Dwayne Wade is exceptionally skilled and can lead a bad team to the playoffs and out of the first round. If Beasley is ready to play (questionable given his offseason of substance abuse treatment) then this could be a pretty good team. Somehow though I see them underachieving like last year.
5. Atlanta - It seemed like this team was only going out after pushing the Championship winning C's to the brink in the first round two years ago. But instead it was a plateau. Josh Smith is proving to be freaky, but he's not getting any better, and frankly he's not good enough to eat up that much playing time and cap space. Joe Johnson is a good shooting guard, a perfect third banana, but here he is hte best option. I see them being frisky, but not much of a threat.
6. Washington - Gilbert Arenas is supposedly back in full, and if that's true they are talented enough to make an ultimately dissapointing playoff run. Good for them.
7. Chicago - This team has a lot of nice, and not necessairily complementary pieces. Tyrus Thomas and Joachim Noah for instance cannot share floor time. But the backcourt is solid with a stellar young PG in Derrick Rose who lets the young team run all day while he plays very good defense and offense himself. He's an exciting young player and a reason the Bulls are back on the rise.
8. Toronto - Chris Bosh, Hedo, and that pesky PG whose name escapes me at the moment. The Euro guy who is kind of good. Phoenix Suns East is perfect for uptempo hoops, but with lesser talents (Bosh instead of Amare; Euro guy instead of Nash; Hedo instead of Grant Hill). They will be entertaining and present a few matchup problems. But a versatile team like the C's can bang the hell out of them and run them out of the gym too, ala what happene dto Phoenix against the Spurs a few years ago.
1. San Antonio Spurs - The got a little more athletic with Richard Jefferson coming on board and I'm wagering Duncan has one more hall of fame title run in him. He's not retiring, but this might be the last year he is a game changer throughout. Manu is supposed to be healthy and if that's the case, these guys have the coach, the hunger, the pieces, and the experience to hoist another trophy.
2. Lakers - I guess it will take a while for Ron Artest to fit into the mix, but he shouldn't downgrade the Lakers regular season success from last year. I'm not convinced that Artest is what the Lakers need in the playoffs as he's not as athletic as he used to be and I don't believe he can guard quicker threes like Trevor Ariza is capable of doing.
3. Denver - Melo. Melo. Melo. Melo. Melo. Melo. Melo. And Chauncey. Maybe Karl reestablishes a faux-Seattle defense. Nice. I see Western Conference finals as the ceiling.
4. Utah. Jerry Sloan utilizes another hall-of-fame point guard to pick and roll opponets to death. There is a weird subtext to this season with Paul Milsap getting paid and Carlos Boozer probably looking for a new team in a shitty NBA economy. I don't believe those two conditions can co-exist on a succesfful team.
5. Portland - The youngins are starting to get old and that means it's time to tap that potential that makes you exciting before you realize your just a shitty midlevel team. I think Portland will tap this seaosn as Roy has proven to be a capable leader and all around scorer who can alpha-dog other pieces of this team to success. I'm not sure about Greg Oden anymore, but he's apparently learning more about the center post and not acting like a complete and total spaz on defense. Just most of the time.
6. Dallas - It's one last run with a rapidly aging team. I personally think that it's time to blow it up and restart without Nowitzki, but Cuban loves him too much. Does adding Marion to a mix of aging veterans really do much but remake a 2001 Phoenix Suns team? Nah. They'll be okay, but I see an early exit from teh playoffs for these guys.
7. Houston - Scrappy players make for a nice 45 win season and a spirited bouncing from the playoffs. You just do not win in the NBA without at least all-star level talent and without McGrady and Yao they dont' have it. God, just think how it must suck to flush all the money down the drain on their salaries. Moreover, it seems like Yao is destined to be the cheap-Chinese import of Sabonis. Big head. Check. Injury riddled body check. All world passing? Non.
8. OKC - This team has some talented young players, first-and-foremost among them is Kevin Durant. Why can't a young guy at least get his scarppy team into the playoffs to be decimated by a more experienced team? I say it happens this year, though another year in lottery land wouldn't be bad for them.
East. Round 1.
Boston vs. Toronto - This is a joke. Ray Allen/Paul Pierce make mince-meat out of Hedu and KG/Sheed demolish WAllace. Rondo matches up well in this duel of PGs. Boston in 6.
Cleveland vs. Chicago - This is a good match up for Cleveland. Shaq overpowers Chicago's lithe front line and Lebron can neutralize Derrick Rose defensively. Cleveland in 5.
Magi vs. Washington - Too much Howard, though also too much Vince Carter results in a longer than should be opening round series. Magic in 6.
Heat vs Atlanta - Atlanta is a mystery team to me. They took the C's to the brink in '08, but I don't know anything about them as a team. They have talented players but they remain a total mystery. The Heat have potential with a capital P. Wade's healthy is the first big question adn Beasley's mental health/drug tests will determine how far this team can go. In last years match up each team only won at home. I see ATL winning in 6 games.
East. Round 2.
Boston vs. ATL - a rematch of the '08 heart attack inducer. Boston is calmer and better adjusted. Plus they have size and better perimter defending with Marquis Daniels. Mike Bibby must have lost SOMETHING by now, so how much can he bring. Bosont in 6.