The New York Knicks will enter the season as a 35-1 (40-1 just a few days ago) underdog to win the NBA Championship.
By using vegas’ odds, let’s take a look at the expected Eastern Conference breakdown:
- Miami Heat (5/8)
- Chicago Bulls (11/2)
- Boston Celtics (8/1)
- Brooklyn Nets (12/1)
- New York Knicks (14/1)
- Indiana Pacers (14/1)
- Philadelphia 76ers (18/1)
- Atlanta Hawks (35/1)
- Milwaukee Bucks (60/1)
- Orlando Magic (60/1)
- Cleveland Cavaliers (100/1)
- Toronto Raptors (100/1)
- Washington Wizards (100/1)
- Detroit Pistons (125/1)
- Charlotte Bobcats (200/1)
Just a few days ago, the Knicks and the Nets were equal odds to win the East, but it appears late money has flooded the Nets. Can this top eight be the top eight to make the playoffs? I think so, but not in this order.
Now, I don’t think there will be any disagreement that the Miami Heat are the best team in the East, but as we continue down the rankings, question marks begin to arise. Right at the number two spot, depending on how quickly Derek Rose is able to return to the court, I don’t see the Bulls finishing above the Celtics. The Celtics are going to be surprisingly good this year. Yes, they lost Allen, but they’ve replenished themselves with the addition of Jason Terry. They also were able to pickup Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo in the draft, two young guys that should be able to contribute right away.
Fighting with the Celtics for the two/three seed, I expect the Knicks to finish above their projected fifth seed. If Melo and Amare can play off of the point guard, which is looking increasingly likely, since the point guards have shown an ability to control the offense, the team should excel. They have many options at each position, making for endless lineups.
I then expect the Bulls to finish at the four spot, right in front of the Brooklyn Nets.
While Las Vegas is expecting the Nets to do better than the Knicks, I just don’t think this is true. First off, it takes freshly assembled teams a bit to mesh, and while Deron Williams is no stranger to the Nets, Joe Johnson and several other players are. They have talent, but only time will tell if all their players will mesh and play team basketball. After all, the Atlanta Hawks’ offensive was nicknamed, “ISO-JOE,” for the extended use of isolation plays drawn up for Joe Johnson.
As for the sixth seed, I think it’ll be a close battle between the Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers, with the nod going to the 76ers, unless Bynum falls victim to injury, once again. Both teams should be quite good, but I think the 76ers are just a little bit better. They’re build around Andrew Bynum, with several shooters and athletic guards. The one concern for the 76ers is that after losing Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams over the summer, the team lacks a leader on offense that can create their own shot.
Now, the eighth and final spot.
I think the Atlanta Hawks will secure the final playoff spot in the east, while having the chance to finish even higher. After trading away Joe Johnson, and retooling the entire roster, the Hawks are actual in a pretty good position to excel. They have a fantastic 4/5 duo of Josh Smith and Al Horford, as well as plenty of shooters: Lou Williams, Anthony Morrow, Kyle Korver, John Jenkins and DeShawn Stevenson, who can knock down the long-ball pretty consistently. I don’t think the Hawks are a contented in the east, but they have a lot of potential.
There are a lot of quality teams in the east, and the seeding can vary, but this is how I think it’ll play out. What do you all think?