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Who will be the major players in the Central?

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I saw one magazine pick us to win it before the Stack trade. I haven't looked into the changes other teams have made to make a true prediction. I was curious what other people think around here.

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Guest E.J. Smith

I see the Pistons running fourth behind New Orleans, Toronto, and Milwaukee, possibly third.

1. New Orleans is the strongest in the Central with a line-up that includes P.J. Brown, Elden Campbell, Baron Davis, George Lynch, Jamaal Magloire, Jamal Mashburn, and David Wesley. They have one of the strongest backcourts in the East, are strong at 3 through 5 and are hungry. 50 to 56 wins.

2. Toronto still has Vince Carter, Mo Pete, Hakeem, Alvin Williams and a great coach in Lenny Wilkens. Injuries to VC killed them last year. They came close against the Pistons even without Vince Carter. 46 to 54 wins.

3. Milwaukee is a tough call but I think they got better by unloading Glenn Robinson for Leon Smith and Toni Kukoc. They still have Sam Cassell, Jesus Shuttlesworth, Anthony Mason and Tim Thomas among others. Too many guys wanting the ball screwed the Bucks last season. They're more balanced this year. 44 to 50 wins.

4. The Pistons fall in behind these three. The order may change depending on how the Rip Hamilton trade pans out and whether Chanucey can run the offense. The Pistons' front-court is still pretty average on the offensive end and this team will still struggle against teams with a dominant center or power forward. They wont' take anyone by surprise and I figure they'll win 42 to 46 games this year.

5. Indiana can't be ignored with Reggie, Jermaine O'Neal, and Jamaal Tinsley. Jermaine O'Neal may be a jerk but he's starting to establish himself as a force down low. Indiana has some big holes though, no bench, and who knows how they'll do over the long haul. 40 to 50 wins depending upon what happens. The dark horse in the Central.

6. Atlanta, 7. Chicago, and 8. Cleveland will be in the 20 to 30 win club. Atlanta may squeak out between 32 and 36 wins.

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I think there are chemistry problems in Toronto between Carter and the rest, but they are very talented. Milwaukee I just dont see being better than the Pistons, they had a huge dropoff at the end of the season and to think that getting rid of Robinson will fix that problem is absurd. The Hornets are VERY good and should be picked to win the Central.

1 Hornets

2 Raptors

3 Pistons

4 Pacers

5 Bucks

6 Hawks (might be a sleeper)

7 Bulls (improving)

8 Cavs (they blow)

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I agree the Hornets are the team to beat. Toronto could excell or implode. The Bucks are on the way down. I think the Pistons will gel by midseason and finish 3rd. If the Pacers make that trade for Gary Payton they could bolt to the top.

1.New Orleans

2. Toronto

3. Detroit

4. Indiana

5. Milwaukee

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New Orleans is a sick team, and if Magloire keeps progressing at last years clip and everybody else stays healthy they'd be a danger to the West as well.

Toronto has a lot of holes. Sure VC is back, reportedly 100%, but they've lost Keon Clark who almost single handedly beat us in the first round. Furthermore it sounds like Hakeem is going to call it a career. JYD is not a starter, and Mo Pete has been too streaky to depend on. AD is not a center but will be forced into duty and it will wear him out by mid-season. Does Toronto even have a bench?

The Pacers could challenge this season, however they always find a way to beat themselves. They are young for the most part and could challenge for the 2 seed in the central.

Milaukee is coached by George Karl- 'nuff said.

Hawks, Bulls and Cavs round out the division. Hawks could be the darkhorse, and Cleveland has already entered the Lebron James sweepstakes.

The Pistons will fall either 2-3 in the division, and don't expect to win 50 games again this season. I see 41 wins and a play-off spot and a long play-off run.

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I'll give ya my Eastern Conference prediction because the Central really doesn't matter!!

In the Central, I see us doing rather well. I can't imagine that we aren't in the top 3. In the Eastern Conference I see us as 4 or 5 seed. Maybe at best at high 40's in wins.

I don't see the Pacers getting significantly better, at best they are a 7th seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

The Bucks might be better, but still are not a top 5 seed. If they play well maybe a 6th seed, with the potential to be a 4-5, but I don't think they have enough of a team to play consistent for 82 regular season games.

The Wizards are interesting, if Stack works out and Jordan plays less minutes but continues a high output and the young guys step up this team could be a 4 or 5 seed in the playoffs. This is just a prediction...hunch feeling.

I don't see the Celtics being any better. They probably will be down a little more this year.

The Nets seem to be the team now. I think they will probably win in the high 50's in games.

The Knicks and Heat don't look to be anything but bottom feeders, one of the two might make an 8th seed. Miami is the weaker of the two due to the loss of Mourning.

New Orleans looks like a possible 50 win team.

Toronto could make it exciting, but they are WAY too streaky to make a legit run. If things go well they are a possible 4-5 seed, if they go bad, they will be crawling for a 7-8 seed like last year!

I'm clueless on Philly. They don't look that great, but who knows.

Cleveland, Chicago, Atlanta, and the rest can be thrown in the basement.

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Guest E.J. Smith

Good posts, all. Belcherboy's approach is really good.

I see five of eight Eastern Conference playoff teams coming from the Central, i.e., New Orleans, Toronto, Milwaukee, Detroit, and Indiana, with New Jersey, Boston, and Orlando making the cut in te Atlantic. New Jersey with Dikembe and Rodney Rogers are going to be incredible, they'll win 60 to 65 games, and will run away with the Eastern Conference title. Boston will also be tough having added Vin Baker to an already tough front court. If Grant is healthy, Orlando should win 50 games. On the proverbial cusp will be Washington, New York, and Philly. Of the three Washington will be the best. Philly will be interesting as they have a great back court and having added Keith Van Horn. New York will jostle with the fourth and fith place teams int he Central for a seventh or eight playoff seed.

The way I see the Atlantic shaking out:

1. New Jersey 60 to 65 wins

2. Boston 54 to 60 wins

3. Orlando 46 to 52 wins

4. Philadelphia 40 to 46 wins

5. Washington40 to 46 wins

6. New York 36 to 42 wins

7. Miami 20 to 30 wins (No Zo.)

Eastern Conference:

1. New Jersey

2. New Orleans

3. Boston (more wins than New Orleans, though)

4. Toronto

5. Orlando

6. Milwaukee

7. Detroit

8. Indiana

Philly and Washington will be in the mix for seeds 6 through 8.

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I can't believe I forgot Orlando in the mix!!!

EJ, I can't believe you and I are so close in our predictions. I feel sorry for ya because my picks are usually grossly off!!!

I think the only team we disagree on is Boston. I still think that Vin is wayyyyy overated, but a change of scenary might be the secret ingredient to turning his career around. Also I can't remember where he played last year, was he in Seattle last year? Coming from the West might make him better as he will not be playing Shaq, Duncan, etc. every week! If Vin doesn't work out look for them to win high 30's to low 40's in games. If Vin does work out, they could put up a 50 spot in wins. I see them as a 6 seed. Celtics biggest problem is that they are so thin, not having much on the bench. One injury and they could be picking top 5 in the draft this year!

Orlando might turn it around and become a 3 or 4 seed!!

I think New Jersey and New Orleans are pretty much a lock for 1 and 2 in my mind barring injuries.

Regardless, it will be fun to watch the Pistons come together this year knowing that they will probably have a top 5 pick in the draft this year from Memphis!!

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Dikembe Mutombo will DOOM New Jersey.

The guy is an offensive Black Hole. Once the ball goes in to him, it never comes out. It would be okay if he had the offense to justify it, but he doesn't.

similarly, Vin Baker kills Boston's hope. I can see he and Antoine duking it out by January.

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Guest E.J. Smith

Belcherboy and Detroitfolly:

There's something about that Jason Kidd/Dikembe Mutombo tandem with Rodney Rogers thrown in that makes me believe New Jersey is going to be great. DF, you're right that Dikembe is a black hole but that's only when he's the only option in the low-post. I see him more as a defensive player grabbing rebounds and clogging the paint. New Jersey sorely needed an answer to Shaq, like Philly they think they have one in Dikembe. Now if they can only get answer to Kobe and Phil they'll be on their way. They're still my pick in the vastly inferior East.

In Vin's defense, Seattle was a pretty one-dimensional team. While you're right about the potential for Vin and Antoine Walker to go postal a la Anthony Mason-Glenn Robinson in Milwaukee, I see it going the other way, with guys like Paul Pierce becoming a little more mature (after having his ego deflated by the Argentinian and Yugoslavian T-E-A-M-S in the FIBA championship - by the way, after watching his and Jermaine O'Neal's exploits I can't say I was unhappy with that result) and Boston getting better. They're still no match for New Orleans or New Jersey, though.

I also like Orlando. I hope Grant is healthy this year for a change because he's a class guy and he deserves a legitimate shot. If Grant can play Orlando may surprise a few people.

BB, I am excited about the Pistons' propsects. I also am not necessarily counting them out this year. I just don't think they're going to surprise anyone. For everythging said about Stack, he was the leader on the floor and I'm wondering who's going to fill his shoes: Chauncey? Chucky? Ben? Corliss? RIP? Honestly, I see the Pistons taking a few steps back this year to take a few forward in 2003-2004. They'll have some problems out of the gate and spend about 3/4 of the season flirting with .500. If they can manage 44 to 48 wins they'll conted for the 7 or 8 spots in the East.

Do you think anyone in the West can get past L.A.? I don't see it.

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It's kinda funny, but I didn't care or follow what happened in the NBA till the Pistons made their run and then I couldn't turn it off. It really was a great playoffs up until the finals. The Lakers looked like they were going to lose each series and somehow managed to squeeze it out.

A few things are important in predicting the West. I think I will save that for another thread!!

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Guest E.J. Smith

To quote Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday in Tombstone: "I'm your huckleberry."

What is there to the West beside four teams?

1. L.A.

2. Sacramento

3. Dallas

4. San Antonio

There are those teams on the fringe of the West elite ...

5. Minnesota

6. Portland

7. Utah

... The also-rans:

8. L.A.Clips

9. Houston

10. Seattle

11. Phoenix

... and the "why bother?" crowd:

10. Golden State

11. Denver

12. Memphis

With C. Webb contemplating jail time, I'm not sure whether Sacramento will be ready to take that final step against the Lakers. They had their chance this season but for Doug Christie's inability to hit a three nor the broad-side of a barn. Dallas is a real good team with a strong back court, but I don't see the tandemn of Wang Zhizhi and Raef LaFrentz equalling Mt. Shaq. San Antonio won their championship a few years ago. They're a good team with David Robinson and Tim Duncan but not good enough to beat anyone. Teams 5 through 11 are simply jostling to be first round playoff victims. Portland has talent but they're still a nut farm. Minnesota can't win a playoff game. Utah is old. Malone and Stockton: retire already!!!

The interesting teams in this mix will be Houston with the continued growth of Cuttino Mobley and Steve Francis and the addition of Yao Ming and Phoenix if Penny and Tom Gugliotta can actually last a whole season. The Clips will also be interesting for the addition of Andre Miller to complement Lamar Odom and Elton Brand. Seattle's clearly on the way down.

Golden State, Denver and Memphis? Who cares as long as Memphis stinks and the Pistons' pick is in the top three.

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Sacramento added Keon Clark to the front court so maybe that will help them overcome the Lakers.

San Antonio is an interesting team to me, only because Tim Duncan will soon be a free agent and now that the Pistons dont have to worry about Stack, maybe they'll have a shot at him.

For once, the Eastern conference champ shouldnt have a miserable year after thier success(like Philly). They added what they needed to take a second run.

Golden State, Denver and Memphis? Who cares as long as Memphis stinks and the Pistons' pick is in the top three.

Amen to that brotha!

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Guest E.J. Smith

MTR:

Good point about Keon Clark. He almost single-handedly stole the first round series against the Pistons. With him and C. Webb. in the front court - assuming C. Webb. isn't preoccupied about the prospects of intimate living arnangements - Sacramento may just be strong enough to take L.A. That would be wonderful because I'm personally very bored with the whole "Shaq/Kobe/Phil/Tinseltown/Showtime/threepeat/Diann Cannon/Jack Nicholson/glitterati-in-the-crowd" motif.

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Vlade Divac, CWebb, Pollard, Keon Clark..that is a pretty good front court rotation. Go Kings, I am declaring myself a laker hater.

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