Heat fans have realized Chris Bosh was the x-factor all along. We will find out if their struggles and troubles are too much to overcome, despite having two of the best players. They certainly have trade assets to improve when/if eliminated.
Pacers have formed an upper-echelon team. They are physical and athletic with multiple scorers. With a series lead, their bigs need to continue to pound. Danny Granger needs to keep playing at a high level, or Indiana could sell high on him.
Celtics need Kevin Garnett to score 20 for any championship hopes they have. Rajon Rondo is the motor on both ends, with Paul Pierce still playing consistent and clutch. They need Ray Allen’s stroke in their last potential run together.
76ers don’t play pretty, but they gut out wins and you don’t know which guy will lead them in scoring. They play as a unit and Doug Collins is getting Andre Iguodala to play like an all star. They will shed salary from Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes.
Bulls were the feel-good story last year and had no luck with postseason injuries. Derrick Rose looks to get back to MVP form and this elite team will have decisions to make with player options and a big man they drafted could come from overseas.
Hawks could make another run with the current roster, but I feel they are long overdue for some changes. They could trade their biggest asset in Josh Smith for a good return and play more traditional, featuring Joe Johnson and Al Horford.
Magic have major issues for a playoff team. They need to figure out the status of GM Otis Smith, coach Stan Van Gundy, and all star Dwight Howard. If they trade Howard, expect Hedo Turkoglu to be included. Jameer Nelson is a free agent.
Knicks might be forced to make Carmelo Anthony coexist with Jeremy Lin and Amare Stoudemire. Coach Woodson is expected back. Team defense improved, but they need to figure out the offense. Key bench players will hit the open market.
Rounding Out the East
Bucks made the playoff push interesting. Hopefully they can keep the dynamic backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis in tact. The front-court played very well under the radar. They could sneak up like the Indiana with some more pieces.
Pistons are a team that can quickly turn things around, starting with Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe. The issue is leadership with several veterans that can score, but no go-to guy. Detroit could make some trades and add a high draft pick.
Raptors will pursue Steve Nash. Maybe he can elevate Andrea Bargnani. Jose Calderon is a quality point guard with his future in limbo. They like DeMar DeRozan and James Johnson. Combo guard Jerryd Bayless is likely to leave via free agency.
Nets will play in Brooklyn, with their priority being Deron Williams and acquiring Dwight Howard. Basically the whole team will come off the books in a planned effort to rebuild. Kris Humphries and Brooke Lopez could be shopped, or extended.
Cavaliers haven’t had success since the king left, but they have rookie of the year Kyrie Irving to look forward to. They will have a pair of lottery picks to surround their floor general, and will add free agents with some of their own hitting the market.
Wizards should have played better, but they have a future with John Wall, Andray Blatche, and Nene Hilario in the East. A lot of players are coming off the books and they will add a high draft pick and look to add free agents for a roster turnover.
Bobcats had a season to forget. They do have the best odds to land the #1 pick, and will definitely add a top talent to help Kemba Walker rebuild this team. D.J. Augustin and Gerald Henderson will have roles and they’ll shed bench salary.