3. New Jersey
7. LA Lakers
3. LA Clippers
1. San Antonio
East. Yes, you read that right, I have the Cavs getting the top seed in the East. That's scary. Also, you may think I have the Bulls too high (as I've panned the Wallace signing all summer), but it is more of a result of the East being weak, than Chicago being all that good (and honestly? That's really the same reason I have the Cavs no. 1).
So why do I have last seasons top 2 East team rated so low? In a nutshell? Effort and Injuries.
Detroit hasn't had any of their major guys go down the last couple years while everybody else has gotten bit by the injury bug (Hughes went down for the Cavs, Duncan was hobbled for the Spurs, two season ago Wade got hurt in the ECF, the Suns lost Amare last season, etc). Injuries happen, but apparently not to the Pistons. I figure with the loss of Wallace plus some kind of injury the Piston's won't be a 60 win team this season.
And Miami, well, Bill Simmons explains it a lot better than I can:
Note to anyone picking Miami to run away with the East: You need to consider the following things:
A. For this team to win 50-plus games, Wade needs to play between 42-45 minutes a night ... and he's coming off a 100-game NBA season, a World Championships stint and about 730 hard fouls over the past 12 months. You really think Riley will be cracking the whip here?
B. This team is older than Al Davis. Alonzo and GP are on their last legs. 'Toine has bad knees. Shaq has accomplished everything he ever wanted and probably spent the last few months auditioning rap artists and reading movie scripts. They have no young players other than Udonis Haslem, no young legs to carry them on back-to-backs, and if that's not bad enough, everyone will be gunning for them as the defending champs. Also, they had multiple players swallow their pride and accept less shots/minutes for the greater good -- and even then, they never truly came together as a team until Games 5 and 6 of the Finals. Now they all have their rings. You really think 'Toine and White Chocolate will be passing up wide-open 3-pointers again so they can keep getting Shaq and Wade involved? Come on.C. During a preseason game against Houston last week, one of the ESPN announcers casually remarked that Riley said his goal for the upcoming season was to finish as one of the top-four seeds. This way, they won't have to potentially play four Game 7s on the road. I'm not saying that this isn't smart -- actually, it's the perfect way to approach things, and there's a history of older teams playing it successfully this way (like the '68, '69 and '76 Celtics, for example). But if you think Miami will be steamrolling through the league for the next six months, you're kidding yourself. I see them finishing between 44 and 50 wins. That won't be enough.
Do I think they'll be a force in the playoffs? Of course; they still have Shaq and Wade gets 28 free throws a game. That's hard to beat. But to win the East in the regular season... well they only had 52 wins last season, the Cavs were only 2 games behind them last season. The Cavs should overtake them this time around.
West. I think a lot of people are under estimating the Spurs this season. They're boring, it seems like they've been around forever. Jay Mariotti (or maybe Bill Plaschke, I hate both of them) called them "too old" on Around the Horn the other day. I don't buy it.
The Spurs almost beat Dallas last season and Duncan was at 75%. If Duncan is healthy this season, I see no reason why they won't be there again. And the Suns aren't a lock to beat San Antonio with a healthy Amare Stoudamire.
As for the playoffs, I hate to pick the championship team right now, we really don't know what these teams are going to look like come May (I mean, the Cavs are a completely different team if they trade for a point guard). But right now I'd say Cleveland advances over Miami in the Eastern finals and goes on to lose to San Antonio, who beat out Dallas in the West