As many are aware the 2009 NBA season started this week.
Tuesday’s matches were the first in the 82 game season and the next matches are tonight from 6pm Cayman time.
One of the things to watch for over the season is the way the Eastern Conference shapes up.
For the most part the playoff teams and title contenders are a given but there’s no telling who will finish where both in their divisions and in their conference overall.
An example of that theory is in the Atlantic division where it is a foregone conclusion by most pundits that the Boston Celtics are the team to beat.
The presence of Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett are enough to make the team a 50 plus game winner and the play of Paul Pierce, Rajon Rando and Ray Allen are enough to make Boston a sure-fire title contender (though they will be tested by Cleveland).
After them comes many mediocre teams who could win games but not do much in April. The Sixers have all the pieces to be the first one playing second-fiddle to the Celtics.
Elton Brand, Thaddeus Young and Samuel Dalembert make for a good frontline that can score, defend (in spurts) and rebound.
The fact that Philly is a jump-shooting offense that rather scoring over defending is not good but 44 wins should be a reality.
Right on their heels should be the Toronto Raptors. The team has all the star pieces in Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon and now Hedo Turkoglu.
Granted defense remains a question mark as does their ability to be a presence inside.
But a 40 win season is possible though a playoff spot might not be.
Unfortunately the bottom-rung teams in the division continue to be the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.
For all their stars (Nate Robinson and David Lee for the Knicks and Devon Harris and Rafer Alston for the Nets) both lack coordination on either end of the court.
It’s sad to say but both clubs are already playing for next season. The truth is if either team can win 35 games it would be a step.
Over in the Central the unanimous favourite is the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cleveland comes off a mixed season in which it had the best record in the East but lost in the conference finals.
However LeBron has even more weapons to work with this season in the form of Shaquille O’Neal and Leon Powe (when he returns in the second half).
Guys like Mo Williams and Delonte West are the reason Cleveland marches back to 60 plus wins, an easy division title and a probable run to the Finals.
In second should be the Detroit Pistons. Granted the club barely earned that position last season and scraped into the playoffs.
However the new additions of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva should make all the difference and make Detroit at least a moderate threat on offense.
The signs are there for Detroit to do a lot of things right and get to 46 wins.
Chicago is a great team but they are still too young and too small to be better than third.
Granted Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Kirk Henrich play well enough to make the Bulls a winning playoff team.
Anything more than 42 wins and a first round exit for Chicago would ultimately be a step.
Near the bottom of the division should be the Indiana Pacers and the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Pacers have the potential to get about 37 wins with Dhantay Jones and Jeff Foster around Danny Granger.
However the Bucks could be among the worst in the East with 30 wins or less because there is not much of a team around Michael Redd.
Lastly the Southeast division should be the tightest in the East. Orlando clearly has the pieces to be a beast once again.
Dwight Howard has tons of support in Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis and now Vince Carter.
Their offensive prowess alone is enough to take the Magic to say 57 wins and the division crown.
Not far behind should be the Atlanta Hawks. After all their losing season Atlanta finally looks on the cusp of being among the top teams in the NBA.
Josh Smith, Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson steady the side and provide much toughness on both ends.
If Atlanta gets less than 52 wins it would be a big shocker.
For all the question marks around the Heat Miami is still squarely the third best club in the division.
Dwyane Wade is simply a human highlight reel with his acrobatic scores and hustle. Mario Chalmers and Deaquan Cook have the potential to be good second options.
The lack of an outstanding big man (Jermiane O’Neal is well past his prime) makes Miami a peripheral team in the East with 43 wins.
In spite of the improvements both clubs have made Washington and Charlotte are still below average teams.
The Wizards may have talent in Gilbert Arenas and Antwan Jamison but are too injury-prone to be a threat. If Arenas stays healthy 35 wins is doable.
The Bobcats, with Gerald Wallace and all, have too many overall question marks. Thirty two wins looks like their mark.