The NBA season is quickly approaching, and as fans, this is sure to be a promising season with many headlines. LeBron James and the Miami Heat are on the hunt for a third straight championship, unless Derrick Rose, holding the most anticipated comeback in sports this year, has something to say about the reign of terror in the East.
Meanwhile in New York, a rivalry is brewing as old division foes settle in with with championship aspirations on the Knicks’ stomping grounds, even as Indiana looks to dominate in an improved Central Division.
Until all of those questions are answered, quench your NBA thirst with a look at the predicted top eight teams in the Eastern Conference.
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8. ATLANTA HAWKS
Key Losses: Josh Smith
Key Additions: Elton Brand, Dennis Schroeder, Paul Millsap
Atlanta took a blow this offseason, losing All-Star Josh Smith, but the Hawks have turned the page and look to start the ’13-14 season with a clean slate, inking new head coach Mike Budenholzer, former assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs. They also injected the roster with young talent, including draftee Dennis Schroeder to deepen the backcourt of Jeff Teague and Lou Williams, the sixth man who averaged 14 points per game before his injury. He’ll be returning from an ACL tear this year.
The Hawks will lack a solid superstar this year, however, a first-year head coach gets a slate of young players to work with and find the best way to utilize the team’s efficient rebounding and shooting. Al Horford should be the center of attention this year, but it will be tough to go any further than the first round with him alone. Jeff Teague is heading into his firth year and is viewed by some to have a big year, but unless there is a dramatic pickup in his scoring, Atlanta needs more offense.
Predicted record: 39-43
7. DETROIT PISTONS
Key Losses: Jose Calderon
Key Additions: Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Chauncey Billups, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tony Mitchell
The Detroit Pistons had a wad of cash to spend this offseason; they also have a young team with a few veteran leaders. Their biggest acquisition was Josh Smith, choosing to flock to Detroit over signing with Atlanta. Smith now takes the young frontcourt of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond to another level. Last year, the duo together averaged 17 rebounds per game, and they take up a lot of real estate in the painted area.
In the backcourt, the Pistons went out and got the young, short-fused Brandon Jennings to steer the ship. Jennings has been a microwave throughout his early career, and a change of environment could boost Jennings into an All-Star caliber point guard. He will undoubtedly see a raise in his assists, having players like Josh Smith, who want to bring a high-flying style of play to the Motor City. There is also no reason Jennings can’t drop at least 20 points a night, averaging 17 last year.
It will take time for the plethora of personalities on the Pistons to gel, so this year should be more about finding an identity and seeing what works well. As the Pistons work out the kinks and growing pains, edging themselves into the playoffs for the first time in four years is a good starting point for this group of players.
Predicted record: 44-38