The NBA's Eastern Conference is more competitive than it’s ever been in recent years, with many teams having busy offseasons. Let’s take a look at each individual team and what the future holds for them heading into the 2013-14 NBA season.

Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics 
The Celtics are clearly in a rebuilding stage. With veterans such as Kevin Garnett and Paul Piece gone, Boston is hoping to rebuild around Rajon Rondo, who is also coming off a season-ending ACL injury last season. Boston also parted ways with head coach Doc Rivers, who coached the 2008 championship team. Forward Jeff Green had some special moments last year, most noticeably against the Miami Heat where he dropped; 43 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 4 blocks while guarding LeBron James (who later hit the game winning shot, but let’s look over that for the time-being). Rebuilding takes time; however, a young nucleus that features Rondo and Green means that times look promising for the men in green.

Brooklyn Nets
The Boston Nets (that was a joke) have certainly had a busy offseason, acquiring veterans Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and former Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry. That, added with the addition of new head coach and former player Jason Kidd (sidenote: has a player ever gone from playing/being on a roster to being the head coach of a team within one offseason?) means that expectations have been raised for the Nets. Kidd is widely regarded as one of the best point guards of all-time, and therefore it will be interesting to see what affect his coaching has on Deron Williams. Williams got off to a slow start last season. Before the All-Star break he averaged: 16.7 points per game on 41 percent shooting from the field and 34.7 percent from the behind-the-arc, along with 3.3 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game.  However, after the All-Star break he increased his production to 22.9 PPG on 48 percent FG and 42 percent 3PT, along with with 2.5 RPG and 8 APG. Hopefully, Williams can return to his post-All-Star break form this season. In conclusion, let’s just say if the Nets go 0-82 things won’t be gravy (c’mon, that was kinda funny). 

New York Knicks
The Knicks managed to add Ron Artest and Andrea Bargnani in the offseason. That, in addition to Sixth Man of the Year J.R Smith and the league's best scorer in Carmelo Anthony, should be enough to compete with the Miami Heat this season. Can you sense the sarcasm yet?  On a serious note, though, the Knicks seem bound for another season of mediocrity. They haven’t improved defensively, which is their main issue. JR Smith and Melo will still be volume scorers . . . and that’s all she wrote. Oh, and there’s some guy called Amar’e Stoudmire who the Knicks are throwing $100 million at to come off the bench . . . when he’s healthy. Sorry, Knicks fans. It looks like another second-round exit (at best) seems to be on the horizon for you.

Philadelphia 76ers
The biggest change in Philly this offseason was the departure of point guard Jrue Holiday and the acquisition of the 6-foot-11 center Nerlens Noel, who the 76ers picked up with the No. 6 pick of the 2013 NBA Draft. Outside of that, the 76ers are mediocre at best, and that’s being very kind. Evan Turner’s career has been a disappointment so far, Jason Richardson is aging and the 76ers roster is filled with what can only be described as “meh” players: ranging from from Kwame Brown to Spencer Hawes.

Toronto Raptors
The Raptors are a young, athletic team that have potential, but they still lack leadership and experience. If DeMar DeRozan continues to improve, the Raptors may have the most athletic perimeter in the league with players such as Rudy Gay, DeRozan and Terrence Ross. Outside of the high-flying trio, there’s Austin Daye, D.J Augustin, Steve Novak and Kyle Lowry (who again, all fit into that “meh” category). In my opinion, the Raptors are moving in the right direction . . . but very slowly. I don’t see them making the playoffs this year.

Central Division

Chicago Bulls
D-ROSE BACK, D-ROSE BACK! THAT’S ALL THEM BULLS FANS SCREAMING THAT D-ROSE BACK! Derrick Rose is finally back! Whether you’re a Bulls fan or not, chances are you’re excited about the return of Derrick Rose. I expect Rose’s efficiency to go up this season due to him taking less shots, and I would look for him to average around 23 points, 8 assists and 4 rebounds on 46 percent from the field. But outside of Rose, there’s an emerging defensive stud in the form of Jimmy Butler. Although the Heat won the second round series 4-1 in last season's playoffs, Butler did hold LeBron James to 36-percent shooting while playing 44.2 minutes per game. Luol Deng should be back to full strength by the time the season comes around, and so should center Joakim Noah (who was robbed of 2013 Defensive Player of the Year, in my opinion). The Bulls are a defense-first team, and with players such as Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Kirk Hinrich, Dahntay Jones and Joakim Noah, it will be interesting to see how they bond as a unit this year on the defensive side of the floor.  The Bulls, along with the Indiana Pacers, are the two teams that are most likely to ruin the Miami Heat’s chances of going for a three-peat.

Cleveland Cavaliers
The big story in Cleveland is emerging point guard Kyrie Irving. While I think Irving’s talents are somewhat overrated considering he has yet to play a full 82-game season, there’s no denying that the future is brighter than it was three years ago for the Cavs. On paper, a healthy Kyrie Irving and Andrew Bynum alongside with Anderson Verajao and Sixth Man of the Year candidate Jarrett Jack seems like a good base for a team (well, kinda).  It will definitely be interesting to see where the Cavs end up this season, and if they’ll make the playoffs for the first time since LeBron left three seasons ago to take his talents to South Beach.

Detroit Pistons
As the memories of the 2004 NBA Finals float into the sunset, the Pistons are slowly rebuilding both on and off their player-roster. Rasheed Wallace is now an assistant coach, and 2004 Finals MVP Chauncey Billups is back at the point guard spot. The Pistons also acquired Josh Smith to go along with the big-man duo of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond (who has reportedly improved a lot in the offseason). Brandon Jennings joins the Pistons, much to the relief of the Milwaukee Bucks. With Billups providing much-needed leadership for Jennings and Rodney Stuckey and with Wallace providing that for Monroe and Drummond, it will be interesting to see where the Pistons end up this season.

Indiana Pacers
The Pacers, despite being without Danny Granger, managed to take the Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals last season.  Paul George, the NBA's Most Improved Player last season, looked like a superstar at times. If he continues his development, he certainly will be at that level. Center Roy Hibbert shot a league-worst 47 percent from under the basket last season. As a 7-foot-2, 280-pound center, that’s terrible. On the other hand, reports are that he’s bulked up big time this season and has been working with Tim Duncan. Additionally, the Pacers have added Luis Scola, who — with the "addition" of Granger — makes the Pacers a very deep team.  Many tip the Pacers to defeat the Heat in the playoffs this year, and with the moves they’ve made this offseason — along with the continued progression of Paul George — they’re definitely moving in the right direction.

Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks roster seems to be full of scraps from other teams: Caron Butler, Brandon “DeAndre Killed Me” Knight, OJ Mayo and Gary Neal. Defensively, the Bucks seem weak . . . very weak. Mayo is inconsistent on both ends of the floor, Butler is aging and so on and so forth. I don’t see the Bucks making the playoffs this year.

Southeast Division

Atlanta Hawks
Al Horford quietly had a good year last season, averaging 17.4 points on 54.3 percent shooting, along with 10.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Things get interesting when you look at his pre- and post-All-Star game stats. Pre-All-Star game, Horford was averaging (rounded): 16 points and 10 rebounds on 54% FG. Post All-Star break, he averaged a 20-11 on 54% FG, a definite improvement. If the Hawks are to have a good year, then Horford needs to continue his post-All-Star game form.  New additions include Elton Brand, who will look to be a solid contributor. Former Utah Jazz power-forward Paul Millsap is also another big addition, who averaged a 15-7 on 49% FG last season. The Hawks should be solid team this season, but nothing great. However, they won't be absurdly terrible either. Saying that, however, I don’t see them making the playoffs.

Charlotte Bobcats
The Bobcats had somewhat of a busy offseason, acquiring big man Al Jefferson and drafting 7-footer Cody Zeller with the No. 4 pick. Legendary center Patrick Ewing joins the Bobcats as an assistant coach, and he will no doubt be looking to help both Jefferson and Zeller improve upon their game.   Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist make up the backcourt. The aim for this team is simple: win more games than last season. They’re not going to make the playoffs, but one can only hope that the Bobcats start to improve, otherwise Michael Jordan may have to come back (that was a joke, you can calm down now).

Miami Heat
Fresh off of winning their second straight championship, the Miami Heat are looking to do two things: become the first team since the 1980s Celtics to reach four straight NBA Finals (is it just me that doesn’t see the point in reaching four Finals? If you don’t win all four of them, why did we all of sudden start celebrating second-place?) and become the first team since the early 2000 Lakers to three-peat. A big question mark still remains, though, and that's Dwyane Wade’s health. Reports are that Wade has been working with Tim Grover this offseason in order to get back to his form of years past. Wade’s production has been in decline since his 2011 season, and his health has been temperamental. If Wade stays healthy, I see the Heat being the No. 1 seed in the East again this year — but that’s a big if. Over the last two years, LeBron has definitely silenced his critics, however he will be looking to do what no other player has ever done: win a third straight regular season MVP and Finals MVP! The Heat are an aging team, and some may even say that they scraped and clawed their way through the postseason and Finals last year. With other teams such as the Pacers and Bulls getting stronger, we can only wonder if their time is up.

Orlando Magic
The biggest addition to the Magic this year was the 6-foot-4 rookie shooting guard Victor Oladipo, who was taken as the second overall pick. Oladipo certainly has a lot of potential and many, including myself, predict that the Indiana Hoosiers product will be the Rookie of the Year.  Outside of him, though, the Magic’s roster isn’t that exciting. Hedo Turkglu, Glen Davis, Jason Maxiell and Arron Afflalo are just a few of the names. I don’t see the Magic making the playoffs this year, but with Victor Oladipo developing, the future looks bright.

Washington Wizards
The Wizards struggled for the most part of last season; however, when John Wall returned, they were certainly an exciting team to watch. Wall’s athleticism allows him to be one of the best defenders at the point guard position when he puts his mind to it. The rest of the team, however, isn’t so promising. Trevor Ariza is inconsistent, Josh Childress has been in and out of the league, Emeka Okafor isn’t what he once was and Al Harrington is past his prime.  It won’t be an easy season for the Wizards, and I don’t see them making the playoffs.

Predicted Playoff Seedings

1. Miami Heat (62-plus wins)
2. Chicago Bulls (58-plus wins)
3. Indiana Pacers (55-plus wins)
4. New York Knicks (52-plus wins)
5. Brooklyn Nets (47-plus wins)
6. Detroit Pistons (45-plus wins)
7. Cleveland Cavaliers (42-plus wins)
8. Boston Celtics (40-plus wins)

This article was written by Greg Morrison Follow him on Twitter here and read more of his work here


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