Last season was the year of the Celtics. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen had a special run to their first NBA championship. But their hold on the crown will be short lived, as LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers will dethrone the Celtics as the king of the Eastern Conference. The playoffs begin this Saturday with the Cavaliers, Celtics, Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks and the Miami Heat, the top five seeds, respectively, in the East.
While the Detroit Pistons are locked in as the eighth seed and will face the Cavaliers in the opening round, as of AmNews press time the Chicago Bulls and the Philadelphia 76ers were still jostling to determine the sixth and seventh seeds. The most competitive series should be the Heat versus the Hawks. Atlanta will have the home court advantage, but the Heat has Dwayne Wade, who is capable of carrying his team deep into the post-season.
The sleeper team is the Chicago Bulls, who have steadily improved over the last month of the season. The acquisition of center Brad Miller and guard John Salmons from the Sacramento Kings at the trade deadline has proved to be significant. Miller and Salmons have provided veteran leadership and solid production to a young, talented cast led by Ben Gordon, Tyrus Thomas and the sensational rookie Derrick Rose.
Yet no one will stand in the way of the Cavaliers. They have been the best team in the conference from start to finish, and James, who will win the MVP award, elevated his game on both ends of the floor. James’ supporting cast is much better than it was when he led the Cavaliers to the finals, only to get swept by the San Antonio Spurs. But this time around, with Mo Williams as his sidekick, James and the Cavaliers will ultimately face Kobe Bryant and the Los Angles Lakers for the title.