As of now, what will the playoff picture look like in 2015? Some major changes from last year are on the cusp.
After the decision by Lebron, the East will be experiencing a serious overhaul.
1. Chicago Bulls
When the Bulls have a healthy Derrick Rose, they will be a force in the East. The Bulls already have maybe the best Center in the game in Joakim Noah, and after signing Pau Gasol, and adding Doug McDermott on draft day, they have the possibility to be favorites in the East.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers make a huge comeback this season, with the monster free agent signing of Lebron James as well as Mike Miller and the drafting of Andrew Wiggins in the first round. And if Kevin Love signs with the Cavaliers, this makes the possibility even stronger. The East is weak enough to where this move from missing the playoffs to earning the Number 2 seed is doable for the Cavs.
3. Charlotte Hornets
When people remember the Charlotte Bobcats, they remember a team that was consistently on the bottom of the East and managed to lose all 8 playoff games the franchise played in their short history. But when people remember the Charlotte Hornets, they remember a successful playoff team that was great for years on end. With the new name comes a new era in Charlotte, as PG Kemba Walker continues to get better as a leader and as a Point Guard, while Al Jefferson continues his dominant play inside that has defined him throughout his career. Throughout the offseason, the Hornets biggest need has been to sign a wing-scorer, and they did just that on Wednesday morning by signing former Pacer SG Lance Stephenson, who has proven to be an up and coming All Star in the NBA.
4. Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors were disappointed in the 2014 Playoffs in the first round, and they made one of the stupidest decisions ever on Draft Day, drafting a player from Brazil that averaged under 5 points and 4 rebounds a game. But the Atlantic division is shaping up to be the weakest decision in the NBA, so the Raptors will win the division over Carmelo and the Knicks, earning the 4th seed.
5. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers have been a very constant team in the East over the last 3 seasons, earning either a 1 or 2 seed in the East and then falling to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals each and every year. But with the team losing Lance Stephenson and with their bad chemistry concerns, the Pacers fall to the 2nd tier of playoff teams in the East.
6. Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks, led by PG Jeff Teague, were very, very close to knocking off the Number 1 seeded Pacers in the Playoffs in 2014. The Hawks play team basketball, and although they will have to compete with the Heat and the Hornets in the Southeast Division, they will beat the Lebron-less Heat in the fight for the 6th spot.
7. Miami Heat
The Miami Heat’s worst nightmare came last week, as the best player in the NBA decided to leave them for his home in Cleveland. They did sign Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade back, and that will be enough for the team to sneak into the playoffs. Look for a strong year in Mario Chalmers.
8. New York Knicks
Carmelo signed with the Knicks again,which will make them a strong candidate for the final seed in the East. Drafting Cleanthony Early was a great move for the Knicks, and he will have a big impact on this team. Under Phil Jackson, Carmelo will lead this desperate New York team to the playoffs.
As has been the opinion of analysts, the West is the Varsity and the East is JV. The West in its entirety is so much better than the East, (except the Cavs and Bulls), that the Mavericks, which I have missing the playoffs, would be good enough to earn a 3 seed in the East next season. The West has some changes in the mix from last season, but not a complete mix up like the East.
1. San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs have about 1 more year of absolute dominance, and then after Tim Duncan retires, they will take a little step back, but the core they have built has proven that the future is bright. The Spurs will be very much in the mix for a repeat.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder are still on their quest to win a Championship, and they have all the pieces to do so. Kevin Durant needs to takeover this team come playoff time.
3. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are the big surprise of this Western Conference this coming year. Head Coach Steve Kerr will put all the pieces together on this team, with or without Kevin Love, and lead this team closer to the top. The Warriors have been overlooked the past couple years, even though they beat the Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs in 2013 and brought the Clippers series to a Game 7 in 2014 without Andrew Bogut. In 2015 they will step into the spotlight and be a real threat to get out of the West.
4. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers have always been a good team, but they have never been to the Western Conference Finals. Chris Paul will have to step up sometime soon to prove that he is a superstar by leading his team to the Finals.
5. Portland Trail Blazers
Much like the Warriors, the Blazers are the future in the West. The Playoffs have never been a place of familiarity for the Blazers but Damian Lillard led his team to a first round win over the Rockets in just his 2nd year in the league. Lillard and Lamarcus Aldridge will lead this young team back to the playoffs and the same seed in 2015, and have another great chance to upset the higher-seeded team in the first round.
6. Houston Rockets
The Rockets are just not as good as Dwight Howard dreamed they would be (then again neither were the Lakers) but they are still a playoff team. They will need one more piece to really be competitive, as this team is just not ready to get past the first round yet.
7. Phoenix Suns
The Suns are becoming a popular young team, and many were disappointed not to see them in the playoffs last year, because they can certainly do some damage. This year they will make it there for the first time since Steve Nash, and have a good team to make some noise in the first round.
8. Memphis Grizzlies
After the Grizzlies signed Vince Carter, there should be no doubt in anyones mind that this team can make the playoffs. They defeated the Thunder and made it to the Western Conference Finals in 2013. The Grizzlies also gave the Thunder a run for their money in 2014, and they will have a chance to take advantage of a playoff rematch from the past against the Spurs. The Grizzlies play strong team basketball, and they will be rewarded for it.
The Number 1 and 2 seeds in both Conferences are what I expect to be real toss-ups between the Bulls and Cavs, and Thunder and the Spurs. The East looks completely different, and maybe somewhat backwards in what we were expecting in the offseason. The West is looking as strong as ever, and I think all 8 of the teams out West are contenders, while in the East there are really only 2 teams with a real chance to move on. We will have to see where Kevin Love signs, and how that further shakes things up in the NBA. And for the teams that didn’t make it, the new draftees give them strong hope for the future (aka the 76ers), and the possibility of playoffs grow as their players do.
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