The Eastern Conference is Miami’s to lose. They would have been a lock to win it even if they hadn’t gotten stronger in the off-season. But the Heat went out and improved the most out of any team in the East. The only team in the NBA that improved more than Miami this off-season was the Lakers, picking up both Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.
Although Miami didn’t snag the best center in the game, the pieces they added are equally as significant. Miami added exactly what they needed in Ray Allen, the most consistent deep ball threat in the NBA. Allen’s long-ball will only make LeBron James and Dwyane Wade more effective on the drive. Look for Allen to have a phenomenal year next year. He will be teeing off 3-pointers without opponent’s hands in his face. Defenses will predictably be faced with the impossible choice of either not collapsing down on Wade and LeBron or allowing Allen to jack up the deep ball. And we're not even mentioning Chris Bosh, who can toss in a mid-range jumper.
The Heat are a lock to win an Eastern Conference that only got weaker over the off-season. Boston lost Allen and picked up a competent Jason Terry, but overall downgraded their offensive firepower. Look for Boston to finish third in the East behind both Indiana and Miami. Miami will take them out in 4 games. The Pacers will finish 2nd in the East and will top the under-manned Chicago Bulls. The Bulls are built around former league MVP Derek Rose and will struggle throughout the season with him still rehabbing his torn ACL.
The Eastern Conference Finals will be Miami vs. Indiana with Miami winning in 5 or 6. The Pacers have an underrated squad and can still cause a lot of teams problems. David West, Roy Hibbert, George Hill, and Danny Granger are a surprising scrappy squad and pose size and quickness issues for many teams. But in the end, Miami will be too much for them to handle.
Photo Credit: Zuma Press/Icon SMI