Eastern Conference

Teams In Predicted Order Of Finish

Nba Preview

November 01, 2005|By ORLANDO SENTINEL

Southeast Division

Miami Heat

Last season -- 59-23.

Coach -- Stan Van Gundy, third season, 101-63.

Heat's formula -- The Heat has the most star-studded roster in the NBA. By adding Jason Williams and Gary Payton at point guard and Antoine Walker and James Posey at forward, they are overloaded with talent. The trick will be getting everyone to play as well together as last season's team did.

The buzz -- Shaquille O'Neal believes that the team still revolves around him and that his presence will keep everyone in line. The Heat will bring Walker and Payton off the bench to create a super-sub second team, giving O'Neal plenty of time to rest his big body and save it for the playoffs.

Washington Wizards

Last season -- 45-37.

Coach -- Eddie Jordan, third season with Wizards, 70-94; 103-158 overall.

Wizards' formula -- They believe they can build on last season, when they won their first playoff series since 1982. They dumped disappointing Kwame Brown and added Caron Butler, Antonio Daniels and Chucky Atkins. But losing free agent Larry Hughes was huge because his defense held them together.

The buzz -- Washington might be too soft in the frontcourt with Antawn Jamison and Brendan Haywood to really make any noise, especially without Hughes defending in the backcourt. The Wizards will score plenty, but the question is whether they can slow down the good teams with their defense.

Orlando Magic

Last season -- 36-46.

Coach -- Brian Hill, first season in Magic return; 222-227 overall.

Magic's formula -- There are a lot of reasons for optimism. Popular Brian Hill has returned to coach the team, Kelvin Cato is in his contract year, Dwight Howard is about to blossom, and Steve Francis needs the playoffs as evidence of how good a player he really is.

The buzz -- Grant Hill needs to stay healthy because he is the glue that could hold it together. With Brian Hill, the Magic should be much better defensively, and he should get Howard to start playing with more confidence. The addition of Keyon Dooling gives them good backcourt depth.

Atlanta Hawks

Last season -- 13-69.

Coach -- Mike Woodson, second season, 13-69.

Hawks' formula -- The addition of Joe Johnson in free agency brought some excitement to a franchise that was close to being forgotten in Atlanta. The Hawks have a crew of very young, but very talented, players. They are hoping that Johnson can play point guard and bring it all together.

The buzz -- Center Jason Collier died Oct. 15, stunning the franchise. Once the season begins, it can move forward. Al Harrington and Johnson, two skilled NBA veterans, must become the leaders. Woodson has to show progress in his second season as coach, or he won't be around very long.

Charlotte Bobcats

Last season -- 18-64.

Coach -- Bernie Bickerstaff, second season with Bobcats, 18-64; 356-412 overall.

Bobcats' formula -- Emeka Okafor eventually will be a great player for this expansion team. He gives the Bobcats hope. Primoz Brezec has turned out better than expected as a young center. It's going to be tough for a rookie point guard like Raymond Felton, but if he develops quickly, it will be a boost for the team.

The buzz -- The Bobcats will move into their new arena, which is going to help enthusiasm and give them some energy. Gerald Wallace should continue to improve after signing a long-term deal. Veteran Brevin Knight was re-signed, ensuring they have insurance at point guard if Felton struggles early.

Atlantic Division

New Jersey Nets

Last season -- 42-40.

Coach -- Lawrence Frank, third season, 67-55.

Nets' formula -- The Nets are excited about a full season with Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter, possibly the best set of perimeter guys in the NBA. If their big people can rebound and start the fast break, this could be a great team to watch as the stars finally are together to fly around the open court.

The buzz -- Kidd is healthy again, but he turned 32 and might start to slow as a point guard. And their frontcourt doesn't scare anyone. The Nets must prove they can defend and rebound well enough to be a serious contender.

Philadelphia 76ers

Last season -- 43-39.

Coach -- Maurice Cheeks, first year with Sixers, 162-139 overall.

Sixers' formula -- Philadelphia is hoping that Chris Webber has at least one more productive season in him, giving Allen Iverson the second fiddle he needs. A full season together should help, along with a good supporting cast led by Andre Iguodala and a new coach who everyone respects.

The buzz -- The change of coaches should really brighten everyone's spirits because this team did not like Jim O'Brien. The hiring of Cheeks was a popular move and embraced by Iverson. Lee Nailon will help add depth, and Samuel Dalembert is ready to assert himself in the middle when healthy.

Boston Celtics

Last season -- 45-37.

Coach -- Doc Rivers, second year with Celtics; 216-205 overall

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