NBA Season Predictions: Miami Heat Top Top Heavy Eastern Conference

The NBA Eastern Conference is fairly easy to predict for the 2011-12 season. The wildcard, of course, is what happens with Dwight Howard. For the purposes of these predictions, we assume he stays in Orlando. Obviously, if he's traded that will change things, especially if it happens early in the season.

Outside of the Dwight saga, everything else should fall into place. We see the Miami Heat coming back very strong this season and have them battling tooth and nail with the Chicago Bulls for supremacy with LeBron and Wade getting the edge. The Indiana Pacers might surprise some being ranked third, but not those who've paid attention to the great moves they made in the offseason.

The New York Knicks and Boston Celtics both should beat the Pacers in a playoff series but we have serious concerns about depth with this compressed schedule. Amare Stoudemire should benefit from the addition of Tyson Chandler but he can't play 40 minutes per game and stay healthy. The Celtics are in even worse shape with their aging core of Kevin Garnett, Paul Piece and Ray Allen

Further down. the Atlanta Hawks seem on pace to have another Hawks-like season with lots of ups and downs and no real chance to advance deep in the postseason. The Philadelphia 76ers is the one team here that we might have ranked too low. We could see them taking a big step forward this season and out-performing expectations.

From there, things get ugly fast. We're not buying into a Milwaukee Bucks team led by Stephen Jackson and Brandon Jennings. The Washington Wizards could be on the rise but probably are another year away. The Detroit Pistons seem mired in mediocrity while the rest of the teams are just plain bad.

Here's how we see the NBA Eastern Conference playing out this season:

  1. Miami Heat 50-16
  2. Chicago Bulls 50-16
  3. Indiana Pacers 47-19
  4. New York Knicks 42-24
  5. Atlanta Hawks 41-25
  6. Orlando Magic 40-26
  7. Boston Celtics 35-32
  8. Philadelphia 76ers 34-33
  9. Milwaukee Bucks 33-33
  10. Washington Wizards 27-39
  11. Detroit Pistons 25-41
  12. New Jersey Nets 22-44
  13. Cleveland Cavaliers 19-47
  14. Toronto Raptors 14-52
  15. Charlotte Bobcats 12-54

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