*Editor's Note: This was supposed to run preseason.*
Kevin: This one might be a bit controversial and feel free to disagree. I have the Chicago Bulls in the third slot.
Yes, they have the former MVP in Derrick Rose coming back rested and healthy to lead a team that took the eventual champion Miami Heat to six games last year in the second round of the playoffs with Nate Robinson as their best player. Rose is going to bring back that scoring and fire power that the Bulls missed so much in their starting unit last year and Jimmy Butler should be even better.
The problems are though; Carlos Boozer is still Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and his feet always seems to have issues and Tom Thibodeau loves to run his players into the ground. I could see the Bulls being the East's best team up until around the All-Star break, but after that I can see them wear down a bit and allow Indiana and Miami to catch them and eventually overtake them as the stretch run through March and early April happens.
Also, I hate their bench. Their bench does not excite me at all.
Drew: I'll take the Indiana Pacers at three. This is less of an indictment on them and more of a tip of the hat to Miami and Chicago. Finishing third behind both of those teams is nothing to be ashamed of anyway.
I like that Indiana has upgraded their bench, but I don't take that over Chicago upgrading their starting point guard position to a certain rosey Derek. I mean, they started Nate Robinson through the playoffs.
I like that Paul George and Roy Hibbert are a hell of a duo, and that Danny Granger is back, but the Heat just signed Michael Beasley. OK, the Beasley quip was easy and cheesy, but that's how I like my Macaroni ‘N Cheese. Little packets that need water, a microwave and a bowl.
I just have a hard time betting against the Heatles for a team that plays such grindhouse basketball. Over an 82-game season they're going to drop some stupid games just because they aren't able to score.
Seth: Here is where I have the Moscow Nets. I agree with everything you guys said about your Jason Kidd new coaching concerns; your aging and minutes-limited KG and Pierce concerns; and your Deron Williams injury and surliness concerns. But have you factored in Andray Freakin Blatche? I didn't think so.
Stick with me here, Blatche has always been the "intriguingly talented but boneheaded fool" guy but last year he started to show signs of normal basketball life. Now, you bring in KG to make mean faces at him and presto, talent unlocked!
The Lopez, Blatche, KG big men rotation is well above average. Reggie Evans and Rookie Plumlee even provide some depth. But the real clincher for me is AK 47. That guy can flat out bring it on both ends and won't have any trouble playing under threat from the Russian mob...err..the pressure of the New York media.
The great Joe Johnson is relegated to a supporting role which is great for him and Nets fans and anyone really who doesn't have to sign his paycheck each month. I'm even excited about Mirza Teletovic in a backup role.
This team is flat out loaded. I expect them to struggle a bit early in the season as they all learn how to get along and avoid KG's bad sides (which is all of his sides, really). But I expect them to steamroll the league from January to the finish line and net the third seed.
Drew: I was hanging on for dear life when you mentioned Blatche, but I'm fairly high on the team too. Everything you said makes sense regarding Iso-Joe, and the fact that they're loaded.
Kevin: I can't refute any of your logic, Seth. I can see this happening. Well except Andray Blatche pulling it together and being productive. Which means there is hope for JaVale McGee! Sorry Jeff and Nate in Denver.
Seth: But Blatche already was productive last year in Brooklyn and that was without KG's charming influence.