Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How A Team Not From South Beach Can Win The Eastern Conference

Since Michael Jordan retired from the NBA, the Eastern Conference has mostly lagged behind the Western Conference as far as being competitive from top to bottom. There have been several teams below .500 that have made the NBA playoffs out of the East, including the 38-44 Milwaukee Bucks a season ago. However, the shift, especially at the top, could make this season the most competitive one this century.

If you are preparing for a fantasy basketball draft, chances are you might see the rankings and think that the West is still the conference to be in. After Lebron James, the biggest individual stars are Kyrie Irving, Paul
George, Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams and Al Jefferson. Both Irving and Jefferson are not on true contenders, and George, Anthony and Williams are all players who can’t truly take a game over themselves.

Beating the Heat is not necessarily about fantasy basketball stars, especially when no one player can match up directly with Lebron James. The top contenders in the Eastern Conference will all have their best
shot at dethroning Miami by beating them with depth and defense. Chicago, Indiana, Brooklyn and New York figure to be the top four contenders, and all have multiple weapons that can give Miami fits.

The Pacers and Bulls have experienced the most success against Miami in the past, and they have done so with size and defense, especially in the paint. Danny Granger and Derrick Rose, respectively, will be All-Stars returning to an already solid lineup. While the Heat have done a good job retaining most of their lineup heading into the 2013-2014 season, these two teams should be able to close the gap even more.

Brooklyn and New York are both wild cards, as they certainly have the talent to contend. The Nets made a huge splash in the offseason by bringing in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, so if they can gel in time for the playoffs, they will have the veteran leadership to meet the Heat at some point. As for the Knicks, they must stay healthy, and they also must be able to get enough stops to truly contend. They have an extremely
dangerous offense headlined by Anthony, but playoff basketball is more about defense.

Miami is not invincible, but they have won two titles in a row for a reason. A tougher Eastern Conference could give them fits next spring.

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