Eastern Conference

By Kurt Zimmer, Columbian Sports Copy Editor and Writer



Eastern Conference

Teams are listed in the predicted order of finish.

Atlantic Division

  1. Boston Celtics. Key additions: PF Rasheed Wallace, SG Marquis Daniels. Key subtractions: F Leon Powe, C/F Mikki Moore. Outlook: Kevin Garnett is working his way back from a knee injury that derailed the Celtics’ title defense last season. Two great pickups in veterans Marquis Daniels and Rasheed Wallace will keep Boston in the Finals hunt.

  2. Toronto Raptors. Key additions: F Hedo Turkoglu, PG Jarrett Jack, PF Reggie Evans. Key subtractions: SF Shawn Marion, SG Jason Kapono. Outlook: Last season it was Jermaine O’Neal. This year it’s Hedo Turkoglu. Now, Chris Bosh finally has a compatible sidekick who should help the Raptors return to the playoffs and put last season’s disastrous meltdown behind.

  3. Philadelphia 76ers. Key additions: SG Jason Kapono, G Jrue Holiday. Key subtractions: PG Andre Miller, PF Reggie Evans. Outlook: It is debatable if the Sixers lost more than they gained in the offseason. Elton Brand’s return from a shoulder injury should help. But without a proven point guard, there is no direction.

  4. New York Knicks. Key additions: C Darko Milicic, F/C Jordan Hill. Key subtractions: F/C Chris Wilcox, G/F Quentin Richardson. Outlook: The Knicks simply hope to be entertaining enough to justify those high-dollar ticket prices until they can make their long-anticipated pitch for LeBron James in free agency next summer.

  5. New Jersey Nets. Key additions: PG Rafer Alston, SG Courtney Lee. Key subtraction: SG Vince Carter. Outlook: When the ownership roster is more impressive than the basketball one, expect a long season. That’s the case with the Big Apple-area’s other team, which also plans to be a big player next summer.

Central Division

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers. Key additions: C Shaquille O’Neal, SF Jamario Moon, SG Anthony Parker. Key subtractions: PF Ben Wallace, SG Sasha Pavlovic, C Joe Smith. Outlook: LeBron James and Co. were good enough to post the best record in the league last season, but not good enough to cash in with a trip to the Finals. With Shaq on board, it’s championship or bust for the Cavs.

  2. Chicago Bulls. Key additions: F Taj Gibson, F James Johnson, PG Jannero Pargo. Key subtractions: SG Ben Gordon, PF Tim Thomas. Outlook: Few teams lose its leading scorer and see it as a blessing. Ben Gordon’s departure clears up the rotation for Kirk Hinrich and John Salmons, and Luol Deng’s return is a bonus. Oh yeah, then there’s Derrick Rose.

  3. Detroit Pistons. Key additions: SG Ben Gordon, PF Charlie Villanueva. Key subtractions: C Rasheed Wallace, G Allen Iverson. Outlook: Joe Dumars followed through on his threat to shake up the roster after the team disintegrated last season. Gordon and Villanueva step right into roles vacated by Wallace and Iverson. But are the Pistons any better?

  4. Indiana Pacers. Key additions: PF Tyler Hansbrough, SG Dahntay Jones, Earl Watson. Key subtractions: SG Marquis Daniels, PG Jarrett Jack. Outlook: A busy offseason for Larry Bird was highlighted by officially ridding the roster of Jamaal Tinsley. The Pacers continue to build but remain about a year away from establishing any sort of playoff foundation.

  5. Milwaukee Bucks. Key additions: G Brandon Jennings, PF Hakim Warrick. Key subtractions: PG Ramon Sessions, SF Richard Jefferson, PF Charlie Villanueva. Outlook: Look for Michael Redd to be traded to complete the total dismantling of a drastically underachieving and injury-plagued 2008-09 bunch. The Bucks are on a non-stop trip to Secaucus, N.J., for the draft lottery.

Southeast Division

  1. Orlando Magic. Key additions: SG Vince Carter, PF Brandon Bass. Key subtractions: SF Hedo Turkoglu. PG Rafer Alston, SG Courtney Lee. Outlook: The Magic lost three starters from last season’s team that advanced to the NBA Finals, but did a superb job of reloading without much of a drop-off. They have moved from the hunters to being the hunted in the East.

  2. Atlanta Hawks. Key additions: G Jamal Crawford, C Joe Smith. Key subtractions: G Acie Law, G Flip Murray. Outlook: The Hawks took another step in their development by advancing to the second round of the playoffs. They brought the core and made solid veteran upgrades to bolster depth for another run.

  3. Washington Wizards. Key additions: SF Mike Miller, SG Randy Foye, Fabricio Oberto. Key subtractions: F Darius Songaila, Etan Thomas. Outlook: Gilbert Arenas’ healthy return and 63 losses of motivation should provide the spark to launch the NBA’s biggest turnaround this season. The Wizards have the depth and talent to be the East’s dark horse.

  4. Miami Heat. Key additions: G/F Quentin Richardson, PG Carlos Arroyo. Key subtractions: SF Jamario Moon, G Luther Head. Outlook: Miami goes as far as Dwyane Wade carries it. The hope is Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers and Daequan Cook take the next step in development and Jermaine O’Neal does not limp through another season.

  5. Charlotte Bobcats. Key additions: C Tyson Chandler, PG Flip Murray, SG Gerald Henderson. Key Subtractions: C Emeka Okafor, PF Sean May. Outlook: The Bobcats have dumped three high lottery picks — Sean May, Emeka Okafor and Adam Morrison — in the past year. Coach Larry Brown hopes a more veteran savvy team can finally sneak into the playoffs.

— The Miami Herald