NBA 2004/05 SEASON PREVIEW

By Jerald Levon Hoover
Updated: November 1, 2004

Part one of a two part series; Eastern Conference; predicted order of finish.

ATLANTIC DIVISION:

1.

NEW YORK KNICKS: No, this is not a typo. After a two year drought that had the Knicks lingering in Lottery-ville with a bunch of bad long-term contracts, the Boys from Gotham led by President Isiah Thomas made it back to the playoffs. Sure, they were swept out in the first round but they have a new look and a new style this season. Coach Lenny Wilkens is looking to run and gun more.

KEY ADDITIONS: Jamal Crawford, Jerome Williams, Trevor Ariza KEY LOSES: Dikembe Mutombo, Orthello Harrington, Frank Williams KEY THOUGHT: Will Crawford unseat Allan Houston as the starting shooting guard?

PROJECTED RECORD: 51-31

2.

PHILADELPHIA 76ers: With former Boston Celtic Coach Jim O�Brien and All-star guard, Allen Iverson (he�s back at point guard) leading the charge, the Sixers could very well surprise a lot of people. Center Samuel Dalemebert is rounding himself into a future All-star. And keep an eye on sharp shooter, Kyle Korver.

KEY ADDITIONS: Kendrick Brown, Kevin Ollie, Brian Skinner, Corliss Williamson, Andre Iguodala.

KEY LOSES: Eric Snow, Derrick Coleman, Amal McCaskill.

KEY THOUGHT: How will Iverson handle full-time point guard duties?

PROJECTED RECORD: 47-35

3.

BOSTON CELTICS: New Coach Glenn �Doc� Rivers will have the Celtics running a lot more in transition. Newcomer and point guard deluxe, Gary Payton will see to it that they run as well. If only they can rebound the basketball so that that does happen.

KEY ADDITIONS: Gary Payton, Al Jefferson, Delonte West KEY LOSES: Chris Mihm, Marcus Banks, Chucky Atkins KEY THOUGHT: How long before Payton asks to be traded?

PROJECTED RECORD: 46-36

4.

NEW JERSEY NETS: The Nets fall from grace was greatly helped by the new ownerships goal to purge salaries. With that in mind, they allowed power stud, All-star Kenyon Martin walk away to the Denver Nuggets for three future draft picks. And they added insult to injury (pardon the pun) by shipping Kerry Kittles to the Clippers.

KEY ADDITIONS: Eric Williams, Ron Mercer, Rodney Buford, Jacque Vaughn KEY LOSES: Kenyon Martin, Kerry Kittles, Rodney Rogers, Tamar Slay KEY THOUGHT: Now it�s a question to not when Jason Kidd will be traded, but to where.

PROJECTED RECORD: 37-45

5.

TORONTO RAPTORS: The Raptors have had three coaches in three years, Vince Carter is not happy and the fans in Toronto are getting restless. New coach, Sam Mitchell a calming influence may be the right antidote to sooth Carter�s feelings. But, for how long?

KEY ADDITIONS: Rafer Alston, Rafael Araujo KEY LOSES: Rod Strickland KEY THOUGHT: Will Carter have a fourth coach this season by playing elsewhere?

PROJECTED RECORD: 36-46

CENTRAL DIVISION:

1.

DETROIT PISTONS: Hail to the champs! Coach Larry Brown finally got his coveted crown. But, now that he has it does he suffer from burnout faster and quits this job the way he did the others? Joe Dumars the mastermind behind this stacked roster knows how to go for two in a row. He did so being a member of the Pistons� famed Bad Boys in the late 80�s. If Detroit stays healthy they can still be the class of the Eastern Conference.

KEY ADDITIONS: Antonio McDyess, Derrick Coleman, Amal McCaskill, Carlos Delfino.

KEY LOSES: Corliss Williamson, Mehmet Okur, Mike James.

KEY THOUGHT: Will Derrick Coleman play well for Larry Brown in Detroit?

PROJECTED RECORD: 60-22

2.

INDIANA PACERS: The Pacers had a great year up until they ran into a buzz saw by playing the Miami Heat, who softened them up for the Detroit Pistons who beat into submission by throwing fresh and uninjured big bodies at them. If the Pacers can somehow stay happy and healthy this season they can give the Pistons a run for their money for Eastern Conference supremacy.

KEY ADDITIONS: Stephen Jackson, Eddie Gill KEY LOSES: Al Harrington KEY THOUGHT: Will All-star and defensive stopper Ron Artest play nice this entire season?

PROJECTED RECORD: 57-25

3.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS: A flyer is being taken out on this one. But, when you have the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls in the same division, the Bucks better see this as a golden opportunity to make it happen. Second year head coach Terry Porter will be another year wiser and a lot more comfortable on the sidelines.

KEY ADDITIONS: Mike James KEY LOSES: Brian Skinner, Damon Jones KEY THOUGHT: Can promising point guard, T.J. Ford return to form?

PROJECTED RECORD: 48-34

4.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: Now that LeBron James has had his rookie season (and winning the Rookie of the Year Award) under his belt along with his Olympic experience albeit a Bronze one, he should be looking to dominate even more so as he will get calls most 19 to 20 years old would only dream about. The only question now with LeBron is what position is he most effective?

KEY ADDITIONS: Drew Gooden, Eric Snow, Robert Traylor, Steven Hunter, Luke Jackson KEY LOSES: Carlos Boozer, Eric Williams, Tony Battie, Kendrick Brown, Kevin Ollie, Jason Kapono KEY THOUGHT: Is the Carlos Boozer fiasco really behind them?

PROJECTED RECORD: 40-42

5.

CHICAGO BULLS: The youth movement continues as the Bulls scored A-pluses in their drafting of UConn�s Ben Gordon and Duke�s Luol Deng. That being said look for the Bulls to more than likely match the win/loss total with the expansion Charlotte Bobcats.

KEY ADDITIONS: Gordon, Deng, Chris Duhon, Andres Nocioni KEY LOSES: Kendall Gill, Marcus Fizer, Jamal Crawford, Jerome Williams KEY THOUGHT: Will Eddy Curry finally come into his own in his contract year?

PROJECTED RECORD: 20-62

SOUTHEAST DIVISION:

1.

MIAMI HEAT: The Shaq-man is in town. The Heat now will be a sizzling hot ticket down in Miami. It is said that Shaq took this past off-season so serious that he shed nearly 30 pounds off of his massive frame. If he and budding All-star Dwayne Wade can co-exist over the long haul, the Heat can become one of the elite teams in the East for a few years. At least until Shaq is no longer motivated.

KEY ADDITIONS: Shaquille O�Neal, Michael Doleac, Damon Jones, Keyon Dooling, Christian Laettner.

KEY LOSES: Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant, Rafer Alston, Loren Woods.

KEY THOUGHT: Will Riley return to the bench if the Heat start off slow?

PROJECTED RECORD: 53-29

2.

ORLANDO MAGIC: The new look Magic will be better than most people think. Case in point, the re-addition of former All-star forward, Grant Hill has looked fabulous and doesn�t appear the favor the ankle that was operated on multiple times. The new back court of Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley will serve to offset the loss of All-world forward Tracy McGrady. And watch out for number one draft Dwight Howard, he�s a lot better than advertised.

KEY ADDITIONS: Francis, Mobley, Kelvin Cato, Tony Battie, Hedo Turkoglu, Stacy Augman, Howard, Jameer Nelson.

KEY LOSES: McGrady, Juwan Howard, Drew Gooden, Tyronn Lue.

KEY THOUGHT: Will Grant Hill finally stay healthy enough to play in 60 games?

PROJECTED RECORD: 48-34

3.

WASHINGTON WIZARD: Don�t laugh. I had to pick the Wizards here; the Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Bobcats are in the same division. The Wizards haven�t seen the playoffs since the 1996-97 season when they were still the Washington Bullets. Don�t� look for them to perform any (Wizard)ry and see them any time soon either.

KEY ADDITIONS: Antawn Jamison, Anthony Peeler KEY LOSES: Jerry Stackhouse, Christian Laettner KEY THOUGHT: Will Jamison be exposed in tight games because of his lack of playmaking/ball handling skills?

PROJECTED RECORD: 28-54

4.

ATLANTA HAWKS: By default the Hawks land in this spot. Their starting point guard is 100 year-old Kenny Anderson. Anderson was buried deep on the Pacers bench last season and now he�s a starter expected to play at least 30 minutes? Good luck new coach Mike Woodson, you will need it. Not to mention your starting power forward will be (contract year) Antoine Walker and his backup is 150 year-old Kevin Willis.

KEY ADDITIONS: Anderson, Walker, Al Harrington, Tony Delk, Josh Childress, Josh Smith.

KEY LOSES: Michael Bradley, Alan Henderson, Stephen Jackson KEY THOUGHT: 25 wins will be like a playoff boom for this team. If only they had a fan base to see some of it.

PROJECTED RECORD: 25-57

5.

CHARLOTTE BOBCATS: The honeymoon will last throughout the season. Why? Because fans will be so happy to have a franchise back in the area since the Hornets defected under the ownership of George Shinn. Don�t look for a lot of wins but, plenty of excitement will be in the air.

KEY ADDITIONS: Emeka Okafor, Melvin Ely, Jason Kapono, Gerald Wallace KEY LOSES: NONE KEY THOUGHT: Bob Johnson being the first African-American owner of a major sports franchise will vie to instill pride and passion to Charlotte.

PROJECTED RECORD: 19-63

EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPION: DETROIT PISTONS