Pippen Peoples it’s that time of year again… YES. The time of year where I make a way too early prediction and you guys tell me how dumb I am to make such a claim. Predictions are tough to do at this point of the season, for example I can’t say Cleveland is winning the Eastern Conference because I simply don’t know who is going to be on their roster. Will they have Kevin Love or will they be riding with LeBron James and a whole bunch of rookie and sophomore talent? This article however is more for teams I like heading into the season that everyone is kind of avoiding.
It was just last week, I wrote down all my postseason predictions with some of my friends in the Chicago area; I look at my friends predictions and all of them are out on the Brooklyn Nets. I look at mine and I have them as a 4th seed in the Eastern Conference. I sat there for a good hour arguing a case for how much better the Nets are going to be this season than last. Look at who they lost; Paul Pierce, Shaun Livingston, and Jason Kidd. Okay? They finished 6th in the Eastern Conference last season without arguably the best scoring big man in the league, Brook Lopez. Now they get Lopez back and add a coach with real team-building experience in Lionel Hollins. Hollins took the Grizzlies to the Western Conference Final in his final season as the Grizzlies coach. Although they got swept, nobody was expecting that team to make a run that deep in the postseason without Rudy Gay.
I think that Lionel Hollins is going to be able to turn the tides on Deron Williams and turn him back into a top-10 point guard. We won’t ever have the Chris Paul or Deron Williams debate ever again but we could be asking if Williams is going to be a top-10 point guard again in this system. On top of Lopez and Williams, the Nets will also have Joe Johnson. Johnson even despite getting up in age, could easily carry this team to the conference finals. Plus, even though he didn’t play great, the Nets could get Kevin Garnett back. If they do he might be able to be successful playing the stretch-four rather than the center position, which he played for most of season last year. If they Nets are healthy, they are a team that could easily be a top-3 or 4 team in the Eastern Conference.
This team is a team that majority of fans are beginning to come around on and rightfully so, at least in my basketball circle. The Hornets are a team that a lot of people associate with a laughing stock, well until last season. I really like what the Hornets have done over the last couple of off-seasons. I loved the Steve Clifford hiring. He is a great coach with a bright future in this game and with the Hornets. I love the signing of Lance Stephenson this offseason, as he can defend and score. Now you have a back court filled with Kemba Walker and Lance Stephenson and then you have have loaded front court, consisting of the talents of Al Jefferson, Noah Vonleh, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The Hornets have a bright future but I expect them to make a real push for a 5th seed in the Eastern Conference. I don’t think they are experienced enough yet to make a top-4 seed, but if they get into the playoffs with their coaching, shooting and post play of Al Jefferson it’s possible they could advance to the second round.
Team that is going to completely come out of no where?:
I know, I know. They were horrible last season, but I have the solution to their problem. The Pistons have to trade away Josh Smith and bring back Greg Monroe. Josh Smith can’t play the small forward position but Rudy Gay can. Pistons need to go all in on making that trade happen and then I believe in this team. I love their new coach Stan Van Gundy and I like the roster besides the fact that Josh Smith just doesn’t fit in. If they can get rid of him for Rudy Gay, then this team will be a playoff team, along with a possible second round team.
These are the teams in the Eastern Conference that I like this season that the general public is not talking about. Let me know how you feel about these teams, and list your sleepers in the comment section. Stay tune for more from predictions for us, diving into the Western Conference. You can follow me on Twitter @FFIChris.