NBA Experts weigh in on who's best in the East
The Orlando Magic reached the NBA Finals last year, but the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics will be the teams to beat in the Eastern Conference this upcoming season.
The Cavaliers finished first in the overall rankings, just ahead of the Celtics. Boston, however, received six first-place votes while Cleveland was ranked first on five ballots.
The Magic placed third overall. They were ranked as the conference's second-best team on four ballots.
"When I learned they were going after Vince [Carter], I thought it was to play him next to Hedo Turkoglu (the team MVP in my eyes), not replace him," said Ric Bucher, an NBA reporter and analyst for ESPN. "I was ready to anoint that team the best in the East. It's hard to see them having the same blazing start they had last year with all the changes. Let's put it this way: If this year's team does what last year's team did, it will be a bigger surprise than last year's team doing it, which was only the biggest shock in the league last year."
"Continuity tends to win championships," said Steve Kyler, the editor and publisher of HOOPSWORLD, who ranked the Celtics first in the East. "There is little doubt Orlando improved the talent level of the team, but can the new guys fit in as effectively as last year's team did? Can you capture magic twice?"
"The Cleveland Cavaliers didn't lose anyone of significance off the team that won 66 games last season," said John Schuhmann, a writer for NBA.com who picked the Cavs as the East's best team. "They added Shaquille O'Neal and Anthony Parker, both of whom should help them match up better with Boston and Orlando, and they still have the best player in the world."
"In this world the rich get richer," said Hall of Famer Bill Walton, who is an analyst for ESPN. "The three legitimate contenders in the East all got significantly better, but Boston easily improved the most. The title will come down to who controls the paint. The Celtics — with superior talent, depth and versatility up front — have positioned themselves perfectly for a run at No. 18."