Now that August is here and most of the major moves and signings have been made, here's a recap of how the top three teams in the East (Orlando, Cleveland, Boston) did:
Major subtractions: Wally Szczerbiak (7.0 ppg); Joe Smith (6.5 ppg); Sasha Pavlovic (4.6 ppg); Ben Wallace (3.0 ppg); Tarence Kinsey (2.0 ppg)
Additions: Shaquille O'Neal (17.8 pg); Anthony Parker (10.7 ppg); Jamario Moon (7.2 ppg)
Comment: Parker will be an upgrade at SG, while Moon is very athletic, but still rather raw. The big question is how much does Shaq have left at age 37, what kind of on-court chemistry will he have with LeBron James, and can Shaq really do much of anything to stop the Magic's Dwight Howard, who is superior to O'Neal in regards to quickness, strength, and athleticism (remember Shaq's embarrassing flopping against Howard last season).
Major subtractions: Leon Powe (7.7 ppg); Mikki Moore (4.8 ppg); Stephon Marbury (3.8 ppg)
Additions: Rasheed Wallace (12.1 ppg)
Comment: With the exception of the Wallace signing, the Celtics didn't do much this off-season, but will get a healthy Kevin Garnett back. Garnett played in only four games after Februry 20th. Wallace had a horrible four games with the Pistons in the playoffs, and I really wonder how much he will help the Celtics at age 35. Still, if Garnett is healthy, the Celtics will be a threat in the East with veterans Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, along with a solid PG in Rajon Rondo.
Major subtractions: Hedo Turkoglu (16.8 ppg); Rafer Alston (12.0 ppg); Courtney Lee (8.4 ppg); Tony Battie (4.8 ppg)
Additions: Vince Carter (20.8 ppg); Matt Barnes (10.2 ppg); Brandon Bass (8.5 ppg); Ryan Anderson (7.4 ppg)
Comment: Despite the loss of the versatile Turkoglu and the up-and-coming Lee, the Magic finally improved their front-court depth significantly, added a 20+ppg SG in Carter, and retained Marcin Gortat as Dwight Howard's backup. Now, the Magic will be better able to match up with teams that have a legitimate PF, and can still utilize an unconventional lineup in the frontcourt like last season depending on matchups.
I might be biased, but I believe the Magic have a great chance of repeating as Eastern Conference Champions.
With Lamar Odom re-signing with the Lakers along with the addition of Ron Artest, the Lakers have to be the early favorites at this point to win it all next season.