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NBA Eastern Conference Preview: Can the Heat Buy a Championship?

Posted on October 27, 2010 by Dean Hybl

The Miami Heat have spent a lot of money to have three superstars, but can that bring them a title?

The NBA offseason was dominated by discussions about the Miami Heat and their acquisition of LeBron James and Chris Bosh to go with proven star Dwyane Wade. Many have predicted that these additions have not only made the Heat the most talked about team in the NBA, but also a prohibitive favorite to win multiple championships over the next several years.

However, with the Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks all are aiming to spoil the party for the Heat.

On opening night the Celtics reminded the Heat that they are still the conference champions with an 88-80 victory over Miami. With a bulls eye squarely on their back, the Heat will face similar challenges every night as they look to build team chemistry and look to live up to the hype.

Below is a division-by-division look at the Eastern Conference:

Will the Miami Heat Reach the NBA Finals?

  • No (62%, 8 Votes)
  • Yes (38%, 5 Votes)

Total Voters: 13

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Atlantic Division

It was just three years ago that the Boston Celtics made a move similar to that of the Heat this season by orchestrating the acquisition of their own “big three.” That move led to an NBA title in their first season together. After nearly winning another title last season, the Celtics appear poised to give the Heat a tough challenge in 2011. The key for the Celtics is the health of their talented, but aging trio of stars. If Paul Pierce (18.3 ppg), Kevin Garnett (14.3 ppg) and Ray Allen (16.3 ppg) are all able to stay healthy, the Celtics should make another deep playoff run. Though both are past their prime, the acquisition of centers Jermaine O’Neal and Shaquille O’Neal gives Boston inside depth to compete with both Miami and Orlando. Of course, the emerging star for Boston is guard Rajon Rondo (13.7 ppg, 9.8 apg). If he is able to continue his ascension as one of the top point guards in the league the Celtics should be making a lot of noise come playoff time.

The rest of the division is really a mess as the only team besides Boston to win more than 29 games last season was the Toronto Raptors. However, with the loss of Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu, it is doubtful that Toronto will reach 40 wins this season.

The New York Knicks should be better with the addition of Amar’e Stoudemire, but they still have a number of other holes to fill before they are a serious contender.

Both Philadelphia and the New Jersey Nets will be better in 2011 than a year ago, but best case scenario for either team is to sneak into the playoffs.

1. Boston Celtics
2. New Jersey Nets
3. New York Knicks
4. Philadelphia 76ers
5. Toronto Raptors

Southeast Division

Most basketball experts are ready to wrap the Southeast Division in a bow and give it to the Miami Heat. However, with the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks still capable of contending for a title it isn’t a guarantee that the Heat will breeze to a division title.

Dwight Howard and the Magic could have a better regular season than the Heat, but can they beat them come playoff time?

In fact, thanks to their far superior depth, the Magic seem better positioned to have a strong regular season record. Led by emerging star Dwight Howard (18.3 ppg, 13.2 rpg) and veteran scorers Vince Carter (16.6 ppg) and Rashard Lewis (14.1 ppg), Orlando has a solid starting lineup and their bench may be among the best in the league.

However, it is how a team does in the playoffs that will ultimately matter and while depth is crucial to sustaining success in a regular season, come playoff time it come down to the performance of your top 7-8 players. In that area, Miami seems to have the edge over Orlando.

Atlanta remains an exciting team caught in one of basketball’s toughest divisions. It is very possible that Atlanta could again win more than 50 games in 2011, but end up third in their own division. Joe Johnson (21.3 ppg) is a superstar and Josh Smith (15.7 ppg) and Al Horford (14.2 ppg, 9.9 rpg) provide great inside strength.

Charlotte reached the playoffs a year ago and could again contend for a spot, but they also have the bad luck of being in such a tough division. Same is true for the Washington Wizards. Led by rookie John Wall and the return of Gilbert Arenas the Wizards will be better than a year ago, but still finish last in the division.

1. Orlando Magic
2. Miami Heat
3. Atlanta Hawks
4. Charlotte Bobcats
5. Washington Wizards

Central Division

While the Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls are both emerging teams, it doesn’t appear that any team from the Central Division is ready to challenge for a conference championship.

Milwaukee made great strides a year ago and picked up some pieces that could make them even stronger in 2011. Center Andrew Bogut (15.9 ppg, 10.2 rpg) is a solid performer and his absence down the stretch last season definitely hurt the Bucks. Newcomer Corey Maggette (19.8 ppg) is a proven scorer, but has never been on a team capable of making a playoff run, so it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the Bucks. Point guard Brandon Jennings (15.5 ppg) is a talented performer and could be the key to a successful season for Milwaukee.

The Bulls made a lot of noise in the offseason, but with Carlos Boozer out for the early portion of the season it may take them a while to mesh as a team. However, after underachieving a year ago, the pressure is on Chicago to have a successful season.

Many have written the Cleveland Cavaliers off for dead without LeBron James, but they still have a solid team led by Mo Williams (15.8 ppg) and Antawn Jamison (18.7 ppg). A title is certainly not in their immediate future, but watch for this team to get off to a strong start as they look to pick up the pieces from the LeBron James debacle.

Both the Detroit Pistons or Indiana Pacers are only shells of their former teams and will struggle in 2011.

1. Milwaukee Bucks
2. Chicago Bulls
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
4. Indiana Pacers
5. Detroit Pistons

Conference Finals: Boston Celtics defeat the Miami Heat

NBA Finals: Boston Celtics defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

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