NBA Predictions 2014: Eastern Conference

1. Miami Heat :

They're the defending champs and until someone takes that away from them they deserve the respect they earned.  The big question for this team is Can Dwayne Wade Stay healthy?  I see another deep playoff run, but with the maturing of the Pacers and the return of Derrick Rose, the Eastern Conference Playoffs will be a dog fight.
Player to Watch: Noris Cole
2. Chicago Bulls  :

Guess who's back? Back again?  Derrick Rose returns to action this season and the city of Chicago couldn't be happier.  The big question for this squad will be can Rose stay healthy?  If he does, look for the Bulls to make a push for "Best in the East."  Although, they did lose Marco Belinelli in free agency, getting Rose back on the floor is a huge step up for the Bulls.

Player to Watch: Tony Snell (R)

3. Indiana Pacers  :
Is this young team ready to take the next step and beat the Heat?  I think they can.  Will they? Only time will tell.  The Pacers are gritty and defense oriented, everything the NBA today is not.  Paul George became an overnight super star in the ECF and I don't see him slowing down.  Expect big, big things from this group this season.  They could be the team representing the East in the Finals.

Player to Watch: George Hill

4. New York Knicks  :
I have New York in the top 4 of the East but I don't expect much more out of them than a 1st round exit.  They will win a lot of games in the regular season but their age will catch up to them in the playoffs.  I'm interested to see if Carmelo Anthony will ever take the next step of being a super star and win a ring.  I don't think it will be this year.

Player to Watch: Iman Shumpert

5. Brooklyn Nets  :
What an off season for the Nets they get Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry from the Celtics, and a new head coach in Jason Kidd.  I think this squad is a dream that will never become reality, however.  With 3 of the starting 5 notorious for Isolation basketball (Derrick Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce) the fear of stagnation in the offense has to be real.  Still, with KG and Brooke Lopez banging the boards, you're bound to be pretty good.  I see this team winning the first round but that's all.

Player to Watch: Head Coach Jason Kidd

6. Atlanta Hawks  :

The Atlanta Hawks are obviously trying to rebuild.  I still think they will make the playoffs in the 6 spot.  I am interested to see how Coach Bud does in his rookie year as a head coach.  I think he will bring some flow to the offense as the Hawks looked like they were playing pick up games in some of their offensive "sets" last season.  Also look for an improved defensive effort with Bud leading the way.

Player to Watch: Jeff Teauge

7. Cleveland Cavaliers  : 

I'll give to to Dan Gilbert.  After whining about Lebron leaving, he's finally put a decent team together, on paper.  Kyrie Irving is an up and coming star and has made it clear he's ready to lead a team.  With the signing of Andrew Bynum and Jarrett Jack, the Cavs have gotten noticeably better.  The big question will be can Bynum stay healthy and keep his mind right?  If they stay healthy, there is no reason this team can't be a playoff team.

Player to Watch: Dion Waiters

8. Toronto Rapters  :

I am picking Toronto to wrap up the playoff teams in the East simply because there are no other choices.  Rudy Gay can make this his team and bring them to the post season where they'll get swept by Miami in the first round.  I think they are making strides to be better, I just don't think its this season.

Player to Watch: DeMar DeRozan