The trading deadline has come and gone, and Rafer Alston is the most important player that moved. That was really exciting. Even less interesting than last week’s All-Star Break (extremely underwhelming from start to finish) is the upcoming rest of the regular season, especially in the Eastern Conference.
I’m sorry, but watching the contenders dig through the scrap heap for guys like Mikki Moore does not constitute a wildly entertaining viewing experience, but since the playoff teams have pretty much already been decided in the East, let’s look ahead…to the future. The future, Conan? Yes, I’m talking about the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. And since my predictions are always spot-on (wink-wink), we’re going to give you our thoughts on each series, free of charge.
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Chicago Bulls
Milwaukee currently holds the last playoff spot in the East, but without Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd they’ll be lottery bound soon enough. The Bulls are 1.5 games back and will only get better as Brad Miller and John Salmons work into the rotation. The Cavs take advantage of Kevin Garnett’s knee injury and grab home court for the playoffs, locking up LeBron James’ first of many MVP Awards.
Prediction: Cleveland in five
(2) Boston Celtics vs. (7) Detroit Pistons
Sam Smith thinks this might be Allen Iverson’s last season. Pretty doubtful when so many teams will need help selling tickets next season, but Iverson’s days of making over $10M per year will end after this series. The Celtics will be extremely upset to lose home court, and the rapidly sinking Pistons (what happened to Rodney Stuckey?) will be the first to pay. Moore will play a grand total of 18 minutes in the series for the Celts, all in garbage time.
Prediction: Boston in four
(3) Orlando Magic vs. (6) Philadelphia 76ers
The Magic are in that category of “teams that think they’re better than they really are,” and Philly will probably win at least one home game in this series, probably two. Orlando’s got too much talent to be upset by the Sixers, but Andre Iguodala will put the team on his shoulders and give Dwight Howard a scare.
Prediction: Orlando in six
(4) Atlanta Hawks vs. (5) Miami Heat
Now this could be a fun series. The Hawks have to be happy they’re on track to face another team without a real center, but…oh, wait…I guess the Heat traded for Jermaine O’Neal. Is it possible that O’Neal could stay healthy for the rest of the regular season and be at full strength in the playoffs? Since we’re already predicting things two months in advance, I’m going to go ahead and say no. Look for Dwyane Wade to average 35 ppg in this series, and for Michael Beasley to have at least one game that will cause him to be drafted four rounds too early in next year’s fantasy drafts. Like I did before this season.
Prediction: Atlanta in seven
Next Tuesday: Western Conference First Round Predictions