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The Greyhound

The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

Can the Miami Heat be cooled in the East?

The NBA is back and fall is in full swing, so lets get right to the question on everyone’s mind. Can anyone stop the Miami Heat from winning a third straight championship? This year the answer is yes. This season’s Eastern Conference features several teams that have a legit opportunity to dethrone the two-time defending champions. The Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls and the new-look Brooklyn Nets are all formidable threats to stop LeBron James and company from getting out of the East. While the Heat are essentially bringing back the same roster from last year, these teams have all added significant pieces that make them better. The race for the last few playoff spots should also be an exciting one, featuring some teams that haven’t been relevant in the East for a long time.


The Breakdown


(1) Miami Heat – The defending champions didn’t improve significantly with their offseason acquisitions of injury-prone players like Greg Oden and Michael Beasley, but you can still expect to see them atop the East. They sport one of the best defenses in the league and LeBron James isn’t going away any time soon. One does have to wonder however, if age and fatigue start to play a role with this team. Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Dwanye Wade aren’t getting any younger, and fatigue starts to set in with another grueling 82-game schedule.


(2) Brooklyn Nets – The Nets have gone all in for this season acquiring Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry in a blockbuster trade with the Celtics in July. They also added Andrei Kirilenko via free agency. This adds a considerable amount of talent to a team that already has Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez. The Pierce and Garnett acquisition gives Brooklyn the toughness factor that they lacked in last years playoffs, while Terry and Kirilenko provide bench depth. The window for this team to win is small and anything short of a championship will be considered a failed season.


(3) Indiana Pacers – The Pacers were just a game seven away from knocking off the Heat last season without the services of Danny Granger, who will return early this season coming off of a calf injury. Paul George, 23, is an emerging superstar and Roy Hibbert can make a case as one of the best big men in the NBA. With the return of Granger, Hibbert, David West and newly acquired Luis Scola, the Pacers might have the best frontcourt depth in the league, which is exactly what you need to beat the Heat.


(4) Chicago Bulls – When people talk about this year’s Bulls they talk about one thing: The return of Derrick Rose, who missed a full season last year to ACL knee surgery. Can he be as explosive as he once was? Do the Bulls have enough offensive talent around him to compete with Miami, Indiana and Brooklyn? I think after a slow start, D-Rose will be back and better than ever. Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng are good second and third options offensively, while Chicago’s defense is right up there with Miami’s for best in the league. Chicago will hope to get more offensive production from Jimmy Butler and newly acquired, Mike Dunleavy.


(5) New York Knicks – As a Knicks fan it pains me to keep them out of the top four, but I expect them to take a step back from the great regular season they had just last year. The additions of forwards Metta World Peace and Andrea Bargnani don’t make them significantly better, while Amare Stoudemire’s bad knees continue to prevent him from having any impact off the bench. We know Carmelo Anthony can at times be the best scorer in the league, but his isolation-heavy style of play often stops ball movement at critical points in games. The Knicks’ defense and fast break game however, are two areas they can look to improve upon.


(6) Cleveland Cavaliers – Mike Brown is back coaching in Cleveland with a roster that looks very different from the one he left in 2010. There’s young talent at just about every position on this team and it starts with point guard Kyrie Irving. Now entering his third NBA season, Irving shares the backcourt with second year shooting guard Dion Waiters, while the frontcourt consists of rookie Anthony Bennett, veteran Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson. If Andrew Bynum can give the Cavs any kind of production at center, they should snag one of the last playoff spots in the East.


(7) Detroit Pistons – The Pistons improved their roster significantly this offseason by adding talents like Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings and Chauncey Billups. Smith will be a nice addition to the already potent frontcourt of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, while Jennings and Billups, if healthy, form a strong backcourt. The question for the Pistons is if they can get it together on defense. Last year they ranked in the lower half of the league in all major defensive categories.


(8) Washington Wizards – The Wizards have brought in some nice pieces to go along with their young core of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Trading for a proven center in Marcin Gortat gives them a threat down low on both sides of the ball, something they’ve lacked for so long. Look for Bradley Beal to have a much improved sophomore year. The backcourt of Wall and Beal will look to lead Washington to their first playoff berth since 2008.


Eastern Conference Finals Prediction: Pacers beat the Heat in seven games. The frontcourt depth of the Pacers will give Miami all kinds of problems in a rematch of last year’s Eastern finals. Indiana has the size and strength to defend LeBron James and this time they will have Danny Granger to take some of the scoring load off of Paul George.

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Can the Miami Heat be cooled in the East?