Monday, Sept. 27, 2010
By Aggrey Sam
A historic summer for the NBA has passed and for the Bulls, while they didn't acquire quite the star power many expected andor hoped for, optimism runs high, both within the organization and throughout the team's fan base. With the offseason coming to an end, the time to fully delve into the upcoming NBA season is here. Instead of a traditional season preview, issues both throughout the league and in Chicago will be probed daily here on CSNChicago.com up until the squad officially convenes for training camp toward the end of September.
20. How will the NBA season play out?
Eastern Conference playoff teams (in order of projected seed): Miami, Orlando, Boston, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Washington
Atlantic Division champion: Boston Celtics; the Celtics are no spring chickens and despite their reputation for playing possum during the regular season, their in-division adversaries simply aren't strong enough to provide real competition.
Central Division champion: Milwaukee Bucks; the Bucks and Bulls should be in a dogfight all season, but Milwaukee's depth and continuity from last season should provide an edge during the regular season.
Southeast Division champion: Miami Heat; winning 70 games could be a stretch, but with three players capable of winning individual games on their own, ousting erstwhile division winner Orlando for the Southeast crown (and the East's top seed) shouldn't be too much to expect after the build-up to this point.
Western Conference playoff teams (in order of projected seed): Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trailblazers, Houston Rockets, New Orleans Hornets, Utah Jazz
Northwest Division champion: Oklahoma City Thunder; a lot hinges on Kevin Durant's continued development, but with Denver (organizational turmoil, regardless of Carmelo Anthony's situation), Portland (constantly beset with injuries; will Greg Oden ever put together a full season) and Utah (multiple offseason changes) all vulnerable, the young Thunder could take advantage.
Pacific Division champion: Los Angeles Lakers; business as usual for the two-time defending titlists, who could be the lone postseason team from their division, unless former Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro has instant success with the crosstown rivals or Phoenix makes significant adjustments in the post-Amar'e Stoudemire era.
Southwest Division champion: San Antonio Spurs; health is always a concern, but it wouldn't be surprising in the least if Gregg Popovich's aging core group (provided Richard Jefferson recovers from his one-year slumber) puts together an inspired final regular-season run.
NBA Finals: Lakers over Heat; for symmetry's sake, Phil Jackson gets another three-peat, with Kobe Bryant and company beating Miami's heralded trio in the process.
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.