2010 Poll: Who Will Win the East?

Cleveland Cavaliers (Vegas odds to win title: 3:1)
Despite failing to reach the Finals last year, the Cavs remain the favorite to win the East. Over the summer, Cleveland swapped Ben Wallace for Shaq, and while the Big Diesel is merely a fraction of his former dominant self, he’s miles ahead in productivity over Wallace. But the Cavs didn’t stop there, they also augmented their defense with Jamario Moon and Leon Powe. Last year Cleveland was unable to stop Howard in the middle, or preventing both Lewis and Turkoglu from torching them from the perimeter. This year they should be better equipped against those types of matchups.

Orlando Magic (5:1)
After shocking many with their playoff victory last year over Cleveland, Orlando made one major change this off season. The Magic lost Hedo Turkoglu in free agency, but managed to replace him with Vince Carter. This certainly is an upgrade by talent, but it remains to be seen how Carter fits in with Howard and co. Additionally Orlando managed to keep productive backup center Marcin Gortat and netted Brandon Bass in a double whammy free agency scuffle with the Mavericks. Howard was miffed last year at his lack of touches down the stretch late in games, and this year any late game heroics will likely begin with the ball in Carter’s hands. If Stan Van Gundy isn’t his team’s own worst enemy, Orlando will have enough firepower on both ends of the court to vie for a championship.

Boston Celtics (9:2)
Just two years ago the Boston Celtics dominated the league with 66 regular season victories and a title run. But last year injuries to Garnett and Powe thwarted any playoff hopes. Like the other two Eastern powerhouses, the Celtics didn’t stay put in the off season. Boston replaced Powe with Rasheed Wallace, and ‘Sheed will help the team cope defensively against Shaq and Howard while spacing the floor on offense. The line on the Celtics opened at 9:1, but enough money has come in to propel them above the Magic. Given the choice, I would put the Celtics third back given the team’s age and lack of depth. If the ancient core of Garnett, Allen, Pierce, and Wallace all aren’t upright for May & June, Boston won’t make it past the second round this year.

Everyone else (starting at 20:1)
The field consists of a few minor players that are hoping for Cinderella seasons. Atlanta has scratched at the cusp of the upper Eastern teams, but always seem to fall short and Jamal Crawford isn’t the person to put them over the edge. Miami is hoping that youngsters Beasley and Chalmers combined with oldster Jermaine O’Neal provide enough of a supporting cast for Dwyane Wade. Meanwhile the Wizards are hoping that a core of Arenas, Butler, Jamison, and Miller will put enough points on the boards to offset their team’s lack of defense. Last year Philly was the talk of the off season with their abduction of Elton Brand in free agency. Perhaps Eddie Jordan can find a way to make a most of their talent.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of KnickerBlogger.net. His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

31 thoughts to “2010 Poll: Who Will Win the East?”

  1. I think Boston, but that window must be really small 2-3 more years tops before they are back where they started minus Paul Pierce.

  2. I’m going with Boston. Don’t really know why, just my gut.

    Owen, the team around him maybe, but Shaq is not the best he’s ever been… And on the best teams he’s ever played on he was the best player. Don’t get me wrong: the Cavs are as much the favorites in the East as anybody is. Delonte West and a wing defender other than LeBron are their big wildcards. For some reason, though, my gut tells me they lose and LeBron is a Knicks this time next year… ;)

  3. I don’t see how taking Shaq (even well into his eighties) is a bad thing for the Cavs. He’s still a statistically-valuable player (his PER is quite good, even as his age advances) and slowing down or not, he’s going to destroy Ben Wallace’s production this year.

    I fail to see how he could negatively affect this team. Are people worried that Lebron won’t score as many fast-break points because he’ll be waiting to throw an alley-oop to Shaq? How does having an all-time top-five center hurt that team at all?

  4. I don’t know Ted, in addition to Shaq, they added both Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon. Moon, besides having great box score stats, has been one of the most productive players in the NBA by APM (not that I love that stat.) Parker fell off last year but certainly is an above average wing in my book. And Shaq was well above average last year if not nearly as good as he was in his prime. Playing at a slower pace next to Lebron in a winning atmosphere, that can only be a positive.

    That’s three above average additions to a team that was the fifth best in the NBA in the past 25 years in 08-09. Frankly, I would rather put money on them posting the best efficiency differential of all time than on them losing the East. Kind of crazy when you think about it that way, 2009 Cavs best team of all time?

    And my gut tells me Lebron stays in Cleveland, and so does LBJ’s mother…

  5. “Shaq’s Lakers championship teams would sweep his Cavs in 4 games easily.”

    Really? Who did those teams have other than Shaq and Kobe?

    Perhaps injuries or other factors complicate the analysis but the Lakers have topped the league in efficiency differential exactly once in the Kobe era. The best Lakers squad, 99-00, falls just short of what the Cavs posted last year. I think it would be a highly competitive series actually.

  6. Who do these Cavs have besides Lebron and an older, less effective Shaq????

    Plus the biggest difference between the 2 teams is probably with the head coaches. I think its ludicrous to say this Cavs team which hasnt won crap, heck last year they couldnt even get to the NBA Finals, is just as good or better than the Lakers 3-peat teams from earlier this decade.

    Im not denying the regular season they had last year since it certainly was great and pretty dominant but they couldnt even make the NBA Finals. I guess you can say the lasting image of the HORRIBLE coaching job done by Mike Brown in the Conference Finals and their less than creative offense and constantly making the same mistakes over and over on defense vs the Magic is still very fresh in my mind. I also think that adding Shaq doesnt exactly open things up and makes it easier for Lebron on offense.

    It certainly should be great to watch the Top 3 teams in the East and the playoffs should be great assuming 2 of those teams make the Conference Finals. Im just not that sure the Cavs are a lock to be one of those 2 teams.

  7. THCJ,

    Not sure if you’re responding to me, but I said nothing about whether Shaq was a good or bad addition for the Cavs or made them better or worse. I happen to think it was a very good move. I was commenting specifically on a Shaq quote Owen referenced.


    I like the Cavs offseason a lot, actually. They needed a big wing defender desperately against Orlando, and Moon could be that guy. A spot up wing shooter over 6-3 not named Wally Szczerbiak or Sasha Pavlovic should also have been a goal, and Parker provides that. Shaq/Z has to be the 2nd best center in the East behind Howard, and maybe even in the whole league. If both are healthy they can be out there 48 mpg combined.

    Leon Powe is another strong acquisition, and I liked Danny Green a lot at that point in the 2nd too. If Green can play he may eventually provide both defense and shooting on the wing. Christian Eyenga was a total head scratcher, especially with the wing talent still on the board (Budinger, Calathes who also wouldn’t have been paid this season which is a plus of Eyenga, Summers, Sam Young, heck Danny Green) plus of course DeJuan Blair. Reminds me a little of when the Cavs took Shannon Brown in the 1st and Boobie Gibson in the 2nd: I remember thinking right away they should have picked them in reverse order. There’s about a 1% chance the Cavs are onto something no one else in the world is, but DKV Joventut is known for pushing their young stars up to the top level early… Rudy, Ricky both came up in their mid-teens and Pau Ribas and Henk Nobel were on the squad by their late teens. If Eyenga is not playing there my guess is that he can’t play period. Maybe he learns…

    I agree that the Cavs are the favorite, but I’m just feeling like they blow it again. Of course, that’s neither rational nor objective.
    Unfortunately Moon, Parker, and Powe (if/when he gets healthy) are the kind of under-the-radar moves that could make them Champs this year… The press will give Shaq ALL the credit, but it will probably have just as much to do with Moon and/or Parker and/or Powe if they win.

    Interestingly, the Magic also might be a better team this season with VC instead of Hedo, but if they play the Cavs again in the playoffs they might have lost the edge they had with their unconventional line-up. Of course, Moon might have taken than away anyway… (BTW, Ryan Anderson may struggle to get minutes, but I think he could be a bit of a steal for them.)

    I do think you’re selling the Lakers teams a little short saying they had nothing outside of Shaq/Kobe, but it’s true that they weren’t that stacked around them and actually finished 21st in the NBA defensively in 2000-2001 (after finishing #1 the previous season). In fairness, both Horry and Fox could have been better paid “franchise players” (aka 15-20 ppg scorers) on lottery teams if they had chosen, plus they had a steady flow of vets who were well past their primes, but knew how to play the game.
    I have no idea whether they or Cleveland would win a 7 game series, and quite frankly I don’t think anyone does…

  8. BigBlueAl – Love that Dean Oliver article!

    I think you may be underrating how good they were last year because they got upset by the Magic.

    I would say that Lebron was better last year than Shaq or Kobe have ever been. Shaq’s peak productivity come very close, but Kobe isn’t in the same hemisphere as Lebron, and never has been. That’s how good Lebron is. His season last year was an absolute all-timer, up there in Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson territory.

    And they had some very capable players out there with him, Williams, West, Iglauskas, and Varejao, who is a poor offensive player but who got several 10 million per year contract offers this offseason.

    It’s going to be a very interesting season, and a great playoffs, we are in total agreement there…

  9. Ted – I forgot about Powe. If he comes back healthy, a big if, he would be another above average bench guy they have added. Really, they did a great job this offseason on improving a team that was already extremely good.

    I may be selling the Lakers short, I don’t know, but as I said they only finished as the top rated team in the NBA one year out of those three. I know injuries played a role in that, and it’s very possible that their playoff squads were better than their regular season efficiency differential suggests, something you wouldn’t say about the Cavs, but the idea Kobe and Shaq would sweep the Cavs aside like flies just doesn’t make sense. It reeks of Kobeism.

  10. I sort of took your comment out of context, I guess. I agree it’s unlikely they would get swept and that they’re not necessarily a worse team.

  11. I wouldnt say Kobeism because I love Lebron just as much as Kobe and Lebron right now is definitely a better player than Kobe was back then (heck he is a better player than him right now probably). For me it has to do with how great Shaq was back then. Also has to do with Phil Jackson and the supporting cast of guys like Rick Fox, Robert Horry, Glen Rice, Ron Harper and Derek Fisher. Heck even Brian Shaw and AC Green.

    Hey if the Cavs win it all this year than this is a very viable argument. But to try to compare a team who couldnt even make it to the NBA Finals to a team that 3-peated and featured 2 of the best players in the history of the NBA with both of them being in their prime I think is a tough argument to make.

  12. “To try to compare a team who couldnt even make it to the NBA Finals to a team that 3-peated…is a tough argument to make.”

    I’m not sure where these rankings come from (ie: 5th best team in the past 25 years) but it makes me wonder: do these rankings mean anything at all?

    Over the years on this site I’ve heard that the 2006 Mavericks were the best offensive team ever; the 2004 Knicks were the best defensive team ever; and now the 2009 Cavs were the 5th best team of the past 25 years.

    But none of these teams won the championship.

    So is there any use to the data in evaluating past teams? Have the top 1-4 teams of the past 25 years won championships, or are they teams like the 1993 Suns, the 1994 Sonics, the 1998 Jazz, and 2007 Mavericks?

    Basically, I’m just wondering if Big Blue Al’s above comment is really valid or not…

  13. By 2004 Knicks, of course, I meant 1994 Knicks…

    No one is confusing Lenny Wilkens’ Stephon Marbury led Knicks with the greatest defensive team of all time… :)

  14. Well Hollinger has stated that the 1993-1994 Knicks are probably the best defensive team ever. Of course they didnt win it all so even for me who absolutely LOVED those teams and basically grew up with them I cant brag about them that much because they quite frankly didnt win it all.

    Not to say they werent a very good teams because they most certainly were as were basically all the teams from the Pat Riley/Jeff Van Gundy era. But hey Im a Yankees fan and while most of the teams this decade were much better regular season teams than the 1996 and 2000 Yankees guess what those teams won a WS while all the teams since 2001 didnt so to me they are not as good as those teams that won WS.

    Now you want to tell me the Cavs from last year are a better team than say the Bullets team in the late 70’s that was a fluke 1-time champion fine. But if a team wins 3 in a row how can you tell me that a team who couldnt even win their own conference be better than them????

  15. Now that I remember Hollinger in 2007 I believe he rated the 60 teams that made the NBA Finals in the previous 30 years, it was a pretty cool read especially seeing how he rated those teams. I wonder if it is still in the ESPN.com archives, although I do believe it was Insider content to see the entire list but the Top 10 I believe was available to everyone. I’ll try to see if it is still available to at least link the parts that were free to everybody.

  16. Couple thoughts:

    1. Being the best defensive/offensive team in the league only means so much: it is completely possible to have the best defense in the league AND the worst offense. Basically, doesn’t say anything about how good of a team you are overall. (Those Knicks teams were good overall, but mediocre offensively: 16th in the regular season in 93-94.)

    2. You can argue that we somewhat arbitrarily assign greatness based on championships. It’s definitely true that there’s only one moment and either you get it done or you don’t. But if, theoretically, Team X would beat Team Y in 9 out of 10 playoffs series but loses to them in the finals is Team Y really the better team? I’m not weighing in either way, just saying it’s a pretty tough question. (Once you win 3 in a row or 6 out of 8… things become a lot more clear…)
    You also have to weigh the relative strength of a the league each year, relative strength of playoff opponents, etc. Which I think is pretty impossible. You can say league wide efficiency was higher in Year X, but does that mean that offense was better, defense was worse, the refs were better/worse, the rules changed, a new coaching philosophy became popular… There may be a way to do it, but I’m certainly not qualified to think of it.
    In European national leagues, both soccer and basketball, there are no playoffs. The regular season champ is the champ. A different way of doing things. (Champions League/Euroleague have playoffs.)

  17. The 93-94 Knicks also had a +7.0 point differential during the regular season which was pretty damn good too. I still cant believe they lost the Finals to the Rockets.

    Also Ted its a good thing the NBA isnt like the European leagues cause if so the Knicks might be in danger of getting relegated!!!! LOL

  18. BBA – I echo Ted’s sentiment – teams can lose a 7 game series to a inferior team.

    Another thing to consider are matchups. Perhaps the 09 Cavs were truly a great team – that played their worst against athletic centers and forwards that can shoot from three. In that sense, maybe Shaq’s Lakers would have defeated them (Shaq/Horry/Rice). But pit them against a league full of teams, and perhaps the Cavs win more games, and even more playoff series (considering that they would defeat the Lakers in a few Finals + they would make it to the Finals more often with a better team).

  19. Hold on, BBA and Mike. I can’t go where you’re going. Assigning greatness to champions isn’t “arbitrary.” Winning championships is the very definition of greatness in American sports. Now, yes, BBA, there could be other measures if a league chose to operate in another way. But a wide play-off field with best of seven series is surely a fair standard for measurement. Sure, baseball and hockey have some variables that lead to better teams losing, but are there any examples of NBA champions who were not the greatest teams of that year? I strongly say no. Teams CANNOT lose a 7 game series to an inferior team. Doing so makes them the inferior team.

    We may choose to think that the ’94 Knicks were better than the Rockets, but this is just an existential conundrum. It is not so. Oh well, at least we’ll always have the Giants over the Pats.

  20. I agree, Kikuchiyo. The championship is the only true measure. It’s the only thing teams are playing for.

    “…but are there any examples of NBA champions who were not the greatest teams of that year?”

    Like you say, it’s hard to argue against champions, but the 1995 Rockets were a 6th seed that beat three 60 win teams to emerge from the west. They stumbled through the regular season and needed to trade for Drexler just to make the playoffs. The next year they returned with pretty much the same team, had the same regular season record, and were swept in the second round.

    I guess Hakeem getting hot against the Suns, staying hot against league MVP Robinson and riding the momentum against Shaq is as close as one gets in Basketball to a goalie in the zone or a hot starting pitcher.

  21. It depends on your criteria of “superior/inferior”. Let’s simplify this to a bunch of games of 1-1. I can beat most of my friends regularly except for Alex. For some reason Alex gets in my head, hacks the hell out of me, and I get all frustrated & lose time & time again. But Alex’s hacking ways don’t bother anyone else, and he’s exposed by them as a mediocre baller.

    Is Alex better than me? Depends on how you identify it. If you are picking Alex to win a tournament against my friends, he’ll lose no matter what. I might win if I don’t draw Alex in the first round. But if Alex and I are the only ones on the court, you’d say Alex is superior.

  22. I think the problem with the whole bad matchup thing is you are talking about a best of 7 series. I mean if you are clearly the better team Im sorry but no way should you lose 4 out of 7 to a team if you are clearly the better team. Of course maybe it does speak to the coaching and adjustments being made/not made hence again why I have no faith or much respect for the Cavs and their head coach Mike Brown.

    To me truly great teams can beat anybody no matter the matchup. Which is why say what you will about the Lakers 3-peat and they struggled in the playoffs 2 out of the 3 years but they managed to win it all every time and even with the tough matchups they had with the Kings and Blazers they found a way to win those series.

    It certainly is a pretty fun debate but in the end I side with the team that won multiple championships. Again 1-year wonders you can debate against but if a team can win back-to-back or in the case of the Lakers 3 in a row Im sorry but you have to give them the edge no matter what IMO.

  23. “Teams CANNOT lose a 7 game series to an inferior team. Doing so makes them the inferior team.”

    They were inferior over that 7 game stretch, clearly. But what if LeBron James had swine flu (to pick something both topical and ridiculous) during the Orlando series and Mo Williams had a pulled hamstring… but both played through it? There are examples of Jordan and Reed playing through sickness/pain and still winning, but I’m just saying that there are other factors to consider.
    Teams also go on hot and cold stretches throughout the season. Perhaps over an 82 games season one team is superior, but the other team is hotter at the right time. Sometimes (Horry for example) people get hot during the playoffs and it’s no accident, but there might be examples of some Jerome James having the hottest stretches of their careers on eventual champions.

    “Again 1-year wonders you can debate against but if a team can win back-to-back or in the case of the Lakers 3 in a row Im sorry but you have to give them the edge no matter what IMO.”

    You can debate about it across different time periods. Take the Cavs/Lakers example… Perhaps the league is better now than when the Lakers won. Perhaps no other team at that time was better, but they wouldn’t make the conference finals today… Not saying that it’s true, I really have no idea.

    “I think the problem with the whole bad matchup thing is you are talking about a best of 7 series.”

    I think that’s the point of Mike’s analogy: no matter how many times he plays Alex he loses. But like he says, it’s about how you define best team.

    I’m not taking a stance in any direction here. I just think there are considerations you have to make. Certainly it’s hard to argue that the Bulls just got lucky 6 out of 8 seasons. And you can’t re-write history.
    Other considerations include refs and conspiracy theories that everything is rigged anyway…

  24. I totally agree about the whole time periods debate, BUT the Lakers we are talkin about are the Shaq/Kobe Lakers, not George Mikan’s or Jerry West’s Lakers.

  25. “Other considerations include refs and conspiracy theories that everything is rigged anyway…”

    Yes, good point. “Rigged reffing” can have a much more substantial impact on a 7 game series than a hot goalie or in the zone starting pitcher. And the NBA has certainly had its issues…

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