Jerry Zgoda's Eastern Conference preview

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 25, 2011 - 12:28 AM

Heat star LeBron James fell short of his first NBA title.

Photo: Mark Humphrey, Associated Press - Ap

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1 MIAMI Says something about the possibilities that Heat reached the finals and still disappointed.

2 CHICAGO Bulls badly needed a shooting guard, so is Rip Hamilton not the perfect fit? Not with the Heat around.

3 NEW YORK Amare and Melo get the pub, but Tyson Chandler's signing will get Knicks in the chase. And can Baron Davis get healthy?

4 ORLANDO Move the Magic down and out of playoffs if Dwight Howard is dealt sooner than later, or if DH12 plays like he wants to be elsewhere.

5 BOSTON Most of 'em have been through a lockout before, which means at that age somebody important is due for injuries in season like this.

6 INDIANA Pacers added George Hill and David West, but they're on the rise because of the new Tyler Hansbrough.

7 PHILADELPHIA Sixers are up-and-comers, but it'd sure help speed the process if either Jrue Holiday or Evan Turner takes a step toward stardom.

8 ATLANTA Hawks lost free agent Jamal Crawford and are saddled with Joe Johnson's and Marvin Williams' big contracts. Adding Tracy McGrady is not getting them back to the second round of the playoffs.

9 MILWAUKEE Scott Skiles will get them to play D, but Brandon Jennings needs to step up and fulfill his 2009-10 rookie-season promise.

10 WASHINGTON Wizards are young, gifted and wild. Flip Saunders will get further trying to mold point guard John Wall than he did with Steph Marbury long ago.

11 DETROIT Pistons have almost as many combo players as the Wolves, but not as talented. Bet they don't quit on Lawrence Frank like they did on John Kuester.

12 TORONTO DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis are pieces to build around, but new coach Dwane Casey isn't THAT much of a defensive wiz.

13 NEW JERSEY Nets' chance to move up by acquiring Dwight Howard takes hit now that prime trade chip Brook Lopez needs foot surgery.

14 CLEVELAND Cavaliers add top pick Kyrie Irving. They'll find success comes slowly when you don't add the right No. 1 in just the right year.

15 CHARLOTTE Kemba Walker will post big numbers. But if you're an NBA owner, you don't want to be like Mike.

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