Predicted finish: 1. New York; 2. Brooklyn; 3. Toronto; 4. Boston; 5. Philadelphia.
Best player: Carmelo Anthony, Knicks
Big question: Can the high-priced Nets stay healthy?
At a glance: Brooklyn’s expectations match its $104 million payroll. The Nets have an All-Star cast, but the five starters have 58 NBA seasons behind them and the two youngest — Deron Williams and Brook Lopez — have been the most injury-prone. Throw in a rookie coach (Jason Kidd) and the Nets might have difficulty stealing the division away from the neighboring Knicks, whose addition of Andrea Bargnani just might jump-start the ex-No. 1 draft pick’s career.
Predicted finish: 1. Chicago; 2. Indiana; 3. Cleveland; 4. Detroit; 5. Milwaukee.
Best player: Derrick Rose, Bulls
Big question: Will Rose’s knee hold up after surgery?
At a glance: In the top-heavy East, it looks like another two-team race, this one between the Bulls and Pacers. Chicago won 45 games and a playoff series without Derrick Rose. If he stays healthy, the Bulls will likely be a top-three team in the conference. Indiana won’t leave Chicago with much wiggle room, however, after taking Miami to seven games in the East finals last summer. The Pacers have improved their depth, especially if Danny Granger is close to 100 percent.
Predicted finish: 1. Miami; 2. Washington; 3. Atlanta; 4. Orlando; 5. Charlotte
Best player: LeBron James, Heat
Big question: Will Miami clinch the division by Christmas?
At a glance: Death, taxes and the Heat winning what has become a perennially weak division. They are all inevitable and will continue to be as long as LeBron James stays in Miami. He is the game’s best all-around player. With an assist from aging sidekick Dwyane Wade, the Heat are once again head-and-shoulders above the competition in the Southeast. Washington, led by its dynamic young backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, could be best of the rest.
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