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2007, November 29: ESPN.com Daily Dime – Pondering How The East Will Finish

June 24, 2008

November 29, 2007 — The calendar says we’re almost to December, but
let’s take a look ahead to the last regular-season games of April 16
and just how the Eastern Conference playoff seeds might play out then.

One story worth watching is how the Nets develop. We talk about all the
great teams with a Big 3, but if Nenad Krstic can come back to his
form, he, along with Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson and Jason Kidd,
could give the Nets a Big 4.

But the 7-footer’s left knee troubles have kept him out of the past
three games. So, his health makes them a wild card here. But if
everyone’s healthy and playing at a high level, they’re as good as any
of the teams in the East. It never hurts when you have the best point
guard in the conference — Kidd.

Here’s how I see it coming. And yes, that should be a good 1-8 matchup to watch ?

1. Boston Celtics (11-2) — So many intangibles that Kevin Garnett
brings. And tangibles, too, when you talk about the matchup problems he
creates. The Big 3 will find a way to the best record.

2. Detroit Pistons (9-5) — Just like the old Timex commercial, they
keep on ticking. Along with the Phoenix Suns, the best starting five in
the game today. On Wednesday, they showed they can handle the Cavaliers
(minus LeBron James). The two teams don’t meet again until March 19.

3. Orlando Magic (14-3) — There’s a lot to like here. I like how the
young team is shaking up the Southeast Division, which has been
dominated by the Heat the past few years.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers (9-7) — Don’t underestimate the fact they’re
the defending champs. Before his injury Wednesday, James was putting up
those 31-8-8 numbers, the kind of figures that make Oscar Robertson
proud.

5. New Jersey Nets (7-8) — Of note: Kidd got his fourth triple-double
of the season and 91st of his career Tuesday. Could be a scary playoff
team.

6. Toronto Raptors (8-7) — Chris Bosh, who left Wednesday’s win over
the Memphis Grizzlies with a strained groin, is the fifth-best power
forward in the game (after Tim Duncan, Garnett, Carlos Boozer and Dirk
Nowitzki). His health is key. So is that of T.J. Ford, who has a great
ability to force the tempo but has to stay healthy.

7. Milwaukee Bucks (7-6) — After watching the playoffs from the
sideline last year, the most prolific shooter in the game, Michael
Redd, returns to the postseason. He’s shown he can score from all kinds
of angles, off picks and from the 3-point line. Mo Williams has emerged
at the point, and Yi Jianlian has shown something right away.

8. Miami Heat (4-10) — Last but not least! No playoffs in the East
would be complete without Pat Riley, Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade.

That leaves out the Chicago Bulls. The team has had slow starts in
recent years. But the Kobe Bryant trade talks, Luol Deng and Ben Gordon
contract extensions, and Kirk Hinrich playing like a shell of his
former self so far should keep them out of the playoff picture.

ESPN analyst Jalen Rose averaged 14.6 points per game in 59 career NBA
playoff games. For more about Jalen, visit his Web site: JalenRose.com.

By Jalen Rose – ESPN.com (Archive)