With NBA training camps having begun this week, I thought it would be a good time to provide my power rankings for the Eastern Conference:
1) Detroit Pistons - The key pieces from a 53-win team, plus the addition of some promising rookies lead me to put Detroit on top of the East.
2) Chicago Bulls - Seven of the Bulls top eight from last season return, plus two new big men - Joakim Noah and Joe Smith.
3) Boston Celtics - The Hall of Fame trio will certainly contend for the conference championship. Injuries and the development of their young players will be the determining factor here.
4) Cleveland Cavaliers - With Ilgauskas and Marshall a year older, the development of Cedric Simmons, Shannon Brown, and Daniel Gibson will be vital.
5) New Jersey Nets - I don't buy Jamaal Magliore being the missing piece to the Nets' puzzle. I would expect the Nets to play more consistently throughout the season, but never truely contend for the title.
6) Miami Heat - Too many injuries to key players and a lack of talented youth has the Heat as a fringe playoff team.
7) Washington Wizards - The Wizards certainly have a talented roster this season, but likely are a talented center short of moving up the power ranking.
8) Orlando Magic - Adding Rashard Lewis is worth at minimum five wins to their regular season total. The Magic are still short on talent around Dwight Howard and Lewis to make a serious run in the East.
9) Toronto Raptors - With a majority of the Eastern Conference teams improving this offseason, the Raptors only made minor tweaks to their roster. The development of Andrea Bargnani and T.J. Ford will determine the success of this team.
10) New York Knicks - Zach Randolph was a strong addition to the Knicks roster, but they will have all types of trouble playing defense this year.
11) Atlanta Hawks - The Hawks have a young roster with loads of potential. Finding a reliable point guard to lead them will be vital in their success.
12) Charlotte Bobcats - I like Charlotte's starting five now, but they lack depth at every position. If they can keep their core together for years to come, they will be a contender soon.
13) Milwaukee Bucks - The Bucks had an active offseason, but still have plenty of question marks. What will Yi Jianlian bring them? Can Charlie Villanueva stay healthy? Do they need more of a true point guard?
14) Indiana Pacers - The Pacers may see themselves trading Jermaine O'Neal and Jamaal Tinsley by midseason and starting over around Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy Jr.
15) Philadelphia 76ers - The 76ers have some nice pieces in Andre Iguodala, Jason Smith, Rodney Carney and Thaddeus Young, but they lack a consistent veteran post scorer.