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Eastern Conference Power Rankings: A look at the Pacers, Cavaliers, and Knicks

I linked to Tom Haberstroh's Eastern Conference power rankings yesterday. Today, I give you my own.

Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

I got to thinking yesterday while typing up Tom Haberstroh's Eastern Conference power rankings that I should just do my own. And then the more I thought about it, I figured this could become a semi-regular thing especially once the season comes around. I would be happy to hear suggestions on how I should format it, but my feeling is that I will do it in a way similar to how Jonah Keri does his "The 30" rankings; each time I do the rankings I will pick probably three teams to look at with a bit of depth. So without further ado, this is how I see the East shaping up right now. It doesn't mean I think this is how the teams will finish, just where I think they are currently. Each team's record from last season is next to their name.

1. Miami HEAT, 66-16

2. Indiana Pacers, 49-32 -

I have loved just about everything that Indiana has done this offseason. A team that came thisclose to knocking off the HEAT significantly improved its bench. If Danny Granger can come back and be 80% of the player he was before, which is understandably a big if, the Pacers can make a pretty big jump. At the very least, he could provide some much needed scoring off the bench. Hopefully Paul George can continue to improve, and the Pacers need the Roy Hibbert of the 2nd half of the season and playoffs to stick around. But the additions to their roster make me feel much better about them both as a regular season team, and for the playoffs.

C.J. Watson is a significant upgrade over D.J. Augustin who will be able to hit 3's, something Indiana desperately lacked last season. Luis Scola is a shadow of what he once was, but still figures to provide more than Tyler Hansbrough could. Chris Copeland also helps the shooting deficiencies, coming over from New York where he was a fan favorite. A team with no bench could now have Watson, Granger, Copeland, Ian Mahinmi, and Scola available. No more Sam Young in crucial situations, probably. And let's not forget- Indiana wrapped up Donald Sloan on a multi-year deal as well. Look out. In all seriousness, the Pacers look like a team well-positioned to give Miami everything they can handle, and maybe a little bit more.

3. Chicago Bulls, 45-37

4. Brooklyn Nets, 49-33

5. Cleveland Cavaliers, 24-58

6. New York Knicks, 54-28

So this is the one that I think people will have some pretty serious questions about. I am sort of assuming that Andrew Bynum, Anderson Varejao, and Kyrie Irving all play 60 games or so. Even if one of those guys goes down, though, the Cavaliers would appear to be well positioned to deal with such a blow. With Jarrett Jack, Earl Clark, and Anthony Bennett also coming into the fold, Cleveland could be looking at having some serious depth. Still, this ranking is as much about Cleveland as it is that I wanted to find some way to make it clear just how disappointing New York's offseason was.

A few things about the Knicks: Amare Stoudamire figures to be a major distraction. With the money he makes, and the reputation that goes with his name, he should be getting serious minutes if he is healthy. Small problem: his basketball ability doesn't justify it. As he gets older, it simply isn't going to get any better. And what will they get out of Tyson Chandler this season? The 30 year old center had a bit of a down year. Was it a sign that his career may start to decline, or just nagging injuries bothering him throughout the year? No way to know. NOTE: Sam makes a good point. Cavaliers could have Andrew Bynum as a distraction as well, healthy or not. Major difference I see is that if Bynum is healthy, you live with the distraction because on the whole he helps. If Amare is healthy, the value added is small.

But here is what I do know: The Knicks were significantly better offensively last season with Jason Kidd around, and he now coaches the cross-town rivals. The Knicks are significantly better when Carmelo Anthony plays power forward, and with new addition Andrea Bargnani in town, his minutes at the four position are likely to go down, and his minutes at the 3 position are likely to go up. And Bargnani isn't very good. The Knicks still have Raymond Felton to play with Anthony and Chandler which is a pretty solid trio, but what if Felton regresses after having an excellent season last year? The Knicks utilized a two point guard system last season, and got great results. Will Felton struggle without Kidd to help keep ball moving? Felton, J.R. Smith and Anthony all had seasons that were a little better than what they have done throughout their career. I am not sure I am totally willing to trust them performing that highly again this season.

Still, a drop from the 2 seed in the East to the 6th is probably too dramatic. But isn't it possible Knicks could go from 54 wins to, say, 44? This is looking like it will be my outside the box prediction for 2013-14. I am not entirely confident the Cavs will be team that jumps into the top 5 of the East, but I think someone will.

7. Atlanta Hawks, 44-38

8. Washington Wizards, 29-53

9. Toronto Raptors, 34-48

10. Detroit Pistons, 29-53

11. Milwaukee Bucks, 38-44

12. Boston Celtics, 41-40

13. Charlotte Bobcats, 21-61

14. Orlando Magic, 20-62

15. Philadelphia 76ers, 34-48