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updated: 10/27/2013 9:41 PM

Mike McGraw's Eastern Conference preview

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1. Bulls

Coach: Tom Thibodeau (4th season), Last year: 45-37

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Outlook: Thibodeau led the Bulls to the best record in the East twice, so why can't he do it again with a healthy Derrick Rose? Everything seems to be lining up well for the Bulls, but being healthy for the playoffs is what matters most.

2. Miami Heat

Coach: Erik Spoelstra (6th season), Last year: 66-16

Outlook: LeBron James is the best, but age could be an issue with the Heat. SG Ray Allen, who saved the Finals last year, is now 38. Chris Andersen is 35, Udonis Haslem 33 and Mike Miller went back to Memphis. The competition in the way of a third straight title should also be stronger.

3. Indiana Pacers

Coach: Frank Vogel (4th season), Last year: 49-32

Outlook: The biggest reason for the Pacers' jump was SF Paul George blossoming into a superstar. Danny Granger used to be the team's top scorer. Now that he's back from injury, will he enhance the brand or get in George's way?

4. Brooklyn Nets

Coach: Jason Kidd (1st season), Last year: 49-33

Outlook: This probably is a one-shot wonder but should be fun to watch. Remember, Bulls beat Nets in playoffs by refusing to guard two weakest scorers. Now those spots are filled by SF Paul Pierce and PF Kevin Garnett. Is PG Deron Williams up to the task of running this show?

5. New York Knicks

Coach: Mike Woodson (3rd season), Last year: 54-28

Outlook: This is more psychological experiment than basketball team. Knicks added Toronto bust Andrea Bargnani, NY native Metta World Peace to join Carmelo Anthony's shoot-a-thon. Questions: Will PG Raymond Felton have another huge year? Will Amare Stoudemire play even half the season?

6. Atlanta Hawks

Coach: Mike Budenholzer (1st season), Last year: 44-38

Outlook: Hawks have been cleaning house but still have C Al Horford and PG Jeff Teague and added PF Paul Millsap from Utah. Lack of competition keeps Atlanta in playoffs.

7. Washington Wizards

Coach: Randy Wittman (3rd season), Last year: 29-53

Outlook: Maybe this is the year when the Wizards' collection of young talent starts to blossom. PG John Wall needs to reach expectations, while C Nene staying healthy would help.

8. Detroit Pistons

Coach: Maurice Cheeks (1st season), Last year:

Outlook: This is going to be a tough mix, with PG Brandon Jennings and SF Josh Smith fighting for shots. But a tall inside tandem of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond is a nice asset.

9. Cleveland Cavaliers

Coach: Mike Brown (6th season), Last year: 24-58

Outlook: Drafting UNLV SF Anthony Bennett and signing injury-prone C Andrew Bynum were questionable calls. But, with PG Kyrie Irving playing well and most everyone else in the East looking to tank, a playoff run is possible.

10. Milwaukee Bucks

Coach: Larry Drew (1st season), Last year: 38-44

Outlook: The Bucks made the playoffs last season but haven't built much. They swapped Brandon Jennings for Detroit's low-assist PG Brandon Knight and signed free-agent SG O.J. Mayo. Shot-blocking center Larry Sanders might be Milwaukee's best player.

11. Charlotte Bobcats

Coach: Steve Clifford (1st season), Last year: 21-61

Outlook: The Bobcats spent some money this summer to pull in former Utah PF Al Jefferson. Now they need one of their many high draft picks to blossom. So far PG Kemba Walker has done the best, but C Bismack Biyombo had a good preseason.

12. Toronto Raptors

Coach: Dwane Casey (3rd season), Last year: 34-48

Outlook: Should the Raptors try to ride their forward-heavy lineup to the No. 8 playoff spot, or sustain heavy losses and hope to get some suspicious lottery luck next spring and draft Toronto native Andrew Wiggins? The latter sounds like a better option.

13. Orlando Magic

Coach: Jacque Vaughn (2nd season), Last year: 20-62

Outlook: Rookie Victor Oladipo played well in preseason, while SF Tobias Harris and C Nikola Vucevic have shown promise. So the Magic might be better but not good enough to ruin lottery chances.

14. Boston Celtics

Coach: Brad Stevens (1st season), Last year: 41-40

Outlook: Goodbye Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Hello former Butler coach Brad Stevens and a rebuilding project. Expect Rajon Rondo to take his time returning from an ACL tear.

15. Philadelphia 76ers

Coach: Brett Brown (1st season), Last year: 34-48

Outlook: Just 18 months ago, the Sixers were dancing on the scorer's table after beating the Derrick Rose-less Bulls in the playoffs. Now they're tanking like an exotic fish collector. Have fun, Evan Turner.

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