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NBA: Top 5 Teams in Eastern Conference

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NBA: Top 5 Teams in Eastern Conference

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James and the Miami Heat have just won their second NBA championship in a row. We are all asking ourselves, can they three-peat? What if the Heat aren’t even the best team in the East anymore?

In the Eastern Conference, power is shifting due to Josh Smith going to the Detroit Pistons, Andrea Bargnani going to the New York Knicks and, of course, the retooled Brooklyn Nets. With Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett joining the Nets, the East now becomes somewhat top-heavy.

Unfortunately for the Heat, almost every team in the East got a lot better over the summer. Whether it be through trades and free agents or player development. Expect to see tough division battles every night.

While many Eastern Conference teams got better, a couple of them took a few big steps back. The Philadelphia 76ers traded away Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel, who is projected to be the best overall prospect in the 2013 NBA Draft, but fell due to his injury he suffered while playing for Kentucky. The 76ers are optimistic that Noel returns to the court sometime in December or early January. Unfortunately, during an interview Noel, said he didn’t even know if he was going to play at all this season.

The other team expected to take a big step back are the Boston Celtics. Trading away two of your best players will do that to a team hoping to rebuild. All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo will be the new face of a youth-driven Celtics team along with new head coach Brad Stevens.

In 2013, things look very bright for most teams in the East. Even though LeBron James and the Heat are still defending champions, their weakness was on display for the entire NBA.

Multiple teams are on the rise, but here are the five best teams in the Eastern Conference in 2013.

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#5 Cleveland Cavaliers

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

A big surprise here as the Cleveland Cavaliers make the leap into the fifth spot from the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Looking at their roster and you see a lot of talent. If Andrew Bynum and Kyrie Irving can stay healthy, the Cavaliers can make a lot of noise. With Mike Brown back as head coach, expect to see Bynum posted up quite a bit. I believe that Bynum will further Irving's game greatly. Anderson Varejao coming off the bench or even starting at power forward will give the Cavaliers something they haven’t had in years. A legit post presence can separate them from many teams in the East. Don’t forget, a healthy Bynum was the second best center in the NBA behind Dwight Howard. If Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett can play well, then the Cavaliers could turn out to be a dark horse in the NBA playoffs.

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#4 Brooklyn Nets

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Rejoice Brooklyn Nets fans for this year might be the closest you will come to a championship since the early 2000’s. With the addition of Garnett and Pierce, the Nets lineup looks solid. Jason Kidd provides a great deal of value to the team as well, as the new head coach. Not only does he know everything about basketball, but he knows the players his team will be facing due to the fact that he played only a year ago before retiring. With Garnett in the fold, the Nets culture will change. He will provide the leadership that the Nets desperately need. I believe that Brook Lopez will benefit the most. Playing alongside Garnett and Pierce will do him wonders. Garnett’s’ ability to pass and rebound will allow Lopez to man the paint and dominate offensively. Expect to see Deron Williams have a big year as well. With Pierce's ability to handle the ball, Williams will be able to roam and conserve energy. If the Nets can play to their strengths, don’t be surprised if they make a deep playoff run.

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#3 Indiana Pacers

Michael Hickey-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers are for real. They took the Miami Heat to seven games and almost won. With Paul George and Roy Hibbert on the rise, expect the Pacers to be a force in the East for years to come. With Danny Granger coming back and the additions of Chris Copeland and C.J. Watson, the Pacers are healthy and eager to win a championship. The two teams in front of them are still considerably better, but the Pacers grit and toughness can wear down any team. The Pacers have what it takes to make it far in the playoffs but they need some of their role players to step up even more. Lance Stephenson and George Hill must take a step forward if the Pacers are to become title favorites. As of right now, the Pacers are sitting comfortably in the third spot.

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#2 Miami Heat

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Huge surprise here as the Miami Heat come in at No. 2. We all know how great LeBron James is, but you have to look at their entire team. Dwayne Wade is on the decline, and outside of Chris Bosh, there are only role players. Ray Allen can shoot, but like Wade, his game is coming to an end. The Heat can’t guard any bigs well and in the NBA Finals, most teams have a good big. If the Heat are to reclaim their spot on top they must win again. They are second on this list because they are much older and they don’t have the depth to compete in a grind-it-out series anymore. Wades’ decline severely hurts the Heat, and I don’t think the Heat will recover. With the Pacers on the rise and Derrick Rose is back in action, the future is grim for Miami unless they retool. Until then, the defending champs are second on this list and who knows if LeBron even stays after this next year.

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#1 Chicago Bulls

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

With Derrick Rose back, the Chicago Bulls are the team to beat. You can argue that since the Heat won it all, they should be No. 1. When healthy, the Bulls are too strong defensively and offensively. The things that separate the Heat and the Bulls are that the Bulls are young and getting better. The Heat, in fact, are the opposite. Outside of James, the Heat don’t have enough to win another championship. With Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler healthy, the Heat can’t match up. You throw in Carlos Boozer and you have a lineup built to withstand anything LeBron can throw at them. When Rose said he was the best player in the NBA, everyone said that every NBA player thinks that way. I believe that the best is yet to come. Not only will Rose be healthy, but he will be better than ever. Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls will dethrone the king and will bring back the glory days of Chicago basketball.