NBA contenders preview: Eastern Conference

This is part one in a two part series previewing conference contenders for the 2014-2015 NBA season. Part one takes a look at the Eastern…
NBA contenders preview: Eastern Conference

This is part one in a two part series previewing conference contenders for the 2014-2015 NBA season. Part one takes a look at the Eastern Conference.

It’s a new year and that means another NBA season is upon us. Teams have completed training camps and are about to wrap up their preseason schedules. With the regular season starting in less than a week, we have a better picture on how the season will shape up.

Over the last few months it’s been said that the balance of power in the National Basketball Association has shifted to the east. The reason for this belief is based what transpired in free agency, a strong draft class, and roster adjustments.

The NBA’s Eastern Conference will turn heads and grab the world’s attention this season. And here are the teams who will make that happen…..

SEE ALSO: The top five NBA teams heading into the 2014-2015 season

1. Miami Heat-

Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat drives on James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets during a preseason game at American Airlines Arena on October 21, 2014 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

You can never count out the reigning and defending conference champions. The Heat may not have LeBron James anymore, but they still have Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem. Rounding out that starting five will be former Chicago Bull and Cleveland Cavalier Luol Deng.

Deng may not be as fast and athletic as Lebron, but he’s a better defender, and he’ll be a change of pace to better compliment Wade and Bosh. The Heat also has a solid bench with guys like Chris Andersen, Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts. Things are still “White Hot” in South Florida.

2. Chicago Bulls-

The new-look Bulls looks to be a contender in the Eastern Conference.

Pau Gasol #16 of the Chicago Bulls attempts to gain position in the paint against Anderson Varejao #17 of the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on October 20, 2014 in Columbus, Ohio. Cleveland defeated Chicago 107-98. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

The second comeback of Derrick Rose has been well documented. But what isn’t talked as much is the depth and additional talent that head coach Tom Thibodeau will have at his disposal this time around. Yes the Bulls did fail in their bid to land Carmello Anthony, but they did manage to get touted big man Pau Gasol.

They also got highly regarded rookies in forwards Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic. From there you add the mix of veterans such as Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy, Jimmy Butler, and Kirk Hinrich (among other players), which combine their offensive talent with coach Thibodeau’s defensive wisdom.

The Bulls are primed to make a run at their first championship since 1998.

SEE ALSO: The top 5 Hispanic players to watch for during the 2014/15 NBA season

3. Cleveland Cavaliers-

The new Cleveland Cavaliers look like contenders in the east.

Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives around the defense of Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls in the second half at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on October 20, 2014 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Cleveland arguably now possesses the league’s “big three.” LeBron James came home to partner with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to bring the Cavs back to the postseason. And with the assistance of solid role players –Anderson Varejao, Shawn Marion, and Mike Miller just to name a few- the Cavs will make first-year head coach David Blatt look like a genius.

4. Washington Wizards-

The Washington Wizards may be a surprise in the Eastern Conference.

John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards controls the ball against Shane Larkin #0 of the New York Knicks in a preseason game at Madison Square Garden on October 22, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

The Wizards finally arrived after their historic playoff run last season. Now they look to take their game to the next level. Adding Paul Pierce could get them to that next level. Even though Pierce is in the latter stages of his career (he just turned 37), he’s still an effective wing player.

He’s still a high-percentage shooter, he’s still one of the better perimeter defenders in the game, and he’s a proven winner and leader. Of course he won’t do it by himself as has a nice supporting cast. He’s part of a solid front court that includes skilled power forward Nene, and imposing center Marcin Gortat. Throw in superstar point guard John Wall, and a few contributors off the bench (Drew Gooden, DeJuan Blair, Andre Miller etc.), and the Wizards could make another dent in the east.

5. Charlotte Hornets-

The Charlotte Hornets may do some damage in the Eastern Conference.

Noah Vonleh #11 of the Charlotte Hornets poses for a portrait during the 2014 NBA rookie photo shoot at MSG Training Center on August 3, 2014 in Tarrytown, New York. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Last year’s playoff appearance was no fluke despite getting swept in the first round. This team fought, scratched, and clawed their way into the postseason. Now that they are a year older, and a year wiser, the Hornets now know what they need to do.

Center Al Jefferson is the engine that makes this franchise go. Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will provide Jefferson with support. But the wild card in all of this is former Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson.

He’ll be a good compliment to everyone else on the floor.

The Larry O’Brien Trophy could very well return to the Eastern Conference in 2015.