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State of the NBA's shifting Eastern Conference
The NBA's Eastern Conference looks a whole lot different now than it did when the regular season ended in April.
With all the changes that are signed, agreed to or oncoming, the East is no longer a two-horse race between the Heat and Pacers. Without going into a full-on, completely premature season preview, here's a look at where the Knicks, Nets and the rest of the teams fit in the conference.
Bulls: Assuming Derrick Rose truly is healthy and still D-Rose, this is the team to beat as things stand after adding Pau Gasol and likely ditching Carlos Boozer.
Cavaliers: LeBron James makes them instant contenders no matter what else they do, but they'd still be a year away from "favorite" status. A Kevin Love trade moves them to the top in a hurry.
Pacers: They need Lance Stephenson -- if not his nonsense -- to come back. Otherwise, Paul George and company risk slipping to the next tier and nearly closing their title window.
Raptors: If Canada is ever to host an NBA Finals game, this is the time to strike with the same successful 2013-14 core intact.
Wizards: Paul Pierce replacing Trevor Ariza (Rockets) will net John Wall and Bradley Beal more touches. Keeping Marcin Gortat was their best move.
Hawks: Atlanta looks largely like it did a year ago: a borderline playoff team. At least Al Horford should be healthy now.
Heat: Chris Bosh-centered teams have found modest success with less than fragile Dwyane Wade and, now, Luol Deng.
Hornets: They couldn't pry Gordon Hayward from the Jazz, but Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker still are a solid duo. Plus, they're not the Bobcats anymore, which is a win.
Knicks: With Carmelo Anthony now here for the long-term, they remain roughly the same as last year in terms of roster quality; Jose Calderon for Raymond Felton is good, but Samuel Dalembert for Tyson Chandler isn't. They underachieved last season and missed the playoffs. They'll probably make it this time.
Nets: Keeping Brook Lopez healthy is critical, and Kevin Garnett playing one more year would help. Otherwise, the losses of Pierce and Shaun Livingston won't keep them out of the postseason, even if they're weaker now. They've still got Deron Williams and Joe Johnson to keep them relevant.
Pistons: Maybe Andre Drummond takes an All-Star leap and they improve. Maybe they miss the playoff party again.
When's the draft?
76ers: No, seriously, when? That's all Philly cares about next season.
Bucks: Jason Kidd asked for Milwaukee and got it. They're a few years away.
Celtics: Rajon Rondo isn't long for Boston. It's safe to write this team off for another year.
Magic: The youth movement should pay off soon, but not in 2014-15.