Opening tip: Atlantic Division
"The only thing I don't like about this team is its age. I actually like their Big Three better than Miami's Big Three, because they know and trust their system offensively, they could coach themselves defensively, they believe in Doc Rivers. They've seen everything and they fear nothing. They've got all the intangibles it takes to win.
"[Rajon] Rondo is their most important player, because he changes the game with his defense. No point guard's as disruptive defensively as he is. The additions of Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal are huge because not only does it make up for the injury to Kendrick Perkins, but when he gets back, it'll allow them to rest Kevin Garnett. And one thing the opposition doesn't want to see at the end of games or in the playoffs is a well-rested KG."
Best-case scenario: "59-60 wins and they win it all in six games."
Worst-case scenario: "53 wins and lose in the Finals to the Lakers in seven games. Only an injury can keep them from winning the East."
-- As told to Chris Broussard
David Thorpe selects Nate Robinson as his breakout player, noting, "Just like the playoffs this past spring and summer, we can expect Robinson to perform heroically on occasion. But for Boston to stay in touch with Orlando and Miami all season, they'll need him to be a clutch contributor far more consistently."
Tom Haberstroh selects Shaquille O'Neal in the salary spotlight writing, "Like new teammate Jermaine O'Neal, Shaq no longer carries the stigma of being an overpaid elder in this league. He'll take an $18.6 million pay cut from his last salary, transforming him into one of the league's biggest bargains overnight."
Click HERE to read the full conference preview.
Play Podcast Karl Ravech and Justin Havens put Clayton Kershaw's scoreless innings streak in perspective with Buster Olney and discuss the rash of injuries around MLB. Plus, Derrick Goold on Yadier Molina's injury and Alex Speier on the Red Sox.
Play Podcast Buster Olney and Tim Kurkjian discuss the rosters for the Home Run Derby, Jon Lester's future and more. Plus, Indians P Corey Kluber on his All-Star candidacy and Tigers P Joba Chamberlain.