- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Boston Celtics

Last season: 66-16, first in East, NBA champions

At a glance: F Kevin Garnett, F Paul Pierce and G Ray Allen delivered the Celtics from the dregs of the league to the franchise’s 17th title last season. All three return for a repeat quest.

Wild card: F Leon Powe was extremely effective in limited action and appears ready to shoulder a heavier load off the bench, especially now that James Posey and P.J. Brown are gone.

Prediction: Eastern Conference champs

Detroit Pistons

Last season: 59-23, second in East

At a glance: G Richard Hamilton, G Chauncey Billups, F Tayshaun Prince and F/C Rasheed Wallace give the Pistons a dynamic quartet of selfless players, each capable of taking over games. But Billups is 32 and Wallace 34.

Wild card: F Jason Maxiell. With Antonio McDyess on the decline, Maxiell eventually could replace him in the starting lineup. He has progressed significantly each year, and with no post player averaging more than 32 minutes last season, he will get the chance to contribute even more.

Prediction: Second in East

Philadelphia 76ers

Last year: 40-42, seventh in the East

At a glance: Led by athletic Andre Iguodala and underrated Andre Miller, the 76ers made a strong second-half push to reach the playoffs and put up a fight against the Pistons. They are strong in transition but weak in shooting; the Sixers ranked last in the league in 3-pointers.

Wild card: F Elton Brand missed the first 74 games of last season with a torn Achilles but came back to average 17.6 points and 8.0 rebounds in eight games for the Clippers before signing a six-year, $80 million deal in July with Philadelphia. If he can stay healthy, he gives a young, talented team a legit low-post threat and chance to contend in the East.

Prediction: Third in East

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