Magic Johnson predicts new East hierarchy: Bulls, Cavaliers, Pacers lead

Lakers legend does not see a place in the top four for a LeBron James - less Miami Heat.

The return of LeBron James has punters falling over themselves to make the Cleveland Cavaliers favourite to win the East and to win it all come June.

Lakers legend Magic Johnson is more sceptical though. He projects them finishing second behind the improved Chicago Bulls, with the caveat that Derrick Rose steers clear from injuries that have plagued his short career.

The Indiana Pacers will finish third according to Magic, and the Wizards will be a 4th seed in the east, improving on their fifth place finish last season.

He explains his pick to win the east further, saying that “Gasol will make Bulls players better with his scoring and passing ability”.

He makes sense. The Bulls have always had a stellar defence under Coach Tom Thibodeau and that old adage “defence wins championships” is generally true, but you still need some offensive production. The Bulls were dead last in points per game last season, but the addition of Pau gasol can rectify this.

A leopard can’t change its spots, right? Thibodeau will still preach his emphasis on defence, but that is what makes Gasol such a vital addition to this roster. He and Joakim Noah are gifted, passing bigs, and their ability to improvise and find unexpected passing lanes will help the rest of the team score more easily.

A projected starting line-up of Derrick Rose, Mike Dunleavy Jr, Jimmy Butler, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah certainly looks like most talented and most balanced starting five in the Eastern Conference.

As for the West, it’s more straightforward. Magic predicts a status quo with the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers filling the 1, 2 and 3 spots, while the Houston Rockets and the Portland Trail Blazers fight it out for fourth place.