CANTON, Ohio- It’s time to preview the Eastern conference. This conference went from bad to worse over this past Summer.
ATLANTA HAWKS- Let me first say this. Atlanta is lucky to be in the East. That’s the only reason I give them a chance, is because they play in the East. They do have some talent with Dennis Schroder, Ersan Ilyasova, Dewayne Dedmon and Kent Bazemore. The Hawks want to push the ball more this season. So, they’ve got a chance, but nothing higher than a 6th seed.
BOSTON CELTICS- Call me stupid, but I don’t see how the media still expects the Celtics to be a contender this year. There’s the obvious trade that brought them Kyrie Irving from Cleveland and signing Gordon Hayward. Both are really good players. But I’m not an Al Horford fan, I think he’s overrated and this Boston team will no longer be a defensive, gritty type team. If the Celtics don’t out-score their opponent, they won’t win. I look up and down their roster and I just don’t see what all the hype is about. Do they really think Kyrie Irving is going to make that big of a difference? I hope they realize they lost their best player, when they traded away Avery Bradley. Detroit will benefit a lot from that. Also gone is Jae Crowder and Isaiah Thomas. Again, another team that’s lucky to be in the East. They’ll make the playoffs, but Boston won’t be the #1 seed again.
BROOKLYN NETS- If you’re a Cavs fan, you want the Nets to lose every game. Why? Because Cleveland now owns the Nets unprotected first-round pick. I don’t see Brooklyn making the playoffs. I do like D’Angelo Russell and Allen Crabbe. Other than that, not much there. I think, if Cleveland keeps the pick, it’ll be a top five pick.
CHARLOTTE HORNETS- The Hornets have a chance to actually do something this year. They have a very exciting young player in Kemba Walker, along with Frank Kaminsky and yes, if he can stay on the floor, Dwight Howard. I don’t view Howard as a great center, but he can cause problems in the paint. I think the Hornets are good enough to fight for a 6th seed or a bit higher. Again, this East is very weak.
CHICAGO BULLS- No playoffs. There, got that out of the way. Lottery team. The Bulls have some young talent with Denzel Valentine, Nikola Mirotic, Zach LaVine, Justin Holiday and Kris Dunn, but they’ll have more bad nights then good nights.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS– All they need is time to gel. This Cavalier team is loaded. Once Cleveland becomes fully healthy, they’ll probably run away with the #1 seed. They’ll have to do some experimenting with the lineups and figure out who should start and who’s best suited to come off the bench. I’m really looking forward to see if Derrick Rose can stay healthy. If he can, he seems to have his burst somewhat back. Also, I loved the addition of Jeff Green, Jae Crowder. Plus, how many highlight plays will we see from James and Wade this year? Bottom line for Cleveland, do they have enough to compete with Golden State now? My answer right now, is no. But, a lot can happen to both teams in an 82-game season.
DETROIT PISTONS- The Pistons picked up a nice piece with Avery Bradley. Great two-way player. I still like Andre Drummond at the center position. Reggie Jackson will benefit from Bradley in the backcourt with him. The Detroit Pistons aren’t loaded by any means, but in this conference, I think they’ll make a run at one of the bottom seeds.
INDIANA PACERS- I’m pretty confident in calling the Pacers a lottery team. Not much talent to speak of here. Myles Turner, Thaddues Young and Victor Oladipo.
MIAMI HEAT- Yes, the Miami Heat will make the playoffs. Again, this conference is weak. But, I don’t want to sound like they will only make the playoffs because of that. The Heat do have some talent. Goran Dragic, James Johnson, Josh Richardson, Hassan Whiteside and Justise Winslow. I also think Dion Waiters might have finally found a home in Miami. It wouldn’t shock me if Miami manages to reach the 6th seed in the East.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS- Look out everyone. And yes, I’m being serious. The Bucks might be one of the top three teams in the East. I feel Milwaukee actually might be the second-best team in the East. Giannis Antetokounmpo is an All-Star that I feel will become a super star in this league. The bucks also have other talent in John Henson, Khris middleton, Jabari Parker, Tony Snell and Malcolm Brogdon. No team, West or East, should take Milwaukee lightly this year.
NEW YORK KNICKS- The Knicks finally got rid of their biggest problem. Carmelo Anthony. Took them long enough! New York can finally start to rebuild and build around their best player Kristaps Porzingis. He’s a great player and now, he’ll finally get his chance to grow as a player with Anthony gone. You may think I’m crazy, but since “Melo” is gone, I think you’ll see an improved Knicks team. Playoffs, I’m not too sure about that, but the Knicks will finally be able to pass the ball more and as a result, the other players will finally feel involved. I don’t expect them to make the playoffs, but I also wouldn’t be shocked if they did. Just because of the East being so weak.
ORLANDO MAGIC- Lottery team. Other than Aaron Gordon, I see really nothing on their roster.
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS- The 76ers just signed Joel Embiid to a five-year, $146.5 million contract extension. Think they want to keep him around? Embiid is a great player, with only room to get better, which is scary. I think if they can get another All-Star type season from Embiid, good production out of Ben Simmons, Nik Stauakas, Jahlil Okafor and JJ Redick, Philadelphia has a chance at making a run for the playoffs. And don’t rule out a trade to add a solid veteran to help the 76ers try to reach the playoffs if they feel they can’t with the current cast.
TORONTO RAPTORS- I’d like to thank Paul Pierce for stealing my thunder on TV the other night. He called the Raptors a treadmill team. In other words, it doesn’t matter how hard you pedal, you stay in the same spot. Sure, they have Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, but they have yet to add that third scoring option that has haunted them for quite a few years. They might have answered that with the signing of CJ Miles. They were hoping that’s what they were getting with Serge Ibaka, but not so much. Yes, the Raptors are still a playoff team, but can they grab a top 3 or 4 seed? I’m not sure.
WASHINGTON WIZARDS- Possibly the second-best team in the East. The Wizards have one of the best backcourts in the NBA with John Wall and Bradley Beal. Marcin Gortat isn’t a bad center and Otto Porter needs to have a good year. Washington gave Cleveland a lot of problems last year. If Boston didn’t knock out the Wizards, I’m sure the Eastern conference finals would have gone at least 6.
With the East being so weak, here are the teams that I give no chance at making the playoffs. Chicago, Brooklyn, Indiana and Orlando. All the other teams have a chance just because of how badly this conference is. Cleveland will get the #1 seed. After that, Washington and Milwaukee will be fighting for that second seed in my opinion. After that, I don’t know.
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