After years of dominating the East, LeBron James took his talents to South Cali about this time last year. Ever since, the East no longer has one team looking down on the rest, but multiple teams battling it out in hopes of taking that Eastern Conference Crown. Last season, Toronto won the East (and eventually the NBA Championship), but with Kawhi Leonard headed towards LA, the East is ready to welcome a new Conference Champion. Teams like Brooklyn, Indiana, Philadelphia, Boston, Milwaukee, and Miami all could win the Eastern Conference Prize.
8.) Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons were a playoff team last year, barley sliding in with the 8th seed. This offseason they have made several moves such as signing Derrick Rose and Markieff Morris, both of whom add some much needed depth and leadership to this roster. If Andre Drummond can keep making improvements, and Blake Griffin can continue to play at an All-Star level, then this team could be a playoff team and potentially upset their first round opponent.
7.) Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics lost multiple key pieces this offseason with Al Horford, Kyrie Irving, and Terry Rozier all finding new homes in free agency. On the opposite spectrum, they did bring in Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter. They did bring in Enes Kanter and Kemba Walker, as well as draft some high potential guys like Carsen Edwards and Romeo Langford. Overall they’re not as good as they were last season, but this team does have a bright future with this young core.
This team wasn’t making it out of the East, so Danny Ainge opted to revamp the team with young talent instead of making another immediate playoff run. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are improving more and more each year, and guys like Romeo Langford and Carsen Edwards could become stars one day. Edwards will be able to develop underneath Kemba Walker, which is exciting for Boston, and Romeo Langford showed flashes of greatness in college. They won’t be an immediate threat in the East, but things are looking up for Boston fans.
6.) Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors lost Kawhi Leonard to the Los Angeles Clippers just a few days ago. This Raptors team is still a very well rounded team with pieces such as Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, and Fred Vanvleet. This team is incredibly underrated, even without Kawhi. They have playoff experience, and an underdog mentality, which could result in a playoff run.
Pascal Siakam is bound to be a star in this league and has an opportunity to prove himself this year once again. He’s the best player on this team now, and with Kawhi gone, he’ll have even more opportunity to show his potential.
5.) Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets arguably had the best free agency this year, signing both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. They were the 6th seed In the east last season, so acquiring players such as DeAndre Jordan, Taurean Prince, and Wilson Chandler could help them go even further.
Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, and Rodions Kurucs have all showed flashes of greatness, and adding Kyrie Irving to this already impressive roster could result in Brooklyn surprising people this season. They’ll have to wait for the 2020-2021 season to make their big finals run, but they could accrue valuable playoff experience this season, which will making Kevin Durant’s inclusion on this team much smoother.
4.) Miami Heat
Obviously, putting Miami this high comes with the assumption that Russell Westbrook will be a member of this team next season, but with how fast things have been moving, it’s more likely than you’d think. Jimmy Butler and Russell Westbrook would be a deadly duo and could give any team a run for their money. If the Heat miss out on Westbrook, they could fall to the 7 or 8 seed, or potentially miss the playoffs entirely. Whether or not Russell Westbrook is a member of this team is yet to be determined, but the addition of Jimmy Butler is definitely a step in the right direction for Miami.
3.) Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers were a great team last year up until Victor Oladipo’s injury. This season he will be back and healthy by January, they’re a much better team than they were last season. They signed Malcom Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb, both of which were tremendous signings. They’ll most likely be the starters in the backcourt (until Oladipo comes back obviously), and they could be a tremendous duo. Brogdon is efficient and consistent, while Lamb is a hot and cold kind of player. Lamb scored 20+ 18 times last season, and with how good of a playmaker Brogdon has been, that number will likely rise.
While some of these signings might not seem like a huge deal, they still have Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis, and Victor Oladipo. This team does not have overwhelming star power, but they have a cast of capable players, all of whom will contribute to this teams success. They have offense, defense, and talent off the bench. If Oladipo comes back strong, there’s no reason Indiana can’t make a deep playoff run next season.
2. Milwaulkee Bucks
The Bucks are one of the best teams in the NBA. They have an MVP in Giannis and another all-star in Khris Middleton. They would be the obvious #1 seed if it wasn’t for the losses of Malcom Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic. Those were important rotation pieces, so losing them will be rough. This Bucks team is still very good and despite their losses, you can’t count out a team lead by the Great Freak.
1. Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers made big moves this free agency. Yes, they lost Jimmy Butler. Everyone expected that. They resigned Tobias Harris as well as sining Al Horford. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will be able to make improvements to their games this offseason, which could hopefully let them make the jump to the next level as individuals. Al Horford can now run the 4, and the 76ers can move Harris to Small Forward. The newly acquired Josh Richardson can fill in at the shooting guard as well. This Philadelphia team is something special, with one of the most well rounded starting lineups in the NBA, they’ll be the favorites to win the East next season, and could become NBA champions next season.