The new look Toronto Raptors are dangerous
Don't sleep on Toronto.
The Eastern Conference is often referred to the Leastern Conference because the teams in the East are not as talented as in the Western Conference. The East will be much more up for grabs this season with LeBron James joining the Los Angeles Lakers. I will make a way to early prediction on the Eastern Conference seeding from first to eighth place and which teams will make the playoffs.
From last season, the only team in the East that got significantly worse and will not make the playoffs are the Cleveland Cavaliers. They lost the best player in the NBA and will be near the bottom of the East. Yes, the East is not as good as the West but they do have some good teams like the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, and Toronto Raptors.
I have the Boston Celtics finishing first in the Eastern Conference and may have the best shot to dethrone the Golden State Warriors. They were able to almost beat LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the East finals last season and were missing their top two players in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens are geniuses and have formed a fantastic team that can score and play great defense. Boston will be a very fun team to watch next season and they should breeze through the East.
The Philadelphia 76ers are another team on the rise with two superstar young players in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The 76ers finished third last season but it was the first season Embiid and Simmons played together and with a year under their belt, they should be even better. They also have talented starters in Dario Saric and Robert Covington who are good complimentary pieces. JJ Reddick and Covington can knock down threes, and Covington is very good on defense as well. Embiid is an early on favorite for defensive player of the year. The 76ers future is very bright and the East finals should come down to the Celtics and 76ers this upcoming season. I have the Sixers finishing second in the East this coming season.
The Toronto Raptors looked so promising last season, finishing first in the East and winning 59 games. Come playoff time, the Raptors of old showed up and got swept again by LeBron James and the Cavs. Another team benefitting from James leaving are the Raptors, but now the Celtics should be healthy and the 76ers have more experience and are more talented teams than the Raptors. One thing that can put the Raptors over the Celtics and 76ers is they are currently the leading candidates to acquire Kawhi Leonard. If the Raptors can keep Kyle Lowry, Demar DeRozan, and acquire Leonard, this team may be just as good as the Celtics and can finish first. As of now, I have the Raptors finishing third in the East but if they do indeed acquire Leonard, they can push for first and Leonard makes them a legit threat to make it to the NBA Finals.
The Indiana Pacers took James and the Cavs to seven games in the first round playoffs last season and at times looked like they could eliminate them. They did fall short but this team surprised everyone and will look to build on that this coming season. Victor Oladipo was fantastic last season and will improve in his second year with the team. The Pacers added Tyreke Evans, who should push to be the starting point guard for the team. Thad Young is a good defender and averaged 1.7 steals per game last season. The Pacers are not as good as the Celtics, 76ers, or even the Raptors but they should still have home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs and come in fourth in the East.
The Milwaukee Bucks are another young and talented team. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a star and if he can improve his jump shot, he could become the best player in the NBA once James is gone. Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe are two very good players but the Bucks have lost Jabari Parker to the Chicago Bulls. The Bucks are long and athletic and should be one of the better teams in the East next season. I have them finishing fifth next season but would not be surprised if they finish higher.
The Washington Wizards are similar to the Raptors, always look promising but fail in big moments and in the playoffs. They have two of the best guards in John Wall and Bradley Beal but they crumble when it matters. They have upgraded at the center position, acquiring Dwight Howard and he should be able to help them win some more games. They finished 8thlast season but Wall missed a ton of games. Otto Porter was signed to a massive contract but he does not add much to the Wizards and is not worth it. He is a decent starter, but they will need more from him to be worth what he is getting paid. I have the Wizards finishing 6thin the East and think they once again disappoint in the playoffs.
The Miami Heat have not made any splashes this off-season but are still a solid team and will make the playoffs once again in the East. Erik Spoelstra is one of the best coaches in the NBA and has the Heat always ready for games. They do not have a great superstar on their team but are filled with a bunch of good two way players. Josh Richardson will look to improve this season and take on a bigger role for the Heat. I have the Heat finishing 7thin the East with a good overall team and great coach.
Finally, the team that did not make the playoffs last season and I have replacing the Cavs. They have two good big men, which is not the way to go in the NBA nowadays. Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond should be better this season after Griffin was acquired at the trade deadline last season. Reggie Jackson should be healthy and the starting PG for the Pistons but he is not much better than Ish Smith. Besides Griffin and Drummond, the Pistons lack talent and would not sniff the playoffs in the West. I think the Detroit Pistons will finish 8thin the East and are lucky they are in the conference they are in.