NBA Eastern Conference: 2017/18 team predictions
Eastern Conference playoff spots are opening up after some blockbuster offseason deals. We take a look at who will make the cut come the end of the season.
1. Boston Celtics
Obvious, right? Having won 53 games last season, the Celtics made a BIG statement by picking up Gordon Hayward in free agency before adding four-time All-Star guard Kyrie Irving in a blockbuster trade with the Cavs. Irving and Hayward make the Celtics a better basketball team and should improve on their win tally from last year. Fans might be disappointed to have lost Isaiah Thomas in the Irving deal, but the performances of the 2011 no. 1 pick will be sure to ease the pain.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
What a funny old offseason it has been for Cleveland. After losing to the Warriors in five during the NBA Finals, LeBron & Co have had a fair turnaround. They brought in Koby Altman as GM to replace David Griffin, whilst adding some nice veterans in Derrick Rose, Jose Calderon and Jeff Green. But the story of the offseason has to revolve around the aforementioned Irving.
As mentioned previously, the 25-year-old is now a Celtic, but not before the Cavs squeezed Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the rights to the Brooklyn Nets’ protected 2018 first-round draft pick… not a bad return for someone who demanded a trade from the team. All eyes will now turn to the future of LeBron James, and just how much longer he will stay in Cleveland. For now, though, the Cavs have restocked their side and will try to challenge the Warriors again. But this time, without Irving.
3. Washington Wizards
When you commit just shy of $300 million to two players in the same offseason, you better hope you have a good season. That’s exactly what the Wizards have done by re-signing John Wall (4 years, $170million) and Otto Porter (4 years, $106.5 million).
Acquiring Tim Frazier in a trade with the Pelicans and diving into the free agent market to get Jodie Meeks and Mike Scott adds some depth to the second unit while maintaining the core, sets the Wizards up for another strong year in a fairly weak Eastern Conference.
4. Toronto Raptors
Kyle Lowry. Serge Ibaka. It’s as simple as that.
The Raptors kept their top two free-agents this offseason and are again poised for a challenge in the East. They did, however, lose some perimeter defense when P. J. Tucker joined Houston, something that may hurt them down the stretch.
5. Milwaukee Bucks
It’s been a very quiet offseason for the Bucks, but I see them building on their 42-40 record last season. Giannis Antetokounmpo will, of course, be the key as he continues to develop into one of the most exciting players in the league. Questions will be asked of forward Jabari Parker, who is entering his fourth NBA season but is on the comeback from an ACL injury. Just how high is the former no. 2 pick’s ceiling?
6. Miami Heat
Heat fans will see this offseason as an opportunity missed. They were a legitimate destination for All-Star forward Gordon Hayward before he decided to join the Celtics. Hassan Whiteside will again be the key for the team as they look to become a serious playoff threat once again.
7. Charlotte Hornets
The big question regarding the Hornets this season will be whether Dwight Howard is worth the gamble. Having picked up the 6’11 center in a trade with the Hawks (was pretty much a salary dump on their behalf), the Hornets added some power and experience to their front court which they have lacked in recent times.
Losing Marco Belinelli in the Howard trade hurts, but Hornets fans will be optimistic after grabbing Malik Monk with the 11th overall pick and will hope new recruit Michael Carter-Williams can recapture the form which saw him win Rookie of the Year in 2014.
8. Philadelphia 76ers
“Trust the process” is well underway, and Philly is in a great position to contend long into the future. Trading up in the draft to select Markelle Fultz was a smart decision while Ben Simmons will get his first taste of NBA action. The health of Simmons, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric will be crucial, but they have added some nice veteran pieces in J. J. Redick and Amir Johnson to nurture Philly’s exciting young core.
9. Detroit Pistons
A team on the fringe of the playoffs who lost one of their more efficient players from last season. Losing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was a shambles, as their reluctance to pay him ultimately cost them their man. Avery Bradley is a good pick up, but parting ways with Marcus Morris seems an odd move.
To say a team of Detroit’s standard are on the fringes of the playoffs says more about the standard of the East than anything.
10. Indiana Pacers
Losing Paul George hurts. It’s as simple as that. But only getting Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis in return hurts even more.
For these reasons I have the Pacers dropping out of the playoff spots and face a tough first season in the post PG13 era.
11. Orlando Magic
Orlando had a great draft night when they picked up Jonathan Isaac and Wesley Iwundu with their first and second round picks. Both will provide an offensive spark for the Magic, while the free agent signings of Jonathan Simmons, Arron Afflalo and Marreese Speights rounds out a new-look roster. I still feel they are a piece or two away from challenging for a playoff spot, but these offseason moves definitely give the second unit some much-needed firepower.
12. New York Knicks
What a funny old offseason it’s been in New York. Phil Jackson is gone, Melo is still there…but the problems remain.
With all the speculation surrounding Melo and where he will be playing his basketball this season, it’s easy to forget what the Knicks have been up to. Drafting Frank Ntilikina is an exciting move by the franchise, but questions will be asked as to why they passed on fellow point guard Dennis Smith Jr. A reunion with Tim Hardaway Jr. is the only other notable bit of business completed…but the less we talk about that contract the better. They will struggle again.
13. Brooklyn Nets
Finally, they aren’t last! After making some smart moves this offseason, the Nets find themselves in unfamiliar territory. Picking up D’Angelo Russell in the salary dump acquisition of Timofey Mozgov from the Lakers elevated the Nets roster. Yes, they lost their top scoring option Brook Lopez in the deal, but with one year remaining on his contract, the center was unlikely to stick around.
Eating Mozgov’s terrible contract is worth the pain because of the Russell sweetener. Russell is a #2 pick from 2015 and at 21 still has a high ceiling. Trading for DeMarre Carroll adds an experienced presence for a team who will surprise a few teams this season.
14. Atlanta Hawks
After losing Paul Millsap, the last starting player from the 60-win season of 2014-15, the Hawks must hit the reset button. John Collins was a nice pick up in the draft, but a lot will need to come from Dennis Schroder if they are to have a respectable season.
15. Chicago Bulls
Sorry Bulls fans….but that Jimmy Butler trade was god-awful. I can’t say anymore.
What do you make of the predictions? Discuss in the comments below!