A couple days ago, the Western Conference predictions was published. Finally, the Eastern Conference predictions have been finished. The regular season is only a little over a month away so the excitement about the season is buzzing. Take a look at the Eastern Conference predictions. If you did not get a chance to read the Western Conference predictions, you can find those here.
** Stats are from ESPN.com **
#15 Chicago Bulls (Last Year’s Seeding: #8)
The front office of the Chicago Bulls is amongst the worst in the league. Offseason after offseason John Paxson and Gar Forman contradict themselves and make questionable moves. The Bulls decided this offseason to part ways with All-Star Jimmy Butler and not rebuild around him. The Bulls in return acquired Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and a draft pick that turned into Lauri Markkanen. LaVine, 22, is certainly the main headline of the trade but not without question marks surrounding him as he is currently recovering from an ACL injury. LaVine averaged 18.9ppg, 3.4rpg, and 3.0apg for the Timberwolves last season and a healthy LaVine should fit in with the Bulls nicely. With Rajon Rondo gone, Jerian Grant and Dunn are likely going to run the point guard position next season. LaVine, Grant, Dunn, Markkanen, Paul Zipser, Bobby Portis, Denzel Valentine, Cristiano Felicio, and David Nwaba are all players on this roster 25 years old or younger so this team is filled with young guys. A lot of these players are still looking to find their footing in the NBA meaning this team is not going to be a competitive one next year. Veterans Dwyane Wade and Robin Lopez are still on the team as of right now. Wade’s name is currently being brought up in buyout talks and Lopez does not fit in the long term plans for the Bulls either. As Bulls fans struggle this season, just try to imagine the Jordan days to make it less painful.
#14 Brooklyn Nets (Last Year’s Seeding: #15)
Brook Lopez, their best player last season, has been moved to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Brooklyn Nets took on Timofey Mozgov’s horrible contract but acquired a intriguing young point guard in D’Angelo Russell. The Russell experiment did not work in Lakerland but given free range in Brooklyn can he succeed? Russell showed flashes in his short stint with the Lakers, averaging 15.6ppg, 4.8apg, and 3.5rpg, and 1.4spg this past season. He will likely share point guard duties with veteran Jeremy Lin. Besides previously mentioned Lin and Russell, the Nets have a mixture of youth in Caris LaVert, Isaiah Whitehead, Jarrett Allen, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and a mixture of veterans in Trevor Booker, DeMarre Carroll, Timofey Mozgov, and Quincy Acy. Jefferson should be looked upon to have a breakout season after only averaging 8.7ppg, 5.8rpg, and 1.1spg last season. A consistent shooting stroke is important for Jefferson to develop as he is only a career .235% three point shooter which won’t cut it in today’s league. Nets fans will have another season to suffer through and still no hope as their 2018 first round pick cannot be used by them due to the failed trade involving Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in years prior.
#13 Atlanta Hawks (Last Year’s Seeding: #5)
Remember the time when the Atlanta Hawks had four All-Stars? Yeah, those were good times for Hawks fans. Jeff Teague has been gone for awhile and has now signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Kyle Korver was traded to the Cavaliers this past season. Al Horford spent his first season with the Boston Celtics last season. Now, Paul Millsap has moved on to the Denver Nuggets. Tough times are ahead for the Atlanta Hawks. The good news is, the team still has Dennis Schroder, who averaged 17.9ppg, 6.3apg, and 3.1rpg in the regular season and 24.7ppg, 7.7apg, amd 1.0spg in the playoffs, and Kent Bazemore, who averaged 11.0ppg, 3.2rpg, 2.4apg, and 1.2spg in the regular season. Outside of them though the team contains young guys looking to improve and role players. Taurean Prince is a young player that should benefit from seeing increased minutes next season and veterans like Ersan Ilyasova, Marco Belinelli, Dewayne Dedmon, Luke Babbit, and Mike Muscala are solid role players that are not going to tip the scales win wise but will help them be competitive on a nightly basis. A severe drop, production wise, is likely coming for the Hawks.
#12 New York Knicks (Last Year’s Seeding: #12)
The biggest drama surrounding the Knicks currently is where will Carmelo Anthony be next season. Rockets? Blazers? Knicks? It would be beneficial for both Melo and the Knicks if they go their separate ways. The Kristaps Porzingis saga this offseason was an intruguing one due to the fact that their young building block might not be so happy playing in the “Big Apple.” Porzingis does not necessarily want Melo gone either but it is a breakup that seems necessary. Porzingis is the face of this franchise. The 22 year old averaged 18.1ppg, 7.2rpg, and 2.0bpg last season. The team is still a confusing team as it is in the midst of a rebuild but still has a lot of veterans on it when the Knicks tried to build a super team to compete in the East like Courtney Lee and Joakim Noah. Lee will be a valuable veteran for the team and Noah, unfortunately, will likely be having problems staying on the court as he has the past couple of seasons. Tim Hardaway Jr. was brought back to the Knicks after playing for the Atlanta Hawks on a contact that raised some speculation about an overpay. Hardaway averaged 14.5ppg, 2.8rpg, and 2.3apg in the regular season last season for the Atlanta Hawks. Young guys like Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Willy Hernangomez, and Frank Ntilikana should be given playing time to develop and improve their skills. Michael Beasley, Ramon Sessions, Kyle O’Quinn, and Lance Thomas are veterans that should help round out the roster nicely.
#11 Philadelphia 76ers (Last Year’s Seeding: #14)
If you are drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers, it is a good chance you are hurt or going to be hurt. That has been the trending pattern for the 76ers as their past draft picks in Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and now Markelle Fultz had injuries or sustained injuries that seen them miss significant time. The 76ers are an interesting team to keep an eye out on as they aren’t a playoff team necessarily, but they also are not a joke anymore either. Embiid, if he can stay healthy, is a dominant big man who was well on his way to winning Rookie of the Year last year until he got injured. Embiid averaged 20.2ppg, 7.8rpg, 2.1apg, and 2.5bpg last season. Those look to be impressive numbers except for the fact that he only lasted 31 games last year. If he can sustain those numbers over an entire season, then the league should watch out. Dario Saric was in the contending for Rookie of the Year as well after averaging 12.8ppg, 6.3rpg, and 2.2apg. Last year’s #1 overall pick Ben Simmons is finally healthy after sitting out all of last season, so adding him to the mix of young talent the 76ers have is intriguing. The team added veteran sharpshooter J.J. Redick in the offseason and signed another veteran forward in Amir Johnson to provide some much needed veteran leadership in the locker room. The team has intriguing young talents in Justin Anderson and Richaun Holmes and established role players in Robert Covington and T.J. McConnell. Jahlil Okafor, whom was thought to be a surefire trade candidate last season, is putting in work this offseason trying to drop weight to make himself more successful as his career so far has been a disappointing one. The #1 overall pick from this past draft, Fultz, hasn’t even been added into this equation either. The 76ers are starting to develop a real roster here and should be competitive come this season.
#10 Orlando Magic (Last Year’s Seeding: #13)
The Orlando Magic are filled with young talented guards on their current roster. Elfrid Payton will run the floor manager position and will look to have a break out year. A mixture of D.J. Augustin and Shelvin Mack will back up Payton. The shooting guard and small forward position is filled with depth as the Magic have Evan Fournier, Mario Hezonja, Arron Afflalo, Terrence Ross, and Jonathon Simmons currently on the roster. For the right offer, the Magic’s center Nikola Vucevic can be had after averaging 14.6ppg, 10.4rpg, 1.0bpg, and 1.0spg in split minutes with Bismack Biyombo last season. The Magic are still waiting for their young forward Aaron Gordon to finally blow up after putting up a career 12.7ppg last season. The Magic do not control enough talent on their roster to make the playoffs but do control enough talent to stack up the wins and make the playoffs.
#9 Indiana Pacers (Last Year’s Seeding: #7)
The Indiana Pacers barely made it to the playoffs last season. They put up a good fight against the LeBron James led Cleveland Cavaliers but were ultimately swept 4-0 in the series. That was with Paul George leading the way for the Pacers. George is no longer on the team after he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Victor Oladipo, who averaged 15.9ppg, 4.3rpg, 2.6apg, and 1.2spg last season, and Domantas Sabonis, who averaged 5.9ppg and 3.6rpg last season. Doesn’t quite seem like a good enough haul for someone of Paul George’s caliber. Without George, this team will fall completely out of the playoffs. The franchise is now put on Myles Turner’s shoulders after averaging 14.5ppg, 7.3rpg, and 2.1bpg last season and was the second best player behind George. With more responsibility, will Turner excel or crack under pressure? Besides the talented Turner, the Pacers are made up of some competitive players in Darren Collison, Cory Joseph, Al Jefferson, Lance Stephenson, Thaddeus Young, and Bojan Bogdanovic. The Pacers won’t be a pushover team but they certainly won’t be a playoff team either.
#8 Detroit Pistons (Last Year’s Seeding: #10)
The Pistons should have a competitive enough roster to get back into the playoffs. The Pistons parted ways with Marcus Morris but were able to acquire a high-level defender in Avery Bradley. Bradley averaged 16.3ppg, 6.1rpg, 2.2apg, and 1.2spg in the regular season for the Boston Celtics. Starting point guard Reggie Jackson’s name is on the trading block and might be traded sometime during the season. As a team, this team seems to be built to just barely make it into the playoffs. The roster will be led by Andre Drummond, who averaged 13.6ppg, 13.8rpg, 1.5spg, and 1.1bpg last season. Stanley Johnson’s sophomore year saw a jump in his averages but going into his third season, the Pistons are hoping Johnson can make an even bigger impact. The Pistons have solid veteran players in Ish Smith, Boban Marjanovic, Tobias Harris, and Jon Leuer that can help the Pistons make a run for the playoffs this coming season.
#7 Charlotte Hornets (Last Year’s Seeding: #11)
This team will go only as far as “Cardiac” Kemba Walker can take them. Walker put up a spectacular season this past season earning his first All-Star birth and averaging 23.2ppg, 5.5apg, 3.9rpg, and 1.1spg. The roster has solid wing players in Nicolas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Kidd-Gilchrist needs to develop his offensive game more to make him more of a threat minus just for his defense. The Hornets signed Dwight Howard this past offseason and whether or not he makes an impact for this team remains to be seen. Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller, and Frank Kaminsky are the main big men that will see minutes this season so signing another big body that fits the mold of center than any of the other three was a much needed signing. With the lack of depth on the bench, the starters will wear themselves thin in time for the playoffs. This roster does not have enough to make a splash in the playoffs.
#6 Miami Heat (Last Year’s Seeding: #9)
After the All-Star break, the Miami Heat became one of the hottest teams in the NBA. Unfortunately for them, they were one of the coldest teams in the NBA before the All-Star break. Dion Waiters had a breakout season for the Heat last year. He averaged 15.8ppg, 4.3apg, and 3.3rpg. The big question is, can he sustain the success he had last season? Did he breakout last season because it was a contract year and he had to play as well as possible to get a large contract? Hassan Whiteside is the most important player on the roster and will be looked upon to carry this team. Whiteside averaged 17.0ppg, 14.1rpg, and 2.1bpg last season. The Heat, as a whole, have a pretty solid roster. The Heat will look for improvement from young player Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson to help make this team better and expect help from veteran players like Goran Dragic, James Johnson, Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington, and Kelly Olynyk to be competitive. The Heat, led by Erik Spoelstra, should hope to build upon the success they sustained last year.
#5 Milwaukee Bucks (Last Year’s Seeding: #6)
Jabari Parker missed significant time last season and the Milwaukee Bucks still finished #6 in the Eastern Conference. An offseason for Jabari Parker to get healthy will only benefit the Milwaukee Bucks. In only 51 games last season, Parker still averaged 20.1ppg, 6.2rpg, and 2.8apg. Add him in the mix with Giannis Antetokounmpo (22.9ppg, 8.8rpg, 5.4apg, 1.9bpg, and 1.6spg) and Khris Middleton (14.7ppg, 4.2rpg, 3.4apg, and 1.4spg). Middleton is the oldest of the three at 26 years old so the Bucks trio is fairly young, lengthy, and intimidating. Malcolm Brogdon surprised and won Rookie of the Year after averaging 10.2ppg, 4.2apg, and 1.1spg in the regular season. Greg Monroe, Thon Maker, Tony Snell, Matthew Dellavedova, and Mirza Teletovic are all nice contributors outside the Big Three of Parker, Antetokounmpo, and Middleton that can help provide depth for the roster. The Bucks look to be a strong team in the Eastern Conference this upcoming season.
#4 Washington Wizards (Last Year’s Seeding: #4)
The Washington Wizards roster mostly stayed pat this offseason. They will likely stay on top of the Eastern Conference as John Wall is playing the best basketball of his career. Wall averaged 23.1ppg, 10.7apg, 4.2rpg, and 2.0spg in the regular season and then upped his numbers to 27.2ppg, 10.3apg, 3.7rpg, 1.7spg, and 1.2bpg in the playoffs. He is making his case for being named as the top point guard in the league. Bradley Beal also helped carry the Wizards last season in the regular season and the playoffs as he averaged 23.1ppg, 3.5apg, 3.1rpg, and 1.1spg in the regular season and 24.8ppg, 3.4rpg, 2.7apg, and 1.6spg in the playoffs. Otto Porter is going to be expected to step up and accept a larger role this coming season as the Wizards have faith in him to do so by matching the Brooklyn Nets 4yr/$106M contract. Porter’s solid regular season numbers will need to be improved upon next season for that contract to be looked upon favorably. Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat will likely fill the rest of the starting lineup with solid role players in Kelly Oubre, Jason Smith, Ian Mahinmi, Jodie Meeks, and Mike Scott rounding out some of the bench. The Wizards will need to work on point guard depth because as of right now their backup point guard would be a 2nd year player that averaged 2.7ppg, 1.6apg, and 1.5rpg in Tomas Satoransky or a career 6.2ppg, 4.4apg, and 2.4rpg point guard in Tim Frazier. The Wizards would be smart to shore up some of the depth on the team.
#3 Toronto Raptors (Last Year’s Seeding: #3)
The Toronto Raptors continued their trend of excelling in the regular season and struggling in the postseason. After some speculation, Kyle Lowry re-signed with the Raptors on a three year deal worth $100 million. Lowry averaged 22.4ppg, 7.0apg, 4.8rpg and 1.5spg. Lowry saw a lot of those averages and his shooting percentage dip. His scoring dipped from 22.4 to 15.8. His assists dropped from 7.0 to 5.9. His rebounding dipped from 4.8 to 3.1. Lastly, his shooting dipped from .464% from the field and .412 from the three point line to .462% from the field and .342% from the three point line. Another large name in DeMar DeRozan also saw his averages dip from the regular season to the playoffs. His scoring dropped from 27.3ppg to 22.4ppg. His rebounding and assists dropped from 5.2rpg and 3.9apg to 4.9rpg and 3.4apg. His field goal percentage dropped from .467% to .434%. Lastly, his three point shooting dropped from a lowly .266% to .067%. When your two best players struggle to get it done in the playoffs, your team tends to struggle as well. Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas did not have nearly as much impact as the Raptors would of hoped for but they still did re-sign Serge Ibaka. They will need them to play better and contribute as Valanciunas is certainly not a player that is untouchable. Norman Powell was a pleasant surprise for the Raptors in the playoffs. He averaged 11.7ppg, 3.1rpg, and 1.1spg while shooting .427% from the field and .441% from the three point line after only averaging 8.4ppg, 2.2rpg, and 0.7spg while shooting .449% from the field and .324% from the three point line. Powell should certainly take that confidence and success derived from the playoffs and transfer it over to the regular season this coming season. The Raptors main signing was signing veteran G/F C.J. Miles, whom was a nice veteran piece for the Indiana Pacers last season. Raptors have a good enough roster to be a top team in the East but when the playoffs roll around, Lowry and DeRozan have gave no one faith that they can elevate their game to new heights. Therefore, this season looks to be another one where the regular season is great and the struggles come back to haunt them in the playoffs.
#2 Cleveland Cavaliers (Last Year’s Seeding #2)
The Cleveland Cavaliers do not need the #1 seed to be successful in the playoffs. Their major move was the acquisition of Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder to the roster (Nets’ 2018 1st round pick & Ante Zizic were also acquired) for Kyrie Irving. Isaiah Thomas carried the Boston Celtics on his back most of the regular season and most of the playoffs by averaging 28.9ppg, 5.9apg, and 2.7rpg in the regular season and 23.3ppg, 6.7apg, and 3.1rpg in the playoffs. The roster though, did not have enough in the playoffs. Thomas will likely miss significant time due to a hip injury but this team is geared for the playoffs anyway. Derrick Rose will fill in the starter role after quietly averaging a very respectable 18.0ppg, 4.4apg, and 3.8rpg for the New York Knicks. Health though, is always the issue with Rose. Jae Crowder is a solid 3 and D kind of player, meaning he can stretch the floor on offense and can guard some of the opposing teams players well. The Cavaliers are more than likely not done making moves. Kevin Love is still a possible trade chip and the Cavaliers would like to possibly move Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, and maybe even Tristan Thompson. When Thomas returns to form, it will be close to playoff time and that is what the Cavaliers are more worried about. They will be a dominant team in the regular season and even more dominant when playoff time comes.
#1 Boston Celtics (Last Year’s Seeding: #1)
The Celtics look poised to make a run at the number one seed once again after changing up their roster. Some of their top defenders in Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder have been traded away. Their star point guard in Isaiah Thomas is wearing a new jersey after being traded. These guys have been replaced as new players in Kyrie Irving (25.2ppg, 5.8apg, 3.2rpg, and 1.2spg in the regular season), Gordon Hayward (21.9ppg, 5.4rpg, 3.5apg, and 1.0spg in the regular season), and Marcus Morris (14.0ppg and 4.6rpg). The team also signed Aron Baynes to shore up the front court depth and drafted Jayson Tatum at #3 overall. Depending on their play, him or Jaylen Brown may receive minutes as a backup small forward. The problem still facing this team was what the Bulls exposed in the first round with Robin Lopez. They cannot rebound well. Al Horford may see minutes at center this season and he was tore up by Robin Lopez in the playoffs. Horford only averaged 6.6rpg in the regular season and 6.8rpg in the playoffs. Hayward, who is only a small forward, averaged close to those numbers in rebounding per game. The Celtics have what it takes to be a strong team in the Eastern Conference which is why they will likely finish number one once again.