NBA Eastern Conference Preview​

  1. New York Knicks

Biggest Addition: Rookie RJ Barrett

Biggest Departure: The dream of Irving and Durant revitalizing Knicks basketball

Let’s face the facts Knicks fans. The Knicks freed up two max slots to try and go after Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant and didn’t get him. In a dream scenario, the Knicks might get one of those guys, but in reality, they used two max roster spots to sign four Power Forwards. On the bright side for the Knicks, they have a young core including potential star RJ Barrett and shot-blocking phenom Mitchell Robinson. You pair those two guys with a competent coach in David Fizdale, and maybe in a few years, the Knicks aren’t the joke of the league they’ve been the past few years.

Projected record: 24-58

  1. Charlotte Hornets

Biggest Addition: Terry Rozier

Biggest Departure: Kemba Walker

For Charlotte fans, it is extremely unfortunate that Kemba left. He was the best player they have had in their franchise’s history. You knew with him on the court, you at the very least had a chance to be competitive every night. Even with Walker though, the Hornets could only muster 39 wins last year. Terry Rozier is no Kemba Walker. The signing of Rozier points to two things in Charlotte. Firstly, Rozier is a very talented player and this should generate optimism in Charlotte. If a quality young such as Rozier shows interest in playing in Charlotte as Rozier has, then that must mean that in the future other quality young players might also want to play there. The other point that needs to be brought up is a systemic issue within the organization. The Hornets gave Rozier more money than he was deserving at the time and it becomes a significant downgrade from Kemba. Charlotte has always and seems it will always give most of its money to one player without developing a team around said player. I like to imagine that the league is better when Charlotte is good. North Carolina lives and breathes basketball and their NBA team has suffered because management has created systemic issues that need to be fixed for the Hornets to succeed.

Projected record: 28-54

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Biggest Addition: Darius Garland

Biggest Departure: J.R. Smith?

Cleveland has descended as a franchise quicker than most franchises ever have and probably ever will, this is all because of LeBron James. Over the last couple of years, they have lost LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, two premium stars in the NBA. I give a lot of credit to the Cavs though, they have gone all-in on the youth movement and if I had to suggest one thing to this team: embrace the tank. I think that they have a ton of young talent in Darius Garland and Collin Sexton. Next, you need to get rid of vets like Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. A contender will trade for them, especially Love (Portland, pick up the phone and make this happen). It will free up cap space and you can lose easier. Cavs fans, I am sorry. Your team is going to be pretty bad this year, but they have the potential to be okay in the future. They need to have a couple more years to sort of bottom out and load up on young expendable talent for the future.

Projected Record: 28-54

  1. Toronto Raptors

Biggest Addition: Their first Larry O’Brien Trophy

Biggest Departure: Kawhi Leonard

This might come to a shock to many, but I see the Raptors missing the playoffs. Toronto had maybe the best one night stand of their lives. They traded for one of the five best basketball players on the planet, he came and won a ring while having a historically great playoff run, and then he left for Los Angeles. You can’t ask for better results in trading for premier talent. Now, it is not like the Raptors cannot compete on a game to game basis, but last year they won 58 games and were top ten in total offense and defense, they will feel the absence of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green greatly. A lot of people, including myself have the feeling that Pascal Siakam can be a part of this next wave of perennial superstars, but he is no Kawhi Leonard. I see Toronto riding the momentous wave of a championship for the first quarter of the new season, but ultimately floundering down the stretch.

Projected Record: 32-50

  1. Washington Wizards

Biggest Addition: Isaiah Thomas

Biggest Departure: John Wall any explosiveness he had left

The Wizards were admittedly the hardest team to rank this year. It is just hard to get a grasp on what type of team they will be from start to finish. It looks like their franchise player, John Wall, will be out the entire year recovering from an Achilles injury. That leaves Bradley Beal (who I think gets traded to a contender), Isaiah Thomas (I am all for an IT revenge tour), and a bunch of young guys highlighted by the not so impressive Rui Hachimura. I have nothing against Hachimura by the way. He was a load of fun at Gonzaga and I hope he pans out, but his court vision leaves something to be desired and might take a while to eventually adapt to the NBA. So, the Wizards easily could be the worst team in the east if they bottom out, but I also think if the stars align they could make a run for the 8thseed. It all depends on how this team gels early on and if they keep every piece to this strange jigsaw together.

Projected Record: 33-49

  1. Chicago Bulls

Biggest Addition: Coby White

Biggest Departure: Nobody really

A lot of folks seem to have this Bulls team as a sleeper pick in the east, at least in terms of making the playoffs. I just don’t see it that way. I think they are more than a twenty-something win team than they were last year, but all of that comes from a healthy Lauri Markkanen. Now Lauri did make huge strides last season compared to his rookie campaign and I one hundred percent expect him to take his game another step forward this year, but it is not clear that he can be the leader of a playoff team, yet. I do think the addition of Coby White is a great one. White seemed to be the most underrated player in the lottery and I see it as an absolute steal and solid addition to a young team on the rise. Defensively this team will likely be in the bottom portion of the league, but as an offensive unit look for improvements.

Projected Record: 34-48

  1. Atlanta Hawks

Biggest Addition: Cam Reddish

Biggest Departure: Nobody

First and foremost I love what the Atlanta Hawks are doing. They have drafted well taking Trae Young, Kevin Huerter and John Collins, and then this year getting Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter will help with three-point shooting and perimeter defense. I am a firm believer that they will take the next step to be playoff contenders, I think they call just short this season. They’re still a young team and you with youth And inexperience they will make mistakes throughout the year that will make it so they fall just short. Overall I think they will be one of the more fun teams to watch throughout the season and going forward they will be a team on the rise and won the lookout for years to come.

Projected Record: 34-48

  1. Detroit Pistons

Biggest Addition: Derrick Rose trying to prove he has some game left

Biggest Departure: Another team with no big departures

This Detroit Pistons team should be neck and neck with the Atlanta Hawks throughout the season. Both will be battling for the 8 seed in the east and what should give the Pistons a slight advantage is the veteran experience of Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, and Derrick Rose. It just seems that more times than not a team with more experience will edge out teams that lack it and that’s the Pistons’ main pro right now. By no means do I think this Pistons team can compete for a championship, they are incredibly average as a team, but they can sneak into the playoffs.

Projected Record: 34-48

  1. Orlando Magic

Biggest Addition: Al-Farouq Aminu & Markelle Fultz (Yes, I am serious)

Biggest Departure: None

Like the Atlanta Hawks earlier on this list, I love what Orlando is doing. They are a defensive-minded team led by up and comers Mo Bamba & Jonathan Isaac as well as veteran Al-Farouq Aminu on the defensive side of things. They had a top ten defensive rating last year and I’m not convinced that they will diminish compared to last season. They are a super athletic young team and with the addition of previous first-round pick Markelle Fultz, this seems like a fun and talented team going forward, starting with this season.

Projected Record: 35-47

  1. Miami Heat

Biggest Addition: Jimmy Butler

Biggest Departure: Hassan Whiteside

The Miami Heat had one of the bigger additions this offseason with the acquisition of Jimmy Butler. Butler brings a go-to scorer which brings something that has been desired in the previous season with the decline of now-retired Dwyane Wade. For the longest time, Butler was considered one of the better two-way players throughout the league, and I see him a big component in the Heat maintaining a top ten defensive rating from last year. I think a healthy Dion Waiters and impressive or late rookie Tyler Herro will add some good offensive presence to this tea, that it has lacked in recent years.

Projected Record: 41-41

  1. Indiana Pacers

Biggest Addition: Malcolm Brogdon

Biggest Departure: Bojan Bogdanovic

The Pacers floated on by once star Victor Oladipo went down with a season-ending injury. I was pretty surprised that they continued to win without him. They proved they can win as a team during the regular season, but come playoffs they need to figure out how to outlast teams. The addition of Malcolm Brogdon will certainly help with this and should help maintain a top-five defense and potentially push their offense into the top half of the league. I do see the Pacers missing Bojan Bogdanovic more than people think, but hopefully, to stay relevant they will find somebody to step up. This is a team I could see pushing for a trade for Cavs star Kevin Love, which would be ideal if they are serious about pushing for a championship.

Projected Record: 44-38

  1. Brooklyn Nets

Biggest Addition: Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant

Biggest Departure: D’Angelo Russell

The Nets made huge stride this past offseason towards winning a championship. Although they will be without Kevin Durant for this season, you should expect them to stay consistent with how they performed last year. Kyrie Irving is as good, if not a significant upgrade from D’Angelo Russell and that talent mixed with role players Jarrett Allen and Spencer Dinwiddie taking strides into developing their games further should produce similar results to last year. A lot of people might write off the Nets this year because of the absence of Durant, but they should be a potent offense and defense and if they can stay healthy they should have an offense and defense that ranks in the top half of the league on both accounts.

Projected Record: 45-37

  1. Boston Celtics

Biggest Addition: Kemba Walker

Biggest Departure: Kyrie Irving and Al Horford

The Celtics had an overall disappointing year last season. After going on a deeper run with a backup point guard, Terry Rozier the year before a lot of their fans had high expectations with Kyrie Irving returning help lead this team to a championship. As we all saw, that was not the case, but I think that it is going to be a different story for this year’s Celtics. I think without a central star they don’t feel obligated to play through a specific player. Even though they signed a star in Kemba Walker, I do not see him having to play the same style he played in Charlotte all of those years and I think it is also unlikely that they use him how they used Kyrie. In the preseason it has seemed that they have played much more like a cohesive unit and moved away from trying to play the hero ball they played with Kyrie. This team is an ideal one for Brad Steven to lead. I think there will be bounce-back seasons from players like Jason Tatum and Gordon Hayward. I think that on defense they will miss Al Horford, but if the Enes Kanter that showed up big for Portland last year shows up for the Celtics they could have signed one of the best bargains in the NBA.

Projected Record: 46-36

  1. Philadelphia 76ers

Biggest Addition: Al Horford

Biggest Departure: Jimmy Butler

Hey! Ben Simmons hit a freaking three! Okay, I get it, it was just preseason against a Chinese team, but he still hit a three. Now I do not expect him to shoot 35-40 percent from three or even take one every game, but I think this a sign that he is trying to expand his game. If Simmons can be taken semi-seriously outside of 10 feet the Sixers could take the next step into winning a championship. This along with the added defense of Al Horford should propel this team into the next step of The Process. Everyone on this team has improved each year they have been in the league and it is no surprise that they will likely improve once again. They will miss Jimmy Butler being a potential go-to guy in close games, but hopefully, Simmons or Embiid can adapt to that go-to guy in clutch scenarios.

Projected Record: 53-29

  1. Milwaukee Bucks

Biggest Addition: Nobody

Biggest Departure: Malcolm Brogdon

The Bucks were one of the most consistent and best teams throughout the league last year. This team should continue to be one of the best two teams in the east and one of the best throughout the league. The ascendance of Giannis has been something pretty spectacular to watch and there is no evidence that it won’t continue this season. The Bucks have done a tremendous job of building a team around Giannis. The only step back that I see happening is defensively with the loss of Malcolm Brogdon. He was one of the better defensive point guards in the NBA and his absence will be felt from time to time.

Projected Record: 56-26

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