With the NBA kicking off in just over a week, it’s now time for us to start previewing our best bets for the season. Today we look at the Eastern Conference, with the Western Conference coming up next!
After winning 8 straight Eastern Conference Championships, LeBron James has jumped over to the Western Conference to join the Los Angeles Lakers! Obviously, this gives the other top tier teams in the East a greater chance to reach the finals, so let’s check out who that team might be in 2018-19.
Boston Celtics: Were the greatest threat to knock off LeBron and the Cavs last season and welcome back a fit Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward this season. Not only does Coach Brad Stevens have his two all-stars back, he also has a terrific young supporting cast in the likes of Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier. If they can put it all together this season they’re going to be very hard to stop.
Toronto Raptors: After claiming the 1st seed in the East with a 59-win regular season the Raptors were once again swept by LeBron and the Cavaliers in the playoffs. As a result, Raptors head office decided to change things up and take a risk by trading DeMar DeRozan to the Spurs in exchange for Kawhi Leonard. When healthy, Leonard is a top five player in the league and can carry a team on both sides of the ball. If Leonard, Lowry and the rest of the squad can get along, could this be their year?
Philadelphia 76ers: The other team in the East that can shake things up at the top is the 76ers. The Sixers made great strides in 2017-18, finishing the regular season with 52 wins and making it to the second round of the playoffs. If Ben Simmons can avoid the second year blues, Joel Embiid stays healthy and Markelle Fultz is as good as everyone’s saying they will definitely be a threat come April/May.
Despite the obvious threats in the East, we couldn’t feel any stronger about the Celtics chances this season. They got to 55 wins last season with Kyrie Irving out for stretches and Gordon Hayward out for the entire season. With them back and the natural improvement of their younger guys it’s hard to see them not becoming the dominant force in the East. They have the deepest bench in the league and the reigning NBA coach of the year at the helm. 2018-19 is going to be big for the Boston Celtics.
If there’s one team in the East that has the roster to surprise a few people this season it’s the Chicago Bulls. One of, if not THE most underrated signings in the off-season was the Bulls landing Jabari Parker’s signature. He’s a former number 2 overall pick and has the talent to become a superstar in the league, IF he stays healthy. The Bulls also have a fit backcourt of Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, which is something they didn’t have for the majority of 2017-18. When you add in the frontcourt of Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez, it’s far from the worst starting lineup in the league. We expect the Bulls to leapfrog a few of the struggling teams in the East this season.
We are not sold on the present or the future of the Charlotte Hornets for that matter. Their reliance on all-star guard Kemba Walker will be as high as ever this season as they battle in the East for another year. Last season the Hornets managed to finish the season with 36 wins, which was only good enough for 11th in the standings. This season, they will need to find a way to fill a 16 point and 13 rebound a night void that Dwight Howard has left, which we can’t see happening. Long story short, we expect the Hornets to drop off the pace even further this season.
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