2017-18 NBA Preview- Eastern Conference

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Here we are, at the start of another NBA season. If it feels earlier than usual, that’s because it is. The league is experimenting with a more stretched-out schedule in an effort to eliminate back-to-backs and improve player rest. If you’re upset about the early start, you probably didn’t pay attention to one of the greatest, most melodramatic (get it?) offseasons of all time. If you’re upset about the easier schedule, you probably played in the NBA sometime before 1985. Personally, I don’t know if I’ve ever been more hyped for an NBA season in my life. There’s so many amazing storylines and so many questions. So many great players switched teams, and seemingly every team in the league is going to have to adopt an at least slightly different play style. A ton of new jerseys. If you’ve read my site before, you know how this is going to go. If you haven’t what have you been doing with your life? Since divisions mean close to nothing outside of playoff seeding in the NBA, I’m just listing the conferences as a whole from top to bottom, starting with the East. Do I regret not spacing it out more and starting this earlier so I don’t need to cram all of this into a couple days? Not yet, but I probably will soon. Much like the Oracle of Delphi, the visions I see aren’t necessarily destined to come to pass, they’re just the most likely outcomes. All win totals taken from Vegas Insider.

170531-global-logoCleveland Cavaliers– Pretty quiet offseason for the three-time defending Eastern Conference champion. Not a whole lot going on. No drama. No big moves. Unless of course you want to count them trading the second best player on their team and signing the 2011 East All Star team as big moves.

At this point, pretty much everyone knows my thoughts on LeBron, WadeIsaiah Thomas, D-Rose, and the rest of the boys. I think they’re in for a rude awakening. Isaiah might not play at all this season, and if he does he’s going to be like 50%. Wade and Rose might legitimately be the worst starting backcourt of any playoff team. J.R. is upset, so who knows what he’ll do. Now that Tristan Thompson has a mini-Kardashian on the way, the Kurse is reaching incurable levels. Will Kevin Love, Jae Crowder, and LeBron be enough to win a title? Maybe if the Warriors didn’t exist. Actually, no. Not even if the Warriors didn’t exist. You can’t win a championship in 2017 with three good players. You just can’t. You also can’t win a title if you don’t make the Finals. I’m having trouble seeing this roster as it’s currently constructed winning the East (I know, big surprise) unless LeBron ascends to an even higher plane of existence, which I probably shouldn’t rule out. They also might not care enough to chase a top seed in the regular season, so be prepared for a flood of takes about how bad the Cavs are in the early part of the season.

Also, what’s up with their jerseys? As I’ve said before, I’m a big maroon guy and I’m a big yellow guy when it comes to uniforms. For as much as I dislike the Cavs, I thought their jerseys were on point. Their home and aways, alternates, throwbacks, all of it. But now? maroon and black? Yuck! What was Nike thinking? Terrible look, and they should feel bad about themselves.

Over/Under 54.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Trading Kyrie for Isaiah, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the Nets pick

Burning Question: Will Isaiah fit out or fit in?

Bold Prediction: The first time they go to Miami, LeBron and Wade will pick up mysterious injuries so they can take a mini-vacation.

 

243px-boston_celtics-svgBoston Celtics– I know I’m biased, but, to me, this is the best team in the East. There’s going to be an adjustment period early on. This is pretty much an entirely new roster, and the players are going to have to find out their roles on the fly. But once they click, watch out. I really wish they didn’t trade Avery Bradley, but, realistically, they had to do it to make the contracts work, and, even though I love Avery, Gordon Hayward is much better player offensively. Last year one of the Celtics’ biggest issues was a lack of a secondary ballhandler. Hayward helps that. They still won’t be able to rebound, which could seriously hurt them against the Cavs, but they’ll still be dynamic defensively, particularly if Jaylen Brown takes a step forward in his second season. Celtics will win the East, I guarantee it.

Over/Under 53.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Trading for Kyrie/signing Hayward

Burning Question: Is Brad Stevens coaching for his job?

Bold Prediction: They’ll take the Warriors to 5 games in the Finals

 

240px-washington_wizards_logo-svgWashington Wizards– Everyone wants to complain about the East, but I actually think there’s some interesting teams here, particularly the ones that didn’t really do anything in the offseason. Virtually the only team that has any (delusional as they may be) championship aspirations to sit on their hands and say “we’re good,” the Wizards come into the season with the exact same rotation as last year (they didn’t even have a draft pick). Certainly putting a lot of faith in John Wall (who’s earned all the confidence in the world) and Bradley Beal (who’s had one good/healthy season). The rest of the roster is pretty uninspiring if you ask me. Otto Porter is a nice wing player, but he also had his only good season during a contract year. Gortat is a corpse at this point, whatever Morris they have is just as likely to murder someone as guard them, and Kelly Oubre has the biggest boy-named-sue syndrome of all time. John Wall is really, really good. He’s going to win games singlehandedly and elevate this team to more than the sum of its parts. But to suggest they’re better than Boston or Cleveland is pure lunacy.

Over/Under 48.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Signing John Wall to a yuuuuuuuuuge extension

Burning Question: Who stole the Declaration of Independence?

Bold Prediction: Wall finished top 5 in MVP and they lose second round.

 

241px-toronto_raptors_logo-svgToronto Raptors– We’re really running this back again, huh? The Lowry-Derozan era just refuses to end, which means we’re going to have to sit through another playoff series or two of the Raptors banging their heads against the wall. Cool. Gonna be great. Don’t be surprised if the Raptors spend a good portion of the first half in first or second place. Cavs and Celtics have a lot of new pieces to fit into their rotation, and the Raptors longtime chemistry should help them look much better than they really are against teams scrambling to find themselves. I don’t really get why they refuse to make any kind of changes, but here we are.

Over/Under 47.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Nothing

Burning Question: Who will Drake root for when they get eliminated?

Bold Prediction: They’ll talk about trading Valanciunas but won’t

 

200px-milwaukee_bucks_logo-svgMilwaukee Bucks– Another team that didn’t do a whole lot in the offseason, but rather than banking on known quantities like the Wizards and Raptors, the Bucks are putting their faith in the unknown future of their young players, particularly Giannis Antetokounmpo, who, despite already being an All-NBA-level player, still feels like a ball of clay that can be moulded to fit whatever the team needs, and Thon Maker, a “20 year-old” center who has a bit of a “Giannis-lite” feel to him at the moment. It should tell you all you need to know about who the Bucks want to build their franchise around that Jabari Parker, an explosive scorer who does the best Carmelo Anthony impression in the league but has horrible injury luck, is probably on the market. The Bucks seem to be at the forefront of human cloning technology, since outside of Matthew Dellavedova, everyone on the roster looks the same. They’ll press, they’ll switch everything, and they’ll try to create chaos on defense then get out in transition. Whether or not that actually works will probably decide coach Jason Kidd’s future.

Over/Under 46.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Nothing

Burning Question: Do people in Milwaukee still like Happy Days?

Bold Prediction: They’ll wind up as the 2 seed in the East

 

200px-miami_heat_logo-svgMiami Heat Can they keep it going? After a wasted first half of the season, the Heat had a blistering second half (winning 13 in a row at one point), nearly making an impossible run to the playoffs. Is the formula repeatable? Maybe. We pretty much know what their top players will do: Goran Dragic will live in the lane, warping his body around bigger players for creative finishes. Hassan Whiteside will relentlessly hunt rebounds, blocks, and alley-oops. Dion Waiters will continue to be a religious experience. Everyone else is kind of a weird player. James Johnson is a bear defensively, but he’s the definition of a late bloomer. Tyler Johnson’s Riff Raff lookin’ ass could just as easily get lost in an Everglades Krokodil den then show up for a basketball game. Yes, Kelly Olynyk is the true Maple Jordan and provides needed floor spacing, but I’m not sure where his minutes are going to come from. I have faith in Erik Spoelstra, though. Spo has the distinction of being the only person who’s ever coached LeBron that actually knows what he’s doing and wasn’t just a whipping boy, and I think he’s the second-best coach in the East behind Brad Stevens. He’ll know how to get the most out of this team, and, even if they stumble out of the blocks again, the East is bad enough to keep them in it all year.

Over/Under 42.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Opening up the first Southern branch of the Olynyk Klynyk

Burning Question: Does Pat Riley still get triggered when he thinks about LeBron and D-Wade?

Bold Prediction: Whiteside will get ejected at least three times

 

278px-charlotte_hornets_28201429-svgCharlotte Hornets– Have I mentioned I went to UConn? I don’t think I have yet, so I’ll tell this story to prove that I did. My freshman year, A.K.A. the year Kemba Walker won the National Championship, my dad came to visit and for whatever reason we went to Applebee’s. After we ate I went to the bathroom and saw Kemba, Shabazz Napier, and some other guy sitting at a table. That’s the end of the story. I didn’t talk to them or anything. I just saw them at an Applebee’s one time. Pretty much everyone on the basketball team during my time was fairly present throughout campus. I saw Shabazz, Jeremy Lamb, Andre Drummond, Tyler Olander, Niels Giffey, and other fairly regularly (it was no coincidence, since most of them had the same fake major as I had). But Kemba was a bit of a ghost. The Applebee’s encounter and one fleeting, magical moment when I passed him on the sidewalk with no one else around (I was taller, which means I’m taller than two NBA all stars, which is crazy to think about) were the only times I ever saw him when he wasn’t playing basketball. And now he’s an All Star. What a world.

Hornets are going to be really boring to watch, just warning you now.

Over/Under 42.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Trading for (vomits) Dwight Howard

Burning Question: When LeBron buys a team, will we have to sit through another round of MJ vs LeBron debates?

Bold Prediction: I will watch exactly one (1) full Hornets game this year

 

325px-philadelphia_76ers_logo-svgPhiladelphia 76ers– The Sixers are the name on everyone’s lips in the East this season, as it seems like the long, dark road The Process took the franchise down is finally approaching the end. No word on whether the same results would have been met without the martyrdom of Sam Hinkie. Assuming relative health, the Sixers are going to be fun, dynamic, and explosive. Joel Embiid is an excellent player when he actually plays. Ben Simmons looks amazing in the preseason (take it with all the salt in the world).  Markelle Fultz looks…..bad. No clue what the hell he’s thinking reworking his shot, let alone turning it into the ugliest thing ever. Dario Saric probably should have won rookie of the year. J.J. Redick and Robert Covington will fill the wings and shoot a million 3s. But that’s it. They still have a Process-level bench. They’re still super young and are going to be mostly terrible defensively. I know it’s no fun to suggest, but the Sixers are still going to be bad this year. They still might make the playoffs, because, in case you hadn’t heard, the East is weak this year, but they’ll be bad.

Over/Under 42.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Trading up to get Markelle Fultz

Burning Question: Can someone make sure Embiid doesn’t see this? I don’t want to get roasted on twitter

Bold Prediction: They’ll somehow wind up with two more top five picks on their team next year.

 

247px-detroit_pistons_logo-svgDetroit Pistons– Now we’re starting to get into depressing territory. The bottom half of the East is very, very, very, very, very, very bad, but someone has to win games and make the playoffs. Congrats, Detroit! You get to miss out on a lottery pick to get destroyed in the first round! Drummond and Avery Bradley are my guys, but the rest of the roster is gross. Reggie Jackson sabotages pretty much any attempt at offense because he thinks Russell Westbrook (he’s not) and Tobias Harris is just an anthropomorphic shrug emoji. Team sucks, but it doesn’t suck as much as the next few teams.

Over/Under 38.5 Wins: Over I guess

Key Offseason Move: Trading for Avery Bradley

Burning Question: Can you get full Hot ‘n’ Ready pizzas in Little Caesars Arena? Asking for a friend

Bold Prediction: At some point Boban will play a full game and get 33 and 21

 

273px-new_york_knicks_logo-svgNew York Knicks Hey, at least Phil’s gone, right? The Knicks will be eternally cursed so long as James Dolan owns the team, which, last time I check, he still does. After finally dumping Melo for roughly a quarter of his value, the Knicks are left with way too many big guys who are all blocking each other from playing time. They have no wing depth at all after Courtney Lee and $71 million (???) man Tim Hardaway, Jr., and should be starting rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina. Not good.

Over/Under 30.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Not #stayingme7o

Burning Question: Will Enes Kanter respect the Garden?

Bold Prediction: Dolan will have security remove Clyde Frazier mid-broadcast for criticizing him

 

274px-orlando_magic_logo-svgOrlando Magic– Magic have to be the most depressing team in the league. There’s no direction, there’s no plan, there’s no hope. The roster is so poorly constructed. They have a million big guys and combo guards. Elfrid Peyton stiiiiinks. Magic are horrible and I hope you never have the misfortune of watching them play.

Over/Under 30.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Not doing anything that could help them win games

Burning Question: If they just didn’t play any games this season, would anyone care?

Bold Prediction: Frank Vogel will have absolutely no idea what to do with this roster

 

263px-indiana_pacers-svg

Indiana Pacers– The only team that might turn out to be worse to watch than the Magic. Really no idea why they thought a bunch of Thunder spare parts was all they could get for Paul George, but that’s all they got. They’ll be quite bad.

The most interesting thing about them is obviously the new jerseys. Personally, I’m a fan of the circular team name on the front, but the sides have a very college-feel to them. Not what you want from an NBA jersey, but I’m still a sucker from blue and yellow.

Over-Under 30.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Getting blackmailed into giving up Paul George for nothing

Burning Question: When’s Larry Bird coming back?

Bold Prediction: They will play some basketball this season

 

243px-atlanta_hawks_logo-svgAtlanta Hawks– I can confirm the initial reports that the Hawks do, indeed, have at least 15 players signed on the roster.

Over/Under 27.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Trading Paul Millsap

Burning Question: Is it possible for Sir Foster to win league MVP?

Bold Prediction: Your dad that somehow doesn’t notice things like jersey changes will have a powerful take about the Hawks jerseys that debuted last year

 

198px-brooklyn_nets_newlogo-svgBrooklyn Nets– Please be good, please be good, please be good, please be good, please be good, please be good, please be good, please be good, please be good, please be good, please be good, please be good.

If any team but the Cavs now had Brooklyn’s first round pick, I wouldn’t be all that worried about the Nets getting the number one pick again, but the Cavs have some dark magic (the league rigs the lottery) that allows them to get the number one pick every time they possibly can. The roster is awful, but there’s just so many terrible teams in the league, and the Nets have a good enough coach/front office combo that they’ll manufacture a couple wins. I’m all in on the D’Angelo Russell-Jeremy Lin experience.

Over/Under 26.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Trading for D’Angelo Russell

Burning Question: Can we get Jay-Z back in the mix?

Bold Prediction: The Nets will trade their 2019 first round pick because they want to stick to what they know

 

239px-chicago_bulls_logo-svgChicago Bulls– When you’re clearly the worst team in this conference, you know you’re bad.

Over/Under 22.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Exorcising the ghost of Dwyane Wade (and trading Jimmy Butler)

Burning Question: How many more terrible moves can the front office make before anyone gets fired?

Bold Prediction: They’ll still wind up on national TV a million times

 

Western Conference coming Tuesday

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