For the first time in years, the East is completely wide-open. LeBron James left the Cavaliers, ending a streak of dominance over the Conference that lasted 8 years. This summer, Kawhi Leonard also headed West, leaving the NBA's defending Champions without their primary star.
Someone new will be coming out of the East this year, that much is certain. But which team will it be?
In an appearance on NBA TV, TNT analyst and league legend Charles Barkley gave his take as to who might take over the throne of power.
“I gotta tell you something, what I’m most excited about is who’s the best team in the Eastern Conference?” Barkley said, as quoted by SportsRadio 94WIP.
“I’m going out on a limb right now, I’m riding or dying with the Philadelphia 76ers. It’s gonna be a great battle between them and the Milwaukee Bucks all year. I love Philadelphia. I love Al Horford, Josh Richardson. Milwaukee losing (Malcolm) Brogdon, I think that’s a big deal. But I think it’s a two-team race in the Eastern Conference between the 76ers and the Milwaukee Bucks. I can’t wait until they play each other head to head.”
It is true that the loss of Malcolm Brogdon will be detrimental to Milwaukee's success this year. But do the Sixers have enough to overtake them come postseason time?
Philly suffered some losses of their own in J.J. Redick and Jimmy Butler, two players who were instrumental in the offense of the team. It will be up to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to fill the void that these departures created. Still, both stars are dealing with concerns of their own.
For Simmons, his shooting struggles continue to be a liability to the team and will limit what he can do offensively. Embiid, of course, has a history of brutal injuries that could be a reason to doubt he'll even be healthy enough to see the season through.
Nevertheless, despite the flaws, the Sixers have the talent to get to the next level. But they will have to fight off some of their own demons before they do so.