The Eastern Conference hasn’t been nearly half as tough and dominant as the Western Conference in over a decade, and truth to be told, the lone shot an Eastern team has had in the Finals has come pretty much because of LeBron James.
But, now that the King has finally decided to step up and make the switch to the Western Conference, the East is up for grabs, with some teams on the rise that are bound to take the bull by the horns.
The league is yet to start but even so, taking a look at the current rosters and how they fared the prior campaign, let’s go ahead and make our first Eastern Conference power rankings of the season.
15. Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks are already planning ahead for the future rather than this upcoming season, so other than watching John Collins and Trae Young play together for a full campaign, there’s not much reason to watch them.
They’re likely to tank from day one, as they don’t have much talent on their ranks following the Dennis Schroder trade. Also, they’re a lock to trade Kent Bazemore and just let their young studs grow through their mistakes.
14. New York Knicks
There’s a really good chance Kristaps Porzingis will miss a huge part of the season, and considering they’re not likely to be very good, the team may even shut him down for the whole year.
Coach Fizdale will have a handful with his logjam at the point guard spot, with Trey Burke, Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay going head to head to see who gets the starting nod. Also, Kevin Knox looks like a stud in the making, so there’s that.
13. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers just signed Kevin Love to a huge contract extension to make him the team’s go-to-guy following LeBron James’ departure, but truth to be told, we actually feel as if they would be really open to trading him.
This team is plagued with veterans that are not going to be able to perform accordingly with the big money they get, so other than watching Collin Sexton’s rookie season, it’s going to be a very long year for Cavs fans.
12. Brooklyn Nets
It’s now or never for D’Angelo Russell. The young combo guard is entering a contract year and should be desperate to prove that he’s worthy of all the praise he got during his NCAA tenure before being traded from the Lakers.
The Nets could make a slight push for a playoff spot early on, but they don’t have a true shot at contention, so the team should just go ahead and tank to try and get back some of the picks they wasted via trade.
11. Charlotte Hornets
The Charlotte Hornets don’t have any true tradable asset on their squad other than Kemba Walker and maybe Malik Monk, who was one of the biggest letdowns of his class during his rookie season.
With Tony Parker’s signing, they’re even more likely to try and move Kemba Walker before the deadline, especially now that they don’t even have Dwight Howard down low to at least try and make a playoff run.
10. Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic are looking like a much improved team this year amid Mo Bamba’s arrival, and considering that they’re going to have Jonathan Isaac for a full season as their starting small forward next to Aaron Gordon.
This team isn’t going to make the playoffs, and the Magic have a history of shooting themselves in the foot after a strong start of the season, but they’re definitely going to be very entertaining to watch and one of the toughest defensive frontcourts in the league.
9. Chicago Bulls
Now that they’ve drafted Wendell Carter Jr, signed Jabari Parker and that Zach LaVine is ready to go from the jump ball, these young Chicago Bulls might mess around and even making the playoffs.
They’re one of the youngest and most promising teams in the NBA, featuring a lot of balance on their starting 5. All of their starters have a lot of upsides and are potential franchise players, so it’s time to see who’ll stand out from the pack.
8. Miami Heat
The Miami Heat is in a very awkward position. They have the kind of roster where making the playoffs is an obligation, but they’re not good enough to even make it past the first round of the postseason.
Even if Dwyane Wade winds up coming back and assuming Dion Waiters is running and gunning, this team would be better off by trading away Whiteside and some spare parts for picks.
7. Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons made a truly bold move by trading for Blake Griffin the prior campaign, but even so, they missed the playoffs, being one of the biggest disappointments in the league by a long shot.
Now that they’ll have a full season to play together, the Griffin-Drummond duo is going to be a spacing nightmare but a very physical combo that should dominate both ends of the glass. Also, hopefully, Stanley Johnson will finally step up.
6. Washington Wizards
The Washington Wizards look like a slightly better team now that they’ve finally traded away Marcin Gortat and replaced it with Dwight Howard, a significant upgrade in every major aspect of the game.
Nonetheless, it still feels like they’re one more star away from being a legit threat in the Eastern Conference, but they have the kind of talent to make a nice playoff run if they’re able to find some consistency.
5. Milwaukee Bucks
Now that they’ve landed Brook Lopez, it looks like the Milwaukee Bucks finally have the starting big man they’ve been looking since Larry Sanders left the team, even if he doesn’t offer the defensive upside Thon Maker can bring.
The Bucks are a rising team and Giannis Antetokounmpo has been gaining a lot of muscle and even worked out with Kobe this summer, so we expect the Greek Freak to have a monstrous season and lead them to the 2nd round of the playoffs.
4. Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers were one of the most surprising teams of the prior campaign, and we don’t see them slowing down any time soon if defending Most Improved Player of the Year Victor Oladipo keeps his foot on the gas.
Myles Turner is a stud on the making but he needs to develop his character, especially in the clutch, while Domantas Sabonis may finally shift to the starting 5. Either way, the Pacers will be really fun to watch, for sure.
3. Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors made a couple of really risky plays this summer by letting Dwane Casey go and then trading away DeMar DeRozan for a one year rental on Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard.
Naturally, adding both players will be a major -temporary- upgrade for the team’s starting five, and now that they won’t have to deal with LeBron in the playoffs, they may actually make it to the Finals.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers look like a dynasty in the making, and now that Markelle Fultz has reportedly found his shooting stroke back, he’s one of our prime candidates for both the MIP and the 6th Man of the Year award.
Watching Embiid and Simmons play together is just music for basketball fan’s ears, and with both young studs desperate for payback, expect them to make it all the way to the Conference Finals this season.
1. Boston Celtics
According to several insiders, the Boston Celtics would be the frontrunners to win the NBA Championship if it wasn’t for the Golden State Warriors and well, we actually agree with that statement.
The Celtics are STACKED. Tatum and Brown are already All-Star caliber players, they kept Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier, and will now have Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving for a full season. They’re just scary.