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NBA Eastern Conference Preview

In the Eastern Conference this season the Cavaliers once again enter as clear favorites to win the East. LeBron James will be looking to make his 7th straight finals while the Cavaliers will be looking to make their 3rd. There are plenty of teams looking to take them down, however. The Celtics made moves this offseason in hopes of dethroning the Cavs, and the Raptors and Pacers could also be threats. The Knicks and Bulls both made big moves this offseason in hopes to becoming a top team in the East, but it might have not been enough. Here’s a look at each team in the Eastern Conference this year.

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers– The defending NBA Champions return nearly everybody from last year’s team. The only two pieces they really lost were point guard Matthew Dellavedova and center Timofey Mozgov. J.R. Smith was just recently re-signed on a four year, $57 million contract. Led by LeBron James and his main supporting cast of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, the Cavs are once again clear favorites in the Eastern Conference. It’s still tough to see another team in the East taking them down in a seven-game series in the playoffs. Expect another trip to the NBA Finals for the Cavaliers.
  2. Boston Celtics– The Celtics are coming off a good season that ended in disappointing fashion. They went and made a splash in free agency when they signed center Al Horford to a four year, $133 million contract. They return many similar pieces from last year’s team, with the one key loss being small forward Evan Turner. Point guard Isaiah Thomas has been a strong piece for them since the trade two seasons ago and the Celtics will look for him to continue to be that and hope point guard Marcus Smart can continue to develop. While probably not ready to compete with the Cavaliers yet, the Celtics will still be one of the best teams in the East.
  3. Toronto Raptors– The Raptors are coming in this season looking to build off last season’s successful 56 wins and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Raptors locked up shooting guard DeMar DeRozan quickly into free agency and will once again be led by him and point guard Kyle Lowry. The Raptors also signed power forward Jared Sullinger in free agency and they will look for him to help down low. The Raptors should be one of the top teams in the East for the second year in a row.
  4. Indiana Pacers- The Pacers are coming off a season where they were the seventh seed in the East and pushed the Raptors to seven games. They were one of the best teams in the East a few years ago with small forward Paul George. Another year removed from his gruesome leg injury, they will look to get back to being one of the top teams. They were busy this summer trading for point guard Jeff Teague and power forward Thaddeous Young and also signing center Al Jefferson. With the moves they made to go along with what they already had in Paul George and shooting guard Monta Ellis, don’t be surprised if the Pacers are back in the top half of the East.
  5. Atlanta Hawks- The Hawks made a splash in free agency when they signed center Dwight Howard. Howard has bounced around a bit recently and has now found his new home with the Hawks, which is his hometown team. With Howard and power forward Paul Millsap down low, the Hawks hope to have a dominant front court. Point guard Dennis Schroder will take a bigger role with the team, with the loss of point guard Jeff Teague in the offseason. This is another year where the Hawks look destined to finish in the middle of the playoff seeding.
  6. New York Knicks- The Knicks were a very busy team this offseason. They started out by trading for point guard Derrick Rose; and then they went and signed center Joakim Noah, point guard Brandon Jennings, and shooting guard Courtney Lee. The Knicks are a team who probably should be building around power forward Kristaps Porzingis, but seem to want to keep small forward Carmelo Anthony happy so are building around him for the time being. But no matter who they are building around for now, they could be a interesting team to watch this year. And anything less than a playoff birth would be a major disappointment.
  7. Chicago Bulls- Another team that made plenty of noise this offseason. The Bulls went out and signed both shooting guard Dwyane Wade and point guard Rajon Rondo. Which led to question about how Wade, Rondo, and small forward Jimmy Butler will all work together. They also recently traded small forward Tony Snell for point guard Michael Carter-Williams. It might be a bit of a head scratching trade considering that their two point guards now both can’t shoot the ball particularly well. There are definitely questions with this Bulls team, but they should have enough talent to make it into the playoffs.
  8. Charlotte Hornets- The Hornets are a team who will look to have another good year coming off a successful, and somewhat surprising, last season. Their main offseason move was signing center Roy Hibbert, who they hope can do a good job in replacing center Al Jefferson. Kemba Walker has made himself into a very reliable point guard in the league, averaging over 20 points for the first time in his career last season. Expect a bit of a regression this year from the Hornets, but they should still be a team in the playoff hunt all year long.
  9. Detroit Pistons- The Pistons are going to have to deal with the loss of point guard Reggie Jackson to an injury for around a month to start off the season. They are going to look for point guard Ish Smith to step up in his absence. The Pistons know what they have in center Andre Drummond and power forward Tobias Harris. The big question with them is what they get from bench players such as shooting guard Darrun Hilliard, small forward Stanley Johnson, rookie shooting guard Michael Gbinije, and power forward Henry Ellenson. The answer to that could go a long way in deciding if the Pistons will make the playoffs.
  10. Washington Wizards- The Wizards will once again be led this season by point guard John Wall and shooting guard Bradley Beal. Wall is coming off knee surgery this offseason but is ready to go for the start of the season. The Wizards traded for point guard Trey Burke, who they hope can develop behind Wall. Small forward Otto Porter Jr. showed much improvement last season when he averaged 11.6 points and 5.2 rebounds. If Wall and Beal remain healthy, the Wizards should be able to contend for one of the final playoff spots.
  11.  Miami Heat- The Heat are going to be a completely different looking team this year. For the first time since the 2002-2003 season they will take the floor without Dwyane Wade on their team. They also will be without center Chris Bosh who missed the end of the past two seasons with blood clot issues. When reporting to training camp this year he didn’t pass his physical and his Heat career is likely over. However, the Heat were able to retain center Hassan Whiteside in free agency and still have point guard Goran Dragic. They also signed shooting guard Dion Waiters this offseason after his price tag fell significantly. The Heat will also look for small forward Justise Winslow to improve off his rookie season.
  12.  Orlando Magic- The Magic made the blockbuster trade on draft day when they sent shooting guard Victor Oladipo to the Thunder for power forward Serge Ibaka. Even without Oladpio, the Magic still have plenty of young talent with point guard Elfrid Payton, small forward Aaron Gordon, and shooting guard Mario Hezonja. The hire of Frank Vogel as their new head coach was seen by many as an excellent move by the team. He could be the perfect coach to lead this young Magic team into the future.
  13.  Milwaukee Bucks- The Bucks are another team that has some good young talent. They recently locked up small forward Giannis Antetokounmpo to a four year $100 million contract. They also have power forward Jabari Parker and rookie power forward Thon Maker. Drafting Maker was a surprise move by the Bucks. Maker does have plenty of raw talent, but will need time to develop. The Bucks main free agency move was signing Matthew Dellavedova.
  14.  Brooklyn Nets- The Nets will once again be bad, and once again will not have there own draft pick. The Celtics, who also got the Nets number three overall pick this past draft, will have the right to swap picks with the Nets in this year’s draft. However, the Nets did find a way to draft some good players, when they traded up for shooting guard Caris LeVert and hometown kid point guard Isaiah Whitehead. The Nets will hope free agency signing point guard Jeremy Lin can lead them this season.
  15.  Philadelphia 76ers- The Sixers will be one of the worst teams in the league again, but this time they will at least be fun to watch. We will finally get to see the debuts of center Joel Embiid and power forward Dario Saric, who were both first round picks in 2014. However, we will have to wait until around January to see the debut of this year’s number one pick power forward Ben Simmons, who broke a bone in his foot a few weeks ago. With those three guys along with centers Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel the Sixers have a big man logjam that will need to be figured out. But we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel with the Sixers, and they could become a good team in the near future. Maybe Sam Hinkie’s process might just be worth trusting after all.
Nick is a Senior Communications major with a focus in Sports Communications at Lasell College. Hailing from Pequannock, New Jersey, you can always find Nick watching some type of sports. His favorite teams include the Mets and the Jets. His other interests include listening to EDM and playing video games. His favorite outfit is his birthday suit, and his favorite pickup line is "Are you from Tennessee? Because you're the only ten-I-see."
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