Well it seems the is a seismic shift in the landscape of the Eastern Conference. Gone is LeBron James ruler of the Eastern Conference for eight consecutive seasons. What does this mean? It means the Eastern Conference is up for grabs. Multiple teams have improved this off season and some have just stayed put knowing the King is gone and their chances have increased. With that being said, this season in the East is going to be so much fun to watch as everyone jockeys to take the throne once owned by the King. I know there are some key free agents still out there. plus I expect some trades to happen during the summer, this is how I see the Eastern Conference as we stand today.

  1. Boston This may truly be opportunity for the Celtics to rise up and snatch the East. They should start the season fully powered, depending on the Marcus Smart situation,  and ready to improve and gel together. Injuries to Gordon Hayward way early in the season and Kyrie Irving in the playoffs with the ability to take James and the Cavs to 7 games, gives them some big time confidence. The injuries actually helped make a potential superstar in Jayson Tatum as well as elevate Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier. The presence of Rozier also makes it easier to possibly move on from Marcus Smart as well. If Hayward can mesh with the youth that has emerged in Boston, they are the clear cut top favorites.
  2. Philadelphia Even though The Celtics beat the Sixers in five, Philadelphia has so much to be proud of. The Sixers look like a potential beast on the rise as they should improve off the success they had last season. Simmons looks comfortable as a Magic Johnson type point guard surrounded by shooters and Joel Embiid in the middle. Embiid is a problem on both sides of the court and is well on his way to being the top center in the game. If Ben Simmons can learn to shoot the 3 as well that would go a long way in making them compelling in the East.
  3. Toronto They looked the part last year! That was until LeBron dismantled them in round 2. Once James left for L.A. the rumors of breaking this squad up fizzled away. They feel the have a real opportunity to take the East this upcoming season. Unfortunately for them I think Boston is much better right now then them and I believe Philadelphia will jump them this season. I could still see this team try and upgrade, but it will be difficult to do at this stage, even with the addition of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green (assuming Kawhi plays for them) they aren’t going to be good enough to beat this Boston Team at full strength.
  4. Indiana I was very impressed with the growth of the Pacers last season. Victor Oladipo took the next step to superstardom and their defense at time was really suffocating. I absolutely loved the depth they acquired this off season. Adding Kyle O’Quinn as a backup center and Doug McDermott as a backup three were very nice moves. The under rated move however was Tyreke Evans. He is so versatile and can play multiple positions. He is not a great shooter, but has an uncanny knack of scoring with an assortment of moves and floaters near the rim.
  5. Milwaukee Sure the loss of Jabari Parker hurts, but they have played without him before and have been successful doing it. I like the additions of Brook Lopez, who can shoot from outside, rebound and block shots, and Ersan Ilyasova who figures to have the green light on offense with the second unit. Of course the Bucks go as Giannis goes, so I can easily see him improving once again like he has every season in the league. I think also Khris Middleton as the solid number 2, will elevate his game and help Milwaukee get to the playoffs battling for a first round home court series.
  6. Washington When the Wizards traded Marcin Gortat for Austin Rivers, it seemed like a weird move. However it has worked out perfectly as Dwight Howard fell into their laps after his buyout with Brooklyn who acquired him from Charlotte. Another fresh start for Howard could be a good thing. Also Rivers can play either guard spot off the bench with freedom to score on the second unit. A solid season from both John Wall and Bradley Beal and these Wizards could make a bigger jump than I have given them.
  7. Chicago  The Bulls took a gamble matching the Kings offer sheet for Zach LaVine and another paying big money to steal Jabari Parker away from Milwaukee. Now on paper, they look like a team that is ready to make a playoff push. LaVine and Parker should be the top options which will give last years surprising rookie Lauri Markannen all kinds of opportunities to rebound and score from the perimeter. This could be a make it or break it year for Kris Dunn, but if he takes the next step, maybe, just maybe, the Bulls can make a big run.
  8. Miami  The Heat are in the worst possible scenario right nowThey are in cap hell and stuck in the middle.  They would like to unload several players, but have been successful finding anyone interested. And unfortunately they really do not have a superstar, which makes them a team stuck in the middle. Coach Erik Spoelstra is really good and basically, in my opinion, the only reason this team makes the playoffs.
  9. Cleveland Kevin Love and some role players will not be enough to get the Cavs back to the playoffs. They do look like a team that may compete for a playoff spot, but I just see them falling short. I think drafting Collin Sexton was a nice piece to build around, however I think if things start going south they try and seal everyone not named Sexton. If Kevin Love finds himself traded before seasons end then the Cavs will obviously find themselves much farther down this list.
  10. Detroit  I seem to be disappointed in Detroit every year. So this time, I am picking for them not to make the playoffs. I just am not sold on Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond leading this team. The surrounding parts don’t impress me either. Reggie Jackson hasn’t proven to be a good distributor at the point and their wings have been lackluster at best. Maybe I’m wrong but I see more disappointment even with Dwayne Casey as coach.
  11. Charlotte Not sure what the Hornets are doing here at all. First they are gonna deal everyone and rebuild, now they can’t find trade partners for any one and they want to win. Kemba Walker is really the only true asset the Hornets can get anything for, but he is hands down the best player on the team. I think Charlotte will decide to blow this thing up during the season and acquire draft picks in the process.
  12. New York  The Knicks may finally be heading in the right direction. But I still think they are not ready for the playoffs. It will interesting to see how the Knicks play the rotation with the current roster and how active they will be to acquire some more talent. I like the drafting of Forward Kevin Knox and when Porzingis returns, they should form a formidable tandem at the forward spots. A consistent Tim Hardaway Jr. could be the key to them actually making a run toward a playoff spot instead of another year in the lottery.
  13. Brooklyn The Nets added some veterans to the roster who could help contribute. I still think D’Angelo Russell is playing out of position, but paired with Allan Crabbe in the backcourt, it kind of works. They have some nice pieces building toward the future like center Jarrett Allen who should improve this season. They definitely have some depth now, acquiring Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur and Shabazz Napier, who all should get minutes. Faried may even start. I think the mixture of youth with the young roster may surprise some teams this season.
  14. Orlando I am very hard on Orlando. I have not liked their past draft and think they lack good scoring on the roster. I do like Mo Bamba, however he is stuck behind Nik Vucevic. I am not the biggest Jonathan Isaac fan, but he has looked good in summer league, so maybe he is ready to contribute. They paid a lot for Aaron Gordon and I’m very convinced he is not a number 1 or 2 option at all. And do not get me started on the point guard position. They did not address that at all. DJ Augustine and Jerian Grant together do not make a starting point guard. I think as an organization they are a mess, but maybe they finally prove me wrong.
  15. Atlanta They know what this years is. It is a rebuilding year. Rookie Trae Young will at some point this season take the reins as the starting point guard. Also look for Atlanta to unload all unwanted contracts off the books. The Hawks like the trio of Young and forwards John Collins and Taurean Prince and the young core moving forward. They are going to lose a lot but will be entertaining with Trae Young and around trade deadline, with all kinds of options.

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