After Lebron’s move to the Western Conference, it sent many shockwaves around the league, and a huge power loss in the Eastern Conference, as LeBron was representing the East for 8 straight years.
LeBron’s move signals that the Boston Celtics are in driver’s position to represent the Finals, as they were minutes shy of advancing without three of their players. However, Kawhi’s move to Toronto should not be slept on, as he is one of the best two-way players in the NBA, and the 76ers can improve from last year, with the development of their young players. Many other teams also improved during the offseason. Here are the tiers and teams in that tier in the Eastern Conference:
The “Championship” Tier: Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors
Both the Celtics and the Raptors have the best chance in advancing to the NBA Finals, especially the Celtics, as they have two all-stars in Kyrie and Hayward returning from injury. They also retained their only main free agent, Marcus Smart, who helped the Celtics become one of the best defensive teams in the league. The Celtics also have two young stars in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, who can look to build off from their terrific years. The Raptors are another team in this tier, as they made a blockbuster trade, sending star player Demar Derozan, and acquiring Kawhi Leonard, a player that has improved heavily on his shooting, but is known more for his defensive tenacity on the floor. The Raptors still have a deep bench, despite losing a key bench player in Jakob Poeltl, and they still have Kyle Lowry, who is a top 10 PG. Both these teams have the best chance in heading to the NBA Finals, and winning it.
The “Dangerous, but Not yet Championship” Tier: Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks:
The Pacers have a team full of young stars in Myles Turner and Victor Oladipo. They even have a great coach in Nate McMillan, which took LeBron James to 7 games, but ultimately lost. They still have the same team, although losing Lance Stephenson, they did sign Tyreke Evans and Doug McDermott, both underrated shooters, that can provide quality minutes to the bench. The Philadelphia 76ers have a young team in Fultz, Simmons, Embiid, and Saric. They resigned JJ Redick, but failed to get any other star players, instead taking on Wilson Chandler’s contract. The Milwaukee Bucks, although losing out on Jabari Parker to the Bulls, hired a great coach in Mike Budenholzer. The Bucks still have All-NBA Giannis Antetokounmpo, a good PG in Eric Bledsoe, an underrated player in Khris Middleton, and a good three-point shooter in Malcolm Brogdon. While these teams have championship talent, they still don’t have the experience and chemistry levels as opposed to the Celtics and Raptors. However, that can change through the season, as these three teams have the possibility in becoming a championship-caliber team.
The “Team with Talent, but can’t Use it” Tier: Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets:
Both the Wizards and Hornets are in two different positions, yet have the similar problem. The Wizards are a playoff team that can contend for a championship, while the Hornets are just trying to get a playoff spot. However, both these teams have talent that can’t use it in crucial positions. The Hornets, led by PG Kemba Walker, just signed another guard in Tony Parker. They also have youngsters in Frank Kaminsky, Malik Monk, and Miles Bridges, who can all provide great help to the team, and can take them to the playoffs. The Wizards have All-Star John Wall and Bradley Beal, as well as signing Dwight Howard to a deal, who is a great rim protector that can grab boards better than most centers. The Hornets are trying to advance to the playoffs, while the Wizards are looking to advance to the Finals. However, every year, the Wizards fail to advance to the ECF with John Wall, while the Hornets are on the outside always losing out on the 7th or 8th seed in a weak Eastern Conference. Both teams have talent, but can’t seem to use that talent under key situations.
The “In an Awkward Spot” Tier: Miami Heat, Detroit Pistons:
The Heat and Pistons are in a rough spot, as they don’t have star talent to compete in the playoffs, let alone the Finals, but have more talent than teams like the Hawks or the Magic. The Heat still have Dwayne Wade left to sign, although it is very likely he will return, while the Pistons have talent of their own in Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, two dominant bigs who can create problems in the paint, as well as hiring last year’s COTY in Dwane Casey. The Heat have Kelly Olynyk and Hassan Whiteside, who are inconsistent at times, but can still step up and win games, but Erik Spoelstra, the head coach for the Heat, is the reason as to why the Heat are still a playoff-caliber team. Both the Pistons and Heat have one similar problem: should they compete or rebuild? While they do have more talent than some teams, they are not yet equipped to advance to the Finals. Expect one of these teams to go all in for a championship this year, or just begin a rebuild and plan for the future.
The “Boom or Bust” Tier: Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls:
This tier is where teams can either go all in and make the playoffs, or blow it up midway and commence a rebuild. The Cleveland Cavaliers seem the most likely in this scenario, as they do have talent in Kevin Love and Collin Sexton, but can choose to trade players midway if the team isn’t performing near expectations. As per the Bulls, they have a bright future with their youth, but with the starting lineup they pose, they could actually make a run for a playoff spot. Kris Dunn and Zach Lavine make up the backcourt, as Lauri Markkanen, coming off a fantastic year, and Jabari Parker are in the frontcourt. Also drafting Wendell Carter Jr, the Bulls could be a dangerous team heading into the season, or could just not worry about the playoffs and look to net yet another top pick in the draft next year. Both the Cavaliers and Bulls can grab one of the final playoff spots, or can “tank”, not being competitive and instead try receiving a top pick in the draft next year.
The “Eyeing a Star Next Year” Tier: New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets:
Both the Nets and Knicks will have space for a max contract next year, and are eyeing stars in a loaded NBA Free Agency class next year. The Knicks will look to become relevant in the basketball world again, while the Brooklyn Nets will look to rebuild around a certain star, finally getting their picks after the disastrous trade with the Celtics. The Knicks have a bright future with Frank Ntilikina and Kristaps Porzingis, as well as head coach David Fizdale, who is beloved around the NBA world and the players. The Nets have D’angelo Russell and Jarrett Allen representing their future, with a good coach in Kenny Atkinson, who is very underappreciated for what he has done in Brooklyn. Many star players are expected to be free agents, such as Kemba Walker, Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, etc. as both these teams envision one of the stars to head to their team.
The “Full-On Rebuild” Tier: Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic:
The future is the plan for teams like the Hawks and Magic, as they have no intention in competing for a championship. The Magic have Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamba, two players that can mesh well, offensively and defensively. The Hawks are led by college sensation Trae Young and an explosive player in John Collins, as well as a new head coach, Lloyd Pierce, who can become a very good coach in the future. Both these teams are set for the future, and will look to build on it through next year’s draft.