The eastern conference in the NBA has the current champions, the Toronto Raptors. According to Oddshark, the Raptors have the 12th best odds to win and repeat, AKA don’t hold your breath. Unlike the western conference, the east is very top heavy with four or five legitimate contenders including your Boston Celtics.
This may be one of the two “favorites” to win the east. The 2018-19 MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo returns along with Khris Middleton, giving a team with high potential their top two players back and perhaps more importantly about 45 points per game returning for another season. The Greek freak had his best statistical season a year ago with 27.7 ppg and 12.5 rpg to go along with shooting 58% from the field. The Bucks lost Malcolm Brogdon in free agency but there are still very talented point guards to take the minutes he’s giving up. George Hill, Eric Bledsoe and even Frank Mason can pick up some of the slack on a team that will be whatever Giannis gives them.
One thing to watch out for from Milwaukee is their appearance on the trade market. Six players on the Bucks roster as of October 17th are slated to make less than $2 million this season. Some of those players may still have something left in the tank too. Kyle Korver, Dragan Bender and Pat Connaughton who gave the Celtics defense fits during the playoffs. If the Bucks need to fill a spot on the roster, they can use a couple of those players for one player as they need to shave some money off of their salary cap.
This will be a deep team with a Greek freak and scoring help around him, all that adds up to the Bucks as the number one seed in the east.
The NBA was shaken to its core during the preseason when Ben Simmons hit a three pointer……..against Guangzhou from the Chinese Basketball Association. Now that we’ve had our fun, let’s get back to the real stuff. The 76ers had themselves quite the offseason, losing Jimmy Butler, JJ Reddick and TJ McConnell. As those guys left, new guys came in including Al Horford and Trey Burke and the 76ers traded for Josh Richardson from Miami.
Celtics fans know what Al Horford can bring a team outside of the scoring book. His leadership and especially his part in a pick and roll and passing could make him the missing piece to Brett Brown’s team. Joel Embiid should have a good season as his points per game has increased since his long-awaited debut in 2016 along with his minutes per game and if that happens, Philadelphia should be in good shape for their chase for the championship.
One thing that bares watching is “the shot”. We all remember the shot, game 7 against the Raptors, Kawhi Leonard launched a three at the buzzer that touched the entire rim before going in and punching the Raptors spot in the conference finals. Something like that can potentially rattle a young team, but that may be where big Al can help his new team.
The Brooklyn Nets….ohh the Nets. They finally have Kyrie and KD (When his achilles heals that is) Actually, this will be an important season for Brooklyn. Kyrie will be playing with limited expectations as all fans can expect is a playoff appearance and maybe a series win if he’s the lone all-star caliber player. The players around him are playing to be a part of next season which will be the true launching point and one of those players taking part in the process is Jarrett Allen. This man is a force to be reckoned with under the net at 6-11, 243. He ended last season with 11 ppg and 8 rpg adding up to 24 double-doubles last year. Defensively Allen averaged between 1-2 blocks per game. The true X-Factor for the nets will be Caris LeVert. If you forgot, LeVert dislocated his right foot but only missed a couple of months before coming back and ending the regular season with just under 14 points per game. If he can give the Nets the shooting from 17 feet that they need while KD is gone, Brooklyn could be playing into May.
Since this is a Boston-centric blog, i’ll have an in-depth preview of the Celtics next week, but until then here is my prediction for the Eastern Conference.