Who will be the Top 3 Seeds in the Eastern Conference?

The Eastern Conference in the NBA has been the joke conference for many years now, but next season it’ll finally be competitive. For the previous 8 seasons, no matter how close the regular season was, it was always known that Lebron was going to the Finals. Last season there was some doubt once the Celtics took the Cavs to 7 games, but then Lebron turned it on for game 7. Lebron has gone to the Western Conference and the East is suddenly wide open. The Celtics, 76ers, and Raptors all should be better teams next season to boot. Those 3 teams are all basically locks for the top 3 seeds in the East. The only real debate is what the order of those 3 will end up being. Let’s take a dive into each team and mark their strengths and weaknesses.

Philadelphia 76ers

Projected Starting 5

The 76ers projected starting 5 is Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and Joel Embiid. First, we need to point out the length of this lineup. Simmons is 6’10, Covington is 6’9, Saric is 6’10, and Embiid is 7’0. This team is long as hell, which will help them wildly on the defensive end. The only guy who isn’t tall and lanky is Redick, who is a top 5 three-point shooter of all time. The average age of the starting 5 is 26 and that’s skewed a bit by JJ Redick being 34. Simmons is coming off a rookie of the year award and Embiid is trying to prove he’s the best player in the East. This should be an exciting lineup to watch.

Biggest Strength/Biggest Weakness

The 76ers were able to make it to the Eastern Conference Semifinals last season before losing to the Celtics. The Celtics exposed Ben Simmons and even held him to 1 point in game 2. They knew he couldn’t hit any threes and would leave him wide open any time he hung around the 3-point line. Even with that happening, the Sixers biggest strength is their shooting versatility. Simmons is a pure point guard and everybody else on the team can knock down their shots. Joel Embiid has an incredible stroke at his size being a center. We’ve already discussed JJ Redick being one of the best shooters of all time. And Saric and Covington can knock down their shots as well. Fultz seems to have some potential as a shooter, he just needs to remember how to shoot again.

The biggest weakness for Philly is their depth. They have a nice starting 5, but after that it becomes a lot of question marks. The only guaranteed good player is Wilson Chandler who was acquired from the Nuggets. He can offer good defense and decent scoring as a backup forward. Markelle Fultz was the number 1 pick a year ago, but nobody has any idea how he’s going to turn out. They lost good bench scoring when they lost Marco Bellinelli and Ersan Ilyasova to free agency. Mike Muscala, TJ McConnell, and Amir Johnson round out the bench after Chandler and Fultz. This team might have some struggles when they head to the second unit.

Boston Celtics

Projected Starting 5

The Celtics projected starting 5 is Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, and Al Horford. In the less talented Eastern Conference, this starting 5 could all be in the All Star Game. Seriously. Each one of those guys has the ability to take over a game when they need to, even the laid back Horford. The most exciting thing is just seeing this entire starting 5 healthy for more than 5 minutes into a game. With these 5 out on the court, there is no way you can leave someone to form a double team. They all hit threes at a high rate. And even better, they can all cut to the basket for a layup just as easily. This team will provide defensive nightmares for their opponents.

Biggest Strength/Biggest Weakness

The Celtics went 7 games in the Eastern Conference without Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward healthy enough to play. That alone highlights this team’s biggest strength; depth. Depth is far and away Boston’s biggest strength. After their starting 5, they have enough talent to form another starting 5. Their second unit consists of Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris, Daniel Theis, and Aron Baynes. Each of those guys apart from Theis started a bunch of games this past season. Teams won’t be able to get much rest against the C’s for any of the game. There will be more than a few games where the Celtics absolutely blow teams out by 20-30 points.

It was tough to pinpoint a weakness for Boston since they are such a great team. However, I did find a weakness; being the favorites. For the past few seasons, the Celtics thrived off being the underdogs and exceeding expectations. Now, they have been chosen to be the favorites in the East by Vegas. It’s time to put up or shut up. No more excuses for Boston. Also, I could see a situation where the spotlight being on them all season does more harm than help. The “chip on their shoulder” mentality was something that really helped guys like Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, and Jaylen Brown last season. There’s no chip next year. These guys need to elevate to an entirely new level next season with the amount of pressure on them.

Toronto Raptors

Projected Starting 5

The Raptors starting 5 looks like it will be Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka, and Jonas Valanciunas. That starting 5 is incredibly scary and versatile. Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, and Serge Ibaka are incredible defenders at their positions. Teams will struggle to penetrate that defense without the use of screens and switching around. Kawhi on his own could be a force, and Lowry is a proven All Star in this league. Outside of Kawhi and Danny Green, these guys have tremendous chemistry with one another and that can only help out as well.

Biggest Strength/Biggest Weakness

The Raptors finished

as the 1 seed last season, but still somehow got swept by Lebron and the Cavs in the second round. As a positive, that disappointment can only drive them this upcoming season. The biggest strength for Toronto has to be Kawhi Leonard. If healthy, Kawhi is a top 3 player in this league. Him playing is enough to make this team absolutely unbeatable. As good as Demar Derozan was, Kawhi is clearly an upgrade. He’s a 2-time defensive player of the year and an NBA Finals MVP. Dude’s an absolute stud.

The biggest weakness for Toronto also happens to be their biggest strength; Kawhi Leonard. This might sound off, but if Kawhi pulls more hissy fits and refuses to play for Toronto, then they lost Derozan for absolutely nothing. Kawhi sat out nearly all of last season as well, so some rust could be as expected. If he can’t get the rust off right away, will he just elect to take the rest of the season off? There are far too many questions about Kawhi that none of us really know the answers to. If something goes wrong with Leonard in Toronto, losing Derozan will be the biggest mistake in the team’s history.

What will the Top 3 Seeds End up Being?

3. Philadelphia
2. Boston
1. Toronto

Before I began looking into it, I had the Celtics as being the clear number 1 seed. I then began to look at the importance of Kawhi Leonard. To begin, the Raptors won 59 games last season and replaced Demar Derozan with Kawhi Leonard. If they got a better best player, it would only make sense for them to become a better team. I am expecting them to have between 60 and 64 wins this upcoming season. Then, the Celtics should have their fully healthy roster back which is why Vegas has them as the favorites. I believe early adjustments will need to be made and with that there will be a small time of turbulence. By the end of the season, I believe they will be better than the Raptors just with a few less wins. I’d predict 58-62 wins for Boston. Finally, I have Philly as the third seed because they are so young and inexperienced. They have such good talent however and that’s why they’ll stay in the top 3. I’d predict 53-57 wins for Philly. Each time 2 of these 3 teams face each other this upcoming season expect an all-out bloodbath on the court.

-Brandon Black ()

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