To follow up on my Wild Wild West article, I thought I would do the same thing for the NBA Eastern Conference. It won't be quite the same, since the East by comparison should be extraordinarily mild. The Bucks are strong and clearly had the best postseason success of the teams who had a lot of continuity this offseason (though remember, we didn't 'run it back', we lost our starting SG and replaced him with a minimum contract player). Still, spoiler alert, I have us as a top 2 team in the East, like I did last year.
Remember that this is a ranking by how good the teams are, not the exact order I think they'll finish the regular season. The depth charts are usually how I think the team will do them, not how I would.
Using the same categories that I used in the West article, here we goooooo:
Elite (have a superstar duo capable of winning a title)
- Sorry about it, but I think Philly is tailor-made to beat the Bucks, and I think they'll have a very good chance to go so. Horford can spend time defending Giannis and gives Philly a backup center who won't get murdered like theirs did last year.
- Apart from Horford, they also added Josh Richardson, who I have really liked for a long time, and who I think will give Bledsoe fits. JJ Redick and Jimmy Butler are gone, so their scoring options are going to be interesting and their spacing is going to be shaky at best, but all 5 of their starters can shoot 3's, so they can at least space the floor that way, though not with great respect from the defense.
- Their issues are going to be spacing, crunch time scoring, and Ben Simmons, and that may be enough to sink them. Depth could also be a concern, but I think it is slightly better than people realize.
PG: Simmons, Neto
SG: Richardson (PG on defense), Thybulle, Ennis
SF: Harris, Z Smith
PF: Horford, Scott
C: Embiid, O'Quinn
- You could accuse me of being too pessimistic about Milwaukee or putting too much importance on Brogdon, or too little on mostly having continuity, and you very well may be right. I am naturally pessimistic about my sports teams by nature. Still, I do not like going into the season with a hole at SG, which is likely to be filled by a player far worse than last season's player.
- Adding Robin Lopez will be an improvement at backup center, and I am excited about Wes's 3pt shooting ability and veteran savvy. Having a full season of George Hill (assuming health) will be great, and perhaps Donte or DJ Wilson can blossom into a consistently useful player.
- Khris Middleton is at the very low end of "duo capable of winning a title", or perhaps not even in the category, but Giannis and the Bucks' depth puts us into this category anyway imo, even without Brogdon.
PG: Bledsoe, Hill
SG: Matthews, PCon, Donte
SF: Khris, Sterling (I would use Matthews as the backup SF if Sterling or Donte can play 20 mpg at SG)
PF: Giannis, Wilson, Ersan
C: Lopez, Lopez
Great Teams (may be able to win a title off of chemistry and overall talent)
It could be argued that the Bucks should be here, but I had Utah, Denver, and Portland here for the West, and I think the Bucks are overall better than those teams...although our #2 and #3 guys are worse than the Jazz #2 and #3 probably....
- This is contingent on Oladipo coming back healthy, which he will not for at least part of the season. I would not be surprised if he is not good for this entire season and perhaps is never particularly great again. However, I am going to assume for now that he can at least approach the level he was at the season before last (his first in Indy).
- A core of Oladipo, Turner, Sabonis, Lamb, and Brogdon is way more solid than people are giving it credit for imo, even if Brogdon is shaky at point guard. The Pacers continue to churn out good seasons with their surprisingly excellent (if unmodern) coaching and I actually think Brogdon will fit in well.
- Myles Turner and Damontis Sabonis' fit is the other key piece here; Sabonis is going to start at PF, which may be bad (he was bad at PF in OKC) or may be great (he compares very evenly to Siakam on offense imo and is a much better rebounder). Turner was a dark horse DPOY candidate last year and can space the floor too; he's a young Brook Lopez. This could be an excellent pairing with the right scheme.
PG: Brogdon, McConnell, Holiday
SF: Lamb, McDermott
PF: Sabonis, Warren
C: Turner, Bitadze
For comparison, there were six West teams listed higher than the Weird category. All the remaining East teams are weird, but I don't think any are as good as the Rockets, Spurs, or maybe Mavs, so I am going to skip this tier to remain consistent.
For comparison, there were 9 West teams listed before I got to the Decent tier in the West.
- I am not at all sold on the Celtics being good, despite Kemba no doubt being a better presence in the locker room. That small potential boost from Kyrie is majorly offset by the downgrade in talent from Horford to Kanter, which is giant, and the even more giant loss that is superstar Aron Baynes.
- Best case scenario, Robert Williams turns into a stud and their talented forwards all finally find their form. Worst case....is Kemba/Tatum/Hayward really better than Kemba/Lamb/Marvin Williams? Maybe a bit, and there is still the Brad Stevens factor, so I don't think they'll miss the playoffs, but I don't think they're any kind of lock to be great.
- Their issue is that Kemba Walker may be their best player and Gordon Hayward or Jaylen Brown now has to be their second best. Depth is actually an issue too. I think they would be fighting really hard for an 8 seed in the West.
SG: Brown, Smart
PF: Hayward, Ojeleye
C: Kanter, R. Williams
- Obviously they would be way higher than this if Kevin Durant was healthy, but he is likely to miss the entire season, so I am going to assume he isn't part of the team for this year. Without him, they still have excellent depth at four positions. If LeVert has a breakout season, they could be terrifying next year and quite good this year.
- Another cause for excitement for Nets fans should be the potential huge upgrade that is Kyrie Irving. D'Angelo Russell was an exciting player, but he was wildly ineffective at times, even being benched in crunch time occasionally, so Kyrie might actually offer a tremendous on-court boost, and might actually be more mature (shockingly) considering D'Angelo was dumb enough to try to smuggle marijuana through an airport in a soda bottle.
- Anyway, their causes for concern could be starting Kyrie/Durant's buddy Deandre Jordan at center over the better Jarrett Allen, as well as the huge hole at power forward.
PG: Kyrie, Dinwiddie (super strong rotation)
SG: Harris, Temple
SF: LeVert, Musa
PF: Prince, Kurucs
C: Jordan, Allen
- It is kinda sad to put the team that beat us and won the title in such a lowly position, but due to the unprecedented move of leaving a reigning championship team, Kawhi dropped the Raptors to this position.
- They still have Pascal Siakam, and maybe he will take a superstar leap, but if he doesn't, they could have a long season. Lowry and Gasol and Ibaka are aging and just won a championship, so you have to question what their motivation to come back in top shape will be. They may all regress.
- Additionally, they did not do anything to replace Kawhi, since they are capped out and cannot. Ideally, they would've traded for Jimmy Butler to slot right in. I could still see that happening during the season, or perhaps Gordon Hayward. I don't know why they didn't trade for Paul George, even if it meant Siakam in the package, though I've seen a rumor it was just a bunch of picks (and must have been salary like Lowry, Gasol, or Ibaka).
- They still do have a talented and smart team, but losing Kawhi (along with Danny Green) is a big blow, so I think they'll be a first round exit, though probably a tough out in the first round for their unlucky opponent. Their depth took a big hit after being a huge positive.
PG: Lowry, VanVleet (only a matter of time until this switches, maybe this season)
C: Gasol, Ibaka
Orlando should make the playoffs again and actually does appear to have slightly upgraded their roster from last season. However, they need to trade some of their young players for a star, but I find it unlikely they will do so. They should have a big enough treasure chest to trade for Brad Beal or someone on that level, but I doubt they'll do it.
Their upside comes in the possible development of Johnathan Isaac, or the unlikely breakthrough of Markelle Fultz (yeah you forgot he was here didn't you?).
Weaknesses include not being very good. Depth, however, may be a strength.
PG: Augustin, Fultz
SG: Fournier, Ross
SF: Gordon, Iwundu
PF: Isaac, Aminu, Okeke
C: Vucevic, Birch, Bamba
- They are a weird team and should've traded for Russell Westbrook in my opinion, but perhaps they didn't have the amount of picks necessary to land him; still, I would've thought that the Thunder would've taken fewer picks and Dragic's nice short contract instead of Paul's. They have an awkward roster and seem on target for a low playoff seed with Jimmy Butler heroically trying and failing to pull them to a first round win.
- It seems like there is a chance they will try to blow things up at midseason, but just have so little of interest. Still, they did shed some weight when they traded Hassan Whiteside, and their new lineup should be faster and more flexible.
- Their weaknesses are being terrible at PG, SG, and PF. They also don't have great depth, though it isn't terrible.
SG: Butler, Herro, Waiters
PF: Winslow, Johnson
C: Adebayo, Olynyk
- This would be a big step up for Chicago, but I think they can do it. They added Tomas Satoranky in the offseason, who I think is a weird but solid point guard who may be able to mesh well with Zach LaVine. Their young core is really interesting and if some or all of their players can take a leap, they could be really solid.
- Otto Porter is underrated due to being overpaid, and adding Thad Young could be really important from a leadership standpoint, though I'm not sure what position he is supposed to play. It would not surprise me if they snuck into the playoffs. Their spacing is really exciting.
- Their weaknesses include Zach LaVine potentially being a detriment to winning and losing Robin Lopez, who I'd guess was a veteran leader (and also an important center).
PG: Satoransky, Arcidiacano, White
SG: LaVine, Valentine
SF: Porter, Hutchinson
PF: Markkanen, Young
C: Carter Jr, Kornet
Bad (Really Bad)
- With Blake Griffin coming into the season injured, and old, and Derrick Rose and Markieff Morris, and Bucks castoffs Snell, Maker, and Wood being the big offseason additions (Derrick Rose of near All-Star caliber according to voters last season, to be fair), I see the Pistons regressing from their inspired play last season.
- Their roster is just so weak, and I don't think Dwayne Casey is very interested in developing their interesting young players like Luke Kennard.
- They have enough guys to compete for the playoffs, especially if Blake can play most of the season, but I don't see them being a legitimate threat; more like the Hornets with Kemba for the last few years. Their best hope is trading for Chris Paul to play with Griffin.
- Of course, an All Star season from Christian Wood would turn their fortunes around quickly.
PG: Rose, Jackson, Frazier
SG: Brown Jr, Kennard, Galloway
SF: Snell, Thomas
PF: Griffin, Morris, Wood
C: Drummond, Maker
- Atlanta has a lot of talent, but I think it is still too young to make much real noise in terms of wins and losses, especially with losing Dedmon and adding team-wrecker Jabari Parker. They will likely just be experimenting and focusing on player development again this season.
- I do really like their draft additions of Hunter and Fernando, but they won't be ready to contribute, and I don't like Reddish, who I think will try to contribute, to the detriment of the team.
- They need to figure out who is going to play what position, or if they're doing a crazy positionless thing, then at least who guards what position, bc right now, no one guards any position. Their defense may legitimately be the worst ever in the NBA.
SG: Huerter, Crabbe, Reddish
SF: Hunter, Turner, Bembry
PF: Collins, Jabari, Parsons, S Hill (overpaid castoff city)
C: Len, D Jones
- Washington has Bradley Beal. Unfortunately, they forgot that having other players was a necessity.
- On the plus side, they just hired a GM after the offseason essentially ended.
PG: Ish Smith, Isaiah Thomas
SG: Beal, Miles
C: Bryant (I actually like him), Mahinmi
- Poor Cleveland, never able to do anything right unless they are gifted Lebron James and Kyrie Irving and an additional first overall pick.
- They drafted a PG, he is likely a bust, so they drafted another PG without trading the first one. Sure sign of building strongly there, especially since the two have almost no chance of being able to play together, due to both being terrible defenders.
- To make matters worse, they gave Kevin Love a nonsensical max contract and seem to think that teams around the league view Love as a coveted asset. Maybe they will get Portland or Miami to bite.
- John Henson might be their second best player. Let that sink in.
PG: Garland, Sexton, Delly
SG: Clarkson, Knight
SF: Osman, Windler
PF: Love, Nance
C: Henson, Thompson
Really Shockingly Atrocious
- It is a testament to how weak the East is that NYK could place this high.
- Their roster has 5 starting caliber Power Forwards on it, and 6 starting caliber players on it. The PFs can all play center, but their best player plays C.
- Plus, supposedly Bullock and perhaps Ellington have injuries.
- I suppose they are hoping to sell off a PF to Brooklyn, LAC, Golden State, and Portland. Actually, that is giving them too much credit.
PG: D Smith, Payton
SG: Trier, Ellington
SF: Knox, Bullock
PF: Morris, Gibson, Portis
C: Robinson, Randle, Vonleh
- Obviously the Hornets lost Kemba Walker, but it gets worse than that; they also lost the very underrated Jeremy Lamb, Tony Parker retired, and you probably can't even tell me who they drafted.
- Charlotte could be really really horrendous this year, despite the overpaid addition of Scary Terry Rozier; he will be scary indeed when it becomes clear that he is a backup PG masquerading as a starter off of one overhyped playoff run.
- They better hope that Miles Bridges really pops as a star, but at least they are quite likely to get the first overall pick this season, and maybe break the Bobcats record for worst season.
PG: Rozier, Graham
SG: Batum, Monk
SF: Kidd-Gilchrist, Bacon
PF: Bridges, Williams
C: Zeller, Hernangomez, Biyombo
That's all there is! Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts?