This has been one of the most eventful off seasons in NBA history, as countless stars have signed with different teams. The topic headlining the off season is the potential battle of Los Angeles. Both the Clippers and Lakers, having improved their teams immensely, will provide must see TV action this season. Most would agree that either the Lakers, or Clippers, will be the first team to come out of the West other than the Warriors in 5 seasons.
The Brooklyn Nets also made a huge splash in free agency by signing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. However, Kevin Durant will miss close to the entire upcoming season with an achilles injury. This leads most to believe the Nets will not reach the Finals this season. With Kawhi Leonard’s departure of the Toronto Raptors, there is no longer a clear cut favorite in the East. This begs the question: What team should be the favorite in the East?
With the Raptors most likely out of the picture, the top seed in the East is up for grabs. There are several teams with a legitimate shot at a finals appearance.
1. Philadelphia 76ers
Aside from the Nets, the 76ers improved their roster the most of any eastern conference team this year. Unfortunately, they did have to part ways with Jimmy Butler. However, in return, they got Josh Richardson, who fits much better with the way the 76ers like to play. Richardson is a lockdown defender, and capable shooter. They also signed Al Horford, who will make them devastatingly good on defense. Tobias Harris is also returning to the 76ers, giving them another lethal scorer and shooter.
Ben Simmons is among the league’s best point guards, but needs three point shooters around him to be fully impactful. The 76ers have constructed a lineup around Simmons that shoots 35% from three, making sure that they are using all of his talents. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid now have all the pieces around them to unlock their full potential, and truly be as effective as possible. Watch out for the 76ers.
2. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks are coming off a very successful season, in which they had the best record in the NBA, and made the conference finals. Led by reigning MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks have some very high expectations this year. They resigned Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, two vital pieces to the team. However, unlike the 76ers, they have not made significant improvements to their roster. With that said, the Bucks are still a great team with a great coach, and have the star power to go far in the playoffs. The Bucks were the only team in the league last year to be top 3 in points, rebounds, and assists, per NBA.com. If Giannis can make another significant jump, the Bucks could very well be the team to beat in the East.
3. Boston Celtics
The Celtics replaced Kyrie Irving with fellow all-star guard Kemba Walker this off season, and they are putting their trust in Kemba as their leader. Walker will certainly be an upgrade from Irving, as Irving did not fit well with the Celtics. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are both primed for breakout years, and both need to emerge into the players they have the potential to be. Losing Horford will hurt, especially considering he left to another eastern conference contender, but the departure of Horford allows former first round pick Robert Williams to prove himself in the league, and showcase his wide variety of skills to the rest of the league. If the Celtics young players can take the necessary jumps, and Walker can lead them in the right direction, expect the Celtics to surprise some people this year.
The team with the best chance to come out of the east this year is the 76ers, and they should be the favorite. They have the perfect mixture of talent, shooting, and star-power, and have the tools to make a playoff run. They will face many obstacles, and will need to develop chemistry with their new roster additions. However, they should still be the favorite. There is more parity in the NBA right now than there has been since before Lebron James left to the Heat, and both conferences are going to be tough and competitive. The Eastern Conference is wide open, and all teams in contention needs to seize the opportunity.