Projecting The 2018 NBA Eastern Conference
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Although the NBA season isn’t projected to begin until October, The Athletes Hub has projected the outcome of the Eastern Conference. Pending injuries, trades, and any other setbacks, here are the early estimations for the 2018-19 season:
Brian’s #1 Seed: Boston Celtics
Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving return to a Boston Celtics roster that finished second in the East last season. If he manages to stay out of trouble, first round draft pick Robert Williams could end up being a nice fit as well. On paper, the Celtics could make their first NBA Finals appearance since 2009.
Devon’s #1 Seed: Boston Celtics
Even without key assets in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, the Boston Celtics were on the verge of making the NBA Finals in a watered-down Eastern conference. With most of the roster staying intact over the offseason, the expectation is that Boston finishes what they began last season.
Martin’s #1 Seed: Boston Celtics
With Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward coming back from injury, as well as the success of the team last season without them, it should be a given that the Boston Celtics will finish on top of the East. Both Irving and Hayward are regarded as some of the best in the game at their respective positions. With a great mix of young talent from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, Boston will contain the top regular season record in the East.
Brian’s #2 Seed: Toronto Raptors
Demar DeRozan will be missed, but the sixth-ranked defense in terms of points per game just added Kawhi Leonard to its roster. Toronto can continue to build on their first place regular season from 2017, and a trip to the NBA Finals wouldn’t be a surprise to many.
Devon’s #2 Seed: Philadelphia 76ers
With one of the youngest active rosters in the NBA, the Philadelphia 76ers have a chance to become one of the elite teams in the East for years to come. With their top four scorers together in 2018, including veteran J.J. Redick, I expect for Philadelphia to emerge as a regular season favorite.
Martin’s #2 Seed: Toronto Raptors
After firing head coach Dwane Casey last season, it was obvious that something had to change in Toronto in order for them to be successful. In the offseason, the front office acquired one of the best players in the NBA right now in Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs. With Leonard now on the team, the team now has a stud to mix with players like Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka.
Brian’s #3 Seed: Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo is a true superstar, and perhaps the best player in the Eastern conference currently. Add in a supporting cast of Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, and Brook Lopez, along with first-year coach Mike Budenholzer. and Milwaukee might just do more than take Boston to seven games this season.
Devon’s #3 Seed: Toronto Raptors
There is no assurance that Kawhi Leonard will be healthy throughout the 2018-19 season, and his health is a huge factor in whether the Raptors can remain competitive or not. Viewed typically as a powerful regular season team, I don’t think I’ll be buying the hype in Toronto this season.
Martin’s #3 Seed: Philadelphia 76ers
After years of tanking, last season was well worth it for the Philadelphia 76ers. With a young core that includes Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, the 76ers fell flat in the second round against the Boston Celtics. Even with the playoff exit, the future is very bright for Philadelphia for years to come. This is a team that might be able to contend with the Toronto Raptors for the second seed in the East, but Toronto is still the better team at the current moment.
Brian’s #4 Seed: Philadelphia 76ers
It is relatively easy to put Philadelphia this high on the early projections, but it’s difficult to put them any higher than #4. Although Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are great players, talent doesn’t matter if they’re not on the court. This team has valuable pieces in place, but health will continue to be an issue.
Devon’s #4 Seed: Indiana Pacers
Although the Pacers may prove to be a flash in the pan, I think it’s more than that. This was a team that ranked fifth in the East in terms of points allowed per game, and a majority of their roster shot above 43% from the field in 2017. If the same system is utilized in 2018, Indiana will find themselves back in the postseason picture.
Martin’s #4 Seed: Milwaukee Bucks
With Giannis Antetokounmpo showcasing his elite status last season, he led the Milwaukee Bucks to a successful season where they gave the Boston Celtics a run for their money in the first round of the playoffs. Despite falling short, Milwaukee has a lot of supporting talent for Antetokounmpo to utilize in Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez.
Brian’s #5 Seed: Indiana Pacers
The Pacers are heading in the right direction with Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner, as the two give Indiana young players to work around. The additions of Tyreke Evans and Aaron Holiday should both be able to contribute. In terms of a bold prediction, I expect for Victor Oladipo to receive some MVP votes this season.
Devon’s #5 Seed: Milwaukee Bucks
While the Milwaukee Bucks were a fun team to pay attention to, they were the only Eastern conference postseason team that allowed more points per game than points scored on opponents (-0.3 difference). Bringing in Brook Lopez and first round draft pick Donte DiVincenzeo will help their cause, as the Bucks will be ranked as the #5 seed by default.
Martin’s #5 Seed: Washington Wizards
In a season where the Washington Wizards had to fight for a playoff spot, there were a lot of up and down moments. This time around with a healthy John Wall, alongside players like Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr, Markieff Morris and now Dwight Howard, Washington is slowly crawling up the postseason ladder. Even though the Wizards are not fit enough to compete with the top teams in the conference, they should make an impact in the regular season.
Brian’s #6 Seed: Washington Wizards
The Washington Wizards contain a deadly backcourt in John Wall and Bradley Beal. If free agent acquisition Dwight Howard can find himself as a service, rather than a hindrance, Washington can exceed expectations and slowly crawl up the standings.
Devon’s #6 Seed: Washington Wizards
Washington has made the postseason in four of the last five seasons, and I don’t expect the 2018-19 campaign to be an outlier. With Dwight Howard in place of Marcin Gortat, along with Austin Rivers and Jeff Green coming in, anything less than the #6 seed should be considered an embarrassment.
Martin’s #6 Seed: Indiana Pacers
With a superstar on the rise in Victor Oladipo, the Indiana Pacers are a team to watch this upcoming season. Last season, Indiana pushed LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to a seven-game series, which alone exceeded expectations. After signing Tyreke Evans in free agency, Indiana has the firepower to emerge as the #6 seed.
Brian’s #7 Seed: Detroit Pistons
Both Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond helped the Detroit Pistons in hovering around a top ten defense last year. By adding in Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, Detroit should sneak into the playoffs for the first time since the 2015-16 season.
Devon’s #7 Seed: Miami Heat
The Heat somehow sneaked their way into the postseason last year, even though they were the second-lowest scoring team in the playoffs (besides the San Antonio Spurs). With virtually no changes made to the roster, I believe that Miami is still a 40+ win franchise, and will grab a lower seed in the East. Although no postseason success will come, Miami will marginally meet their expectations this year.
Martin’s #7 Seed: Miami Heat
After finishing as the #6 seed last season, the Miami Heat are looking to bounce back this upcoming season With returning pieces like Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic, Kelly Olynyk and Hassan Whiteside, this team even has the upside to reach the #5 seed in the East. With the competition on the rise, I don’t see Miami getting past the first round of the postseason.
Brian’s #8 Seed: Charlotte Hornets
Going on a bit of a limb here, I approve of the offseason Charlotte is having this summer. Gaining Devonte Graham and Miles Bridges were solid moves, as was signing Tony Parker. Kemba Walker will need to continue his pace of play, and Malik Monk will need to step his game up. If everything falls into place, don’t be surprised if the Hornets end up here.
Devon’s #8 Seed: Cleveland Cavaliers
Many are writing off the Cleveland Cavaliers since LeBron James went out West, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they got back into the postseason picture. On paper, the Cavaliers have a roster that includes multiple All-Stars, as well as an in-depth bench. led by Kevin Love, Cleveland will rise against the odds with a skimming 42 wins.
Martin’s #8 Seed: Detroit Pistons
This one was difficult to decide on, as there are multiple teams that can sneak into the playoffs as the final seed. Even though the Detroit Pistons missed the playoffs last season, they contain upside in players like Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, and even Reggie Bullock. With Dwayne Casey as the new head coach, the ceiling for Detroit got a lot higher.
Featured Image: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America
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