NBA

The Least of the East or Beasts Waiting To Feast?

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After a flurry of offseason moves that took place in the past few weeks, it sure seemed as as if almost all of the major stars decided to take their talents to the Western Conference of the NBA. On the other hand, there are a multitude of “rising” teams that are on the cusp of greatness going into the 2017-2018 season.  First, lets revisit how the NBA playoffs wrapped up in the Eastern Conference last season.

The Boston Celtics had a bit of a resurgence last year, thanks to the greatly improved play of point guard Isaiah Thomas, as well as acquiring free agent forward Al Horford. Boston went on to clinch the coveted #1 seed, had home court advantage throughout the playoffs, and seemed poised to take the next step during the 2017 NBA playoffs.  However, the reigning Eastern Conference champion, Cleveland Cavaliers, had other plans for Boston, and quickly eliminated them in a mere five games. Boston is hoping that with the recent acquisition of Gordon Hayward, they have enough ammunition to hang onto the #1 seed, and eventually dethrone the Cavs in the playoffs.

Speaking of Cleveland, LeBron James and crew steamrolled through the entire Eastern Conference playoffs with no true opposition being felt at any point.  It would be hard to say what may have happened if they had faced a team on the rise, such as the Washington Wizards, who had many classic battles with the Cavaliers during the 2016-2017 NBA regular season.  John Wall, who is currently fresh off his recent “super max” extension, improved the Wizards, who seemed better equipped to match up with the Cavs, but alas they never got their shot at a seven-game series against their rivals.

So, how will the impending new season shake out with these dominant teams, as well as new risers in the conference? The Milwaukee Bucks should make a big leap this season, especially after the incredibly elevated play of the “Greek Freak,” Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the improved coaching adjustments made by Jason Kidd.

Another team to keep a close eye on this season is the Philadelphia 76ers. Yes, those Sixers. “Trusting the Process” may finally come fruition this season, and see them qualify for the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-2012 NBA season. So why will this year be any different for a 76ers team that has been plagued by injuries, and re-building over the past decade?  It should all boil down to how well the new veteran additions, such as sharpshooter JJ Redick and forward Amir Johnson, gel with the young core of Markelle Fultz and Jahlil Okafor.

The NBA Eastern Conference seedings should shake out like this: 1) Boston Celtics vs. 8) Toronto Raptors; 2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 7) Philadelphia 76ers; 3) Washington Wizards vs. 6) Charlotte Hornets; 4) Milwaukee Bucks vs. 5) Miami Heat. The first few rounds of the Eastern playoffs should be a vast improvement from last year’s “snoozefest” that was the 2017 NBA playoffs. In the end, I see the Washington Wizards matching up with the Boston Celtics in classic playoff rematch, for the right to meet the Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.

Photo Credit: NESN.com

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