Three Teams That Will Surprise The East


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The Eastern Conference in the NBA was dominated by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers once again last year, but now that “The King” has departed to the West, this conference is up for grabs. While the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers are the presumed favorites, here are three teams that will surprise the East:

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Toronto Raptors (2017: 59-23)

The Toronto Raptors may have lost a franchise player in DeMar DeRozan, but also gained the best two-way player in basketball in 2018. While I have previously argued that the Raptors lost this deal involving Leonard, I think the team itself will shock the East in terms of being competitive in the postseason.

Not many will remember the fact that in each of the last three seasons, Toronto has finished in the top three in the Eastern Conference standings. Granted that’s not difficult, compared to teams in the West, but it’s admirable nonetheless.

The question is whether Kawhi Leonard can stay healthy. If so, this is a franchise that should be one of the two best teams in the NBA (alongside Boston). In a seven-game set, with a healthy Leonard on the floor for 30+ minutes per game, I see Toronto overcoming Philadelphia in a series that does not go the distance.

While most expect for Toronto to diminish, I expect for them to finish in the top three once again in terms of regular season standings, and I believe they will advance to at least the second round of the postseason.

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Milwaukee Bucks (2017: 44-38)

The Milwaukee Bucks were impressive in certain stretches of the 2017-18 season, but fell in the Eastern Conference after finishing their last ten games with a record of 6-4. The team then managed to remain competitive in the postseason, and although they were knocked out in the first round, making the playoffs was exceeding expectations by all accounts.

The front office improved the roster drastically by adding role players in Ersan Ilyasova, Brook Lopez and Travis Trice. In addition, I believe the draft selection of Donte DiVincenzo was the steal of the entire draft.

With the changes made, on paper, the Milwaukee Bucks are one of the five best teams in the Eastern Conference. While Cleveland and even Indiana got worse to a degree, Milwaukee should have very little issue getting themselves back into the exciting form we witnessed last year.

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Washington Wizards (2017: 43-39)

I typically bash on the Washington Wizards for being subpar at best in the postseason, but the pickup of Dwight Howard was the perfect value investment. On a two-year, $11 million, a player of Howard’s caliber can actually complement the play of John Wall in certain situations.

On top of that, the Wizards brought in Jeff Green, who shot his highest percentage from the field (47.7%) since 2010 with the Boston Celtics. While Green won’t be handed anything more than 25+ minutes per game, he creates even more depth for Washington’s bench.

Overall, I believe that the Wizards finish in the top six for the upcoming postseason, and have potential to take down any team in front of them. As seen in previous years, bench depth is important to any contending franchise, and Washington is following that formula to the perfect degree.

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