Community Shootaround: Eastern Conference Favorite

Unlike the decade when the LeBron James-led Heat or Cavaliers were the automatic favorite in the Eastern Conference, there are several legitimate contenders that could reach the Finals next season.

Milwaukee, with MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, will enter the season with the best odds of ending its long Finals drought. The Bucks, who had the league’s best record last season, haven’t played for the title since 1974.

The Bucks were able to re-sign some key free agents — Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and George Hill — but couldn’t afford to retain restricted free agent Malcolm Brogdon. They also didn’t add any top talent. Veteran shooting guard Wesley Matthews is the most notable newcomer.

The Celtics lost free agents Kyrie Irving, Al Horford and Marcus Morris. Signing Kemba Walker was a major coup and team chemistry should be better, allowing potential star Jayson Tatum to blossom. But frontcourt deficiencies could hinder their chances of going deep in the playoffs.

The Sixers lost Jimmy Butler, though the sign-and-trade brought back Josh Richardson from the Heat. They did retain Tobias Harris, albeit at a high cost, and surprisingly signed Horford. Their starting five will have a different dynamic — more size, less offensive firepower — but it should be enough for a strong playoff run if Joel Embiid can stay healthy.

It will be nearly impossible for the Raptors to repeat, though Pascal Siakam has emerged as one of the league’s top young players.
The Nets, as they wait for Kevin Durant, are probably a year away from making a run despite the addition of Irving. The Pacers acquired some interesting pieces — Brogdon, T.J. Warren and Jeremy Lamb — but they need Victor Oladipo to come back strong from a serious leg injury to make noise.

The Magic could make the playoffs again by re-signing Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross but may not be good enough to take the next step. The Pistons added Derrick Rose to a mix that includes frontcourt stars Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond but after getting swept by the Bucks last spring, it’s hard to see them winning more than one playoff series.

That leads us to our question of the day: With free agency winding down and most of the major trades in the rearview mirror, which Eastern Conference team is most likely to reach the NBA Finals next season?

Please take to the comments section to weigh in on this topic. We look forward to your input.

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24 thoughts on “Community Shootaround: Eastern Conference Favorite

  1. phenomenalajs

    I love to think my Nets could do it, but I agree they’re a year away. If Embiid stays healthy, the Sixers are the team to beat.

    • specialfriedrice

      I think Philly needs two things to happen, the second being Simmons and a jump shot…the very first time he is just left alone…he needs to shoot that shot whether he hits it or not whether he even has a high percentage to hit it or not…he needs to shoot it.

  2. x%sure

    I’ll go with the Lopez bros wearing the antlers and Pat ‘defcon’ Connaughton to emerge at guard.

    Sabonis is not a 4. Harris should have a big year but Simmons is not a 1. Boston had a great draft… They and Nets will have fine years, with and without Irving. Orlando could go as high as 4th and Toronto as low as 10th. Knicks will be decent esp when fights break out. Cavs are already knocked out. Hornets will warehouse the played out. The Butler will be shown out.

    • Agreed on Sabonis not being a pf. He’s not my idea of a center either though sadly, not in today’s game. I see Warren ending up getting the most minutes at of, either through a Sabonis trade or just bringing him off the bench where he’s best suited imo.

  3. Luckylefty2

    Like I posted before I just don’t trust Giannis down the stretch. Unless he learns how to take over a game in the 4th I can’t see the bucks making it to the finals.

  4. bowserhound

    The only team worth talking about is the Bucks. The rest of them lost players and the Nets will be great, next year.

    • Z-A

      Bucks lost a 90-50-40 guy.

      Brogdon and Mirotic gone, Illyasova next. Robin Lopez they brought in to go against Embiid in the playoffs and bruise him up a la Gasol.

    • seamaholic

      Bucks had some pretty good luck with injuries last year, lost Brogdon and Mirotic, and I’d be very worried if I were them that the Raptors showed the world how to defend Giannis.

      Sixers clear favorites.

      • x%sure

        Giannis spent the year driving and the others shooting but that proved to not prepare them for the level of 4 left.

        Coach B will surely get them more flexibly prepared this coming year. I expect Giannis to be launching the ball not himself!

  5. hiflew

    The Raptors might not be a favorite to repeat, but they still have a pretty good team. Lowry and Gasol are a bit older, but they still have some game.

    I would surprised if they missed the playoffs.

    • brewpackbuckbadg

      It will be interesting to see how OG Anunoby further develops as well but everything depends on how much these players can play without so much defense focus on Kawhi.

  6. Lefty_Orioles_Fan
    Lefty_Orioles_Fan

    The Sixers lost Jimmy Butler, though the sign-and-trade brought back Josh Richardson from the Heat. They did retain Tobias Harris, albeit at a high cost, and surprisingly signed Horford. Their starting five will have a different dynamic — more size, less offensive firepower — but it should be enough for a strong playoff run if Joel Embiid can stay healthy.

    This is all well and good, but the Sixers moved chairs around on the deck of the Titanic.
    What they need is Chris Paul now, I thought they should get Russell, but the cost of doing so. I mean all this money in the league and you can’t maneuver.It’s ridiculous and it’s lead to parity. Every team practically has two good players and give themselves a chance to win, but that’s all, there are no loaded teams and all teams are imperfect. SMH

  7. 2Times

    Bucks or Sixers comes down to Embiids health and who can develop a consistent jumper first Kounmpo or Simmons. Leaning Bucks cause I like Kounmpos work ethic. An even better question is who gets in 6-8.

  8. stevep-4

    Knicks just need to sign Carmelo and Stoudemire and nostalgic memories will rocket them to the top. Maybe D’Antoni will be available soon too.

    • brewpackbuckbadg

      Allen Iverson too? second team of AI and Carmelo would still be amazing to watch. DO IT!

  9. Bucks screwed the pooch with Brogden, and if only based on karma, I don’t think they get out of the East.

    Luxury tax (in this case anticipated future luxury tax) can’t be a reason to let a core player like Brogden walk. Realistically, if you want to win a title, you have to be prepared to pay luxury tax. So, Lopez too should be resigned. But if you have to chose, then let Lopez walk. Hill is truly a luxury going forward.

    • bdpecore

      Brogdon chose to leave because he sees himself as a PG and new he’d be competing with Bledsoe for minutes as the floor general. So you cannot blame the Bucks for letting him walk when The Prez was the one who put the writing on the wall to begin with. As for his 50/40/90 numbers, he shot more wide open 3’s than any other player in the league. Brogdon is a smart player who always plays within his abilities but I personally do not think he’s worth $21MM per and will struggle to put up similar numbers when being the first or second scoring option on any NBA team.

      • x%sure

        Brogdon was not the PG between his ROY and Bledsoe. Not always as a rookie either. Indy may have over-replaced Dipo a year late with MB, Lamb.

  10. Dodgethis

    Let’s see…

    Celtics- took a step back. Tatum will need to step it up for them to have a chance.

    Nets- durant out for at least a year, his injury doesn’t bode well for his play style, unlikely he returns to form. Irving doesn’t play defense and doesn’t understand team oriented ball. Unlikely they reach playoffs.

    Raptors- borderline playoff team. Defense oriented team lost its 2 best defenders and best offensive weapon. Siakam will have to prove he’s actually good and didn’t just benefit from everyone focusing on Kawhi.

    76ers- didn’t get any better, but might not have gotten worse either. Should reach playoffs.

    Knicks- lol don’t make me laugh.

    Pacers- oladipo will have to come back and 100% return to form. Should be a fringe team.

    Cavs- could compete in a very weak east, if young players take step forward, and love consistently scores.

    Bulls- unlikely to make it out of the lottery, have some promising young players but team lacks Identy and direction.

    Bucks- Giannis is turning into the Kershaw of basketball. Amazing when it doesn’t matter, can’t hold it together when the pressure is on. Without a true alpha metatlity scorer, not a favorite to make it to finals, but should compete in playoffs.

    Pistons- team improved but not enough to be title contenders. Should make playoffs but that s about it.

    Hawks- rebuilding, not planning on contending but have the nucleus of a good team that could take a step forward.

    Magic- should be a playoff team. Have a bunch of young players with a high ceiling. Will need these youngsters to take the next leap to truly contend, but the core is there.

    Heat- this one is tough. Never count out Riley. They got their guy, but are still a few pieces away from making a legit run.

    Hornets- different year same story, perennial lottery team.

    Wizards- huge question mark. Every year seems like they could compete, but every year they are bad. Unlikely to do anything until wall is gone.

    Long story short, there is no favorite. It’s 100% wide open. A few teams are going to have to prove they own the east.

  11. D$!LLKU$H-og

    Bucks
    Sixers
    Nets
    Celtics
    Magic
    Pacers
    Raptors
    Hawks

    ATL my surprise team like ORL and BKN last year, beats out MIA for 8th seed (with or w/o CP3). TOR still in the playoffs. IND struggles early with Dipo working his way back. ORL signing Aminu, retaining Vooch and Ross, with AG and Isaac continuing to develop will be a tough out. BKN gonna get big years from Kyrie and Caris Levert while KD is rehabbing. BOS could be 3 seed or even 2 seed if JT takes off and GH is back to form. Philly got the best starting 5 but MIL has the best player AND coach in the East.

    Here’s the scrap heap:
    MIA
    DET
    WAS
    CHI
    NYK
    CHA
    CLE

  12. IslandFlava

    Philly vs Milwaukee for the ECF… Philly goes to the finals vs Lakers!

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