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Danny Ainge calls the East ‘very respectable, balanced at top’

Celtics

The Boston Celtics are the heavy favorites to win the Eastern Conference this season now that LeBron James has taken his talents to the Western Conference.

The Celtics went to the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals and were a game away from reaching the NBA Finals. They accomplished all that without the services of star point guard Kyrie Irving and small forward Gordon Hayward, who were both out with injuries.

But now that Irving and Hayward are back, many are picking the Celtics to breeze through the East. Boston President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge, though, says the team can’t be complacent because he feels the top of the conference is very balanced.

After the Celtics, the Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers are considered the next set of top-tier teams in the East. The Raptors had the No. 1 seed in the conference last season and acquired two-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard. The Sixers are led by star big man Joel Embiid and point-forward Ben Simmons, two of the brightest young talents in the game. The Pacers have a hungry and motivated Victor Oladipo, who began his offseason training just hours after getting eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first-round of the playoffs.

So, it’s not hard to see why Ainge sees the top of the East being strong. Hayward is going to be rusty at the beginning of the season after missing a whole year of basketball. It’s also going to be interesting to see how the roles of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum change now that Hayward is in the mix, but luckily for the Celtics, they have the best coach in the game in Brad Stevens who will likely figure out a way to make it all work.