The word has been that the NBA Eastern Conference is still lagging behind the West in terms of championship-caliber teams. That may be true, but the race in the East will be just as intense as it is on the West. The West will either have to go through Houston, Los Angeles, Denver or Portland while the East will have to run through Philly, Boston, Milwaukee or Indiana. It seems pretty even to me.
As we take a look at what the Eastern Conference Playoff seedings would look like, please keep in mind that rosters can change at any moment. Despite the star power out West, the East seedings will be fun to watch in 2020.
Here are the early Playoff Predictions for the Eastern Conference.
8. Orlando Magic
Let’s allow that to sink in for a moment. The Orlando Magic found a way to make the playoffs last season with no real household name on the roster, no mention of players in the top 5 and yet, they found a way to put their stamp on the 2018-19 season. But can they do it again? Yes. Let’s not forget, this is still the East where the conference might be top 4 heavy and then a free-for-all for the last four spots.
With Nikola Vucevic Vuceiek, Aaron Gordon, and Evan Fournier, the Magic can make a run. Although they made their move last season, the best thing that could have happened for them was getting their experience. What that did was allow these young guys to see what winning was like. This should bring them back hungrier and if a player like Fournier catches fire, someone should be in upset alert.
7. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons made their way into the playoffs but an injury to Blake Griffin didn’t allow them to show their true worth. Could they have beaten the Bucks with Griffin at full strength? Maybe not but it would have been fun to see. However, this upcoming season, things should be way different for the Detroit Pistons going forward. The Pistons managed to finish the season 41-41 but that was with little help from their wing players.
This offseason, they added Derrick Rose who could be paired with Reggie Jackson in the backcourt which would allow Luke Kennard to swing to SF and light it up from the outside. With the playoffs focusing more on the defensive end and low post play, this should work to the Pistons advantage no matter what seed they end up at.
6. Toronto Raptors
Yes, even without the services of Kawhi Leonard, the Toronto Raptors will make the playoffs. While Kyle Lowry has always had another All-Star by his side, there’s no denying whose team this belongs to now. The spotlight would be on him bright but he does have help with Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol.
The loss of Danny Green will hurt on the defensive end but dropping out of the top eight in the East is not an option. This is a team just a few months removed from their first-ever championship and pride will be heavy with the returning players.
5. Brooklyn Nets
Even if Kevin Durant does not play this season, the Brooklyn Nets still will make the playoffs for the second straight year. Kyrie Irving came to town just for this reason. But think back, who gave the Nets a fighting chance during the 2018-19 season? Irving will provide the scoring vacated by the departure of D’Angelo Russell but it will be the production of Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, and Caris LeVert that will be the difference-maker.
Are they ready to contend for a title? No. But they will make it out of the first round for sure. The Nets are dangerous and literally have the city of New York behind them as some Knicks’ fans have teased about jumping ship after their awful offseason. 2019 is just a warmup until Durant returns.
4. Boston Celtics
What will Kemba Walker do differently that he didn’t do with the Charlotte Hornets? And for that matter, what will he do differently than Kyrie Irving? Adding Walker was a smart move but the best deal was bringing in Enes Kanter after losing Al Horford to the 76ers. A 3 seed may seem high but the 76ers and Bucks should be on high alert.
As good as Walker is, the Celtics will still need Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward to make major strides in the playoffs. If Hayward can resemble anything from his playing days in Utah, the Celtics could find a way to slip into the Conference Finals.
3. Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers are another team that could sneak up and cause havoc in the conference. With Victor Oladipo missing a huge chunk of last season, the Pacers were left scrambling. But now that he will return 100 percent, they’re back to reclaim a spot in the top 8. What’s more intriguing is their offseason moves in which they snagged Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, and T.J. Warren. All were solid moves and should pay off well once the playoffs start.
The Pacers have the talent and size to match up with the Bucks and 76ers. And with Brogdan and Lamb on board, they’re now better on the defensive end. If Oladipo can get back to his 2017 form, the Pacers could be the darkhorse next season.
2. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks are banking on another MVP type season for Giannis Antetokounmpo. While he may put up similar numbers, the concern the Bucks may have is the supporting cast. Khris Middleton is signed to and so is Eric Bledsoe. What the Bucks needed most they got in the form of Robin Lopez. It was time for a defensive stopper in the middle. Brook Lopez is no longer the player he once was but his contributions are well needed.
Much like Ben Simmons, if Giannis ever develops a perimeter game, he will be unstoppable. Many are expecting the Bucks to be a one-year-wonder but there is entirely too much talent on this roster to take a step back. The 76ers and Bucks should be a great Eastern Conference Finals.
1. Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers had one clear goal this offseason; win an NBA Title. For them, they should have been the team walking away with the Larry O’Brien this past summer. After losing Jimmy Butler, they still look like the team to beat in the Eastern Conference with their solid additions.
Tobias Harris resigned, Al Horford is onboard, and the Butler deal brought them Josh Richardson from the Heat. If Brett Brown can get Ben Simmons to take and make a few perimeter shots, no one in the East is stopping them.