NBA Eastern Conference Power Rankings: Celtics Start On Top
1. Boston Celtics
If the Celtics can get through opening night relatively healthy, they’ll be one step ahead of where they were last season. Gordon Hayward is back and going to be on a slight minutes restriction, but as they proved when he and Kyrie Irving were out with injuries, the rest of the roster is more than capable of picking up the slack should anything happen.
Is this the year that The Process is completed? A lot will depend on Markelle Fultz’s development as a shooter and playmaker. Luckily he has a strong support cast with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as star players.
3. Toronto Raptors
Last season, the Raptors were top dogs in the East but were bounced once again in the playoffs by LeBron’s Cavaliers. LeBron is gone, but Toronto is a different team with Kawhi Leonard and new head coach Nick Nurse. How far can these changes take the Raptors? Time will tell.
4. Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo is being lauded as a sexy pick for MVP. There’s no doubt that he’s a great player but does he’ll need support from his team to make a run in the East. Jabari Parker is no-longer a running mate, but Chris Middleton is also poised to breakout as a star too.
5. Indiana Pacers
Victor Oladipo was the runaway Most Improved Player last season. He also surprised the basketball world by leading the Pacers into the playoffs last season. He’ll have to pick up where he left off to do it again in the 2018-19 season. The team also committed to Myles Turner as a cornerstone of the franchise with a big contract extension.
6. Washington Wizards
The Wizards will have another shot at a deep playoff run with the backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal in their prime. If they can’t pull it together and show some bite right off the bat, it’s possible that one or both of them could be in different cities by the end of the season.
7. Miami Heat
As of opening night, the Heat are still in a holding pattern reportedly as the leading candidate to provide a solution to the Jimmy Butler dilemma in Minnesota. In the wide-open Eastern Conference, they still have a decent roster with Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic. If Whiteside can get back to his former, pre-big contract extension days, they’ll be playoff contenders.
8. Detroit Pistons
If nothing else, this should be one of the top rebounding teams in the East behind Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin. New head coach Dwane Casey has a lot to prove after being canned and winning Coach of the Year in the same offseason. A lot will depend on whether this team’s bench play can materialize.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers
It’s the post-LeBron Era, Part 2 in Cleveland. This time around there don’t seem to be too many hard feelings towards the King. Kevin Love is still on the roster and will be in a top-starring role for the first time since his days in Minnesota. First round draft pick Colin Sexton is top-notch competitor and will keep this team move competitive than they were the first time they lost James.
10. New York Knicks
Star center Kristaps Porzingis is going to be out with a torn ACL until Christmas at the least. It’ll be interesting to see how they do until he gets back. Rumors are circulating that the Knicks will be playing with next season in mind, when they can possibly land a major free agent.
11. Charlotte Hornets
New head coach Steve Clifford managed to convince Michael Jordan and the rest of the Hornets brass that his health concerns were not a concern. The Hornets missed the playoffs last season, and will need to either make a move to help All-Star Kemba Walker get back to the postseason or play for a rebuild. Right now, they’re stuck in the middle.
12. Chicago Bulls
With the addition of hometown hero Jabari Parker, the Bulls now possess one of the best young rosters in the NBA. Unfortunately for Chicago, the key word may be young. They’re a talented bunch, but lack the experience necessary to become a playoff contender, unless they can prove otherwise.
13. Brooklyn Nets
With the possibility of drafting their own first rounder for the first time in years, look for the Nets to play poorly out the gate and all the way through the season. They finally have a future on the table, so look for them to play for it this season.
14. Orlando Magic
Like the Bulls, this is a young and talented team. They are however, extremely young and their best player, Aaron Gordon, doesn’t have the same upside as the Bulls’ Jabari Parker. The young big men like Gordon and first round draft pick Mo Bamba will get plenty of runs, but the perimeter play will leave a lot to be desired for.
15. Atlanta Hawks
Trae Young will have more opportunity and thus more burden than any other rookie in the league. Luckily for him, he’ll have relatively no pressure to win. This team will be gunning for one of the top picks in next year’s draft.