With the season now only a few weeks away, let’s take a quick look at the state of the East.
After an impressive run last season, the Celtics were evidently not content with finishing anything less than world champs, and decided to go with a near overhaul in the offseason, providing them a whole new look heading into the 2017/18 season.
Despite losing some quality players like Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley, the Celtics roster now includes, Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Aron Baynes and Marcus Morris. Not to mention their number three draft pick, Jayson Tatum, whose “ceiling is the roof!”
Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford and Terry Rozier are just about all that is left from last season, but certainly should enjoy their new teammates.
The Celtics’ new lineup definitely is built for pace, however defense could be a bit of an issue. That leaves it up to coach Brad Stevens, who has done a great job in his NBA career so far, to find a way to beat the Cavs.
With a quiet offseason, the main thing the Raptors have going for them coming into the 17/18 season is consistency.
DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have led the Raps to the playoffs for four seasons straight, making it to the conference finals in 2016. However, they have been stopped in their tracks by LeBron and the Cavs twice in a row now and will need something more than consistency to make the leap.
The addition of C.J. Miles gives the Raptors a solid shooter and a bit more size at the wing. Meanwhile, guys like Delon Wright, Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam and Norman Powell all have great potential to be stronger contributors as they mature more and more.
Finally, The Big Science, Jonas Valanciunas, seems to have people divided on how valuable he is to the team. However, he has shown improvement over the years and has proven himself as a solid third or even second scoring option when given the chance. His play will be a big factor in Toronto’s success this season.
New York Knicks
The Knicks have been going through some tough times, to say the least. However, things might not be as bad as they seem.
Melo aside, the Knicks come into 17/18 with a solid young core, including Kristaps Porzingis, Willy Hernangomez, Tim Hardaway Jr and Frank Ntilikina. They also grabbed up some good vets including Michael Beasley, Ramon Sessions and Jarret Jack over the offseason, to add depth and leadership.
Then there is Ron Baker, Lance Thomas, Courtney Lee, Joakim Noah, Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Kyle O’Quinn, who are all capable of being solid contributors. So while the saga remains in progress for now, the bottom line is, the Knicks are in decent shape going farward.
The most important factor in determining their success this season could be the performance of all the team staff who are not on the court, including the owner.
The process has been trusted for a while now and this could be the season that all changes. With Ben Simmons healthy, the Sixers now have one of the most intriguing players in the league, and have him surrounded by a good mix of young guns and vets.
Dario Saric showed that there is way more to his game than once thought and gave the Sixers much-needed stability last season. Robert Covington also showed that he has another level to his game with some great performances last season. Covington and Saric need to stay consistent once again in order to create room for guys like Embiid, Simmons and Markelle Fultz, to go to work. Fultz, the much anticipated first overall pick could hardly find himself in a better place to flourish.
Adding vets Amir Johnson and J.J. Redick gives great examples for guys like Nik Stauskas and Jahlil Okafor to help take their games to the next level. Meanwhile, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Justin Anderson both showed flashes last season and should be solid rotation pieces.
The biggest question mark over the Sixers’ upcoming season has to be health. If they can stay healthy…call the playoffs?
Change has once again come to Brooklyn, as the Nets will field a new-look line up this season, with the additions of D’Angelo Russell, Timofey Mozgov, DeMarre Carroll and Allen Crabbe.
These new additions definitely be able to help the Nets transcend their 20-game win total from last season. The back court combo of Lin and Russell could be interesting, allowing Russell to play more off the ball. Crabbe and Carroll give the Nets some scrappiness at the wing, while Mozgov is capable of holding his own inside.
Youngster Caris LaVert showed some flashes last season and can become a great piece for the Nets with his size and versatility. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Sean Kilpatrick also had a few big moments last season but will need to find consistency in order to help the Nets rise.
The Nets will have a tough time battling for a playoff spot.