More Parity in the EAST
I love Lance Stephenson signing to Charlotte. It's a great addition for them and subtraction from Indiana at the same time. The top 9 are pretty clear but the seedings could be very tough right down until the final week. Cleveland and Chicago looks to be the top two and Indiana, Miami, Toronto, Washington, Charlotte could go any direction from 3-7. I see Atlanta and New York battling it out for the final playoff spot but either one of those teams could surprise and compete near the top as well.
Atlanta has a healthy Horford coming back and they were close to defeating the Eastern conference champ (Indiana) in the first round last year without him. New York is a wildcard who could gel and play like two years ago as the number 2 seed. I believe this will be the first year in 5 that the 8th seed is at least a .500 team and will make for competitive playoff series. Even the teams not projected to make the playoffs have had positive offseasons for their fan bases and I could see the East catching up in the near future.
Detroit, Orlando, Philly, Milwaukee, Boston appear to be on the upswing. Brooklyn has salary cap problems and lack of future draft picks but they do have a huge draw for free agents once they get a few bad contracts off the books in two years.
The East is pretty loaded. That is basically my breakdown, too.
Philly is the only "easy out" on that schedule.
The Pacers could be in a real dogfight, since it is possible that Brooklyn hangs in there and/or the Pistons play better than they did last year. Then the Knicks should at least be respectable.
The best matchups this year will be out East. Cavs vs. Heat in the second round. Cavs. vs. Bulls in the ECF. LeBron's team (Cavs) vs. Jordan's team (Hornets) would be a good first round matchup...
Pacers vs. Heat could be a first round matchup. Another could be Bulls vs. Pistons.
At first I was surprised Lance decided to leave Indiana, but then I thought it about it and it seems like a good move for both the Pacers and for Lance. The Pacers needed to make some changes this offseason and Lance leaving is a good start. He will be in a good situation in Charlotte around lots of young talent and will be able to be mentored by the GOAT. He'll come in next to Kemba and Al Jefferson and MKG and they should be a fun team to wath next year. I'm wondering what this means for Gerald Henderson's future in Charlotte also.
I wouldn't count Brooklyn out if Lopez can come back and be effective
In comparison to the Western Conference, the East is definitely not loaded. That being said, I agree with sentiment that there is more parity than last year in the Eastern Conference. Many of the teams have added nice depth which can help them rise a few places in the standings.
However, there are no clear cut favorites for the top seeds, aside from the Cavaliers who will likely be a top 2 seed, obviously due to LeBron James. If Derrick Rose is healthy, the Bulls have to be mentioned when it comes to true championship contenders. Other than the Cavs and Bulls, there doesn't seem to be any such teams. Could Indiana (with the loss of and inability to replace Lance Stephenson), Toronto, Washington, Miami, or Charlotte really reach the Finals? The Knicks may surprise people if they can stay healthy but even so, could they be taken as serious threats to win a championship? I don't think so.
The top two seeds in the conference (barring injuries) will be the Bulls, followed by the Cavs. The only seeds in the East that matter are 1 and 2. The East shouldn't even try anymore, the Central Division is the only division that matters in the East playoffs.
Taking a stab at how the East plays out...It's so challenging and the East has improved dramatically
1) Chicago - veteran frontcourt, good coach and a healthy D Rose = great team
2) Cleveland - LeBron and Kyrie with a young, athletic supporting cast.
3) Miami - Wade, Bosh, McRoberts, Deng, Chalmers, Napier - still a solid team
4) Washington - Young guards and a veteran frontcourt and an upgraded bench
5) Toronto - I think the Raps will certainly build on what was a banner season
6) Charlotte - still young and somewhat inconsistent, but this team should be very competitive
7) Indiana - If the Pacers were a company, and I owned shares, I would be selling aggressively.
8) Atlanta - guys who have been there and done that with Teague, Horford, Korver and Millsap
10) New York
This is tough.
I think Brooklyn is definitely making the playoffs. They lost Pierce, but he wasn't the end all be all of their team. Adding Brook Lopez will be a huge plus, assuming he doesn't get injured again. Jarrett Jack is arguably a better player than Livingston. Don't forget that Lionel Hollins is one hell of a coach, a sizable upgrade over Kidd.
I don't know. They're old. They don't have a go-to guy. They aren't better than last year's team and the rest of the EC got better.
Yes the east is starting to get better. With free agency and trades did any quality players actually change conference ? I think can of Ariza, any more ?
im most likely in the minority here who was cheering and happy that charlote made the play-offs last year and now think that the addition of stephenson with the substraction of McRoberts, this team took a blow on their chemistry and would be taking a step back this season.
dont get me wrong, i do acknowledge that they are more talented with stephenson. i also think that lance and hendo can play together at the wings on both ends of the court despite both only 6'5". i just feel that a big chunk of what pushed this team to the post season was the fact that players knew clearly their roles and specialized on it. it also happened that each of their specialties did not double up on someone else's and was actually complimentary to one another.
you had a ball dominant, scoring point guard in kemba walker who loved to have the ball in his hands and is mostly known to be effective with it. you then had a strong post scorer in al jeff who knew his job was carry the biggest scoring load on the team whenever he got the ball. they then paired these two up with 3 players who dont require the ball in their hands to do what they do.
mcroberts, a play making big man excells in 2 things, hustling and making the extra pass after getting a pass. the ball doesnt stop with him and he makes quick decisions with it. MKG has always been an off ball player who makes the hustle play on offense weather going for offensive boards or setting screen or making cuts to the basket. and henderson, their third leading scorer is a traditional 2 guard who is a good catch and shooter, goes through screens, makes back door cuts and works to get open before getting the ball.
it was this blend of chemistry, specific roles and high effort defense that brought them to the post season. with the moves they had this off-season, i expect things to change, and im not confident that the transition will be quick to winning. if it does work out in the long run, i can see his off-season as a 1 step backward, 3 steps forward kind of season.