As the calendar is about to tick over to August, that means the new NBA season is starting to creep up on us. Most, if not all, of the big summer decisions, have already been made and the major dealings have been done. Now we can look ahead to the season and how those decisions will affect each team and their division. Of course, you can’t expect everything to change so suddenly, but you have to believe that the change is coming. We’ll begin with the Eastern Conference Division Winners since it’s the weaker of the two and its slowly becoming a wasteland in terms of star players.
NBA Eastern Conference Division Winners: Predictions
*all standings are for the 2017/18 season.
We’ll start in a division that seems to be becoming cut and dry, but not for who you might think. We’ll get to that. Unfortunately, the two teams from New York still don’t seem to have much of a chance. The Nets’ only worthwhile addition, Kenneth Faried is flashy and powerful but won’t win you too many games. The Knicks impressed in Summer League with Kevin Knox, but their only addition was Mario Hezonja, who can be a bit of a selfish shooter. There isn’t much of a debate when you think about it.
The biggest storyline came north of the border when Toronto traded fan-favorite DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio in return for a still-not-100% Kawhi Leonard and the ever-consistent Danny Green, who sports a career line of 41.8/39.5/81.5 percentages from the field, three-point, and free throw respectively. The big concern is if Masai Ujuri just ruined the Raptors by trading for a Spurs outcast.
The Celtics finished last season 2nd in the division, that’s without Gordon Hayward. He’ll be ready for October, which means Kyrie Irving won’t have to carry the load as much. Hayward is a proven scorer, that is undeniable, but his career high of 21.9 PPG isn’t eye-opening. Don’t look for him to beat that, either. Irving’s also coming off a season that was cut short with injury. GM Danny Ainge hasn’t made any noteworthy additions, only re-signing Aron Baynes and defensive anchor Marcus Smart (two-years $10.6 million & 4-years $52 million, respectively).
The most interesting case in this division is the resurgent Philadelphia 76ers. They won 52 games last season after winning 10 in 2015-16. The domination of Joel Embiid plus the rise of Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons is only the beginning for this young team. They sent cash considerations to the Nuggets for Wilson Chandler and a 2nd-round pick, an absolute bargain, and re-signed J.J. Redick to a one-year $12.5 million deal. “The Process” is paying off and fans in Philly are going to be loving it.
Division Winner: Philadelphia
Cleveland is no longer the obvious choice. LeBron James is LeGone, taking with him his line of 27/9/9 from last season and his 14 Win Shares. Take away the LBJ factor, and the Cavs only win 36 games. This is Kevin Love’s team, whether he likes it or not. Recently signing a four-year $120 million extension, he’s the big star now. First-round pick Collin Sexton impressed during Summer League, but there’s nothing more to go on. It might be a while before they can contend again.
The Pistons and Bulls both seem to be on a decline, as Detroit thinks they can combat a 39-win season by signing Jose Calderon, Glenn Robinson III, and Zaza Pachulia. The only highlight here is that Andre Drummond has been relentlessly working on his 3-point shot, so look for him to add another side to his already dominant game. Chicago’s off-season only consisted of re-signing Zach LaVine to $78 million and signing local Jabari Parker for $40 million.
The two major intrigues are the Pacers and the Bucks. Victor Oladipo impressed everyone last season as Indiana’s new star, snagging himself Most Improved Player in the process. They also signed Doug McDermott – a career 43% shooter from beyond the arc – and Tyreke Evans – who averaged 19/5/5 for the Grizzlies last season. Milwaukee, on the other hand, has perennial MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo. He’s always improved his numbers from the year before; a scary thought now since he averaged 27/10/5 last season. Also coming in is Ersan Ilyasova and Brook Lopez, who will likely replace John Henson as starting C.
This division should find a home in Wisconsin; have you seen how jacked Giannis is now?
Division Winner: Milwaukee
It might be hot in this corner of America, but the Heat won’t reign supreme for too long. Miami won the division last season but did it by only winning 44 games. They re-signed Derrick Jones Jr. along with Wayne Ellington, whose 11.2 PPG last season were a career high. Tyler Johnson is a capable scorer but overpaid, while Bam Adebayo is not yet matured. Goran Dragic is inconsistent and Dwyane Wade will not carry the team like he used to.
For Atlanta, it’s all about the rebuild and steady progress. Their most capable player, Dennis Schroder, now lives in Oklahoma and was replaced by past-his-prime Jeremy Lin. Lottery pick Trae Young is now the franchise player for the Hawks, and their fans can only hope he lives up to the Stephen Curry comparisons and performs how he did in college.
Orlando and Charlotte have a lot of upsides to be excited about for the first time in a long time. The Magic drafted Mohamed Bamba with the 6th overall pick; enough potential by itself. Aaron Gordon re-signed for $84 million over four years, who scored 17.6 PPG last season, smashing his previous high. He seems to be only coming into his prime now. The Hornets have potential out their noses. Along with sophomore guard Malik Monk, they’re sporting college standouts Miles Bridges and Devonte’ Graham. Tony Parker should make an instant impact in the locker room. Furthermore, Kemba Walker is tired of losing seasons, so look for him to come out strong.
The Wizards remain the strongest, losing out on the division title by only 1 game. Now that DeRozan is a Spur, DC is now home to the East’s best backcourt. John Wall and Bradley Beal averaged 42 PPG combined, while Wall added 10 assists. That number will only rise now that Dwight Howard has arrived. Even at his age 32, he managed 16.6 PPG last year. Otto Porter is still finding himself and Markieff Morris is still a spark plug. This team should surprise a few people come October.
Division Winner: Washington
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