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Extremely Early Eastern Conference Preview

The NBA off season has all but officially wrapped up as all the big name free agents and trade chips are just about off the board. Boogie Cousins is a Warrior, the Raptors traded DeMar DeRozen for Kawhi Leonard, and LeBron decided that he’s done chasing championships and moved out to Los Angeles to focus on his post playing career. Carmelo Anthony is the only big name still out there but all signs point to him joining James Harden and Chris Paul in Houston. 

Other than the Raptors deal, all the big NBA moves involve players either staying or moving to the Western Conference. The biggest name, of course, was LeBron James singing with the Lakers and that move left a huge void at the top of the Eastern Conference. That is a void that is expected to be filled by the Boston Celtics. The Celtics didn’t need to do much this off season. They needed to resign Aron Baynes and Marcus Smart, which they did. They are going to get a healthy Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward heading into training camp and that is like adding two All Stars right there. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are another year older and it looks like the East is theirs for the taking. The Celts are the favorites, as well they should be, but it isn’t going to be a cakewalk by any means. Let’s take a look at the teams that can give the Celtics some trouble this upcoming season.

Philadelphia 76ers

The next great NBA rivalry may very well be the Celtics vs the 76ers. Both teams are super young and supremely talented as the 6ers are led by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The seeds were planted for the rivalry in last years playoffs, which the Celtics won in 5 games. Embiid got into with Marcus Morris and Baynes and proceeded to still talk trash from his couch on Twitter after he was eliminated. Simmons is a great player but I like my superstar players to be able to hit a shot outside of the paint every once in awhile but that’s just me. Years of tanking has produced some great talent for Philly as they have Dario Saric and Robert Covington and who knows what they can get out of last years Number One Overall Pick Markelle Fultz but I expect Philly to be right there with the Celtics all season. 

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors went as far as they could go with the DeRozen and Kyle Lowry combination. The Raptors are known for their postseason collapses as they could never get past LeBron. Even with LeBron moving out West, they had to shake things up beyond just changing head coaches. They rolled the dice on trading DeRozen for Kawhi Leonard with the hope they can convince Kawhi to resign with them which seems unlikely. If Kawhi can reach his 2014-2017 form than maybe they can make some noise in the East but people have doubts that Kawhi even plays a full season. One injury and he might shut it down like he did for San Antiono and keep himself healthy for when he hits free agency. In the NBA, you have to take risks like this but this has all the makings of a disaster for Toronto.

Indiana Pacers

The Pacers took LeBron and the Cavs to seven games in the opening round of last years playoffs and probably should have won that series. They have a star in Victor Oladipo, who got free from Russell Westbrook and was allowed to actually play basketball, and great role players in Myles Turner, Thaddeus Young, Trevor Booker, and Doug McDermott. I don’t think they are a true title contender but they’re all well coached and have good players and they are going to make you earn everything in a playoff series.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks took the Celtics to seven games last year and they should be better this year. They got rid of their substitute teacher head coach, who I still couldn’t name if my life depended on it, and brought in former Hawks coach and Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer. The Bucks are a threat because they have one of the best players in the league with the Greek Freak Giannis Antetokounmpo and a knockdown playoff shooter in Khris Middleton, who I think shot 87 percent vs the C’s in the playoffs. They still have Drew Bledsoe. Whoops, I mean Eric Bledsoe and they added the Russian BJ Shea Ersan Illyasova (look it up and compare for yourselves). The Bucks should be better than last year based on Giannis getting better and having a real coach.

So that’s it. There’s your Way Too Early Eastern Conference Preview. I expect the East to come down to Celtics vs 76ers for the right to play the Warriors. But as we all know, things can change. Injuries, trades, a player loses their mind Kawhi style. It’s a long year. Just get me to the season so I can write about real basketball.

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