Let’s cut to the chase in this NBA Eastern Conference preview; it’s really a two-horse race in the NBA East between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Milwaukee Bucks. The Greek Freak and the Bucks are 5/4 favorites to win the NBA East this season. Oddsmakers think only the Sixers, at 3/2 odds to win the Eastern Conference, have a shot at tripping up the Greek Freak’s quest to reach the NBA Finals.
The Sixers might have the best starting five in the East, and possibly, the NBA. Joel Embiid struggled through injuries in the NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals last season against the Toronto Raptors, otherwise he would have given Kawhi Leonard a run for his money. Leonard hit the shot heard around Canada to knock out the Sixers. The rest is history. The Raptors picked off the Greek Freak in the Eastern Conference Finals and went on to win the NBA title.
Leonard is no longer with the Raptors after signing with the LA Clippers, which means that the Greek Freak’s biggest nemesis is no longer a factor in the NBA East. Kawhi and the Clippers are favorites to win the Western Conference, which means that Greek Freak and Leonard might meet again in the NBA Finals.
2020 EASTERN CONFERENCE TITLE ODDS:
Milwaukee Bucks 5/4
Philadelphia Sixers 3/2
Boston Celtics 8/1
Brooklyn Nets 16/1
Indiana Pacers 20/1
Toronto Raptors 30/1
Miami Heat 30/1
Orlando Magic 80/1
Chicago Bulls 80/1
Atlanta Hawks 120/1
Detroit Pistons 120/1
New York Knicks 400/1
Charlotte Hornets 400/1
Cleveland Cavaliers 400/1
Washington Wizards 400/1
Aside from the Bucks and the Sixers, the Boston Celtics seem to be the only real threat in the NBA Eastern Conference. Oddsmakers listed the Celtics at 8/1 odds to win the East.
The Celtics were favorites to win the East last year and move onto the NBA Finals, but they imploded. Kyrie Irving is no longer wearing Celtic green after skipping town for Brooklyn. Irving and Kevin Durant are now expected to lead the Brooklyn Nets to the Promised Land after snubbing James Dolan and the New York Knicks. However, with KD still sidelined after an Achilles injury, the Nets aren’t expected to do any serious damage any time soon.
Last Season: 60-22
Projected Wins: 57
The Bucks locked up the #1 seed in the East with 60 wins last season, but Leonard and the Raptors derailed their path to the NBA Finals. The Greek Freak faded in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, and the Bucks couldn’t find any consistent alternative scoring options, aside from Khris Middleton or the Greek Freak. The Bucks bolstered their bench in the offseason, which puts them in better position to complete their specific mission to win the championship. Last season, almost every NBA preview picked the Greek Freak to win the East and meet the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. This year, mostly every hoops preview is picking the Greek Freak and the Bucks to win the East and, eventually, square off against the LA Clippers in the 2020 NBA Finals.
Last Season: 58-24
Projected Wins: 55
The Sixers were the #2 seed in the East last season. They were one bounce away from advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Greek Freak. Looks like we’ll have to wait until this season to finally see a Joel Embiid and Greek Freak showdown.
The Sixers are 3/2 odds to win the East, mostly because they have one of the best starting fives in the NBA with Embiid, Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, and Al Horford. Jimmy Butler headed south to Miami, but the Sixers are still one of the best teams in the East after adding Josh Richardson and Al Horford to the mix. And better yet, Ben Simmons has moved on from his famous girlfriend, and learned how to hit an open jumper. Let’s see if his outside game can finally evolve to a point where it’s no longer a liability.
Last Season: 49-33
Projected Wins: 49
The Boston Celtics missed out on an Anthony Davis trade that they had their hearts set upon. A stubborn AD called his own shot and avoided a trade to Beantown by forcing a trade to the LA Lakers instead. Now, AD and LeBron are teaming up to restore basketball excellence to the Lakers, and the Celtics are scrambling to stay competitive in a conference with two super teams and a bunch of meh.
How good is Jayson Tatum? Team USA had zero shot to win the FIBA World Cup once Tatum went down with an ankle injury. Tatum will get an opportunity to play without the shadow of Kyrie Irving looming overhead.
Don’t forget that the Celtics also have Tacko Fall! He quickly became a fan favorite. Maybe Brad Stevens can find some legit playing time for his 7-foot-7 giant from Senegal?
Last Season: 48-34
Projected Wins: 47
The scrappy Pacers advanced to the playoffs with the #5 seed after losing Victor Oladipo to a season-ending injury. Credit Nate McMillian for keeping his team focused after losing their All-Star. Oladipo is back, but the Pacers are still only fourth-best in the East behind the Sixers, Bucks, and Celtics. The Pacers added Malcolm Brogdon to the backcourt. New additions also include TJ Warren, Jeremy Lamb, and Justin Holiday.
Last Season: 58-34
Projected Wins: 47
The Raptors might have one of the biggest drop offs in wins in the NBA this season. You can blame Kawhi Leonard, but then again, they expected he would only play in Toronto for a season. At least he won them a title before he skipped town and moved to Hollywood. The Raptors still have Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, and Fred VanVleet. They do not have always reliable Kawhi to take over games in the fourth quarter, which means they’ll sink way more than they’ll swim while adjusting to life Post-Kawhi.
Last Season: 42-40
Projected Wins: 45
Brooklyn is hopping these days, and it’s not because of the hipsters. The Nets were a franchise on the rise when they secured the #6 seed last season. They added Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant to help thrust them to the front of the pack in the Eastern Conference. However, the Nets will not be one of the best teams in the East overnight. It will take time for Irving to adjust to his new surroundings. Plus, Durant will most likely miss the entire season while recovering from a torn Achilles. Once KD returns, then the real work begins.
Last Season: 58-34
Projected Wins: 44
Jimmy Butler is now lording over the Miami Heat. It will either be the change he was looking for, or he’ll become a cancer and burn the team to the ground. Butler wants to win, but his competitiveness often rubs peoples (especially teammates) the wrong way. Tyler Herro has been making big waves in preseason. The rookie shooting guard from Kentucky probably secured himself a starting job. Herro’s inspiring start in the preseason forced Dion Waters out of Erik Spoelstra’s rotation. Waters responded in a childish way with an in-game tantrum while riding the pine.
Last Season: 42-40
Projected Wins: 42
The Magic won the NBA Southeast last year to lock up a playoff spot. They were the #7 seed, but didn’t put up much of a fight in the postseason. They’re on the cusp of .500 again. If they can win those super-close games, then the Magic could move up the food chain in the East. The Magic made a bold move and took a flier on former #1 pick Markelle Fultz. He’s already been labeled as a bust, but he has a chance to rebrand himself and become a hoops god in Central Florida.
Last Season: 22-60
Projected Wins: 32
The Bulls have a fun and colorful rookie with PG Coby White from UNC. White and his enormous hair is one of the many rookies that should see a lot of playing time this season, which makes him an ideal player to add to your fantasy basketball team. The Bulls were so bad last season that things can’t get any worse this year, right?
Last Season: 29-53
Projected Wins: 33
The Hawks are loaded with young talent like point guard Trae Young, D’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish, and big man John Collins. Who knows if they’ll continue to tank or try to make a legit move to become a playoff contender?
Last Season: 41-41
Projected Wins: 37
Derrick Rose is the big question mark for the Pistons. His health held up last year with the Timberwolves, but he’s not very durable. Either Rose or Blake Griffin is due for a big injury. With the Pistons luck, both will miss time. If Griffin and Rose remain in good health, the Pistons will rise above .500 and return to the playoffs.
New York Knicks
Last Season: 17-65
Projected Wins: 27
The Knicks tanked in a feeble attempt to win Zion Williamson in the lottery. That didn’t work. Plan B also failed when big-named free agents snubbed the Knicks for the Brooklyn Nets. But hey, the Knicks still drafted RJ Barrett, and they have other young guns like Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, and Dennis Smith, Jr. At least the Knicks won’t be the worst team in the East this year.
Last Season: 32-50
Projected Wins: 27
The Wizards went from one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference to a total bust. The team imploded last season, and ownership finally fired GM Ernie Grunfeld. The Wiz made one wise move and paid Bradley Beal to stick around while they gutted the rest of the team, minus John Wall of course. He’s expected to miss most of the season while recovering from a torn Achilles, which he injured at home while rehabbing a foot injury.
Last Season: 39-43
Projected Wins: 23
The Hornets bubbled the playoffs last season. They were alive heading into the final week of the season, but faltered down the stretch. The Hornets won 39 games in Kemba Walker’s final season in Buzz City. Walker asked the team to match another offer, but the front office refused and Walker relocated to Boston, where he finally got paid. Without Walker, the Hornets are essentially a college basketball All-Star squad made up of ex-Kentucky players.
Last Season: 19-63
Projected Wins: 24
The Cavs are still picking up the pieces after LeBron James skipped Cleveland a second time. They will be slugging it out with the Hornets for worst NBA team in the East once again.
For more coverage of the upcoming 2019-20 NBA season, check out divisional previews and fantasy basketball coverage:
If you dug the East Preview, do not forget to check out our Western Conference preview with the NBA West Preview: Ignore the Hollywood Hype, Don’t Sleep on Jokic and the Nuggets.