New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau, left, discusses a call with referee Scott Foster (48) during the first half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball second round playoff series against the Miami Heat, on Friday, May 12, 2023, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
The NBA season may still be a few months away, but the Eastern Conference continues to see an improved pipeline of talent.
Whether it’s the prospects of Damian Lillard joining Miami, or the reigning MVP leaving Philadelphia, the Eastern Conference has been abuzz with news and rumors in recent weeks. While there hasn’t been a major change in the stars thus far, the picture is becoming clearer about the teams that will be competing for a title and those seeking answers in the draft lottery.
Today, we take a look at the entire Eastern Conference to find out which teams will be good or bad, and whether the odds agree with them heading into the 2023-24 season.
15. Wizards of Washington
The Wizards just lost two of their best offensive pieces, Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porziņģis. They are going to have a difficult year ahead.
14. Detroit Pistons
Detroit was the worst team in basketball last year, but received only the fifth pick in the draft lottery. They have a ton of young talent, but are expected to struggle again going into another year against a top loaded group in the Eastern Conference.
13. Toronto Raptors
It seems everyone is waiting for the Toronto Raptors to eventually start their rebuild. This season may be the beginning of it. Nick Nurse is gone, as is most of the guard game that was key to winning them a championship a few years back. It’s going to be a tough couple of years ahead.
12. Indiana Pacers
Indiana doesn’t look like a talented enough team to win in the Eastern Conference. Still, there’s plenty of talent here to turn heads and win a few games. They will be competing in the Play-In Tournament throughout the year.
11. Chicago Bulls
Injuries have derailed this team for a while and they can continue to do so without a superstar on the roster.
10. The Charlotte Hornets
Brandon Miller’s excitement in Charlotte about pairing up with LaMelo Ball is certainly something that will get fans in the stands. However, will it be enough to enter the Play-In Tournament? Time will tell.
9. Orlando Magic
Paolo Banchero had a great rookie season and has the Magic as a team that might surprise some people this year in the Eastern Conference. A strong draft class of 2023 could also help.
8. Atlanta Falcons
Is this the last year for Trae Young to do anything in Atlanta? It certainly could be if the team doesn’t win a playoff series.
7. Brooklyn Nets
Mikal Bridges is a player on the rise, but outside of him the Nets are average but not great. They will be among the bottom seeds in the Eastern Conference, but not higher than that.
6. Philadelphia 76ers
A lot of people may be surprised by this, but James Harden wants out, Joel Embiid is sending cryptic messages, and there’s no hope in sight for another superstar to join them. While the reigning MVP has been incredible, the series of injuries he’s suffered throughout each playoff run should be enough to worry some fans about his effectiveness this season.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
Donovan Mitchell and the Cavs are still a very good team, but if they can’t find a way out of the first round this year, there’s a chance they’ll move him. Cleveland has a plethora of young and aspiring talent, but it will need to find another team to remain competitive in the East.
4. New York Knicks
The Knicks are a tough team to judge in the Eastern Conference. They have a star point guard, a deep bench and very solid depth inside. The question? They don’t have a superstar on their roster and that was the reason Miami fired them last year. It should be more of the same this year if they can’t find a main target.
3. Milwaukee dollars
Mike Budenholzer is gone and the Bucks are now directly tied to how good Giannis ends up being this year. They’ll still be tough for any team in the Eastern Conference, but this is a roster that’s getting old.
Boston has let go of the soul of the roster in Marcus Smart in hopes of adding some big scoring. They still need a point guard and that could be an obstacle for them to win the conference outright.
1. Miami Heat
Until a team can consistently beat Miami in the playoffs, it will still be the best team in the Eastern Conference. It also doesn’t hurt if they end up acquiring Damian Lillard as well. If that trade does happen, the Heat will easily be favorites to repeat.
Odds of winning the Eastern Conference (According to duel of fans)
Boston Celtics +200
Milwaukee Bucks +280
Miami Heat +450
Philadelphia 76ers +650
Cleveland Cavaliers +900
New York Knicks +1700